Clara turns one {recipe: Apple Spice Cake with Maple}

apple cake for baby birthday

Clara turned one yesterday, and after seven years of robot cakes, Cars pinatas, and Lego gifts, we celebrated our very first ‘girl’ birthday. There were spring flowers and garlands of pink hearts, cucumber sandwiches and strawberry cake, and the cutest little guests decked out in hair bows and pretty dresses.

Clara’s birthday party felt like not only a celebration of her first year and the bright light that she is in our lives, but a lingering farewell to infancy. I can see it plainly now, she’s ready to be a little lady, whether I’m prepared for it or not.

In the days leading up to the party, I keenly felt this milestone and the significance of it. While she was busy demonstrating her newest skill set to me, I was having flashbacks to the day she was born and the intimacy between a mother and her newborn.

first birthday party ideas on

I needed to say good-bye to those precious early days that I cherish so much. I needed to spend a few hours cutting hearts out of paper and stringing them onto garlands while I mourned the end of baby baths in the sink, cozy afternoon naps on my chest, and teeny, teeny pink sleepers.

I blinked back tears when I frosted the layers of her cake, and let them flow freely when I hung newborn images of her in a garland; photos where she was so tiny, she rested comfortably between my shoulder and the crook of my arm. I sighed when I cut cucumber sandwiches into hearts, and eventually made my peace with the milestone.

By Sunday, her actual birthday, I was ready to party. So, apparently, was she.

First birthday ideas on

I had a discussion with a friend a few weeks ago about first birthdays. Is there really a good reason to bother if they won’t remember the event? Why spend the money? Invest the time? I guess there are both sides to the coin, and every family does what is right for them, be it a lavish party or a cupcake and a single candle.

The details of our sweet little celebration for Clara were therapeutic for me. While frosting the cakes and crafting the bunting, I reminisced over just how much Clara has changed our lives for the better.

That in itself is cause for celebration.

Two Cakes

I tried not to obsess over what sort of cake to make for Clara, but I failed miserably. In the end, two popular trends right now – ombre frosting and bunting banners – were just too tempting and I used them both as inspiration for the cakes. Yes cakes, plural. There were two.

Ombre strawberry layer cake on

This ombre strawberry layer cake was in Clara’s honour, and served about 16 adult guests, with a slice leftover for my breakfast. Inspiration came in many forms for this creation, including Ashley’s peach gradient cake for her daughter’s first birthday.

I based my cake recipe on Rosie’s Strawberry Layer Cake, and assembled it together with a double batch of Martha Stewart’s strawberry buttercream frosting. The final decorating technique was inspired by this cake from Yossy. You can find directions for both the ombre and spiral swirl technique on this post.

Ombre strawberry layer cake

It turned out to be quite pretty, and tasted fresh and spring-like, especially when paired with vanilla-macerated strawberries. To make the marinated berries, mix about two cups of sliced berries with 2 tablespoons of raw cane sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla or 1 vanilla bean, scraped and seeded. Mix together, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave to sit at room temperature for a few hours.

maple apple cake

Clara’s smaller cake was less of a ‘smash cake’ and more of an unprocessed mini layer cake for Clara and her three friends. It was two layers of an Apple Spice Cake with Maple, frosted with a strawberry cream cheese frosting. The frosting was tinted pink with beets and strawberry puree and decorated in the same ombre swirled fashion as its larger counterpart.

I adapted a favorite apple cake of mine to eliminate the sugar and make it more suitable for little ones, and as it turns out, I far prefer the new version over the old.

Clara was also a fan.


First birthday ideas on

I’m including the recipe for Clara’s Apple Spice Cake because it is a keeper. Not only is it naturally-sweetened, but it is lighter than air and studded with soft apple pieces. It’s pretty irresistible fresh from the oven, but also stacks up well as a layer cake.

