One of my favorite pastimes is letting the house get quiet, breaking out the mixer, whipping up some homemade buttercream, and decorating birthday cakes for my kiddos. As a mom, I don’t have a lot of time to indulge in hobbies, but baking and decorating cakes for my kids is one that I make sure I take time to do for each birthday. For me, it is beyond worth the time spent choosing a fun design and executing all of the special details. I’ll let you in on a little secret . . . cake decorating is actually super easy, seriously! Here’s a step-by-step guide to becoming a mom who can whip up an awesome birthday cake.
Get on Pinterest, my friend. Millions of ideas are waiting for you to see and get inspired. I like to look up my birthday theme and start scrolling. For instance, enter “kids cowboy birthday cake,” and wow, you’ll be overwhelmed with fun cakes. I usually pick a few ideas, and then build my own version.
Pick your favorite box cake mix and bake according to the directions, (Do NOT overbake, you want a moist cake!) I always use a box cake because they are always good and for crying out loud . . . I am making homemade buttercream so I have an excuse to take a shortcut, and a box cake is a yummy one. Once the cake is baked, depending on your plan, you may need to cut out a design. The easiest way for this amateur to carve a design is to print the design, cut it out, and place the paper on the sheet cake and cut away — lo and behold, a perfectly carved shape. Once the cake is the shape you want, cover it in plastic wrap and place in freezer for one to two hours.
Make your homemade buttercream. This is key! Homemade buttercream elevates your box cake to delicious levels.
*see bottom of post for two recipes*
Crumb coat. This is a very important step. Take your cake out of the freezer and add a thin layer of frosting to your cake to smooth and ensure you don’t have any cake crumbs making your cake bumpy. For heaven’s sake, you do not want a bumpy cake!
Decorate. I use various wilton bags and tips from Hobby Lobby. Most of the time I solely decorate with buttercream, but sometimes the cake calls for some other fun decorating materials. In this train cake I used buttercream as my base and then molded fondant into cute train and background designs. Then for Rhett’s 5th camping birthday I needed dirt, so I crushed up a box of Oreos and rolled the cake in the “dirt” after a more generous crumb coating. For the camping cake, I used chocolate cake mix and marshmallow buttercream as a nod to s’mores. See below for recipe.
Stick your adorably decorated cake in the fridge until it’s party time. You did, it mama! Not only will you have a cake to be proud of, but it will taste delicious too!
Easy Vanilla Buttercream
1 Cup butter (salted, softened)
4 Cups powdered sugar (The pros say to sift, but girl, I have never sifted, and my buttercream is always perfect.)
1 Tbsp vanilla extract (I use my brother’s homemade vanilla. Oh my gracious, so good. But you can use a good vanilla extract of your choice.)
4 Tbsp whole milk (Add two, three, then four mixing in between.)
Beat your butter for two minutes, add powdered sugar and vanilla, continue beating (slowly at first, so you don’t get sugar EVERYWHERE), add milk a tablespoon at a time. If your buttercream is too thin, add a little powdered sugar. If you buttercream is too thick, add another tablespoon of milk. Consistency should be fairly stiff, yet easy to spread.
1 Cup butter (salted, softened)
4 Cups powdered sugar
1 Jar marshmallow fluff (larger container depending on brand, approx. 13-16oz)
Beat your butter for two minutes, add powdered sugar, continue beating (slowly at first, so you don’t get sugar EVERYWHERE), add marshmallow fluff. If your buttercream is too thin, add a little powdered sugar. If your buttercream is too thick, add another tablespoon of milk. Consistency should be fairly stiff, yet easy to spread.
I’d love to see some of your birthday cakes . . . even if they are considered cake disasters (we ALL have those!). Post pics in the comments!