May 15, 2009

Amateur birthday cake decorating

I just wanted to share a few pictures of some of the birthday cakes I've made for my girls and see if any of you reading want to share links to cakes that you have decorated, because several people have remarked on how they think my home made cakes are nice, but would never attempt anything so "ambitious" as to decorate their kid's cake themselves.

I'm not a great baker and I have no training in decorating cakes and it's not even really that labour intensive, so I'm wondering what it is that intimidates people who would like to try making their own family cakes but shy away from it.

The cakes I have made are decorated in the most unproffessional way. They always end up looking very homemade, but they are fun and taste pretty good and I think that's all that matters really.

I bake trays of chocolate brownies with an extra egg, so they are more cakey than stodgy, but not as flimsy and fluffy as an actual cake recipe, so easier to spread icing on. I sandwich them together with raspberry jam and chocolate spread and ice them. It's pretty quick and having the cake be heavier like brownie means you can make smaller slices and hence a smaller cake (although my hub's work mates usually get half a cake the day after anyway because I always seem to over cater).

Then I get to figure out how to decorate them, which is the fun bit. The only pre-requisits my family have is that it's got to be chocolate cake and we don't go for thick fondant icing or the super sweet shaving foam type icing either.

So here you go, if you fancy forgoing the store bought cake but are afraid of what having no clue about cake decorating might result in, fear not! I also have no clue what I am doing, but it kinda works out anyway (temptation to make a parenting analogy).

Very hungry caterpillar. Last page in the book (favourite book at the time). This was just white chocolate icing that hardened enough for me to paint on it with food colouring. Here it is before painting the food colouring on...

and here it is after...

Train cake for my daughter and her best freind who had a joint party that year. That was painted white chocolate icing again.
The Angelina Ballerina one was baked in a disposable roasting tray from Safeway. The icing was cream cheese this time with the decoration piped onto it (I sketched it out on the cream cheese with a BBQ skewer before having at it with the black piped icing just to be sure it would fit) The Gruffalo cake was the trickiest I guess, because I made the spikes on his back and his orange eyes from marzipan, but decorating this still only took about two hours/two and a half hours total late in the evening. The background was cream cheese icing that I coloured blue, green and yellow before spreading on and then I piped on the gruffalo on top with chocolate icing. "What's a Gruffalo? A Gruffalo, why, don't you know?"

Pirate-superhero-mermaid cake, which was made up of four trays of brownies and cream cheese icing. The superman logos around the side are party favour rings that I smooshed in, so the kids could lick the icing off and keep them. The mermaids are just polly pockets rammed into the cake up to their waists and then tails piped on with icing. The island in the middle was some stacked up pancakes with jam holding them together (weird I know, but it worked).I never shell out for cake boards either. I just cut corrugated cardboard from in between the pallets at costco and put one layer over the other at right angles to give the corrugation strength in both directions and then cover it in aluminium foil or plasticy wrapping paper for moisture proofing (just make sure it fits in your fridge. Yeah, I made that mistake once).

I guess I just wanted to post about these cakes to encourage people to have a go and not feel that they have to know secret baking/decorating techniques to accomplish this. Everything I made above was done using the age old technique of flying by the seat of ones pants. The kids are going to like cake whatever it looks like and when they grow up they will look back at their birthday cake and know that you made it just for them.

I know loads of you already make and decorate your family birthday cakes, so, if you have done and have blogged about it then please do post a link in the comments, because I'd love to see and hear about the cakes you have made :) or any unusual tips on cake making and decorating that you have discovered too.

Of course it doesn't always work out. My second daughter had the most bizzare first birthday cake, because we had just found out very suddenly that we might have to move back to the UK within the space of a week, so her birthday party at a local playpark had a strange kind of trifle cake thing that was made up of whatever fruit was in the fridge that needed to get eaten, a tin of mandarin segments and some jello packets and brownie mix that we had to get rid of prior to fleeing the country. Sadly I don't have a photo of that monstrosity. I don't feel bad about it because, well, even the proffessionals screw up.

I do have a photo of her at that party with her head taped up from a fall a few days earlier where she was running from big sis playing and cloncked her head on the hinge of a door.
(maimed birthday girl) + (medical glue) + (job loss) +(visa fiasco) + (emergency house moving) = lame week.

Ah well, all turned out ok in the end. We were able to stay in the US and for her second birthday she got the Gruffalo cake (again favourite book at the time).

Lastly, I got asked to make a diaper cake a couple of years ago for a mate here in the US, for her baby shower. I'd never heard of a diaper cake before, but after having it explained to me I did manage to make one and rather enjoyed the challenge too. Apparently, according to my mate, some of her relatives saw it from a distance and thought it was a real cake. Ha ha! way to disapoint myopic party guests!


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Heather - said...

Wow, your cakes are really impressive! Here's a link to my 2nd son's first bday party. I just made "cupcakes" out of that boxed oreo dessert - decorated to look like panda faces.

Here's my 1st son's first bday cake: pirate ship (made out of a loaf pan)

Megan said...

Hey! I love seeing the creative stuff you do! I have made a few very . . .different cakes and posted them on my blog:
Might be entertaining if nothing else. . .

Anonymous said...

Hi, I absolutely love your Gruffalo cake, am thinking of attempting one for my son's birthday but not sure I could make something as fabulous as this - you are very artistic! Your other cakes are beautiful too :)

Bec said...

Those are fantastic! Much better than my efforts. Well done.

Kids Birthday Cakes Brisbane said...

I absolutely love it!!! Very fantastic

Ash Kelley said...

you are amazing!!! I love all that you do and you have given us some fun ideas to do at home! And your cakes are beautiful! At our house we make huge cakes. I'm not very good at cakes so they are nothing compared to yours! But they liked them, here is a couple of the ones we've made so far

Ash Kelley said...

and his last cake

J.J. said...

My mom always made cakes for my birthday parties when I was little, so I am enjoying making cakes for my daughter too. We've done the train cake out of mini loaf pans, a butterfly cake (made from a circle cake cut in half and pieces turned around with a Twinkie on top for the body), and a rainbow made from half a bundt cake. This year she wants a tree. I'm not quite sure how I will do that. Some combination of circles and rectangles should work, though.