Greetings! Jessica Christensen, editor with BHG special food publications, here. I’ve had two big events in my life this month that I want to share. First, my little baby boy had his first big birthday! Second, my newest magazine, Cakes!, just hit the newsstands (for a special sneak peek, check out this exclusive slideshow with my absolute favorite recipes from the magazine). Now, I wouldn’t be a true food editor if I couldn’t figure out a way to capitalize on both of these events and wrap them into a blog.
So last Friday, after work, I set out to create two super cute cakes from our magazine for my son’s birthday party. Now folks, this isn’t my first time at the rodeo. After baking my own wedding cake (not the best plan I’ve ever had) four years ago, I know that baking and freezing the actual cakes ahead of time is important. I had completed that step the week before and almost wept with relief that I didn’t have to start baking at 6:00 the night before the birthday party. With all the decorating ahead of me, even cake mix would be too much to ask at that time of night. I’d let the cakes thaw out during the day, so now all I had to do was cut, frost, and decorate. Easy, right? Here are the two recipes I was trying to create—Race Car Cakes and Tropical Fish Cake:
I started with the Race Car Cakes. This recipe makes two cars, each of which is made from a round cake layer (like you would use for a two-layer cake), cut in half crosswise and sandwiched together with frosting. The car is “shaped” by cutting out a windshield section free hand. I decided to make one green one for the boys at the party and one purple one for the girls. Then I decorated one like the Race Car in the photo above and the other like the Flower Car Cake variation at the bottom of the Race Car Cakes recipe. The decorations included Rips licorice pieces (I think these are available at hobby and crafts stores) for the windows, Fruit by the Foot for the stripes, Tic Tacs for the numbers on the side of the car, Oreos for the tires, and Skittles for the flowers.
Next I worked on my son’s “smash cake,” which was a miniature version of the larger Race Car Cakes above. I’m new to this parenting thing, but apparently it’s traditional for kids to smash into a small cake on their first birthday and feed it to themselves. (After feeding my son nothing but organic food for 12 months, it took all my strength to allow him to shovel loads of sugar into his mouth in this manner.) This round cake was baked in a 6-inch round cake pan, instead of a 9-inch pan like the larger ones. I then cut it down slightly to make it even smaller. But it was essentially shaped and decorated in the same way as the ones above. Before serving it to him, I took all the candy decorations off. Toddlers and small pieces of candy do not mix.
Finally, because I’m a glutton for punishment, I made the Tropical Fish Cake. This is not a difficult cake, but by the time I finished the other three cakes, it was nearing 9:30 p.m. I was tired. The kitchen was a disaster and looked like a can of frosting had exploded in it. I had a feeling the whole fish cake decorating experience wasn’t going to end well. Sure enough, despite the fact that I successfully cut the corners from this 13×9-inch cake as directed and got the top and bottom fins placed correctly on the unfrosted version (as seen in picture 2 below), I could not figure out how to place them back on the fish cake once they were frosted (geometry is not my forte). As you’ll see from picture 3, below, my fish almost went to the party looking like he was deformed or swimming backwards. At that point I didn’t even care.
But, for my son’s sake, I summoned my last ounce of strength and spun the fins around (at least a dozen times) until I found the right position. My lack of understanding on how those fins were supposed to go bordered on ridiculous! I even had the photo from the magazine right in front of me. But the end results of the Tropical Fish Cake were worth my profound confusion and the extra hassle.
By the time I finished these four cakes around 10:30, I was exhausted. Luckily I remembered to put them downstairs where the cat wouldn’t get them (she has an unfortunate habit of licking baked goods while we’re all sleeping) before I crashed in bed still covered in frosting. I have a few final thoughts on these cakes. First—and I knew this before I even started—try to do your decorating when you’re fresh and full of energy in the morning. Second, all of the candies and decorations are just suggestions. It’s not always practical to buy 10 to 15 varieties to decorate one cake. Although you can bag up the leftover candy and hand it out as favors when the party is over. Third, the cute decorations and candies can make cutting and serving the cakes more difficult. If it becomes troublesome, do like I did, and remove the extra candies before serving up the cake. In the end, everybody loved the cakes and ate every last crumb. Including my main man…