Thursday, January 22, 2015

How to Make a Homemade Firetruck Birthday Cake- Without All That Processed Food Junk

 photo IMG_0040_zps8ed06432.jpgA great birthday cake can truly transform a birthday party from fun to fantastic. If, like myself, you try to stay away from processed foods, especially margarine/shortening and food coloring, you might feel bad, thinking your kids will be suffering, since they can't have those "super cool" cakes that others have at their birthday parties.
Not to worry- you can still make great cakes for your kids birthdays, even without all that junk and chemicals normally found in these fancy cakes.
Ok, I take that back.
Not 100% without processed food.
You see, when I think of a fun birthday cake, I usually think lots of fun colored frosting, not just brown frosting. Chocolate frosting is cool, but kids want their race car cake or heart cake or space ship cake to have lots of colors and not just be entirely brown.
The "problem" with making a fully healthy birthday cake is that the healthier sugars all are brown, so any frosting made with them ends up being brown. To be able to make white frosting, which can then be colored with various means (I'll get to that in a second), you need to use white powdered sugar. Not powdered healthier sugars.
So- I make fun cakes for my kids' birthdays nearly processed food free. The only processed junk is the white sugar in the frosting. It's possible that maybe I'd be able to make a white frosting with powdered xylitol, but I haven't tried it yet. In the meantime, its just been white sugar.
But- food coloring free, hydrogenated oil free, dairy free, gluten free, egg free, and the cake refined sugar free- yea- that's what I'm talking about!

My friend, who's seen the birthday cakes I make for my kids, asked me if I'd be willing to make her son a healthier birthday cake for his birthday. A fire truck birthday cake, I was game to try it, and I really like how it came out, and so did the birthday boy, so I wanted to share how I made it with you.
I haven't seen anything like this before out on the internet, so hopefully it'll be a good resource for those fire truck loving birthday boys whose mamas don't want to use chemical food coloring and other junk in their kids' cakes.

So, before I go further, let me list all the ingredients I used, and then I'll explain how I made it.

1 batch cake, enough for 3 loaf pans
1 batch of frosting (see below)
A few yellow raisins
A few apple juice sweetened craisins
Chocolate- either store bought or homemade healthy chocolate

And now for how I did it:

My friend sent me this video on making a fire truck birthday cake, which I used as inspiration.

First I made this delicious chocolate cake- refined sugar free, gluten free, and vegan. One batch was enough to make the three loaf pan cakes I needed for this recipe. No need to fill them super high- I just divided the batch into three and baked them in the loaf pans and it was perfect.

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While they were cooling, I tried my best to make a red frosting for the cake. The challenge was to make a frosting that was red, not pink, not purple... so that meant I needed something really dark, and all natural.

I first tried to see if I could color it with pomegranate juice. I emptied out an entire large pomegranate, then squished the arils, and then squeezed the juice through a cheese cloth. (Specifically didn't use a blender because I find the arils of pomegranates taste bitter and I didn't want it to be bitter at all.) Even though the pomegranates were very red, their juice seemed watery to me, so I boiled down the juice from the pomegranate until it was syrupy and thick- and all the color and flavor of the pomegranate was concentrated into 3 tablespoons of syrup. However, when I added it to the frosting, it made a very light pink, not the bright red I was hoping for.
So then I decided to use a beet.
But not the beet food coloring I've made in the past either, because I suspected it wouldn't be dark enough either unless I added too much liquid. I peeled then pureed an entire raw beet, and added the whole thing into the frosting. The texture was a little bit less smooth, then, but the color was as close to red as I was going to get.

Here is the exact recipe I used for the frosting:

150 g/5.3 oz/~3/4 cup coconut oil
5 1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons coconut milk or any other milks, dairy or not, or even water
Pomegranate liquid, concentrated to 3 tablespoons
4 heaping tablespoons raw beet puree

Mix the coconut oil and powdered sugar either with a mixer or in the food processor. Add the milk at the end to make it smoother, then add the pomegranate liquid and beet puree, and mix until smooth.

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I took the three cakes, and cut the top of two of them to flatten them.

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I then cut the end off one of the cakes about 2-3 inches away from the end, and cut another one in half, and positioned it like this. 

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I used some of the frosting as glue to hold the cakes together.

