Substitute for alcohol syrups in cake?

I'm baking a number of cakes and many of them call for a similar rum- or brandy-based syrup to moisten the layers. Since there will be children and non-drinkers at this party, I want to omit the syrups or substitute a simple alternative flavoring. Any tips on ways to substitute or when I can skip the syrup? I understand the purpose of the syrup is to moisten and flavor the cakes, so I don't want them all to be a moist, boozy (or substitute of choice) flavor that overrides the cake itself. Okay, maybe that's a separate issue. Help me keep a range of flavors for my birthday party!



PieceOfLayerCake June 13, 2015
Realistically, vanilla extract is 35% alcohol, which is 70 proof. Flavorants or not, it wouldn't be any less intoxicating than rum if you drank it straight. That being said, I don't think its inappropriate putting a little alcohol in a child's cake, keeping in mind that children don't often care for the flavor or rum or brandy. I also happen to know that people who self-identify as alcoholics, don't often appreciate the flavor of alcohol either. The small quantity of alcohol, however isn't going to affect a child's physiology any more than sugar or caffeine.

Now, since I don't want to surprise guests with the zing of rum when they're not expecting it (I always warn people). I often like to use a solution of orange blossom water and simple syrup for cakes it will benefit like chocolate or carrot. I also like to use rose water syrups, dark honey, strained jams (thinned a bit), espresso, brown sugar simple syrups, maple syrup (thinned), a thin caramel, syrups infused with herbs, etc.
Nancy June 13, 2015
in addition to Cynthia's vanilla idea, here are some useful substitutes:
for rum, Molasses mixed w/pineapple juice & almond or rum extract
for brandy, grape juice (white or low sugar is better than sweet dark purple)
for flavored liqueur, a fruit juice or puree, or concentrate (extract, oil etc)
for ale or lager, use broth or flattened ginger ale.
boulangere June 12, 2015
P.S. I know that vanilla extract is alcohol-based, but not strictly alcohol, as in traditional rum or brandy.
davidpdx June 12, 2015
You don't need the alcohol, but the moisture will be useful. Depending on the fundamental cake flavor so, you could make similar syrups flavored with orange juice, lemon juice, coffee, or juiced berries, or a simple unflavored sugar syrup.
boulangere June 12, 2015
I never use alcohols in children's cakes, but rather a double dose of vanilla extract in the simple syrup.
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