As a kid, I always coveted the store-bought birthday cakes with neon cartoon characters on them that all my friends had at their parties. My mom was more of a make-it-from-scratch kind of lady. Which I hated. Sort of. I mean, I loved homemade deserts AT HOME, where they belonged, away from the judgey eyeballs of my fellow preadolescent girlfriends. But out in public, I wanted to eat Fake Food like everyone else!
Birthday parties seemed to be the nadir of Fake Food: sheet cakes smeared with tasteless frosting made out of shortening and decorated with food coloring that would stain your lips and tongue for three days (I believe it is illegal now); neon orange cheese puffs (refer back to stained face parts and repeat); hot dogs and pizza. My mom was having none of that nonsense.
For my seventh birthday, she organized a “doll party” for me where everyone got to bring their favorite doll. Not only did my mom make homemade treats for all of my guests, she made matching homemade MINIATURE treats for all of their dolls! The thrill of that party has stayed with me all these years – even though there was no Fake Food. My mom was a birthday party rock star and no one complained about the lack of Jolly Ranchers or Ding Dongs.
But as I got older, I became less interested in creative themes, and just wanted a bright yellow Tweety Bird cake from Skaggs. I still loved all the goodies my mom made for us at home (apple cake, pineapple upside down cake, peach pie), but I was mature. I wore a bra, even if I didn’t need it. I wanted something hip and cool.
My mom, not being at her first rodeo (I was her fourth child) relented and ordered me the coveted Tweety Bird cake. I was crazy excited! Finally, I was going to have a “normal” birthday party with tons of store-bought stuff. I could hardly sleep, waiting for the day, MY day, filled with artificial coloring, flavors made from words that were something like “hexmeliodexmortiphitan”, and shapes that resembled toys rather than food. This birthday was going to be EPIC!
And it was. For about five seconds. After the initial mad grab for all the grub, I noticed that most of my friends just left the food on their plates – even my cherished Tweety Bird cake. Unlike at the other parties where my mom had served homemade fried chicken, tacos, or even mini tuna sandwiches with the crust cut off, and everyone cleaned their plates, at the Fake Food party, there was not a clean plate to be seen. And, everyone was CRAZY.
All that sugar and other junk just seemed to make my normally well-behaved friends insane. Everyone was running around like lunatics, some were even fighting, and I felt sick to my stomach. Yes, that party was memorable, but for the wrong reasons.
To her credit, my mom never said, “See. This is why I don’t serve that junk.” She just cleaned up the mess, throwing away about 75% of the food and cake, and gave me a glass of milk. I never asked for a Fake Food party again.
Today, since I have cut out grains, I’m having to be even MORE particular than my mother was back in my childhood. But it isn’t as hard as I thought. When you are lucky enough to be fed real food your whole life, it makes it much easier to listen to your body about what makes you feel good, and what makes you feel rotten. And with so many great grain-free cookbooks out there nowadays, it is easy to whip up something at home that not only tastes great, but makes you feel great.
Because homemade is always better than Fake Food, even if there is no Tweety Bird on top.
This recipe comes from the wonderful Sweet Laurel cookbook. Wow! I love this book and have been working my way through it like it’s my job. With so many desserts, I have been forced to share with people who don’t follow paleo/keto, but they have universally loved the desserts from this book. The ladies at Sweet Laurel give several variations in their cookbook, but I have included what I used, and some non-Paleo substitutions.
This recipe calls for two 6-inch layers or one 8-inch layer. I only had one 6-inch pan, so I opted for the 8-inch and sliced the cake in half to make two layers (you need some frosting in the middle, right?). In the future, I will do it with 6-inch layers, but still cut each cake in half to have a four layer cake. Frosting, frosting, frosting.
Coconut oil, for greasing the pans (or ghee/butter if you are not Paleo)
For the cake:
2 1/2 cups very fine almond flower
1/4 cup 100% unsweetened cacao powder (or cocoa powder if not Paleo)
1/2 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt (or sea/kosher salt if not Paleo)