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
4.6 from 35 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
4.6 from 35 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


  • 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 Aimée'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. Looks like a wonderful birthday party, your girl is adorable and that cake looks delightful! Thanks for sharing the recipe. I would love to try this, although I’m sure it won’t turn out as good as this!


    • Thank you for these wonderful birthday ideas! I’m hoping to make a healthier smash cake for my daughter’s upcoming 1 yr. birthday, and am wondering what size pans you used? Could I get by with two 5.5″ ramekins?

  2. What a sweet birthday celebration! I wish I had seen this in November for our girl’s first birthday. Maybe we will do this for her second. Thanks always for the inspiration!

  3. Hi Aimee,
    Thanks for the recipe – I’ll be making it for my sons birthday this weekend!
    I tried to find the brown rice syrup in a health food store, but alas they didn’t stock it. Do you think I could substitute corn syrup for both the cake and frosting recipes? Or can you recommend something else more commonly found? Instead of making a second cake we are going with a pavlova 🙂

    • Hi Michelle, Happy birthday to your baby!
      I know I told you otherwise on Twitter, but I can’t in good conscious recommend you using corn syrup in your cake. It’s just not good for bebe. Do you have enough maple syrup to substitute that instead?

  4. Happy birthday, sweet Clara! You did such a wonderful job on her party, and Clara looks like a little princess.

  5. Hi Aimee,
    These cakes are stunning! Love how you made the little one’s cake somewhat healthy too. I also have a little Clara (one of my great-aunt’s names) who turned 1 last September. I had a similar conversation about the value of celebrating something she wouldn’t remember. I do remember the photos from my own first birthday and there is a cake in the photos that my mom made. It always makes me smile thinking of it. I wanted my daughter to have a similar “memory” even if not from the actual party. We ended up having a big family party and I stayed up until 2 am putting the finishing touches on my first ever fondant-iced cake. I decorated her nursery with a whale theme, so decided to keep the theme for her cake. Here is a photo – a bit wrinkly, but I was still happy with it. The inside was lemon layer cake with homemade blackberry jam in between. Here is a photo:
    By the way I am also making your artisan fruit and nut crackers right now. Just pulled the loafs out of the oven. Glad to have discovered your blog today – thanks.

  6. 5 stars
    What a beautiful party! I also have 2 boys and 1 girl and I can completely relate to your excitement of making a pretty cake for your daughter! Your cake stand is also beautiful.

  7. What a beautiful cake, for an even more beautiful little girl. Happy birthday, Clara!!

  8. This cake looks and sounds amazing! I’m planning to try it for my little girl’s birthday party coming up. I was wondering, the recipe calls for 8″ cake pans, but the photos make it look like the cake had a smaller diameter. Did you actually use 8″ pans? Also on the strawberry cake, the original is a 3 layer cake. Did you make more batter or make layers thinner? Thanks!

  9. Rosy Fernandez says

    5 stars
    Recently I took my son to a birthday where they had a tv playing a musical show made from pictures of the child’s 1st year. It had a storyline showing the baby grow up from a newborn to the first tooth, first smile, first crawl and it had music with special effects and a personalized Happy Birthday song. It was done professionally from Smiling Snaps and was so touching! I am doing the same for my kid’s upcoming birthday and keep the DVD as a keepsake for my son to see when he grows up!

  10. How did you make the little flag/banner topper for the cake? It’s so cute!

  11. 5 stars
    I pinned this after I read it on the day you posted it. My original thought was for future grandchildren as I am waiting patiently for one (or two, or ten!.)

    I have lost count of the number of “pins” it has gotten on Pinterest. I hope that you are able to enjoy the hits on that blog day. I do fear that people use pinterest as a past time and pin things that they never go back to look at the original site.

    I enjoy looking at your life as you share it with us. Have fun with your lovely family and life-style. I am glad you are so intentional in your child-rearing and food raising and prep. Bless you!

  12. I absolutely love this post and can wholeheartedly relate to needing at least a few weeks to cherish my daughter’s babyhood before she turns one next week. I also love the simplicity of your party array for Clara, which I’m actually trying to replicate for my little one’s birthday this coming weekend. One question: Would you share the recipe for the larger cake that served the adults? It looks like you based in on several different ones but I would love to know what changes you made. Thank you! So happy I stumbled across your blog on Pinterest!

  13. I can’t get coconut oil where I live. Would the best substitute be butter or some other kind of liquid oil like sunflower?

