For both of my children, their first birthday cakes were their first solid foods. That means all at once they covered their faces with milk, eggs, wheat, and other potential food allergens. A lot of us take the chance that our baby won’t have a reaction or sensitivity to birthday cake even if we are careful introducing new foods slowly otherwise.
If you are introducing your baby to new foods at a birthday party, at least simplify the birthday cake recipe to reduce the number of potential food allergens.
Wheat-free Cakes. If you aren’t attached specifically to the idea of having a cake, frosted rice krispie treats have that cake feel without wheat. An ice cream or frozen yoghurt cake could also be a wheat-free treat if you aren’t also avoiding dairy.
Egg-free Cakes. If you are avoiding eggs, avoid egg substitutes unless they are egg-free. Check the label. You may need to look online for vegan cooking ingredients. If you are lucky enough to have a local vegan bakery, even better. Save yourself the time and support a local business.
Dairy-free Cakes. Some cake mixes are dairy free. If you have a favorite homemade recipe, a simple substitution of soy milk may be enough. Wacky cake is a common and much loved dairy-free and egg-free cake that uses vegetable oil for moisture and binding.
For babies who have been eating solids foods, they may already know carrots, zucchini, applesauce, and bananas. All of these make great additions to cakes. The cake will just push familiar flavors a little. Since a lot of the sweetness in these cakes comes from the fruit or vegetable, you won’t need to add so much sugar.
You may also want to avoid chocolate, peanuts, and tree nuts. Until you have introduced these foods and know that you child has no problems with them, you can easily flavor your cakes without them.
If you are avoiding buttercream frosting, there are several ways you can create that frosting feel without adding a slab of butter and powdered sugar to your cake.
Cream cheese frosting is sweetened with powdered sugar and made loose enough to spread with milk. If you want to avoid adding sugar, try mixing yoghurt and cream cheese until it is a texture you like. You could also use whipped cream, but don’t put it on the cake too long before you serve since it can lose its firmness and soak into the cake.
Or, avoid frosting altogether. A light sprinkling of powdered sugar or fresh-cut strawberries dress up a cake.
Check with the Guests
Your child isn’t the only person you should look out for when you are making a birthday cake. Either make a note on your invitation to let you know about any food allergies or just call the guests. Sometimes it is easier to speak up about food sensitivities when it feels like a casual question. When I receive a dinner invitation, I dread the conversation when I say, “I can’t have dairy or this or that.” I often wonder if my saying that will be followed up with, “Oh, don’t bother coming, then.”
Make it easy for your guests to speak up.
Are you ready to make your cake? Do you know what you plan to avoid in a recipe? The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network has a free allergy-free recipe database with cake after beautiful cake that you can use to introduce your baby to the joy of birthday cake.