What Is a Diabetic Birthday Cake?

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The time has come to discuss what is a diabetic birthday cake. Last year I shared recipes I used to make our diabetic grandson his birthday cake. The time has rolled around again for another birthday.

I love baking and decorating birthday cakes for my family.

We usually do a family dinner celebration for our grandkids and the parents will host a birthday party or sleepover with their friends on another day.

I always ask the birthday person what they would like for their birthday supper and what style and flavour of cake they would want.

This certainly tests my creativity at times but I love the challenge.

Through the years I have done quite an assortment of flavours and themes.

So Alex’s birthday was on Friday and they came over for the coveted birthday meal.

Because Alex is a type 1 diabetic, I consulted with our daughter frequently when planning his birthday dinner.

Alex chose Party Meatballs with rice and broccoli with cheese sauce.

He wanted a vanilla cake decorated dinosaur style.

What a fun time I had creating his cake this year as he turned 6.

With this diabetic birthday having occurred so recently I figured it was a good time to discuss what a diabetic birthday cake actually is.

What is Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic, disease that affects over 400 million people worldwide and that number is rising daily.

There are different types of diabetes, the most commonly known are Type 1 and Type2.What Is a Diabetic Birthday Cake

With type 1 diabetes a person’s immune system attacks and kills the insulin-producing cells within the pancreas. This means the person can no longer make insulin in sufficient amounts to allow the cells within the body to take up the glucose (sugar) from our food to use as energy. This means that glucose remains in the blood creating dangerously high levels that can lead to many complications or even death.

With type 2 diabetes the body is unable to efficiently use insulin. Again the glucose from food would accumulate in the blood creating very high levels.

In either case, they share many of the same symptoms which can include:

  • excessive thirst
  • frequent urination
  • increased hunger
  • extreme fatigue
  • cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
  • blurry vision
  • unexplained weight loss
  • tingling or numbness in hands or feet

I go into much more detail about the differences between these types of diabetes in my article entitled ‘What’s the Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes‘.

Low sugar vs low carb

When it comes to diet you may ask which is more effective for a diabetic low sugar or low carb?

Until recently, I thought they were the same.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Learning the difference was really helpful when it came to preparing food for my type 1 diabetic grandson.

Low SugarWhat Is a Diabetic Birthday Cake

Low sugar diets are simply removing any form of refined sugar from your diet.

This may be very beneficial when you are trying to lose weight.

Removing all refined sugar, white flour, white rice, and no white potatoes.

This diet is considered the ‘no white’ approach to weight loss and can be very effective at eliminating those cravings for sweets.

For a diabetic, this approach doesn’t quite go far enough.

The carbohydrates we eat turn to sugar in our bodies which will raise blood glucose levels in diabetics causing those undesirable post-meal spikes.

I have discovered that many recipes I have used are not truly ‘sugar-free’ because they use applesauce and may be high in carbs.

Yes, fruits and honey are natural sugars but they are still sugars and can spike blood sugars in a diabetic.

So what can we do?

Well, let’s consider going…

Low Carb

Low carb diets mean just that, eating substantially fewer carbohydrates at meals and snacks.What Is a Diabetic Birthday Cake

While researching low carb diets I learned that many of these diet plans restrict carbohydrate intake to between 5 – 20% of your daily intake.

Each low carb diet is very personalized.

By that I mean each person will have to find what works best for them. Not everyone can function on only 5% carbs while others may not lose the weight they desire while at a higher percentage.

Which number to use when calling a recipe ‘low carb’ is controversial so for the sake of my website we will go with 20% or less.

When it comes to diabetics, everyone responds to carbs differently so it is important to work with your team to determine the best diet for you.

In the case of our grandson because he is so young and growing they don’t really want us to restrict his carbs or sugar too much, just give a correction of insulin after each meal.

This allows him to still be a kid and enjoy all the things kids enjoy.

Naturally, if his sugars are high we will offer a protein-laden snack rather than a carb-heavy snack.

He understands he can still have his ‘cake’ he just might have to wait till his blood sugars are lower or have a bolus shot.

Find Your Balance

What Is a Diabetic Birthday Cake

When it comes to diabetes management, balance is key.