    My baby turns one on Saturday and I’ve been saving this recipe ever since you first posted!

  14. This may possibly be one of the best things I have ever found on Pinterest!!! My daughter is turning one in a couple of weeks and I’m a health nut when it comes to what she eats… But how could I not give her a cake on her birthday??? We are doing a lady bug themed party so I would need my frosting to be red… Do you have any advice? Maybe if I add more berries???

  15. You are amazing! I just stumbled across your blog as I was researching for my daughter’s first birthday in two days – and was so blissfully surprised to see that our daughters share a name. Now I must make the birthday cake bunting now that I’ve seen precisely what it would look like in her name. Thank you!

  16. I made this last night for my old roommate as a birthday/going away cake. It is so good! I used all maple syrup because I couldn’t find brown rice syrup, and it still came out great. Thanks, as usual for your wonderful recipes!

  17. Christie says

    Thanks so much for sharing these precious party details. I found them while planning my daughter’s first bday. Until I read your post, I was surprised at myself for doing the things I was choosing to do for a party she won’t remember. However, as I read, I realized I am sad to see her infancy go!

    I did make your cake and it came out both delicious and beautiful! I’ve tried three different sugar/oil free cake recipes and none were as delicious as this! So much so that I think I’ll make the same for the grown ups ( then watch to see if anyone notices 🙂 thanks do much for sharing! Ill be looking forward to future posts.

  18. Hi there! I love that you made a cake without extra junk in it for your sweet baby’s first birthday! My baby boy turns one next month and I was wondering if you had any thoughts on how you might adapt your recipes to get blue frosting and blue filling instead of pink? I was thinking blueberries would be pretty obvious, but specifically how to, I’m not sure. Your input would be much appreciated!!

  19. 5 stars
    Adorable and sweet baby.I love the cake thanks for sharing with us.

  20. I am writing a blog post about unique ideas for birthday cakes for babies. I am linking to your recipe and was wondering if I could use a photo of your baby cake in the post? Thanks so much!

  21. Hi Aimee,
    Would you mind sharing your recipe for the “adult” cake? I see that your cake is much less pink inside than Rosie’s recipe and I’m guessing you left out the strawberry Jello, which I would like to do to avoid the artificial color, etc., but not sure how it would go. If you care to share your recipe, I would be so grateful! I am definitely making your baby cake recipe for my daughter’s 1st birthday in a few weeks and would like to duplicate the adult cake as well.
    Thank you!

  22. Hi!

    I am making this cake for my precious girl’s first birthday party this weekend, and am wondering what kind of apples to use. What did you use when you made it? Thanks for the recipe!

  23. Hi! I found this post via Pinterest, and plan to make your cake for my own sweet Clara’s first birthday! Thanks for sharing.

  24. Hey there! Love, love what you did for your baby girl’s bday! I’m planning on making this for my baby girl’s first as well and I was just wondering if you had introduced eggs to yours prior to giving her some cake? My husband is hesitant to give ours eggs, but I’m concerned about giving her cake with eggs without first giving them a test run.

    • Hi Carrie, Yes, we had introduced Clara to eggs, around 9 months, I believe. Why not bake her some muffins or something beforehand?

  25. Catherine Jorissen says

    Beautiful! Can’t wait to make this. Did you use the Martha Stewart Butter cream recipe for the entire adult cake or just in between the layers?

  26. I just made this—wish I had of seen your comment about the 6″ pans before I (bought and) used 8″ pans. I love the height of your cake. Also, sadly I find the cake waaaaaay too sweet! I appreciate that you subbed out the sugars but my cake basically tastes like syrup. …Maybe my baby would like it but I’m not sure I want to give it to her!! I double checked the amounts, quite certain I didn’t misinterpret anything—any idea how to cut the sweetness without messing up the recipe? (I used Canadian pure maple syrup and organic brown rice syrup). Cheers, Jenn

  27. 5 stars
    i was worried this wouldn’t turn out. Healthy baking recipes rarely do for me. I’m happy to report that this was very good. I didn’t have the rice syrup, so I just used maple syrup in place of that. Cooked them in two round pans with wet towel strips on the sides to reduce the dome effect, then after cooling, I used some Pyrex storage containers to cut out smaller circles for a 4 layer baby sized smash cake. I also improvised the icing a little. I took about a cup of fresh blueberries and heavy whipping cream, and put them in the food processor until whipped. The cake was gorgeous and my baby loved it. I’m not sure the sugar addict adults in my life would have enjoyed it, but my husband, baby, and I thought it was very good. Like a soft Apple spice cake. Very happy with this. Thank you!!!

