My baby boy, Rocco, turned two last month. For Rocco’s first birthday, I made him a low sugar smash cake decorated with cheerios. The cheerios were the dangling carrot to get him to try the cake. It worked, sort of.
I’ve mentioned before that Rocco is a super picky eater. He doesn’t like overly sweet things. He won’t eat cookies, popsicles, candy or ice cream, but he loves strawberries and applesauce. After searching for recipe ideas, I decided to make him a low sugar strawberry cake.
The original recipe had more sugar than I wanted to use, so I looked up sugar substitutes and found both applesauce and bananas work well. I kept a little bit of sugar in the recipe for some sweetness, as the fruit alone didn’t give it a sweet enough flavor. I used whole eggs instead of egg whites, since the original recipe mentioned both options. I would suggest you use egg whites and make stiff peaks with them before incorporating into the cake mixture. I found the cake to be quite dense, almost more like bread, so adding whipped egg whites would add some air and lightness to the batter I think.
Initially, we thought about creating an actual fire truck shaped cake covered in fondant, but I got intimidated. Instead, I found a baking shop that printed edible images to put on top of cakes. Jade created a fire truck image with a number 2 and Happy Birthday Rocco, which I got printed for about ten dollars.
I had planned to make this frosting recipe, because it was fairly low sugar and seemed yummy. Unfortunately, the cake shop where I bought Rocco’s fire truck decal told me I needed to use a traditional butter cream frosting so that the decal wouldn’t bleed. I ended up using this traditional butter cream recipe, but added layers of strawberry for extra flavor, color and good nutrition (moms, you know, we gotta sneak in fruits and veggies where we can!). If you are looking for a low-sugar frosting, I think this cashew cream frosting would be good with the strawberry cake.
The cake didn’t turn out quite like I had planned because the strawberries kept releasing their juice which slowly leaked out the sides of the cake. Since I didn’t immediately refrigerate the cake, the buttercream didn’t hold in the strawberries like I thought it would. Once I refrigerated the cake the juicy strawberry problem vanished. In the future, I would put the strawberries directly on top of the cake and then frost over them. That way, the juice would soak into the cake, keeping it moist and the juice inside the cake (not dripping out the sides!).
Frankly, Rocco didn’t eat his cake, because, well, he is so darn picky! However, Jade and I enjoyed it. The fresh strawberries went so well with the rich butter cream and the moist cake. I will definitely keep this recipe for the future, but plan to tweak it a bit (add more strawberry puree, use egg whites). I think this cake is a perfect option if you want something a little healthier for your next birthday party.
Low Sugar Strawberry Cake
For the strawberry puree:
12 oz frozen strawberries (can use fresh, but frozen tend to retain flavor better)
For the cake:
¼ cup milk, at room temperature
6 large egg whites, room temperature (4 whole eggs can be substituted)
2 tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup strawberry puree
1/2 cup applesauce
1 ripe banana, pureed
2 1/4 cup cake flour, sifted
½ cup sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
12 Tbsp unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temp
Thaw frozen strawberries in the refrigerator overnight. Strain out excess water. Place thawed strawberries in a food processor and puree.
Reserve 3/4 cup puree for the cake.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare two 8- or 9-inch pans: spray inside with baking spray with flour
In a small bowl, combine puree, milk, egg, vanilla, apple sauce and banana and mix with fork until well blended. In a bowl, add sifted flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and mix to combine. Continue beating at slow speed and add butter. Mix until combined and resembling moist crumbs.
Add wet ingredients and beat at medium speed for about 1 minute or until full and evenly combined. Stop mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl and hand beat for 30 more seconds.
Divide the batter evenly among the pans and smooth tops.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (time will vary). Let cakes rest in pan for about 10 minutes and turn out onto wire racks. Let cakes cool completely (about 2 hours). Frost as desired.