I spotted the first signs of Spring whilst on the home stretch of a weekend run. I tend to notice my surroundings more when I’m out running. This is important because beeing blossom on the trees signalled to me that it would soon be Little Chickpea’s first Birthday and that I should really be getting into party planning mode in order to get organised for the big day.
Unsurprisingly, me and Daddy decided that the catering would fall under my domain. When you’ve been following Baby-led weaning for nearly 6 months it is no trouble at all to reel off a list of ideas of foods fit for a children’s party finger buffet (another benefit of BLW!). But then I had the important matter of the birthday cake to consider…
I wanted the cake to be sugar-free like the rest of my home cooking and baking. Like most people I use the term “sugar-free” to mean sucrose-free in an attempt to limit the amount of refined-sugar that is in our diet. I do use natural and unrefined sugars in my baking – I tend to use fruit to flavour and sweeten my cakes and a bit of maple syrup if I think a recipe calls for it. I am especially keen to avoid artificial sweeteners and overly processed sugar-replacements.
Sugar-free baking had been the norm in our house for quite a while now but I would class the treats I am used to baking as “everyday treats” rather than show-stopping party centrepieces. Making an aesthetically pleasing sugar-free cake that is fit for a children’s birthday party was going to be a bit of a challenge. Luckily, I found a Large Silicone Number Cake Tin Mould on amazon which was just perfect to base my design around and I would recommend to anyone!
I opted for coconut and banana flavoured cake as these flavours work well in ‘healthy’ cakes and it meant that I could make a sponge that looked similar to a traditional birthday cake. Plus I had been experimenting with dying desiccated coconut for making fun sweet treats and really wanted to use some on Little Chickpea’s birthday cake. I decided to dye the coconut pink and pebble-dashed it to the sides of the cake.
To give a practical timeline for planning purposes – I baked the sponge tiers the morning before the party, these took an hour each including prep and bake time. I constructed and decorated the cake after Little Chickpea had gone to bed the night before her party which took just over an hour. The finished cake was stored in the fridge until after the party guests had all arrived.
I hope this post helps you prepare for a special upcoming celebration of your own. If you use my recipe I would love to hear from you. If you are happy to share a photo of a cake you’ve made for your little one (or someone else’s!) tag me on your instagram post @Weaning_the_nation and use the hashtag #weaningthenation, or message me from my facebook page and I can include you in one of my posts!!!
Cake Ingredients needed to make each sponge layer:
- 60g coconut oil (melted)
- 2 overripe bananas
- 2 eggs
- 115g yogurt
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 200g flour (plain or wholemeal / gluten free alternatives)
- 40g coconut flour (or if you have a high functioning food-processor like a NUTRiBULLET mill 40g desiccated coconut at home instead of buying coconut flour for this recipe)2 tsp baking powder
Method for the sponge:
- Preheat your oven to 180ºC
- Combine the flours and baking powder together in a large mixing bowl.
- In a separate bowl mash up your bananas and mix in the yoghurt, vanilla essence and the melted coconut oil (or add all these ingredients to a blender and blend for a few seconds).
- Whisk your eggs until light and fluffy and add these to the rest of the wet ingredients.
- Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients.
- Stir gently until all wet and dry ingredients have combined into a sticky cake batter. Do not overmix!
- Pour the whole lot into your mould and pop into the oven for 30-40 min.
For the ‘butter cream’:
- Beat together 200g of cream cheese, 50g softened butter and the zest of 1/2 lemon and 2 tbsp of maple syrup until you get a consistent ‘buttercream’.
For the Jam:
- Chia seed jam takes just 20 min to make at home: Roughly chop and add 400g of berries (strawberries/ raspberries/mixed berries) to a pan and simmer over a medium heat for 10-15 min until the fruit starts to break down, then mash with a fork or potato masher and stir in 2 tbsp of chia seeds, let it simmer for another 5 min and then take off the hob to let it cool… et voila! You can add 1 tbsp of maple syrup (or honey if your baby is over 12 months old) and 1 tbsp lemon juice for added sweetness and flavour if desired.
- If you don’t have chance to make your own chia seed jam most large supermarkets will stock at least 1 brand of ‘sugar-free’ jam. We have tried the Meridian and Super Jam brands.
For the dyed coconut:
- Mix 4 drops of food colouring with 1 tbsp water and mix into 250g desiccated coconut until the colouring has covered and soaked into all the coconut.
- Tip the coloured coconut out onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment and a layer of paper toweling and leave several hours to completely dry out.
- When the dyed coconut had dried I added a large handful of desiccated coconut straight from the bag (ie. white) to give the two-tone mottled effect I wanted on the sides of the cake.
If you want to go the extra-mile you can avoid buying food-dye from the store and opt to dye your coconut using naturally coloured whole foods. For example:
- Pink – Beetroot
- Green/blue – Spirulina
- Yellow – Turmeric
For the construction and decoration:
- Add a layer of ‘buttercream’ to the top of one of the sponges and Jam the underside of another and place on top of each other. Repeat to create a 3-tier sponge cake with buttercream and jam
- Cover the entire cake in a thin layer of the ‘buttercream’.
- ‘Pebbledash’ the sides of the cake with the coloured coconut (I found loading a spatula with the coconut and pressing this against the sides of cake was the easiest way to do this.)
Just a note to say that Little Chickpea’s first birthday was before we went dairy free. If any of you plant based Mamas and Papas know of any great dairy-free alternatives that I could use for my sugar-free icing on future bakes please let me know!