    Oh, and my baby, who has only had naturally occurring sugars, ate quite a bit of this cake and she didn’t seem to get any sort of sugar rush. She didn’t get grouchy or miss any sleep either. Success!!!

  28. This is adorable and I’m sure tastes delicious, but it’s a little misleading… how is using brown rice syrup and maple syrup more “natural,” or for that matter, healthier, than white sugar? If you are looking to cut back on sugars, this was the wrong way to go. From, “Contrary to popular belief, brown rice syrup’s glycemic index is actually higher than that of table sugar. Brown rice syrup also provides more calories than white sugar (75 vs. 42 per tablespoon).”

    If you want to cut back on sugars, please just cut back. Don’t simply substitute a different type of sugar.

  29. Thank you so much for this recipe it’s exactly what I was looking for, even though my little girl isn’t 1 til January I’m looking up stuff already. I saw this and besides the cake being perfect it was a clear sign because my little girl is Clara too…great name (I’m biased!) 🙂

  30. im planning to make your cake for my son’s 1st birthday this weekend. but I’d like to make it for the adults as well. how can increase the recipe for a larger cake? Beautiful cake by the way! hopefully my attempt turns out alright.

  31. 5 stars
    Aimee, thank you for this lovely recipe. I’ve just made this cake for my daughter’s first birthday and will be frosting it later. I made some small cupcakes with the leftover batter (I used an 6 inch tin) and they taste great. Can’t wait to decorate and enjoy the cake tonight.

  32. Hey Aimee! This looks great! One quick question: Can I substitute bananas for apples? My LO is crazy for bananas, and isn’t too interested in apples. Any suggestions of ratios?

    • You really can’t taste the apples at all. I’ve never made it the banana, although I would guess you use the same amount of mashed banana.
      Happy Baking!

      • 5 stars
        Thanks Aimee, I made it yesterday with 1 1/2 (about 3 bananas) cups of mashed bananas instead of apples. I thought 2 cups was a lot. The cake turned out beautifully! It tastes so delicious, and is super moist. Its not so fluffy, but its perfect for her smash cake today. She tried a piece, and loved it! Thank you, I highly recommend it!!!

  33. I found the coconut oil flavor overwhelmed the rest of the flavors in the cake. Is there another oil with a milder flavor that you can recommend substituting? Thanks!

  34. Dear Aimee,

    The cake is lovely and so fashionable. I made 2 trial cakes already from your recipe.

    The first one was my 3rd ever cake, so I used 1/4 of the quantity and substituted maple syrup with half melted sugar. It was airy and fluffy and I loved it. Yesterday I tried again with 1/2 of the amount, and I used maple syrup, and 3 small to medium eggsfrom the fridge. It took almost 40 minutes (I opened the oven in 20 minutes to check the it stopped bubbling on the top) and didn’t come out fluffy. I must did something wrong this time.

    As a very new baker, can I ask for advise from you? Is it too many eggs? Should I use room temporature egg and beat the mixture in warm water until fluffy (It was liquid)? Or not opening the oven until it looks brownish?

    Thank you for kindly answers!

    First time mom & baker

  35. 2 stars
    Question. Mine never baked all the way through. It was super soggy. I know i measured everything right. Less oil maybe?

  36. 1 star
    Made it a second time. Still soggy. I even added half of the coconut oil and less apples. Put some into muffin pan and those turned out ok. Disappointed I really wanted to live this and make it for twins 1 st bday.

  37. Hello, I made this cake today for my baby’s first birthday. A few notes — if using the 8-inch cake pans, the recipe really yields too little for a layer cake. The layers were so thin it was hard to frost. I’d maybe double the recipe if using 8-inch tins? But then I’m not sure how long to cook.

    Another thing that wasn’t accounted for is how runny the icing gets if you use too much of the strawberry-beet puree. I used quite a bit for the bottom layer in order to achieve a dark pink but the icing dribbled all around the bottom of the cake. The cake ended up being a bit of a mess but it tasted good and I covered the top in cut strawberries to hide a bunch of imperfections, which was really cute. Hope this helps!

  38. I have made the strawberry cake for my twins birthday for the past three years. I just went to get the recipe again and the link doesn’t take me there! Do you by chance have a hard copy of it?

  39. 5 stars
    My little one is turning one soon and I like your idea of a cake that’s more suited to little ones: not as much sugar. Thank you!

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