Let them give cake

COOKING FOR CHILDREN; Presents children have made themselves always go down well. Annabel Karmel suggests some festive recipes

Children love helping in the kitchen and are proud to present teachers and friends with something they've made themselves. Not only can they be involved in the cooking, they can also make Christmassy packaging by covering old boxes with wrapping paper, decorating them with cut-out shapes and lining them with shredded tissue paper.

SHORTBREAD CHRISTMAS CUT-OUTS

These can be decorated with edible silver balls and coloured writing icing.

Makes about 15 cookies

l15g/4oz butter

60g/2oz caster sugar

30g/1oz ground almonds

pinch of salt

90g/3oz plain flour

60g/2oz cornflour

Beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until they stick together. Sprinkle a little flour on a work surface and knead the mixture gently for one or two minutes into a smooth dough. With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out to a thickness of about 0.5cm (l/4in) and cut into shapes using cookie cutters. Carefully lift them on to a greased baking sheet and bake in an oven pre-heated to 350F/180C/Gas 4 for about 15 minutes or until lightly golden.

BABY CHRISTMAS PUDDINGS

These miniature puddings look fantastic, children love the taste and they don't need any baking.

Makes about 20

200g/7oz plain chocolate

60g/2oz butter

30ml/2 tablespoons golden syrup

225g/8oz digestive biscuits

60g/2oz finely chopped dried apricots

60g/2oz golden sultanas

60g/2oz raisins

60g/2oz glace cherries, chopped

90g/3oz ready-to-roll white icing

1 tablespoons apricot jam

60g/2oz green ready-to-roll icing

sugar-coated red balls or 30g/1oz ready-to-roll red icing

Melt the chocolate, butter and golden syrup in a pan over a low heat, stirring occasionally for about four minutes. Put the biscuits into a plastic bag, crush into very small pieces with a rolling pin, and mix into the melted chocolate with the dried fruit and glace cherries. Set aside to cool in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Using your hands, roll tablespoons of the mixture into about 20 balls. Dust a work surface lightly with icing sugar, and roll out the icing until quite thin. Use a small petal-shaped cutter or cut small wavy circular shapes with a sharp knife: brush the tops of the puddings with a little warmed apricot jam and stick the circles of icing on top. Roll out the green icing until quite thin and cut out some holly leaves using a small cutter. Use tiny red sugar-coated balls for the berries, or roll a little red icing to make tiny red balls. Attach the decorations to the puddings with a little jam.

CHRISTMAS TREE BISCUITS

It's fun to decorate biscuits for the Christmas tree. To hang them with ribbons, make a hole near the top with a skewer while they are still warm.

Makes about 25 biscuits

60g/2oz butter

l15g/4oz soft brown sugar

4 tablespoons golden syrup

225g/8oz plain flour

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

2 teaspoons milk

coloured and silver edible balls for decoration

For the icing:

115g/4oz icing sugar, sieved

1 tablespoon lemon juice

red, green, yellow food colouring

Put the butter, brown sugar and golden syrup in a pan and heat gently, stirring until melted. Set aside to cool. Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and cinnamon. Mix the butter and syrup mixture into the flour, together with the egg yolk and milk to make a firm dough. Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Sift some icing sugar on to a surface, roll out the dough to a 0.5cm (1/4in) thickness and cut into shapes using various Christmas cookie cutters; press silver or coloured balls into them if you like. Put on to greased baking sheets and bake for about 10 minutes, and leave to cool. Put the icing sugar in a bowl and add enough lemon juice to make a spreading consistency. Divide the icing into bowls and add a few drops of one of the food colouring to each. Decorate the biscuits with piped icing, silver balls and tartan ribbon through the holes if they're for the tree.

MINI CHRISTMAS PRESENTS

You can have fun decorating each of these a little differently. Miniature sweets and cake decorations are just the right size for these presents.

Makes 9

225g/8oz butter

225g/8oz caster sugar

115g/4oz ground almonds

185g/61/2oz sifted self-raising flour

4 eggs

4 tablespoons milk

11/2 teaspoons almond essence

560g/1lb 2oz ready-to-roll white icing

red and green food colouring

red, green and black licorice-laces

mini sweets

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C/Gas 4. Grease and line a 26cm by 20cm (12x9in) cake tin. Cream together the butter and sugar. Sieve the almonds and the flour and add. Beat the eggs lightly and add to the mixture gradually, with the milk and almond essence. Spoon the mixture into the tin, level and bake for about 30 minutes. Leave to cool in the tin, then turn on to a wire rack. Cut into rectangles. Divide the icing into two; leave one half white and divide the other half in two. Colour one half green and the other half red. Roll out the white icing on a surface dusted with icing sugar until quite thin and wrap all around the presents. Decorate with shapes cut from coloured icing or sweets, and tie strips of licorice for ribbons around the presents.

Junior, you shouldn't have: colourful shortbread Christmas cut- outs (above); baby Christmas puddings (below). Both are easy for kids to make

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