Invent Your Own Cake!

During our visit to Washington, D.C. last week, we stopped by the Smithsonian Museum of American History. In the basement of this museum was an amazing area for children:  The Spark Lab…a place to encourage inventions and critical thinking! Even though we didn’t have the boys with us on this trip, we spent several minutes watching other children learn and have fun!

For the next several days, I’ll share ideas that we saw while at the Spark Lab as well as a few others I found on their equally wonderful website.

The idea to invent your own cake was one of the first things we saw while in the Spark Lab. I instantly fell in love with the idea (especially since I tend to be a don’t-veer-from-the-recipe-at-any-cost kinda girl). I have a hard time “experimenting” in the kitchen and don’t really want to pass that on the my kids (boys cook too sometimes, just ask my husband). The optimal age for this activity is probably 5+ years, but we modified so that Big Brother could participate.

At the Spark Lab, a magnetic dry erase board was set up and divided into 4 sections:  basics, liquids, seasonings, and extras. The ingredients each had their own magnet and the children could move the magnets to the areas to create their own recipe. I modified that idea with a cut-and-paste recipe printable. And in this activity (as opposed to at the museum), your child actually gets to mix and bake the cake!

Download both pages by clicking on the images below:

1. Print out both pages and then cut out the ingredients (or let your child if he/she is old enough).
2. Now here’s the important part…let your child choose the ingredients. Yes, it might be hard to hand over that tiny bit of control…but it’s worth it. Oh, and you can cleverly discard the “tomato sauce” and “spinach” prior to reading the said ingredients to your child (which you might want to do if you actually plan on eating it). :)
3. Start gluing down the ingredients your child chooses…
4. Make sure you include ALL of the basic ingredients. They’re in red. Then choose 2 liquids and however many seasonings and “extras” your child wishes!
5. Add the measurements. I did this part. I tried to recall from memory other cake recipes I’ve made and loosely guestimated, writing the amount beside the ingredient. Keep in mind, you can adjust this as needed while making the batter…we ended up having to add another egg and an additional 1/4 cup milk because our cake batter was too thick.
6. Get started!
Mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl first…
…and then beat the eggs, sugar, and liquids in another larger bowl.
7. Mix wet and dry ingredients. Check the consistency…if it is too thick,  add another egg or some more liquid. If it is too runny, add more flour.
8. Add in the extras…yes, that is pumpkin, chocolate chips AND marshmallows! An interesting combination!
9. Grease a 9×13 pan.
10. Pour batter in…
…and bake. We baked ours at 350 degrees. I set the timer for 30 minutes and kept checking the center with a toothpick to see if it would come out clean.
Big Brother was so anxious to try his unique creation!
All done!
Now for the taste-test…
It was actually quite delicious!!!
All of us enjoyed it, especially this little stinker.
Even if your cake doesn’t turn out very well, it is still a wonderful activity for experimenting and trying something new! With older children, you could even encourage them to hypothesize why the cake was too dry/too wet, etc.


  1. This is awesome. I can mess around with cooking recipes pretty easily, but was always intimidated to guess anything when it came to baking because it had to turn out "right." How freeing to be able to guesstimate and have something yummy as the result.

  2. This post came at the perfect time since my oldest daughter has expressed an interest in baking. Thank you for sharing! We'll try and see what creations we (I mean, they) will come up with!

  3. Love this idea but I have a problem I can’t print these documents because they are in color. When I print most don’t come out. Do you have a B/W version of this? I just love this idea. My kids are in the kitchen with me all the time and would love to create their own version. Thanks Jill

    1. When you print them, can you choose “print in black-and-white”? I don’t have the originals anymore, so I cannot upload them in black-and-white only.

  4. What a fun addition to our “inventor” unit! My son loves to cook and he had the best time creating a Will-original recipe :) Thanks!

  5. I know this post is quite old but I am wondering if the printables are still available anywhere. I cannot seem to access them.
    Thank you

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