2018 Birthday Cakes

In 2018 I made a few cakes in addition to teaching my oldest daughter to make a few. I didn’t take enough photos during the process but thought I’d share them regardless. Hopefully this will provide some guidance and if nothing else, confidence to some of you to DIY a birthday cake.

Highway Unicorn Cake

My daughter (bless her heart) enjoys watching baking shows with me. Our favorite shows would have to be the Netflix Original Nailed It because well Nicole Byer is hilarious. We also really enjoyed binging Zumbo’s Just Desserts. Between the baking shows and her perusing Instagram she decided for her 13th birthday she desperately wanted what is called the ‘Highway Unicorn Cake.’ It’s as crazy as it sounds but oddly enough one of the easier cakes I have done. I really enjoyed making this one and REALLY enjoyed seeing her reaction to the finished product.

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For this cake I used a 9″ round cake pan. I bought boxed cake mixes although I did tweak them so they taste like a bakery cake. (Use butter in place of oil and double it, milk in place of water, double the amount of eggs). I then divided the cake batter in small bowls and then colored it. After greasing and flouring the pans I put dollops of the various colors into the pans to create a colorful camouflage affect. It was a lot of work but turned out pretty well.

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Then after they were out and cooled I wrapped them in clear wrap and popped them in the fridge to prep them for frosting. A few hours later I took out the layers and frosted between each layer with butter cream. I then put a layer of icing around the edges and wrapped it all again with clear wrap and refrigerated it over night. The next day I made more butter cream and tinted each color. Using a pipping bag without any tips I pipped frosting around the cake doing 2 rows of each color. Then I went back with a triangle tool I have and scraped the edges. As I did this the colors bleed into one another creating the pretty sunset appearance. Before the frosting dried a pressed sprinkles into the bottom layer and then sprinkled more around the edge of the cake stand. After cleaning up here and there I used melting chocolates and then drizzled it around the edges. After allowing the chocolate drizzle to cool in the fridge it was time for the gold. I used some edible metalic food paint (I got mine on amazon) and painted the now hardened drizzle. This took the most time because it was so small and detailed. Finally I used the remaining pink butter cream with the Wilton 1 M tip to decorate the top and placed macrons on the top and added a bit more sprinkles for the last decoration. I must confess I did NOT make those macarons. I had my wonderful husband pick them up from Macarons by Maddie Lu at the Mall of America. They were so beautiful and so delicious and so worth purchasing. If you want the recipe without a video check out this one at Copy Me That. (see more of Lauren’s Birthday in the Unicorn Birthday party post)

Portal Cube Cake

My boys ask for some of the craziest cakes. I have made a few Minecraft cakes over the years but as they have matured in age so has their taste in games. I have done a portal themed party and can now add Portal 2 to my list. My 9 year old asked for a portal 2 theme this year and decided he wanted a cake ‘cube’ cake. I had no idea what I was in for screen shot 2019-01-24 at 2.00.45 pmuntil I saw a cube plush online (left), So this is what I came up with (right).

I used a 3″x3″ square cake pan making 3 layers with buttercream frosting between each layer. Then I use the remaining batter to make cupcakes. I cored out each cupcake so they could fit nicely on each of the corners. I cut straws and inserted them into the corners then pushed the cupcakes onto them so they would stay. I then tinted the buttercream frosting and made stars all over the cake with the exception of the pink lines and hearts. I used a basic tip for that. In the end my son was happy with how it turned out so I’d call it a win.

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Cookie Cake

My oldest daughter Lauren was once again scrolling through Instagram and saw what is apparently a ‘thing’ they call cookie cakes. It’s a giant sugar cookie cut out layered with frosting and then topped with another giant sugar cookie cutout. She decided it would be fun to make one for her little brother Matt who was turning 11. I thought it might be a good learning experience.

