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Dye-Free Star Wars Lego Birthday Cake (and a Giveaway Winner)

Have you ever tried to make a Lego birthday cake without gluten, dairy, eggs, soy and artificial colorings?

Let’s just say it’s challenging.  The gluten, dairy, soy and artificial colorings are actually a breeze to replace, but eggs are an entirely different matter, they play a very important part in baking!

I made 17 different vegan cake recipes last week, some that were already gluten-free and some that needed to be converted.  In the end, only 2 showed real promise.  It was not a taste issue mind you, because most of the recipes had great flavor but the texture was a definite obstacle, especially for what I wanted to do with the cake! :-D

The different egg substitutes (I tried everything from Ener-G Egg Replacer, flax eggs, sparkling water, applesauce and pureed pumpkin) presented one of two problems in most of the cakes: either the particular egg substitute produced a cake that was too gooey (the cake would literally stick to the roof of your mouth like peanut butter), or it would not hold the cake together once you pulled it out of the pan (and I draw the line at “gluing” a million crumbs together with frosting!).  Either which way, most of the results were not conducive for a child’s birthday cake…at least not one made by an over-ambitious mom who cannot seem to accept her limitations…I think I need to explore this issue more with my therapist! ;-)

Here are the links to the vegan cake recipes we liked best for flavor and texture:

Gluten-Free Vegan Chocolate Cake over at Ginger Lemon Girl (I added the chocolate chips as Carrie suggested and I definitely recommend doing that, not only is it delicious, but I think the chocolate chips were what allowed me to remove the cake from the pan in one piece and use it as the base of my overall cake).

Fluffy White Cupcakes over at Shmooed Food (I tweaked this recipe to make it GF and soy-free, I will share those results along with a few notes in an upcoming post on the Lego cupcakes I made for Sam’s class).

So, after 17 attempts, I found myself late last Friday afternoon with one egg-free cake that I could actually work with for Sam’s birthday party on Saturday.  I had a very difficult decision to make at that point (I even called up my blogger buddy Lexie from Lexie’s Kitchen to beg for help since she has been going the GF/CF/EF thing for much longer than I have!).  I had depleted my entire stock of gluten-free flours, and since time was of the essence, I caved and ran to the grocery store for Betty Crocker’s gluten-free cake mixes (thank you General Mills…speaking of which, I will be announcing the winner of the Gluten-Free Bisquick Prize Pack Giveaway at the end of this post)And some eggs.  It was Sam’s birthday party afterall and as much as it killed me to make a cake that my youngest son couldn’t eat too (we recently discovered he is allergic to eggs), he is only 3 so a separate gluten-free, casein-free, egg-free cupcake would not ruin his life.  Right? :-D

Personal ramble: I think this has been the most difficult challenge for me to overcome as a parent of children with special health and dietary needs.  My mommy guilt is downright oppressive at times and I have yet to learn the art of letting go (this stems from my own childhood experience of being chronically ill and feeling different, left out, etc., at school and at home).  Mike and I have been hell bent on making sure we all eat the same way as a family because our hope is that as long as our kids feel included and normal at home (by being free to eat whatever), it would make it easier for them to deal with all the challenges of “life on the outside.”  My husband and Luke went gluten-free when Sam was diagnosed with celiac (a good thing since we now know Luke has non-celiac gluten sensitivity) but now I feel we owe it to Luke to go casein and egg-free too, which is why it was so difficult for me to resort to an egg-filled cake that Luke could not enjoy with his brother.  Parenting. Is. Hard. ;-)

I didn’t manage to get a decent photo of the entire cake and quite frankly, I was too tired and worried over how we would actually transport a 50+ pound cake across town (in one piece) to Chuck E. Cheese (they kindly allowed us to bring in our own safe pizza)!

Okay, the reason behind the decorations…

Back in early June, I decided it would be fun to do a dye-free challenge for 3 months, partly because I wanted to see if I could do it and partly because I wanted to walk in the shoes of many of my mom friends, whose children cannot tolerate artificial food colorings.  Putting myself in other people’s shoes for an extended period of time not only expands my compassion for what other parents have to deal with, but it motivates me to educate myself and find creative/fun solutions for the obstacle.

