It was a daunting feeling, thinking about looking for an allergy-free birthday cake for Oliver’s first birthday. Why? Because there are simply no flavor bursting recipes online that satisfy all of our allergies, besides a depression-era cake that was made from a few simple ingredients.
I could have easily sprung for the watermelon cake, filleting Oliver’s favorite juicy melon into three circular tiers, and a big piece of me wanted to do a fruit cake because it’s a safe bet. But a one year old, or any birthday at that, just deserves a proper cake.
I knew finding the perfect confluence of flavor, tasty ingredients, and level of ease to make this baking beginner look like an at-home semi-pro was going to be my biggest challenge. During Oliver’s nap times, my mom and I scoured the internet and Pinterest for “allergy-free” cake ideas, and came up with one depression-era cake for bakers with limited resources. I just couldn’t bring that kind of weak-sauce on my son’s first birthday. I had to do something with a twist of “Emily,” and “mama really thought about this and wanted you to enjoy your first bite of cake.”
And the cake had to be from scratch. Scratch always tastes better. Something about the love that goes into it, and the imperfections that make every angle and bite unique.
Eventually, I had the genius idea to reach out to my trusty field-guide when it comes to recipes and nutrition, Registered Dietician Deanna Conte Busteed. I asked her, “Do you have any recipes like a zucchini cake or a cake with lots of flavor that your kids also enjoy? I’m looking to make Oliver a first birthday cake from scratch that’s allergy-free.”
Deanna shot over a few of her favorite recipes, one of which was a zucchini cake that looked perfect! I made a couple adaptations to the recipe, first, substituting the 3 eggs with Bob’s Red Mill egg replacer (some egg replacers use flax or chia seed, so I chose Bob’s Red Mill because it is made of simple ingredients without nuts or seeds). I also substituted some of the recipe’s granulated sugar with unsweetened applesauce, to add moisture and a flavor dimension, a tip Deanna mentioned she likes to do while baking with her kids.
I wanted to wait to post this recipe after my family tried the cake, to make sure it was a tried-and-true recipe that would satisfy Oliver and all of you looking for a delicious allergy-free cake option. And it was better than I could have hoped for.
I’ll post the recipe we used, but feel free to substitute the gluten or dairy (the only other allergens in the cake) with your own allergy-free substitutions Wishing you a wonderful, successful celebration, with a unique and beautiful cake that shows your loved one they’re worth celebrating with a homemade cake from scratch, the best kind.
From the heart,
Cooking time: 20 min prep // 25 baking
Serving size: 18
Makes 2 x 9″ round cakes or 18 cupcakes
3 “eggs” (Bob’s Red Mill egg replacer)
1 Cup sugar
1/3 Cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 Cup orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1-1/2 Cups shredded zucchini
1 Cup packed brown sugar
1/2 Cup butter, cubed
1/4 Cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 – 2 Cups confectioners’ sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat first five ingredients together. Combine dry ingredients; gradually add to egg mixture and blend well. Stir in zucchini.
2. Full cake pans or paper lined cupcake tin two-thirds full. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. (I baked 9″ cake rounds one at a time for 25 minutes each). Cool ten minutes before removing to cool on a wire rack.
3. For frosting, combine brown sugar, butter, and milk in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook and stir until thickened, 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Cool to lukewarm.
4. Gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar until frosting reaches spreading consistency. Frost cake or cupcakes.