What do you do if your only daughter asks for a specific cake for her 6th birthday? You ask her to draw it for you with a description and then do your best to match it!
I will admit that this was difficult for me as I am not the best cake baker and really have no clue when it comes to decorating cakes. Someday, when I have time, I plan to remedy that by learning how, but right now, I just practice on my kids. They don’t seem to mind my attempts.
I don’t think I ever posted about Rhys’s birthday cake. His birthday was last month before Thanksgiving. He wanted a chocolate mint cake with chocolate frosting and chocolate shards. I wish now that I had written a post because it is a cake I’d make again and I don’t remember any of the recipes I used!
Gwen wrote this as part of a school assignment I gave her. She also watched me make and decorate the cake. I think she was making sure I was doing it correctly!
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This is by no means a tutorial. But maybe some of my mistakes will help someone else out who is a beginning cake baker like me.
My favorite white cake recipe is found at Sugar Spun Run. I used the Funfetti Cake from Scratch recipe since it makes 3 layers. I wanted to split each layer into 2 layers, so I could make the 6 layers I needed for the cake without having it be a huge cake that would be overwhelming. I left the sprinkles out of the cake since I was going to be coloring the layers.
I tried to split the layers evenly by measuring out batter in Pyrex measuring cups. I ended up with 9 cups of batter, which divided into 6 layers, is 1½ cups for each layer. This was not the best way to divide.
I should have weighed each layer evenly instead, because I did end up with a few layers that were taller than others. I used Wilton gel coloring as my coloring and added the gel using toothpicks until I reached the shade I was looking for. The blue wasn’t quite the shade I wanted. I think I should have added a little violet to make it blue instead of blue-green.
After the cake layers cooled completely, I wrapped each layer in plastic wrap, stacked them on a plate, and put them in the fridge for about 4 days until Gwen’s birthday.
The day of her birthday, I spent the morning decorating the cake. Gwen wanted a white chocolate buttercream. I used a white chocolate buttercream from Chocolate Chocolate and More. I ended up quadrupling the recipe to have enough frosting for decorating the cake. And even that still wasn’t enough. I probably could have used another half-batch of frosting.
I used so much powdered sugar – 9 cups – that I had to keep track of my amounts by using spoons. I was so afraid I would lose count. Gwen was also sitting at the island watching me and was counting also.
One hint: This frosting might be best as a filling or as a frosting that you plan not to decorate. Since it was very cold in our kitchen yesterday, the white chocolate didn’t stay melted and ended up breaking into chunks while I was mixing it into the butter and powdered sugar. This made the frosting chunky and impossible to pipe. Another hint: This frosting is very sweet! In retrospect, I think I should have added a layer of raspberry jam to each layer to add some tartness to the overall flavors.
I also added another element to the birthday cake: sugar cookie unicorns. Fortunately, I had a sheet of Do-Almost-Anything Vanilla Cookie Dough still in the freezer from our Christmas Cookie baking marathon on Saturday. So all I had to do was cut out the unicorns on Wednesday and bake them.
I did use the white chocolate buttercream I had just made to frost these, to save time. I would recommend using an actual cookie icing or frosting though.
I drew on the eye and mouth with a toothpick dipped in brown gel food coloring. Then tried to put the sprinkles on to look like the unicorn horn and the hair. Kind of messy-looking, aren’t they? I didn’t want to take the time to make cookie frosting, tint bowls of it the different colors I needed, then pipe it on. Maybe another time, when I’m not going to use them on a cake…
Much of my cookie and cake decorating today will end up looking like an impressionist painting: it looks nice from far away, but when you look at it up close, it looks a lot like blobs.
Honestly, stacking cake layers terrifies me. I knew that something would go wrong while I was doing this.
As you can see, the cake layers were not even and slant a bit. This will be a problem you notice in the next photo.
There are a lot of things wrong with this picture, aren’t there? The cake is leaning a bit. I forgot to brush off any loose cake bits before putting on the crumb coat so the crumb coat is VERY crumby. Also, since the frosting is full of bits of white chocolate, it’s not smooth at all. I didn’t have space to put the cake in the fridge to set so I just left it on the counter while I finished decorating the sugar cookie unicorns.
I had quite a time trying to frost this. I got a little frustrated and ended up with many, many crumbs in the finishing coat. But in the end I was able to wrestle it into some semblance of a cake. I’m so glad that Josh and the kids were out at McDonald’s for lunch while I frosted the cake.
I was very thankful for the sugar cookie unicorns because they covered up some of my awful frosting job.
The cake decorations were also a big help. I’m so glad I didn’t try to make those! I bought them off Amazon and plan to reuse them when possible!
My favorite part was the inside of the birthday cake. That is probably the only part that really was exactly the way I wanted.
But the most important thing is that Gwen loved her birthday cake. It was just what she wanted. We were able to sing happy birthday to her and she was able to blow out six candles and I was able to take video and pictures. Because that is what we will remember.