So we’re a little loose with our birthday themes! We like to squeeze in all our favorite things. For Miss H’s first birthday, she wanted dinosaurs. Or ponies. Or dinosaurs eating ponies. That required some interpretation. For her second birthday, she wanted a Kung-Fu Shark Ballerina birthday. I always do my best, even for my most demanding clients, to read between the lines and make seemingly conflicting requirements work. I take these birthday theme challenges seriously. At least, as seriously as I can. The hardest part of parenting is keeping a straight face.
I edited out the graphic part of the dinosaur theme, as well as a lot of the Kung-Fu part, since no one wants to deal with a bunch of two year-olds high as a kite on mass doses of food coloring and sugar running around trying out Kung-Fu. But the bouncy house had a shark on it, and the cake had ballerinas.
When she discovered that her favorite color was rainbow, things got a little easier. I created my first Rainbow birthday cake…
Aren’t these photos beautiful? My husband took them with his Real Camera. Helen liked the rainbow theme and the accidental Carousel bouncy house (they were out of whatever we had originally ordered) so we did it again the next year.
The second, Rainbow Carousel version…
This year Miss H has had bit of an obsession with hula and listened to WAY too much Hawaiian music. And a big part of her kindergarten year was spent making giant sea creatures, visiting local aquariums, and learning about whales. She begged for a swim birthday party at La Petite Baleen, which is right up my alley because I’m in the middle of a bunch of big work projects, and planning to go to China at the end of October. More on that later.
So with a little planning and shopping ahead, I spent the morning of the party putting the finishing touches on a Hawaiian Hula Mermaid Fish themed birthday cake.
The candy writer refused to work at the last minute, but fortunately I’d brought a backup sparkle gel frosting writer, which worked, if a bit blurry.
Here’s what the whole birthday set up looked like:
After making the first two cakes, putting this one together was fairly easy, but still time consuming. My sister is visiting for the birthday weekend, so she and my mom have been having a blast with Miss H, the only way I had time to do this.
The most important things I’ve learned doing this for three years in a row:
1. Bake and refrigerate the layers the night before. Painting is all about prepping the surface, and frosting is no different. If your cake is tender, everything’s a mess. Wrap them securely in saran wrap and then wrap them to each other so they don’t break.
2. Get extra materials, in case you screw up. Don’t forget the sugar.
3. When you discover at the last minute that you’re completely out of powdered sugar, borrow 5 lbs from your neighbor. Neighbors ROCK.
4. Make sure you have plenty of paper towels handy. Save the environment by not getting lots of plastic crap for favors. A few trees can sacrifice themselves for art, or at least to save your iPhone from death by frosting.
5. Use the Decorator’s Buttercream Frosting recipe from Epicurious and regular white cake mix, no sense reinventing the wheel. Red velvet tastes incredible, but the color is much more “sophisticated.” White is a perfect background for dye.
6. Borrow a frosting gun–it makes all those cool puffy, swirly shapes. I didn’t realize the colors would swirl so nicely inside the gun–next time I would do the blue first, then put more white into the gun without cleaning it to make the foam caps of the waves. Frosting guns require WAY more frosting than you’re going to think is reasonable. When you get to the checkout with all that butter and sugar, you’re going to think your list is wrong. Hopefully, you only do this once or twice a year, so you won’t permanently damage your kid.
7. Use the Sea Creatures Chocolate Mold and some white chocolate chips to make your sea creatures or other theme shapes. Make enough to have one for every kid, they fight over these every year. I usually make a few extra anyway, and then hand them out separately.
8. Check out Etsy for crazy cake toppers. I like to get just a little something and save them year to year. I’ve had fun reusing the ballerinas.
9. A three-layer cake is as tall as you can go without some type of structural support. Unless you’re an architect and that’s what you want to play with, stop at three layers. Slicing them in half and gluing everything together with thin layers of frosting helps, but mine always still lean slightly. Once they’re decorated, no one can tell.
10. Slice the cake very thin!
Alright, now it’s your turn–you get to tell me how crazy I am for my cake art obsession!