Mimi's house is Chocolate Mint Pistachio Cake, warm from the oven with mint candies melting over the top. Last year we were going to be staying with her for a while, and I specifically requested the pistachio mint cake. It used to be a regular feature in her kitchen, but it had been a while since it had made an appearance. Perhaps the fact that I had my own daughter with whom I could share this tradition jogged my memory. My sister was overjoyed as well. "That was always my favorite!" she agreed. One thing that is so wonderful about it is that the children can unwrap all of those foil covered mints that go on top of the cake. Then when it comes out of the oven, they can lay them in a row over the top of the warm cake, watching as they harden into a shiny topping. As good as it was to eat, I think that one thing that made this my favorite was the part I got to play in helping my grandmother make it.
Cooking with a child takes a little longer and is a little messier, but it is such a fun activity and it creates memories for the child and the adult, not to mention building skills and self-esteem for the child. They are so proud of something that they help to create, and one day they will be cooking for you, not with you.
As anticipated, my daughter loved the cake as well. It's moist, chocolatey, minty and green. What kid doesn't like green food? Because of the color, this cake is especially good to serve at Christmas or as a St. Patrick's Day treat, especially if the batter is enhanced with a couple of drops of green food coloring.
Chocolate Mint Pistachio Cake, as made with a child helper
1 box of Yellow Cake Mix
1 4 serving box of pistachio pudding
3/4 cup cooking oil
1/2 cup water
2 cups of chocolate chips or chunks
1 13 oz bag of wrapped chocolate peppermint patties
green food coloring, optional
Cut open the bag of cake mix and let your little helper pour it in the bowl. Do the same with the pudding mix. Using a liquid measuring cup (1 cup or larger), show your helper the 3/4 cup mark, and ask her to tell you when to stop pouring the cooking oil. Let your helper pour the oil into the mix. Add the water to the mix. If your helper wants to try cracking the eggs, let her do so into the measuring cup so that it's easy to fish out any shells that might get in. I also find it handy to have paper towels ready to wipe the egg ick off little fingers. Mix the eggs a bit before adding them to the batter. If you would like to add a couple of drops of food coloring to the batter, do so now.
Even a young child can use one of the small hand held mixers, so let her mix the batter with you standing by, or even help you by putting her little hand over yours. Add the chocolate chips, and yes, the child can eat a couple of them right now (You can, too. I won't tell)! Let your helper stir the chocolate chips in with a big wooden spoon.
Bake the cake in a 9 x 13 inch sheet cake pan as directed on the box. While it's baking, let the child unwrap the mint candies. Try to hold off on sampling any, to be sure you have enough to cover the cake.
As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, lay the candies in rows, just touching, over the whole cake. An older child can help with this, being careful to avoid the hot cake pan. After the cake's heat softens the candies, spread them a bit with a spatula. If they don't soften, return to the oven for a couple of minutes.
Let the cake cool completely, cut into squares, and serve.