Gingerbread House with Graham Crackers

Tips and tricks to making gingerbread houses with royal icing and graham crackers.

Building and decorating gingerbread houses is one of my cherished childhood memories from the holidays. It was aways so much fun and such a mess! 😆 I knew it and that’s why the last couple of years I’ve picked up one of the easy kits that comes with everything you need. Super convenient for sure, especially with a baby in the house! But this year we wanted to give it a go with graham crackers and homemade royal icing. And yes, it was a mess but SO worth it! P was more proud then she’d ever been about her house and J loved picking his sprinkles and sneaking extra icing. Here’s how we made our village!

Royal Frosting

Homemade royal icing worked so much better than any of the frosting packets that come with the kits. It’s easier to spread and dries much quicker.

Ingredients

3 cups /360 grams confectioners sugar

2 large egg whites

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Combine sugar, eggs and cream of tartar in a large mixing bowl and whip until stiff and glossy. Transfer to popping bag or bottles. Keep covered when you’re not using it.

Building the Houses

We made one large house and a few little houses in our village. I think part of the process is playing around with the graham crackers to see what works and what doesn’t. This what made it easier for us:

We used blocks to support the walls of our house while we spread on the icing. We eventually switched to piping bags and bottles.

Pipe or spread icing on the sides of the cracker before putting it on the house.

I think we’re ready for some dry wall work 😝

The based dried for about 40 minutes before we put on the roof. Using whole graham crackers for the roof worked really well.

For our little houses we used 3 whole crackers snapped in half. If it were just my 2.5 year old, I would make these little houses every time. They are quick to dry and just enough space to decorate without loosing interest.

Decorating

Now the fun part 😂 Each little elf got a bottle of icing and decorated away. I helped J with spreading the icing and he loved to choose which sprinkle to use. P worked happily with her house on a spinning cake stand. Her biggest success was using mini candy canes to make a door and decorating the cake stand with gumdrops and chocolates.

As the years go by, I look forward to seeing how the they change and create a unique house every time! I don’t think I’ll ever go back to buying the kits.

If you make a house like ours we’d love to see it! Share your gingerbread house creations #junebugbakerslove

Happy building!!

Xoxo

June Bug Bakers

Snowball Cookies + Snowflake Tart

If baking with your children is on your holiday memory making to-do list, here’s an easy and delicious cookie recipe to try.

Holiday baking with toddlers and young children makes amazing memories but it can quickly turn messy and chaotic. That’s why I like recipes easy enough for them to enjoy making and flexible enough for me not to stress about how it will turn out. These snowball cookies are made with all taste-test friendly ingredients (nothing raw!), take about 30 minutes start to finish and powdered sugar dusting is always so much fun!

I’ve been using this recipe from Delish for years. The trickiest part has always been making sure the balls don’t crumble. So this year I tweaked the recipe by creaming the butter and sugar first to make it easier for little hands to form and roll. Mix on high for 8-10 minutes until the butter and sugar are smooth and fluffy. Then mix in the dry ingredients. You can experiment with different nuts and filling.

After we formed a dozen cookies we had a little left over dough. Penny wanted to try something different so she filled two tart pans about half way and topped with peppermint pieces. Her Peppermint Snowflakes turned out wonderfully ❄️

Let us know if you bake these Snowball Cookies (or snowflake tart)! #junebugbakerslove

Happy holiday baking!!

Xoxo

June Bug Bakers

Chocolate Pretzel Jingle Sticks

We are so portable these days, with remote work and school, that we decided to spent the week after Thanksgiving at a cabin in our nearby mountains. In between school and hiking I wanted a fun and easy activity to feel festive at the start of December. The fact that we made these in a kitchen not our own proves how easy it is 🤣 So if you like chocolate covered pretzels and your kiddos like (love:) sprinkles, make these. It’s a perfect holiday activity for age preschool and up!

From start to finish it took us about 30 minutes, plus time for the chocolate to set. I melted the chocolate over LOW heat on the stove, stirring often and watching carefully that it didn’t burn. Once it’s smooth and warm (about 10 minutes) it’s ready to pour into a tall glass. We used 6oz of chocolate melts for about 12-15 pretzel rods.

I set up a spot with wax paper for both Penny and Jack. They shared the tall glass of melted chocolate to dip the pretzels. Penny worked pretty independently. I helped Jack with the chocolate while he enjoyed testing and playing with the sprinkles.

