The Easiest Birthday Cake Ever!

Darth Vader

When I was growing up my Mom would always make a shape cake for our birthday. My sisters and I loved it. We would pick the character we wanted and my Mom would turn it into a cake. We had everything from Strawberry Shortcake and Cinderella to Robin Hood and Darth Vader. It was amazing!

She would get my Dad to draw the picture for her to the size of the cake she wanted and then she would create the cake. We loved them so much that at 16 she had to ‘cut us off’; because even though they are super fun and look great when completed, they are a lot of work. My Mum was done.

Chloe’s 1st Birthday

But my sisters and I decided that we still wanted a shape cake for our birthdays, so we agreed to make each others (because we believe it is just wrong for you to have to make your own birthday cake).

This enthusiasm for shape cakes carried over when I had my kids and though my mother warned me not to start making shape cakes when they were small, I did anyway. Matthew’s first cake was a duck and Luke and Chloe’s teddy bears.

Matthew’s 5th Birthday

I’ve done everything from Spiderman and Pokemon to Raggedy Ann and Andy. I usually do the same thing my Mom did, let the kids choose what they want and then draw the pattern and make the cake. But sometimes I luck out and find a book with a pattern in it, or can get a pre-shaped cake pan – this makes it a lot easier. I enjoy making the cakes. I am so proud of myself when it is done and receive many compliments on my finished product. Even with our change to a sugar and dairy free household I am still able to do this for the kids.

This month Matthew celebrated his 9th birthday and he asked for a Grass Block cake, from the game Minecraft that he plays on the computer. This had to be the easiest cake I have ever made. I literally baked a chocolate square cake and put green icing on top. In fact, I was finishing the cake 20 minutes before his birthday party was about to start. And he was totally happy with it. Though I love doing the shape cakes for the kids, it was really nice to have something simple this year.

Grass Block from Minecraft

The cake was a hit! Yummy, moist and delicious. We had it with ice cream of course; we now buy Rice Dream for our ice cream, or make it ourselves in the ice cream maker (these are great dairy and sugar free alternatives for our ice cream fetishes).

Who says you have to feel denied all the things you are used to eating by eliminating sugar and dairy? And the kids who attended, they had no idea that it was sugar free, it was cake, it tasted good, so they ate it.

Raggedy Andy on Luke’s 2nd Birthday

It really is easy to get around having sugar and/ or dairy and still enjoy all the ‘treats’ that we our used to in our lives. Here is the recipe for the chocolate cake and the icing that I used. Though I did use green food coloring to color the icing (and they say that food coloring for kids is not good really either – that’s a whole other post 🙂 There is a brand of food coloring out there now that is made from the pigment of fruits and vegetables, so if you are looking for an alternative you can purchase it at a health food store. I have seen it here in Calgary at Community Natural Foods and Planet Organic. Whatever you choose, enjoy the cake recipe and icing too!



Chocolate Cake

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

¾ c. agave nectar

2 teaspoons vanilla

½ c. rice milk

½ c. Earth Balance, melted (vegan spread)

2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 deg F (Gas mark 4 or 180 deg C). Grease a 9 inch (23 cm) cake tin. Mix flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, agave nectar and vanilla essence in a bowl. Melt Earth Balance at low heat and add to the dry ingredients. Also add milk and eggs. Mix everything together until smooth, either by hand or by using an electric mixer at slow speed.

Transfer to bake tin and bake at 350 degrees until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, approximately 35 to 45 minutes.

*recipe can easily be doubled to make a 9×13 cake or divided evenly into cupcake tins to make chocolate cupcakes


Coconut Buttercream Frosting

In a mixing bowl add:

1/4 cup + 2 tbsp coconut butter (Note: Coconut butter is NOT the same thing as coconut oil).

3/4 cup coconut cream**

1/2 cup + 1 tbsp honey

1.5 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup + 2 tbsp coconut flour, sifted

1/4 cup + 2 tbsp arrowroot powder

Optional: You can substitute Earth Balance soy-free Buttery Spread for some or all of the coconut cream. Add extra sifted coconut flour to thicken if necessary. Likewise, add extra coconut cream or Earth Balance to soften if necessary.

Mix with handheld mixer. You can easily add a drop of food coloring to this icing if you wish to create colored icing.

