As chef and baker for a family that does not have any food allergies or food intolerances, it is easy to forget that there are many foods out there that are dangerous (even deadly) to some children.  Peanuts, seafood, strawberries, wheat flour (gluten), eggs and dairy products are a few of the big offenders which may a variety of allergic reactions.  Mary wrote to tell us:

"There is a campaign underway in Canada and U.S.  To get coal tar derivatives (synthetic colorings, etc.) off the market. They are used extensively. Most of them are prohibited in England, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, France, Austria, etc.  You see, there are no skin tests or tests of any kind to determine this allergy. One finds out the hard way, as we did, or dies while trying."

(see the bottom of this article for more notes from moms who have allergic children)

In fact, it may be difficult to name a food that is safe for everyone.  NONE of the recipes on our site have been reviewed for allergy safety.  I will leave it up to our users to determine if the recipe is safe for those that will be eating it.

I really appreciate it when parents of children with allergies make me aware of the situation in advance -- especially when it comes to birthday parties.  Please don't leave it until the day of the party or up to the child to inform the person hosting the party of potential allergies your child may have.  If your children have allergies, be sure to inform the parents that are hosting the party when you RSVP.

My children do not have food allergies so I am not accustomed to thinking of these dangers while preparing food -- especially in the heat of party preparation.  And, to be fair to the person hosting the party, it would be extremely difficult to eliminate every potential allergen -- it's tough to bake or buy a birthday cake without flour, milk, eggs, food colorings or peanut products (a lot of things you wouldn't think are an issue, have peanut oils in them -- including some store bought cakes).   

Hopefully a little awareness and communication will help keep our food safe for all the children in our lives.

What do I do if I have someone with allergies attending the party?

Sorry folks, rescinding the invitation to little Timmy just because he's allergic to milk just isn't appropriate.  If you've invited someone with allergies, you're going to need to do a bit of extra planning to make sure he or she is not put in danger AND that they don't feel awkward or left out during the party.

If you have someone attending that is allergic to wheat flour, you're going to need a creative non-cake alternative or you'll have to try some recipes that use rice flour or the like.  In my opinion, it's best to use a non-cake alternative.  Experimenting with unfamiliar ingredients right before a party can be very stressful.  Try making a fancy watermelon basket with different types of fruit inside -- you can slice pieces of melon, cantaloupe, etc and cut them with cookie cutters in a shape that matches your party theme and fill your basket with these.  Include some chunks of banana, orange, apple, etc.  For older children, add a fondue pot full of heated, melted chocolate and for younger children a bowl of the allergy wise cocoa frosting (see below) thinned a bit with water.  Let them dip the fruit in the chocolate with bamboo skewers or sturdy toothpicks.

If you need a birthday cake that avoids most allergies (with the exception of wheat flour), here's a recipe that will work: 

Allergy Wise Birthday Cake Recipe

3 cups cake flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups water
1/2 cup shortening
3 T.  Water, 3 T. canola oil, 2 tsp.  Baking powder; mixed together
2 1/2 tsp.  Baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract   (see note below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two cake pans.  In a large bowl, combine all ingredients.  Using an electric mixer, beat until well mixed, approximately 4 minutes.  Pour batter into cake pans.  Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes before removing to wire racks.  Frost when completely cooled.

Allergy Wise Cocoa Frosting

1/2 cup milk-free, soy-free margarine, softened
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 2/3 cups unsifted confectioners sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Beat margarine on medium speed in large mixer bowl until softened, about 1 minute.  Add remaining ingredients.  Beat on low speed until ingredients are moistened.  Beat on medium speed until creamy.

Notes from Other Moms

Thanks to all the moms who took the time to write in about this issue!  It's great to read "how the other half lives".  I loved reading the notes to get a better understanding of how to safely deal with food allergies.

More Allergy-Wise Ideas:  I have severe respiratory allergies and some food allergies.  One thing I found out the difficult way is that worcestershire sauce which is an ingredient in MANY casseroles and meat dishes, almost always contains a fish product.  Another seldom discussed aspect of allergies... respiratory allergies can cause behavior changes, so logging what was inhaled may need to be included in addition to eaten and skin contact.  For my daughter with allergies,
her first birthday I made a ring jello mold and frosted it with okay whipped topping.  Another year I made a rice krispie bar recipe molded in a bundt pan.  Then my mother got into creating cupcakes made with
a mixture of okay flours...which often has better  results than using just one non-wheat flour.

Peanut Allergy:  In regard to your allergy article I would like to add another suggestion about sending your allergic child to a birthday party. My 7 year old, peanut allergic son loves to attend the parties, play the games , do the activities, watch the presents being opened and receive a loot bag.  When it comes to the cake I talk to the hosting parent ahead of time and ask about the safety of the cake and ice cream for Zach.  If I'm not comfortable or the hosting parent is not comfortable that the cake is safe for him, then he brings his own cupcake and small dish of ice cream.  He is not the least bit bothered that he isn't eating the same things as the others since he is included in all of the other activities.  As long as there is no actual peanut product he is safe since he is not effected by trace amounts unless he actually eats them.  This way I am sure that what he is eating is safe and the hosting parents don't have to rearrange menus to suit him.

Babies and young children are most often allergic to milk, eggs, wheat, soybean products and peanuts.  Older children and adults are most often allergic to peanuts, tree nuts (like walnuts, almonds and cashews), fish and shellfish.  Food Dye Allergy isn't all that common but many kids are allergic to red No.5 which is in almost anything we buy.  Bad reactions to food dyes are rare.  They may occur in fewer than 1 of 100 children and in fewer than 1 of 500 adults.

