Not Buying It – Birthday Cakes

As a child, every birthday I had a special birthday cake. It’s a cherished memory.

When I had my own child, I wanted to do the same.

Leah’s 1st Birthday Cake

 

Special and beautiful. Purchased at a cost of £40

I also bought her 2nd and 3rd Birthday cakes – less expensive ones, as £40 seemed quite a lot to pay each year.

Then on Leah’s 4th Birthday, I wondered if I could buy the base and decorate the top as her favourite princess was Sleeping Beauty?

5th Birthday – purchased base and printed rice paper topper.

6th Birthday – went for it – all my own work.

(Along the way, I’d acquired a son, and some cake-decorating confidence)

Dan’s 1st Birthday Cake

Dan’s Christening Cake

And back to the beginning. I’d always wondered whether I could have made Leah’s 1st Birthday Cake. It appears possibly I could have. This is the 3rd fairy toadstool cake I’ve made for family friends.

To buy it would cost £40. To make, under £15

The point of this post? I’m not a professional cake-decorator. Over 6 years I’ve improved my skills gradually to be able to produce a cake that, although not of exceptionally high standard, is good enough.

Perfect is the enemy of good.

By ‘Not Buying It’ I’ve learnt a new skill (slowly admittedly) and saved money.

Win – Win

Anyway… got to go, I’ve got a cake to bake. It’s someone specials 7th Birthday this weekend.

I need a couple of yellow bunnies made from icing/sugarpaste and was thinking of not buying yellow food dye. An alternative is over on Facebook. Not sure I’m brave (or stupid?) enough to try it?

{ 38 comments… add one }
  • Jenny April 3, 2012, 2:48 pm

    I absolutely love the toadstool cakes you made yourself Jo! They definitely look like professionally decorated cakes. Sorry, but they are far better than “good enough!”

    How did you make the rounded cakes for the toadstools? And what is the base? Is it a flower shaped plate? Or a foam cutout?

    You have mad cake decorating skills! 😉

    • simplybeingmum April 3, 2012, 3:01 pm

      Jenny you’re too kind! You know how it is when you make something yourself you always know the little mistakes along the way. Others may not be able to see them, but as the creator you can.
      The toadstools are baked in pyrex basins. This took a little practice, as the cakes take longer to cook than in a tin. I use 2 basins one slightly smaller than the other. The top cake has to be carved slightly underneath so when you place on top it fits securely. Again that was a lesson learnt after the first cake. Tried to balance one on top of another and it required scaffolding (aka a wooden kebab skewer) to keep it from toppling off. Fortunately my friend didn’t mind.
      The board is a ‘cake drum’. I had it made…now this is where recycling comes in. I base the cost of times per use, as this cake drum was initially a little expensive. Every time I make a cake, if it’s not going to be cut by me I ask that the recipient is careful (not to break the foil) and that I have the board back. If you buy a quality board for the first one it can be used over and over again. I also now have boards handed-down from other purchased cakes, which also reduces cost.

  • Jenny April 3, 2012, 2:48 pm

    I absolutely love the toadstool cakes you made yourself Jo! They definitely look like professionally decorated cakes. Sorry, but they are far better than “good enough!”

    How did you make the rounded cakes for the toadstools? And what is the base? Is it a flower shaped plate? Or a foam cutout?

    You have mad cake decorating skills! 😉

    • simplybeingmum April 3, 2012, 3:01 pm

      Jenny you’re too kind! You know how it is when you make something yourself you always know the little mistakes along the way. Others may not be able to see them, but as the creator you can.
      The toadstools are baked in pyrex basins. This took a little practice, as the cakes take longer to cook than in a tin. I use 2 basins one slightly smaller than the other. The top cake has to be carved slightly underneath so when you place on top it fits securely. Again that was a lesson learnt after the first cake. Tried to balance one on top of another and it required scaffolding (aka a wooden kebab skewer) to keep it from toppling off. Fortunately my friend didn’t mind.
      The board is a ‘cake drum’. I had it made…now this is where recycling comes in. I base the cost of times per use, as this cake drum was initially a little expensive. Every time I make a cake, if it’s not going to be cut by me I ask that the recipient is careful (not to break the foil) and that I have the board back. If you buy a quality board for the first one it can be used over and over again. I also now have boards handed-down from other purchased cakes, which also reduces cost.

