jungle birthday!

the kiddo has been quite insistent for the last entire year that his fifth birthday party would be a jungle birthday. so! we had face-painting, pin-the-tail-on-the-giraffe (which we ended up not playing, after the fishing-in-the-crocodile-pond debacle... some kids were just not ready for turn-taking and not always winning), and of course cake. i'd asked the kid a while ago what kind he wanted.

"lion cake."

"a cake that looks like a lion?"

"no, a cake that tastes like a lion."

well i made him the former rather than the latter.

the other trick to the party? allergies. and food sensitivities. so we did the whole thing with no gluten, no dairy, no tomatoes, and no articial food colouring/dye or additives of any sort.

someone had told me that "sugar high" and "the birthday party effect" should really be blamed on additives and particularly food dyes, so i thought it would be interesting to see if removing them had any effect.

nope, kids went wild.

on the menu: beef & bean chili, hummus, guacamole, corn chips, veg crudites (broccoli, cauliflower, red pepper, carrots, celery), fruit (cherries, honeydew melon, grapes, mini bananas), cake, and homemade icecream with almond milk and farmers' market strawberries i froze in the summer.

the lion cake was a recipe of "louise's party cake" from my beloved cake & cooky cookbook, substituting almond milk, earth balance margarine, and jeanne's gluten-free flour mix, and a triple-batch of salted caramel frosting, substituting almond milk and half-and-half earth balance and vegetable shortening. i baked the cake in one 9"x13" pan and one 8"x8" pan. the big rectangle was cut roughly in half for a two-layer body, and the square cake was cut into the head, legs, and ears.

i used some of the same classic vanilla frosting (substituting almond milk, corn starch, and a blend of earth balance and shortening) i made for the cupcakes to do the eyes and cheeks, and melted some chocolate chips into the leftovers for the mane and whiskers. wish i'd had more time to do a better icing job!

i also made a double batch of cupcakes because i was worried about running out of cake, and people not wanting chocolate. i must be losing my mind.

today the house is a disaster. but at least there's cake everywhere.

salted caramel frosting (single recipe - i tripled it for the lion)

1/4 cup sugar
2 tbs water
1/4 cup heavy cream (or almond milk)
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup butter (i used 1/2 shortening, 1/4 earth balance margarine)
1 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp salt

dissolve sugar in water and bring to a boil over medium high heat. cook 6-7 minutes without stirring, until it is a lovely caramel colour. watch carefully!

remove from heat and, stirring constantly, slowly add the cream and vanilla. it will bubble and double, so be careful. stir until smooth. let cool.

meanwhile, cream butter, sugar, and salt.

beat cooled caramel into the butter mixture.

chill till firm (about 45 minutes) before attempting to frost anything.

n.b.: i find that non-dairy frostings tend to be quite soft, so be sure to chill well and don't leave your cake out where it's warm!

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