Homemade Dairy-Free Chocolate and Marzipan Penguins for Valentine’s Day

The professional version of chocolate-marzipan penguins

Our local chocolate shop always makes these cute little chocolate and marzipan penguins for Valentine’s Day. This year, I decided to tackle a homemade version.

After my son’s successful food challenges for eggs and almonds last year, marzipan is one of my new favorite ingredients (remember the Swiss Stollen at Christmastime?). Even thought it’s a major improvement, his milk allergy still prevents him from enjoying store-bought chocolates at this time.

To prepare for my confectionery experiment, I bought some dairy-free marzipan and food coloring. After shaping the penguins’ bodies and wings out of the marzipan, I spread some melted Enjoy Life Foods chocolate on their backs. Then, I dotted some chocolate on small drops of powdered sugar icing for the eyes (they seem a bit scared, don’t they?). My family of penguins certainly look homemade, but they taste really good, and the kids are excited to try them on Valentine’s Day.

My very homemade-looking penguins

If you’re looking to make some allergy-friendly Valentine’s Day treats, here are some recipes I’ve shared during the last few years. All of them are dairy-free, egg-free, peanut-free and tree-nut free.

And, for another super-easy and no-bake recipe, check out Allergy Shmallergy’s Sweet Strawberry Hearts.

What allergy-friendly treats are you planning on this year for Valentine’s Day? Please share your suggestions and recipes by leaving a comment below. Thanks so much! 


Last-Minute Homemade Sweets for St. Valentin

Joyeuse St-Valentin! Happy Valentine’s Day! This wonderful holiday provides yet another excuse to eat sweets—and chocolate in particular—while celebrating the people you love. What could be better?

Our local confiseries have beautiful displays of handmade chocolates in their windows. My boys and I often stop and admire them on the way to school.


While our 2-year old will not be getting milk chocolate again this year because of his food allergies, I’m not going to make him feel bad about it. Instead, I’ve prepared three homemade sweet treats for our family to enjoy together.

These recipes could not be easier. All three have short ingredient lists and can be thrown together quickly. So if you want to make any of these today, there’s still time!



Chocolate Coconut Bonbons

Recipe adapted from Saveur.

Makes 20 candies

1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut*
1 1/2 cups powered sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons soy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or vanilla sugar**

2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoons cocoa
2 teaspoons cinnamon

*I used grated coconut (Noix de coco râpée) from Coop that’s already very finely chopped, so I skipped the food processor instructions listed under step #1 below.
**If you use vanilla sugar like I do, you’ll need to use about 4 tablespoons of soy cream to compensate for the loss of a liquid ingredient.

1. If needed, place coconut flakes in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer coconut to a bowl, add the remaining ingredients and mix well.

2. Spoon out about 1 tablespoon of the coconut mixture and roll it into a ball. Repeat process with remaining mixture and set them aside to rest for about 1 hour.

3. Combine all of the ingredients for the coating in a bowl. Dredge each coconut ball in the coating mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and store in refrigerator.



Blood Orange Madeleines

(dairy/nut-free, contains baked egg)

I made madeleines earlier this week for a playdate, using my favorite dairy-free recipe, and all the kids seemed to like them. I just used blood orange zest instead of lemon. Also, I tossed them in a bowl of light pink icing made of 2/3 cup powdered sugar and about 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed blood orange juice.



Chocolate Peppermint Bark


Here’s another wicked easy chocolate idea that you’ve probably already made before, but it was another first for me. Just melt 2 cups of whatever allergy-friendly chocolate chips you can find in a heat-safe bowl over a small pot of water, stirring constantly so it doesn’t burn. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Pour the melted chocolate into the pan and spread around to your desired thickness. Sprinkle the top with 2-3 crushed candy canes or any other allergy-friendly toppings like raisins, chopped toasted pumpkin seeds or shredded coconut, etc. Put it in the fridge to cool for an hour or less, and it it’s ready to go.


What allergy-friendly treats are you enjoying for Valentine’s Day? Please let us know by leaving a comment below. I’m always looking for new recipes and suggestions. Bon week-end!

Valentine’s Day and Orange-Chocolate Bundt Cake

2013 will continue to be another year of firsts for us—first Valentine’s Day with food allergies, food introductions, and new Swiss experiences nearly every day.

We just wrapped up our first Valentine’s Day here in Switzerland, and since our 20-month old son is not yet in school, the holiday didn’t present any major challenges. Plus, at least in our small corner of Switzerland, Valentine’s Day isn’t much of a kids’ holiday. Our 5-year old didn’t make a Valentine’s “mailbox” for his classmates, he didn’t exchange cards or candy, and there was no party.

This actually works out well for me because I’m not a huge fan of doing kids’ bricolage. Last year, I just covered a shoebox with tinfoil for my son’s Valentine’s Day cards (check out my friend’s more creative example in the photo below).

