The season of exploration is here. . .
. . . and what better way is there. . .
. . . to celebrate. . .
. . . than by making. . .
. . . something fun and educational. Learn about nature while making this sweet and super cute treat!
Mother Nature's Cupcakes
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
- 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
- 12 oz cream cheese at room temperature
- 1 tube marzipan or fondant (for kiddos with nut allergies)
- Food coloring
- card stock paper
- Bamboo skewers
- Nature field guides
*When preparing your chocolate cake batter, if you don't often have buttermilk on hand (like me) you can add a tbsp. of lemon juice to your cup of milk and let it sit for 5 or 6 minutes to whip up a substitute.
Preheat the oven to 350.
Start preparing your cupcake batter by whisking all of the dry ingredients together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the buttermilk, eggs, oil, and vanilla. Slowly add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients. Once incorporated, add the hot coffee and stir until just mixed in. Do not overwork the batter.
Now that your batter is ready, pour it into parchment lined ramekins or cupcake tins so that it comes to about 1/2" below the rim. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick tester comes out clean. Set aside to cool.
To make the frosting, whip the cream cheese and the remaining 1/2 cup of confectioners sugar together. If the frosting is too stiff, you can add a bit of milk.
While the cupcakes are baking and cooling, pull out your nature guides and ask the kids to sort through and find their favorite pages. I chose to focus on bugs and butterflies (a good way to help kids get over their fear of bugs), but the sweet little girls that came over to play gravitated towards the leaf and shell guides.
Cut the marzipan into sections and use food coloring (natural grocers will have varieties made of all natural ingredients) to make the colors that match your item from nature. Take the opportunity to read the pages from the field guides for each leaf/bug/shell etc. We even pulled out a globe to see where they could be found in the world.
Once the marzipan sculptures are finished, place them on top of frosted cupcakes. If you'd like to take the activity one step further, make sweet tags for each item by typing or writing their names on paper cut into a flag shape and glued onto a bamboo skewer. The girls decided to make theirs even more special by adding a picture next to the name on their flags.
With the Kids:
Do all of the activities listed above and then give these a try for even more fun:
*Last time in Recipes: Strawberry Lemon Tart