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Following the instructions on this Youtube video, I crumb coated the cake (I didn't even know what that was until I saw this video- but it made it so much easier to frost the cake without getting crumbs showing up throughout the frosting- I highly recommend it!)
Once the cake finished cooling post crumb coating, I gave the cake another layer of frosting, until it was covered in an even coat of reddish frosting. (Or as even a coat as I could, not being a super professional baker with amazing cake decorating skills.)

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Backtrack a second. While the cake was cooling in the fridge post crumb coating, I melted some chocolate down, and formed them into big, wide circles- not unlike how I made my chocolate coins, only in a regular muffin tin. You could use chocolate cookies for this as well (healthy homemade ones or store bought) but I was trying to save time and mess, and it worked just as well.

I had some pink frosting that I set aside before adding the beet puree, so I added a little bit of cocoa powder to it to make a light brown, which I piped through a thick plastic bag whose corner had been cut off. I piped some frosting to use as glue to hold the chocolate wheels in place. I used some more of the light brown to make hubcaps, bumpers, and trim, as well as in the space between the cab and the back of the truck.

I used white frosting that I made (coconut oil mixed with enough powdered sugar until it was powdery, then coconut milk until it was smooth) to make windows, a ladder, and a hose. I used some more of the brown to try to make a hose nozzle... didn't come out so nozzle looking, but oh well.

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I used the craisins and the raisins on the top of the cab, in the front underneath the windows, and at the back of the truck, all as lights for the firetruck.

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Voila. The final firetruck cake!

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I was really happy with how it came out, and the kid was suitably impressed as well.
And best part of it- other than the white sugar in the frosting, this cake was garbage free. Loads better than the chemical filled stuff in the store, and just as fun!

Are you/your kids into fancy birthday cakes? If you try to stay away from processed foods, do you find you need to compromise for birthdays, and either serve things that you generally try to avoid, or not make things that you feel would make it more special, because of health? 
Any cakes you've made for your kids that you're especially proud of, either for their creativity or their health and creativity combo?
Does this look like something you'd try at home?

Linking up to Allergy Free WednesdayReal Food Wednesday


  1. As far as I know, xylitol is pretty processed. What would make it better than white sugar?

    1. Yea, it is pretty processed. The only plus of it over white sugar is it is purported to help prevent tooth decay while white sugar promotes it.

    2. in my experience, sugar alcohols give me horrible GI symptoms and i'm quite sure i'm far from alone. i hate sugary drinks (i only drink diet. can't stand the sugar aftertaste. ironic, i know), but if i ever indulge in a blended iced coffee, i never get the diet because the ensuing stomachache far outweighs any pleasure.

  2. Okay, that's what I thought. Thanks!

  3. For an added fun personalization, cut out a picture of the birthday kid & stick it on the 'window' so it looks like they are driving the fire truck (or race car, space ship, etc). We always just used a regular photo paper and removed it before cutting.

  4. It's stunning! Looks professional!!

  5. Oh, that's adorable. I especially like the chocolate wheels -- the choc really works. (I keep trying to say something like, "It looks like real tires!" but while that sounds complimentary in my head in the comment box it looks wrong.) Much better than straight brown frosting over cake anyway.

  6. Great cake! It looks so cheerful yet really tasty, unlike those supermarket bakery cakes.

    We don't have any major food restrictions, but I do try to keep things healthy. My own birthday cake is always carrot cake with raisins (no nuts) and cream cheese frosting, because that is my very favorite cake. My partner makes it with half white and half whole wheat flour, and it has all those carrots for vitamins and fiber.

    My approach for the kids is to start with an applesauce spice cake. It's a Better Homes & Gardens recipe but I make it all whole wheat. No frosting; it is moist and yummy. This is the standard cake until they request something else. My son asked for pumpkin cornbread as his birthday cake when he turned 3! He's 10 now and has had a few more applesauce cakes and at least one pan of birthday brownies (whole wheat, sweetened with honey) but most years he's requested a vanilla cake with lemon frosting and colored decorations, and I do make that with white flour (unbleached, but refined) for texture and use food coloring in some of the frosting--well, I guess it's really "icing", made from powdered sugar and lemon juice. I use demerara sugar in the cake, 2/3 as much as the recipe says, and coconut oil where the recipe calls for Crisco! The coconut oil gives it a really nice flavor.

    My partner's birthday cake is always a blueberry streusel coffee cake. Refined flour and brown sugar are necessary to get the texture right, but it's relatively low in sugar and is 1/3 healthy blueberries, so that's not so bad.


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