Category Archives: cakes for kids

Summertime cakes!

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Before the days of swimsuits drying on the back deck and homemade popsicles slip into school hours and talk of Halloween costumes, I wanted to share a couple of my “summertime cakes,” made to celebrate little girls who were lucky enough to be born in the summer, when a pool party will always make the short list….

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The first cake was made for just that – a pool birthday party –  with (you guessed it) a BEACH BALL theme! Everything was done in bright primary colors and the birthday girl bounced into age 5 with a fondant enrobed chocolate cake, filled with chocolate pastry cream and strawberry buttercream.  Mmmmm!

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The second cake was a traditional chocolate layer cake with a raspberry buttercream filling and a fluffy chocolate frosting, finished off with a smattering of pastel sprinkles. The focus here was on the birthday girl’s beloved Croc sandals, perfect for that pool birthday party with family!

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For this cake, I cut out a white fondant plaque, let it dry, and then applied the lettering and design with flood consistency royal icing. After I applied the final layer of icing on the cake (after a valiant attempt to create a flat, level top surface), I placed the dried plaque on top. Thereafter, I added the sprinkles, borders and fondant flower details. The flowers were also made in advance to give them time to dry.

All in all, these cakes served as a perfect summer past time for this hopelessly devoted baker.

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Holy Batman birthday!

Who knew if you pressed the matte photo editing button enough times, you could make a cookie look like it appeared out of the darkness, like a beacon to the masses looking for a hero? Not me. Until now:

My son Ty spends many of his waking hours trying on different superhero identities. This week – the week he happened to turn five years old – Ty is Batman. Sending signals into the night, rushing off to the Bat Cave, and requesting an all-Batman birthday party.

For his party favors, I did a simple yellow oval cookie and added the Batman symbol with the help of my new Kopy Cake projector. This is the second time I’ve used the projector and I’ve got to say, it truly is like a beacon in the night, shedding light on those shapes that simply must look like they came off of an assembly line. It’s kind of fun to stay within the lines with icing.  It almost makes me feel like I’m five years old again, only now I can eat the coloring book.

I also made some cupcakes for the party. Because he is the son of a sweet treats freak, it really was no surprise that Ty skipped plain vanilla or chocolate and instead asked for orange flavored cupcakes and frosting.

To accommodate the man in black, I made a basic vanilla cake and added 4 teaspoons orange zest and 2 teaspoons LorAnn Oils’ Orange Bakery Emulsion to the batter. I also added 6 drops of LorAnn Oils’ Bavarian Cream flavoring oil. For the frosting, I made a basic buttercream but swapped the butter out with full fat vegetable shortening. Not my first choice, I know, but the party was at a park and pool in 90 degree heat, which is just too hot for butter’s delicate disposition.

Besides, the shortening was completely transformed (trans fats and all) with a little orange zest (2 teaspoons) and 1/2 teaspoon orange bakery emulsion. When all was said and ate, the Orange Dreamsicle vibe was delightful. And if you look closely, you can see the little flecks of orange zest in the frosting, peeking out all natural like….

Finally, to attempt that fresh-from-the-bakery-feel, I made little cupcake toppers out of fondant, just like Georgetown Cupcake, but with a nod to our hero. The process was easy and born of necessity around 2:00 a.m. While sugar covered and a little delirious – mere hours before the party – I saw something shiny and started cutting…

By the time the morning alarm clock buzzed, the toppers were dry and ready to pop on the cupcakes. Which is just what I did before speeding off to the party. A hero and his butler, er, mother, can’t be late now, right?

Here’s the kid Batman in action (with a twist of Hulk):

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Minecraft fondant cake

Just this weekend I had opportunity to make my first post-primer fondant cake.  Another cousin’s son, S, (it’s a big family) turned 11 last week and he wanted a white cake with chocolate frosting/filling. And in true pre-teen fashion, S left the rest to me.  I know from past baking experiences that he likes fondant. S actually likes the sugary flat taste of fondant, which tells me that there’s a still a lot of kid in that kid. (:

While I still had S’s attention at the last family gathering, I asked him what he liked. And silly, non-gaming me, thought he said he liked the game, “Mineshaft.” While hunting for fondant worthy images on the web, I found a cute Mario Brothers/Donkey Kong knock off guy who appeared to be the hero of a seemingly obscure game called “Mineshaft.”

