Friday, March 11, 2011

No more store-bought birthday cake!

BonnieBlue will be four this Sunday.

I promised myself when we adopted BonnieBlue that I would NEVER buy her a store-bought birthday cake. One of my fondest memories of my mother is that she made our birthday cakes for us. Sometimes quite cool; more often just a 9x11 inch single layer with "Happy Birthday [name]!" That's a memory I hold dear.
Didn't take long to cave on that promise to myself (as is true with oh-so-many of those). I made her first birthday cake. I've tried to find a picture; I know I took one. But I can't find it. No biggie. It was a typical 9x11 with pink and cream (store-bought) icing. Her second birthday, though, was a bit of an event. I was extremely busy that year, so a friend offered to throw her the party and another friend offered to buy the cake. God bless such dear friends.

But never again, I said that year. So here is her 3rd birthday cake.

Yeah, I know. I rocked the house with this cake. It's Belle, from Beauty and the Beast. I think I blogged about it, but I'm too lazy to check. Although, maybe I haven't been blogging that long. I think I took step-by-step pics, so I'd be happy to provide a tutorial if anyone cares. Here's a close(r)-up with a screen shot I used as a model.

She didn't even like dolls, but I'm an overachiever sometimes.

I almost caved again this year. I was going to "cheat" by buying a Costco round layer cake and just put tiny horses on top (she's nuts about horses, thanks to me...I've encouraged this, being a horse-nut myself).
These Costco cakes are supposed to be so good, some people buy them as their wedding cakes. Well, I went earlier this week to price them but couldn't bring myself to buy such a huge cake! BonnieBlue's party will be very small this year: Grandma, Uncle JoJo, one friend and that friend's parents, and us. The Costco cake could feed 20, easily. Also, it was $17.99. Yikes.

So I went to Kroger. $7.99 for a single-layer chocolate cake. Now, I can make a cake for less than that (mix= $.99, 2 tubs of store-bought icing @$2.39 each for a total of  $5.77), but factor in my time and it'd be well worth the price. But when push came to shove, I just couldn't do it. I want homemade birthday cakes to be one of our family traditions.

So here's what I did.

I made 2 round cakes. I used wax paper for easy removal and low crumbing. I froze the cakes for 3 hours. This step is critical. Reduces the crumbing and you can handle them easily.

Cakes tend to mound when they bake. I remember my mom dropping a cake pan with batter in it from waist high to the floor to 'flatten' out the batter. I don't know if it worked, but I've taken on the habit. Only I drop it onto the counter, though. Unfortunately, the cakes still 'mounded.' So I shaved off the mound (that's what you see in the foreground here). Bonus, though, as frozen devil's food cake is awesome! It may go on my island. See earlier post here called My Food Island (from Wed. Feb. 9 of this year).

I placed the first layer top-side down for a flat surface to sit the top layer on. I used store-bought tub icing (homemade icing is not at all my forte), in this case Betty Crocker milk chocolate made with Hershey's. I am not an icing person, but I was eating this from the tub. Yes, it's that good. I iced the top of the bottom layer to the edge. I placed the second layer top-side up so that it was flat surface facing flat surface. This is important for when the cake warms to room temp. This reduces the chance the top layer will slide around (and possibly off), which by the way my catered wedding cake did.

When you bake round cakes in wax paper, the edges aren't smoothly round so sometimes I take a knife and round off the sides of the cake. You would do ths step after assembling the layers. A frozen cake makes this much easier and less messy (those pesky crumbs, you know). But given I was mimicking a field or meadow or something, I didn't mind the rustic nature of not-so-even edges. Besides, icing can really mask that flaw.

The other tub of icing was fluffy white. I colored about half of it green to mimic grass for my horses and iced the top of the cake. Then I took the rest of the chocolate icing and iced the sides. I have learned not to be a perfectionist when it comes to icing a cake. I am all about it actually looking homemade.

I'd been trying to figure out a way to make a fence. I'm not happy with what I came up with, but hey, she's four. She's not gonna' care. Rhett made a comment when it was done and I about knifed him with butter knife I used to ice the cake. I reminded him that a husband's job was to be supportive when wifey is being creative, and he apologized quickly, adding an appropriately appreciative remark.
 Here's the completed cake:

I had to abbreviated 'birthday' because I hadn't planned on writing on it. And the gel stuff was a little too thin to be neat; I am actually quite adept at writing with an icing bag, but again, she's four, what will she care. I also don't have the energy or know-how to fuzz out her name, so oh well, anonymity foiled for this entry.

It's not a doll cake, but it's homemade, and truth be told, looks a heckuva lot better in person.

I swear, if this child as an adult doesn't say a hundred times how much she loved it that her mom made her homemade birthday cakes, I'm going to haunt her.


  1. Wow, that Belle cake really rocks the house all right! I have long admired those and would love to learn how to do it. I love the horse cake! Thanks for the great tutorial! You have a lot of tricks I didn't know. I'm clueless about all of that. E has never had a store bought cake either....L takes care of it all!

  2. God bless that husband of yours. Rhett bought the balloons. The doll cake is really fun. I bet with your creative bent, you could easily do it. All it requires is a 'dress-shaped' cake pan. I'll post the tute someday, because I never did find a satisfactory one online when I made it. You can have L bake it and you decorate it.


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