Birthday Parties. These are the immediate thoughts of a parent with a peanut and tree nut allergic child. What kind of cake will there be? Who made it? Will there be candy? Ice cream? What brands? What if it is not safe for my child? Will she feel embarrassed if she can’t have the cake and ice cream while everyone else is eating it?
These are the questions (and others) that run through every allergic child’s parent. Our standard solution for years was that we would bring a cupcake that we made for our child to eat at the party while everyone ate the birthday cake. There were several problems with this alternative for us.
First, it is hard to make just one cupcake. (We never did.) Second, if we made a dozen cupcakes what did we do with the rest? (We sometimes froze them for future parties.) Third, this alternative might help with the embarrassment factor when the child is young but when the child is older and she sees the pretty decorated Barbie or princess cake with all of the fancy icing, her defrosted cupcake is not so appealing.
We decided in the last couple of years to have a long discussion with our local grocery store bakery. Publix is a grocery store chain located primarily in the southeastern United States. All of the cakes that they produce have a label that has the normal statement regarding peanuts and tree nuts – made in a facility with peanuts and nuts, etc. These were computer-generated labels that also contain the price, ingredients, etc. A scan of the ingredients revealed nothing offensive.
A long discussion with the Publix Store manager (who coincidentally has a child with a peanut allergy) about their baking process and ingredients was very enlightening. The main concern for us related to cross contamination. Specifically, were the mixing bowls, cake pans, etc washed and sanitized after a peanut or tree nut item had been made?
The store manager told us that all of the batter for the cupcakes and cakes were made at the Publix central bakery in Jacksonville, FL but were baked and decorated at the individual store. The specific store bakery does make items that contain nuts; however, the cooking utensils are cleaned and sanitized after each item is made. In other words, they do not make a carrot cake in a pan and then immediately make a birthday cake in the same pan. There is an intermediate step where they clean and sanitize the pan in between each cake being made. We confirm this process every few months with the store.
For us, this information alleviated our concerns and opened up a whole new way of living for us. Our friends know that if they get a cake at Publix (in our city it is the main store where cakes are purchased) that our child will be able to eat and enjoy it with the rest of the kids. At the same time, our child feels normal. After many birthday parties and many Publix cakes, we have never had a problem. Do we always have Benadryl and Epipens with us? Absolutely. The take away here should not be that the Publix Bakery is completely safe. It should be that some simple investigation could open up a new safe option for you and return something normal to your life. Have you had any similar experiences? Leave us a comment!