I had no idea when I began the dye-free challenge what a profound learning experience it would be for me.  At first I lamented that I would be further restricting my children from all the “joys of childhood,” but instead, my kids not only accepted this new change, they have become enthusiastic about it!

Initially, we only planned on going synthetic dye-free for 3 months, but we are now 4 1/2 months into it, mostly by my kids choosing (and a little subliminal encouragement from mom).  When I began planning Sam’s 7th birthday party, I told him that he could have artificial food coloring on his cake if he wanted because natural food coloring cannot even come close to replicating the bright colors of Legos.  I really thought Sam would jump at the offer but instead, he recalled what I did for Luke’s dye-free Jungle Junction Birthday Cake back in July.  I made inedible characters out of FIMO clay (click here for the gluten-free status of FIMO) and Luke was able to keep his decorations.  Sam asked if I could decorate his cake with real Legos that he could then keep to play with.  Why yes I can!!! :-D

Sam wanted me to recreate the Star Wars Battle of Kashyyyk on his cake.  I did my best (not that I even know what the heck ‘Kashyyyk’ is!), but ran out of time (and Legos) to do all the trees.  Sam didn’t seem to care though, he was too excited about all the new Legos he would be adding to his collection (yea for me, more Legos to step on!). :shock:

To make the “water” I added natural blue food coloring by Nature’s Flavors to some piping gel.  Because I ran short on time, I used Wilton’s pre-made piping gel which does not contain any gluten ingredients, but it is made in a plant that also manufactures gluten-containing products.  I found a couple of recipes for homemade piping gel and I plan on experimenting with them in the near future…but just in case you would like the links, here they are:

Recipes for Homemade Piping Gel

Homemade Piping Gel 1 (this recipe looks like it could be easily modified to be corn-free, by switching the cornstarch for arrowroot or tapioca starch).

Homemade Piping Gel 2 (I wonder if Light Agave Nectar could replace the Karo syrup for a corn-free piping gel?  Maybe agar powder could replace the gelatin for a beef-free/vegan version?).

The recipe I use for frosting is one I picked up in my cake decorating classes called Class Buttercream Icing (from the Wilton Course 1 Cake Decorating book which is available at craft stores).  I adapted the recipe slightly to fit our dietary needs:

Dairy-Free, Egg-Free Icing

1 cup Shortening (I used Palm Shortening)

1 tsp. Clear Vanilla Extract (you can certainly use Pure Vanilla Extract, but it might lend an off-white hue to the icing).

2 Tbs. Water

1 lb. Confectioners’ Sugar (powdered sugar)

*I added about 1 Tbs. of pure cocoa powder to make the tan colored icing for the “sand” (omit this step for white icing).

  • Using a wire whip mixer attachment, cream the shortening, vanilla extract and water.
  • Add dry ingredients and mix on medium speed until all ingredients have been thoroughly mixed together.  At this point, check the consistency of the icing and if it seems too stiff, add more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the desired consistency is reached.
  • Increase mixer speed to high (or as high as possible without having icing fly everywhere) and continue whipping for several minutes more (I go about 8 – 10 minutes for a super fluffy frosting).


For the Happy 7th Birthday writing on the cake, I downloaded a free Lego font (be prepared to download a bunch of super cool movie themed fonts while you are there, LOL!), printed out what I wanted it to say, pulled out my kids’ markers and had my husband play like a first grader for a while. :-D  I then ran the sheet of paper through my laminator in order to keep the sheet of paper from getting greasy on the icing.

The Lego-style candles are called Blokz Birthday Candles.

All the Legos are the real deal.  Mike and I had fun trying to spell Sam’s name out with them (not as easy as I remember from my own Lego days back in the early 80′s…maybe it was the wine?). ;-)

I also added a couple battery operated lights underneath the tank (I shared the information on the lights in my post on Dye-Free Army Tank Cupcakes).

These were the goodie bags.  My dear friend Kristen made custom Lego-style toppers for the treat sacks (you can see the super cool Stormtrooper Helmet party invitations she made for me last year here).  I filled the bags with various Lego bricks, Lego Mini Figs and Halloween Silly Bandz (is your child into those crazy things too?).

