This healthy smash cake recipe is a great alternative to a sugar-filled birthday cake for your toddler! No added sugar, gluten free first birthday cake recipe.
You may have noticed that I’ve recently started posting recipes again. Hooray! My year+ absence from recipes wasn’t entirely because of my baby (now toddler!) girl. If you want to read a bit more, please stop by this Instagram post.
Longtime readers may remember that my dessert recipes became lower and lower sugar as time passed, so this healthy smash cake recipe with absolutely no added sugars or is such a perfect fit for The Artisan Life! I hope that likeminded moms who don’t want to send their new toddlers into a sugar-fueled frenzy enjoy this healthy smash cake recipe!
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To be honest, I strongly considered not adding anything even vaguely sweet. I always knew I wouldn’t use honey, maple sugar, or any other ‘natural’ sugar. I toyed with the idea of using banana or carrot because I know LG likes both bananas and carrots. I ultimately decided to include some no sugar added applesauce for the liquid component.
While browsing literally dozens of “healthy” first birthday cake recipes, I was really struck by how many of them seemed to be trying to cater to adult tastes. Your baby has no idea what cake is “supposed to” be like!
Just make yourself and any guests a different treat to enjoy, if you want to. I suggest these healthy(er) vanilla cupcakes that I made for LG’s birthday party!
Why to make a healthy smash cake
I’m sure a few folks are reading this wondering why in the world I didn’t just bake up a ‘normal’ cake, or just use something like maple syrup.
The short answer is that I’m passionate about eliminating as many refined and added sugars from foods as possible. “But it’s her first birthday!” I can hear you say. Yes, exactly.
The American Heart Association recommends no added sugars or juice before the age of 2. It’s also been shown that early introduction of added sugars influences taste preferences. In other words, introducing sugars early makes children more likely to want sugars. (And less likely to want to eat their veggies!)
The evidence is mounting up against the refined sugars that currently find their way into just about every processed food product. If you want to know more about sugar, its detrimental effects, and corn subsidies that encourage the use of HFCS, I encourage you to read or watch The Case Against Sugar, The Omnivores Dilemma, and Fed Up.
If you’re nodding your head and thinking “yep, I’ve read that one!” then this healthy smash cake recipe is for you! As a quick note – this cake is not super fluffy, though it is nice and moist. It’s kind of like a large apple & oatmeal pancake. If your little one loves oatmeal and apples as much as ours does, I’m sure they’ll like it just fine! (I’m not going to lie, I stole the bottom layer off the pictured cake and ate it myself!)
Ingredients for healthy first birthday cake
I’ve baked this healthy toddler birthday cake several times now. The first time I combined all the ingredients with a stand mixer like you would with a ‘normal’ cake. Then, weirdly enough, my mom’s cats stole the cake, ate some of it, and pulled it across the kitchen. ¯_(ツ)_/¯
The next time, I switched things up a bit and made it using our Ninja blender. I liked this version better, so it’s what I’m sharing today!
If you don’t have a high-powered blender, just pre-ground oat flour and skip the flaxseed. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, cream the wet ingredients together, then stir in the dry ingredients until just combined. It would have quite as much loft, but it’ll still turn out fine!
- 1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce -or- an apple and an electric pressure cooker
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup water, milk, or your favorite non-dairy milk. I just used water.
- 2 tablespoons whole flaxseed. I prefer golden flaxseed.
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into 1/2″ slices, soft but not totally melted.
- 1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats (or oat flour)
- 1 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder
- A dash of cinnamon, if your little one likes it.
- Whole milk, plain Greek yogurt for frosting. Make sure to get a brand without added thickeners or extra sugar. Fage and Cabot are my top picks.
If you cook a lot with flaxseed, these golden flaxseeds are a fantastic value and they’re delicious! They’re a way better price than what we can get at WalMart and taste better, too.
- 100% Natural, Gluten and Allergen Free, Kosher, no preservatives, no additives, not genetically engineered
- 8g of fiber, 6388mg Omega-3, and 360mg of lignans per serving
- Farm to Table, Product of the USA
Healthy Smash Cake Recipe
Oat flour absorbs moisture quickly so the mixture become thicker the longer it sits. Try to work as quickly as possible. Have your cake pans prepared before mixing any ingredients!
If you’re making your own pressure cooker applesauce:
- Core a medium/large apple or two smaller apples and cut into 1″ chunks.
- Place the apple chunks and 1/3 cup of water in your electric pressure cooker. Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes.
- Once pressure has released, transfer the cooked apples to a large glass measuring cup. Use an immersion blender to puree the apples, removing any excess skin that doesn’t puree.
To make a healthy first birthday cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Grease two 5 or 6 inch cake pans or three 4-inch pans. I’ve made it with both 6″ pans and 4″ pans, and I think the 4″ is definitely the cuter option! Coat lightly with flour, tapping out any excess. I used oat flour.
- Combine the eggs, water, vanilla, and applesauce in your blender pitcher. Blend to combine. This took me about five seconds, tops.
- Sprinkle the flaxseeds on top and allow to sit for about five minutes.
- Add the butter and blend until it is combined and the flaxseeds are fully ground.
- Add the oats and baking powder. Blend until the oats are fully incorporated.
- Divide the batter evenly between prepared cake pans. You may need to use a spoon or spatula to encourage the batter to the pan’s edges. Jiggle and tap the pan to level the batter.
- Bake until a toothpick (or fork! I just use a fork) inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. My 6″ pans took about 18 minutes to bake the cake. It took about 25 minutes in the 4″ pans because each layer was considerably thicker. Ovens and pans vary, so keep en eye on your cake and pull it when it’s ready, not just because the clock said so.
- Allow the cakes to cool for about 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cakes to help them come free, then carefully turn them out onto a wire rack.
- Once the cake has fully cooled, you can “frost” it with whole milk Greek yogurt or the frosting of your choice. I allowed my Greek yogurt to drain in a colander in the fridge to remove any excess moisture so the cake wouldn’t become soggy. Simply line a colander with cheesecloth or a Viva paper towel and let it sit for a couple hours! If you’re going to frost and serve the cake immediately, you can skip this step. I went for a cute semi-naked appearance, but you do you!
- Serve and watch your little one enjoy!
You can also print the recipe from this version here:
More resources for babies and toddlers
Who else tries to give their kiddo (or themselves!) as little sugar as possible? I know I can’t be the only one!
Natasha is a former classroom teacher turned WAHM. She also is a registered yoga teacher and certified life coach. She shares her passion for education with craft tutorials and free printables. She also shares her experience moving through grief after losing a parent and passion for positive parenting. Learn more about Natasha and where she’s been featured.