Let us know if you make your own Jingle Sticks! Share a picture on Instagram and tag us @junebugbakers #junebugbakersjinglesticks

Oh and don’t forget the hot cocoa! Happy December!!

Xoxo

June Bug Bakers

Mini Tres Leches Cake

Things we love about this Mini Tres Leches Cake: its moist and light, the whipped cream frosting makes it a breeze to frost and it’s just the right size to avoid cake lingering around the kitchen for days.

A Tres Leches Cake is a Latin American dessert made with eggs and flour (out of the oven it’s similar to angle food cake) and then soaked in a combination of evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream. This layered Tres Laches Cake has less cream than a traditional sheet pan cake but the flavor, frosting and fruit is all there.

We adapted our recipe from the Pioneer Woman. It’s SO delicious and completely worthy of a special occasion or any day.

Baking a Mini Tres Leches with your little bakers

June Bug Baker Recipe Rating: Ladybug Learner Level III

This cake recipe will help little bakers test their skills whipping eggs and cream. Beating the eggs takes a bit of attentiveness and there are three different steps to the recipe (cake batter, tres leches cream, and frosting) which require a longer attention span.

To make it more doable for ages 2-4 years, I would prep the batter ahead of time and have your little one help with making the tres leches cream and whipped cream frosting. All ages will have a lot of fun decorating the little cake! Here are some tips by age for making this cake with little bakers:

2 years + mix all the dry ingredients.

2 years + mix the tres leches filling.

2 years + frost and decorate the cake. (The whipped cream frosting is very spreadable. Scoop a little frosting on top and let your little baker spread it out with an icing spatula or butter knife.)

3 years + poke the cake with a fork before pouring on the tres leches filling.

3 years + slice strawberries using a toddler safe knife.

4 years + beat egg yokes until light and pale yellow and beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. (Stiff peaks are created by beating egg whites until peaks stand straight up when the mixer is lifted. When they are ready the peaks will not fall over. Careful here not to over-beat and make the egg whites dry.)

4 years + whip heavy cream to make frosting.

7 years + practice cracking eggs and separating the whites from the yokes. (Pro tip: any broken egg shells can be scooped out using another broken piece of shell).

How we baked it

Mini Tres Leches Cake Recipe

Total Time: 1 hour | Prep 40 minutes | Bake Time: 18-20 minutes
Servings: 10-12 slices using two 6 inch cake pans
Adapted slightly from The Pioneer Women
June Bug Bakers Rating: Ladybug Learner

Ingredients:
1/2 cup (64 g) all purpose flour
1/2 + 1/4  teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, separated yokes and whites
1/2 cup sugar (separate out 2 tablespoons)
1/4 teaspoons vanilla
3 tablespoons buttermilk (or milk)

Tres Leches Drizzle
5 oz evaporated milk
7 oz sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons buttermilk (or heavy cream)

Whipped Cream Frosting
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup maple syrup
8-10 strawberries hulled and halved

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). Spray two round 6 inch cake pans. Line bottom of pans with parchment paper and spray again.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Set that aside for now.
  3. Crack eggs and separate the whites from the yokes. (We did this while prepping the measuring all the ingredients).
  4. Pour egg yokes into a medium sized bowl and add 6 tablespoons of sugar.
  5. Beat yokes and sugar on high speed until yokes are pale yellow. 
  6. Stir in milk and vanilla.
  7. Add egg yolk mixture to flour mixture and gently combine. 
  8. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. As you continue beating, pour in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.
  9. Fold egg white mixture into batter very gently. Make sure not to over mix. 
  10. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread until even.
  11. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Allow cake to cool on plate.
  12. Make the Tres Leches drizzle: Combine sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream in small pitcher.
  13. Whipped Cream Maple Frosting: Beat 1 pint of heavy whipping cream until thick, stir in about 1/4 cup of maple syrup.
  14. Refrigerate cream and frosting until cake is cool.
  15. When cake is cool poke the surface several times with a fork.
  16. Slowly drizzle about 1/2 cup of the tres leches cream mixture between both layers of cake.
  17. As the cake absorbs the cream, hull and half the strawberries.
  18. Frost the first layer of cake and layer on strawberries, spread frosting on top of the strawberries, place the second layer of cake, and frost top and sides. Decorate with strawberries.

