The Cake Kids Can Make All By Themselves For Mother's Day (Yes, really)
Because I am obsessed with the French, and with French culture (the nice way to say it is that I'm a Francophile but the truth is I'm borderline obsessed) I've been reading the book Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman - which is a collection of observations from an American woman, married to a British man, who is raising her children in Paris. She makes a lot of observations about the differences in French and American parenting that have been very eye opening to me - but the thing that stood out most to me was the idea that French children are given a set of boundaries, and then allowed to move freely within them. They are also given more responsibility and treated as a reasonable individual - not the helpless, illogical beings that I believe most American parents view their children as. Druckerman tells us that French children wait - they do not interrupt you when you are talking, they look you in the eye and greet you with a "bonjour" when they walk in the door, and they eat full-blown 5 course meals including a cheese course almost daily without it ever consisting of goldfish crackers, chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, pizza, or ice cream.
Basically, those little French kids are good eaters, good sleepers, and don't scream bloody murder for you to put a new dress on their barbie while you're on the phone with your boss.
That is so unfair.
Anyway, in her book, Druckerman shares a recipe for a cake that she says French children begin making completely on their own as early as age 2. It's a simple cake that is made with yogurt, and all of the ingredients are measured using the empty yogurt containers. The idea here goes back to the premise of giving children a set of boundaries, and trusting that they can work within them. I loved this idea for so many reasons - baking a cake would build confidence, encourage independence, require focus, and the obvious one - there would be warm cake served at the end of it.
I decided to try it out with our 6 year old son. He is an excellent reader, so I took it a step further, and I wrote down the measurements for the ingredients on one side of the paper, and wrote down the instructions on the other side. Then, I sat next to him and watched. I encouraged him and helped him to reason his way through the process, which took about an hour (the cake is not hard to make - the hard part is not just jumping in and taking over, therefore it took us an hour to make) from start to oven.
The end result was a little boy who was insanely proud of himself. I was pretty excited too - it forced him to use math, reasoning skills, motor skills, and reading comprehension. It was a major brain workout in just an hour - all disguised as a harmless little cake! After watching us complete our activity from the safe distance of the living room (and taking the terrible photo of me that you see above with no makeup on) my fiance' commented to me that it would make a really great post about a fun activity to do with kids and I totally agree. So, here it is.
Want to try and make the Yogurt Cake with your kids? Here is the version of the recipe that I used, adapted from Bringing Up Bebe:
French Yogurt Cake
* 3 four-ounce containers of plain whole-milk yogurt (use the empty containers to measure the other ingredients)
* 2 eggs
* 2 containers of sugar
* 1 teaspoon of vanilla
* 1 container of vegetable oil
* 4 containers of cake flour
* 1.5 teaspoons of baking powder
* 1 container chocolate chips (next time we're going to use 2 containers of frozen berries)
Preheat your oven to 375.
Grease a loaf pan or 9 inch round cake pan with vegetable oil.
In a large bowl, add the yogurt, eggs, vanilla, and oil. Stir gently to combine, then add the sugar and stir again. (never put eggs on top of sugar - you'll "burn" them and create a film around the yolk).
In a medium bowl, combine the flour and the baking powder.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and mix until they are just combined. Don't overmix.
Add in your chocolate chips, berries, lemon zest, etc. now. (use your imagination, the sky is the limit!)
Pour into pan, and bake for 35 minutes or until the cake passes the knife test. Allow to cool completely before serving.
More fun with kids in the kitchen!