This has been the year of the baby. Everyone I know, it seems – including me – has had one. Or maybe it’s because I was attending crazy things like preggo yoga, that suddenly my life was filled with bulging bellies and talk about sleep positions and cravings.
Anyhoo, that isn’t my point. My point is cake.
All of these babies are marking milestones, having birthdays, and generally celebrating; as are their parents. I have attended many a little party this year with sproglets who are barely walking wearing funny hats, doing funny dances, looking surprised as everyone around them bursts into song. And eating cake. Store bought cake, home made cake, improvised cake, pre-ordered cake. Cake.
This past weekend was my own baby’s birthday. It was a weekend I’ll never forget. We went to the zoo so she could see all the animals we read about. We had a picnic with friends of all ages – and little Vida Lev made out like a bandit from all their generous gifts.
But again, I digress. The subject is cake.
We mark milestones with cake. We eat cake on birthdays. We celebrate with cake.
And although these little people still have developing taste buds, we feed them cake and start them down the path of cake. Cake for “well done.” Cake for “congratulations.” Cake for “s/he’s a jolly good fellow.” Why? Why are foods that aren’t healthy, don’t fortify or nutrify us considered “treats”? It would be one thing if we felt great after indulging but, more often than not, we feel guilty, or worse.
Why do we do it to ourselves and why do we do it to our children?
Vida Lev is one year old. She would celebrate with avocado if that was on offer. Or a great afternoon at the zoo. In Vida’s world, food doesn’t yet come into the equation as a way of celebrating.
For her party, I felt stuck in a little bit of a catch 22: do I make a cake and start her down that path – a path she has no idea exists – or do I resist the urge and feel like I’m depriving her?
One thing I’ve noticed about motherhood is that there is rarely a blatantly “right” answer. I’m constantly wondering whether I am scarring her for life J.
But we were talking about cake…
In the end, I did make cake. Raw, vegan, carrot cake sweetened with dates and a touch of coconut nectar. And raw vegan chocolate chip cookies. So yes, it could have been worse. But still, when I think of how Vida’s first taste of a sugary food took place on the day we celebrated her arrival into the world, I cringe a little.
(by the way, if you’re still wondering whether sugar really is THAT bad, take a look at this New York Times article)
In my better moments, I savour the knowledge that she loved her day, and loved that people kept singing to her, and her cookies and cake. In moments of doubt, I remember that she was a little more hyper that day (could have been as a result of all the presents and attention, could also have been the sugar, could have been both) and a little grumpier the next.
Mostly, I wonder over and over why we enjoy making ourselves feel bad, or worse, causing actual harm to our health when we’re supposed to be celebrating?
That cake question, by the way, easily translates to alcohol. Adults often mark occasions and celebrations by getting extremely drunk. The next day, they complain bitterly, but there seems, to me, to be an underlying sense of pride. I got shitfaced, how great am I? How, I ask myself, does that say hip hip hooray to the greatness of life?
Why doesn’t a green smoothie serve the same purpose? It’s sweet, it’s intoxicating (in the broader sense of the term), and it does a body good. I know … it doesn’t do it for me either… (I blame the media – or maybe the Pope)
But this isn’t a post about alcohol. Or even green smoothies. It’s a post about cake. I made cake. So here are the recipes for the cake and cookies I made on Vida Lev’s birthday.
Please note that these are not my original but rather great recipes ones that I found and adapted. The internet is a new mother’s best friend after all!
Vida Lev’s first birthday treats
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cookies
(makes about 50 silver dollar-sized cookies)
(adapted from www.ohsheglows.com)
For the cookie dough:
1 ¾ cups raw cashews
1 ½ cups raw oats
¼ cup coconut nectar
2 t vanilla powder
¼ cup melted coconut oil
For the chocolate chips:
1/8 cup melted coconut oil
¼ cup melted cacao butter
½ cup cacao powder (unsweetened)
1 ½ T carob liquid (unsweetened)
2 t vanilla powder
3/4t lucuma (optional)
2 T coconut nectar
To make the chocolate chips: Melt the coconut oil and cacao butter in a bain de marie. Once it’s completely liquid, stir in the cacao powder followed by the carob, vanilla, lucuma and coconut nectar. Spread onto a teflex sheet or some greaseproof paper, making sure the thick, sticky mixture is relatively uniform and no thicker than about half an inch. Put in the fridge (if you have more time) or freezer to set.
To make the dough: Grind the nuts and oats in the food processor until you get a powder. Then add the other ingredients and process until a sticky ball forms. Refrigerate until you can make the cookies (when the chocolate is ready).
For the cookies: When the chocolate has set, chop into small pieces (or chips, if you will). With you hands, fold into the dough – this is when the refrigeration is helpful as the chips won’t melt as quickly though you do have to be relatively fast.
You can use a small ice cream scoop to create relatively uniformly sized cookies. Press down with a fork. Keep refrigerated until they’re ready to serve.
Note: If you don’t have ingredients like coconut nectar, I’m sure you can replace this with maple syrup, date syrup or honey. The lucuma is optional, as if the carob though I love the extra depth it lends to the chocolate. And if you don’t have cacao butter handy, I would play around with the quantities of coconut oil and cacao powder.
Raw Carrot Cake with Vanilla Macadamia frosting
(adapted from Twobluelemons.com)
For the cake:
4 cups shredded carrots (about 1.5 lbs)
1 cup pitted dates (about 16)
¾ cup dried, unsulphered apricots
1 ½ cups unsweetened shredded coconut
½ cup raisins
1 t vanilla (the original recipe calls for cinnamon, but Vida has had a bad reaction to it)
¼ t nutmeg
¼ t allspice
For the frosting:
¾ cup raw cashews, soaked overnight
¾ cup raw macadamias, soaked overnight
1.5 T coconut nectar
1 T melted coconut oil
3 T water
To Make the cake:
Grate the carrots using the grater attachment in the food processor. Then transfer to a large mixing bowl.
In the food processor, using the blade attachment, combine the dates, apricots until combined. Mix in with the shredded carrots (best done by hand)
Once again, using the food processor, combine ½ cup coconut with the raisins and pulse until they are broken into little bits. Add the spices and pulse until well mixed then combine in the mixing bowl with the carrot, etc.
Kneed well with your hands until it’s all mixed and sticks together well. Then spread onto an 8 ½ x 12 inch (21.5 x 30 cm) baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and refrigerate.
To Make the frosting:
Soak the cashews and macadamias overnight. Drain and rinse. Process with 3 T water until a thick paste forms (this could take a while – keep scraping down the sides). Meanwhile melt the coconut oil in a Bain de Marie. Once the nuts are fully smooth, add the other ingredients and process briefly.
Spread the frosting over the cake and refrigerate until ready to serve.