Category: Recipes

A real mom’s guide to making birthday cakes for your kids – Part 2!

(This post contains affiliate links that may provide a small commission to me at zero extra cost to you. Click to see my full disclosure here.)

 

Happy Wednesday everyone! I’m here talking about cakes again and I’m excited because this is the fun part. If you missed last week, I posted about how to bake birthday cakes and this week it’s all about easy ways to decorate them! You absolutely have to have solid, flat, delicious (obviously!) cake layers if you want to decorate a cake yourself so go back and read all those tips in Part 1 before you bake your cake.

Just as a side note, all my decorating tips are to be used with frosting. I’m not a fondant girl and I don’t think I’ll ever be one. 😉 Fondant doesn’t taste good and personally, I’m making my cakes so that they look cute but also so they taste delicious! Just taste the very best homemade frosting that I’ve been using for years (recipe down below in step 2) and I think you’ll see why.

I love to search Pinterest for cake inspiration. It is such a great idea resource! I find a few inspiration pins and then always put my own spin on an idea! You can check out my cake board here.

Decorating seems to be the scary part for everyone – I know it was for me when I started making my kids cakes. I promise though, these easy tips are all you need to make an amazing cake PLUS I’m going to share the very best homemade frosting recipe that I’ve been using for years.

Things you need:

Cake board (if your cake isn’t already on one)  (Half sheet cake size, 8 and 9 inch round or 10 inch round)

Decorating Tips – see my favorites down in step 5

Decorating Bags

Gel Food coloring

Lots of my favorite homemade frosting – see step 2

Any decorating elements you choose (small toys, candles, etc.)

Angled Frosting knife

White piping bag couplers (totally optional – I use them when I need two different tips for the same frosting color – see step 5)

Rotating decorating turn table (also optional but makes turning cakes to decorate the sides a lot easier)

 

Step 1: Trim and/or carve your cake layers

If you followed all the steps in Part 1 for baking a flat (not raised in the center) cake then you really shouldn’t need to do much trimming off the top if at all. You do want your cake layers to be as flat as possible so if you see any raised areas, just easily trim them off with a serrated knife.

 

I love using cake shape as an easy part of my design. You can do this by carving the cake or using different size cakes to form a shape. I made this Paw Patrol cake by using a double layered 9 inch round cake and four cupcakes to form a paw.

 

I made these “2” cakes for my twins by carving 8 inch round cakes and an 8 x 8 square cake with the below tutorial from Cakebaker that I found on Pinterest for easy ways to make number cakes!

Whenever you carve a cake, I prefer to do the carving with a serrated knife on a separate cutting board and then move my carved pieces to my cake board. Doing it that way prevents tiny pieces of cake from getting stuck all over your board. (TIP: I put a tiny bit of frosting on the cake board where I am going to lay my cake so that it doesn’t slide around when the board is moved!)

 

Step 2: Mix up your frosting and color it!

I’ve made a lot of frosting when I’ve been baking but this recipe I’m going to share is my very favorite. I’ve been asked for this recipe a bunch of times when I bring my cakes places because it’s really amazing.

Wilton Buttercream Frosting

1/2 cup shortening

1/2 cup softened butter

1 tsp vanilla

4 cups of powdered sugar

2-4 tablespoons of milk (I usually use the full 4 to make sure that the icing is not too thick to spread)

Cream butter and shortening together with a stand mixer or hand mixer. Mix in the vanilla. Add the powdered sugar, mixing between each cup you add. Gradually add the milk, until you reach the right consistency.

 

The amount of frosting you need to make depends on the size of the cake you have. In order to have enough frosting for a base coat and any frosting decorations I want to do, I listed below how many batches of my frosting I make up. It’s just a guide though, you may need more or less depending on how thickly you frost your cake and how many colors of frosting you need!

8 inch round double layer cake – 3 batches

9 inch round double layer cake – 3 batches

10 inch round double layer cake – 3-4 batches

Half sheet cake (12 x 18) – 4-5 batches

I strongly recommend that you mix up these batches individually or the frosting doesn’t mix properly. For example, if you need 3 batches do NOT triple the recipe in your mixer. Mix the recipe up 3 times. It’s worth it.