This is an up close and personal shot of Carrie’s (Ginger Lemon Girl) Vegan Chocolate Cake with gluten-free, dairy/casein-free, egg-free, soy-free chocolate chips by Enjoy Life Foods…yum!

No one ever said this life would be easy.  But if you will pause and try to see the world through the eyes of a 7 year old, the simple joy of crafting with Legos will make you feel young again!  I promise…just try it! ;-)

It’s time to announce the winner of the Gluten-Free Bisquick Prize Pack Giveaway! Thank you to everyone who entered, I really enjoyed reading all of your comments, they triggered so many fond memories for me.  I only wish I could channel the powers of Oprah and give the following prize pack away to everyone! :-D

I used the random number generator to pick the lucky winner and that person is:

#12:   Janet!

Janet said, “Gosh, I’m not sure where to start. There are so many good recipes that start with Bisquick. Hmmm, I think I’m going to have to see if the recipe book I used to have with all the Bisquick style recipes is one of the things I got rid of when I discovered I couldn’t eat anything with gluten in it.”

Congratulations Janet, I will email you for your shipping information!

Lastly:

On Friday, I will be having my first guest post, yea!!!!  Diane Bramos, a.k.a. @MrsAwwsum on Twitter (formerly @pilateschik) will be sharing some of her celiac journey as well as a yummy dish she made from the *awesome* cookbook she won on my blog a few weeks ago: Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef: A Love Story with 100 Tempting Recipes.  Be sure to check back for Diane’s inspiring post!

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  • homemade piping gel (43)
  • lego font free (41)
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Comments

  1. Janet says:

    Okay a) Seriously cool cake and b) thank goodness for the Betty Crocker GF cake mix. I made some carrot cake cupcakes with it last weekend and someone at work thought I was "cheating" on my GF diet, they looked (and tasted) that good. Oh, and c) Thanks!

    I thought trying to find a good GF bread recipe was hard enough. I never thought how hard it would be to come up with a proper egg free cake.

    • Janet,

      Thank you and you're welcome! :-D

      I never imagined how hard going egg-free would be too…I am hopeful that Luke will outgrow his egg allergy once we heal his leaky gut and then we can have our old favorites back again (like Udi's bread!). I am very seriously "unprocessed" now…most of our fave GF packaged foods have eggs in them! I'm getting tired just thinking about it, LOL!

  2. Patti S says:

    Wow Heidi. I am super impressed!!! We just celebrated a 7 year old boys birthday here as well. He asked for a lemon cake with chocolate frosting. Go figure. Hopefully by the time my younger one gets older I will be brave enough to enter the world of cake decorating. Your LEGO cake rocks.

    PS. Where did you get just mini figures? Those are the most coveted parts of the LEGO sets.

    • Patti,

      Lemon cake with chocolate frosting, OYE! You know what's funny about that? I have learned to just follow their lead when they want to try something that seems disgusting and horrid to me (like Sam wanting to eat Brussels sprouts or raw onions for a snack…yes, both true…ick!). I think for a lot of kids, their palettes are blank slates up to a certain age and if we, as parents were more aware of that, then they could take advantage of the situation, LOL!

      The mini figs came from several packages of Lego Star Wars Battle Packs. I found one that came with 4 mini figs, so I bought 4 packages just for the figures (and gave Sam the extra pieces). You can also look on Ebay, there are a ton of mini figure "Lots" up for auction! :-D I know this because Sam is obsessed with them, and he likes making movies with my Flip video camera…seriously, I think I was only playing with Barbie at that age (well, there were no video cameras back then…but you get my point). :-D

  3. Tia says:

    Hi Heidi,

    You are making me really scared, and yet excited, for Max to grow up. I felt overwhelmed enough just trying to make muffins for school for his second birthday. And he doesn't have preferences about characters or anything. I think I'm going to need you phone number and have it on speed dial as he gets older. :P

    BTW, do you get the irony that Luke couldn't eat the "Star Wars" cake? Thought that was kinda funny. But getting his own special cupcake is pretty cool. Cross fingers for your future of cake making that his egg allergy goes away.

