Blueberry Cake and Loving Lent

by Popadia Juliana

I did not grow up Orthodox, and my birthday memories are filled with sunshine and pool parties (as my birthday is in the summer and I grew up in Southern California). But I can imagine that it can be pretty disappointing for a child whose birthday is ALWAYS during Lent.

That will be the story of my second son. Always second seat to Lent. Always upstaged by fasting. Always a “bright sadness” looming over his birthday celebrations. Hopefully he won’t be as self-centered as I was, and he won’t be bothered by it.

I didn’t even like having pool parties because that meant everyone was swimming and enjoying themselves and not paying attention to ME. I think the only way to get him not to resent Lent when it comes to his birthday is to inspire him to LOVE Lent.

That will mean getting him involved in Lent; teaching him what it means, what we do, and why; taking him to the services; finding ways to get him excited about Lent. Celebrate the oil days (and the only way to do that is to fast from oil on the non-oil days). Celebrate the feasts in Lent—Annunciation, the 40 martyrs of Sebaste (which happens to be his birthday), St. Theodore the Tyro, and of course the weekends. Decorate the house for Lent-I put red cloths over our icon corners and will change them to white on Holy Saturday, for instance.

And then, make his birthday as festive as possible, within the guidelines of the Fast. That, in itself, will be an ascetic effort for me. I’m pretty low key when it comes to birthdays.

Thankfully, this year, my mom came to the rescue. A plastic Happy Birthday tablecloth, a few streamers and a couple balloons and BOOM: party. My three-year-old son and I made a little blueberry cake that was fasting AND easy on the allergens and sugar for a one-year-old. Here it is!

Oil-Free Super Moist Fasting Birthday Blueberry Cake (how’s that for a title?!)

3 flax eggs *
3/4 C. Honey
1/3 C. Coconut milk (from a can with all the fat blended in)
3/4 C. Applesauce
2 tsp. Almond extract
1 1/2 C. Almond flour + 1/2 C. Coconut flour (or all Cassava flour)
1 tsp. Baking powder
1 tsp. Salt
1 C. Fresh or frozen blueberries

Berry Topping:
2 C. Frozen berries
1/4 tsp. Salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp. Arrowroot powder
1/4 C. Honey

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Oil a 9” cake pan and set aside.
3. Mix the flax eggs and set aside. Combine the honey, coconut milk, applesauce and almond extract. Stir in flax eggs.
4. Whisk together the flours, baking powder, and salt.
5. Stir dry ingredients into wet until just combined.
6. Fold in the blueberries.
7. Pour into prepared cake pan and smooth the top with your spoon.
8. Bake for 50 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Wait until it’s completely cooled before removing from the pan.
9. For the topping, combine all the ingredients in a sauce pan over low heat and stir until thickened.
10. Spread the berry topping over the cooled cake and spoon feed it like a civilized person to your one-year-old.

* A flax egg is a vegan egg substitute, that is made up of ground flax seeds and water. It’s 100% natural, vegan, gluten free, paleo, whole30…it falls perfectly into any category of food that you’re eating. To make a flax egg, mix one tablespoon ground flaxseed meal with three tablespoons of water. Mix together and let sit in your fridge for 15 minutes to set up and thicken. It’s that easy. You could leave it up to 30 minutes if you want. Sometimes I even stick it in my freezer for 10 minutes. The mixture will begin to thicken and get goopy (like an egg) – and you have your flax egg! It’s kind of crazy how easy it is to make. For two flax eggs, just double, and so on. Source:

Popadia Juliana is the wife of Father John, our Assistant Priest and mother of two young boys. She has a degree in English and Theatre that she puts to use in writing, teaching Sunday School, and staging puppet shows. She also has a wonderful mother (Molly) who is loved and appreciated by those of us who have had the pleasure of meeting her.

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