Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Cake for my princess

Tiny, sparkly, pink hearts continue to appear throughout my house more than a week after we celebrated my daughter Pamela's 4th birthday. The confetti, while insistent in its ability to dodge the vacuum and travel to a seemingly new place each day, makes me smile because it reminds me of the sparkle lighting my little girl's eyes during her princess party. Her sweet face lit up the most when she saw the princess doll cake I had made for her.

She was thrilled to see Princess Aurora surrounded by a sweet, pink, poofy dress. I was excited to make it for her, as well. Birthdays are special and we love to make our two children feel extra special on their birthday. I love planning their parties and creating cakes that make them smile.

I have been collecting pictures of birthday cakes since my 9-year-old son, Joseph, was a baby. It didn't matter that I couldn't follow the cake recipes or use the exact toppings and ingredients they recommended — those pictures don't cater to my food-allergic son's diet free of peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, milk, egg, soy, sesame and mustard. I just consult the photos for ideas. If one of my children wants a certain type of cake, whether a Harry Potter golden snitch or a princess doll, I will find a way to make it. The creative process is so fun for me and I love seeing the joy on their faces when I present their cake. The princess doll cake was one in particular that I had been eyeing for a long time. So it was a blast for me to figure out how to layer the cake shapes, hollow out the middle for the tall princess doll and wrap Aurora's hair up in plastic to keep her locks frosting-free. For this cake I made one of my family's favorite cakes using King Arthur Flour gluten-free chocolate cake mix (substituting the eggs, of course) and Cybele Pascal's vanilla frosting recipe from her cookbook, The Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook, thickening it as needed to work properly for dress decorating.

Pamela does not have food allergies like her brother, but she eats the same diet as him at home. Because of her propensity to get up in the middle of meals to pick up a toy or go give Joseph a kiss, I don't feel confident that his environment would continue to be safe if she is eating unsafe foods in the house. But I do take her out on little dates to go for pizza or macaroni and cheese, and she washes her hands and mouth as soon as we walk in the door. She knows it is important to keep Joseph safe and is happy to take the steps necessary to do so. Pamela enjoys our lunch dates, but she never begrudges her brother because she is not able to eat the same food at home nor does she whine about not getting a treat when she is out with Joseph.

I'm proud of my little princess for caring more about her brother than food choices. Perhaps it's just because the rules about food have been in place in our home as long as she's been alive, and I certainly have improved in my allergy-free cooking during the past 9 years. But I still give her a lot of credit for just accepting that she eats the gluten-free, dairy-free pizza I make at home and she wouldn't even think to ask for a cake she sees in the bakery displays to bring home for her birthday. After all, she wants her big brother to be able to enjoy her birthday cake as much as she does. When my kids are devouring the allergen-free sweet treats we make, whether birthday cakes, cupcakes or blondies, they are not thinking about allergies. They are just thinking about how much they are enjoying their yummy dessert.

Both of my children had a blast playing princess-themed games, making crafts and eating dessert at Pamela's party with their friends and family. As with all parties we host, the snacks, "royal" dinner and dessert were all free of the foods to which Joseph is allergic so he could feel safe enjoying himself, just like his little sister.

As my birthday girl relished her pink frosting and homemade, dairy-free ice cream, I was thrilled that I could help add to her princess sparkle on her special day.