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"Vanilla" birthday cake recommendations for 4 year old

My son turns four on Wednesday and has requested a "vanilla" cake. He's the kind of kid who likes only vanilla desserts - though he likes a little chocolate syrup on his ice cream, it's always vanilla.

I just reread the vanilla breakfast cake post, but I'm not sure if a cake without icing will go over very well. Perhaps if I let him have it for breakfast...

Any other suggestions for good white or yellow cake recipes with good vanilla flavor? I haven't consulted "Baking Illustrated," my go-to for birthday cake, but wondered if I could increase the vanilla in any given recipe.


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  1. Barefoot Contessa has a terrific vanilla sheet cake. It never fails...

    2 1/4 sticks butter (softened)
    3 cups sugar
    6 extra large eggs
    1 cup sour cream
    1 1/2 t vanilla
    3 cups flour
    1/3 cup cornstarch
    1 t salt
    1 t baking soda

    Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour 12x18 sheet pan

    Cream butter and sugar for 5 min. Add eggs, then sour cream and vanilla. Mix well. Sift flour, cornstarch, salt and soda. On low speed slowly add flour mixture to butter mixture and stir only until smooth. Pour into pan and bake 25-30 min.

    **** The children (with help from mom or dad) can decorate their piece of cake with chocolate frosting, whipped cream, sprinkles and/or m&m's. It becomes both a fun activity and each child can decide if they want chocolate or not. So your son can have just vanilla if he wants!

    Have fun with it!

    1 Reply
    1. re: chocolate chick

      tried this today....i liked the moisture of this cake...very nice. but it tasted a little "eggy". overall i'd make it again though!

    2. What timing! I was pondering just this question late last night. My 13-year-old grandson has asked for exactly the same thing. I had hoped he'd have grown out of it by now, but he hasn't.

      Last time he was with me on his birthday we had a small group of children over and I made cupcakes from Rose Levy Berenbaum's All-Occasion Yellow Butter Cake. I put them together in a circle and frosted them, as though it was a single cake, with cream cheese frosting sprinkled with (also at his request) nonpareils. The kids loved pulling them apart and the cake was sufficiently "vanilla" for the birthday boy.

      He'll be with me again this birthday in a few weeks and I was searching for something similar, but different. I think I'll stick with the same cake recipe, since it really is a good one. And I was considering maybe a cajeta (dulce de leche) filling. (I don't think he'd hate it, and I'd sure like it.) But haven't come up with a frosting. Maybe just a well-stabilized, vanilla flavored, whipped cream even though that would probably be more appropriate with a lighter cake such as genoise.

      Hope some more people jump in here and help us out. I'm blanking.

      1. My kids always always always want vanilla cake, too. And, you know, they don't care what the vanilla cake tastes like, really. What they want is frosting and lots of it. Here's a sad birthday cake story that I'm a little embarrassed about: I came home very late the night before my daughter's fourth birthday party and whipped up a vanilla sheet cake (I probably just used a recipe from Joy of Cooking) and made a vanilla cream cheese frosting. I was up until four AM piping a mermaid design onto the cake. Next day, the kids LOVED the cake, LOVED the mermaid and had a great time. After the party my sister asked me if I had frosted sourdough bread. I tasted the cake. Turns out, I'd left the sugar out of the cake all together.Kids didn't care. They are in it for the frosting.

        Moral: Kids like frosting and lots of it. They want it sweet and in high volume. And put lots of repetitive decorations on the cake. Every kid will want the mermaids head, the pirate flag or whatever spongebob's sidekick is named on their piece.

        2 Replies
        1. re: MollyGee

          LOL. Don't tell my husband this story - he thinks that me making homemade cakes is absurd!

          1. re: miss_mia

            I wont tell. A homemade cake is just so much more special and, if you include all of the ingredients, almost always tastes better than most cakes you could buy w/in a reasonable budget.

        2. Outstanding advice, MollyGee. And a great story.

          I'm not real sure about this, but I think I'm going to do it anyway. RLB's Yellow Butter Cake with a vanilla cream filling and vanilla fudge frosting, both from the Doubleday Cookbook. Now, to look up photos of a pirate flag.

          1 Reply
          1. re: JoanN

            Thanks. Your cake sounds great! The kids (and non-kids) will love it.

          2. I had just posted this recipe for someone who had gotten vanilla beans. Very good vanilla flavor and the frosting is very delicious.


            1 Reply
            1. re: dippedberry

              That cupcake looks so good. I'm making those next chance I get.

            2. Krissywats had posted a great vanilla frosting a while back, on this board. I haven't got time to find the link but it is really great and would go with vanilla or chocolate cake (I used it on chocolate cake).

              2 Replies
              1. re: 4chowpups

                Found it. I think. It's a broken link, but I've asked "User Help" if they can retrieve it for me. Thanks.

                1. re: JoanN

                  I've made Krissywats's frosting, and it is great. Here's the link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

              2. Very interesting - I remember a friend years ago who mentioned that her family frosting recipe contained flour. I couldn't imagine at the time, but now it makes sense!

                1. Food & Wine, April 1995 had a Vanilla-Sour Cream Bundt
                  Cake (paraphrased below), which my husband and son (4 yrs old) adore. F&W suggests serving it with fruit or with ice cream and hot fudge sauce. We like it with a raspberry or strawberry sauce, but I don't know why you couldn't use some
                  chocolate icing. Actual frosting might be a bit much, though.

                  3 c. cake flour
                  1 2/3 c. sugar
                  2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
                  3/4 tsp. salt
                  1/2 c. sour cream
                  1/3 c. milk
                  3 whole eggs
                  2 egg yolks
                  1 T vanilla extract (I use 2, just because. . .)
                  2 1/2 sticks butter, softened

                  Preheat oven to 350. Generously grease and flour 12 c. bundt or tube pan. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into bowl of electric mixer. In medium bowl, use a fork to beat together sour cream, milk, whole eggs, yolks and vanilla until very well blended and smooth. Add butter and half of sour cream mixture to the dry ingredients and beat on low
                  just until thoroughly incorporated. Increase speed to high and beat for 1 minute, but don't overmix. Add remaining sour cream mixture and beat at med-high until batter is smooth and fluffy, about 1 minute. Scrape batter into pan and bang on counter to remove air bubbles. Bake 50 - 60 minutes, until cake is well browned, pulls away from sides and toothpick inserted in thickest part comes out clean. Cool completely on rack before removing from pan. Can sift a little confectioners' sugar over it, if desired. The cake will keep up to 5 days at room temp or up to 2 weeks in the freezer, wrapped airtight.

                  1. The CI's Best Recipe white cake is excellent. I don't know if it's the same recipe as Baking Illustrated. You can easily go heavier on vanilla. It's one ingredient I don't measure when I bake.

                    1. My favorite yellow cake recipe, it's all I use now, it's from Carole Walter's Great Cakes book