  • Lauren April 3, 2012, 2:57 pm

    I only remember two cakes from my childhood, both of which were the ones made by my mum. I think it’s definitely worth making it yourself if you’re able to, which clearly you are. In fact, you’re doing a great job! 🙂

    • simplybeingmum April 3, 2012, 3:07 pm

      It was those memories of my cakes that inspired me to give it a go. My Mom didn’t make them, instead I remember going to the bakers and choosing what I wanted from a book – but it was always tailored to what I wanted and that made it so special. The cake was the one thing I looked forward to. What’s lovely about making them at home is that the Kids suggest a theme, then I make it over a week, they see it develop and even get involved themselves on the end design!

  • Lauren April 3, 2012, 2:57 pm

    I only remember two cakes from my childhood, both of which were the ones made by my mum. I think it’s definitely worth making it yourself if you’re able to, which clearly you are. In fact, you’re doing a great job! 🙂

    • simplybeingmum April 3, 2012, 3:07 pm

      It was those memories of my cakes that inspired me to give it a go. My Mom didn’t make them, instead I remember going to the bakers and choosing what I wanted from a book – but it was always tailored to what I wanted and that made it so special. The cake was the one thing I looked forward to. What’s lovely about making them at home is that the Kids suggest a theme, then I make it over a week, they see it develop and even get involved themselves on the end design!

  • Sharron April 3, 2012, 4:13 pm

    Amazing Jo, the toadstool is beautiful. As a self confessed perfectionist i never attempt a birthday cake as i know i will not get the perfect result. I love the message your sending out here. Funny though, do you remember the Mary Berry cake kit in tescos at christmas? I bought one when they were £2. Yesterday whilst Claudia was making her fairy cakes i started to make the cake, i decorated it this morning and was beatting myself up cos it didn’t look the one on the packet, hubby came in from work and declared the cake as ‘mmmmmmm’, so did it really matter it didn’t look perfect, not at all!! Next birthday in my house is No1 son, he’s 17 and i *may* attempt one thanks to you Jo!!

    Feeling inspired
    Sharron x

    • simplybeingmum April 3, 2012, 4:28 pm

      Home-made imperfection beats manufactured perfection any day of the week! I bet the cake was fab.
      Interestingly (to me anyway) is that I haven’t looked at the photo of Leah’s 1st birthday cake in a long time. When I uploaded it today it didn’t look as ‘perfect’ as I remember it. For example I prefer my cake board to the square one. just because you buy something it doesn’t make it superior – it took me a while to understand that.
      Please have a go at the next cake – go on! In fact I am going to post a simple guide to making (and icing – which can be tricky) a round birthday cake. I am doing a two-tier for Leah’s birthday, and the bottom tier will be ideal to take photos and do a quick guide. You could easily make a good size home-made cake for maybe £6 or £7.

  • Sharron April 3, 2012, 4:13 pm

    Amazing Jo, the toadstool is beautiful. As a self confessed perfectionist i never attempt a birthday cake as i know i will not get the perfect result. I love the message your sending out here. Funny though, do you remember the Mary Berry cake kit in tescos at christmas? I bought one when they were £2. Yesterday whilst Claudia was making her fairy cakes i started to make the cake, i decorated it this morning and was beatting myself up cos it didn’t look the one on the packet, hubby came in from work and declared the cake as ‘mmmmmmm’, so did it really matter it didn’t look perfect, not at all!! Next birthday in my house is No1 son, he’s 17 and i *may* attempt one thanks to you Jo!!

