Kids In The Kitchen (& Gluten-Free Coconut Cupcakes)

This is a guest post written by Emma Galloway of My Darling Lemon Thyme .


Teaching our kids that vegetables are grown in the earth, that cakes come from mixing natural ingredients in a bowl before baking instead of merely buying one ready-made, to me, are some of the greatest and most fundamental things that we can do as parents.

The world we live in today is somewhat of a scary place. To think that so many of our little ones are growing up believing that milk comes from the shop, beans from a can and juice from a bottle is just heartbreaking.

So what can we do to help change all this you ask?

Get in the kitchen and cook with your kids.

I know the mere thought of it will have many of you in a fit. Trust me I understand. I ain’t no saint and I’d never pretend that my kids cook with me on a daily basis, that’s just not always realistic in these busy times we all live in. But as often as you can, clear a little space, pull up a chair or two, strap on those little aprons, roll up those sleeves and take a deep breath.

Accept that there will be mess, that’s okay. Accept that nothing will be perfect, that’s okay. Accept that things may take twice as long as it would have done had you just done it yourself,that is okay. Repeat after me, it’s all okay.


It’s not so much about what they make, but more about the fact that they are learning about food, how to prepare it and how to feed themselves later on in life.

I don’t believe any kid is too young to help out in the kitchen and from around the age of two my kids have helped out whenever possible.

Jobs that little ones can help with:

- shelling broad (fava) beans or peas

- scrubbing vegetables, i.e potatoes (let them loose in the sink with a brush and a bit of water, or set them up outside with a bowl and brush if you prefer). You may need to give them another rinse after, but I’m sure they would have had fun trying

- mixing cake batter with a wooden spoon;

- licking the spoon after making a cake;

- spooning cupcake batter into the cases;

- sprinkling toasted nuts/coconut on top of cupcakes/muffins before baking or after icing;

- chopping soft fruits, like bananas with a butter knife;

- segmenting mandarins;

- picking herbs.

Jobs for slightly older kids to help with:

(aka what I get my 4; nearly 6 year old to help with chopping vegetables – I always cut hard vegetables like carrots and potatoes into batons for them first, and cucumbers in half so there is a flat surface to sit on and then they just dice it. Much safer this way.)

- stirring vegetables in a pot as they cook down to make soup/stews (of course, use your instincts around heat and if they are not listening to your safety instructions, find another less ‘risky’ job for them to do;

- making salad. Washing leaves, spinning leaves, chopping vegetables…;

- creaming butter and sugar in a bowl with a hand mixer;

- cracking eggs (I get them to crack them into a small bowl first before adding it to the recipe, that way if there are any stray shells you can get them out first;

- making toast. Cooking, buttering and spreading;

- helping to fill and roll;

- sushi rolling

- cookies;

- icing and decorating cakes and cupcakes.



gluten-free lemon coconut cupcakes

To make these lactose-free also, I would use a natural margarine in place of butter and lactose-free plain yoghurt in place of Greek. For a change add orange zest and juice in place of lemon.

makes 12

125g butter, softened
1/2 cup (110g) grated pure palm sugar or organic raw sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
the zest and juice of 1 medium lemon
1 cup (120g) fine brown rice flour
1/4 cup (40g) potato starch
2 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder
1/2 cup (45g) desiccated coconut (unsweetened)
1/2 cup (120g) natural Greek yoghurt
90g butter, softened
1 cup (125g) icing sugar (powdered sugar
1/2 cup (45g) lightly toasted flaked coconut, optional

Preheat oven to 180 C/350F. Line 12, 1/2 cup capacity muffin tins with paper cases and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well between additions. Add half of the zest and lemon juice and set the other half aside to add to the icing later. Sieve over the brown rice flour, potato starch and baking powder, add the desiccated coconut and yoghurt, then mix to form a stiff batter.

Spoon mixture evenly between cupcake cases and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre of a cupcake. Remove from the oven and set aside for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.&nbsp

To make the icing, beat butter and icing sugar in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Add the reserved lemon zest and juice and mix to combine

Once the cakes are totally cold, spread or pipe icing onto each cupcake and sprinkle with a little flaked coconut. Best eaten on day of baking, but will keep for 2-3 days stored airtight.

So what’s your favorite way to include the kids in your kitchen?