Use gel food coloring to color frosting in the amount you need for your design! I always use gel coloring instead of the traditional liquid. It gives brighter, deeper colors and also doesn’t add liquid to make your frosting too thin! In my experience, the color does get deeper with time. I’ve had trouble trying to mix up a bright red that just wouldn’t change from a dark pink. I used it anyway and the next morning it was very red!

 

Step 3: Stack your cakes

If you are making a single layer cake (like a half sheet cake) – you can skip this step!

If you are making a double layer cake, put a dab of frosting in the center of your cake board and place one layer of your cake with the top facing up. (The flat side that was in your pan should go against the board for a flat, level base.

Put a good layer of frosting in between them. It always needs more than I think. Nobody wants a dry cake!

Then place your second layer on top of the frosting, with the top side down and the flat side up. It’s okay if there is a bit of a gap in between the layers- you can fill that in with frosting!

 

Step 4: Give the whole cake a base layer of frosting

Before you begin, make sure your frosting is the right consistency to spread. It should not be too stiff or it will not spread easily and will pull off the top layer of your cake! If it’s too thick, just mix in a little more milk in half teaspoon increments.

With your frosting knife, take big dollops of frosting and place a few of them over your cake. Gently spread them around until the top is covered. Then carefully do the sides, making sure to fill in any gaps between your layers of cake. You want a good, thick layer of frosting. Your knife should not be scraping the top of your cake, only touching frosting if that makes sense.

If you have a small gap between the bottom of your cake and the board, don’t worry. We’ll cover that up. If you have carved your cake and find that your cake is breaking apart as you frost, you can always follow the below step for putting frosting in a piping bag and pipe on your frosting with a large tip. Just gently smooth the top out.

Step 5: Add your decorations!

This is the fun part! Now that you have your base layer over all your cake, you can go back and add anything you want. Place your frosting tip of choice in your piping bag, snip off the end and place it into a glass. Then fill up your bag with frosting, leaving enough room that you can twist it closed at the top.

There are probably hundreds of piping tips out there but these 5 are my favorites and the ones I most use.

# 1M – I always use for frosting cupcakes or for piping borders on cakes

# 12 – I use for general decorating, filling in shapes, or borders on cakes

# 3 – I use for fine decorating details and any writing I do

# 233 – Grass, Elmo’s hair, dog fur, anything fun like that. I love what this tip can do.

# 47– I think it’s purpose is supposed to be a basket weave or straight ribbon but I love using it for a border.

 

I’m not very good freehanding my designs so I love to use guides. I’ve lightly traced around cups, straight edges, etc. with a toothpick, then piped over it with frosting to make a design. I also love to print images off the computer on regular paper, cut them out and gently lay them on the cake to trace the shapes (especially with character cakes!). I traced the shield and the bone in the Paw Patrol cake I mentioned earlier.

I used a ruler to mark the web on this Spider-Man cake and traced the Batman shape from something I printed online.

And this soccer cake, I laid a smaller cake pan on top and lightly traced the shape for the soccer field!

I also love to decorate cakes with small toys or edible items. It’s an easy way to make your cake fit the theme without having to free-hand difficult decorations. The soccer balls and goals on that soccer cake and the Paw Patrol pups were perfect for those cakes. The train tracks on these “2” cakes were made with upside down Hershey bars, black icing and small toy trains. I loved using tractors and crushed up Oreo “dirt” to decorate this construction themed cake too!

 

Finally, I always place a border around the bottom of the cake to cover up the messy gap where it sits on the board. You can do anything with this you choose. Sometimes I just do dots of frosting, sometimes I try to be fancy with the basket weave tip.

** You can also use these white couplers if you want to use the same color frosting with different tips. You place the larger piece of the coupler inside your bag and snip off the end. The tip fits on the coupler outside the bag, and then the other piece of the coupler screws in around the tip to hold it in place. You can unscrew that and replace the tip with another without having to get a new frosting bag.**

Also, if you mess something up don’t panic! Either roll with it or scrape off your mistake, replace your base layer of frosting and try again. 😉 I may have done that a time or two.

