When I asked my eldest how she thought we should celebrate her 4th birthday she was quite adamant about three things. Firstly, she wanted a party in the park. Secondly, everyone should wear party hats. Thirdly, there must be cake….with a fairy theme. The first two seemed manageable. Admittedly, a party in the park during an British September could be risky and being made to wear party hats in public could be embarrassing but I could handle those challenges. But the cake……how on earth was I going to make her a cake?
The situation was further complicated by the fact that our youngest would be turning 2 eight days later so we were planning on a joint party, which meant not one, but two cakes. How do you make a cake for a ‘nearly-4-year-old’ who can’t eat wheat, corn, cows milk, soya, or much sugar, amongst other things? And how on earth do you make a cake for a ‘nearly-2-year-old’ who can only eat white rice, meat, eggs, and recently bananas, apples, and broccoli in small quantities?
Well, if I’m being honest, the first thing I did was feel sad and cross for a few weeks. All the feelings about my children being left out, different and unwell came flooding back and I acutely felt the frustrations of how cumbersome and complicated life can feel when you’re trying to deal with food-related issues in addition to family life. But this was a very unproductive state to be in and the birthdays were getting closer so I had to snap out of it and come up with a solution. I headed over to good old Pinterest and was surprised to find lots of options.
For the ‘nearly-4-year-old’ I settled on making cupcakes as this way I could make one that she could eat and normal ones for everyone else at the party. For us this is a possibility as our girls have intolerances, rather than IgE allergies so it is safe for them to come into contact with their food triggers as long as they don’t eat them. I found a great vanilla cupcake recipe at Free Eats which was wheat, corn and cows milk free and with a few further alterations, some icing experimention and some non-edible fairy decorations courtesy of Happylands we had a pretty impressive ‘safe’ cupcake and a batch of Hummingbird Bakery cupcakes for everyone else. I felt triumphant!
Here’s the final adapted recipe I used but really you should head over to Free Eats as it’s such a great site.
- 1 1/2 cups rice flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 additional egg yolks
- 1/2 cup oat milk
- 1/2 cup sunflower oil
- 1 tablespoon almond extract (this contains just almond and sunflower oil whereas vanilla extract contains corn-based products)
Throw them all in a bowl together, mix well, leave for 15 minutes, scoop into a paper case lined muffin tin, bake at 180 C for 16-18 minutes.
I only iced one for the party and for the icing I used around 1/2 cup of icing sugar, 1 tablespoon almond extract, a splash of oatmilk and some ‘safe’ red food colouring gel I found at Sainsbury’s. The heart shaped sprinkles were also a good find at Sainsbury’s as they were made of rice flour.
Next it was on to planning a ‘cake’ for our ‘nearly-2-year-old’. I did actually consider a layered cake with different cuts of meat but thankfully moved on from that fairly gross idea! Surprisingly there are quite a few options that I found on Pinterest, such as balloon cakes and cake slice boxes….
…but we settled on a simpler option from an example using hat boxes, or in our case, biscuit tins….
Ok, it’s no masterpiece but our birthday girl was happy. I covered the tins in card and the purple ‘icing’ lifted off so that you could still open both tins. The top ‘layer’ contained a toy and some apple rice cakes for our birthday girl and the bottom ‘layer’ contained a lucky dip of sweets and chocolate bars for the other kids. Add a few candles, Happyland figures and a cake base and it did pass as a cake!
We bypassed the stress of providing party food that our girls could eat by having a 10-11:30 party with a cupcake and lucky dip for all the children as a morning snack. Non-edible party game prizes and mini tubes of bubbles between the layers of ‘pass the parcel’ completed our primarily food-free but thoroughly enjoyed party.
I know that future parties will be more of a challenge and that if you have older children you are probably not gaining many ideas through reading this. But one thing that I’m learning is that our need to focus every celebration around food is simply a socially constructed norm and is perfectly avoidable with some creativity and planning! Next year my sister, who is a trained Forest Schools teacher, is going to plan a forest party for our girls, complete with den building, fairy crown making and hot dogs over a fire. The only food on offer will be meat but somehow I doubt our girls or the other kids will be disappointed!
Happy party (and cake) planning! Make sure you add your own ideas in the comments section below, I’d love to hear them!