Sunday, July 10, 2011

Gluten-Free Birthday Cake - A Prehistoric Endeavor

I have two kids and their birthdays are only two days apart. They are two years apart in age, but their birthdays are so close together that we've had a combined birthday party for the past two years. As we were gearing up for "Birthday Land" at my house, I asked each child what theme they wanted for the party. My oldest requested dinosaurs. My youngest wanted zoo animals. I thought each theme was wonderful, but I had no idea how I could create one cake around both of those themes. Our birthday parties are small - just my husband, my kids, me and grandparents, so there would simply be no need for lots of cake. But, I also wanted each child to feel special at the birthday party and to enjoy the cake I made for them.

In addition to this challenge, I also wanted to make the cake gluten-free. I wanted to be able to enjoy the cake with my kids on their day, and my youngest child has shown some small indicators of food allergies as well. I wanted a cake that would be safe for all of us. I also wanted it to be something my gluten-eating relatives would enjoy.

First, I happened upon this recipe for gluten-free yellow cake. I decided to do a trial run about a month before the birthday just to make sure the cake would turn out well. I turned that cake into chocolate covered cake balls (oh, yum! Will definitely share this recipe in the future!). The cake was a success. My husband said the cake balls tasted as good as the Starbucks Cake Pops. What a compliment!

Then, the night before the birthday party, I baked the cake again. This time I lined the 9x13 cake pan with parchment paper. I followed the recipe I linked above, poured the batter into the cake pan, and then baked for about 25 minutes. It might take more or less time in your oven. Check the center of the cake with a toothpick, and it if comes out clean, it is done. My cake began to turn golden brown on top. Once the cake was cool, I gently lifted it out of the pan and placed it on one of my nicer-looking cookie sheets. Then I trimmed away the excess parchment paper. I left the paper on the bottom of the cake, but you could remove it if you were feeling adventurous.

When I decorate my cakes, I prefer to use pre-made frosting. I'm a busy mom, and what I care about is giving my kids a cake they will love and remember. I've never dabbled in fondant. Maybe sometime I will. But, for now, I'm able to do most everything I want with store bought frosting. I was pretty geeked to learn that Betty Crocker frosting is now certified gluten-free. Check the back of the can yourself. Let me know if you do a little jump right there in the store. I know I did, and it would be nice to know I'm not the only one! For this cake, I kept some of the frosting white (I used vanilla. Whipped white will also work.), made some of the frosting green, and made a small amount of it blue.

I started the decorating process by making a t-shaped path on the cake using white frosting. Next I iced the remaining quadrants with green frosting. I also made the sides of the cake green.

Once the basic design was iced onto the cake, I created a "cobblestone" path using Rice Chex. Can you tell I love that Rice Chex are a gluten-free food? I left a little bit of white frosting visible on either side of the path. This allowed me to add a "fence" later on in the decorating process. I'm not sure how much Chex I ended up using. Maybe a cup or so. We keep Chex at the house for making "bread crumbs" and as a breakfast option, so we had some in the house already.

Next, I "fenced" off each green rectangle with gluten-free, vanilla wafer cookies. I used Schär brand cookies, but I hear Glutino makes them as well. I had to cut a few of the wafer cookies with a knife so that they would fit properly on the cake.

The only other thing I had to make for decorating involved pink tootsie rolls. I took one pink tootsie roll, broke it into two pieces, flattened the pieces and put a little strip of white frosting down the center of each piece. These served as "T-bone steaks" for the cake. The rest of the cake was created using little plastic toys my kids already had. I washed the toys thoroughly first, of course, and then arranged them on the cake. When all was said and done, we had a PREHISTORIC ZOO! Both kids loved it (and it tasted great too)!

Prehistoric animals were paired up with their modern relatives in each zoo exhibit. The king of the dinosaurs (T-rex) was paired up with the king of the jungle (a mighty lion). A long-neck brachiosaurus was eating leaves from the treetops next to a giraffe. A rhino and a triceratops drank from a pond (blue icing outlined with gluten free Rice Krispies). An armored euoplocephalus was next to an armadillo. Give a few candy steaks to the meat-eating T-rex and lion, stick on a few trees with icing to the cookie sheet, and VOILA! A birthday cake that two kids can agree on. It tasted great, it was gluten-free, and no one felt like they were missing anything.

In addition to the ingredients for the yellow cake and the Betty Crocker frosting, you will need:

Around 1 cup of Rice Chex
A few Rice Krispies to outline the pond, and maybe a handful more to make a desert environment for the armored animal/dino
1 pink tootsie roll
1 pkg. Schär brand vanilla wafer cookies
Food coloring: green and blue
1 skewer cut in half and sanded until ends are smooth
Small piece of paper for creating a "Prehistoric Zoo" sign (personalize as is appropriate for you)
Desired dinosaur and animal plastic toys
Plastic trees, cactus, or other desired zoo decor
1 or 2 plastic people to visit the zoo

Total decorating time was not much more than an hour. Allow more time if you've never decorated your own cake before. And then, trust yourself! You can do this and your kids (or other family members/friends) will love it!

No comments:

Post a Comment