It is quite easy to make healthy birthday cakes. In this post I reveal, how you can convert almost any cake recipe to a healthier version and what type of icing and decorations to use to make the cake beautiful AND healthy.
When I grew up in Germany we never got a special cake on our birthdays. There were lots of different baked delicacies served on parties, which never looked like a castle, a princess or a treasure chest. The most loved birthday treat was a simple Strawberry Tart. I’ve never seen a cake glazed with castor sugar and artificial colours, before I moved to Australia.
After the birth of my son, we attended various kids birthday parties. I found myself soon under pressure to produce a special birthday cake. But I did not want to make an unhealthy cake and I did not think it was fair to the parents to send hyperactive kids home after the party, stuffed with sugar and fake colours. I also did not like the taste of these cakes. They did not look and taste yummy to me at all. Food still has to look like food to me, before I am willing to eat it.
Over the years I made different healthy birthday cakes. People raved about them and they were eaten in no time. My latest creation was the Wholemeal Banana Bread with Chocolate Glaze (see featured image) that I made for my daughters 7th birthday.
If you would like to make a healthy birthday cake for the next party, here are some tips for you:
Substitute Sugar with Honey
I only use honey as sweetener at home. There is quite a debate around at the moment, about how healthy or unhealthy honey is in baking. I don’t want to go into that now, because I am planning to write an article on that topic at some future date. But if I talk about honey, then I mean the real stuff you can only buy from your local bee keeper.
In a recipe you substitute the honey by weight, not by volume. So if the recipe asks for 1 cup sugar, which is 220g sugar, then you use 220g honey instead (and NOT 1 cup honey). For half a cup of sugar, use 110g honey and so on. (Yes, there is some maths involved here!) I find it unpractical to measure honey in volume. But if you don’t own a kitchen scale, then you can use this converter.
When baking a cake, usually you have to add sugar to the DRY ingredients. If you use honey instead, you need to melt it gently in a small saucepan while stirring over low heat together with the butter (if using). Make sure that the butter and honey mixture doesn’t get hot. If the mixture does get hot, you have to let it cool first. You can stand the saucepan in a cold water bath in the sink to fasten that process. Ones the mixture is lukewarm, you can add it to the WET ingredients.
Substitute White Flour with Wholemeal Flour
You can easily substitute white flour with either wholemeal flour or spelt flour by weight and volume. So 1 cup white flour equals 1 cup wholemeal flour, and 100g white flour equals 100g wholemeal flour.
I like to grind my flour at home just before baking, because fresh flour tastes so much better and whole grains keep longer and are easier to store. If you don’t have a grinder, store your flour in the fridge or freezer. It might take a while until your taste buds adjust to the nutty flavour of wholemeal flour. But I can promise you, that soon “normal” white cakes will taste bland to you.
Use a Healthy Fat
I prefer to use organic, unsalted butter in baking. If you still don’t know that butter is good for you, but margarine not, then read this article. You could also use coconut oil or any other cold pressed oil. For me cakes taste best, if they are baked with butter, but that’s a matter of personal taste. Again, I find it unpractical to measure butter in cups and prefer to weigh it instead. Use this butter conversion calculator, if you need to.
Use Organically Grown AND Wholemeal Ingredients
Health experts and consumers debate whether organic food is healthier than conventional food. I think organic growing methods should always be used on farms to keep us and our environment healthy. But if you can’t find a wholemeal product that is organically grown, then buy the wholemeal, commercial grown product instead.
For instance: Before I bought my stone grinder, I was looking for organically grown, wholemeal flour in the supermarket, but couldn’t find any. I could only choose between organic white flour and commercial wholemeal flour. I bought the wholemeal flour, because organic white flour is still not good for you. The same is true for organic sugar, which is still an unhealthy product that I won’t use.
Chocolate Icing: My family loves chocolate, so most of the birthday cakes that I make have a chocolate glaze. You can either use dark chocolate like in this Banana Bread Recipe or cacao and coconut oil like this Chocolate Ganache Frosting. Alternatively, try Chocolate Avocado Frosting, which looks so yummy, but unfortunately I didn’t make it yet.
Cream Cheese Icing: For a light coloured cake use this Honey Cream Cheese Icing. If you want a pink cake, then add 1 Tbsp. beetroot juice. For the Sand Castle Cake (pictured right) I covered the cream cheese icing with almond meal.
Natural Coloured Icing: Remember, the icing doesn’t have to be bright coloured. But if colour is so important to you or the birthday kid, then use natural food colours, which are now readily available from big supermarkets.
Cake Decorating Tips
Fruit: You can easily decorate your cake with fruit. I love to use strawberries, because they look great on cakes and most kids like to eat them. You can see below 2 of my cakes with strawberry decoration. Also check out these amazing creations!
Nuts and sultanas: Nuts and sultanas are also great for decorating cakes. To decorate the Mini Golf cake I used sultanas and macadamia nuts to resemble rocks. To make the sand for the Sandcastle Cake I spread cream cheese icing on the cake and covered it with almond meal.
Cacao nibs: Cacao nibs are simply dried and fermented bits of cacao beans. They have a deep, slightly bitter chocolate flavor and are so good for you. You can sprinkle your cake with cacao nibs like I did on the Banana Bread (see feature image).
You can decorate cakes with figurines. Be creative! I used a fairy for the Fairy Cake (pictured further up). For the Mini Golf cake I used trees, a bridge, a house and a person from a train set. I made the flag by gluing red paper onto a toothpick. I cut out green cardboard in a shape of a golf course.
- Unusual candles are also great for decoration like the number 7 on the Mini Golf Cake and the treasure chest on the Pirate Cake .
- Sorry, I do love chocolate, so occasionally I decorate a cake with chocolate treats. I used chocolate coins for the Pirate Cake and Belgian shell chocolate for the Sand Castle Cake. Every child got only one of the treats, and because I never put any lollies in the lolly bags, this was the only sugar kick the kids got during the party. I can live with that.
Phew, the first article for Healthy Earth – Healthy You is finally done! Please let me know, if this article was helpful for you. If you know other tips on how to make healthy birthday cakes, please write a comment. I can’t wait to read what you think!
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