One thing about cooking with toddlers-- flour will spill everywhere. Sweeping and wiping it up can be good fun if you can conjure up the right mindset.
I should say that I adore powders. I have made many drawings/installations in flour, sand, dust, and dry pigments-- sifted, scraped, poured and swept. I haven't made drawings like that in awhile, and looking at these photos of J and I cooking reminds me of how satisfying it is to work with powders. I love making chocolate cake. Mixing one white powder into another, trying to achieve invisible even-ness, then stirring in the cocoa until its evenly distributed--what could be better? Possibly, pools of oil and water and vinegar settling into the depressions. It reminds me of the "real" pretend cooking that my parents would let me do when I was in late elementary school, using the stove and everything. I would mix herbs and flour and water, sometimes oil and leftovers from the fridge. Some interesting (and not always pleasant smelling) concoctions came about this way.
Now that J is 2 years old, she is absorbing some of the significance of birthdays. She turned 2 earlier this spring, and birthday crowns, birthday cakes, and singing happy birthday have become a regular part of her little mind. So when it was time to make Dad a birthday cake, it was one of the best days of her life. We made the chocolate cake recipe from Mollie Katzen's book, Honest Pretzels.
Honest Pretzels is intended for ages 8 and up, but I'm finding it suits us well. The "8 and up" refers to a child using it on her own, following the story-board-like pictures and directions. Mollie Katzen has several other kids cookbooks, all with friendly little drawings illustrating each step.
The pictures are also a nice visual for me to glance at as I juggle oily measuring cups and bags of flour while explaining that now is not a great time for me to put her "school CD" in the CD player. The illustrated steps are a good match for my brain power and my daughter's need to get right in there and help.
You'll have to check out Honest Pretzels at your library to see the illustrations, but the recipe itself is available online. It's a basic vegan chocolate cake recipe.
I reduced the sugar a bit, since I'm not much of a sweet tooth, and I prefer a richer cocoa flavor.
The best part is that you make it and bake it all in the same pan.