When I showed my husband – a gamer in his own right – the pic, he ventured that perhaps the game of S’s attention is “Minecraft.” Sure enough, when I plugged in a search for “Minecraft,” a whole slew of images popped up, including “Creeper,” the green pixellated villain eventually depicted on S’s 11th birthday cake.

Once I had the right subject, the project was relatively smooth sailing.

I wish I’d had more time to make my own fondant because I still suffer from fondant sticker shock every time I get within 10 feet of those tubs of prepared fondant at the cake supply shop. Also, despite the high price, I still have a difficult time gauging how much fondant I’ll need for particular details, such as the multicolored pixels featured on this cake.

As a result, I made way too may Scrabble-shaped squares and it pains me to think of the per-square cost that went to waste because I didn’t end up using them to create Creeper in fondant.

Creeper kind of reminds me of Gumby gone mean, stripped to his basic form:  eighties-style pixels. Who knew that the rudimentary gaming technology of thirty years ago would come back again with a sort of  simple elegance? Plus, S liked the cake, mostly because we picked the right mine game. That, despite all the mind games. (:

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Fake cake and fondant fundamentals

Almost good enough to eat.

This past weekend I took a great five-hour “Beginning Fondant” class, instructed by the owner of Carolyn’s Cake Decorating, the one and only cake decorating store in my town.  With all the bows, quilting detail, and pale pink roses, the finished product would have been perfect for my grandmother, if only she had a taste for styrofoam!

We learned the fundamentals of fondant work, including rolling and placement on the cake, storage, fondant choices and a few decorating techniques.  I had my missteps, but all in all, I feel ready to attack fondant with fervor!

Here’s some Fond Fondant placement tips:

1.  Crumb coat the cake with buttercream icing.  Refrigerate or freeze the cake for a few minutes before applying fondant.  Don’t apply fondant to a completely frozen cake.

2.  If using pre-made fondant (which apparently lasts for a year (a year!) if stored in an airtight, twisted bag (not Ziploc)), roll the fondant out like a pie crust on a silicone mat dusted with powdered sugar.

3.  For an eight-inch round layer cake, use approximately two pounds of fondant.  To keep the fondant moist while working with it, periodically dip your fingers into a small bowl of vegetable shortening (like Crisco) while kneading and rolling out the fondant.  Use the powdered sugar like flour to keep the fondant from sticking to the mat.  Move the fondant frequently and turn the fondant over a few times.  Don’t roll the fondant too thick, or it will it will be too heavy for the sides of the cake.

4.  Place the fondant over the center of the cake, allowing excess on all sides, if possible.  Place Crisco on the bottom and side of one hand and use it to smooth the fondant around the cake.  “Hop” around the cake to gently pull and smooth the fondant to prevent it from gathering in one place on the cake.

5.  When the fondant is in place, trim the excess with a pizza cutter and then cut 1/4 inch of the fondant from the bottom of the cake.  To seal in the cake’s moisture, cover the gap with fondant trim or with a buttercream border.

6.  You can freeze the fondant cake for a couple of weeks before applying decorations.

7.  Ultimately, the cake will have weak spots or dimples.  Find the worst spot and call it the “BACK.”  Use that spot to begin borders, etc.

8.  For decorations, the key is to roll out a small amount of fondant at a time.  This is because the fondant dries and cracks quickly, as demonstrated by this dusty bow:

9.  The basic tools for fondant work include a pizza cutter and  1) a silicone mat, 2) a silicone rolling-pin and 3) a small rolling-pin/modeling tool.

10.  Finally, to make things easier, a basic modeling tool and powdered sugar shaker are nice additions.

That’s all for now.  More to come!