It looked cute enough but would it taste awesome? I like chewy cookies so I was concerned it would be a crunchy mess of crumbs. I was so wrong. My go to for cookie recipes is Sally’s Baking Addiction so I looked through her recipes and found a chocolate sugar cookie recipe. Since Matt loves mint Oreos we decided to make it chocolate with mint frosting in the middle. We used paper to create the numbers we wanted in the size we desired. Then I taught my daughter my not so secret trick of using the template to then cut out what we would need from waxed paper. She rolled out the dough and carefully cut the numbers and then baked them. While the 4 numbers were cooling she whipped up a batch of mint buttercream frosting  using a recipe from Baking with Blondie. Let me tell you this frosting is Ah-mazing! It’s so delicious I can’t even find the words. It was perfect.

After plenty of time to cool Lauren laid out the first two cookies then using the large round tip she made what looked like small Hershey kisses all over the cookies. After covering both of the cookies she then laid down the second layer of cookies and repeated the frosting. After completing the frosting she placed mint Oreos on the top with a few chocolate chips for decorative flare.

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We all enjoyed the cake and hands-down I would make another one. It was delicious and a perfect alternative for anyone who has a sweet tooth but isn’t a fan of cake. As you can see both kids were happy with the end result.

Unicorn Cake

Lauren had so much fun making the cookie cake and while watching Nailed It was inspired to make a unicorn cake herself. She really enjoys learning to decorate cakes although her perfectionist personality can get the best of her. She tweaked a couple box cake mixes for the actual cake and tinted the batter so each of the layers was a different color. She then made some homemade buttercream frosting. After hours of tedious decorating she made some fondant for the unicorn’s horn. (she really enjoyed learning to use a variety of tips to make various designs and flowers). We rarely make fondant the hard way so we used the cheat method and made the marshmallow fondant. She used the marshmallow fondant for both the horn and the ears. After rolling it up on a straw she painted the horn with some gold edible metalic food paint. She also painted the inside of the unicorn’s ears. Despite a few hiccups it went well and she learned a lot. Here is how it turned out. 48270566_10157039405973447_5682499585264582656_n

Team Umizoomi UmiCar Cake

My little 2 year old is really into Team Umizoomi thanks to Amazon Prime Video. Naturally for his 3rd birthday he wanted a Team Umizoomi Birthday celebration. He really likes UmiCar and wanted an UmiCar birthday cake.screen shot 2019-01-25 at 2.38.18 pm

I thought that should be easy enough because I could always frost UmiCar on a round cake; however, that seemed too basic. I decided I wanted to make an actual car. As luck would have it while thrifting with my husband we found a wilton car cake pan (Wilton 3-D Cruiser Cake) and got it for $2.50. It was perfect. I looked up the directions online and found them on the wilton website.Screen Shot 2019-01-25 at 2.47.59 PM.png

As per my usual I tweaked a boxed cake mix and baked the cake according to the wilton directions. After the cake car cooled I took to it with a sharp knife and a spoon to hollow up portions of the cake to look more like UmiCar. While the cake was cooling I make a couple batches of home made butter cream frosting, (buttercream recipe.) After allowing it to cool I did a layer of crumb frosting to clean it up a bit. After 30 min in the fridge I went back using the wilton #18 star tip filled the cake it with stars using the appropriate colored buttercream frosting.

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I used a small round tip for the eyes and mouth and finished it off by placing the 3 Umizoomi characters inside. Isaac loved the cake and we all loved eating it!

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Baking birthday cakes is a labor of love. They aren’t perfect but they are made with love. I hope that you feel the urge to give it a whirl and bake one for someone you love.

Happy Baking!

~Menne Mama

Star Wars BB8 Cake

IMG_1084I have all of my birthday party supplies organized in large zip bags stored in 2 large totes in a closet. This works great to reuse items, mix n’ match crepe paper, balloons and other small items to save money. I have some favorites, as do the kids (I cannot tell you how many Thomas the Train or John Deere parties we’ve had). So when my 5 year old decided to go with a Star Wars theme for his 6th birthday I was elated. I hadn’t used my Star Wars party supplies in 10 years!! So I happily pulled out all of the saved items and began planning. The party we had 10 years ago was a much bigger party which included a fun menu (Jedi Juice, Leia Lemonade, Yoda Soda, Hoth Dogs, Jabba Jello, Light Saber Pretzel Sticks, Wookie Cookies, Naboo Nuggets), Star Wars games (Jedi Training, pool noodle light sabers), a Darth Vader Piñata and an official Jedi Certificate. This time around was a bit more low key. (We have a big party when they turn 5 with lots of friends etc. and then smaller birthday celebrations with 1 or 2 friends for all other parties as we feel they enjoy it a bit more with less kids and commotion.) Anyway…….