    Feeling inspired
    Sharron x

    • simplybeingmum April 3, 2012, 4:28 pm

      Home-made imperfection beats manufactured perfection any day of the week! I bet the cake was fab.
      Interestingly (to me anyway) is that I haven’t looked at the photo of Leah’s 1st birthday cake in a long time. When I uploaded it today it didn’t look as ‘perfect’ as I remember it. For example I prefer my cake board to the square one. just because you buy something it doesn’t make it superior – it took me a while to understand that.
      Please have a go at the next cake – go on! In fact I am going to post a simple guide to making (and icing – which can be tricky) a round birthday cake. I am doing a two-tier for Leah’s birthday, and the bottom tier will be ideal to take photos and do a quick guide. You could easily make a good size home-made cake for maybe £6 or £7.

  • Jo H. April 4, 2012, 2:48 am

    I knew from your previous posts, of course, that you make many detailed and lovely cakes, so I was surprised to find out the the first few above were NOT yours, because they looked to be of the same quality as the ones you did make. You are very, very good! Do you know, I’ve never seen cakes like the ones you’ve shown us – they just aren’t made around here. Our choices seem to be ice cream cake vs. regular cake. And of the regular cakes, as long as you want round, square or rectangular, you’re in luck 🙂

    • simplybeingmum April 4, 2012, 8:13 am

      Thanks Jo. I’ve never had nor seen an ice-cream cake. Isn’t it strange how things vary so much from country to country? I love looking at cakes and sometimes browse this site for ideas
      http://www.coolest-birthday-cakes.com/

      • Jo H. April 4, 2012, 9:19 pm

        If you’re interested, here is a link to a picture of the kind of ice cream cake we can get in Canada, plus how to make a similar one:

        http://sunstreeks.hubpages.com/hub/How-To-Make-A-Ice-Cream-Cake-Just-Like-Dairy-Queens

        • Jo H. April 4, 2012, 9:56 pm

          To clarify, the picture I referred to is down near the end of the recipe. (The picture at the top is an ad, I think, and it’s not an ice cream cake 🙂 )

        • Susan April 5, 2012, 1:42 am

          I have a recipe for an ice cream cake that’s similar – am assuming that you have Cool Whip in Canada. You mix a tub of softened ice cream, a container of Cool Whip & 3/4 package of Oreos, crushed. Mold & freeze this in a spring-form pan with Oreos ringing the top for decoration. This has been the most requested birthday cake from my kids; I myself rarely eat it because I don’t like Cool Whip! Not a work of art like Jo’s cakes, but a kid pleaser.

        • simplybeingmum April 5, 2012, 7:48 am

          Hmmm, okay, these cakes look a like what we’d call ‘frozen’ gateaux over in the UK. I’ve never made one… maybe something to try? Thanks for the heads up!

  • Jo H. April 4, 2012, 2:48 am

    I knew from your previous posts, of course, that you make many detailed and lovely cakes, so I was surprised to find out the the first few above were NOT yours, because they looked to be of the same quality as the ones you did make. You are very, very good! Do you know, I’ve never seen cakes like the ones you’ve shown us – they just aren’t made around here. Our choices seem to be ice cream cake vs. regular cake. And of the regular cakes, as long as you want round, square or rectangular, you’re in luck 🙂

    • simplybeingmum April 4, 2012, 8:13 am

      Thanks Jo. I’ve never had nor seen an ice-cream cake. Isn’t it strange how things vary so much from country to country? I love looking at cakes and sometimes browse this site for ideas
      http://www.coolest-birthday-cakes.com/

      • Jo H. April 4, 2012, 9:19 pm

        If you’re interested, here is a link to a picture of the kind of ice cream cake we can get in Canada, plus how to make a similar one:

        http://sunstreeks.hubpages.com/hub/How-To-Make-A-Ice-Cream-Cake-Just-Like-Dairy-Queens