Baking Strawberry Glazed Donuts

Have you ever baked donuts with your little bakers? If not, you totally should! It’s fun, surprisingly easy and totally satisfies that donut craving!

For this Beginner Baker project we used a recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction. We followed the steps closely but switched out the Greek yogurt for strawberry whole milk yogurt. With a 5 year old and a 2 year old in the kitchen, it took us around 40 minutes to bake and frost the donuts.

Making Donuts with little bakers

P was in the kitchen first and helped me measure and mix the dough. When little brother woke up from his nap he helped make the frosting and added sprinkles. Here are some tips to involve your little baker in making donuts:

5 year+ measure ingredients.
Using color coded measuring cups and spoons can help little bakers more easily identify measuring tools.

2 year + mix ingredients.
Use a whisk for the wet ingredients and switch to a spatula when combining wet and dry ingredients. Careful not to over mix!

3 year + crack the egg.
Any broken pieces of egg shells can easily be scooped out using another broken piece of shell.

5 years + help squeeze the dough into the donut pan.
This is great for small motor skill development. I didn’t get a video of P doing it with me this time but we’re working on a video on how to make piping easier for little hands. This is a great bake to practice with because the donuts end up covered in frosting anyway.

2 years + using toddler safe knives cut the strawberries.

2 years + mix the strawberry purée with powdered sugar.
Start with 1 cup of powdered sugar. Let them add powdered sugar in 1/4 cup increments and watch the consistency change as the puree absorbs the sugar. We added about 2 cups.

3 years + frost the donuts using a brush or dipping into frosting.
I dipped the donuts since I was with both my 2 and 5 yo. If it was just me and my older baker I think she could handle the dipping!

2 year + decorate donuts with sprinkles!

How we baked it

Recipe link: Strawberry Frosted Donuts

Sprinkle Sugar Cookies

If you need a splash of sprinkles in your life, these little cookies will do the trick.

This is my grandma’s classic sugar cookie recipe. We usually use this recipe for cut out cookies. This time we experimented to find the just right size for these sprinkle sugar cookies. In our first batch we used our 1.5 tablespoon cookie dough scoop and left them in balls. This resulted in thick round cookies. For the second batch we made the balls half that size and flattened them slightly before baking. While both are delicious, the smaller cookies make for a perfect little bite. They are also delicious dipped in tea or coffee.

Baking with your little baker

If your little bakers loves sprinkles this is a perfect afternoon baking activity. It’s a Beginner Baker recipe with just a few steps and about 30 minutes to make.

The sprinkles drew my 2 year old into the kitchen. To keep him occupied while prepping and making the dough, I let him do some sensory play with an extra bowl of sprinkles, scooping them from one bowl to another. If you don’t have extra sprinkles, they can play with a little flour. There are a lot of jobs for little bakers with this recipe. Here are some of our favorite:

  • Using the mixer to cream the butter and sugar.
  • Forming cookie dough into balls.
  • Rolling the cookie dough in sprinkles.

how we baked it

Sprinkle sugar cookies

Beginner Baker
2 dozen 3 inch cookies
30 minutes | Hands on: 15-20 minutes Bake time: 8-10 minutes

Ingredients
6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sprinkles, plus more for rolling cookie dough

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper or non stick spray.
  3. Combine flour, baking power and salt in small bowl and set aside.
  4. Cream butter and sugar in large bowl with mixer on high speed for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy.
  5. Add egg and beat on medium speed until combined.
  6. Add vanilla extract and beat until combined.
  7. On low speed, mix in flour mixture – careful not to over-beat.
  8. Fold in sprinkles.
  9. Scoop dough into tablespoon size balls and roll in sprinkles.
  10. Place dough on cookie sheet and press cookie to flatten slightly.
  11. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.

If you bake this recipe, let us know!
#junebugbakerslove

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Smoothie Breakfast Bowl

A perfect breakfast for a summer heat wave. These refreshing bowls are made with a blend of frozen cherries, pomegranate arils, strawberries, and blueberries. Fruits high in antioxidants and packed with nutrients. It also tastes amazing!

Making a Breakfast Bowl with Your Little Baker

This is an Easy Easy Lemon Squeezy treat to make together. We get our frozen mixed antioxidant fruit blend from Sprouts. P measures all the ingredients with me, dumps everything in the blender and loves pushing the buttons. Top the bowls with anything you have in the pantry – granola, coconut, almonds, and even more fruit! This recipe makes 6 cups. We froze the extra and defrosted it in the refrigerator overnight to enjoy the next morning.

