If you grew up in the ’90s, then you’ll likely have fond memories of finding a Little Debbie dessert tucked inside your school lunch bag. It was a good day when I found a Star Crunch, Oatmeal Creme Pie or Cosmic Brownie (thanks, Mom!). If you’re up for a fun time in the kitchen, then try your hand at a homemade version of Cosmic Brownies. I did, and I have zero regrets.
The Importance of Baking with Kids
Kids of all ages can help in the kitchen by doing age-appropriate cooking tasks. It gives them practical experience with skills like reading, chemistry and even simple fractions. Plus, exposure to scratch cooking helps kids develop a palate and a taste for fresh, wholesome ingredients. You’ll notice that baking also teaches kids important interpersonal skills, such as communication, collaboration and sharing, following directions and patience, to name a few.
Here are some other great reasons for cooking with kids, according to HealthyChildren.org:
- “While cooking with your child, practice new vocabulary as you describe how food looks, feels and tastes. Following a recipe from start to finish helps build the skills for planning and completing projects.”
- “Cooking together and prioritizing health over the convenience of processed food are great ways to lead by example and help your children buy into a culture of wellness.”
- “Teach kids the importance of staying safe while cooking by showing them how to hold kitchen tools safely, how to use oven mitts to protect hands from heat and how to turn appliances on and off safely.”
Baking as a family will take longer than baking solo. Embrace that fact! When you do, you’ll get a lot more enjoyment out of it.
How to Make Copycat Cosmic Brownies
This brownie recipe from Deb Anderson of Joplin, Missouri is just like the classic Little Debbie dessert. All you need to do is add sprinkles!
- 1/3 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 large egg whites, room temperature
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup baking cocoa
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Wilton Rainbow Crunch Sprinkles
- 3 to 4 teaspoons hot water
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons baking cocoa
- 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
Step 1: Cream and Mix
Preheat your oven to 350° and then spray an 8-in. square baking pan with cooking spray. I recommend doing this towards the sink or an opened dishwasher so the spray doesn’t get everywhere. Then, cream the butter and sugar until it’s light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and egg whites, one at a time.
Editor’s Tip: I typically separate egg whites in the shell, but if that makes you too nervous, try these other methods for separating eggs. You can challenge young bakers who are 8+ to separate the egg yolks from the whites!
Next, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl. (This is an excellent task for younger bakers.) Gradually add that to the creamed mixture.
Step 2: Bake and Wait
Pour the batter (it will be thick) into an 8-in. square baking pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. You can ask kids to help you take a closer look at the toothpick.
My oven runs a little cooler so I had to keep them in there for 3 extra minutes. Once the cosmic brownies are ready to come out, place the pan on a wire rack and let them cool completely. While you’re waiting for the brownies to cool, find out if Little Debbie was a real person or not.
Step 3: Glaze and Spread
When the brownies are completely cool, it’s time for the glaze. Mix the hot water, vanilla and cocoa. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar. When the glaze is smooth and glossy, pour it onto the cooled brownies. You may need to use a spatula to spread it out. Then, top it off with a healthy dose of rainbow sprinkles. Your kids will definitely want to help with this part!
Finally, cut into rectangles 1-1/2×3 inches long. Score the center so you can break off two pieces, just like you used to do with the original Cosmic Brownies. Ahh, this takes me back. But I have to admit, I like this homemade version better!