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Magic abounds! Fairy cake and gnome and toadstool cookies

For the past two summers, a dear friend, Stacey, delights her four children and all of us lucky enough to know her, with a fairy and gnome party in a historic neighborhood park.

The party is a nod to a part of Stacey’s childhood spent in England and the magic that gleans brightest in old worlds and fairy tales.

Stacey's kids - discovering the first fairy clue!

Linnea - delighting in fairydom!

It is also a celebration of family, big and small, beautifully illustrated at the event when little families gather with others to create a giggling, excited crowd that trots along a secret path marked with glitter.

For just a moment, fairies give us a glimpse of their magic as they lead us to the threshold of their forest home.

For our respectful wonderment and quiet whispers, we are rewarded with a special treat, this year in the form of gnome and toadstool cookies.

The party also marks the number of years Stacey’s family has been together.  Last year, that number was five.  Five years since her oldest son and only daughter were born.

For that party, I made a cake that has truly become a part of me, but really is a part of Stacey’s family – or a close depiction of them – in pudgy gnome and fairy form:

This year, it was a strictly cookie affair.  As I lined these little gnomes up for pictures, I couldn’t help but imagine a tiny forest hospital ward, full of little gnome babies, already outfitted and ready for the magic and hi-jinks of childhood.

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But the party don’t stop, no (butterfly mini cupcakes)


Channeling Kesha’s TiK ToK, “the party don’t stop, no,” we are still infatuated with hot pink and butterflies over here….  Linnea’s birthday party with friends was delayed a week to accommodate spring break.

There were no complaints from me because it afforded opportunity to further explore the butterfly theme.  I settled on  mini cupcakes with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream and pink-tinted (and strawberry flavored) white chocolate butterfly toppers.  They were dainty and delightful, and our little princess was pleased as punch.


I started with mounds of pink batter, loaded with butter.

Twenty minutes later, these mini cakes deigned us with their sweet, pink crust.

Margin Notes: The night before party time, I melted pink candy disks in the microwave and piped “butterfly halves” on parchment paper.  Racing against ever hardening chocolate,  after completing one row and before beginning the next, I quickly sprinkled white nonpareils and pink sanding sugar (I preferred the nonpareils) over the wings.

Just beyond mid-way through, the chocolate hardened too much for piping.  I took the metal tip off the piping bag, put the bag (top and bottom up) in a bowl,  and popped the whole thing in the microwave for 25 seconds for re-melting.  It was all easier than I ever expected!


The next morning, cupcakes were frosted and butterflies assembled, resulting in a bevy of bright, bitty butterflies.



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All aflutter over butterfly birthday cake

My eldest child, Linnea, turns the big 0-5 tomorrow.  We celebrated with a family party last night.

Linnea initially wanted a unicorn cake but thankfully (and with only minor prompting from me), settled on a butterfly theme.  Also, she wanted white cake with strawberries and lots of pink.   What is she, like 5?

I was looking for a “nontraditional” butterfly shape and zeroed in on a butterfly featured on a poster for the release of Bambi on DVD on display at the grocery store.  Since I am only mildly competent at operating my cell phone, I couldn’t take a picture and was lucky enough to find a similar image on a free coloring page online.

When I design a kid’s cake, I bake the cake in a 13×13 square pan, freeze it and then create a pattern on newspaper.  From there, I trace and cut the pattern onto parchment paper, place the pattern on the still frozen cake, and cut the cake into the desired shape.

As for strawberries, I worried about the streaks and general mess fresh fruit can make tucked inside a cake.  So I made two batches of the swiss meringue butter cream frosting featured in Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook, my all time favorite frosting recipe, and folded in a jar of pureed strawberry jam.  This addition made all the difference, particularly because it was bright, homemade freezer jam.  The last in the batch, come to think of it.

The cake was light and delightful, with just a hint of strawberries.  We served it with fresh strawberries and strawberry ice cream, just to make sure everybody knew that the party was built on an understated theme.  (:

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