At the end of August my baby boy turned 2! It’s funny how I can so vividly remember the day he was born like it was yesterday and at the same time it seems like he’s been a part of my life forever!
While I never officially got birthday party invitations to his grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, I spent most of the summer planning his party, and his cake in particular. I feel like the birthday cake is the centerpiece of any birthday celebration and refuse to let FPIES get in the way of my son having an awesome cake. This year has been all about “cars,” which is the label E gives to any type of vehicle. But really it’s trucks, especially big construction trucks, that excite him. Inspired by a couple of construction themed cakes I found on Pinterest, I set out to make an awesomely “dirty” cake complete with bulldozers, diggers, and dump trucks.
However, I also wanted the cake to taste great. Not just “great (for a vegan cake),” but just “GREAT” This is hard. Not as hard as last year, when it had to be grain-free, but still pretty difficult. So I started baking. There are actually a bunch of vegan cake recipes out there but most of them are oil-based. They are ok, but don’t really do much for me. They taste different, more like a waffle than a yellow cake. I like waffles but I wasn’t trying to make a birthday waffle – just a good old yellow birthday cake.
I was just about to start experimenting with a truly new recipe when like a sign from heaven, the Kindle version of The Food Allergy Mama’s Baking Book by Kelly Rudnicki was available for free download. I downloaded and scrolled until I found a yellow cake recipe that was not oil-based – Jackpot! Of course, nothing is really that easy. The book offers great recipes for those with dairy, egg, and nut allergies. And, like most vegan recipes, there is a pretty high reliance on soy products to replace dairy. So it still required a little tweaking to make it safe for E. But it was really good! Maybe not perfect, but much better than “good enough.” And come on, this cake is free of milk, butter, soy, and eggs (as well as coconut, rice, oat, and shellfish)! I promise I did not have to force anyone to eat it 🙂
The recipe below is only a slightly adapted version of the Food Allergy Mama’s recipe but it’s easier to have it in one place than to try to do the substitutions in your head. It makes one 9 inch single-layer cake or 12 cupcakes, which is probably enough for most of the time. You can double it for a double-layer cake or triple it for a half-sheet cake, which is what I did for the construction cake. Just remember that the cooking times will change with the size of the cake (cupcakes will take about 20-25 minutes, the half-sheet took about 40 minutes), so keep an eye on it.
Yellow Cake (dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free)
- ½ cup dairy-free, soy-free margarine (I use Earth Balance Soy-Free)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup unsweetened original almond milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (cake flour would likely be better but I usually have AP on hand so that’s what I used)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 375°F
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. This step is actually where your cake get’s the air bubbles that will allow it to rise (the baking powder just makes the bubbles bigger), so don’t be afraid to over-beat at this point. In fact, while you have the mixer going, this is a great time to get your dry ingredients together.
In a separate medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt with a wire whisk.
Slowly add the almond milk, vanilla, and applesauce to the margarine/sugar mixture and continue mixing until thoroughly combined. Warning: the addition of the applesauce to the batter isn’t pretty. The first time I did it I panicked, but once you add the dry ingredients it all smooths out – trust me.
Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix on low until combined (about a minute). Increase the speed to medium high and beat for an additional 1 to 2 minutes, until you have a nice, smooth mixture, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Take care not to over-beat once you add the flour or the gluten will bind and it will get tough (replacing the AP flour with cake flour will help to prevent this as it has less gluten in it).
Coat one 9-inch cake pan or a 13×9-inch baking pan with dairy-free, soy-free margarine. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until an inserted cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.
Chocolate Frosting (dairy-free, soy-free)
I also used the recipe for Creamy Chocolate Frosting from The Food Allergy Mama’s Baking Book, again just substituting out the soy milk (see below). This recipe makes about 2 cups. I doubled it to cover the half-sheet cake but had some left over.
- 1 cup dairy-free, soy-free margarine
- ½ cup cocoa powder (check ingredients some contain dairy)
- 2 tbsp almond milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the margarine and cocoa powder until smooth.
Add the vanilla, and salt. Mix thoroughly. Slowly add in the confectioners’ sugar, mixing on low for 1 minute. Slowly add the almond milk as needed to reach the correct consistency. Increase the mixer speed to medium, and beat 4 to 6 minutes, until light and fluffy.
Chocolate Peanut Butter “Rocks” Topping
Finally, I used my recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Eggs for the topping. Instead of shaping the peanut into egg-shapes I just spread it out on a parchment-covered cookie sheet before putting it in the freezer. Then I poured and spread the melted chocolate right on top. Super easy! I made sure it was nice and hard (froze it overnight) and then used a good sharp knife and meat tenderizer to break it up into “rocks.”
Once you have all the parts, the cake is easy to put together. I frosted the entire cake with chocolate frosting. It’s so relaxing to frost a cake when you know that your goal is to make it look like dirt! I cut out a “2” and laid it on the cake then piled on the “rocks.” The final touch were the trucks, placed so they look like they are working hard.
I was so happy with the end result! And E loved it too! As soon as he saw it he wanted to play. I managed to distract him with an extra backhoe until after we sang “Happy Birthday” and then let him have some fun before we cut it. I must say – it tasted as good as it looked. It’s so rich! You would never know it was vegan and free of so many allergens! It got rave reviews from the whole family!
To complete the “road work” theme, my wonderful husband decorated the table, complete with orange “cones”
It was a wonderful party, complete with an awesome centerpiece cake. I was really impressed by how well the cake looked and tasted. And so was E! He continues to play with the construction vehicles (he even takes them to bed!) and frequently goes to his high chair and says “happy,” his adorable way of requesting more (happy birthday) cake. I’ve got to say, he has made this mommy very happy!