Valentine's Day Cupcakes

Kids love cupcakes - and Valentine's Day is a the time for yummy chocolate ones!

By Kathy Oberman

 Easy to bake and decorate, it's no surprise that cupcakes are kids' favorites. When better to bake them with the children than on Valentine's Day?

Kids can make cupcakes with any chocolate cake recipe. Many home bakers prefer homemade batter, but boxed cake mixes are more than satisfactory -- and easy for kids to mix up.

Get Ready
Help the kids assemble cupcake or muffin pans, a wire cooling rack, and decorative paper or foil liners,

For decorating, have vanilla and/or chocolate buttercream frosting on hand, food coloring, confectioners' sugar, and decorative sprinkles and candies.

Beyond the normal cake baking equipment (bowls, scrapers, measuring cups and spoons) make sure you have a butter knife for icing the cupcakes.

Even before they mix the batter, the kids should line the cupcake pans with paper or foil liners. The stores offer decorative liners for Valentine's Day, which make the process even more fun.

Inserting the liners into the pans is a task even the smallest child can master.

Bake the Cupcakes
Preheat the oven according to the recipe instructions. Most home ovens take a good 20 minutes to reach an accurate temperature, so be sure to do this first.

Help the kids mix the batter, and when it's smooth and evenly colored, spoon it into the cupcake liners. Fill each cup only about two-thirds full to give the cakes room to expand as they bake.

Cupcakes bake in roughly 20 minutes. You know they are done when a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean.

Let the cupcakes cool in the pans for two to three minutes before tipping them from the pan or lifting them carefully. Set them, right side up, on the cooling rack to cool completely.

Don't attempt to frost them until they are at room temperature. While they cool, the kids can make homemade frosting or tint the storebought frosting.

To frost, mound each cooled cake with frosting. Using the butter knife or another dull blade, smooth the frosting over the top of the cupcake, leaving it mounded a little in the center. Swirl it or not!

Color vanilla icing pink, lavender, or red for Valentine's Day. To make lavender icing, stir red and blue food coloring into the frosting until it reaches the appropriate hue.

Kids love decorating with generous dustings of white, red, and pink sprinkles. Mix and match the colors, or use them separately. Nothing could be easier!

For fancier decorations, look for "decorator sprinkles" in the shape of hearts or stars and in varying shades of red, pink and purple. Try decorating icing gel to create hearts, initials, or fanciful swirls.

Happy Valentine's Day!