That’s it! If I can do this, you can absolutely do this too. If you have any questions, contact me or post in comments! Your cake does NOT have to look perfect to be perfect for your child!

 

Happy cake decorating!

 

 

 

A real mom’s guide to making birthday cakes for your kids

(This post contains affiliate links that may provide a small commission to me at zero extra cost to you. Click to see my full disclosure here.)

 

 

Today I’m talking about one of my favorite subjects- birthday cake! It’s birthday season in our house and I’ve been in the kitchen a lot lately baking cakes, treats for school, etc. I was thinking the other day how I much I enjoy making their cakes myself but how intimidating I used to find the thought of it. And so this post was born. I’m going to share all my easy tips and I promise when you are done reading, you absolutely can do it yourself too. I’m going to break this down into two parts – today’s post will be all about baking the cakes. Next week in part 2, I will share my easy tips to decorate them.

Growing up, my aunt always made all of my birthday cakes. I’m pretty sure I asked for a Barbie birthday cake (you know the kind with the actual doll in the middle of a dress made of cake) for at least 5 years in a row. I remember being so excited to see it and watching out the window for her to arrive at my party with my cake.I never even realized that was something special that she did for me until I was in college. I somehow thought that everyone had an aunt that liked to decorate cakes. 😉

Years later, I found out that my grandma used to decorate cakes and sell them out of her home when my mom and my aunt were little. She would of course make their birthday cakes too and taught my aunt how to bake and decorate them. My grandma died when I was really little so I don’t have very many memories of her. I had always loved to bake and hearing that she did too made me feel connected to her in a way that I hadn’t before. I have always made my kid’s birthday cakes myself because I want to but also because it makes me feel close to her. I love that I come from a line of cake bakers and I like to think this is in my genes. (That’s a thing, right?)

PLUS it’s way cheaper than store bought, it can look exactly how I want it and the look in my boy’s eyes when they come down on their birthday party morning and see the cake I made is priceless.

When I had my own kids, I started making their birthday cakes and learned a lot from my aunt and A LOT from trial and error. If you have ever wanted to bake your child’s birthday cake but were too intimidated to try, follow these easy steps. I promise you. It’s way easier than you think it is!

I love baking half sheet cakes (12 x 18) for their birthday parties which is what I did in the pictures here. I love half sheet cakes because they feed a ton (30-40+ people in my experience), have an easy flat surface for decorating and are thick enough that they look great without needing to have layers stacked. However, you can follow these steps for any size cake pans. I included notes in each step for how I bake 8 inch, 9 inch and 10 inch round double layer cakes.

Things you need:

Cake pan – Wilton cake pans are always my choice (These are the ones I have for half sheet cake, 8 inch, 9 inch and 10 inch round.)

Baking strips – see below in step 2 for my cheater version

Parchment Paper

Cooking spray (like Pam)

3 cake mixes + eggs, oil and water per the mix instructions – I like to use 2 of one flavor and 1 of another but you can always use 3 of the same! **See my notes below in Step 3 for amount of cake mix needed for other size cakes**

Cake board (Half sheet cake size, 8 and 9 inch round or 10 inch round)

 

Step 1: Prepare your cake pan

 

Take your cake pan and lay it on a sheet of parchment paper. Use a pencil to trace the outline of your pan and cut it out with scissors. Place it in the bottom of your pan.  I usually don’t line the sides of my pans but I do spray them with cooking spray. You absolutely can line the sides if you want to, and it’s fine to let parchment paper stick out over the sides of the pans.

 

 

It’s tempting, but don’t skip this step. Especially with larger cakes, sometimes pieces of your cake do stick in the pan even when you spray it well. And that SUCKS.

TIP: If you are having trouble with the parchment paper curling and not staying flat in your pan, spray your pan with cooking spray so it has something to stick to. It’s not necessary, but I always do this so that my paper lays where I want it to. The last thing I want is the paper moving while I pour the batter and having half of my cake stick to the pan. 

