Friday, February 27, 2009

Bring It: Cake-making advice

So I like asking for advice. It's so helpful! All these people with lots of experience tell you what they did and how it worked! It's like conducting an experiment without the test tubes. So I think I'd like to make "Bring It" a regular occurrence. I'm getting ready to put all of your potty training advice (from the last edition of Bring It) into practice this weekend. We've cleared our schedule, and we're going to focus on potty training (not force it, this girl has been BEGGING me to wear panties and sit on the potty, I just haven't had the time to focus on it). So we'll see how this weekend goes and evaluate on Monday.

So. Cake-making. A certain baby that I know has a first birthday coming up. I know, I can't believe it either. And for the whole 2 birthdays that I have previously navigated as a mom, I've bought cakes. The first one, my mom ordered with Katy's baby picture on it. The second one, I had an acquaintance make a Dora cake, which was gorgeous, but not delicious. So I was thinking, since we're not doing a big party (if those of you who are normally invited to our birthday bashes are wondering - we're taking a break this time), the cake would be something special and memorable that I could do for him. Actually, maybe for all my kids' birthdays from now on?

But here's the problem: I don't have a clue. Those of you who know me know that I'm no Martha. And the extent of my cake-making history is the Cake-Mix Doctor, or drawing a Block O on Brian's cake one time. (Brian always teases me about this cake because we weren't even dating when I made it for him. He says I was smitten.)

So is making an interesting birthday cake out of my league? Any ideas as to where to start? Is it really hard to cut the cake and make a new shape and ice it? Oh, man. I hope I don't have expectations too high.


Pam said...

I am with you 100% on this and would love to know how to bake. I am "bakingly challenged" too so am excited to see the responses.

By the way, can we do a play-date soon? With the weather turning crappy again I'm going slightly bonkers trying to keep jack happy.

Kelsey said...

I use the recipe in my betty crocker cook book to bake a cake from scratch - which is the safest thing for us. I would like to say that it is not that difficult to decorate your own cake, but I guess you can judge that based on my previous tries with Harper's birthday.

There are lots of websites that have clear, step by step directions on them, or you can wing it, which is what I usually end up doing.

The icing/frosting part is what I find the most difficult - probably because our "family" icing is pretty thick and can be kind of difficult to spread. Apparently the pros do a crumb layer of icing first (because, yes, no matter what I try, I ALWAYS end up with crumbs in the icing.), let it set, and then do the decorative icing on top of that.

We're also limited on what we can do to decorate the cake, because so much candy is unsafe for Harper.

For me the absolute hardest part is getting the cake to come out of the pan without falling apart - apparently I don't grease/flour enough.

I think is one place to get cake ideas, but google search any shape/object/animal you might want to make and you'll find tons of ideas.

I also really liked Erin's Very Hungry Caterpillar cake out of cupcakes that she made for one of the kids last year - so her archives are a good place to look, too.

Personally, I'm debating whether to make Michael's cake look like something or just do a regular round one, since this is the only year he won't have opinions!

Sorry for the marathon response.

Sue said...

Emily, I had a great book that showed how to cut regular round or square cakes into great shapes and decorate them to be various things. We had a sailboat, a train, a baseball, a get the picture. Unfortunately the book was destroyed when we had a flood in our house many years ago. Perhaps there is something like that at the library or online. I usually did a cake mix with some extra vanilla added to boost the flavor. I'm sure you will do fine. Grandma Sue

Mimi said...

Hey, Emily,
If you don't want to do a shape, find a simple coloring book picture and trace it on top of an iced cake with a toothpick. Jen and I have a great buttercream recipe if you need it. Fill it in with a star shaped tip (#18, 16, or 14) The smaller the # the smaller the star so you can fill in the little places. If you ever get the chance, take the Wilton Basic class and you'll feel more confident. I only took it 30 years ago to do family cakes and now I get to do the grandkids. I'm too slow to make a living at it!:) Call if you need help!

Weed said...

I love the cake mix doctored cakes, actually, and like them almost as well as homemade, as far as taste.

And decorating wise, I've never cut apart a cake and reshaped it (it gets really crumb-y and you would definitely need to do a crumb coat like someone talked about above). I've used the wilton shaped cake pans (I have Pooh if you want to borrow it...I have a flower pan too, but doubt you want that for David!! You're welcomed to it for Katy if you'd like) and decorated them with stars like someone advised above(really, really easy to do). It looks fancy but really isn't hard. There's even a tip with three stars that shoot out at once that makes it LOTS faster to do the whole cake.

