Parenting

My Son and I Tried a Cake Recipe French Preschoolers Supposedly Make by Themselves

When I was pregnant I read this book called Bringing Up Bébé, by Pamela Druckerman. It’s all about how much better French kids are than American kids because of all these crazy things French parents do (like feeding them daily three-course meals from the time they’re one, and letting them touch hot ovens so they’ll know not to touch them again). And, of course, while I was pregnant I resolved that I would do all these things (except the oven thing, that’s insane), and then did absolutely none of them because they’re all nuts and who are these French people anyway? But there was one thing from the book that has always sounded kind of fun so, yesterday, my son and I tried it.

In the book, Druckerman provides a recipe for a cake which, she claims, French children can make completely by themselves by age three. Now, I’ll begin by saying that my son is not three. He’s two and a half. And I full recognize that the difference between a three-year-old and a two-and-a-half-year-old is kind of like the distance between here and, say, the moon. But I read the directions, thought about my kid, and figured we could probably give it a try.

The recipe is for Gâteau au Yaourt (Yogurt Cake) and the idea is that the recipe calls for two six-ounce containers of yogurt and that, then, the child will use the yogurt containers as scoopers (and measuring cups) for the rest of the ingredients. Sounds like good, wholesome, messy fun, right?

What do you think? Do you want to give it a try? If so, here’s the recipe (with added annotations from me).

GÂTEAU AU YAOURT (YOGURT CAKE) (From Bringing up Bébé, by Pamela Druckerman)

  • 2 six ounce containers of plain whole-milk yogurt (This sounds disgusting. And also doesn’t exist in my grocery store. I got vanilla yogurt. Whatever.)
  • 2 eggs (Wait, he can’t use the little scooper cup thing for eggs. Is he supposed to crack eggs all by himself?! I’m beginning to think I’ve been lied to.) 
  • 2 containers sugar, or just one depending on how sweet you like it
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (Again, I was promised a cake he could make by himself. What three-year-old can pour vanilla into a teaspoon?!)
  • Just under 1 container of vegetable oil (This whole project was probably a mistake.)
  • 4 containers flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder (Again with the teaspoons. You’re killing me!)
  • Creme fraîche (optional)  (Then forget it.)

(So, at this point I tell my kid that he’s going to make a cake all by himself. He’s super excited and wants to get started right away. He puts on his little blue apron and looks adorable. So far so good. Maybe this will be fine after all.)

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. (I assume I, rather than he, am supposed to do this part. Though, given that Druckerman says French parents let their kids touch hot ovens so they can learn not to touch them, I’m not so sure. But I figure that’s insane so I stick with the good old American “don’t touch things that will maim you” approach.)
  • Use vegetable oil to grease a 9-inch round cake or loaf pan. (I used two oblong loaf tins because whatever. Seemed fine. I did this part too, because, duh. So far I seem to be the one making this cake.)
  • Gently combine yogurt, eggs, sugar, vanilla and oil. (Let’s be honest. What three-year-old does anything gently? Okay, for annotation purposes, let’s take these ingredients one at a time.)
    • Yogurt (Hang on. Once we’ve dumped the yogurt all over the table . . . um, I mean, in the bowl, I have to rinse and dry the containers, right? We’re not supposed to stick sticky yogurt containers into my flour canister, are we? Or, was I supposed to have extra yogurt containers lying around? Who keeps random yogurt containers lying around? Wait. Are the French, like, hoarders of random yogurt containers or something? Okay, focus.)
    • Eggs (Luckily, my son decided that Mommy should crack the eggs. Probably because we’re both still traumatized from the toddler egg cracking incident of ’16. If your kid wants to crack the eggs himself, good luck to you.)
    • Sugar (So, my kid doesn’t know how to scoop. I didn’t know this previously. He’s always done fine with scooping water and stuff but, now that I think about it, he’s not so hot on scooping sand. And sugar is basically edible sand. So, yeah, we’re screwed.)
    • Vanilla  (Yeah, no, he can’t pour from a tiny bottle into a tiny spoon. Can French children really do this?? I’m beginning to suspect foul play. My son held the spoon, I poured the vanilla. Team effort.)
    • Oil (Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.)
  • In a separate bowl mix together flour and baking powder. (Again, kid can’t scoop. I scooped, he poured. All over the table. Then he discovered flour is really cool to play with. I tried to remind him we were making a cake. He was too far gone. I added the baking powder myself.)
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix gently until combined (do not over mix). (Okay, I’ll tell him. Me: “Don’t over mix, okay?” Him: “I’m making a cake all by myself!” Me: “You’re under the table.”)
  • You can add 2 containers frozen berries, a container of chocolate chips or any flavoring you’d like. (Um, chocolate chips, obviously.)
  • Bake for 35 minutes, then five minutes more if the cake doesn’t pass the knife test. It should be almost crispy on the outside but springy on the inside. Let it cool. The cake is delicious served with tea and a dollop of créme fraîche.  (“I made a cake all by myself!” That’s what I said. My son was too busy eating chocolate chips off the floor.)

So, can your child make this cake all by himself? Um, no. Well, at least, mine can’t. Not sure what’s up with these French kids and their superhuman cake-making skills. But I’m fine with my all-American boy. Wouldn’t trade him for the world. Not even for France.