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How to make a SUPER EASY gluten-free cake with toddlers

Toddlers and cake decorating...what could go wrong?!

Not convinced? Admittedly, cake decorating can be a sticky mess at the best of times - but add in a pair of tiny hands... What could go wrong?!

That said, I have a solution. It's pretty foolproof (provided you set some ground rules) and even better, it's quick. Plus it looks like a beautiful little fish, which I reckon is a winner in any child's book.

Chocolate fish cake with M&Ms
Children's fish cake

Making it gluten-free is easier than you might think. You just have to lay off Smarties.

You'll need one layer of chocolate cake to start with (I baked a 6" sponge using half a Creative Nature ready mix, which provides about 10 portions, although if you want a really fat fish you could use the whole packet and bake 2 six inch cakes and sandwich them together).

To decorate, I used Betty Crocker's ready-made icing and a bag of M&Ms. (Please note: these are UK M&Ms - other countries may not have gluten-free ingredients, a fact I discovered after munching my way through a handful in Sydney in 2001.)

And that's it.

Seriously. Just 3 things!

(N.B. If you need dairy-free or vegan Smarties, you can either buy Clarana candy-coated chocolate buttons or make a brown & white fish by using dairy-free milk, dark & white chocolate buttons, which are available in the freefrom aisle. Moo-Free is an option, although bear in mind they make incredibly sweet chocolate - personally it's a bit much for me but the children seem to love it.)

Back to the cake itself... Cut out a wedge of cake to create the fish's mouth and lift it to the opposite side to form the tail. Smother in chocolate icing and then it's time to call in the kid(s).

Decorating a chocolate fish cake with icing
Chocolate fish ready for M&Ms!

Now set out 6 bowls. Tip the M&Ms into 2 bowls (one for you and one for your little one) and start a game called 'sort the button colours'. (If you call them buttons, you may have a fighting chance of the children actually sorting them into bowls and not their mouths. Well, maybe.)

M&M chocolates being sorted into colours
Sorting M&Ms into single colours

I'm sure there must be child experts out there who'd tell you this helps with cognitive development. All I know is it'll give you a quiet and studious child for ten minutes (and what a wonderful small win this is!).

M&Ms sorted into colours
Colours sorted!

Once you've done the colour sorting, start adding M&Ms to the cake and invite your child to follow. My 4 year old just about grasped the concept of placing a chocolate onto the cake without shoving his finger all the way through but needed a little guidance on where to set it down. I found the best way to do it was to get him to put a colour next to the one I'd just done and then let him put whatever design he wanted around the sides.

Keep going until the cake is covered and then the cake is complete. Easy-peasy!

If you're wondering about candles, I managed to acquire a rocket to put in the fish tail. It certainly creates an impressed child!

Rocket candle in fish cake
A rocket candle makes a great little indoor firework!

Have you tried making a fish cake? Do share your experience below!


Hi! Great to have you here...

My name's Ali and I help people on gluten-free diets have a better, easier and healthier lifestyle. 

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