Bespoke Birthdays: Dirt Cupcakes

garden cake

Turning 5 is a big deal.  No joke.  Formal schooling begins.  Drawing skills are out of this world.  Chapter books are fun to read, even for the parents.  Serious distances can be done on bike (at least when pastries or ice cream is used as a motivator).  She can skip.  She can whistle!  And, she is kind and thoughtful.  We love our newly minted five year old to bits.

Funny thing about your oldest kid’s birthday: it’s also the anniversary of your journey into parenting and that dawned on me this year, causing pause for reflection.  Previously, her birthday had more been a celebration of her as well as the act of me giving birth –  her “birth day” – to me.  Now, it has even more meaning as our Parenting Anniversary.  So, we are celebrating twice!

garden cake

First off, we made her a Garden Cake together and shared it with close family.  Tomorrow, we are keeping our fingers crossed for the least amount of rain possible as we prepare for an outdoor playground play & cupcake kind of celebration (with hot coffee & Bailey’s for the imbibing adults).


The birthday girl has long been planning out her Garden Party.  Our house is quite small to host a dozen or so kids, plus their lovely parents (our friends), so we convinced her that we could celebrate outside in the park.  The Garden Cake consisted of a beautiful Nigella Lawson white cake that I added some grated zucchini and carrot to, for colourful flecks of freshness, with a generous layer of Raspberry Chia Jam sandwiched between the two layers, then iced with German Buttercream.  We decorated it with fresh berries from the market and beautiful (edible) nasturtiums from the garden.  It looked quite pretty, we thought.  And, it tasted nice, too.

garden cake

Bring on the cupcakes

Here’s what’s coming down the pipe for the kid party tomorrow: “Dirt Cupcakes” (aka Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes) with brightly coloured German Buttercream, sprinkled with “dirt” (crumbled Oreo cookies), and “worms” (gummy worms, that is).



It took me three tries to get this cupcake recipe just right and the first try was a total flop as I forgot (!) the sugar and tried mixing it in at the end (don’t bother, it does not work).  Thankfully a had a baseball bat of a zucchini to help me out with the experimenting.  Round 2 was good and half the kids will be eating them, but Round 3 smells heavenly and tastes the best.  Maple syrup for the win!

Dirt Cupcakes (aka Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes)


1/3 c butter, melted

1 c maple syrup

2 eggs

1/3 c buttermilk

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/4 c unbleached flour

1/3 c cocoa

1 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 c grated zucchini


  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a muffin tin with liners.
  2. Melt the butter in a large bowl.
  3. Add the eggs and mix thoroughly.
  4. Add the maple syrup, buttermilk, and vanilla and mix well.
  5. Place a sieve over the bowl and add all the dry ingredients to it, then gently sift in.
  6. Mix until barely combined.
  7. Add zucchini and mix.
  8. Fill 12 muffin cups equally.
  9. Bake 25-30 minutes.
  10. Cool completely before icing (make a day ahead to save yourself some time.
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