When Athos celebrated his first-ever birthday at school (aged 3), I bought a magnificent chocolate cake for the whole class from the delectable selections at Room For Dessert.
Thing is, it set me back by something like $45 .
I rationalised that:
- With three kids and Heaven-knows-how-many birthdays ahead, this practice was not going to be sustainable.
- What kids really care about is how the cake looks. The taste, not so much.
- Making a cake could be a thoroughly fun activity for mother and child, BUT I had to find some way around my feeble kitchen skills.
And once again, invention (with necessity as her ever-faithful mother) came through. The solution?
- Cake mix. You can, of course, bake from scratch. But if you’re a culinary dunce like me, why torture yourself. And if your kids are like mine, the fun part is the decorating. I like Betty Crocker ($4.59) for great taste and fail-safe outcome, though I’ve also used cheaper brands before. For even less fuss, just buy a sponge/pound cake from any supermarket.
- A dead-easy icing recipe. You can find any number on recipe websites. The one I use – use a mixer to combine 125g butter (half the standard block), 1 cup icing sugar, 1-2 tbsp of water or milk. Assuming you used one pack of Betty Crocker, that should give you enough icing to cover the cake. Use food colouring to get whatever shades you need.
- Sugar and spice and all things nice. Here is where it gets fun. No need for fancy baking goods. Think about how you can use regular store-bought stuff to get the effect you want. I’ve used Glico Pocky, M&Ms, crushed crackers, chocolate, marshmallows and biscuits. You can also put favourite toys, or even the birthday gift itself, onto the cake.
Get your kid involved. Ask them what they want the cake to look like, what colours they want, what they could use to create the final thing. Here are some pictures of cakes made by me or people I know. They aren’t professional, but they were a lot of fun in the making!
Athos’ 4th birthday. The train on the left was his birthday present!
Tracks made of Glico Pocky.
Porthos’ 3rd birthday. Cake made by beloved Auntie D. Tracks are Glico Pocky again, and coal (if I remember right) is actually chocolate.
Athos’ 5th birthday. Cake was designed by Athos, colours and all (it’s a kite, in case it’s not immediately obvious….)
Porthos’ 3rd birthday. The dolphin was his gift. The “beach” effect (which is behind the dolphin and can’t be seen clearly in this picture) was made using crushed graham crackers.
Athos‘ 6th birthday. Again, designed 100% by Athos. M&Ms, chocolate squares, biscuits for the smoke, and a little anchor made of foil on the right!
7th birthday of a friend of ours. The Lego toys on the cake were his birthday present, and he got to decorate the cake himself.