Pink Butterfly Cake | HOMEGROWN KITCHEN

It was time for a special celebration this weekend. Our first child, our daughter Mika, turned three. We are officially beyond the years of her learning to walk and talk, and now joining her as she becomes her own little person. A little person we can have a conversation with, learn and grow together, discover new things, and much more. Everyday is an adventure, and we are on this awesome adventure with her.

Pink Butterfly Cake | HOMEGROWN KITCHEN

I planned a small party with her close friends (whose parents conveniently happen to be our close friends). To celebrate this milestone with the friends who have shared the last three years with us watching each one of our children grow. Friends who have been there to help when a child is sick, or a new sibling arrives. Someone to talk to about the trials and tribulations of becoming a new parent.

Pink Butterfly Cake | HOMEGROWN KITCHEN

I suppose this celebration was as much about Mika turning three as it was for us as her parents. She is our first child and so we also experienced many ‘first’ in the last three years. However, this will probably be the last year we can include ourselves in what is really Mika’s day. And now she is three she will develop her own friendships quite possibly away from our close circle of friends. In fact, this inevitable.

Pink Butterfly Cake | HOMEGROWN KITCHEN

It was possibly also the last year I could have total control over the food. I wanted a menu that reflects the food we eat while also being ‘child’ friendly. I wanted a cake that had WOW factor that was also nutritious. As I haven’t found a better cake yet I fell back to me all time favourite ‘Celebration Cake’ from my book Feeding Little Tummies (now out of print). It is moist and light, while dairy- and egg-free, low in sugar and boosted with the power of beetroot. (And can be made gluten-free.)

Pink Butterfly Cake | HOMEGROWN KITCHEN

That last line may leave you thinking this cake is TOO healthy, but really this cake is worth making. It delivers all you want from a cake; flavour, sweetness, moistness.  It is perfect for little ones birthday parties (and adults) and can be spruced up with icing and decorations to add extra flair and flavour.  As I have recently been enjoying experimenting with raw cakes, spreads and desserts, a ‘cashew’ cream icing was the obvious choice for my cake. With my son being dairy intolerant I am often looking for alternative options for an often dairy-filled solution.

Pink Butterfly Cake | HOMEGROWN KITCHEN

With a few drops of beetroot juice from our homegrown beetroot, the pink colour was achieved. And I came across this chocolate butterfly idea some time ago and have been saving it for the perfect occasion. And, well, I couldn’t really think of better time than my daughter’s birthday.

Pink Butterfly Cake | HOMEGROWN KITCHEN

Pink Butterfly Cake {dairy-free}

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

This recipe is for ONE cake, however, I made a double-decker cake by doubling the recipe below and baking in two tins.



1 1/2 cups white flour [GF: use 1 cup brown rice flour + 1/2 cup tapioca]

3 Tbsp cocoa powder (or carob)

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1 Tbsp white or cider vinegar

5 Tbsp neutral oil

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 cup water

1 banana, mashed

1/3 cup finely grated beetroot


1 cup cashews

2 Tbsp honey or maple syrup

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

1 tsp virgin coconut oil (optional)

approx. 1 tsp beetroot juice squeezed from finely grated beetroot.


  • CAKE: Preheat the oven to 180C and lightly grease a 22cm cake tin.
  • Combine the flour, cocoa, sugar and baking soda in a large bowl. Combine the liquids and pour over the dry ingredients, stirring to combine. Fold in the mashed banana and grated beetroot.
  • Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 30 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Cool on a rack.
  • ICING: Cover the cashews with water and soak for several hours. Drain well, then put into a food processor with the remaining ingredients. Process to combine. Add a splash of water if needed to make a smooth spreadable paste. (This will take about 1 minute with the machine going.) Use a knife to spread on the two layers of the cake.

*To make the chocolate butterfly I followed the directions from Emma’s cake. Except I melted the chocolate in a double boiler rather than microwave (as we don’t have one) then cooled it a little to thicken then poured it into a piping bag with a 3mm tip (a zip-lock bag with the corner cut off would work too). I drew a stencil of the butterfly parts (two wings and a body) then placed grease-proof paper over top. My lovely man held this in place while I quickly traced the lines with the runny melted chocolate. I then chilled the wings and body until set and once the icing was spread carefully arranged them on the cake. Honestly, I didn’t know if it would work but it did. I was a happy proud Mum. Not only of the cake but of my daughter turning three and being part of her beautiful life.

*Thanks to my lovely friend Michelle for the extra photos of cutting the cake, Mika holding the cake and the one above of my snapping away.

