Sunday, November 11, 2012

Evie's First Birthday and Whole Wheat Organic Sugar Free Cake

Whew. What a week! I am glad birthdays only come once a year. Now I know why my mom always looked like she'd been hit by a bus in my birthday party pictures.

I was getting a lot of pressure about how first birthdays are "supposed" to be. An entire cake for the baby to smash and eat all by herself, (a "real" cake!) and brightly colored icing to smear all over her face. Okay, but in my world, it also has to be whole wheat, no sugar, and no artificial dyes. Hmmm.

I ended up tweaking this carrot cake recipe to my liking and it was delicious. For the icing, I just put a block of organic cream cheese in the blender with a couple tablespoons of maple syrup and voila! I made two fruit syrups for the colors, one from mango and pineapple for yellow and one from blackberries which turned out kind of dark red. They yellow wasn't quite bright enough once I mixed it with icing so I added a bit of the spice turmeric, which worked like a charm and you couldn't taste it at all. You can read how to make the syrups here.

Here is the final recipe I came up with:

2 cups organic whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder (make sure your brand is aluminum free!)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 cup organic unrefined coconut oil
3/4 cup maple syrup
4 organic free range eggs
2 cups grated organic carrots
1 cup organic raisins

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Add the eggs, maple syrup, and coconut oil. (Coconut oil becomes a solid at normal room temperatures. If yours is solid, you will have to melt it over very low heat before you can mix it in.) Lastly, add the carrots and raisins and mix again. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

For the party, I cut this recipe in half by 1/4 because I was just making a small heart shaped cake.

I seriously stressed myself out over what to feed the adults. It was going to cost a bajillion dollars to make enough of the above recipe to feed all our guests. I thought maybe I would just get an organic cake mix but then I read the ingredients and it was basically just white flour, white sugar, and baking powder and I would still have to add the expensive stuff myself so that was no help. I decided to just make a normal cake from scratch with as many organic ingredients as we already had in our pantry. So it ended up that everything was organic except the flour, and I did use white flour that we had left from our white bread days. I used organic cane sugar. A cake is a treat, not something you expect to meet your nutritional needs, so having white flour at a birthday party is not going to kill you. I didn't have enough time to perfect a whole wheat recipe with ingredients I could afford and I was honestly terrified that everyone would be standing around choking my crappy cake down thinking to themselves "I knew healthy meant gross." Hopefully next year I will be able to pull it off, but for now I just take comfort in the fact that at least my cake didn't have any bogus food additives or genetically modified ingredients. It was a cake my grandma would have been proud of. (Even though I burned the bottom a little!)

I got to thinking about the evolution of birthday cakes. Back in the day, they were baked from scratch by someone who loved and cherished you. Then along came cake mixes, which were also made with love, just less effort and time. Now, we have store bought cakes. Almost all of the cakes I have seen recently have been made in a store bakery. I know this sounds like some corny hippie crap, but there is something so sad about a Walmart birthday cake. Aside from the horrifying ingredients... something deeper. A cake is a symbol of love, a celebration of your existence. Something someone made in order to say "I am so glad you were born." The people working in the bakery at Walmart are probably getting paid minimum wage and hate their jobs. I can hear them thinking "If I have to make one more Sponge Bob cake I'm going to shoot myself." Maybe store bought cake contains some residual resentment. Maybe that's totally stupid, but I don't think so. I think it's just one example of what is wrong with what we eat. Corporations who care about profits, not people, mix and box most of the food we eat today. They are more concerned about sales and preventing spoilage and profit loss than they are about nourishing the people who buy their products. There is no love in our food.

 This is where buying locally, buying organic, and buying from small family owned companies can make a difference. Small organic farmers and companies take pride in making healthy food and carry the intention of making a nourishing product. Of course they want to make money too, but without putting profits before people. Cook from scratch whenever possible. It is so worth it.