Moo-free Dreamsicle cake

“Mma Ramotswe sighed. ‘We are all tempted, Mma. We are all tempted when it comes to cake.’ ” Alexander McCall Smith, In the Company of Cheerful Ladies

There was a time when family birthday celebrations included such elaborate creations as homemade angel food with sunny splashes of color throughout the batter — a Fanny Farmer recipe aptly titled Daffodil Cake. And, there is now, a time when a mix of free-from dietary needs make many such recipes tricky.

A bit messy, but you get the idea.

Box cakes to the rescue. There are wonderful gluten-free mixes on the market. There are also surprisingly good dairy-free mixes and frostings out there — particularly in the Duncan Hines line. It’s for a day, a celebration. We choose to ignore the odd chemicals that also come with these mixes and simply eat with joy.

Here is a “recipe” for turning two box-cake mixes into a three-tiered celebration that tastes exactly like a Dreamsicle and is as lovely as springtime on a plate.

Moo-free Dreamsicle Cake

Using two 8- or 9-inch cake pans coated with oil and dusted with flour, prepare one box of Duncan Hines (or another dairy-free brand) orange cake according to package directions. Likewise, use one of the pans to prepare one-half a box of dairy-free vanilla box cake mix. (If halving the recipe requires a half egg, just add a full egg instead. Also, if you don’t want to save the extra half of the mix for a later day, just make both layers and freeze the extra one. Serving it cut into cubes with fresh fruit is one idea.)

Cool the two orange and one vanilla layers to room temperature. Place an orange layer on a cake plate or stand (tucking three strips of waxed or parchment paper under its edge for tidier frosting later). Top the first layer with about 1/4 inch of orange marmalade (for mature taste buds) or peach jam. Add the vanilla layer. Repeat the marmalade/jam layer. Top it all off with the second orange layer.

Dust loose crumbs off the cake and frost with canned (dairy free) vanilla frosting. (Again, Duncan Hines makes a quite good one.) Carefully remove the paper strips and clean up any frosting smears.

Serve in 10-12 generous slices with vanilla nice cream and — if you want to get fancy — a sprinkle of candied orange peel. (I did the orange peel, which seriously boosted my street cred in and outside the family. Kitchen alchemy…)

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