Happy cooking boys and girls! Xx ~emma

Emma Galloway is a former chef, recent Saveur Best Food Blogs 2012 nominated blogger and author of Originally from Raglan, New Zealand she currently lives with her husband and two young children in Perth, Western Australia. She is a life-long vegetarian and since having children with food intolerances has cooked without gluten and most dairy Follow Emma on her blog My Darling Lemon Thyme  or on Twitter.


15 Responses to Kids In The Kitchen (& Gluten-Free Coconut Cupcakes)

  • Beautiful and inspiring post, and luscious cupcakes! So many parents are actually afraid of having their kids in the kitchen. As parents/grandparents/aunts/uncles, etc., we need to ask ourselves what’s the worst that could happen … maybe go ahead and even smear some frosting on the cabinet doors or spill some milk on the floor and see how easy it is to clean up. The world doesn’t end after all. ;-) Nothing beats kids having that hands-on experience making recipes from real food ingredients. Thank you for this one, Emma! Off to share …



    Emma Galloway Reply:

    I totally agree Shirley. It’s sad that so many people seem to have lost their sense of adventure and are too concerned with the mess that comes with kids in the kitchen. That’s what washing machines and mops were invented for ;-)


  • Sam says:

    Well said Emm! Can’t wait til my little muppet is old enough to start getting his mitts dirty… ah actually he does that already! xx


  • nicky says:

    My son has loved getting ingredients out of the pantry to make up ‘soups’ – rice, oats, lentils, spices, raisins, chopped carrots and squashed tomatoes, etc. Luckily he just uses little amounts of things, otherwise it could get quite annoying if too much is wasted. But I feel this familiarity with and interest in food will lead on to good cooking skills! Now that he’s 4, he’s really keen on chopping veges for real soups, mixing things on the stove, baking and of course licking spoons! There’s often a fairly decent mess on the floor to sweep or wipe up but it doesn’t take too long. Off to clean one up now! Love the sound of this recipe, thanks Emma! & great to visit this new blog too.


    Emma Galloway Reply:

    @nicky, Ah yes I remember those little early ‘experiments’ in the kitchen. My kids also love to make pretend stews outside, using water, flowers and whatever else they can get their hands on.


  • I got my daughter into the kitchen by paying her to grow our vegetables (with lots of help, of course) The more we ate the more she grew, the more pocket money. She knew if she helped in the kitchen she could add in more of her produce to dinner! It also helped her out grow the fussy food stage very quickly. Win win!
    Lovely recipe indeed, yummo!


    Maggie Savage Reply:

    @InTolerant Chef, THIS idea should be trademarked! I love it, thanks for the inspiration. We just worked on our garden today and my 5 year old was like, “Okay Mommy, how much money can I earn pulling weeds.” Your timing is perfect :)


    InTolerant Chef Reply:

    @Maggie Savage,

    How funny, good timing indeed! This is a fun post about one of our experiences if you’re interested:


  • Karen says:

    Today I baked for the first time with my 2 year old and it was SO much fun! We made a breakfast bread and then he cut some soft fruit for a simple fruit salad. He did great with me in the kitchen today. He listened to my (simple) instructions and acted safely. He was so proud of the breakfast we made together! I am so glad we are to the point where we can enjoy these things together as this is how I always envisioned the fun side of motherhood.


    Maggie Savage Reply:

    Yay! That’s a great story, thanks for sharing it. I love it when my kids are in the kitchen with me too. It’s such a blessing, and such a GREAT opportunity to teach them about real food!


    Emma Galloway Reply:

    @Karen, That’s so awesome Karen. And I love that you mentioned how proud they feel themselves once they’ve helped you out. My daughter is over the moon with pride when she gets to pick salad greens from the garden and then make our nightly salad. Good work :-)


  • Love this post! I co-host a linky on Tuesdays called “Kids in the Kitchen” and would love to have you share this recipe and others with us. We desire for kids to get in the kitchen and help momma! :) This weeks link is: Hope to see you there! Blessings, Carrie


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  • MJ says:

    Hi, I am not gluten free, but would love to make these cupcakes. If I’m going to use whole wheat pastry flour, can I omit the potato starch flour and keep the same amount of rice flour you mentioned? Also, is there something that would be equivalent for the coconut meat? Can we use coconut oil or coconut milk or would it not be the same? Thank you so much


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