Ready for the best ever healthy smash cake recipe?
But first, let’s chat all about my thoughts on sugar free or sugar included birthday cakes – or smash cakes – for your little one-year-old.
I just want to start off by saying that while I’m going to give you my opinion and thought process behind these two different options, at the end of the day, you make your own decision based on what’s right for you and your family. There is a no judgment, and it is only what works for you.
What is a smash cake?
So let’s start by talking about what is a smash cake.
If you don’t know, a smash cake is basically that little tiny cutesy cake that’s offered to babies when they’re turning one. It’s sort of a personalized cake, because the idea is that they’re going to smash into it! They’re going to dig into it with their hands. They’re going to try and eat it. And yes…they’re going to make a mess all over. That’s the fun of it.
And hence the typical photo shoot that usually goes with it, It’s the cutest thing in the world.
So it’s a really fun tradition that mark’s a huge milestone.
Should I offer my baby a sugar free or regular smash cake?
There’s sort of two groups of people out there in the world. We’ve got the people who are offering a real, good old traditional birthday cake..full of sugar and deliciousness! And you’ve got people who are really concerned about offering their babies something that’s so full of sugar and them eating lots of it…so they’d rather find a healthier alternative for their little one.
Arguments For a Sugar-Free Cake
Now let’s just start with the nutrition talk first, okay?
Technically it’s recommended by pretty much every organization out there and definitely by me to avoid added sugars before age two, if at all possible, when at all possible. And that’s pretty self-explanatory. I mean, we know that sugar isn’t adding any nutritional value to your child’s diet and it’s definitely something that could be harmful, especially in large quantities and in the longterm to be giving them a diet that is high in sugar.
And to be honest… it’s also just easy to avoid it when they’re babies. I mean, especially if it’s your only child (but even if you have another sibling at home)…until they approach maybe 18 months or two years of age, they’re not even really noticing or realizing the other foods out there unless you present it to them. So don’t offer it, and they won’t be eating it!
And if there is something they notice someone eating and it’s full of sugar, I just kind of treat it like a choking hazard.
“No, you can’t have that.”
Take it away. Done and done.
There’s also the fact that consuming unnecessary added sugar is going to shape their preferences and their taste buds to like and enjoy more sweet things. That doesn’t mean that if you waited to introduce it at 2 or 3 years of age rather than 1 year of age that their ability to love sweet things suddenly vanishes. It is likely to happen anyway, cause we’re all human and we all have this innate love for sweet things. However, the earlier you introducing it, the more tricky it gets because that’s when babies are really shaping their taste buds or taste preferences. We want them to have a solid foundation where they’re exposed to and frequently eating tons of variety in flavored and textured foods that aren’t super sweet things (see my Baby Led Feeding course for all the help on that!). That way, by the time they get to that almost inevitable picky phase, they have a really good foundation of non-sweet foods that they still love and can work with and it will be much easier to come back to that foundation as they move through and get past that picky stage (using tactics from my Feeding Toddlers course..of course!).
The other funny thing people inevitably say when you suggest going with a sugar free cake is….
- “They’re going to be missing out the fun!”
- “Oh, what a sin? You’re not offering them a real birthday cake?
- “It’s their birthday, come on, they’re going to want to enjoy themselves!”
To which I respond…they don’t really know what birthday cakes supposed to taste like! Or that birthday cakes are even a thing!
So technically they don’t even know what they’re missing out on which means technically, it can’t really be a sad thing. Right?
So there is that perspective to take.
Arguments for a Sugar Filled Cake
The second side of things is that, you really need to think about this from a broader view where you’re not honing in on this one meal but rather you’re stepping back thinking…okay, this is one point in time…just one “meal” that’s full of sugar.
And maybe it has some artificial dyes in it.
But is this going to ruin them for life?
Is this going to affect their longterm preferences after one time?
No, not really.
So as long as you’re not offering them added sugars without much thought on a regular basis, or you’re kind of getting careless with things and you’re letting things slip here and there, seriously, this cake is not going to make a difference. They will not be obese. They will not have diabetes. They will not have any serious sugar addiction because they had cake once when they were one. So that is the other perspective. And I think it’s a really real perspective.
So what I’m trying to say is that both of these are valid and I guess it really just depends on you and your family. What you think is important, what you want to do, what your family thinks, what your traditions are – that kind of thing!
Now what did I do with my kids?
I personally did give them real sugar cakes. We went to our local grocery store and I just picked up a cake from there. It was simple. It was easy. And my kids actually didn’t like it! Especially my youngest son, who never liked cake for years and years after that. I’m telling you, until he was about eight or nine, you couldn’t get him to have any kind of cake with buttercream or any kind of sugary frosting in general. So there you go. I gave him a real cake and then look, he’s still hated it years later.
And the reason why I did that is because as mentioned above, I kind of took the perspective of a) I don’t have time to make a cake for this party. And that was a huge factor. And b) one time is not going to make any difference in the end of the day in the grand scope of things.
Now that all being said, if I was to go back in time and think of what I know now, and especially with the recipes that I know of, that are actually quite easy to make, I would probably find a way to make a cake that’s a little bit more balanced.
Let’s learn more, shall we?
Technically sugar is sugar.