As I was planning I checked with the birthday boy about what he wanted for the menu and what kind of cake he wanted. After much debate about the menu he took no time to decide he wanted a BB8 cake. So I assumed I could just do 2 round cakes (one small and one larger) to look like a BB8 laid down and we were good to go. The birthday boy had other ideas. He explained while that while that would be cool a 3D BB8 cake would be “Even more aaawwwesome!” He then quickly drew up some step by step instructions as to how I could make such a cake.IMG_1083

I explained how I was nervous about it’s structure being sound but he assured me that I could handle it. After a few laughs I decided my 5 year old’s faith in my baking ability was enough to give it a go.

IMG_1013I started out with my Betty Crocker Bake’n Cake Pan. It seemed to be about the same size as the BB8  plush he had. I was stuck on how to make BB8’s head though. While shopping at my favorite dollar store The Dollar Tree I found these small class bowls that were not only perfect for ingredients while baking they were exactly the size I needed to make BB8’s head! And a set of 2 for $1?? -heck yeah!

It took 1 1/2 cake mixes to make half of BB8’s body and his head and then another 1 1/2 cake mixes to make the second half of BB8’s body. All in all the baking was very simple. I hadIMG_1012 to bake 2 rounded cakes, 2 insert pans and then 2 of the small
class bowls. I placed the small glass bowls on a tray incase they overflowed. I followed the instructions from the bake’n fill set and all of the pieces turned out great.

After baking I let them all cool. Once I was able to frost the crumb layer I put the insert cake piece into the rounded pice and then wrapped them in clear wrap before putting them in the fridge to set.

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Left: Insert Cake Right: Round Cake

The next day I was ready to build the cake and do the final later of frosting & decorating. IMG_1071

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1072I started by cutting off a small portion of the top of one of the rounded pans so when inverted it would sit without wanting to roll. I wanted to be sure BB8 wasn’t going to roll away ;).

Then I inverted that base piece, frosted the flat portion to ‘glue’ the two base pieces together. After a nice layer of frosting I placed the IMG_1073second base on top making a nice round cake ball. (This is what I did 10 years ago when my first born asked for a Death Star cake).

I then frosted to fill in the gaps around the ball.

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After trying to get the sides as smooth as I could I was ready to prep for the pipping. I used the lid of a tub of frosting to make 4 initial circles that would later be pipped.

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I decided it would be easier to do the pipping on the base before putting BB8’s head on so I got started right away. I used chocolate frosting with black Wilton coloring to make the black (starting with chocolate saves on the amount of coloring to make black). I used vanilla frosting with a touch of the black Wilton coloring for the gray and then vanilla with some orange Wilton coloring to make the orange color.  I used the plush BB8 as a guide and got started. You can see a round wooden piece under the cake base. This is actually a Lazy Susan I got from Ikea which works great for spinning cakes as I decorate.

IMG_0444As you can see I did all the pipping on the base including writing ‘Happy Birthday’ on the base BEFORE putting the head on. Crazy? Possibly, but it worked for me.

SO then I took a couple plastic straws and cut them to place into the base for additional support. In the past I have used disposable chopsticks from a restaurant but I didn’t have any on hand so I decided to go rouge ;).

I gently placed the head on BB8 which was a messy task butIMG_0446 a simple hand-washing remedied the situation.

IMG_1076Finally I added the details to the BB8’s head. I finished with 2 silver candles. I cut the base of one of those candles to make it look more authentic to BB8’s antennas.

 

Boom, DONE!

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IMG_0448My favorite was when he got home from school and was able to see the finished product. He was pretty excited with how it turned out. I guess mama can follow directions. 😉

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As you can see it’s a lot of cake but it was yummy and he was one happy birthday boy.