Baseball Stadium Valentine's Day mailboxBaseball Stadium mailbox for Valentine’s Day

Even so, we still wanted to help our kids celebrate the holiday, and our Valentine’s Day certainly needed some chocolate. While I couldn’t recreate a Swiss chocolate penguin, like our local handmade chocolate shop, I could make heart-shaped Linzer Cookies and an Orange-Chocolate Bundt Cake. The bundt cake was a total experiment based on my Crazy Cake recipe, but I’m happy to report that it worked.

Handmade Swiss chocolate penguinsHandmade Swiss chocolate penguins

Orange-Chocolate Bundt Cake

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons rum
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup orange juice
1 cup water
3 tablespoons cocoa powder

1. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter and flour a 10-cup bundt pan.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the first four ingredients—flour, sugar, baking soda and salt—until well-blended.

3. Add wet ingredients—cider vinegar, vegetable oil, rum, orange peel, orange juice and cold water. Whisk ingredients just until blended. Take out about 2 cups of the batter and transfer to a smaller bowl. Add 3 tablespoons cocoa powder and whisk together.

Making the chocolate cake batter

4. Pour half the orange cake batter into the prepared bundt pan. Then, add all of the chocolate cake batter.

5. Pour in the remaining orange cake batter. Bake for roughly 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

6. Cool in pan for about 15 minutes, and on a wire rack, if possible. Then invert and remove from bundt pan. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Chocolate-Orange Bundt Cake dusted with powdered sugar

A slice of the Chocolate-Orange Bundt Cake


I hope you all had a wonderful (and safe) Valentine’s Day!

And, please remember to read food labels carefully. We had a close call this week—partially due to a labeling mistake—which I’ll write about soon.

Fondue Chinoise and Linzer Cookies

Not all Swiss fondue involves a big pot of melted cheese. We’ve discovered two other dairy/egg/nut-free fondue options that are popular in Switzerland:

  • Fondue Bourguignonne – skewered meat cooked in oil.

Our broth and prepared meat options for Fondue Chinoise

Last night, we had Fondue Chinoise for the second time. During our first time making this, a small fire managed to escape from our fondue pot. No one was hurt, but it burned a hole in our tablecloth and caused some minor damage to our dining room table. Since that time, we figured out what we did wrong—there were several errors—and our second attempt was successful! We had delicious fondue that was safe for our son and an easy main course for our guests.

Our Fondue Chinoise meal coincidentally corresponded with Chinese New Year. Our small Swiss city celebrated the holiday over the weekend, with a dragon dance, Chinese lanterns strung above the streets and more. In addition to fondue, I served Jamie Oliver’s Sher Ping Pancakes, as this has become one of my favorite recipes. They’re great when you have guests for dinner because you can assemble them in advance, cook them right before everyone arrives and keep them warm in a low-temperature oven.

Chinese lanterns for our Swiss city's New Year celebration

For dessert, I served dairy/egg/nut-free Linzer Cookies. Versions of these cookies are all over our Swiss bakeries and grocery stores. The ones for kids often have smiley face cut-outs, while others have more traditional circular cut-outs. I used a recipe from an old Cooking Light magazine that I adapted slightly. The original recipe called for an electric mixer, but I’ve been making them by hand. A mixer might be preferred though, if you have one around, because the dough can be quite dry.

Linzer-like cookies at our local grocery store


Linzer Cookies

2 cups flour
1/2  teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla sugar or vanilla
1/4teaspoon salt
1/4  teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4  cup sugar
1/2 cup dairy-free margarine, softened
1 teaspoon grated lemon or orange peel
1 tablespoon flax meal mixed with 3 tablespoons water
about 1/4 cup raspberry jam
powdered sugar for dusting

1. Whisk together flour, baking soda, vanilla sugar, salt and cinnamon.

2. Beat sugar and dairy-free margarine (softened or slightly melted) together until light and fluffy—electric mixer is preferred).

3. Mix flax meal and water together and let set for a few minutes. Add to sugar and margarine mixture until well blended. At low speed, gradually add flour mixture and beat just until a soft dough forms. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour.

4. Then, roll dough into about a 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface; cut with a cookie cutter of your choice. Repeat procedure with remaining dough portions. Place cookies on parchment-lined baking sheets.

5. Cut out centers of cookies with a smaller cookie cutter of your choice, while on the baking sheet, and before you put them in the oven.

Rolling the dough and cutting out the cookies

6. Bake cookies at 190°Ch/375°F for 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on pans for about 5 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely on wire racks.

7. Sprinkle tops of cookies with powdered sugar. Spread about 1/2 teaspoon jam on each cookie bottom. Finally, assemble the cookies.

Heart-shaped cookies for Valentine's Day


Next time, we’ll be trying Fondue Bourguignonne. If you have any good allergy-friendly (dairy/nut/egg-free) sauce suggestions, please share them in a comment below. Thanks!

Updated December 18, 2013.