Balancing act: Catering for a coeliac toddler’s birthday party

Ali Walsh has the problem of a toddler’s birthday to settle…

coeliac birthday party

My son is about to turn two and I’ve been completely overthinking his birthday.

I want to make a showstopper cake (what everyone will expect);  I’ll settle for a normal cake (but miss a great opportunity to show off); but I’ll probably get an alternative to cake (and everyone will be disappointed).

Busman’s Holiday

You may be wondering why a professional cake baker isn’t creating something incredible. After all, it’s a great way to showcase my work and an excellent alternative to a business card. But the thing is, most of the people coming to the birthday will be two years old, and I’m not sure their pocket money will stretch to an order. Plus, it’s easy to get carried away and spend the best part of a week creating something amazing when I should really be getting on with my customers’ designs.

coeliac birthday party

Then there’s the cake recipient himself. Will he be bothered about his cake? Or is this really a cake for me? Doubtless he’ll want to eat it (he’s the first to clamour for a treat), but whether he’s bothered by how it looks is another matter.

The Balancing Act

Plus there’s the whole cake in moderation aspect to think about. At his sister’s Christening he persuaded everyone he saw that he hadn’t had any cake and probably ate about 20 pieces as a result. I don’t want to encourage sugar-fuelled Zebedee behaviour keeping toddlers and parents up ’til three in the morning. With this in mind, on previous occasions I’ve made most of the buffet from fruit or vegetables (like ghosts for Halloween made from frozen bananas).

Last year I got round the problem by doing a rice krispie cake in the shape of a number 1, which was great for me as a coeliac (I used Nestle’s gluten-free rice pops), but a no-no for the vegetarians (because of the marshmallows). I surrounded it with black grapes (just in case anyone felt like being super healthy) and then felt like a complete party-pooper after realising I couldn’t light a candle in the thing. (When that melted marshmallow mix sets hard it really is rather averse to a plastic candle holder.)

coeliac birthday party

Meeting Expectations

So what can I do? Stop overthinking, for starters. After all, it is only a small birthday bash and not tea with the Queen. And secondly, I reckon I’ll have plenty of other things taking up my time for this not even to be an issue. I’ve always been the sort of person for whom the traffic light goes green and therefore, whatever happens, I reckon it’ll be fab.

Ali Walsh 

Ali has been a coeliac for 20 years. She started her award-winning business The Local Bakehouse to provide delicious gluten-free cakes and cake decorating courses. Ali also writes a blog giving factual advice, recipes and videos to make life a little bit easier. Find out more at