Most of us will have brilliant memories of our childhood birthday parties. Party games, presents and, most importantly, birthday cake, what’s not to love?
But children with allergies and intolerances to certain foods may not have the same happy memories.
Roughly 7% of children in the UK suffer from a food allergy, most commonly dairy, eggs and nuts, while many more suffer from gluten intolerance or celiac disease – almost one in ten children at every birthday party.
As a recent study revealed, 80% of parents face ‘significant worry’ about their child’s allergies and a further 42% displayed signs of post-traumatic stress (PTSS).
Making an allergen-free cake can be done at home, however, this isn’t possible for all parents. These families are at risk of being left behind by the big supermarket chains as they can’t have the latest Peppa Pig or Spiderman cake that other kids have.
As a parent, it can be difficult to find alternative birthday cakes for children with food allergies or intolerances, which is why YorkTest has done the research for you.
We have collated data from five of the UK’s leading supermarkets, to find out which retailer offers the best range of allergen-free birthday cakes and how easy it is to find them on their website.
Tesco has the widest selection of allergen-free options (40), with 52.60% of cakes under the ‘birthday’ and ‘celebration cake’ tab of their website being either nut, dairy, egg or gluten-free.
17 of the products analysed were specifically birthday or character themed, however, the majority of these are nut-free (16) and very few cater to other allergies.
Sainsbury’s customers will likely struggle to find allergen-free options on their website easily, but they do boast the widest selection of dairy and egg-free cakes, however only one of the 15 cakes found were birthday or character themed.
Ocado’s website had the best filter options for allergies but had the worst selection of allergen-free cakes (two). Overall, gluten-free was the hardest allergen for parents to cater for with only 4% of cakes under the ‘birthday and celebration’ tab being gluten-free.
Every child deserves to have their dream birthday cake, but due to the lack of store-bought options available, parents may feel unnecessary pressure to try their own at home so that their child’s health isn’t put at risk. Whether your child is a Disney princess or a football fan, finding an allergen-free birthday cake can be quite the task.
The number of allergen-free cakes in the UK’s leading supermarkets
|Supermarket||How many allergen-free cakes in all categories||No. of Allergen Free Birthday and character Cakes||Dairy Free||Egg Free||Gluten Free||Nut Free|
Lack of character cakes
The majority of allergen-free options are either plain-frosted cakes or a simple decorated cake, potentially leaving many children without their favourite cartoon character on their birthday cake.
Of the cakes analysed, 26 of which were nut-free, but contained multiple other allergens, only four were dairy-free, three were egg-free and three gluten-free. Tesco has the widest selection of allergen-free character and birthday-themed options (17), however, 16 were nut-free, two were either dairy or gluten-free whilst also having no egg-free options.
Sainsbury’s overall has the best range of dairy (eight) and egg-free options (seven), however, the majority of these were plain or cupcakes, with only one egg, gluten and nut-free, birthday-themed cake. Gluten-free options were the hardest to find overall under the birthday and celebration cake tab, with only one to three options in total at every supermarket.
Our top picks
From the somewhat limited selection of cakes on offer we selected a few of our favourite allergen-free cakes that supermarkets have to offer.
Although not birthday themed, we chose the Tesco free from confetti cake as its design is perfect for a party, with colourful strawberry flavoured frosting and sprinkles, not to mention its gluten, dairy and nut free! Tesco also has a fun free-from stripey caterpillar cake, which is great for kids birthday parties and is also dairy and gluten-free.
Sal Hanvey expert nutritionist at YorkTest, commented on the research:
“Birthday cakes are a core memory from most of our childhood birthday parties and with most of them featuring our favourite cartoon characters at the time, it’s not hard to see why. UK supermarkets offer various birthday, superhero, princess and football-themed cakes, however, most contain some of the most common allergens, milk, eggs and wheat.
“Considering around 7% of children suffer from an allergy, it is highly likely that at a birthday party, at least one child will need to avoid certain foods. Not only does this cause severe anxiety for the parent, but it can also take weeks or months to get tested. To find out what you or your child’s allergies or intolerances are, speak to your doctor and consider at-home testing options to find out more. We suggest testing together with our parent & child food intolerance bundle, so that for their next birthday you can find them the perfect cake.”
The Food & Environmental Allergy Test is suitable for children aged 4 years and over, the Junior Food Intolerance Test can be taken from age 2 and over.
YorkTest looked at the number of cake and birthday cake options available on each supermarket website, to understand how many are available for each retailer. YorkTest then looked at how many were allergen suitable for nut, gluten, dairy and egg.
Data is correct as of March 2023.