Makes enough icing for 12 cupcakes.



Homemade Jam Sugar Free and Just as Delicious!

For years now I have been making my own jam, a tradition that I have learned and carried on from my mother. In the summer, we would go strawberry picking, bringing home flats of strawberries and Mum would make fresh jam.

Our kitchen would become a production center with flats of strawberries, jam jars, and other ingredients all laid out to make the jam making process easy and smooth. Mum would make jars and jars of it; because as a family of 5 we ate a lot of jam.

Many times we would have enough left over to make some great desserts too, like strawberry shortcake or strawberry rhubarb pie. Often too, Mum would simply freeze the berries for later.

Jam is very easy to make and with a few simple ingredients, a pot and your stove you can whip up a batch quite quickly and have fresh homemade jam. There are sugar free, reduced sugar and regular jam recipes, but regardless of your preference they are all delicious! The first time I made jam my husband looked at me weird and asked me why was I making jam when we could buy go some at the store. I smiled and said, “Just wait.” He did, and when he tasted it, his eyes got big and he promptly started eating it with a spoon!

When we were first eliminating sugar at our house, I wondered what I would do about making jam, as the recipe I usually used had tons of sugar in it and there were no jams in the store without sugar. The regular Certo recipes use up to 8 cups of sugar per batch, so I had to find an alternative. Last year I discovered Pomona’s Universal Pectin, which is 100% pure citrus pectin and you can use honey or other sweeteners for your jam.

I was so pleased to have discovered this I made a batch of jam right away. It turned out beautifully and my family continues to gobble it up! We tend to go through a jar of jam a week. The favorite is peach jam, but I like variety, so I also make apricot, raspberry, strawberry, blueberry and cherry.

The thing that I really like about this pectin is that I can double or triple my batch. I found that with the Certo recipes doubling or tripling did not work well and therefore was having to do one batch at a time. Ugh! Though I enjoyed making it, the process was slow and as I am sure all parents can relate, we are happy when we can do things faster and still maintain quality!

With all the fresh summer fruit I tend to make a lot of jam; as I said we go through a lot. I usually buy cherries in the Okanagan when I am there visiting my parents, I also get fresh peaches as they have a peach tree. We have our own raspberry bush, and when the children have not picked it clean and eaten them all, I will make a batch.

There’s nothing like the taste of fresh homemade jam, it is so delicious that even I would eat it with a spoon!

Making jam is very easy. Below is a recipe for Peach Jam (the favorite at our house) using Pomona’s Universal Pectin. Recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.

Other jam recipes are included inside both Certo and Pomona’s pectin boxes, and vary slightly depending on the kind of jam you are making. They also offer cooked and no cook jam freezer recipes.

Peach Jam

4 c. mashed peaches, peeled

1/4 c. lemon or lime juice

1 c. honey (you may use as little as 1/2 c. honey depending on how sweet you like it)

3 tsp. Pomona’s Universal Pectin

4 tsp. calcium water *

Jam jars with seals/lids and rings

Large pot to make jam in

Small pot to boil lids

Wash and rinse jars. Heat jars in 225 F oven for 10 minutes, keep warm until ready to use. Boil lids and rings in small pot. Turn down heat and let stand in hot water.

Prepare peaches by peeling, slicing and mashing to make 4 cups. Put fruit with lemon or lime juice in large pot. Add calcium water and stir.

Measure honey into a separate bowl. Add pectin powder; stir thoroughly.

Bring fruit to boil. Add pectin-honey mixture, stir vigorously about 1-2 minutes to dissolve pectin. Return pot to a boil and remove from heat.

Peach Jam on toast

Fill jars to 1/4″ from top. Wipe rims clean, place lid/seal and screw ring on top. Screw on tightly. Put filled jars in boiling water to cover and boil for 10 min. Remove from water, let jars cool. Lids will ‘pop’ as they cool to seal and should be sucked down. Store in a cool place until ready to eat.

Makes 5 -250 ml jars.

*calcium water is 1/2 tsp. white calcium powder (provided in Pomona’s Universal Pectin box) and 1/2 c. water

Note: if you do not have time to complete your jam but have the fruit; you can measure and prepare your fruit and freeze it for later use. I have done this and it works well.

Happy Jamming!

Matthew enjoying a piece of toast with freshly made peach jam