When I took the Wilton class I learned a lot of little tips. One was to buy the Crisco for baking spray--it has flour in it and you don't have to grease and flour the pan. It works GREAT! I've never had anything stick since using it. I would advise the class if you're interested. I learned a lot and feel much more confident tackling these things. I'm making a castle cake for Rachel's birthday that I NEVER would've attempted before taking the class!

There's a website called "" or something close to that where you can find tons and tons of ideas for shaped and themed cakes.

Hope that helps!

Mark said...

He is a male born and raised in Columbus, OH. How can you even conisder doing anything different. He should have the block O cake every year for the rest of his life.

Maureen said...

I've been making Megan's cakes- started with easy and have been getting more daring each year.
I just use boxed cake mix (which I like:) ) but make my own buttercream icing.

Check out lots of cute and easy ideas. I did the rubber duck bath tub one for her first birthday and the cupcake balloons for her to take to school this year.

Most of my birthday memories are of the cakes my mom made for me so making Meg's cakes are important to me! I keep checking out the cake decorating class at MIchael's and hope to sign up soon. Wish we could go together!

Jen said...

I've done several of the kids birthday cakes, but am so grateful to have Mom close by so that she can make them for me and alleviate some of the birthday stress.

First, pick your theme. Once you do that, you can google the type of cake you're looking for and get all sorts of ideas. If you get something basic, Mom could give you lots of ideas on how to embellish it. Check out my blog to see Emmy's butterfly is really cool!

Can't wait to see what you come up with!

Dutcher said...

Hey, we just got done skyping and you mentioned your blog, so here I am (not taking a shower like I said!) Anyway, here are a couple of ideas:

Round cake from a mix, which will be the face. White frosting from a can. Add jellybeans for the eyes and nose. Raw spaghetti for the whiskers. Licorice mouth. Stick on paper ears and you're good to go!

Round cake from a mix, which will be the face. Brown frosting from a can. Two bought cupcakes for the ears. Jelly beans OR 1/2 eggshells with pupils drawn on for eyes. Hershey kiss nose. Mr. Potato Head mouth.

Obviously, any of the above decorations can be combined in any way! I just like that the main part is a round cake! Love, Jen

Dutcher again said...

PS - If you are having a party for an adult, you can put alcohol in the eggshells and light them on fire. My aunt did that for a ghost cake one year.

Kristin J said...

I don't have much advice, except to not make cakes like most of the ones on this blog.

You'll enjoy it. They also show really good cakes. But mostly it's really terrible ones and they are awesomely terrible.

Oma Froehle said...

After reading all these comments, I think I am with Mark. Start David's expectations low. And I think the block "O" will get better every year if you follow Mark's advice.

Just remember your first birthday cake. It was 90 degrees and we didn't have air conditioning and the top layer slid sideways on the bottom layer. It was a pretty sorry looking cake, but it tasted good and we still remember it fondly. :-)

Mommy Daisy said...

I've made and decorated all my son's birthday cakes. Actually his birthday is tomorrow and the party is Saturday. I haven't decided what to make yet this year. He didn't have a strong opinion and seems to like everything he sees.

I like finding ideas online. So far we've done Winnie the Pooh (my creation) and a barn (my mom found in a Betty Crocker or Pillsbury book). The barn turned out really cute. There are pictures on my blog, it was this time last year (maybe the end of Feb).

Another idea is to go to Hobby Lobby or Michaels and take a Wilton cake decorating class. Our Hobby Lobby is offering it for half price this month. I was thinking about taking it myself.

Kate said...

I'm baking challenged. Colin really enjoyed an icecream cake we had once. Also, if you get a store-bough one and then put figurines of his favorite characters on it-- they like that. Giant Eagle has the best cakes... and if you want to fork some out-- Mrs. Goodmans is pretty cool. In Dublin there is a cupcake bar where you can take the kids in and they can decorate their own cupcakes with icing and sprinkles, etc. I think it's called Our Cupcakery.

Kate said...

Umm... Dutcher-- you are TOTALLY my kind of baker. These sound so fun and easy!!

Dutcher said...

Thanks, Kate!
It's no fun if it turns into a chore!
Have a great week!