Apple Spice Cake with Maple

A naturally sweetened, lighter-than-air cake that is simple to make and bursting with apples. Adapted from the Green Market Baking Book
4.59 from 34 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Desserts
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 10 people
Calories: 309kcal
Author: Aimee


  • 3/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup brown rice syrup
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups organic cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups chopped apples


  • Preheat to oven to 325F and butter two 8-inch round cake pans.
  • Warm the coconut oil in a glass measuring cup until it is runny, then pour into a large bowl. Use the same cup to measure the syrups to the bowl. Add the vanilla and mix well.
  • Add the eggs and mix wet ingredients well.
  • In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
  • Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and combine but do not over mix.
  • Fold in the apples and combine to coat.
  • Divide batter between the two pans and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  • Cool for ten minutes on a wire rack, then loosen around the edges of the pan with a knife and invert cakes onto the cooling rack. Serve warm or cool and frost.


Calories: 309kcal | Carbohydrates: 36g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Cholesterol: 32mg | Sodium: 193mg | Potassium: 114mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 19g | Vitamin A: 60IU | Vitamin C: 1.2mg | Calcium: 45mg | Iron: 0.4mg
Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

A naturally-sweetened, pretty pink frosting that is tinted with a strawberry-beet puree. Perfect for baby's first birthday
4.59 from 34 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Desserts
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 147kcal
Author: Aimee


  • 6 oz cream cheese room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter room temperature
  • 2 Tablespoons brown rice syrup
  • 2 small roasted beets peeled
  • 2 Tablespoons strawberry puree see note


  • In a food processor or blender, puree the roasted beets until as smooth as possible. Push through a fine mesh sieve to ensure there are no lumps.
  • Mix about 2 Tablespoons of the beet puree with the strawberry puree and set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine cream cheese and butter and beat with the whisk attachment until light and fluffy.
  • Add brown rice syrup and beat again, scraping down the sides of the mixer bowl.
  • To make the ombre frosting decoration, divide the frosting into three small bowls. Mix in enough strawberry-beet puree to tint two of the bowls a dark and light pink colour. Leave one bowl white.
  • Place the cake on a turntable and find a small offset spatula, if you have one.
  • Starting at the bottom of the cake with the darkest colour, use the offset spatula to apply frosting to the bottom 3rd of the cake, then follow with the lighter colour in the centre of the cake and towards the top. Top the cake and top edge with white frosting to finish.
  • Smooth the frosting on the sides as much as possible. Smooth the top.
  • Finish the cake by holding the tip your offset spatula horizontally, pressing gently on the frosting at the bottom of the cake. Smoothly spin the cake turntable while simultaneously dragging the spatula up the side of the cake, stop when you get to the top. Wipe the spatula clean, then gently press the tip of the spatula into the middle of the top of the cake and spin the turntable while simultaneously dragging the spatula towards the outside of the cake.
  • Serve at once or refrigerate for up to two days until ready to eat. Once the icing on the cake hardens, wrap loosely with plastic wrap to avoid absorbing odours from the refrigerator.


For my strawberry puree, I blended roasted strawberries that I had in the freezer, but you can just as easily use berries from frozen, or fresh, if you have good, sweet berries. Puree thawed or fresh berries until smooth and push through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds.


Calories: 147kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 38mg | Sodium: 88mg | Potassium: 101mg | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 470IU | Vitamin C: 3.2mg | Calcium: 29mg | Iron: 0.3mg

Β Resources

  • Printstagram – Have your favorite Instagram baby photos made into Cute Mini Prints or Squares from the folks at Printstagram, then pin them up for a garland that is certain to bring back memories.
  • Simple Cake Bunting Tutorial
  • Bunting on Etsy.
  • Easy Ombre Frosting Video
  • Michael’s – for colored kitchen twine, pretty paper, and other party supplies
  • Turntable for frosting cakes is from Ikea

Aimee & Clara

A note about gifts…

Being the third child and the first girl in the family, Clara’s existing baby book collection consisted mainly of battered hand-me-down stories of dinosaurs and books on trucks, trucks, and more trucks. So I included this statement in Clara’s birthday invitations: “Gifts are optional, as always, but should you wish to bring something, we would very much appreciate a contribution to Clara’s library.”

To our delight, all the guests kindly obliged, and Clara received over a dozen sweet board books, personalized by the givers, and obviously handpicked with care. It is a collection she will cherish for years to come and one that will hopefully help to nurture a lifelong love of reading. Thank you, friends and family!

