Friday, August 16, 2013

On cooking with kids - gateau au yaourt

I’ve got two boys that love to “help” in the kitchen. Although I can’t wait for the day that they start washing dishes, it can be tough to find things for them to do; Mikus is too young to be left unsupervised, and Lauris still needs help with many tasks. My goal with them is not to create more work for myself in clean-up; instead I aim to familiarize them with the ingredients that go into the foods they eat, teach  them the kitchen basics and keep them out of trouble while I’m cooking.

While living in France I often heard about gâteau au yaourt, or yogurt cake. You might be familiar with it from the book “Bringing up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting” by Pamela Druckerman. Although I found many things in the book to be stereotypes and not representative of the French parents I knew, the yogurt cake was in fact often baked in many households. Not only does it teach children the basics of measuring, mixing and baking, but it instills patience (yes, in the parents, also…), as the kids have to wait for it to cook before they can have it for their goûter, or afternoon snack. I waited for a while to try it out with the boys, as I wanted Lauris to be able to work independently for the most part – that is after all what yogurt cake is all about. Although he still is not able to follow the recipe completely by himself, he does well enough alone that I can concentrate on keeping his brother out of trouble.

What makes this the perfect recipe to bake with kids is the measuring system; the empty yogurt containers are used to measure everything but the vanilla and baking powder, and for those a ½ teaspoon measuring spoon will do (3 “spoons” baking powder and 2 “spoons” vanilla). I grease the pan for Lauris and then read off the ingredients, but he does the “measuring” and pouring. Mikus lends a hand with adding a few ingredients and mixing, and then mom handles the baking. We opted to add chocolate chips this last time around, as it was that kind of day, but really you can put just about anything in it: berries, fruit or nuts to give the kids some variety, lemon zest or rum to make the grown-up version. There are two basic recipes floating around, we use the one from Druckerman’s book, which is also the one I’ve included at the bottom of this post. I’ve found that baking it in a loaf pan extends the cooking time and creates a crunchier crust, but a cake tin will give you more of a smooth cake-like texture. It’s delicious either way, and as long as the boys keep eating it we’ll keep making it.

Bringing up Bébé’s gâteau au yaourt
2 six-ounce containers  of plain whole-milk yogurt
2 eggs
2 containers sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Just under 1 container of vegetable oil
4 containers  flour
1 ½ teaspoons  baking powder
Crème fraîche (optional)*
Preheat the oven to 375˚F
Use vegetable oil to grease a 9-inch round cake pan or a loaf pan.
Gently combine the yogurt, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and oil. In a separate bowl, mix the flour and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients; mix gently until ingredients are just combined (don't overmix). You can add two containers of frozen berries, a container of chocolate chips, or any flavoring you like.
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 crème fraîche.*
*As crème fraîche is not readily available in Greenville, we tend to eat it alone, or with a dab of butter (must be the Southern influence, thanks Paula Deen!)
** Another option is to top with slivered almonds (before baking) or powdered sugar (before serving) for a more glamorous result. Perhaps the mommies are coming over for a playdate and you don’t want them to know your son did the baking?
*** If you wish to lower the sugar intake you can cut the 2 cups the recipe calls for in half easily without hurting the end result – it just won’t be as sweet, which isn’t a problem if you’re adding berries or chocolate.


  1. This sounds perfect for my girls! One of my five-year-old twins really loves to help me in the kitchen, but most recipes are either too advanced for her or too frustrating for me to supervise.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. That's just the thing - although Lauris is ready to start helping I can't give him free reign just yet, so this one is great. Your girls will love it!

  2. Looks delicious! :)


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