Birthday Cakes: Bring on the Magic!

I wasn’t born a baker. Nope. I’m sorry kids, when you read this, but birthday cakes are something I dread having to make the most. Just know that I do it, and try hard to do it right, because I love you.  The pressure of coming up with a new idea, topping last year’s cake, or just meeting the expectation of your birthday cake hopes and dreams is stressful! Oh how I’ve longed to be one of those Mom’s who just order from the grocery store bakery.  Don’t get me wrong.  I know plenty of Mom’s who bake birthday cakes because they want to, but I am not one of them.  I’ve had so many cakes fall apart, only to be patched back together with icing, crumbs peaking out here, there, and everywhere. Challenges aside, I can proudly say I don’t think I’ve ever disappointed them. In fact, just today, I was given a high five to “Mom Power” and told that no matter what, they would like it… unless it was disgusting. (LOL)  So with that awesome accolade, I will share with you a compilation of my past cakes, as well as this year’s Minecraft Creeper cake adventure.

For my first child’s first birthday, I tried to make a cake from scratch, using a baking powder version of an egg substitute.  The end result…was only slightly taller than a pancake.   Fail.  But hey, she was 1, she only wanted to squash it anyway!

Then I discovered the amazing miracle of Cherrybrook Kitchen boxed cake mixes.  I love, love, LOVE Cherrybrook Kitchen products!  I am so grateful for the food allergy pioneers that came before me who decided to share their fabulous creations with the world.

If you don’t have any Cherrybrook Kitchen mix on hand, you can also try making Wacky cake or a Divvies recipe based cake.

Learn from my mistakes.  (please!) Here are some tips I’ve had to learn the hard way over the years.

  •  Always (always) grease AND flour your pan to prevent your cake from getting stuck in the pan.  I use Crisco brand shortening.
  • Crumb coats are your friend.  I’m not the one to teach you what a crumb coat is, but Google can. 🙂
  • Invest in some good tools.  I am the cheapest person I know, and I try to get by without making extra purchases.  But I will tell you, my KitchenAid standmixer and my various Wilton cake tools are lifesavers.
  • Make your life easy and do cupcakes once in a while.  Let’s face it, they’re easier and you can even buy little plastic pegs to decorate them with your favorite characters.  Jazz it up with a cupcake stand display if you want to be fancy.
  • Plan ahead for unexpected birthdays by always having pre-baked frozen cupcakes available.  I freeze mine without the icing and then freeze separate single-serving sandwich baggies of icing so I can just cut the corner off, pipe it on, and go.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to bake, cool, frost, and decorate.  I always seem to end up rushing out of the house on party day, having just put the finishing touches on the cake… and still wearing some of it.

For icing, I use Pillsbury brand Chocolate Fudge and Vanilla flavors.  I’ve also made it from scratch using a mixture of shortening, dairy-free butter and powdered sugar, although the kids prefer Pillsbury’s product over homemade.  (Can’t win ’em all!)

This year I’m trying marshmallow fondant, because I don’t think icing will create the perfect squared-off Minecraft Creeper features I’m going for.  In the past, I’ve used storebought fondant, although I had a really hard time with it and that particular brand’s labeling no longer reads safe for us.  There are lots of marshmallow fondant recipes out there.  Mine is based on trial and error. I mixed about a bag and a half , or about 16 ounces, of melted mini marshmallows (we use Kraft or Publix brand) with enough (about 3/4) of a 2 pound bag of powdered sugar until I liked the consistency.  I added 2 Tbsp water, 2 Tsp vanilla, and some gel coloring to the melted marshmallows *before* I started adding in the powdered sugar .  I used my KitchenAid dough hook (grease bowl and hook well) to save myself some elbow grease and then I hand-kneaded the finished product with Crisco and powdered sugar on my hands and the counter to keep things from getting too sticky.

I used Americolor brand gel to make my “creeper” cake green.  I used to use Wilton, but was sad to see their labels now say there is a risk of cross-contamination with our allergens.  Bye-bye Wilton.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my run through birthday cake memory lane as much as I have.  Now, go celebrate!

Cake montage_edited-2

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