    I'm glad you can come up for air, now. And the cake looks great. What a great idea to use real legos that Sam could keep. I loved having real toys on my birthday cake as a kid. And getting to keep them. :)

    xoxo,

    Tia :P

    • Tia,

      Don't be scared, just buy a lot of wine, LOL! :-D And you can call me anytime my friend, we GF moms need to stick together!

      That is too funny about Luke not being able to eat the Star Wars cake…I totally missed that one! I love your humor, you have a great way of making the "less than optimal" situations funny and putting them into their proper perspective. I REALLY appreciate that Tia.

      I am sort of up for air, my husband has surgery today, so hopefully next week I will be back "on," I need to get back on Twitter too…I miss chatting with everyone!

      xoxo,
      Heidi

  4. That is simply amazing. You are inspirational (and also make me feel like a bit of a slacker)! You did such a great job on this. I can only imagine how many hours were actually clocked on to this endeavor. So well done, my friend!

    Oh, and I so love your personal ramble. Been there, done that, on many occasions. And I, too, put silly bands in the kids goody bags as well. Those things are really starting to drive me nuts. Hoping that craze ends soon!

    • Kim and "Slacker" are not two words that ever belong in the same sentence! This particular cake experience made me realize that my over the top cakes (size wise, not in decorating skill) are the manifestation of some of my personal demons: OCD, perfectionism, mommy guilt, etc., I am not sure who I really made the cake for, Sam or me (as in: what am I trying to prove and to whom?). Why can't simple cupcakes be good enough? Food for thought between now and my next birthday cake, LOL!

      I woke up the other morning to find my black lab's tail covered in Silly Bandz…I am so ready for that craze to be done too. :-D

  5. Gigi says:

    Heidi – this is beautiful work and such a labor of love for your little man! I know this was a tremendous hit with Sam!

    ~Gigi

  6. Casey says:

    I bow down to your greatness. Seriously, you are awesome. I spent last night making dye/salicylate free gum drops and they are pretty pitiful looking…

    • Casey,

      You are much too kind, but thank you!

      I have been tinkering with the idea of making gummy candy…why do you think yours are pitiful? I find that hard to believe with your talent! How do you make them?

  7. YOU are just daggone amazing! And I'm honored you used my cake recipe! I LOVE that cake!!

    • Thanks Carrie! I really hope there are more gluten-free/allergy-friendly bakeries around when Sam and Luke get married someday, LOL! Your cake was awesome, in fact, everyone liked it better than the Betty Crocker (with eggs), it was much more moist, kind of like a fudge brownie. :-D

  8. Stacy says:

    What a fantastic cake! You did a great job.

  9. Maggie says:

    You are such a strong woman Heidi. You never ever cease to amaze me. Did you really make 17 cakes? Bless you. Your boys are two of the luckiest in the world. What an amazing cake. I'm afraid to show it to Callum…he'll be AMAZED and want us to make one right away. So forget it! I agree, parenting is so hard. xoxoox

  10. kelly says:

    Oh My goodness!

    seriously..17 tries! You are amazing!!! I lovelovelove the cake and our kids adore legos (I don't like stepping on them either!) you know i will be back to totally try my best to replicate this for Nate's birthday in february. you are a gem!!!

  11. Lisa says:

    Wow, bravo. You knocked this one out of the park.

  12. Alta says:

    Heidi, this is incredible, and so are you! Your mommy guilt in this scenario has given you incredible drive to make a masterpiece of a cake! Great job.

  13. Laurel says:

    Seventeen cakes? Seventeen? The end result is definitely a testament to dedicated momdom; only, can I have some of your energy?

  14. Anna says:

    You are brilliant. Birthday cakes are so important to kids and you made a thoughtful phenomenal one. I've a recipe for you to try and it only has one egg so the substitution may be a pretty easy. The tricky part is finding a vegan mayonnaise. I've seen them but I don't know the quality of their vinegar. I use Spectrum mayos since they've assured me their distilled vinegar is tested and comes out without gluten. The formatting isn't pasting well but if you want it with proper formatting please email me.