So you will find cakes that are made out of regular white sugar, some with brown sugar, some with molasses, some with honey, (which by the way, at one year of age they can have). But at the end of the day, sugar is technically sugar. It’s going to cause the same longterm effects, no matter what type of sugar you’re offering, when offered in excess. But that being said, you do have some nutrients that are more present amongst those sugar molecules depending on the sugar product.
So for example, if you have highly refined sugar like white sugar or high fructose corn syrup, you might have bigger blood sugar spikes than if you had, agave sugar for example.
So you can choose a recipe that has some sugar, that’s still sweet and other people will enjoy, that could be a little bit less processed. The best choice in my opinion is sugar from whole fruit used in a recipe, because that fruit is bound to tons of fibre and tons of micronutrients. Again, this is one meal, one time and it’s not gonna make a huge difference in the long run, but it’s nice if you can to choose a better one.
Balance it with lots of fiber, protein and fat
The other thing I think is really important that I’ve learned over the years is balancing sugar with lots of fibre, lots of protein, and lots of fat that’s going to lower those blood sugar spikes. You’re not going to see this crazy crash and burn after having a lot of sugar when it’s eaten in conjunction with high amounts of protein, fibre or fat and won’t be as worried that your baby’s going to, be up all night not sleeping and kind of cranky because of the sugar crash. So I think that finding a recipe that has a little bit less carbs it in general is good because you’re adding sugar to it anyway and that’s going to be your big carb source. So instead finding a recipe that uses regular white flour and instead using an almond flour (if your baby can eat nuts) because of the protein in it, or a coconut flour because of the fat in it, is always going to balance things out more against the sugar content of the cake.
The one downside, I’d say with using almond flour or coconut flour base for your cake is that it is it’s expensive. So I mean, that’s something to take into consideration, especially if it’s just for a baby to smash into it and chuck all over the floor 😛 But I do think that from a health perspective, that’s the way I would go now.
The Ultimate Sugar Free Smash Cake Recipe
I will say I’ve tested TONS of recipes out there and so many are really bad (like really bad). They’re dense (because of the low sugar content), they’re dry, and really hard. It’s gross. Like it doesn’t taste good AND it doesn’t look good in photos because your baby can’t even get into it and smash such a hard, dense texture. Just a big X for me.
But do I have THE recipe for you!
I have now made this recipe like tons of times and I actually now use it as our staple cake recipe for EVERYTHING (adults and kids alike). It’s SO easy with just a few ingredients that I always have in my cupboard.
And you guys, the texture of this cake is perfect.
It is moist. It falls apart easily. It actually makes it easy to smash into. Like if your baby goes and digs their hands into it, it’s going to fall apart and crumble and get all over them. And that’s what you want for the pictures..right?! So this recipe I stand behind. It’s also added sugar-free, it’s gluten and grain-free in case that is where you’re at with your baby and it’s dairy free.
And I actually had somebody make it a chocolate based cake by just adding some cocoa to the recipe. So you can totally change up the flavor!
The frosting is made of coconut milk. It’s a whipped coconut milk frosting that spread around so easily. Genius and so easy. You can also flavor that up if you want, but overall it’s as healthy as healthy can get really.
I have actually included the recipe for you as a standalone freebie. Typically this is one of many recipes found inside of my monthly membership, the Little Eaters Club, that I launch every single month to help you feed your baby or toddler without having to worry about what recipes to make that are easy, well accepted and approved by a dietician.
But this one I’m giving to you for free. Even if you’re not a member, you can download right here!
And if you make it, I would love for you to tag me in it. Like just post it on stories or send me a picture in my dm’s on Instagram, because I will die over pictures of your baby in front of a cake and smashing into it. It’s my favourite thing in the world to see. So I hope you love it. And enjoy that first birthday party with your little one. This is a huge milestone!
The Ultimate No Added Sugar Smash Cake
Cook time: 35 minutes
Makes 1 cake: 4×4 inch or 2×8 inch round pans
Nutrition: Added Sugar Free, Dairy-Free, Gluten Free, Grain Free
- 1 cup Medjool dates, pitted
- 1/2 cup Water
- 3 Eggs
- 1 cup Almond or Peanut Butter
- 1 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract
- 3/4 tsp Baking Soda
- 1/4 tsp. Salt
Coconut Whipped Frosting
- 4 x 13 1/2 oz Coconut Milk, full fat, canned
- 2 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
- Place 4 cans of coconut milk in the fridge over night.
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease round springform pans with coconut oil.
- In a blender or food processor, combine dates and water and blend until smooth.
- Add in the eggs, almond butter, vanilla, baking soda and salt and blend again until smooth.
- Pour the batter into the cake pans and smooth the tops with a spatula. Bake for about 25 min if using 8 inch pans or for 10 min if using 4 inch pans, until lightly golden.
- While the cakes bakes, remove the coconut milk from the fridge and turn the cans upside down. Using a can opener, open the cans from the bottom and discard the water that separated from the cream.
- Scoop the thick cream into a small mixing bowl. Add the vanilla extract and whip with a hand mixer until light and fluffy. Place in fridge until cake is done baking.
- Remove cake from oven and let cool completely. Remove them from the pans and stack each cake on top of another.
- Immediately frost the cake, top with fruit if desired and enjoy!
– Store at room temp. for 2 days or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to a week.
– Add in strawberry or raspberry chia seed jam between each layer for more fruity flavour!