How we Blended it

Smoothie Breakfast Bowl

Blend Together:
12 oz frozen antioxidant fruit blend: blueberries, sweet cherries, pomegranate arils + strawberries
6 oz frozen blueberries
1 banana
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon honey

Toppings:
Granola
Coconut
Strawberries
Chai seeds

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Easy Delicious Pretzels

Staring down our first full week of distance learning, we needed snacks. Fun, easy, stress-relieving snacks. These homemade soft pretzels are up for the challenge.

In my search for a little baker friendly soft pretzel recipe it didn’t take long before I found one I could not resist. The one that promised only 10 minutes of rise time and a total time of 40 minutes. Plus, step by step pretzel folding pictures. The clear winner.

We’re rating this a Ladybug Learner level 3 recipe. While it only takes a few ingredients, there are multiple steps that add a challenge, like boiling the dough and forming the pretzels. It took us closer to 1 hour from start to finish but I usually anticipate a little extra time. The dough is so not fussy and forming the pretzels was almost relaxing. The step by step pictures really helped P understand what to do and after a little practice she was folding all by herself. (Check out our Instagram page for our pretzel folding form 😉

Baking Pretzels with Your little baker

So definitely don’t go into this bake expecting 12 uniform mall-stand pretzels. I let go of that idea pretty quickly when I saw how much fun she was having forming the pretzels her way. As you’ll see we had a variety of shapes and they all turned out delicious! Lots for little bakers to do like:

  • Combine the water and yeast and watch it bubble.
  • Pour flour into bowl while you mix (we used a wooden spoon but you can use a stand mixer.)
  • Practice kneading the dough for older bakers. For younger ones you might break off a tiny piece and let them play with their own ball. (P took her own little section to knead while I worked over the large ball of dough. It’s a quick knead, only 3 minutes.)
  • Roll the dough and form the pretzels. (Hands down the most fun.)
  • Season the pretzels (We used Trader Joe’s Everything Bagel Seasoning and salt.)

How we Baked it

Recipe

You can find this truly easy and delicious recipe at Sally’s Baking Addiction: Easy Homemade Soft Pretzels

And another quick grab by little brother. Yum!

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Making Madeleines

There are a lot of recipes and tips on how to make these delightful sponge cake cookies. It can be a bit overwhelming. But our first attempt at making Madeleines wasn’t so bad. It takes some prep and some patience but the results are delicious. We did it and so can you.

After pouring over a few recipes I finally settled on one from Serious Eats by Lauren Weisenthal. I found the directions to be straightforward and we loved the detailed slideshow that made following along easy for P.

We’re calling this a Daring Dragonfly bake because while it takes only few pantry staples it really is particular and requires patience and technique. We definitely made yummy madeleines but they lacked the definitive hump and they were not as spongy as we would like. Even while they weren’t perfect they were definitely worth the effort and something we will bake again.

Making MADs with your Little Baker

Prep is key in this bake. I planned ahead to have room temperature eggs and the butter melted and cooled. Then I measured all the ingredients while P and J played together. We also read a story about our favorite the little french girl to get in the spirit.

I think the most important step to be aware of is folding in the flour and melted butter. As I’ve read, and experienced, its very easy to over-mix. At 5 years old P was able to help with a lot. Little bakers might be able to:

  • Rub the vanilla bean into the sugar (we did not have vanilla bean so we used a 1/2 teaspoon of extract);
  • Crack the eggs into a separate bowl, check for shells and then add them to the sugar. (I cracked the eggs this time because P is going through an anti-egg cracking phase.)
  • Take turns mixing the butter and sugar for several minutes.
  • Add the flour and melted butter while a grown up folds gently with a spatula.
  • Prepare the baking pan by spreading butter in the shells and sprinkling on the sugar.
  • Help fill the tins with dough. As I read many places, the filling does not need to be perfectly spread out. It will work itself out in the oven!

How We Baked It

You can find the Serious Eats recipe we used here: Vanilla Bean Madeleine Recipe

Here’s the gallery of the techniques used in making Madeleines. P really loved following along with these pictures: Sweet Technique: How to Make Madeleines.

Brother woke up just as they were coming out of the oven in time for our tea party.

Happy Baking!

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