Step 2: Wet and wrap your baking strips

Baking strips are like a hidden secret that I discovered years ago. If you’ve ever baked a cake before, you’ve probably seen how the middle of the cake commonly domes up when it bakes. That’s fine for cakes you are planning to spread with frosting and leave in your 9 x 13 pan. It’s not good though when you need to remove your cake from the pan, stack it with another and decorate it. You can try to trim off the dome, but you lose a good chunk of your cake and your edges are funky and crispy from baking unevenly.

Wetting these baking strips with cool water and placing them around your pan helps the cake cook more evenly. They get rid of the dome and the crispy edges. You can buy these strips OR you can be cheap like me. I use cut up strips of old (clean!) bath towel that I wet and safety pin around my cake pan. It does the same thing and costs nothing but is a little more work without that Velcro of the baking strips.

Step 3: Mix up your cake

 

 

A half sheet cake needs 3 cake mixes to fill for a nice, thick cake. I like to use 2 cake mixes of one flavor (here that is the funfetti) and 1 of another (here that is the chocolate) so that we can have two kinds of cake for the party. If you dump both your mixes into the pan at the same time, the bigger mix will fill approximately 2/3 of the pan and the other the remaining 1/3. It’s funny because people always love the line of pieces that are a mix between the two! Use a small spatula to smooth out the cake mixes to fill the corners of the pan.

 

I use 1 cake mix divided into two pans for 8 and 9 inch double layer cakes. When I do 10 inch double layer cakes, I use 1 full cake mix for each layer.

I don’t even attempt to make my own cake from scratch when I bake a half sheet cake because I know exactly 3 mixes fill it nicely and I don’t know how much a homemade batch would fill. I have made my own cake when baking 8, 9 or 10 inch round cakes. I’ve tried several different recipes and I’m going to be honest. They didn’t taste as good as the box mix so I hardly ever do it anymore. Because why do more work for something that doesn’t taste as good. #just saying

I have ‘doctored’ the cake mix though before with good results. Although absolutely not necessary, adding 1 extra egg to each cake mix and/or replacing the amount of vegetable oil called for with melted butter makes a more rich cake.

 

Step 4: Bake cake

Bake your cake according to package directions for 8 and 9 inch cakes. For 10 inch cakes, also bake at 350 degrees but for approximately 10 minutes longer than it says for the 9 inch cake. Keep an eye on your cakes! For the half sheet cake, I bake at 325 degrees for 50-60 minutes.

Here’s a pro tip from my aunt: The general rule of thumb is to bake a cake until a fork inserted in the center comes out clean. That is actually too long. Once a fork comes out clean, the cake is already overbaked and too dry. Once the top of the cake is set and if you gently push down in the center with your finger and it springs back, then the cake is done. That’s the secret to a delicious moist – not dry – cake!

As a general rule, I always set a kitchen timer for at least 5 minutes less than the box recommends and keep a close eye on it so it doesn’t over bake.

 

Step 5: Dump and cool

Once you pull it out of the oven, set your half sheet cake still in the pan on top of the oven for 30 minutes to let it cool. Then carefully place the cake board on top of your pan and quickly flip it over to dump it onto the board. Let it cool the rest of the way before decorating which is probably at least an hour.

If you are using 8, 9 or 10 round layer cakes, let your cakes sit in the pan for 15-20 minutes and then dump onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.

 

 

5 easy steps and your cake is baked. And it’s delicious! I’ll be back here next Wednesday with part 2 – How to decorate a birthday cake!

 

Thanks for stopping by! You can find me on Instagram here. Or on Pinterest here!

 

 

Caramel Christmas Treat Mix!

Before Thanksgiving, our PTA put on a big ‘Ladies Night Bingo’ event. Tables and tables of moms came with snacks and drinks to play lots of rounds of bingo and win fun prizes. The grand prize for the last game of blackout bingo was $250! I have never won bingo in my life (and that streak still stands!) but I had a great time catching up with other moms at my table in Eli’s preschool class. One of the mamas brought this amazing Caramel Cinnamon Chex mix which really might have been the best part of the night. I had to consciously keep stopping myself from grabbing more.