How did you celebrate your baby’s first birthday?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been AimΓ©e's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. LOVE the cakes!! They are perfect and beautiful and I adore seeing beautiful Clara’s face peeking around them. She is so gorgeous Aimee!! What a great idea for gifts too! πŸ™‚

    • Amanda, thank you!! That means so much, coming from you, the cake queen! πŸ™‚ I really had fun doing them. And that frosting technique? Really fast to do.

  2. I loved all of the pictures you shared over the weekend, but I especially love the picture of clara face first into the cake lol so cute. How is it possible she’s already a year old?!

    • Rachel, she totally face planted and ate it like that for a few minutes before picking the whole piece up and devouring it. So cute!

  3. What a lovely, party! I celebrated my daughters 3rd birthday on Sunday with what was supposed to be a ‘simple’ afternoon tea. But, I realised I have more fun planning and going overboard so why fight it! For her first birthday we had a ladybug theme complete with live ladybugs from our garden. I am now coming to terms with my ‘baby’ being 3 and its definitely a difficult thing to do! Love your site. I am officially addicted!

  4. I love this post, and can totally sympathize; my son will be turning one in early May and I’m already having pangs of sadness over it. It looks like Clara’s party was wonderful, and your photographs are beautiful (Clara is a doll-so precious!). My theory on birthday parties/holidays children for very young children is that although they may not remember it, you will have photographs to share, and what better way to show them how loved and important they were to you from the very beginning. Just my take πŸ™‚

  5. What a precious party! You had me holding back tears just reading this. I don’t know how I’m going to hold myself together in 3 months when Liam turns one. Why do they have to grow so fast! πŸ™‚

  6. 5 stars
    GORGEOUS post AimΓ©e – Clara is getting to be quite the mini miss! What beautiful cakes (and I love the idea of book for her presents!)

  7. Happy (belated) Birthday Clara!
    What a lovely party you planned, Aimee, and that cake – gorgeous!

  8. What a beautiful post, Aimee! Happy Birthday to sweet Clara!

  9. Oh Aimee, I love this! I was in Seattle a few weeks ago for my twin niece’s first birthday and I recreated the cake from that post for their party. Happy Birthday to your sweet Clara.

    • Oh, thank you ever so much for the inspiration. It really was so simple to decorate – and I loved the final effect. It’s perfect for a first birthday.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  10. Perfect timing! My littlest turns one on Wednesday and as I am way behind I had yet to track down a baby-friendly cake recipe. Yours looks perfect! Happy Birthday, Clara!

  11. This is sooo cute (she is sooo cute!) and both cakes are gorgeous! Clara’s cake seems a real treat (apples, maple, yum!)! Happy birthday little lady!

  12. Happy Birthday to Clara! She is a doll! Love all of the pictures and the cake is gorgeous!

  13. Beautiful birthday girl and fabulous cake! Happy birthday to your little one!

  14. How sweet! Beautiful cakes and story. And, I think it’s great that you decided to celebrate her first birthday even if she won’t remember. She’s loved and there will be plenty of pictures to share when she’s older. πŸ˜‰

  15. This post made me mist up AND laugh out loud. It’s close to my heart as my one and only daughter turned one just a couple of months ago – I went through so many of the same emotions (and preparations) leading up to her birthday. Both unfortunately and fortunately though, I still get plenty of days with my gal napping in the crook of my arm. It’s our fault – both my husband and I have a hard time resisting the “cuddlenap.”

    I love her smash cake, everything about it. Brilliant to tint the frosting with strawberries and beets. My babe wasn’t interested in her cake in the slightest – I should have gone the unprocessed route!

    Happy birthday, Clara and congratulations, Mama.

  16. Oh I can’t believe that little angel is turning ONE! Your cake is a stunner.

  17. Both cakes turned out adorable, and I love that you asked for books. I wish everyone would give my kids books and bookstore gift cards instead of toys that end up cluttering our house and not expanding our minds. Clara is such a cutie. I need to come up to see her again. Happy birthday to the sweetest little girl.

