by Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers
Parents are often looking for a healthy alternative to the standard, sugary, preservative-filled birthday cake for their baby's introduction to the wonderful traditions of birthdays. We've heard from parents looking for ways to buy an egg-free cake, to those seeking recipes for "healthy" cakes, or even whether to make/buy two cakes (one for Baby, one for adults).
To answer the last question first -- there is no reason to create extra work for yourself, make or buy one cake, relax and congratulate yourself for making it through the first year! Most people will be gracious guests and enjoy whatever is served. And let's not lose sight of the real reason for the birthday cake -- THE PHOTO. We do it all for the precious scrapbook shot of your cake-faced little one delighting in being the life of the party!
Here are some ideas that keep the tradition of the birthday cake treat, but add some healthy twists (you can use these ideas for any age!):
Egg-free: If your baby has not been introduced to whole eggs by their first birthday, this is probably not the occasion to give them a try. Many egg substitutes contain eggs, so to be safe, look for cake and frosting mixes labeled "vegan" which are free of all animal products. You'll need to go to a health food store to find these products. Or jump on the Internet, Vegan Baker is one company that offers cake and frosting mixes. If baking is not for you, many urban cities also have vegan bakeries too - check the Yellow Pages or ask someone at a vegetarian restaurant.
Healthier cake flavors: If you decided on a traditional layer cake or cupcakes, there are healthier cakes choices over the standard white or chocolate layer cake varieties. Some cake flavors to consider include banana cake, applesauce cake or carrot cake. Cakes than contain fruit usually have less sugar. Made from scratch, a mix or from a bakery, they are a step up on the healthy scale.
Frosting: You must have frosting for the photo! Healthier frosting choices can include organic yogurt thickened with cream cheese or a traditional cream cheese frosting. The ultimate substitute for sugar-laden buttercream is whipped cream. Homemade whipped cream is pretty simple to make and just a couple tablespoons of sugar will sweeten it.
Homemade Whipped Cream
Directions: Chill the heavy cream for 24 hours in your refrigerator. Pour heavy cream in a chilled, large, deep bowl. Using a hand mixer, beat the cream on high until it thickens. Add the vanilla and sugar, and continue beating until soft peaks form. To test the whipped cream, stop the mixer and pull up the beaters, if the cream forms little mountains that stand up, then the whipped cream is done. Makes 2 cups and must be refrigerated.
Forego the frosting: You don't really need frosting to have a good time. Make an applesauce cake and dust it with powdered sugar. To jazz up the look, make or buy a stencil and lay it on the top of the cake. Using powdered sugar and a sifter, dust the top of the cake. Carefully remove the stencil -- Viola! An impressive presentation and low in sugar, too!
Go for cool: While a Mississippi Mud Pie is not a healthy ice cream choice, you can make or buy a frozen yogurt cake. Many ice cream shops also have wonderful choices in fruit sorbets. A cake made with frozen vanilla yogurt and mango sorbet is a great treat for all ages.