In the garden this week

This is a new section I will include each week, more for myself as a garden diary of what I have been planting, harvesting, pruning etc. It may be a little rambling at times and maybe of absolutely no interest at all if you don’t have a garden so please just scroll on past. If you do have a garden I would love to hear what you are planting/ doing in your garden each week too so please comment.

  • Harvesting: green beans, coriander, parsley, beetroot, carrots, spinach, silver beet, pumpkins, squash plus last of tomatoes, zucchini, basil, chillis.
  • Planted 6 x fennel and 20 x leek seedlings. Direct sowed coriander seed in top garden beds.
  • Brassica’s (broccoli, kale, cavelo nero) are being eaten by caterpillars so sprayed with diluted neem oil (organic preparation) and have been inspecting plants daily to remove and squash caterpillars.
  • Tidied up tomato plants, removing most of the plants except 3 plants still ripening. Saved tomato seed from ‘money maker’ and ‘cherry tomatoes’. Watch a short video I made of saving tomato seed. (it is really easy)
  • Brought the pumpkins and squash inside now that the temperature has dropped.
  • Pruned lime tree.






  • Nicola, what a beautiful cake, and what an especially beautiful wee girl. You are so blessed. I may not be three years old any more, but I know that I would love that cake, and I can see it being perfect for any celebration. Thank you for sharing this special occasion with us.

  • 5 years ago

    Yes looked like a dream cake for a little girl. I know my girl would have loved it although now at 7 she has passed the ‘pink’ phase and would want a yellow cake – lemon maybe? Like the gardening idea too – i need to get out there thanks for the inspiration. Sam

    • 5 years ago

      Hi Sam, thanks for visiting. The icing could be made with lemon zest instead of the beet juice. Tastes similar to cream cheese icing. Divine!

  • 5 years ago

    Wow, your cake looks incredible! Not only am I over the moon that it is dairy free as I make a lot of non dairy cakes but I am also in LOVE with that butterfly on top! What a fantastic idea, I love how you did it too… Definitely trying it out soon! Your daughter is just too beautiful too! Happy birthday!

    • 5 years ago

      Thanks Julia. I am a very proud Mumma. The butterfly is really quite easy. Just make sure the chocolate has cooled a little to thicken first or it will run too fast and be to thin. Good luck!

  • lucy
    5 years ago

    Thanks Nicola – our daughter has been asking for a pink cake since she could speak, and given that we are wheat, dairy and egg free I’ve found that quite impossible – never mind the food colouring! – the last attempt was average to say the least – I’ll certainly have to try again for the 4th birthday this year! I appreciate your wonderful recipes!

    • 5 years ago

      Hi Lucy, this cake was pretty easy to make, the icing being the best part, not as sweet and teeth tingling as icing sugar icing.
      I was amazed at how little beetroot juice I needed to get the pink colour. Good luck with your next attempt 🙂

  • 5 years ago

    Stunning cake. I especially love that you made a little butterfly for each slice – who does that!? This is totally the sort of cake I will make for my kids celebrations – I can’t wait! What a beautiful day for a party – once again you make me homesick for NZ outdoors weather. Mika is absolutely gorgeous. And it is so nice to see appropriate sized cake slices for kids (portion control has always been better in NZ than over here!)

    • 5 years ago

      Hi Christina, I had lots of melted chocolate left so I made the mini butterflies. Just free-flow on a piece of grease-proof paper. Yeah we have had a beautiful Autumn here in NZ.

  • Anneke Barrington
    4 years ago

    Hi Nicola, I’ve made this cake recipe before from your book and love it. I’m just wondering if you have any idea roughly how much you’d need to increase the baking time by if you doubled the recipe as you did, but baked in one big tin to get a bigger cake?
    Thanks, Anneke

    • 4 years ago

      Hi Anneke, I am glad you enjoyed the cake! When I double the recipe I always bake in 2 tins. I think if you had a bigger tin you would be OK to bake as one and would have to allow for 10 – 20 minutes longer cooking time. As I haven’t tried making a double batch in one tin I can’t tell you the exact time so check with a skewer after 10 minutes extra then another 10 minutes extra if it isn’t cooked. I hope that helps and love to hear how you go.

  • June
    4 years ago

    I’d like to make this cake for a friend who is dairy free, gluten free and sugar free. Can I leave the sugar out or do you have any ideas for a replacement sweetener?

    • 4 years ago

      Hi June, you could use another sweetener that your friend is ok with. If using honey use a little less. Because it is such a small amount you could use stevia only about 1/4 tsp or another replacement sweetener.

      • June
        4 years ago

        Thanks for the advice. I ended up making it but omitting the sugar and it was ok but a little bitter. Next time I’ll try the stevia idea or possibly maple syrup. The icing was awesome (I made it with blanched almonds rather than cashews). I had fun making this cake – thank you!

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