As a nutritionist and Mum of two, I’ve been on a quest for years to find healthy kids birthday cakes recipes. The problem is, I know that my two would probably eat something that is full of ground nuts, pureed veg or fruit and different kinds of ingredients, because they’re used to it. But when you’re throwing a party, you don’t want all the children spitting out the cake and saying yuck. It’s not that I worry about them not liking it, it’s more how my children will react to their friends’ reaction. Of course I’d talk to mine about the importance of healthy food, as I always do, and why I give them certain foods and not others… and have a good chat with them about how other people react and how we might react to their reactions. But they are still kids, of just 4 and 6… so I sometimes try to make their life easier, especially on a birthday.
So this blog post is about simple swaps, tricks and easy ways to make a birthday cake, or any cake, that little bit more healthy… and the best thing is that most children will be none the wiser! These ideas are great for getting your kids on the road to healthier eating, so you can adopt them every time you bake a cake. Treats shouldn’t have to be super healthy all the time, but think about doing whatever you can to support nutrient intake and getting the best into your kids.
The Basic Healthy Kids Birthday Cake Recipe
Due to my daughter having eczema as a baby, we’ve always gone gluten free where possible. Also I don’t do so well with gluten, and I want to make my cake and eat it too! 🙂 I also think that moderating gluten intake, whether you have a problem with it or not, is always a good thing. That’s because most of us eat too much gluten, and it’s generally not great for the immune system or our gut health. So I tend to use the basic Doves Farm Gluten Free Plain Flour recipe – which is on the back of the packet: 150g butter, 150 sugar, vanilla extract, 2 eggs, gluten free baking powder and 150g gluten free plain flour, and a splash of milk.
Easy changes to the basic recipe: sugar alternatives
What I will do is make some easy switches to make my kids cake recipes even more healthy, whether it’s for a birthday or not. That includes using half butter and half coconut oil, and using non-dairy milk such as Koko or unsweetened almond milk.
I also tend to use Xylitol Total Sweet in all my baking, instead of sugar. Also known as wood or birch sugar, it’s a naturally occurring sweetener which has a very low glycaemic index. It has been positively associated with preventing teeth cavities, so a perfect alternative to sugar. I also really like it because it’s granulated like sugar, has a similar taste and texture, and contains none of the nasty ingredients nor bitter taste of most other sweeteners. Most supermarkets now stock it (you can find it with the sugars). The only thing I would say is remember that the more “sweetness” you give children, the more they crave it, even if it’s natural. For example, honey is still sugar at the end of the day, even thought it does have some good properties. The good thing about xylitol is that it doesn’t affect blood sugar so much, because it’s a low glycaemic index food. But I still often reduce the quantity I put in, especially when cooking for just my own family. I usually cut the sugar quantity by half.
If I was baking for a non-special occasion just for my own children, I’d probably substitute half the flour for a more protein rich wholegrain alternative such as buckwheat or quinoa flour, and even add some ground almonds too. This helps to add protein, which is great for growth, blood sugar control and many other bodily functions, as well as being higher in nutrients such as zinc and B vitamins.
You can also adapt the cake to make a chocolate cake, by adding cocoa powder. I use raw cocoa powder, which is rich in magnesium and iron.
Toppings for your Healthy Kids Birthday Cakes Recipes
Are there any children that don’t love decorating cakes and cupcakes? If you’re worried that the children at the party won’t like your cake, let them decorate a cupcake each. That sense of ownership often means they tend to enjoy things much more, even when it tastes different to what they’re used to. Use a mixture of toppings such as the classic sprinkles, which are not so healthy, mixed with dessicated coconut, chopped nuts, dark chocolate chips and strawberries.
There are many ways to make your toppings healthier and more nutrient dense. These include:
- Dark Chocolate Toppings: add a 100g bar of dark chocolate to a bowl over a pan of boiling water, with a heaped tablespoon of coconut oil. I love using coconut oil in baking recipes for kids, as it’s a great source of caprylic acid, which is highly anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. Let everything melt together and drizzle over your cake.
- Use melted dark chocolate to spread over the cake and then decorate with berries and other fresh fruit
- Make “butter” icing with a mixture of butter and cream cheese, which is rich in protein and calcium. You can add some icing sugar, or even better try some Agave Sugar, which has the same consistency as icing sugar. This involves a trip to a health food store or you can search online, but it’s got a much lower glycaemic load than sugar.
- Use beetroot to make things pink… beetroot is a great way to make toppings pink, without artificial colours. Just blend up a bit of beetroot (either cooked or uncooked – just make sure it hasn’t been soaked in vinegar!) with a little water. Pass through a sieve and add into your topping in small quantities, until you get the colour you want. It doesn’t work so well when making sponges, as the heat destroys the colour pigment.
Experiment with your kids birthday cakes recipes and let me know how you get on! If you try to make them more healthy and lower in sugar, you might thank me… less sugar usually means calmer and more attentive children… so you might cope easier with a house full of young kids running around if they’re not having such a massive sugar spike!
If you’d like to find out more about Childrens Nutrition, don’t forget to take a look at my Online Children’s Nutrition Programme. I look forward to seeing you soon. Happy Baking! 🙂