Thursday, January 17, 2013

Cake Craziness

Nothing like a whole post about cakes when I'm trying to lose some weight!  My sweet Jake turned 4 last week, and we had his birthday party at my parents' new house over the weekend.  He has grown into such a big boy, and is hitting more milestones every day--like parents always say, it's hard to believe how fast the time has flown.  Here he is on his actual birthday--we went out to dinner with Dan's parents to celebrate.  :)

my sweet 4-year-old!

Jake's party was Jake and the Neverland Pirates themed--my kids enjoy that show, but if Jake had had his way, we would have thrown him another train party (he's obsessed)...his 3rd birthday was a Thomas party.  I didn't want to do a repeat party, so I chose Jake for him, and he was happy with it.  Since I'm not a baker year-round, the one thing I really enjoy doing for my kids' birthdays is their cakes.  I had never decorated a cake before Abby's first birthday party, so I started small with a Wilton cake pan--and lots of my mom's help.

Abby's first birthday cake!

Her second birthday cake was also a Wilton pan, and this time, both my mom and my grandmother helped me out because we were running late (what else is new??).

Abby's 2nd birthday cake--Abby Cadabby from Sesame Street

Abby's third birthday party was a princess party, and Dan and I were on our own in Texas to create something special for her--we settled on a castle cake kit that we found at the store.  Dan helped me level the cake and he carved bricks in the icing for me.  He then decided that he doesn't really like doing all!

Abby's 3rd birthday cake--princesses everywhere!

I blame Abby's 4th birthday cake entirely on my mom--we were living with my parents at the time while Dan was deployed, and she and Abby went to Michael's one day and came home with the Wilton Romantic Castle cake kit...apparently Abby saw it in the store and decided that's the cake she wanted, so my mom got it for her.  I was 9 months pregnant with Alex (we literally had her birthday party 3 days before he was born!), and I spent probably 2 weeks researching how I could pull off this gargantuan cake.  There are entire blogs dedicated to this cake, if you can believe it--and thank goodness, because I never could have done it without reading what worked for other people and getting good ideas from them.  My mom and I spent 3 entire days on this cake (even my dad got involved--when the directions called for dowel rods in the turrets, I enlisted his service!), starting with 330 fondant flowers, and ending with this:

Abby's 4th birthday castle cake

Compare Abby's 3rd birthday castle cake (done entirely by Dan and me) with Abby's 4th birthday castle cake (slaved over by my mom and me), and you will clearly note that my mom is the key behind great cakes!  After that monstrosity of a castle, I went low-key for her 5th birthday with another Wilton cake pan.

Abby's 5th birthday Ariel cake

Abby's 6th birthday cake was made mostly by my grandmother--I like to make the kids' cakes every year, but I made an exception because my grandmother made me this same type of cake for my birthday when I was little, so it's a wonderful tradition that I wanted to let Abby experience as well.  I did help a little with the icing, though!

Abby's 6th birthday Hello Kitty doll cake

Update: To see Abby's 7th birthday Rapunzel cake, click here!  :)
I'll show you Alex's cakes next--there have only been two!  :)  (Update: Click here for Alex's 3rd birthday Thomas cake!)  His first birthday cake was a Wilton cake pan--I love those things, and how easy they make it for you to be successful.

Alex's first birthday--Mickey Mouse!

Alex's 2nd birthday cake is my sentimental favorite--Dan drew a picture for me, and I hand-carved it myself into the cake and decorated it all without any instructions.  It wasn't big and fancy, but it's ours and no one has ever had a cake like it!  It was the most ownership I've ever taken over a cake--my mom made the icing for me, but I came up with the idea for the cake, made the cardboard template for carving, and iced it all by myself.  The character is one that Dan created when he was in middle school and has been drawing for me ever since we first met--the kids love him, too.

meet WonderMutt--Alex's 2nd birthday cake!

And now onto Jake's cakes!  His first birthday was in Texas, so again I was on my own.  Our good friend Shauna and her cute kids were visiting from Colorado, and I actually thought I would just make cupcakes and have a small little celebration for him...but at the last minute, I started to feel guilty about not making him a cake!  I googled some easy cake ideas, and my friend Shauna and I took a quick trip to Hobby Lobby after the kids went to bed the night before his birthday.  I worked on the cake for a few hours, and both Dan and Shauna thought I was totally OCD and kept telling me to put the spatula's still a running joke.  :)  I have an affinity for this little cake, because again, it was one I just sort of found at the last minute and went for without any real clue what I was doing.

Jake's first birthday cake--a friendly dinosaur!

For Jake's 2nd birthday, we were living at my parents' house--this was just a month before Dan came home from his deployment.  It was the last major holiday of the deployment, and it felt good--throwing your child birthday parties without your spouse is never fun...nor are any other holidays spent apart.  Jake was obsessed with Bob the Builder at the time, so we actually had to get this Wilton cake pan off ebay, since Wilton doesn't make it anymore!

Bob the Builder for Jake's 2nd birthday!

Jake's 3rd birthday was the Thomas the Tank Engine party--he was in heaven.  This was probably his favorite cake!  It's another Wilton cake pan--I toyed with the idea of trying to do a 3-D train (they do actually make pans for those...), but I cut myself some slack and just went with the flat pan!

Jake's 3rd birthday--all aboard!

And that brings us to this past weekend, and Jake's 4th birthday party.  When I picked the Jake and the Neverland Pirates theme, I started googling right away for cake ideas--there's no Wilton cake pan for this theme yet.  I found the least-intimidating non-fondant cake I could find, and went with it--I've used fondant before, but I'm not very comfortable with it...and buttercream tastes better!  Again, this cake had no instructions--all I had was a picture and an idea of how to get it done, so clearly, 6 years of making cakes has made me more confident in my abilities!  My mom did a ton of the work baking the actual sheet cakes and making the icing for me, and my sister-in-law came over for moral support and to help me flip cakes and make creative decisions.  :)  I just had the job of decorating...which I did for eleven hours to create this cake.  Hover over each picture for a more-detailed description of the process!

the beginnings of a pirate boat--3 sheet cakes!

working on the wood planks
the icing was so thick, it popped my icing bag--TWICE!
working on the back of the cake

Jake's 4th birthday cake--Bucky the Pirate Ship!

Now you know why I don't want to let this cake go to waste and keep eating slices after much effort, and it really is delicious!  Thankfully for my Challenge, it will either be all gone soon, or it won't be good for much longer.  :)  This cake and the big castle cake have been my biggest undertakings--and this cake didn't seem like it was going to be all that complicated!  Oh well--it was worth it to see my little boy smile.  Happy 4th, Jake!!

my pirate, with the Neverland map Dan drew


  1. Awesome job, Jill! Love your cakes! And...glad I only had to be there for making one of them!! J/k; i'd gladly help /watch you perfect the icing over and over again, just so we could hang out! :) seriously. Over and over...

    1. I'm not sure we'd be friends anymore if you had to watch me do one of the more complicated cakes--ha ha! :) Can you believe that was 3 years ago already??