This post is by contributing writer Haley Stewart of Carrots for Michaelmas.
As a very uncrafty mama who does not love putting on elaborate birthday parties and does not excel at party planning, I’m dedicated to making birthdays special but simple. Because that’s just how I roll.
I have friends who create amazing Pinterest-worthy parties for their children’s birthdays because they are crafty and the love the details of planning a beautiful party. If that’s you, fantastic! Use those awesome gifts! But if party planning stresses you out, I know exactly how you feel.
Add on kids with food allergies and/or guests with food allergies, and you have a whole other facet to consider as you plan. We do a lot to avoid stress including keeping the guest list small (just family and godparents), setting up simple snacks, and trying to decorate with flowers from the garden and pretty things we already had.
I love a sweet simple birthday party.. But until my third child, I always baked a birthday cake because you have to have a birthday cake, right? Well…maybe.
When my youngest daughter’s first birthday was approaching, we had eliminated gluten and dairy from her diet to try to help her terrible eczema. While I have have several years of experience baking gluten-free cakes because my older kids are allergic, the no-gluten and no-dairy combo threw me for a loop.
And then when I remembered that all of my daughter’s godparents’ kids couldn’t process sugar, I was faced with baking a no gluten, dairy, or processed sugar cake. And that’s when my brain exploded.
While I’m sure such a thing exists and can be created, I decided to go a different route. A route that didn’t take hours of research or include weird flours, dairy substitutes, and alternative sweeteners. Because I am all about doing gluten-free the easy way.
I tried to think of something perfect for a summer birthday party that was gluten, dairy, and sugar free. Something that could hold a birthday candle and be cut into slices. And then it hit me: WATERMELON.
Why not just have something everybody loves that’s naturally free of the ingredients we’re avoiding instead of losing my mind trying out new-to-me recipes?
So that’s what we did. We got two watermelons, one tiny and one large.
The tiny little one was the “cake” for the birthday girl. We sliced in it half and put a candle in so we could sing “Happy Birthday” and she could blow out her candle.
Big sister was very excited about the whole thing.
We cut the large watermelon into triangles ahead of time for all the guests to enjoy at the party.
And you know what? Nobody was upset that there wasn’t a traditional cake. The kids all had an absurd number of watermelon slices, everyone loved it, and we wiped off many a sticky face before it was time to open presents.
Even though we’re not avoiding dairy anymore, we did an encore of the watermelon “cake” for my summer birthday girl this year, too. The big kids did ask if we were having cake or cupcakes but when I mentioned that we were doing a watermelon cake again, it was smiles all around.
This year we added homemade fresh mint ice cream to the mix and it was a lovely cool summery flavor next to the watermelon.
To reduce the mess, I highly recommend sending everyone outside for watermelon consumption because there’s just no way to avoid having small children drip watermelon juice all over the floor.
So there you have it, food allergy sufferers. Easiest “cake” ever. And if your family doesn’t have to avoid gluten or other common food allergens, consider adding some fruit or other allergy-friendly foods to your summer birthday party menu for any guests that may be allergic to the other snacks provided.
Speaking as a mom of allergic kiddos, it is such a treat for them when there’s something yummy they can eat at gatherings, even if it’s not the cake!