A Low Salicylate, SCD Birthday and Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Yesterday was Fin's seventh birthday. Last year Fin invited half his class for a knees-up that was sabotaged by a rowdy few in less time than it took to sing happy birthday. The final nail in that party's coffin was when Fin excitedly took the girls up to his bedroom to show them his cotton tulle tutu and fled in tear streaked confusion from their derisive sniggers. I'm not even going to start on the naked outdoor boat racing.....

This year we kept it small and only invited hippy kids - if Fin decided they were all going to strip off and have a naked bubble blowing competition, I wanted kids who were cool with spontaneity (and nudity) and didn't demand pass the parcel and blind mans buff and party bags.

I'm not going to give a blow by blow account of yesterday's events, but there were some moments that I caught like a dandelion seed dancing on the breeze and clutched to my chest to keep them safe.

Fin opening his presents one by one in our bed at 6am, squealing with delight and thoroughly examining each before calmly moving onto the next - just the right level of childish delight for the occasion, without the flatulence, squirming and hysteria that formerly characterised present opening.

As I was breezing through the living room with a sugar free Mojito in one hand and barbecue tongs in the other, I saw four small boys huddled on the sofa round the glowing screen of a newly minted Nintendo DS lite, smiling broadly at whatever Indiana Jones was doing - heads resting gently on each others shoulders.

Overhearing Fin telling Nick that this was his best birthday ever. No tears, no fights, just a few friends and an open house and some burgers.

And when I produced a plate of Lemon Meringue Cupcakes with a candle in the top. Even though Fin's eyes popped out of their head with delight, he waited patiently while we sang happy birthday and offered the cakes around - instead of grabbing one and cookie monstering it whole before running off with the entire plate (which is what I wanted to do)

A good day. A day for chalk drawing on the pavement and gangs of children playing hide and seek. A day of many exchanged smiles between me and Nick as we realised how far this little person has come and what a wonderful boy he is growing up to be. A day in which my heart fluttered up in my chest so often that I had to grab Fin and tell him how proud I am of him. The first of many delightful birthdays to come.

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes (SCD & medium salicylate content)

I kept the rest of the party food very low in salicylates so Fin would have the chance to have one honey & lemon blow out. If you are not following SCD but need something very low salicylate - lemon, honey and almonds are all fairly high in salicylates. So I suggest using a combination of ground white nuts such as brazils and cashews (no almond) or all cashew for a very sensitive person, swap the honey for raw agave or maple syrup, use mango juice for the curd and swap the lemon zest for vanilla in the cakes. You'll then have a vanilla mango meringue cupcake - which actually sounds pretty good! I'm going to try them out....

Lemon/Lime Cupcakes (makes 8)
If you're feeling pushed for time you can just mix these together without beating the eggs separately, but whipping the whites makes the cakes more fluffy.

Follow whichever ingredient list suits your digestive needs - SCD or Low Salicylate.

SCD ingredients - high in salicylates
zest of 1 lemon and juice of half
3 large tsp of nut butter - (almond, cashew, brazil, sunflower seed...)
2 dessert spoons of mild honey (runny or set)
50 ml melted butter
3 large free range eggs
6 oz mixed finely ground nuts (brazils, blanched almonds, cashews, blanched hazels, or almond flour)
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp vinegar (cider or white wine)
pinch of sea salt

Low Salicylate ingredients - Low in salicylates
zest of 1/2 lime and juice of one lime (or 1/4 tsp vanilla seeds from a pod and juice of 1 lime)
3 large tsp of cashew nut butter
2 dessert spoons of raw agave syrup or maple syrup
50 ml melted butter
3 large free range eggs
6 oz finely ground cashew nuts (or half cashew half brazil for less sensitive)
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of sea salt

Preheat the oven to 160C fan assisted (175C without) and set out 8 muffin cases in a bun tray - fill any spare holes with water.

Separate the eggs and put the yolks in one mixing bowl and whites in another. Add sea salt vinegar to the whites (SCD) - (or 1tsp of the lime juice and sea salt for low salicylate) and beat until stiff peaks form - set aside.

To the yolks add lemon/lime zest (vanilla seeds), honey/maple syrup/agave, nut butter, bicarb and melted butter and beat until smooth before adding the ground nuts and stirring until incorporated.

Gently fold in the beaten egg whites until no lumps of white are visible and spoon into the waiting cases - or pour into a jug and pour into the cases. Fill them about 3/4 full.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until risen, golden brown on top and springy to the touch. Cool on a rack.

Choose any of these fruits and use honey for an SCD version, but stick to lime or mango and use agave or maple syrup for a Low Salicylate version. Mango has moderate amounts of salicylate in it, but lime is usually ok.

For someone really salicylate sensitive, use 1/2 a banana blended with 2 tablespoons of pear juice instead of the juice .

Lemon/Lime/Mango Curd

3 large free range egg yolks (save one white separately for meringue)
1/4 cup of mild honey (SCD) or raw agave syrup/maple syrup (low salicylate)
1/4 cup of lemon juice
(or lime or mango)
1/4 cup of butter cut into lumps

In a bain marie or a heat proof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, mix the egg yolks, honey/agave/maple and lemon/lime/mango/banana juice with a whisk. Keep stirring as it warms up.

Then start adding lumps of butter, one at a time. Stir constantly until each lump has melted and then add the next. When all the butter has been added, keep stirring slowly, until the mixture starts to thicken. This should take about 5-8 minutes after the last bit of butter has been added.

Take care not to let it curdle by stirring constantly - but gently! When it looks about custard consistency take it off the heat and put the bottom of the bowl into cold water to stop the cooking. It will get thicker as it cools. Allow to cool and spread onto the cakes.

If the cakes have risen too high - just cut off the top or scoop out a little space for the curd to sit in.

Vanilla Marshmallow Meringue

1/4 cup mild creamy honey for SCD (or raw agave syrup/maple syrup for low salicylate)
1 egg white (saved from the curd)
1 tsp bourbon vanilla extract (SCD) or some seeds scraped from a vanilla pod for low salicylate.

Beat the egg white to soft peaks in a medium sized bowl set on a cloth to stop it moving about.

Heat the honey/agave/maple syrup in a small milk pan and gently simmer until it reaches the semi hard ball stage - a drop in a glass of cold water will form a firm ball when you pick it out and squeeze it. Don't let honey turn too dark. If honey starts to look darker than deep gold, get it off the heat immediately and get on with the next stage.

Pour the molten honey/agave/maple syrup in a thin stream onto the egg whites, beating with the electric hand whisk as you pour. This requires the bowl to be held by someone else or set on a cloth so it doesn't spin round! You need to work fast to get the honey/agave/maple syrup on the egg whites while it is boiling hot, so it will cook them, and before it turns into toffee! Quickly scrape the last bits of honey/agave/maple syrup out before they set.

When all the honey has been added, throw add the vanilla - still whisking - and beat until the mixture looks opaque and marshmallowy - it should be pretty thick and fluffy. The heat of the honey/agave/maple syrup cooks the egg white enough so that it should be absolutely fine for children to eat - if you're nervous, use pasteurised eggs. I always eat organic eggs, which tend to be absolutely fine.

Spoon into a piping bag - or a freezer bag which you cut the corner off after filling - and pipe onto the cooled curd in a theatrical swirl. The filling stays soft, so you can leave the piping for a while if the curd isn't cool yet.

Arrange on a gorgeous cake stand or pretty plate and dive in!