I have been baking and decorating birthday cakes for my kids for years. And I don’t think I’ll ever stop. Even though they are a bit older now they still love putting in a ‘request’ each birthday for a cake. And I love making it.
But I do remember when I first started making their birthday cakes. It seemed there was an endless variety of tools and equipment I could buy. Luckily, I didn’t impulsively buy all the tools suggested and just started with some basics.
I already had some baking equipment that could be used – mixer, bowls, measuring cups and spoons, etc. What I am talking about here are the basics specific to cake decorating.
There aren’t a lot, but these have been invaluable and I use them year in, year out. Every time a birthday cake request comes in, out they come.
In addition to the tools needed, over time I’ve come up with a simple list that ensures decorating kids birthday cakes is always successful. Some of these were tips from others, while a few are a result of my own mistakes.
Let’s take a look at the basic tools first.
Basic Cake Decorating Tools
You certainly don’t need some of the fancy tools that are available. You may find that they are useful once or twice and then languish in the cupboard. But you will need some basic supplies.
The following supplies are readily available at most supermarkets or specialty kitchen stores. They are indispensable for baking and decorating any birthday cakes your kids might request.
Rubber or Silicone Spatulas
It is best to have a range of sizes to cater to different sized bowls. The good thing about these spatulas is you can use them for regular cooking as well.
Have at least one large and one small angled metal spatula for spreading and smoothing icing.
Avoid your cake crumbling by using a small metal spatula to gently ice the cake with a very thin layer of frosting before adding the ‘real’ layer. This process is called ‘crumb coating’.
The best type are reusable piping bags with either a plastic coating or made from silicone for easy cleaning. There are several sizes available from 8 inch up to 18 inch with somewhere in the middle being a versatile size.
For small jobs, clear plastic disposable zip-lock bags are great. To use them, simply fill with icing and then snip a small hole in one corner.
Piping tips allow you to create different designs and decorations. They come in an endless variety of sizes, shapes and designs and there are some great kits available. A basic kit like this one has all you need to get started and also comes with piping bags and coupling nozzles.
These nozzles are essential because they allow you to change your tips according to the design. They can also act as a very large round writing tip for piping figures.
Gel, Powder or Paste Food Coloring
These are preferable to liquid food coloring because they are more concentrated and will not thin down the frosting. They also tend to be a lot less messy to deal with.
Secrets for Decorating Kids Birthday Cakes
So that’s all the tools covered, now here are my secrets for getting the best results when baking birthday cakes. Most of these have to do with the baking and perfecting the cake itself. Because you need to get the cake right before any decorating can begin.
Have all ingredients at room temperature
Trying to bake a cake with cold ingredients (eggs, butter, milk) will not give the best result. Plan ahead and get everything out and at room temperature before starting.
Use an electric mixer when beating the cake mixture (although very few people mix by hand these days). An electric mixer ensures a smooth cake batter which gives a better result.
Wire cake racks are essential for cooling and inverting cakes. They ensure even cooling and prevent the cake from ‘sweating’ in the pan.
Trim the top of the baked cake, then flip it over so it sits flat. Use the smooth base as the top of the finished cake. It will be easier to decorate and looks much nicer.
To stop crumbling, bake the cake the day before you need to decorate it and put it in the freezer.
Decorate the cake when it is cold. If you don’t freeze it, at least let the cake cool right down.
Cake boards are quite cheap to pick up from cake decorating shops. But, you can easily make your own and decorate it how you like. Cover a large piece of cardboard (cut from a box) and cover it with colored foil or bright colored paper.
Buttercream Icing is great for decorating cakes at home. It tastes the nicest and is easy to work with.
The only thing I have found with buttercream icing is that when you add coloring, a pastel color is the only color it will go to. This is because of the fat in the butter. For best results follow the directions here.
Cut strips of waxed paper to slip underneath the edges of your unfrosted cake. When finished, you can pull them away without smearing the cake board which will be left nice and clean.
So those are my ‘secrets’ for successfully decorating kids birthday cakes. They have worked for me and I hope they help you too.