We know that when we eat carbs, our body breaks them down into sugar and our body produces insulin to use those sugars for fuel.

If we are unable to produce insulin or use it effectively our blood sugars will rise causing hyperglycemia or if those levels drop too low they can cause hypoglycemia.

Both of these can be quite serious for any diabetic and this is why finding your balance is so key.

Work with your diabetes management team to find the best approach for you.

Test your sugars frequently and make any adjustments necessary, either a snack or a bolus.

Try eating mainly whole unprocessed foods like non-starchy vegetables like lettuce, cucumbers, broccoli, tomatoes, green beans.

You can eat some fruits, such as apples, strawberries, blueberries, and cantaloupe in moderation. Also, try for smaller portions of whole grains like brown rice, whole wheat bread, whole grain pasta, and oatmeal. I would also use smaller portions of the starchier vegetables like corn, green peas, sweet potatoes, beans and lentils, and pumpkin as advised by the American Diabetes Association.

What we do

Our daughter has advised us that Alex’s doctors don’t want us to heavily restrict his carbs and it is fine to allow him some sugar.

They advised keeping the sugar for when he is low or for mealtime so he can have a shot to compensate.

This year Alex wanted a fairly carb-heavy meal and birthday cake.

We had the “appetizer meatballs” (recipe here) with rice and he also wanted broccoli with cheese sauce, I also made a salad.What Is a Diabetic Birthday Cake - Alex's birthday cake

The main event for Alex was his dinosaur cake.

For this, I made a normal white flour and sugar vanilla cake for the double layer round part. I also baked a regular chocolate cake to make the square base and to crumble for ‘dirt’ when decorating.

I used regular chocolate frosting and made white icing with blue food colouring for the water.

A package of biscuits and chocolate covered almonds completed the decorating.

Then I just added toy dinosaurs which he got to keep afterward.

Yes, it was high carb but it was his birthday and our daughter didn’t want me to go low carb this year as I did last year.

So, what is a diabetic birthday cake?

Well, that is as unique as the people who are diabetic.

Some will choose to go sugar-free and refrain from all processed sugar.

Others will choose to go low carb stay away from all refined sugar and white flour.

Then there are those who will choose to have a regular birthday cake and adjust their insulin dosage accordingly.

When it comes to diabetes management there are no hard and fast rules.

Each diabetic will work closely with their team to determine the best options for them.

Last year I went low carb for Alex’s birthday, this year I did not at the request of his parents.

His numbers are usually pretty good with only slight fluctuations so we are all optimistic that this one day will not have a big effect on his overall A1C levels.

Final Thoughts

What is a diabetic birthday cake is a very individual thing just like with any birthday cake.

When a diabetic carefully manages their diabetes every day it is sometimes okay to splurge on your birthday as long as you monitor your blood glucose levels and make corrections as necessary.

One day of high carbs and sugar will be okay as long as you are close to the range before indulging.

Some diabetics choose to go ‘no white’ by eliminating all processed sugar, white flour, white rice, and white potato.

Others choose to go low carb and limit themselves to only consuming between 5% – 20% of carbohydrates daily.

Which percentage works best for each individual is only determined by trial and error.

Always work closely with your diabetes management team when making any dietary changes.

Dietary changes will affect blood glucose levels and may even require adjustments to your meds so never go it alone.

Always seek the advice of your doctor.

What birthday cakes do you prefer?

Low sugar?

Low carb?

Or do you prefer to just have that day off and take the extra insulin as needed?

Share your ideas in the comment section below.

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6 thoughts on “What Is a Diabetic Birthday Cake?”

