Tips for baking a vegan birthday cake

Vegan baking tips; how to make a successful dairy & egg free birthday cake!

In this article I am sharing my top vegan baking tips. Everything I’ve learnt about how to make a successful dairy free and egg free cake for the toughest critics of all – toddlers!

The pressure of the birthday cake!

When we have kids, many of us get thrown into a new world of birthday cake baking and increasingly high expectations from our children as they get older! I’m sure I wasn’t alone in being ill equipped for the task. I was never much of a cake baker, and having to learn vegan baking was quite the challenge.

I definitely felt the pressure to be able to give my son a really nice birthday cake for his first birthday. Those of us who have children with allergies just want our children to enjoy these milestones in the same way other children can. In reality he would have been happy with anything at that age, but at the time it felt important to me to bake something nice. And now the kids are older I have no choice, they plan their birthday cakes months in advance!

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I’m often asked by friends about how to make a good dairy free and egg free children’s birthday cake. Increasingly nurseries require all birthday cakes that are sent in to be vegan and nut free. Plus, as allergy awareness increases, considerate friends want to bake cakes that cater for guests’ allergies. There are a lot of good dairy and egg free cake recipes around now, but it’s a tricky thing to get right the first time. Luckily, there are some great vegan baking tips and tricks I’ve learnt along the way. If you are a novice, these will greatly improve your chances of success! 

Baking a vegan birthday cake – my top tips for success:

Get prepared:

  • Don’t wing it when it really matters – follow a vegan recipe or test out the cake in advance. Vegan cakes can taste just as good as the traditional dairy and egg versions, but they are unforgiving. One mistake and you can end up with a disaster on your hands. The day before your child’s first birthday is not the time to try and adapt your favourite cake recipe to make it vegan!
  • Work fast! This is vegan baking 101. With a vegan bake you need to get the cake into the oven as soon as possible after adding the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. To help this it’s best to prepare in advance. Get your cake tin greased and lined before you start measuring ingredients. Don’t start until your oven is at the right temperature, and make sure you’ve got all your dry ingredients combined before adding the liquid.

Whilst baking:

  • Don’t over-mix; counting to 10 whilst stirring should be a sufficient amount of mixing. Make sure it’s well combined, but it doesn’t matter if the batter still looks a bit lumpy.
  • The reason you need to work quickly is to stop the raising agents working too early; you want that all happening in the oven. One way to assist this is to bang the mixing bowl on the kitchen worktop before adding to the cake tin. You should see some bubbles rising to the top. This is the most important of my vegan baking tips! You can do this again once the batter is in the tin, but not too hard if you’ve got a loose bottomed cake tin. You don’t want it flying up and covering your ceiling…

After baking:

  • Handle with care. Vegan bakes are just not as sturdy as a traditional cake, so be extra careful when you are removing it from the cake tin and adding icing. Buy a good spring release cake tin* or silicon cupcake cases* to make your cakes easier to remove.
  • Cake icing and decorating is definitely my weak spot. I’ve ruined a good few cakes by being too heavy handed with my icing application. Practice the icing first, and make sure you are confident in what you are going to do. I still haven’t mastered this, but I have found that sprinkles can cover a multitude of sins!

What are the best milk replacers in vegan baking?

Rice milk is often suggested in vegan recipes as it is relatively flavourless. However, UK advice is to not use rice milk for children aged under five, due to the high arsenic levels. I usually use oat milk or almond milk (not suitable if you need it to be nut free for nursery or due to allergies). You can certainly use coconut milk (a drinking version like Koko) in most bakes, but it will affect the flavour more than the other milks. Whichever plant based milk you choose, remember to use an unsweetened & calcium fortified version. Might as well get a calcium boost in wherever possible!

What are the best butter replacers in vegan baking?

A lot of vegan cake recipes don’t use vegan butter at all and use oil instead. A flavourless oil like olive oil or rapeseed is best. And remember not to use a nut or sesame oil if you are cooking for someone with those allergies. For biscuits and icing I have found that block butter replacements generally work best. My favourites are:

  • Flora unsalted plant butter
  • Naturli vegan butter block (be aware that this contains almond)
  • Stork vegan baking block (some of the Stork tub versions contain dairy, so always check)
  • Trex vegetable fat – not the healthiest of options, but combined half and half with one of the other block butter alternatives it does make a delicious dairy free buttercream!

What are the best egg replacers in vegan baking?

Egg is the trickiest thing to replace to make a cake vegan, if you get it wrong you can end up with a dense, flat brick of a cake. If you do want to have a go at adapting a non-vegan recipe, bump2baby_nutrition on Instagram has a good guide to the best egg replacements. Generally speaking, I use 1 teaspoon bicarb mixed with 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar in cakes & muffins, while bananas or flax egg can work well in biscuits, and sweet potatoes are good in brownies!

Ready to give it a try?

If you plan to do a lot of vegan cake baking, I would recommend getting a good cookbook. My current favourite is The Naughtiest Vegan Cakes in Town* by Ms Cupcake. There are also lots of good recipes online. Check out my post about the best birthday cake recipes for kids with dairy & egg allergies for some ideas.

Or have a look at this inspiration gallery full of cakes submitted by other allergy parents! You won’t find any professional level decoration here, just fun and tasty ideas from parents that their little ones enjoyed. Plus all the info you need to copy them! All the cakes are free from dairy and egg as well as lots of soy, nut, wheat and gluten free bakes – and many that are free from all of the above.

Maybe you want to start trying out these vegan baking tips with something lower risk than a birthday cake? If so, try out these vegan bakes which are great for a light lunch or snack:

Good luck in your vegan baking endeavours! Please do share with other allergy parents if you found this post helpful, and comment below with your own vegan baking tips x x

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