I begged her for the recipe for the chex mix and decided to make it a little more festive for the this time of year with caramel holiday m&ms and chocolate dipped ‘Santa hats’. This is the perfect treat to bring to holiday get togethers or to make for your family to enjoy with a cozy Christmas movie! I made this for my Advent small group study last week and went home with a completely empty bowl. 😉

 

It’s easy enough to make on a weeknight and my kids loved helping mix the Chex mix together and dipping the Santa hats!

Make this soon! It’s seriously yummy.

 

For the Chex mix – adapted from Six Sister’s Stuff

You need:

9 cups of Chex cereal

1 cup of packed brown sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

1/2 cup light corn syrup (spray the measuring cup with cooking spray before you put in the corn syrup so it doesn’t get stuck!)

1 cup of sugar

3 tsp. of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Measure cereal into a large bowl.  Over medium heat, heat brown sugar, butter and corn syrup until the mixture comes to a boil. Let it boil for one minute while stirring constantly, then remove from heat.  Add to the bowl of cereal and gently mix well until the cereal is coated.

Combine sugar and cinnamon. Pour half of it over the cereal and mix well.

Pour the cereal onto a greased cookie sheet and sprinkle the rest of the sugar/cinnamon on top. Bake for 5 mins then flip and bake for another 3.  Remove from the oven and let cool. Then break apart and mix with the rest of the ingredients!

 

 

For the Santa Hats

You need:

Bugels

Wilton red candy melts (OR White chocolate + red GEL food coloring)

mini marshmallows

Melt the candy/chocolate. Dip 25-30 bugels with a fork into your chocolate and place on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper or parchment paper. (It would not be a problem if more bugels than this were made. 😉 This was everyone’s favorite part of the mix!)

Place bugels in the fridge for 10 mins to let set. Once set, remelt the chocolate if necessary and dip just the tops of the bugels into the chocolate. Place a mini marshmallow on the end.  Let dry!

 

Mix together Caramel Cinnamon Chex Mix, a 10 oz bag of holiday caramel m&ms and your Santa hats! Store in an airtight container until ready to serve.

 

You better pull some out for your family because if you take this anywhere, I bet you come home with an empty bowl too!

 

 

 

Let’s Celebrate Fall – Recipes, Decor, Family Fun and More!

 

I don’t care what the calendar says, it’s officially fall in our house! My pumpkin candles are lit, we have already hit up the apple orchard and I’m searching out all the pumpkin spice in the stores. (And I’m excited to see what crazy stuff they’ve come up with this year!)

 

 

Today, I’m joining with some sweet bloggers to bring you a list that’s full of all the fall you’ve been looking for. Read on for some of the best recipes, ideas for fall family fun, decor, fall crafts and more!

 

Fall Recipes

  1. DIY Healthy Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer – Amanda Middleton
  2. A Healthier Apple Crisp Recipe – Just A Simple Home
  3. Apple Cinnamon Protein Pancakes  Just A Simple Home
  4. How to Make Caramel Apple Cider – Leggings and Lattes
  5. Pumpkin Pie Recipe – Buckets of Tea
  6. Hot Mulled Apple Cider Sangria in Crock Pot – A Sprinkle of Joy
  7. Quick & Easy Apple Cider Three Ways – Creating A Great Day
  8. Frosted Maple Cookies – Money Savvy Living
  9. Apple Harvest Muffins – Just A Simple Home

 

Fall Family Fun Ideas

 

  1. How to Feed Your Fall Apple Addiction – A Mama Tale
  2. 5 Summer Activities You Should Be Doing in the Fall  – Put the Kettle On
  3. Family Friendly Fun Fall Activities – Fashion Ave Mom
  4. 50 Idea to Make This Your Best Fall Ever – Sharing My Favorites
  5. For Everything There is a Season – Bible Journaling  – Creating a Great Day
  6. How to Have a Fun & Free Fall with Your Family – Lovely Little Lives
  7. How to Plan a Spirited Football party (On a Budget) – Lovely Little Lives

