The hunt for the perfect birthday cake


My daughter turned 2 this past weekend. I am all at once nostalgic for her tiniest days, head over heels with the delightful person she is right now, and eager to move past the meltdowns that have popped up with toddlerhood. Such is parenthood.

We are so very lucky to have a fantastic community of family and friends who come and celebrate my kid. There's a significant number of them who are strictly gluten- (and dairy-) free, and I try to avoid refined sugar for me and my tiny human, so nailing down a cake recipe isn't as simple as snagging any recipe from my cookbook collection. Last year I made 4 different cakes to meet different dietary needs, but this year I'm more tired and needed something simple. The cake itself is adapted from a recipe in my very own Ripe from Around Here, and the frosting was adapted from a recipe by Real Food RN.

Gluten Free Vanilla Berry Cake
(makes two 9" cakes -- or I used an 8.5" and a 10" bundt pan)

5 cups gluten-free flour (I used somewhat equal portions of GF oat, brown rice, sorghum flours and potato starch, but an all-purpose blend would also be fine)
1 tbsp xanthan gum or ground flax
1 tbsp + 1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp grey or pink salt
3/4 cup melted unrefined/non-hydrogenated coconut oil (plus more to oil the pans)
2 cups non-dairy milk
4 organic free-range eggs, whisked (or try 1 cup applesauce)
1 1/3 cups maple syrup
2 tbsp vanilla extract (or 1 tbsp vanilla powder)
2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen (but not thawed!) organic blueberries or raspberries
juice of one lemon (about 1/4 cup)

Preheat oven to 350oF. Oil up your cake pans, making sure you don't miss any spots (especially if you're using a bundt pan. If you're using a traditional cake pan, you may also want to fit the bottom of it with a circle of parchment paper).
Whisk together (or sift) the flours, xanthan gum or flax, baking powder, soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
Stir in the melted coconut oil and vanilla until it has been evenly distributed. Add the milk, eggs, and syrup (ideally they're at room temperature), and mix until all of the flour has been absorbed. Pour in your berries and lemon juice and mix quickly to distribute evenly, then portion equally into your cake pans (or less equally if the pans are two different sizes like mine were). 
Slide into the oven right away and bake for about 45 minutes, until the top is domed and no longer shiny, and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing them from the pan (by upturning them over a plate).

Delightful refined-sugar-free Frosting

2 cups semi solid (spreadable) coconut oil or organic vegetable shortening (Nutiva makes one)
3/4 - 1 cup raw honey
2/3 cup coconut milk powder (this may take calling around to a couple health food stores)
1/2 cup arrowroot powder
1 tbsp vanilla extract (or 2 tsp vanilla powder)
1/2-1 tsp grey or pink salt (depending on if you want it subtle, or are into that salty-sweet combo)
natural colouring (optional) - for half the batch I used a few tbsp blueberry juice, for the other [the lighter one] I dissolved 1/2 tsp beet powder in 2 tbsp orange juice)
1/2 cup melted unrefined coconut oil

Combine all the ingredients except the melted coconut oil in a medium-large bowl, and make it smooth using a handheld electric mixer. Pour in the melted oil and mix some more, until it's well incorporated. 

You'll want to apply this when the frosting is a spreadable consistency, but the cakes are no longer warm (this part is important, or the frosting will really just melt off. True story.) If the cakes are warm and you're pressed for time (or if you started applying the icing and find that it's beginning to melt off - yikes!), put them in the fridge to chill. (The frosting itself will get very firm in the fridge and need to soften up to room temperature to be spreadable.

Once frosted, garnish however you like. My kid is bananas for fresh organic berries (which are out of season, I know!), but some shredded coconut could also be pretty.


When it comes to birthdays, are you a DIY cake-maker?
What refined-sugar-free recipes have you had success with? I'd love to know!

And if you're looking for more support with feeding your family gluten-, dairy-free whole foods, I'd love to help. Just drop me a line.