This year my boy turned 3. Three! How time flies. I decided, months ago, that I would make his birthday cake this year. I’m not a baker. I love to eat and cook, but I couldn’t remember the last time I’d baked a cake. For his 1st birthday, I made gluten / dairy / egg free cupcakes with a sweet potato and maple syrup icing. Delicious for first tastes, but they weren’t the most beautiful looking creations. 😉
And in the last year, my boy has developed a love for chocolate. So, no brainer, he wanted a chocolate cake. A TRAIN chocolate cake. Ok. I can do this.
With a new baby at home, and knowing my cake-baking inexperience…I knew I had try something straight-forward. My son doesn’t have any obvious or major food intolerances that we’ve seen, and though we don’t use refined sugar, dairy or wheat in our house much, I didn’t have time to experiment with too many recipes or ingredients ahead of time. Keep in mind, I’m a baking rookie!
So my concession was this – I’d bake an organic chocolate cake. I had a train mould to use, and planned to find a boxed cake mix. No such luck. After a short search and no organic options…I moved to plan B. In store, shopping at Scoop N’ Weigh, I did a quick online search for ‘best organic chocolate cake recipes’, (found this) and started shopping ingredients: organic wheat flour, icing sugar, granulated sugar, cocoa powder plus a second stop for organic butter and milk.
One practice run earlier in the week (thanks to the help of my 17 year old niece;), I ventured in and made my first real chocolate cake in likely over a decade. Complete with buttercream chocolate and vanilla icing, I attempted to make the best darned train cake my son could hope for (from me at least;).
The only other hiccup planning this organic baked number was the icing colour. Brown? That’s easy…chocolate icing. But what about the colour blue? Simple, I thought. I saw some natural food colours that could be purchased in store a couple of years back. Shouldn’t be hard.
I phoned every health and bulk food store I could think of that might sell this in Winnipeg. It could be ordered in, they used to carry it, ‘sure we have that’ (but in actuality was synthetic colour in store): I couldn’t find it locally. Went online, and found India Tree’s 3 colour set. But to ship from the US, pay shipping to expedite before the weekend (with a life of around 6 months or less), this was going to cost close to $50 for a few drops of blue! Next option.
I found some recipes for making the colour blue from boiling red cabbage. But reviews stated it was faint (needing many drops of the liquid colour) and faded in sunshine. We were having an outdoor party in July. And I was making a buttercream icing (that was too runny on my practice attempt). This time, boiling cabbage was NOT on my to do list;)
So, despite my best (last minute) efforts, this all organic chocolate cake would get a few drops of blue food colouring. Nope, synthetic dyes and colours are not good for us (which I won’t go into here). But my boy’s love for Thomas the Train, excitement for a train cake, and hours put in thus far making this baked creation…I wasn’t going to be foiled by something simple like a few drops of food colouring.
All of this to say, making food choices day in and out is part of all of our realities. And most parents I know strive to make as healthy choices as they can.
This time around, I chose to make a cake made of ingredients that were ‘real’…organic.
I’d worked hard and put in effort to produce something my boy would love and be excited to eat. (He’d been talking about his train cake for months!) This time, adding a few drops of blue food dye in a pinch was a choice for sanity’s sake (saving likely many hours after many already spent trying my hand at this baking gig). And in the end, I made a ~90% organic chocolate cake that, most importantly, my boy loved and talked about for weeks! That’s sweet enough for me.