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Ray-Ray's First Birthday Party

There is something special about the first birthday milestone. You have made it through the first year of parenting and that huge transition. Your baby is also now a proper little person. Given what the year 2020 has thrown us, we did not know exactly what we were going to do for our last son’s first birthday but with a tribe of five there was going to be a celebration regardless!

Both Arjun (oldest) and Ray-Ray's birthdays are in October, just 10 days apart. This means two to plan for across two weeks, normally with Labour weekend in there as well. While I would like to say I was well organised for this time.... that is far from the truth. Those of you who followed along on my 'stories' will know this. Never enough hours in a day right. Most of the party food, including cakes for both boys, was largely done with all three in the kitchen with me. Good news is that the recipes have been put through this ah....'challenge'......and while they may not be picture perfect having all the boys involved was really the best part.

I also just want to say that this is my thing. I love food, I enjoy being in the kitchen and of course I have created these recipes from scratch for my cookbook so am confident with them. There are many aspects of parenting that are not 'my thing'....washing is not (there are always at least three baskets full of clothes lying around), school pick up and drop off is not my thing, I have also not done cloth nappies so far with Ray-Ray either. There is just not enough hours, time or energy to do everything. So, I am simply sharing with you what I did for helpful ideas that you can pick and choose from.

In addition, I do want to acknowledge that for some of you reading this you will still be in various stages of lockdown and having a gathering of any sort is out of the question. We could not plan a party for Arjun’s eighth birthday for this reason too. Ray-Ray’s birthday was intentionally low key. We just planned for some close family and friends to come over – we literally said just any time from midday onwards. This meant we had people coming and going all afternoon and no one had to worry about exact timing. Ray-Ray was also the only baby! Being the youngest with quite a gap in between himself and Sahan, a lot of our friends have slightly older children. Arjun was happy though as he said it was also more of a party for him too.


As Ray-Ray was born on Halloween we will have many years of Halloween parties ahead of us (cue visions of a Halloween 21st birthday!). As a result, I just wanted something else instead for his first birthday party. The week before hand I picked up some things from the Warehouse – Ray-Ray grabbed some dinosaur plates off the shelf and Sahan selected some small dinosaurs to put on top to the cake so that decided it. I think bunting can tie together a table quite nicely with little fuss and so I got two, one for the food table and one for the big kids table and this we set up the day before.


I was doing an event in Hamilton the day before Ray-Ray’s party so I did need to plan a little bit ahead. All the food I chose to make could be made well in advance and either frozen or kept a couple of days in the fridge (so you can totally do the same!). I made the following straight from my Baby and Toddler Cookbook:

*Healthy Tortilla Chips
*Green Pea Pesto
*Vegetarian Sausage Rolls (completely plant-based)
*Halloween Cupcakes
*Ultimate First Birthday Cake

I prepared everything except for the pesto and the icing for the cupcakes and cakes in advance. I used the cashew coconut icing from the book too which also keeps well in the fridge or freezer in advance. I did put two double lots of cashews in the fridge to soak on Friday morning before I left as this was not something you can do last minute. I also ensured I had all pesto ingredients in the fridge, so it was an easy whip up in the morning.

In addition to this food I also served cherry tomatoes, olives, some different cheeses and lots of vegetables sticks. I intentionally placed bowls of vegetable sticks and pesto in the middle of the kids table. Repeated exposure and providing an opportunity to try vegetables is key…why not at a party as well. One of my strong dislikes with children’s parties is when bowls of lollies are placed here instead, especially at low tables. Children simply do not need this and is not fair to expect that they can control how much they eat when it is in arms reach in front of their eyes.

Along with this party food we also cooked some meat on the barbeque at the time. This included some steak, sausages and chicken kebabs. Ray-Ray was even able to eat small cut up pieces of this too. In regard to drinks, we just had water and soda water (and some alcohol for the adults!). It was not until after the party that I realised there was literally no sugar served at all. I did not even have fruit out because it just was not needed. The older children only stopped ‘moving’ to eat for about 10 minutes before racing back out to play. They were excited and ‘hyped’ up enough just being together without any sugar. It just goes to show that kids truly do not need this – and I cannot do what I do without advocating for this!!

Ray sticking his fingers into the back of the cake!

Cake and Cupcakes

I know I did not need to do both a cake and cupcakes however I had created ‘Halloween Cupcakes’ for my Baby and Toddler Cookbook….well before I was even pregnant so it was ironic I ended up having a Halloween baby! It just felt wrong to not make these. Long ago in a previous life I used to make cupcakes for my husband’s work crew (in the force) they are one of my favourite things to bake. Plus, the cupcakes are both dairy and gluten-free so gave an option for both of these – the cake does have some dairy in it.

The older boys really wanted to decorate the cupcakes. Letting ‘creative control’ go, we spent over two hours doing this. I say I let go; but I still insisted on white and green colours….they pushed for dinosaurs on top and then some extra colours in the sprinkles. But seriously, I was incredibly impressed with the work they put in and how much care they applied. Sahan needed a bit of a hand controlling the piping bag but Arjun did his completely on his own. He was very proud of himself when he got it right and also learnt that parts he was not happy with, could be corrected as well – valuable lessons.

For the cake I made a double layer purely as I wanted the height. Like a lot of healthy alternatives, the cashew coconut icing is harder to work in terms of decorations than traditional butter cream. I used a cake turntable and scraper to just help with the sides (can get from Stevens) and did a slight green fade. I used the 'ONE' cake topper, which I had I sourced for doing the cookbook photographs along, with a dinosaur of course. It felt good knowing that Ray-Ray got his first cake experience without getting a big dose of sugar and white flour when all he has eaten is wholefoods. There will be a time for a ‘proper cake’ but right now he is still in the first two years of gut maturation (first thousand days) and does not know any difference there is no need. This was the entire reason I created this Ultimate First Birthday Cake recipe and it was special to see my own son have this on his first birthday.

Normalising healthy, nutritious food at social gatherings is an important part of a young child’s scripting and categories of this food. I discuss this biological process in The Nourished Toddler in more detail (the next stage for our little man). I know it takes extra work and is more expensive as well – here is to hoping for a sugar tax in our life time – but the benefits are there. It really means so much to me that you use my recipes and books to help guide your children’s food journey and celebrate milestones just like this one with them.

These are the two books mentioned and available here. We also now have 'click and collect' available in Auckland.

x Dr Julie

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