  18. Aimee!! This is just the sweetest most adorable post ever! Happy 1 year birthday to your darling Clara! xoxo

  19. 5 stars
    Just love this WEBSITE; and Aimee, your posts always take me back years to those when our four children were young. We too had a small farm … chickens and veggies … which we restored and expanded … so there was always so much to do!!! Now our grandchildren are benefiting from those days too, esp those with the chickens and veggie gardens, and/or parents who like to celebrate with food.
    One question: do you only use organic berries? I hope so; the “Environmental Working Group” suggests that berries can be soooo bad for us … and especially children … unless they are organic. Of course, if they are your own garden berries, they are the very best!!!! Thanks so much for your recipes and your insights on childhood!!!

  20. Gorgeous, gorgeous girl–happy birthday, Clara!!

  21. This is the sweetest party, and that cake looks wonderful. She indeed looks ready to be a little lady! What a lovely little girl!

  22. Awww she’s gorgeous!! And this cake is lovely too. So exciting!

  23. Happy Birthday to Clara! What a pretty cake!

  24. Elle Gallatin says

    5 stars
    I stumbled upon your blog this morning and fell in love with your content. What a beautiful birthday party you gave to your daughter. The cake looks so delish.


  25. only yesterday did i realize how difficult frosting a cake could be!! your ombre pink cake is done so beautifully! it’s simple and styling – you have my inspired. thanks for that!
    judy | @judyelee

  26. I saw these on IG all yesterday and was following along & hoping you’d post it on your blog πŸ™‚ the cake is so stunning, Aimee! I can’t believe Clara is already one! I’m sure it flew by but the memories will live on and she will cherish the memories of her first birthday from this post!! Good gosh, I could never make a cake like what you created! I don’t have the patience for the frosting part πŸ˜‰ I love the ombre pink!! Looks like a wonderful time!

  27. Hello and Happy Birthday to Clara! What a lovely girl and a big day! Aimee, I can really relate to the bittersweet feelings of wee babies turning one, especially for our youngest, who celebrated in a similar way a couple of years ago (see here!/2011/07/finally-some-new-snaps.html) . Having just registered her for JK, those feelings of time passing too quickly have again resurfaced…! However, I’m so glad our children are not too old to snuggle. And, I do love their emerging independence, serious kid “wisdom,” and humourous takes on their worlds… goodness me, they keep us laughing, and THAT is a pretty wonderful thing : )

  28. I can’t believe she is already one! Looks like such a wonderful party and the cakes are seriously gorgeous! I’d like them at my 27th birthday party this year πŸ™‚ but unless I make them for myself, that’s not happening πŸ™‚

    Kisses to the birthday girl!

  29. perfect!
    I am pinning this for when my babe turns one!
    I include this little note on all my kids invites (found on pinterest):
    One small request that won’t be too hard, Please bring a book instead of a card. Whether Cat in the Hat or Old Mother Hubbard, you can sign the book with your thoughts in the cover. Your book can be cherished, well loved or brand new, but please don’t feel obliged, we will leave it up to you.”

  30. I don’t know what’s prettier…Clara or the cake!!!???
    Great photojournalism here!

  31. My little girl is 9 months and I can’t even consider a year old! Love her dress, and all the light airy spring-ness.

    Where did you find her dress?

  32. So great! Photos are beautiful. Cake sounds amazing. I pinned it for the next first birthday we celebrate in our house… here’s hoping it’ll be a girl too!

  33. Thanks for sharing all your lovely ideas! My daughter celebrated her first birthday a couple of months ago. I made her an apple pie, which she loved. But next year I will remember these ideas and use them when she turns two. Simply wonderful.

  34. Happy 1st Birthday to Clara!! Such a beautiful cake for a special little lady πŸ™‚

  35. Amber | Bluebonnets & Brownies says

    5 stars
    Somehow, from one instagram to the next, Clara went from a baby to a toddler! You can see it in these photos.. and it makes me want to give you a big hug, friend. Kiddos growing up is so bittersweet. One day you’re providing every little thing they need, the next, they’re making you pancakes for breakfast. πŸ™‚
    Give her another big kiss from me. Happy Birthday, sweet Clara!