    8×8” Pan 9×13” Pan

    Sorghum Flour ½ c 1 c

    Brown Rice flour ½ c 1 c

    Tapioca flour ½ c 1 c

    Xantham gum 1 t 1 ½ t

    Sugar 1 ¼ c 2 ½ c

    Baking soda ½ t 1 t

    Salt ¼ t ½ t

    Hot coffee 1c 2 c

    Semisweet (or bittersweet) chocolate ¼ c (2 oz) ½ c

    Cocoa powder ½ c 1 c

    Vanilla 2 t 3 t

    Egg 1 large 2 large

    Mayonnaise 2/3 c 1 c

    Bake at 350 for 40 minutes (longer for 9×13” pan)

    **may need another ¼ c of flour for 9×13” pan recipe

    • Thanks Anna, I can't wait to try it!! I am having trouble in the mayo department too…cannot find an eggless mayo without soy (which I am also trying to eliminate from our diet).

      I think I will try replacing the mayo with coconut milk yogurt and since the recipe only calls for one egg, I think a flax egg would work great. I'll let you know how it goes! :-D

      xo,
      Heidi

      • Laurel says:

        Cybele Pascal posted an allergy free mayo on Martha Stewart's website, let's see, it's: http://wholelivingdaily.wholeliving.com/2010/06/2

        I've made this several times with different oils and with and without the garlic. I've even made a sweet version with coconut oil, a touch of agave and lime instead of lemon. I must admit that I've never once used her instructions though as they're way too picky for me. I make it in a small food processor. I just make very sure that the milk substitute and xanthan gum are really well homogenized before I add anything else. I let them whirl around and get frothy about a minute to make sure then add my lemon or lime. If it's not thick at this point (would apply to a blender as well) it's not going to work. Don't waste any more ingredients. It's only ever separated on me when I was too quick with that first step. I then add all the oils together into a pourable measuring cup and very slowly drizzle in at the end, just like making aioli or caesar dressing. Do try it though. Having mayo is a godsend. Personally I love it with 3 cloves of garlic, a serrano pepper and some cilantro but I don't have little boys. Good luck!

  15. Brooke says:

    I love the cake!! I did something similar decoration wise last year with Star Wars figures and the year before with a pirate island puzzle. :)

    • Thanks Brooke! Do you happen to have pictures of your cakes on your blog or could you possibly share photos on my Facebook page? I would really LOVE to see them, they sound super cool! :-D

      ((Hugs)),
      Heidi

      • Brooke says:

        I will have to hunt them down. :) The only one I have on Facebook is one I did for his 3rd birthday, and that was a Mickey Mouse face done from 2 round cakes. Mine weren't nearly as elaborate. :)

  16. Tina says:

    Your cake is fantastic. My son has just recently been diagnosed, no eggs, no dairy and no wheat so I am dreading his birthday. I've had quite a few kitchen disasters so far and a couple of wins in the baking area but thank you, you give me hope that he can have a "normal" cake.

    • Hi Tina!

      I was dreading Sam's cake too, this was my first attempt at an egg-free cake, the gluten and dairy are super simple (and tasty) replacements to make.

      Quick easy trick: If you add 10-oz. of room temperature sparkling water to one Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Devil's Food Cake Mix (omit everything else), you will get a pretty decent and quick GF/DF/EF cake! This is a great fallback should your son ever come home with a note saying to bring a safe cupcake to take to school the following day for a class birthday party, etc. The downside is that this technique does not work as well with the yellow cake mix and I have no idea why!

      I will keep you updated as I find new recipes that work well! :-D

      Hugs,
      Heidi

      • Tina says:

        Thanks Heidi for that info, unfortunately I'm in Australia and we don't get Betty Crocker Gluten Free but we do have some Aussie based ones so will be giving that a try. We do get Orgran but have yet to try anything besides the bread mix and egg replacer. One question for you, do you or any readers know how to make condensed milk using rice, oat or perhaps coconut milk or even goats milk. I don't like to give him too much soy.