  1. Hi Deborah!
    Thanks for sharing this useful article! I can imagine how a person, who has a Diabetes has to carefully control his/her diet, especially it is hard for a kid. Does your grandson at 6 years understand that he can’t eat a lot of candies? My aunt has Diabetes 1, but sometimes she allowes herself to have a normal cake because in other times she has a strong diet. I personally like to bake and I make sometimes cakes with low sugar. It is just I don’t like if the cake is too sweet.
    All the best,

    • Hi Alex, thanks for dropping by. Yes, Alex understands what all carbs can do to him, not just sugar. He also understands that by only eating the right kinds of food at the right times he can have “special days” where he can have sugar or other treats. He also understands that there is always candy in both his home and ours and that it is only to be eaten if his blood glucose is low. He does not yet recognize what it feels like when he is low which why the adults in his life have to be diligent about frequently scanning his CGM (continuous glucose monitor) and finger poking when it shows low. He sometimes “feels funny” when his sugars drop quickly but that is a new development. We are all working very hard to teach him to pay attention to how he feels when he tests high or low. We are also teaching him healthy nutrition which he is grasping very well. This year for his birthday he had a “normal cake”. Last year he had a cake made with a sugar replacement. One of our sons has celiac disease so I often bake with gluten-free flours which can also have a lower carb count and also use sugar replacement or simply cut back on the sugar. We don’t like really sweet desserts either so it works out well. Wishing you all the best.

  2. Deborah,

    Thank you for including the difference between a low sugar and low carb diet. I have Type 2 Diabetes and early on when I was trying to get my diet figured out I went to the Low Sugar option and was so frustrated that I was still having high readings for my blood glucose. Limiting the carbs not only helped me control that, it actually reduced my migraines and seizures.

    As a chocolate addict, the low carb diet was initially a struggle, but I found a few recipes in Keto Cookbooks that helped curb the cravings and even satisfied my sweet tooth.

    Also, kudos on the dinosaur cake, it looks awesome!

    • Hi Sean, thanks for dropping by. I can certainly understand your frustration trying to control your blood glucose levels. It can take some time to get it all figured out. Now that we are over a year into this diabetes journey we are pretty comfortable with it all and I actually find it difficult to remember life before diabetes. I found it interesting while learning the amounts of carbs in various foods I once thought were healthy. With Alex’s type 1 diabetes, we don’t limit his carbs so much as to count how many carbs per meal in order to accurately dose his insulin. I am happy to hear that limiting your carbs has helped manage your type 2 and that you have found relief from migraines and seizures. I agree that several Keto recipes are a great help and I too turn to them at times. Typically if we are having a carb-heavy meal we will limit carbs in desserts or we limit carbs in the meal and have a normal dessert. On special occasions, we just increase his insulin to accommodate the higher carbs. Thanks for the compliment on the cake, it was fun to make.

  3. I am so happy for Alex that he can have cheat days as well. And I love it that he is so much into dinosaurs like my grandsons! My Alex is 5 this month and his brother Diego is 7, so your Alex is exactly in between! 🙂

    I saw your birthday cake picture and kept wondering how you had made those dinosaurs so brilliantly of chocolate. LOL, they’re not chocolate. Riddle solved.

    We can’t see the family this year for their birthdays (Alex and my son have their birthday on the same day). Spain is locked up and we’re not allowed to leave the villages or cities we live in. They live near Madrid, which is 400 km from us.

    It’s a pity, because your cake could have given the so much needed inspiration to make one as well. It’ll have to wait to next year.

    Anyway, I admire your cooking art skills. Is that proper English? Well, I guess you know what I mean.


    • Thanks for dropping by Hannie. Your grandsons sound amazing and I am sure our Alex would enjoy them as playmates someday once things are normal. We are very fortunate in that our Alex only lives about a 3-minute drive away from us. It does sadden me that I can’t see the rest of our grandkids though. Our oldest son and his family are moving to PEI which is within our Atlantic bubble here so after their 14-day self-isolation period we will be able to see them. They have 2 boys age 4 and 2. The rest of our grandkids are on the other side of the country. I will likely be some time before we can see them, about a 5-hour flight. Alex is beginning to understand the benefit of eating well most of the time so when there is a special occasion we can let him “eat normal”. We do need to give him a higher dose of insulin because of it but he is ok with that. Kids adjust so much easier than adults it seems. As for making the dinosaurs from chocolate, it sounds wonderful but definitely out of my abilities. I am sure there are some very talented artists out there who could do that but not me. Oh, and as far as proper English? I’m not sure but it sounded good and thanks for the compliment. I hope you can make your grandsons a birthday cake next year. We will think optimistically that things can return to normal soon.


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