  36. Aimee, I’ve relished your Simple Bites posts for years and have bookmarked many for recipe & party ideas once we started a family. My baby girl was born two weeks ago and Clara’s first birthday party filled me with joy, anticipation and a pang of sadness at the inevitability that they do grow up! I will definitely be baking this cake for my own little lady’s first birthday, thank you for sharing – not only the recipe, but the roller coaster of emotions that accompanied Clara’s special day.

  37. So so so incredibly sweet (just like you) Happy Birthday Clara!

  38. What a sweet story, and gorgeous cake. I love the ombre layers, stunning. I nearly teared up while reading this and thinking about my own baby girl. Love this.

  39. 5 stars
    Loved reading this…almost made me feel like I was there. Such a perfect day, every detail so pretty and girly. The picture of her with her face in her cake is priceless!

  40. What a perfectly sweet party, and great job on the cakes, mama! I love the request for books as gifts. For my surprise 30th birthday party Rob asked everyone to bring a book that reminded them of me, and he requesed that the gift-givers write an inscription on the front page telling me why they chose that specific book. Today, those books are some of my most treasured possessions, and I’m sure Clara will feel the same about her collection someday.

  41. Your kids are the luckiest ever – you take the greatest photos of them! These put my sad 1970s photos of blurry Kermit the Frog cakes and weird rec room get-togethers to shame.

  42. Stephchows says

    stunning cake! And happy birthday Clara!!

  43. Beautiful job Aimee! Birthdays are so hard on mamas but seeing the joy in our little one’s faces helps. For my daughter’s first birthday, I constructed a pink and purple princess castle cake. Bliss girl still loves looking at the pictures πŸ™‚

  44. We celebrated our baby girl’s first birthday about a month ago with our families. I had grand schemes, but we were both sick the weekend of her party, so it ended up being a very scaled-back version of what I had dreamed up. Still special. πŸ™‚ Something must be wrong with me though, because I didn’t shed a tear! All I can feel is joy and excitement as she reaches each milestone . . . maybe because she is my first?

    • Hi Clarie,
      Nothings wrong with you! I think I’m just a mess. =) No, I actually never had this roller coaster of emotions with my first two. I think because I know Clara is my last baby…it all feels so final. I’m turning the key on those early days….and feeling it keenly.

      Enjoy those milestones!!

  45. She is so sweet! Happy Birthday Clara! I love the ombre icing and that apple cakes sounds super yummy. I was getting choked up finishing off Sunny’s baby book. I’m glad she’s getting older (and easier) but I hope she’ll stay adorable and snuggly…forever.

  46. I must confess; I’ve been a silent reader since finding your site when I became a new mom. I’ve admired your dedication, and wish I could be as delightfully warm and talented a mother as you are. My little one just turned 1 early this month, and I baked her an egg-free, dairy-free and naturally-sweetened (pureed dates!) cake which certainly got its fair share of judgmental eyes from other parents. But I wanted to give my daughter the best, and in my silly mind, I thought that’s what AimΓ©e would do. So I’m thrilled to see this post, that beautiful cake, and now that we’ve ascertained my little A isn’t allergic to eggs, I can’t wait to surprise her with this!

    Thank you for being an inspiration to this new mom halfway across the world, and send my dearest birthday wishes to your sweet Clara! πŸ™‚

    • Thank you for your kind comment. It really made my day and I appreciate you taking the time to let me know you are reading — from so far away, too. Congratulations on your little one’s milestone. Her cake sounds perfect, and made with much love. =)

  47. Such a gorgeous girl. She has the best smile. And what a spread you’ve created. I’m sure she was beyond thrilled.

  48. Happy Birthday, Clara!

    Aimee, I love that you used beets for color. I’ve been playing around with a dye-free Red Velvet recipe without success–the beets need to be in contact with the batter for too long or else the color bakes out. Cookie dough and pizza crust work fine, though.


  49. Aimee
    Thank you for sending me this link. What a beautiful cake and beautiful post. 33 years ago and 1/2 I celebrated my first daughter’s first birthday… with my husband and my daughter… and a few dear friends. I still remember every detail. She was only one… but someone brought her a small dolly and she immediately loved it. Books have always been the best gift for any occasion.
    Glad to know she is coming.

  50. This was the most perfect Birthday Party! What a sweet girl you have and a lucky one too – what an incredible Mama you are. Absolutely perfect party.

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