Happy Birthday Kid!

Growing up birthdays were an exciting time. And now as an adult, I keep that tradition alive and well! I love the simple idea that there is a day to celebrate each and every one of us. Celebrate the life that we are living, celebrate the place we have come from and where we are going.

Even once we had moved from Pittsburgh to Princeton, NJ, my family always celebrated birthdays back in Pittsburgh when we went to visit.  And no birthday was complete without a cake from Dave’s Bakery.

This cake is a part of my soul and childhood as much as my Legos and summer swimming lessons.  A classic old school ice box cake.  I always chose chocolate with vanilla icing, while others in family were partial to yellow cake with vanilla icing. No matter which flavor was your favorite, you were always treated to a big beautifully decorated cake.  And then the piece de resistance! The sugared nuts.  Yup, sugared nuts.  All around the sides of the outside of the cake.

Now as a small child, these nuts upset me.  I was not a nut fan and did not want my beautiful birthday cake ruined by these mutinous crunchies. But ohh man, the first time I tasted this cake, icing, nut combo pack, I was hooked.  It was genius to me! Soft, luscious middle with a slightly sweet crunch to round it out! Nothing could be better, and this was all I ever wanted to eat as my birthday cake from that time on.

When I first went gluten-free I my biggest lament was that I couldn’t have birthday cake anymore. Cj literally scoured all gluten free bakeries for me each year, trying in vain to find me a treat that could compete with my Dave’s Birthday cake.  Sadly no such treat existed, leading to us both being endlessly disappointed.

Then last year I decided that all I wanted to do on my birthday was re-create that cake. With CJ working all day and rain pouring down outside, I set out to have an amazing birthday.  I had all my ingredients in advance, or at least what I figured I would need.  I mixed and chopped and baked and flipped.  When those cakes came out of the oven, I was floored.  They were chocolatey smelling and springy to the touch.  Then came the roasting of the sugar nuts.  A waft of nostalgia filled the room. Ohh I could feel it, I was getting close.  Then the icing.  Oh what to do?! A traditional buttercream was too, well buttery. Yet a shortening based frosting was too, blah. But perhaps the combination of the two? Blasphemous to some, I was on a mission to recreate my childhood and nothing was going to stand in that way.

When the cake was finally cooled and frosted and decorated, I was atwitter with anticipation. Would it be at all close to my memories? Would I be disappointed? That first bite washed all need for sadness away! I had done it! A moist chocolate cake, with a sturdy vanilla frosting and ohhh those sugared nuts. Nothing had ever tasted so good.

That cake last year saved my birthday’s from being a thing of the past, and welcomed in a new tradition, which is every bit and bite as enjoyable!

So for my birthday, and for all of your birthday’s as well, I say “LET’S EAT CAKE!”


1 1/3 cup Brown Rice Flour

1 cup Sorghum Flour

2/3 cup Cornstarch

1/3 cup Tapioca Starch

1 tsp. Xanthan Gum

(This should make about 3 cups of flour mix.  Use 2 1/2 Cups for this recipe.)

1 cup Earth Balance (I use the soy-free kind)

1 cup Water

3/4 Cup Cocoa Powder (I use dark that is a blend of regular and Dutch process, as I think it yield a delightful yet light flavor)

2 cups of Sugar

2 Eggs

1 cup Almond Milk + 1 Tbsp lemon juice (mix and set aside)

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 tsp. xanthan gum

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

Approx 2 cups of chopped pecans (or any nut you prefer)

2 Tblsp. coconut sugar


Combine the chopped nuts and the coconut sugar with a teaspoon of canola oil. Place  chopped nuts on a cookie sheet and bake for about 7 mins at 400 degrees, or just until you start to smell the nutty oils. Remove from oven and let cool.

Reduce oven to 350 degrees. Grease and powder with cocoa powder, 2 8- or 9-inch pans.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat, add the water and cocoa powder. Bring to just about a boil. Pour over the sugar and mix, allowing the sugar to dissolve.

Yum...nothing better than melty chocolate goodness!

Yum…nothing better than melty chocolate goodness!

Add the eggs, milk/juice mixture, and vanilla. Mix to combine.  Scrape down the sides of your bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine the 2 1/2 cups of flour mix with xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Add the dry mix in 3rds to the wet mix, mixing at medium low speed after each incorporation. Scrape down the sides between additions.

Divide the mixture evenly between the two pans, and tap the pans on the counter to release any air bubbles. Bake for about 35 – 40 mins (depending on your oven), until toothpick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean.


While the cakes are baking, make the Double Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:

1 cup room temp Earth Balance (also I use the soy free but any will work)

1 cup GF Shortening

Approx. 4-6 cups of powdered sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 tsp. vanilla bean powder

Cream the butter and the shortening until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar a cup at a time until you have the desired consistency that you want. (I find that will frosting, everyone is a little different when it comes to what texture they like. So do you!)

Add the vanilla extract and powder. Mix. Set aside until cakes are fully cooled.

So good I want to eat with my finger...and I do!

So good I want to eat with my finger…and I do!

Here is how I put this beauty together:

You can either do it this way or experiment and find out what works for you, remember this is cake.  It is supposed to be fun!!

When the cakes are cooled, place one cake on a flat surface or cake stand (whatever you have!). Place 1/3 of icing in the middle and begin to ice the top, spreading out from the middle to the sides and down.  Place the second cake on top and repeat, adding a little more icing to get the sides fully covered. Use the leftover icing to decorate however you want!

I chose a sun/turtle for my birthday treat!

I chose a sun/turtle for my birthday treat!

Next comes the special nut layer.  I am sure a true and tested pastry chef knows how to do this immaculately, but alas I am not one. And I really do like to make a mess when I bake….so, I simply take small handfuls in a cupped hand and kinda slap them onto the side of the cake. Do this all the way around, adding as much nut mixture as you deem awesome.

Ohhhh, get happy!

Ohhhh, get happy!

Once this is done, you have yourself a delicious birthday cake. Or anytime cake, because really cake is just about one of the best things on earth. 🙂

A slice of my birthday cake, one of many :)

A slice of my birthday cake, one of many 🙂

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