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Intense concentration...

Over the weekend, we babysat my nephew, L (3.5 years) and niece, H (21 months). Living in a small terrace, we needed to come up with some activities to keep them from climbing the walls. 

L has always taken an interest in cooking and enjoyed making things at our house. After reading last month’s Gourmet Traveller, we decided that some festive gingerbread would be a great little project. We didn’t go with Adriano Zumbo’s gingerbread recipe from GT (thought it looked a little involved) in the end I chose a recipe from the taste website, as it seemed pretty simple and kid-friendly. 

First up, cream the brown sugar and unsalted butter: 

Butter and brown sugar

Add in golden syrup and an egg yolk: 

Golden syrup in

Stir in flour (we used spelt), ginger, cinnamon and bicarb soda: 

Carefully measuring the flour

Once the mixture is stirred together, the recipe stated you should turn it out on to the bench and knead until it comes together. This was a great (and messy) time for the kids, but the dough wasn’t really coming together. 

I was a little concerned that I had swapped regular flour for spelt without adjusting the liquid ratio (some recipes state you should reduce liquid by up to 25% to compensate). I also did not want to ‘overwork’ the dough, as spelt has a lower gluten content to regular flour and therefore can fail if overworked. In the end, after making quite the mess (as seen on the margins of the photo below), we gave up and used the dough attachment on the KitchenAid (man I love that machine): 

After the dough hook

It looked pretty good – although perhaps still a bit moist (I have adjusted the liquid quantities in the recipe below). I formed it into a disc and refrigerated it for about 30 mins to an hour. 

In the meantime, we made the icing to decorate the gingerbread. I don’t have any pictures of this (too much was happening!) but it is very straightforward. 

We rolled out the dough – I was concerned that it was looking a little fragile, the kids were focussed on eating the edges of raw dough: 

Ready to be cut into shapes

Everyone had a turn at using the cookie cutters, L liked the men, H liked the stars: 


We peeled off the excess dough and popped them in the oven for about 10 minutes. At this stage I was a little concerned about the dough’s consistency… 

But it all came good: 


To decorate we had some icing (green for L and blue for H), smarties and overpriced edible green glitter (it cost $8, I got it from Cake Deco in the city – I always seem to lose my head in there). 

Anyway, decorating was great (and messy!): 

L hard at work (at least he liked the green glitter)

H getting involved (well, mostly just eating the icing)

I thought L’s “ode to green” Christmas tree looked pretty good: 

A very green tree

The rest of the gingerbread also turned out pretty well: 


The gingerbread was nice – obviously sweet (particularly with all that icing!) but it had a good spiciness that wasn’t too much for the kids. Definitely a great activity to keep little hands busy! 



125g butter, at room temperature
100g (1/2 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
100ml golden syrup
1 egg, separated
375g (2 1/2 cups) spelt flour
1 tbs ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Plain flour, to dust
150g (1 cup) pure icing sugar, sifted
food colouring
Smarties, to decorate 


  • Use an electric beater to beat the butter and sugar in a bowl until pale and creamy.
  • Add the golden syrup and egg yolk and beat until combined.
  • Stir in the flour, ginger, cinnamon and bicarbonate of soda.
  • If you have a dough attachment on your mixer – use it! Otherwise, turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth.
  • Press dough into a disc. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
  • Meanwhile, whip eggwhite until soft peaks form. Gradually add icing sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
  • Divide icing among 2-3 bowls. Let the kids choose which colours they want and add the food colouring until you reach the desired shade. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.
  • Place the dough between 2 sheets of baking paper and roll out until about 4mm thick
  • Use cutters to cut out shapes – note because our dough was so moist it was impossible to pick up the cut-out shapes, we simply trimmed the excess dough and put them in the oven on the baking paper.
  • Repeat with excess dough.
  • Bake in oven for 10 minutes or until brown. Remove from oven. Transfer to a rack to cool.
  • Decorate!
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3 Responses to “Kid friendly cooking – spelt gingerbread”

  1. Annabelle says:

    Hey Em,
    Looks like you had great fun! I liked the idea of making edible Christmas gifts, partly as I am a little light on cash wise and secondly as I rather do enjoy cooking. I’m currently in the process of making fruit mince pies to give away as little pressies but after seeing your gingerbread cookies and the recipe in the epicure today I am quite inspired to make some myself. I bought some little Chinese takeaway boxes that I thought would be really cute to put my little “creations” in and with some nice red ribbon. I think they make a good gift for most people, especially someone like Nona!
    Thanks for the inspiration!
    Annabelle xx

    • Emily says:

      Glad you liked them – these were really very easy to make and I ended up with probably about 15-20 pieces of gingerbread (obviously depends on the size of your cutter). They kept reasonably well, but I wouldn’t make them too far in advance, maybe a couple of days or so. Let me know how your mince pies are going, I was going to try making them from the GT but have ran out of time!

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