A Baking Story, Cake 1

As I was planning my youngest daughter's 3rd birthday party in August '09, she indicated she wanted a Ni Hao, Kai Lan theme. I found this gorgeous cake online and knew I had to have it (ahem, I mean, she had to have it):

I called a few local bakeries to get a quote. The average price was $130. Half of me dismissed the idea immediately, knowing good and well that I had no business spending that kind of money on a cake for a bunch of unappreciative three  year olds. The other half of me decided to run it by my husband.

Since I am a stay-at-home mom and contribute nothing financially to the household, I run most of my expenditures past my husband. Especially the ones that are clearly a bad idea. While I couldn't live with myself if I decided to splurge on something like this, I'm perfectly content to let him make that call, even when I know he shouldn't. (Note to self:  Add "work on personal ethics" to 2011 resolutions list).

Though Anthony usually gives in to my whims, this time he (wisely) put his foot down. So, I decided to try to make the cake myself, despite the fact that I am a self-professed less-than-average cook with zero cake decorating experience (Let me sum up the aforementioned (in)abilities with one sentence: My favorite recipe is "pull back film to vent"). I would make the birthday cake the weekend before: If it turned out well, I would freeze it, and if it was a wreck, I would buy a cake at Costco for the party.

The results weren't bad! In fact, they were pretty decent, if I do say so myself. Hardly professional, but still, passable and my daughter absolutely loved it.  Sure, it took me 8 hours to sculpt Kai Lan out of fondant and another 3 to decorate the rest of the cake, but the results were well worth the effort and it launched a fun new hobby.

Here's my version of the Kai Lan dream cake:

Once I accomplished the cake, I was on a roll, so I also baked fortune cookies...

...decorated store-bought fortune cookies...

...and made candy sushi with rice crispy treats and fruit roll ups (also found online--why reinvent the wheel?). An aside: These things were not meant to be consumed by adults as the sugar content is the equivalent of eating, well, sugar...and washing it down with Karo corn syrup. This dental napalm should be a once in a lifetime experience unless you want to end up like this.

Owl Baby Shower Cake
I made this cake for my cousins Stephen and Crissy's baby shower after seeing they had registered for the "Little Hoot" pack 'n play at Target.

Here is the inspiration for the Owl cake (and by "inspiration," I mean I shamelessly stole the idea).

Noah's Ark Cupcakes
My middle daughter, Chloe, was born on Christmas Day and as a result, had never had a birthday party with friends until last year (2009) when she turned 6. Up to that point, we always had a "family party" on Christmas afternoon. Everyone was a great sport about getting her an extra gift and wrapping it in birthday paper and we would "party" in a room at my house (usually the basement) where there were no Christmas decorations.  Still, that was only going to suffice for so long. Every kid wants a party with friends. So last year, we had a Noah's ark themed party on Dec 29, a Tuesday afternoon.  Everyone's kids were off from school, so Tuesday worked just fine since it was Christmas vacation week. Noah's Ark Animal Workshop came and all the kids made their own stuffed animals. Very fun!

In keeping with that theme, here is the cake I wanted to make:

However, I wimped out.  Even though I found detailed instructions online, I would have had to buy many more supplies than I had which was unrealistic budget-wise considering it was Christmastime.

Instead, I found a cute video online that showed how to make animal cupcakes so we went with that and the girls got to help me this time.  They were a big hit with the kid.

I had recently finished reading Life of Pi, so I was particularly partial to the Tiger and the Zebra. If you read it, you get it.

Another Baby, Another Bird...
As is my modus operandi, I found the following cake on another blog (The Good Apple) and the cupcakes on Martha Stewart's site and proceeded to copy them. Imitation is flattery, or something like that? Truth is, I'm just not creative enough.


I didn't have much luck with the baby bird eyes using a store-bought tube of black decorator icing and the smallest tip that I had. They remind me of an old cartoon where the drunk character just has X's for eyes! Oh well.

The Big 4-0
My husband has always felt his birthday should be a national holiday. In our BC years (Before Children), he would unashamedly claim the entire month of May for celebrating himself. Needless to say, I put an end to that when our firstborn arrived:  "It's called a birthDAY.  Not a birthmonth. Not a birthweek. You get a day.  If it's good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for you." 

Still, even I had to admit that 40 was a big deal, so I went all out and threw him an 80's karaoke party. It was fantastic! As an homage to Anthony's unwavering love of 80's Hair Bands, I made him a Flying V electric guitar cake at the suggestion of my sisters. It was massive. I used the star-tip on every square inch of it, leaving my hand withered into a most unattractive claw shape.

Carys Turns Four!
My mom turned Carys on to Babar and now she LOVES him. She will even watch the Babar cartoon on the Spanish channel, despite the fact that she only has a Dora-level Spanish speaking proficiency. CakeWrecks' Sunday Sweets section featured a BEAUTIFUL Babar cake:

I had pretty much no hope of replicating this thing. Carys' birthday was 2 days after the baby shower for my sister in law (baby bird cakes above) and I was absolutely exhausted. Plus, I didn't want to do the entire thing in fondant since the kids think it tastes weird and my father says it's like eating "soft leather." 

I had lots of issues with my buttercream frosting (too soft) and my cake (crumbed like crazy). Plus, I am no artist and had never drawn Babar. I didn't even try to draw him until the morning of my daughter's birthday, so I was really pushing it, time-wise. I used the same test I did with Kai Lan: If Carys recognized Babar from my pencil drawing, I was going for it. Anyhow, here is the final version, warts and all. All that really matters is that Carys was thrilled to bits!

Baby, Baby, Baby!
Up to this point, all of my cakes have been for family members only. I've had some requests to make cakes for various friends' children, mostly boys:  "Can you do a dump truck cake?" "Think you could pull off an Optimus Prime cake?" I've said no to all of these, my excuse being that I am only willing to make a cake for those who are bound by blood to love it and me, no matter how it turns out. 

However, I recently did make an exception my friend Stacy's baby shower. It was not perfect. It had lumps. It was entirely too big. But, it was made with love and what do you know? It was received in love, too!

First, a picture of Stacy's baby shower cake in progress. My youngest sticks close to my side through all cake baking experiences. This time she got Beauty, Beast, and Snow White involved.

Me: Carys, can you get your dolls off the counter?
Carys:  But they are watching their wedding cake get made.  By a giant.

Side view. I still have a lot to learn about making the sides smooth, but darn! Those lil' animals turned out cute! I copied them from the shower invitation.

Top View:  Simple and sweet.

When my birthday rolls around, I will gladly just grab a Ho-Ho and ram a candle in it for good measure.