I love celebrations. Birthdays, Christmas, Halloween, Easter, any excuse to make a special a day. Cake is among my favourite desserts for special occasions, simply because there are so many things you can do with it to make it into a real center piece. I always like my children's birthday cakes to be something really unique, based on something they really love at that time. So looking back through the years, I can see birthdays with Pingu cakes, trains, motorbikes, dinosaurs, and most recently Mario Bros. My youngest will have a birthday this summer. He wants a Mario brothers train cake. Our cakes are truly memorable, and the photos capture a small part of their childhood.
In retrospect - I should have titled this category "decorating cakes for children", rather than making cakes, as I will not be including recipes. I always use Betty Crocker for special cakes for children, but you are free to substitute batter from scratch if you wish. I find Betty Crocker, gives me a lovely, moist easy to work with cake every time. I would note though - cheaper mixes may work for cakes that are based on a simple rectangle or circle design ( no cutting), but they tend to be far too crumbly for any of the designs that require cutting the finished cake. Due to space limitations, of course I can only fit a few cakes, but the basic ideas can be tweaked to make a cake perfect for your child.
I started out with simple shaped cakes, cutting the cake to shape then covering with icing. Here a re a few simple ideas:
Cat Cake: We used this for Halloween rather than birthdays, but it would suit a child who loves cats as well. This is a very simple design made from two - three round cakes. You simply leave one cake round for the body. The second round is trimmed into a smaller circle, leaving a long curling strip which becomes the tail. If a third round is used, this is cut into the four legs, but the cat is cute even without the legs. We made this a black cat as it was Halloween, but it would look very cute tiger striped or coloured to match a child's own pet.
Bunny Cake: This uses two rounds. One round forms the head. Cut two ears from the sides of the second round leaving a bow tie shaped part in the middle. You can add the bow tie, or leave it off. Lay the ears next to the head and frost the lot. This is our Easter cake, but again would work for birthdays.
Train Cake: This one uses a rectangle sheet cake, Swiss rolls, cookies, Cadbury's fingers, and a loaf shaped cake - or a madeira loaf if you want to cheat a bit. The rectangle forms the base. A row of Cadbury's fingers with a heavy strip of chocolate frosting for rails makes the train track. The Swiss roll forms the engine barrel, and the loaf shape cake is cut to make a cab, tender, and smokestack. This really needs a roll out icing to hold all the train parts together. Finally cookies make the wheels.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar: This uses one rectangle cake and 12 small fairy cakes. Frost the rectangle cake green for grass. Line the fairy cakes up and cover with brightly coloured roll out icing. Two lolly pops make antenna, and sweeties for eyes.
Super Hero cakes: These are just too easy. A round cake with a Superman shield, Batman logo, or perhaps with the new Avengers movie coming out - the Captain America Shield. I suggest roll out icing and cutting out the shapes for a picture perfect finish.
Penguins and Igloo. This uses one rectangle cake for the base, and a second batch of cake batter cooked in an oven proof bowl. Simply dump the cooked bowl cake on top of the rectangle and cover the whole thing with roll out white icing. A small pond of blue icing looks nice as well. We made Pingu and his family from icing as well the first year. The second year we cheated and used Pingu toys. This could also work very well with Happy Feet or Club Penguin.
TOY BASED CAKES:
Over the years, I have found the easiest way to make a truly brilliant birthday cake is to use small toys. One year I made my husband a simple round cake with the Simpsons family on an icing sofa around a paper TV. Another year I made a dirt track on a chocolate cake, using two toy scramblers. This was really the hit of my son's birthday party and all the children went away asking their parents for one on their birthday. The same principle can be used with Mario Kart's, race cars etc.
This year we had our most successful birthday cake ever. It was a simple rectangle cake, frosted with white icing. On this we placed a cheap plastic castle from the pound shop, candles from Tesco that spelled out "Happy Birthday" and a number "7", as well as number of small Mario figures. We also used various small candy sprinkles to brighten it up a bit. The overall effect was a scene from his favourite video game made into a cake.
Using small toys for the cake, does add to the price, but I still find it much less expensive than buying a fancy cake from a proper bakery. It also means the children have the toys to play with afterwards, so in effect the cake becomes another present. If you look on ebay, you can find small figures of almost anything. My son wants Mario Bros this year as his brother had Mario Bros, but other ideas we considered were Plants Vs Zombies, Mario Kart, Tom and Jerry, Club Penguin or super hero figures. These are all easily available on ebay. You could also make a lovely cake with small Barbie figures . I also think a Lego shaped cake with mini figures would be great fun. A toy train could easily be set up on cake with a track made of icing. An older child could have a lovely blue square with small model Spitfire airplanes - or perhaps jets. Whatever the birthday boy or girl really loves can make a perfect topic for a special cake that won't be forgotten about as soon as the last crumbs are polished away - and custom cakes don't just have to be for children.
I've also decided to add one Halloween favourite - our Grave Yard Cake - this might do for a somewhat Gothic party as well:
This is made from a simple rectangle of chocolate cake. You frost with chocolate icing 9 The spreadable stuff this time) and cut out a medium sized rectangle in the middle, saving the cut out part. Next you make grave stones on paper and tape to the lids from old Chinese cartons. If this is for older guests, the grave stones can have witty epitaphs for the guests. In the cut out section, you place a plastic skeleton - rising from the grave, or plastic skeleton on a motorbike. Then crumble the cut away bit of cake around the grave to look like fresh dirt. You can use more graves if you like - and perhaps vampires or zombies if you want to change things around a bit.
These are just a few ideas - the thing is to make it personal, so you need to choose something really special for the person involved. And if someone were making a cake to match my personality - what would it be? I think a large stack of books or perhaps a computer screen with the dooyoo logo!