        • Jo H. April 4, 2012, 9:56 pm

          To clarify, the picture I referred to is down near the end of the recipe. (The picture at the top is an ad, I think, and it’s not an ice cream cake 🙂 )

        • Susan April 5, 2012, 1:42 am

          I have a recipe for an ice cream cake that’s similar – am assuming that you have Cool Whip in Canada. You mix a tub of softened ice cream, a container of Cool Whip & 3/4 package of Oreos, crushed. Mold & freeze this in a spring-form pan with Oreos ringing the top for decoration. This has been the most requested birthday cake from my kids; I myself rarely eat it because I don’t like Cool Whip! Not a work of art like Jo’s cakes, but a kid pleaser.

        • simplybeingmum April 5, 2012, 7:48 am

          Hmmm, okay, these cakes look a like what we’d call ‘frozen’ gateaux over in the UK. I’ve never made one… maybe something to try? Thanks for the heads up!

  • Sara Tetreault April 4, 2012, 11:51 pm

    Jo! I’m totally impressed with your caking making skills. Well done! Homemade is always better.

  • Sara Tetreault April 4, 2012, 11:51 pm

    Jo! I’m totally impressed with your caking making skills. Well done! Homemade is always better.

  • Susan April 5, 2012, 1:45 am

    Jo, your cakes are just gorgeous and so professional-looking. I’ll bet they’re delicious, too! My own mom never made decorated cakes, but we had a choice of what flavor cake & icing we wanted, and she’d bake a homemade cake. This is what I’ve done with my own kids. I admire the time, talent and patience that goes into your creations!

    • simplybeingmum April 5, 2012, 7:44 am

      Hey Susan a fellow cake-baker! Fantastic! bet they’re lovely…

  • Susan April 5, 2012, 1:45 am

    Jo, your cakes are just gorgeous and so professional-looking. I’ll bet they’re delicious, too! My own mom never made decorated cakes, but we had a choice of what flavor cake & icing we wanted, and she’d bake a homemade cake. This is what I’ve done with my own kids. I admire the time, talent and patience that goes into your creations!

    • simplybeingmum April 5, 2012, 7:44 am

      Hey Susan a fellow cake-baker! Fantastic! bet they’re lovely…

  • Amy April 20, 2012, 4:45 am

    I’m about to make my son’s 5th birthday cake for his birthday tomorrow. It’s an under the sea cake . Just a basic butter cake but with section cut from the middle and nearly set blue jelly and jelly creatures in it. It definitely won’t look bought but I’ve made most of my children’s cakes over the years and they love choosing from the cake book – I get to choose the first year though 🙂

    • simplybeingmum April 20, 2012, 6:38 pm

      Amy – that sounds fantastic! I hope your little boy has a wonderful birthday…
      Please feel free to share the photo over on my Facebook wall if you’d like to, I’d love to see it! I did an ‘under the sea’ cake last November, with an octopus on top, but the jelly sounds so unusual I wish I’d have thought of that back then! (here’s hoping someone has a swimming party soon so I can try it out)

  • Amy April 20, 2012, 4:45 am

    I’m about to make my son’s 5th birthday cake for his birthday tomorrow. It’s an under the sea cake . Just a basic butter cake but with section cut from the middle and nearly set blue jelly and jelly creatures in it. It definitely won’t look bought but I’ve made most of my children’s cakes over the years and they love choosing from the cake book – I get to choose the first year though 🙂

    • simplybeingmum April 20, 2012, 6:38 pm

      Amy – that sounds fantastic! I hope your little boy has a wonderful birthday…
      Please feel free to share the photo over on my Facebook wall if you’d like to, I’d love to see it! I did an ‘under the sea’ cake last November, with an octopus on top, but the jelly sounds so unusual I wish I’d have thought of that back then! (here’s hoping someone has a swimming party soon so I can try it out)

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