 

Fall Fashion

How to dress in fall fashion while living in warming locations – She Lives Vintage

 

Fall Crafts

  1. DIY: Fall Crafts for Kids –  Our Swiss Experience
  2. Fall Digi-Leaves  – The Imperfect Homeschooler

 

Fall Decor

1. 3 Home Decor Pieces That Bring Fall Into Your Home – Back to the South

2. DIY Preppy Pumpkins – Happy Family Blog

3. DIY Fall Hoop Wreath – Scenes from Cedar Street

 

And of course. All these beautiful fall decor designs (and more!) are available for immediate download in my Etsy shop for only $5!

 

Time to get your fall on everyone!

 

Keep up with us on Instagram here.

 

 

Cheeseburger Quesadillas

 

 

I’m here to share one of our favorite quick dinner recipes. We love any kind of quesadillas in our house but this kind is one of our favorites. My kids love pretty much anything they can dip in ketchup so this one is always a winner with them!

Cheeseburger Quesadillas

Makes 6 quesadillas

  • 12 fajita sized flour tortillas (any size tortilla will work, just adjust your amount of topping and amount recipe will make)
  • 1 lb ground beef or turkey
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups shredded cheese (we like colby jack for this)
  • Toppings: our favorites are chopped dill pickle and chopped red onion. Could also do tomato, olives, etc.
  1. Cook ground beef/turkey and drain any grease. Add the ketchup, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce and mix well.
  2. Preheat skillet on medium heat or use an electric skillet preheated to 350 degrees.
  3. Layer shell, 1/3 cup ground beef, approx 1/4 of shredded cheese, and any topping you wish. I put a sprinkling of red onion and pickle on ours. Top with another shell.
  4. Cook for approximately 3 minutes or until bottom shell is crispy, then flip and cook other side for an additional 3 minutes.
  5. Cut with a pizza cutter and enjoy with additional ketchup or mustard to dip!

We usually serve ours with a big salad and/or a veggie. My kindergartner always requests leftovers in his lunch so they are good warmed up as leftovers or packed cold.

Baked Banana Donuts

 

I am a hard core donut lover. A trait which I have lovingly passed on to my boys. We have a tiny little local place that makes the best donuts in all the land but I will say I have never met a donut I didn’t like. As much as I wish I could have one every morning, it is definitely not budget or health friendly to do that! I received these donut pans for my birthday a couple years ago and they are amazing. They may taste different than the traditional kind but my boys love them and are just as excited for any kind of donuts!

These donuts have all the moist goodness of banana muffins in donut form with a cream cheese frosting. They have to bake and then cool completely before being dipped in the frosting so for us they are more of a weekend breakfast treat rather than adding to the craziness of our weekday mornings.

 

Baked Banana Donuts with cream cheese frosting

Makes 12 donuts in standard donut pans

  • 1/4 cup (half a stick) of softened butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup milk with 1 1/2 teaspoons of vinegar added
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking Sosa
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 ripe bananas

For the frosting:

  • 2 ounces softened cream cheese
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. milk (add more milk if you want your frosting thinner and more glaze-like)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Add the vinegar to your 1/4 cup milk and set aside.  Cream your butter and sugar together. Add in your egg and mix. Add your salt, baking soda, flour and milk mixture. Mix thoroughly. Add in your bananas. (If you use a hand or stand mixer to make the donuts, I usually break the bananas in half and let the mixer do the mashing. If you are mixing by hand, mash your bananas before you add them in.)

Add batter to a cake decorating bag or a ziploc bag with corner cut off to fill the donut pans easily. The donuts don’t rise very much so fill the donut forms almost to the top.  Bake for 15 minutes or until just golden brown. Dump onto a cooling rack after about 10 minutes and let cool completely.

Dip tops into frosting, let set for a moment and enjoy!  Keep any leftover donuts in the fridge.