Let them eat cake! By Jini Mulukutla
A little girl with food allergies and a birthday on the way. Read how Jini found a solution when it came to making Maisie’s birthday cake.
As adults, we sometimes choose not to indulge in cake. We overthink the ingredients that make cake the magic, fluffy, creamy, sweet treat it truly is. We worry about clogging up our arteries, padding out our ‘love handles’ or gaining the wrong kind of ‘muffin top.’
However, most of us enjoy at least some semblance of cake on our birthdays, even if it’s just a candle in a muffin or a slab of Tesco Party Cake bought by a kind colleague. Nothing says, ‘today’s my special day’ like cake.
That’s especially true for kids. Nothing brings a smile to my face like the sight of a child’s anticipation and delight at eating their birthday cake. Several of my friends, including my dear friend Emily, saw their children’s first birthday cakes as a rite of passage. Unfortunately, when Emily and her husband Stefan were planning their daughter’s first birthday party, disaster struck.
Poor little Maisie started breaking out in rashes, all over the place, all the time. She lost weight and the whole family was stressed out. After numerous medical appointments and a constant battle of wills between Maisie and her parents over applying ointments, Maisie was diagnosed with allergies to eggs, all dairy, soy and nuts.
After a fortnight on an exclusion diet, Maisie was much better. But then Emily phoned me in a panic, with just a few weeks to go until Maisie’s party.
“I can’t get a birthday cake for Maisie!” she cried. “It’s her big day, and I can’t find anywhere that has a cake that’s egg, soy, dairy and nut free!”
“Could you make it yourself…?” I suggested, knowing the answer. “No way, Jini, that’s beyond my abilities,” replied Emily. “My best dish is hummus on toast.”
Feeling Emily’s desperation, I volunteered to make Maisie the best cake possible.
Food allergies have become more prevalent in babies and young children in recent years, with current rates around 8% in the UK.1 Cows’ milk allergy occurs in around 2-3% of children2, and hens’ egg allergy in around 2%.3 Most babies grow out of these two allergies, but peanut allergy, which is also on the rise, are more likely to persist into adulthood, affecting up to two percent of infants.4
Back to the cake, and my search for cake recipes proved fruitful, with the Vegan Society website showcasing a huge collection of dairy and egg free recipes without nuts or soy.5 Pinterest also yielded a wealth of recipes. After a weekend of recipe testing, the winner turned out to be the ridiculously simple ‘Crazy Cake’ from American blogger Mary, aka Sweet Little Bluebird.6
Using ordinary household ingredients, this quick, Depression-era cake has the texture and almost all the taste of a Victoria sponge cake, although slightly less rich and a little sweeter. However, when topped with a faux buttercream made with a dairy free sunflower spread, I could barely make out the difference, and neither could anyone else.
The recipe is also very adaptable, so little Maisie got both chocolate and vanilla-raspberry versions for her birthday, topped with rice paper printed Maisy Mouse toppers.7 I’m delighted to report that when she tried her cake for the first time, her face was the picture of sheer joy.
Adapted from Sweet Little Bluebird
Makes one 8″ round sandwich cake.
Vegan Chocolate cake
Vegan RecipeAdapted from Sweet Little BluebirdMakes one 8" round sandwich cake.
- 290 g Plain flour or 240g Plain flour + 50g of cocoa for chocolate cake
- 200 g Sugar
- 1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 1 tsp White Vinegar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 75 ml Vegetable oil
- 240 ml water
Vegan Buttercream filling
- 100 g Vegan spread such as Pure Sunflower or Flora Dairy Free
- 225 g Icing sugar or 175g or icing sugar & 50g cocoa for chocolate flavour
- 1.5 tsp Vanilla Extract
Make the cake
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease and line two 8” cake tins.
- Mix dry ingredients in a bowl.
- Add vinegar to one section of bowl, vanilla to another and oil to another.
- Pour over the water and stir until well combined.
- Divide between the prepared cake tins and bake at 180 degrees for 20-30 minutes until well risen.
- Leave to cool before icing.
Make the buttercream
- Beat all the ingredients together until fluffy. Chill for 30 mins before using.
- Grimshaw KE et al. Incidence and risk factors for food hypersensitivity in UK infants: results from a birth cohort study. Clin Transl Allergy. 2016 Jan 26;6
I’ve always loved cooking and baking. Outside of baking, I am a doctor working in the NHS in Leeds, and am currently attempting to learn Spanish.