Gluten-Free Birthday Cupcake Drama

The following is a post from Janelle of Gluten Freely Frugal.  I’m thrilled to have Janelle contributing on a monthly basis.  As the mother of two young girls, including one who has celiac disease, she brings a new perspective to this blog that I think many of you will enjoy and benefit from.

I have always dreaded school birthday snack time. Not just for my own kids. Actually, not really for my own, as much as everyone else’s in the class. And there are so many of them! I think my daughter has 26 kids in her third grade class.

That’s a lot of birthdays! And a lot of opportunities for my celiac daughter to feel slighted, “out of it,” lonely, and different. And another opportunity for her to get teased. And another opportunity for me to feel like a bad mom. I’ve missed multiple birthday snacks this year, because there is no warning on when they are coming!

One thing we have done, in preparation for these incidents, is to send in a bag of non-perishable snacks at the beginning of the year. That way, if an unsuitable snack pops up (and we can be sure they will!) then Kayla will be able to choose a favorite snack from her bag. Not perfect, but a definite improvement over her sitting there with nothing.

The only other option would be to contact every parent at the beginning of the year to find out when the birthday snacks will occur. I see multiple problems with that one, such as no one getting back to me, or telling me the wrong day, or attempting to make something that Kayla can eat and not understanding contamination, etc. The list goes on and on. So we have opted for the former option, in the interest of sanity.

This week was Kayla’s birthday snack. In addition to her celiac disease, there is also a boy who is gluten-free and dairy-free, as well as a girl with peanut and tree nut allergies. I have found that being the mom of a child with dietary restrictions means that you have a lot more work to do than the average parent.

In this case, knowing how my child feels when she can’t have a birthday snack, I wanted to make something that everyone could eat. So I’ve been contacting parents. I can easily make my Best Ever Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes to be dairy-free by using butter-flavored Crisco in place of butter in the icing.

But the tree nut allergy was a bit tougher, because I think coconut is considered a tree nut? My cupcakes use coconut flour, coconut oil, coconut milk, well you get the picture, they have a lot of coconut! So I had to email the mom of the “tree nut allergy girl” and ask. But of course I didn’t have her email, so I had to ask the teacher. You get the picture? Lots of networking involved here!

But on a positive note, it gives me an opportunity to get to know other parents that I maybe would not have met. And on top of that, a parent that deals with a lot of the same issues as I do!

It turns out “tree nut allergy girl” is fine with coconut, which I suspected would be the case, as it seems lots of people with tree nut allergies are okay with coconut. So my cupcakes were a go! Of course I checked about severity, since I’m sure I’ve put nuts in my muffin pans and I would hate for cross-contamination to occur, but the mom was not concerned (thankfully, or I would have new muffin pans in my future)!

So for a birthday snack, we brought in gluten-free, dairy-free, coconut flour cupcakes (and they are so good)! I’m always a bit afraid that some grumpy child will make a snide comment about the snack being gross or something, but thankfully every single kid loved them. I made 48 mini cupcakes and every single one disappeared.

They are moist with a delicious flavor, not dry, and completely lacking that grainy texture that you often encounter with gluten-free baked goods. And these don’t have a weird flavor! Surprisingly, we don’t even notice the coconut taste, and obviously no one else did either because “Kayla and her cool mom” were apparently the hit of the day!

These are my random thoughts on birthday snacks and what has worked for us. Does anyone have any phenomenal ideas? I’d love to hear them.

Need recipes?

Janelle is mom to 2 sweet girls, one of whom is celiac, and the other showing signs of gluten intolerance. She blogs about the gluten free life on a budget, including coupons, deals, recipes, and other money-saving tips at Gluten Freely Frugal.


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  1. Shari H says

    Why do birthday snacks have to be cupcakes or cookies? Last year, I took fruit kabobs for my son’s birthday (with a marshmallow on each end for something “treat-like”) and the kids thought they were awesome. Think outside the box and keep it fresh and fruity, and it will likely be allergen-free.

  2. Kelly D says

    We are a gluten and dairy free family due to adhd issues. My 2 oldest are in 1st and 3rd grades and I have the added problem of not being allowed to send in non-store bought snacks/treats- so no made-from-scratch food. Apparently its a state-wide law (AZ) to avoid food-poisoning and non-sanitary food prep conditions. Just more issues….both of their birthdays are coming up and I need to figure out if I want to buy treats for the class and make them for my kids or go to a whole foods or sprouts and buy an expensive treat for the whole class….

    • says

      That’s a tough one. It’s a shame that things have gotten to the point where they don’t allow homemade treats. Maybe you could purchase a gluten-filled treat that you know you can find a very similar gluten-free version of and then only buy the expensive gf ones for your kids. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  3. Sheri says

    My oldest is in kindergarten this year, so we are new to the shared-food thing. We also do not have any allergies in our family. I wanted to share though what our school does for birthdays trying to avoid all the extra treats coming in. On their birthday (or half) each kid gets to pick out a new library book that they would like to donate to the school library. At the beginning of the year parents send in money to purchase a book in a price-range of their choosing – $5, $10, $15. They have special new books set aside that the kid can pick from and they get a name plaque on the inside of the book. They are also they first to check-out the book. I really like this alternative to the birthday treat. With all that said, we have all-day kindergarten which means they get a snack at school everyday. To make things easy they each family send in one snack for the whole class each month. So this could get tricky for kids with allergies as well.

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