How to Make Fun Birthday Cakes without Food Coloring

Fun Birthday Cakes without Food Coloring | pambarnhill.com

As soon as I saw my friend Jessica’s creative food-coloring-free birthday cakes I knew that they should be shared. She does a wonderful job creating fun cakes for her kids without using dyes or artificial ingredients (well, except for the toys). And she doesn’t blog, but she did agree to write a post about them here, so lucky us! Check out how cool they are. 

Birthdays are special in our house. Sometimes we have a big party with friends and other times it is just the family with one guest. But always there is cake!

Over the last seven years, our family has been undergoing project “eat better, live better.” Part of this slow but steady transformation included eliminating all food dyes from everything we eat.

Before my son was old enough to care about cake, I used to use food coloring on birthday cakes. “It is a special treat,” I said to myself. “What does it matter?”

But then came Benaiah. He was not only all-boy, but seemed to have a particular sensitivity to food dyes. He only had them about twice in his life, before I could tell we would have to make changes.

No more “special treats” where it just didn’t matter. Now even a little bit of candy or food that had dyes in it would cause days of unreasonable craziness. This was not just being a boy. There was no reasoning or talking to him after ingestion of food dyes.

I did some research and knew we could do it! One of my favorite blog posts on the subject can be found here at 100 Days of Real Food.

The Second Birthday

Was it possible to make a fun and exciting birthday cake for a child without using brightly colored chemicals derived from petroleum? The answer, I soon found, is yes. I made the same birthday cake from scratch I always do, but this time I picked a fun theme and used things I had around the house!

Fun Birthday Cakes without Food Coloring Road | pambarnhill.com

There is still some yellow frosting here. This was my first cake with the no-food-coloring-mindset, and I just couldn’t think of a way to make it look like a road without those little yellow dashes. We simply didn’t let Benaiah have any of those pieces.  In hindsight, it would have passed for a road without them.

Planning a Cake

  1. I first ask what my children kind of cake they want. This is usually a discussion that ends up being part what they want, but mostly what I think I can accomplish. Every birthday they stretch me a bit more.  I figure by the time they are 18 I should have a fantastically successful cake decorating business!
  2. I then begin to search the Internet. I use simple searches like “monkey cake,” “horse cake,” “flower cake.”  I use the image search function because it goes so much faster, and you can see hundreds of options in every search.
  3. I gather ideas and sometimes just make a copy from what I see. If a picture has color in it I think of ways I can do it in brown and white, or what I might be able to add in place of the food coloring.
  4. I LOVE using items and toys from around the house!  Get creative and have fun!

A Few Ideas

Fun Birthday Cakes without Food Coloring fruit flowers | pambarnhill.com

This is my daughter’s second birthday cake.  My mom had the idea of using fruit and mint leaves for this one. She loved it! When asked what piece she wanted she of course picked the one with all the pineapple! The other flowers are made up of strawberries cut to look like tulips.  Cut the tops off, slice in half lengthwise and cut small triangles in the tops.  The orange ones are pieces of cantaloupe with grape middles.

Fun Birthday Cakes without Food Coloring train | pambarnhill.com

This one was very popular with the guests we had that year.  The mountain is made up of marshmallows, almonds, and chocolate frosting!  I made a winter scene to avoid the green grass problem.

Fun Birthday Cakes without Food Coloring horse | pambarnhill.com

I loved this cake!  So did everyone else!  The shape was a copy right from my image search.  A 9×13 with a few cuts in it.  I used a large googly eye and button from my craft cabinet, a piece of store bought fruit leather, a chocolate covered almond for the noes, and the girls added the flowers from outside.

Fun Birthday Cakes without Food Coloring monkey | pambarnhill.com

Benaiah LOVES monkeys!  This cake was by far the one to stretch me the most this year!  I found a picture online that showed a monkey cake, but the face was on the front not on the top.

Well, perhaps the bowl I baked it in was too shallow, or perhaps the cake went flat. Whatever the reason I had some serious problem solving to do when the cake came out of the oven.  There was no way the face was going to fit on the front!

After a bit of playing around with it, I put the face on top and the rest is history. The eyes are pieces of dark chocolate “carved” into the shape of eyes. The rest is chocolate and vanilla frosting!  Yum!

Fun Birthday Cakes without Food Coloring ice cream | pambarnhill.com

Yes, I realize that this isn’t a cake at all!  That is why I have included it here.  My oldest asked for homemade ice cream sandwiches.  So, we went with it!  I can tell you I would rather bake a cake, but this was fun too.

I hope that this has inspired you to give decorating your own cakes a try.  It is better for your kids, and it shows them you are excited to celebrate them on their special day!

Jessica Lawton is a homeschool mom and whole-food foodie. She spends her days corralling four busy kids, planning science experiments, dishing the best children’s books, and cooking everything from scratch.

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  • Erin says:

    Very inspirational!! Another no food dye idea, but not sure of your other allergies is; our family doesn't like cake much, they always ask for icecream cake. we whip up 2 tubs of cream, then slowly add a tin of condensed milk and vanilla. We then pour into a cake tin:)
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    • Jessica says:

      Yum! That sounds just as tasty. Turns out 4 out of our 6 birthdays fall within 20 days of each other. By the time we get to my DH I am so DONE with cake! This will be something fun to do instead!

  • thegirlwhopaintedtrees says:

    We are a dye-free family, too and I use fruit simmered into a sauce on the stove for coloring. Strawberries = pink, blueberries= purple. This works well for girly cupcake frosting:) It gives a pale color, but my kids like the addition of a bit of color.
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    • Jessica says:

      Thanks for the tip! I will be adding that to my cake idea box! It would be nice to have a bit of color!

    • edsnapshots says:

      I like this idea Julie. Seems like strawberries would add a lovely color and flavor to the icing. And then it wouldn't just be chocolate brown. It would open up a number of different options.
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  • syncopatedmama says:

    LOVE these ideas and can't wait to experiment along these lines for our daughter's first birthday.
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  • themcvays says:

    We decorate our cakes around here but I have not been as creative as you have been to avoid dyes! 🙂

    • edsnapshots says:

      I was pretty blown away the first time I saw her handiwork Kyle. Then the flower cake just sent me over the top. That one was really creative.

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