 

Happy Baking Friends,

May the force be with you!

~M

 

 

Yummy Fresh Bread (step-by-step)

I love to bake and with a big family we eat a lot of bread. I started making our bread a number of years ago and have tried a few recipes and methods and have settled on this one. For me baking loaves of bread is super cheap, easy and very enjoyable. I promise it’s easier than you think. Who doesn’t love the smell of fresh baked bread?!?!? This just might be your gateway to homemade pizza & cinnamon rolls. 😉

If you are a regular reader you know I am an Aldi shopper. They sell yeast packets which make this super easy. I buy my bread flour in bulk at Sam’s club but it’s also sold at Walmart in large bags. (I have found the cheapest price is at Sam’s though) Aldi also carries sugar, salt and shortening. You can find bread pans at your local thrift store or buy them new at your favorite store. I find the thrift stores have nicer pans and a good selection of size. If you are really ambitious you can order larger bread pans & bread bags online. I have 4 larger pans myself but don’t order bags anymore. (They were great, I’m just too cheap)

Traditional White Bread

What you need:

Bread Flour (If you are curious as to why bread flour here you go: Baking 101)

White Sugar

Salt

Lard/Crisco/Shortening (you may substitute with butter or vegetable oil)

Water

#2 9×5 pans

cooking spray

clear wrap or a light cloth

thermometer

Large bowl

Ingredients

I like to start by measuring out all of my ingredients. I use small custard cups and a couple pyrex liquid measuring cups to hold the ingredients. I also like to line them up in order of use. 

  • 2 packets of active dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 Cups warm water (110 degrees F )
  • 3 Tablespoons of white sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons shortening melted
  • 6 1/2 Cups of Bread Flour

Step-by-Step Directions

1. Measure out your ingredients

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2. Spray the inside of the large mixing bowl

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3. Attach a dough hook to your stand mixer (you can use a wooden spoon but I assure you the stand mixer will make this much easier)

4. Empty the 2 packets of yeast into a stand mixing bowl (or large mixing bowl)

5. Pour in the sugar

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6. Pour in the warm water.

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7. Start the mixer on ‘stir’ or the lowest setting. Let it mix/stir until the yeast and sugar dissolve.

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8. Add the shortening and salt

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9. Add the flour 2 cups at a time until it reaches a ‘dough’ consistency. 

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10. It takes roughly 6 minutes to kneed in the stand mixer.

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11. Turn it out onto a floured surface. (I use a large cutting board (18×20 3/4″) I found at Ikea). 

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12. Kneed it by hand until smooth and elastic. (I tend to do about 4 turns and it’s ready; however, if you are not using a stand mixer you will need to kneed it by hand for about 8 minutes or so)

*You want to be able to push on it with a finger and it bounces back rather than leaving an indent.

 

13. Make the dough into a ball and place it in the greased bowl.

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14. Cover with clear wrap or a light towel. Let it sit for an hour. It will double in size. 

15. Spray your bread pans with cooking spray (be thorough so the bread doesn’t get stuck)

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16. Punch down the dough.

17. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface.

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18. Cut the dough in half and place one piece in each of the bread pans. 

 

*You can roll it up, tuck it under or just drop it in. The appearance is up to you. I used to make 2 batches (1 white and 1 wheat) and then make a swirled loaf but my kids prefer the plain white bread.

19. Cover the loaves with loosely clear wrap or with a light cloth (you want it to have the space to rise so don’t let the clear wrap get too tight)

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20. Let the loaves rise for 45 minutes

21. Move your oven racks down to allow for room for the bread to rise and then preheat the oven to 425 degrees F

22. Remove the clear wrap or light cloth and place in the oven. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes

23. Remove from the oven and place them on their sides. As they cool remove the bread from the pan and then place on the other side to cool. (This is so it doesn’t get too moist on the sides)

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24. Slice and enjoy!

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This may seem like a long process based on how I laid it out here but I assure you that it gets faster and easier each and every time you make it. I started out taking my time and needing to read everything step by step but now I don’t need a recipe anymore and it goes so fast. Give it a whirl!