Lion Birthday Cake with Allergy Friendly Coconut Flour Cupcakes

IMG_9883This is the story of two cakes. Well, actually three.

This is the story of a beguilingly simple children’s birthday cake, which is the answer to so many problems.

What do I make for my apex predator snob of a son? (His shortlist of preferred cakes ran to two; lion and shark). What’s something celebratory I can bake for a gathering of small people which won’t send them over the roof in a sugar high?  (one teaspoon of honey is enough to induce my son to deploy the couch as a trampoline for twenty minutes). What can I make which not only tastes good, but is safe for the small people coming who have tree nut and wheat intolerances? What’s something simple enough to make that the two of us can do it together?

This lion cake and these accompanying coconut flour cupcakes are the answer.

P1160790The centre cake itself was simply two layers of my indestructible date, cocoa and almond torte- except this time I substituted oat flour for the ground almonds. Much safer for those with intolerances.  I think it may have even worked better. The oat flour gives a beautiful density to the cakes and a natural caramel-sweetness when baked. Sturdy, strapping cakes are what you need when they’re going to be heavily adorned, then sliced and eaten from paper plates.

IMG_9875The frosting was a muddle of dates, cream cheese and the smallest twinkle of sea salt.  We used a marshmallow for the eyes with two chocolate chips, a date for the nose and a strawberry for the tongue. The whiskers were six Pocky sticks (though pretzel sticks would also work well). And the cheeks were made from the domed crests of two of the below coconut cupcakes. The coconut cupcakes could not be simpler to make and have a plush density that happily holds together in small fists.

There are of course some tips and tricks which help in producing novelty birthday cakes which I’ve twigged over time- they largely relate to temperature and sequencing.

1) Do things ahead of time. Making the cakes a few days ahead gives you time to freeze the layers. A frozen cake is so much easier to trim (you want both cakes to be flat on top). It also makes it easier to ice neatly- there are fewer crumbs and it helps the frosting to solder to the edges. I usually ice the main cake the night before and then allow it to defrost in the fridge overnight.

2) Keep a small tub of the frosting to the side allows you to do any touch ups the next morning (or if small fingers get into it).

IMG_98953) Make cupcakes the day before the event also allows them to be at room temperature when you ice them- which helps keep the piping tidy.

4) Have your cream cheese at room temperature when you make the frosting- it helps make it fluffier. Room temperature frosting is also easier to pipe.

The cake was a stellar success.  No children were harmed after consuming it (either from allergens, or sugar mania). The little man roared in approval. And I’m still eating a leftover piece as I type this.

The only thing to think about now, is what are we going to make next? (Luckily I’ve got 363 days to muse on that one).

Vanilla Coconut Flour Cupcakes

Makes 20 coconut flour cupcakes (perfect for the mane of the lion, but they would also work well for last year’s Hungry Caterpillar)


12 eggs
300 g honey or rice malt syrup
200 g coconut oil, in liquid form
80 ml coconut milk  (or cow or almond milk, depending on intolerances)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
160 g coconut flour
2 tsp baking powder

450 g cream cheese
100 g dates
80 ml boiling water
4 tbsp cocoa powder

Alternatively- if you have dairy intolerances as well you could use chilled coconut cream in the frosting, or top them with cocoa avocado mousse (recipe here)

 Here’s how we roll

1) Preheat the oven to 180C/350 F and line two 12 hole muffin tins with cupcake wrappers.

2)  Whisk together the eggs, honey (or rice malt syrup), coconut milk and vanilla.

3) Fold in the dry ingredients and stir well to combine.

4)  Fill each collar 2/3 of the way up. You should have enough batter to make 18-20 cupcakes.

5) Transfer to oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are golden and a skewer inserted comes out clean. If your oven can’t fit both trays on one level, swap positions half way through the bake.

6)  Allow to cool completely before frosting. If making the lion cake, set two aside and cut the tops off them to serve as the cheeks.  Also set two aside to be frosted in plain date cream cheese frosting for the ears.

7) To make the chocolate frosting, combine the dates with the boiling water and allow to steep for five minutes. Then blend well until you have a sweet paste. Combine the dates with room temperature cream cheese and cocoa powder and beat well until fluffy. Transfer to a piping bag and pipe in a circular fashion, starting at the outside and working to the centre of each cake. Either serve as is, decorate, or use them as the mane in your lion. 

Lion Cake (makes two layers of cocoa, oatflour and date torte)


550 grams of seeded dates
2cup/500 ml boiling water
2 tsp bicarb soda/baking soda
150 g unsalted butter, cut into pieces the size of playing dice (can also substitute coconut oil)
6 eggs
100 g cocoa
300 g oatflour (can be made by blitzing 300 g rolled oats in a food processor until you have a flour consistency)

200 g dates
60 ml boiling water
500 g cream cheese
sea salt to taste

18-20 chocolate frosted coconut cup cakes (recipe above) – frost two in the caramel frosting for the ears and cut two in half for the cheeks.
1 strawberry for the nose
1 marshmallow, cut in half for the eyes
2 chocolate chips for eyes
2 dates – one split for the eats and one for the nose
6 pocky wafers or pretzel sticks for the whiskers

Here’s how we roll

1) Preheat the oven to 180C/350F and grease and line two 23 cm cake tins with baking paper.

2) Place the dates, boiling water and bicarb soda in the body of a food processor or blender. Allow to stand for five minutes.

3) Add the cubes of butter and blitz to combine into a sweet slurry.

4) Add the eggs and blitz again to combine.

5) Add the cocoa, oatflour and salt and blitz to combine.

6) Pour the batter into the prepared cake tins and bake for 45 – 50 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.

7)  Allow to cool, then wrap in gladwrap or foil and freeze the layers for 4-6 hours or overnight.

8) To make the frosting combine the dates with the boiling water. Blend until smooth, then add the cream cheese and blend to combine. Taste  and if you fancy a salted caramel flavour, add a little sea salt to taste.

9) Trim the cakes with a serrated knife to make them flat before sandwiching them together with frosting and coating the outside with frosting. Pipe a little extra for the ears.



Nb, Happy second birthday Will. I can’t believe it’s been two years since you came into my world. At two, you are hilarious. You are fearless, whether launching yourself into a crowd of new faces, or off the back of a couch. You never look back. Your favourite foods are sushi, pork ribs, babycinos and cake of any form. I love the way you say ‘apple’, with a Swedish accent that comes from goodness knows where.  You love your raggedy bunny and your Nana’s tiny horse ‘Pancake’ with equal enthusiasm.  Your eyes light up when you see your Dad- as if he had just turned on the sun just for you. You dance like a sozzled Irish man, with wild abandon- particularly to ‘Shake it Off’. Your favourite shows are ‘American Ninja Warrior’ and Playschool. Your favourite song is ‘Incy Wincy Spider, though you can’t quite get all the hand gestures. You’re yet to sit still through a story time at the library. The way you say ‘Mummy!’ makes my heart burst- even when it erupts at 3.32 am. I love you to the moon and back.


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  1. I sampled the lion cake at a child’s birthday recently so was inspired to try making it myself (cakes are usually not my forte). And this is the bomb! Easy recipe, awesome flavour. Thanks!

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