Here are some great links for recipes and information about food allergies:

The Food Allergy Network
Gluten Free Links
Gluten Free Recipes



Chocolate Allergy:  I just want to say that the article on food allergies is very good.  I have been in daycare for 7 years and in that time have done a lot of parties for various holidays.  At these parties the children bring treats (cookies, candy, fruit, etc.)  One year I had a little boy who was allergic to everything it seemed.  I did not want this child left out while the other children were eating all the goodies so I asked the mother for the recipe for his favorite cookies.  I made them myself and then he had goodies too.

At Halloween that year, I asked all my parents to not bring any chocolate candy because this little boy could not eat it.  (the kids always go home with bags of candy after our parties).  I provided the chocolate for those that could have it and this little boy was never aware that he was missing out.  It all worked out really well.

Anyway, those are just a few of my thoughts on dealing with food allergies.  Maybe they can help someone.


Allergy(?):  I am glad to see that so much attention is being given to allergies.  I am a preschool teacher, and an allergy sufferer (fish & seafood)  If a child is allergic, I go out of my way to make sure they do not come in contact with anything that could cause a problem.

Increasingly however, I am encountering parents who are saying that their child is allergic to i.e.  Nuts and peanuts, when that is not the case.  If a child is allergic to peanuts, it does not necessarily follow that they will be allergic to nuts - peanuts are part of the legume family.  I had a child last year; I was told that she was allergic to peanuts. so if someone brought something for snack that said "may contain traces of peanuts", I made sure that this little girls didn't have any.  She would get quite upset as she could have it at home.

From a liability (and safety) standpoint I couldn't give her the product, but I felt bad. When I would query the parents, they would say oh yes, we think she is allergic - we should have her tested.

If a child is allergic - parents should know - this could save their child's life.  If a child is not allergic, the parents should also know, for their own peace of mind.


(a note from DLTK's:  I thought Phyllis had a very good point -- parents suspecting their child may have an allergy should consult with a doctor and clarify -- not just so that they know for sure, but also so they can get appropriate medication/guidance on what to do if the child accidentally consumes the food -- food allergies can be extremely serious and children are often given allergy "pens" just in case.  As well, there is also a difference between a  "food allergy" and a "food intolerance"  -- again, a doctor can clarify which the child has and what the treatment is.)


Egg Substitute:  I just wanted to say I think that’s great that you have the section regarding allergies.  Some parents whose children do not suffer from allergies don’t usually think twice about it. Some even get offended if the teacher would suggest not sending their child in with certain foods. (it has happened) My nephew is allergic to dairy products, egg and peanuts.  He’s only three and is just starting to understand these foods make him “sick” As you know dairy doesn’t only include using milk or butter but making sure there is no whey and numerous other ingredients in a product.  If these parents witness a child who have an attack, they may be more sympathetic.  For my daughters first birthday, I had a dairy/egg/peanut free theme.  I wanted him to be able to enjoy the party, and give his parents piece of mind.  I did not want anything there that could pose a threat.  I had tacos-no cheese, no sour cream.  I had chips that he can have.  I had salsa, and made the cake with the egg substitute of baking powder/water/oil.  I didn’t have a cake for the grownups-that was the only cake.  And it crumbled-it was very sad.  Anyway-his mother discovered you can use gelatin (tricky to work with) in place of eggs and the cake stays together.  In case you didn’t know-egg substitute (like egg beaters) cannot be used, because it contains an ingredient from the white of an egg.

Here is the substitute:
1 egg = 1 tsp gelatin, 3 Tbs cold water and 7 tsp boiling water (7 teaspoons=3 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon)
2 eggs= 2 tsp gelatin, 1/3 C. cold water and 1/2 C boiling Water
3 eggs= 1 Tbs gelatin, 1/2 C. cold water and 1/2 C Boiling water

Parents also have to be careful with chocolate, because cocoa contains whey I believe.  So my sis in law found a cake mix-Duncan Heinz Devils Food if I am not mistaking to be free of all dairy and egg products.

I’m going to continue to have my allergy friendly parties, but as for the cake, I’m going to make cupcakes for the kids.



Intolerance for vanilla:  I just read your Article about allergies. My experience is that a lot of kids have an intolerance.
to vanilla (which is in your 'allergy wise' birthday cake).  Alexander (4) gets ADHD-like when he gets this stuff, which is in a lot of products especially for kids, unfortunately. Cookies, (birthday-)cakes, chocolate, yogurt drinks, much candies...

First I was thinking about colorants (as they are the standard evils).  But once I had been too a crisis-store (small gangways, loads of items to grab for little hands, crowded with people), and he behaved himself very well.  When we got home I gave him as a reward an icecream...  Which was three double vanilla drenched. Cookie, ice-cream and chocolate at the same time.  In the half hour he was standing upside-down, yelling, he began to run, turn around in circles, and he didn't hear me when I talked to him.  I called the dietician of the homecare-organization, and she told me that vanilla could be the evildoer, because he didn't have colorants that time.  Later I heard she has a son like that too.  I wrote a letter in a newspaper too and got a lot of reaction from all over this country (Holland), so it's a common but fairly unknown problem.  Also here in our village I have seen good results with other kids when they didn't have it anymore.



Chocolate & Egg Substitutes:  My daughter has an egg allergy and some food intolerances.  Carob powder is a good substitute for chocolate.  She drinks Rice Dream Carob Drink (like chocolate milk) and also a store brand...Whole Food Markets.  This is a little different flavor but good. Also, there is an egg replacer...Bob's Red Mill All Natural Egg Replacer 100% Vegetarian....1 Tbsp.  Replacer with 1 Tbsp.  Water ( I also use Rice milk) You could use soy milk also...or goats milk etc....  Hope this helps someone.



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