        • Tina,

          I was just looking up recipes for dairy-free sweetened condensed milk today! I have not tried any of the following recipes yet, but here are the links:
          http://www.julesglutenfree.com/v/vspfiles/assets/images/...
          http://www.godairyfree.org/Dairy-Substitutes/Milk

          I shared a recipe that I had found in my post on Homemade Coffee Creamer last April (although I have never cooked with it so I am not sure how well it works): http://www.adventuresofaglutenfreemom.com/2010/04

          I have some powdered rice milk on hand so I will be trying again soon for Pumpkin pie, I will let you know how it goes! :-D

          • Laurel says:

            If you don't mind all the added ingredients you can buy a can of Coco Lopez in most grocery stores. I understand it's sold in 50 countries. It's that canned coconut cream used for making pina coladas and in the U.S. it's sold with other drink mixers. Really though condensed milk is just milk of your choice cooked down with sugar which you could probably make overnight in a crock pot if you didn't wish to stand over the stove. Give yourself extra points today for being a good mom.

  17. Samantha says:

    Have you checked out the "The Allergen Free Baker's Handbook" by Cybele Pascal? It has a lot of great recipes that are free from gluten, dairy, egg, soy, peanuts, TN and sesame.

    Beautiful cake!!

  18. Lexie says:

    NICE! Well done and I bet the kids just went nuts. So cool.

  19. Wow! I'm not sure that my kids will ever be lucky enough to have a cake like this. They would die for a cake with this much Star Wars detail. You may have to start shipping these across the U.S. ;-). Love the goody bags too! Why have I never thought of making up LEGO bags like that? Perfect.

  20. Daniela says:

    Hi! I too have kids who opened my eyes to the food intolerances we all suffered from. My twins, now 8 clearly reacted to dyes (red especially), corn products (HFCS especially) and nutrasweet. From there we ended up discovering a gluten and dairy intolerance. After my gall bladder attack early this year I also am dairy free and still have my gall bladder! Now, with other health issues on the horizon we're shifting to a whole house of GF/DF, but this is why I'm writing.

    I don't know if you've heard about NAET. It's an allergy elimination treatment that has really shown itself to do something. My boys can tolerate dairy now, where before, even a little slip and we'd have trouble. They also cleared their corn allergy. Corn is worse than any other thing because when you are GF so many substitutes use corn to make them have a nice texture. While I'd advocate for anyone eating corn to chose organic, having the ability to eat food with corn now makes life OH SO NICE!

    I live on Long Island. The person I use is Dr. Susan Cunningham. She's located in Levittown. There is hope that one day in the not too distant future, NAET will be covered by insurance because the results are that substantial.

    I will tell you that we couldn't clear the gluten allergy for one of my twins. The twin that did clear the gluten showed decline after eating it for a few months so he's back off of it too. If you want to know more about this or hear about my kids' experiences, please feel free to email me.

    Thanks for doing this blog-it's comforting to know my kids aren't the only ones with multiple food restrictions.

  21. J.What says:

    I am allergic to eggs too and my replacer is 1tbsp. arrowroot startch to 3tbsps. water per egg you need. Comes out light and fluffy every time. Hope that helps! I think you can use cornstarch too, but I'm allergic to corn.

  22. Sarah Failla says:

    Your cake looks absolutely amazing! My son is turning 6 next week and would die for that one! This is my first time to your blog and I'm sure I will be spending many days reading through your pages and pages of ideas and helpful information! My husband was told to go gluten 'low', so we've gone as free as we can which leads me to your blog!

  23. Gladys says:

    my son always wanted a lego cake but i dont know how to make one now i can

Trackbacks

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Heidi Kelly, Heidi Kelly. Heidi Kelly said: New Blog Post Dye-Free Star Wars #Lego #Birthday Cake (and a Giveaway Winner) http://goo.gl/fb/KEpFB [...]

  2. [...] celebration. For the recipe to the allergen-friendly frosting I used, please see my post on the Dye-Free Lego Star Wars Birthday Cake I made for Sam’s party.  I added a little extra bling to the cupcakes with some all-natural [...]

  3. [...] of flavor (the blue you see in this post is Nature’s Flavors.  You can also see it on the Lego Birthday Cake I made for my son’s 7th birthday party recently).  The red coloring made from beet and [...]

  4. [...] Anyway, this is all leading up to some gluten-free personal care products I was sent to try. The company is Green Beaver. You can read all about them on their website, as well as on Heidi’s review of Green Beaver Personal Care Products on her website, Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom. (I love Heidi. She’s one of my girls. And, she can make a kick-a$$ dye-free, allergen-free, kid’s birthday cake. Check out Batman and Star Wars Legos.) [...]

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