That was my question to myself when I started planning my son’s 2nd birthday party. You see, he hasn’t yet had any candy, cake, or refined (white) sugar products. I’m not a freak about it, and I know the day will come when he WILL have those “foods” but I just feel like it’s really not that hard to keep them out of his diet at his age, and I didn’t want to throw it all to the wind just because it was his birthday party. Last year I researched and found a (really yummy!) black bean chocolate cake with no flour and no white sugar (it has honey and stevia as a sweetener) and EVERYONE LOVED IT, both kids and adults…and the birthday boy. So this year I had no qualms about using the same recipe. In fact, the recipe turned out really well as dirt cupcakes to go with our “Elmo and Cookie Monster Go Gardening” theme for the party. I have to admit, I did cheat on my no-white-sugar goal when I crumbled Newman’s Own Organics Chocolate Alphabet Cookies on top of the cupcakes to resemble dirt (most dirt cake recipes call for oreo cookies here). I really struggled to find anything to use that would look like dirt AND not taste like dirt…so I caved. Bigger picture, right? Now for all my mom-friends who have been asking for the recipe since last year’s party, here it is!
Healthy Flourless (Yummy!) Chocolate Black Bean Cake
Makes a single 9″ layer cake. (I doubled this recipe and made 3 -9” round cakes to stack upon each other.)
1-15 oz can of unseasoned black beans OR 1 1/2 cup cooked beans, any color
5 large eggs
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp sea salt
6 Tbsp unsalted butter OR extra virgin coconut oil (for dairy-free version)
3/4 cup erythritol plus 1/2 tsp pure stevia extract *OR 1/2 cup honey + 1 tsp pure stevia extract
6 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp water (omit if using honey)
*I used this option
Mint Chocolate variation: 2 tsp mint extract (in place of 2 tsp vanilla)
Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray a 9″ cake pan with extra virgin olive oil cooking spray, or just grease it with a thin layer of butter. Dust cocoa all over the inside of the pan, tapping to evenly distribute. Cut a round of parchment paper and line the bottom of the pan, then spray the parchment lightly.
Drain and rinse beans in a strainer or colander. Shake off excess water. Place beans, 3 of the eggs, vanilla, stevia (if using) and salt into blender. Blend on high until beans are completely liquefied. No lumps! Whisk together dry ingredients: cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder. In a separate bowl, beat butter with sweetener (erythritol or honey) until light and fluffy. To the butter mixture, add remaining two eggs, beating for a minute after each addition. Pour bean batter into egg mixture and mix. Finally, stir in dry ingredients (cocoa powder mixture) and water (if using), and beat the batter on high for one minute, until smooth. Scrape batter into pan and smooth the top. Grip pan firmly by the edges and rap it on the counter a few times to pop any air bubbles.
Bake for 40-45 minutes. Cake is done with the top is rounded and firm to the touch. After 10 minutes, turn out cake from pan, and flip over again on to a cooling rack. Let cool until cake reaches room temperature, then cover in plastic wrap or with cake dome (I use an overturned plastic chip bowl). For BEST flavor, let cake sit over night. I promise this cake will not have a hint of beaniness after letting it sit for eight hours! If you are stacking this cake, level the top with a long serrated knife, shaving off layers until it is flat and even. Frost immediately before serving.
After I crumbled the “dirt” on top of the cookies I stuck a mint sprig in each one to resemble a plant growing in the dirt. The cupcakes were a hit! Just know that if you try this at home, the mint will wilt, so get all the sprigs ready and leave them standing in a glass of water until the last minute.
Another concern I had about throwing a “no-white-sugar” birthday party was that kids are so used to getting candy as party favors, in a pinata, etc. and we were hosting an Easter egg hunt since the party was the day before Easter. I filled the Easter eggs with stickers, tattoos, and toys and as far as I know…only one little girl was disappointed to not find candy in the eggs, but she moved on from that pretty fast!
As for the other food at the party, my husband grilled tandoori chicken for the main dish and I put out a spread of other healthy foods after scouring Pinterest for cute ideas. My mission was to provide healthy but delicious foods that both parents and kids would like. I didn’t want anyone to leave feeling unsatisfied with the culinary choices, especially because there was going to be a major “food group” missing from the table that most people have come to expect, especially at children’s birthday parties.
Here is most of what I served:
We also had some gardening activities in our wonderful back yard. I made a trip to our local nursery and bought some biodegradable small pots, a bag of potting soil and some fast growing seeds (dwarf sunflowers and daisies) and some plastic shovels and watering cans from Michael’s for about $1 each and let the kids go crazy. Most of the kids at the party were 2-4 years old and it was a blast to watch them having so much fun with dirt!
We also had lots of bubble making toys and an Easter Egg hunt but to be honest, at this age, the kids were just so happy to be outside I could have done without the egg hunt and I’m not sure if they would have even noticed.
A resounding “YES” is the answer to the question of my blog post title, in my opinion. If you are still reading this blog entry at this point (sorry for the long one!) then I think I have enough of your attention to get on my little soap box for a second and urge you to consider serving less sugar to the little ones when you plan your next birthday party or play date. We parents have to bond together to help make a difference in what our children’s palettes are served. I’m not saying to never serve sugar, but I’m hoping to inspire some alternatives to reduce our overall consumption.Wondering who took all the amazing pics featured on this blog entry? My amazing friend, Liz Hansen, is a talented and gifted photographer just starting her career in photography and is, in my mind, off to a great start. A HUGE thank you to Liz for these amazing pics!!!