When we were growing up, my mom would always let us pick a theme for our birthday cakes. It was always really fun, but looking back, it also had great benefits for us, too. It helped us use our creativity and we enjoyed making something with mom. It was another opportunity for us to play together and strengthen our relationship with her. Choice giving is really important for kids, and in a small way, we got to make our own decisions and boost our confidence when we picked the design of our birthday cakes. It let us know that our mom was interested in what we wanted. Our birthday cakes meant so much to us that when I graduated from college I asked my mom to make me another Barbie cake with my favorite Barbie growing up (her name was Jasmine).
Now, while my mom is artistically creative, I recognize that not everyone has a talent for art, me included. My art consists of stick figures. But, a lot of cute, fun cakes don’t have to have amazing piping skills or fondant sculpting. Kids love decorating cakes themselves (our old family pictures can testify of that). And, my mom also found great ways to decorate a cake that was easy and looked great. Here are 5 cake decorating ideas that don’t require artistic skill. You can make a fool-proof, Pinterest worthy cake!
Use Chocolate Molds
My brothers and I LOVED making chocolates with chocolate molds. Chocolate molds/candy molds can be pretty cheap (a couple dollars at a kitchen store or on sale at a craft store) and they come in all sorts of molds. They can range from Star Wars to princess party to Christmas molds. Below is a collage of chocolate molds with Looney Tunes, 101 Dalmatians, bugs, and cute bunnies.
All you do is melt chocolate, fill up the mold, and wait for them to harden again. To melt chocolate in the microwave, put your microwave on half power and stir every 30 seconds. Chocolate can get too hot and lose its sheen and it can also burn. Make sure the chocolate is completely cool and hardened before you pop them out. I recommend putting the chocolate in the refrigerator until hard, or a freezer if your kids are too antsy to eat them.
You can also try adding food coloring to white chocolate or buying colored melting chocolate and filling in the different cavities/indents with different colors. The ladybug in the collage photo above is a photo of the back of the mold as the milk chocolate is being added. Below are pictures of layering different colors of cake batter, but the technique is the same. One extra tip is to make sure that chocolate is spread over the back of different colors to act like a glue for all the different chocolates. My dragonfly broke…
When I added food coloring to white chocolate with these molds it got all lumpy and wouldn’t pour out into the molds. I have no idea why. I added a couple drops of vegetable oil and it worked like a charm.
This seashell picture is a mix of white chocolate and butterscotch sea shells and star fish made from molds. We used edible dust from Wilton to paint them for a bridal shower. My brother’s checkers birthday cake with molds made from chocolate square molds and checkers molds.
Use Children’s Toys as Decorations
Does your child want a car cake or a Bugs Bunny cake or something else that would be really difficult to pipe or mold from fondant? Just use your child’s favorite toy cars or a Bugs Bunny figure and set it on top of the cake. It instantly adds a level of fun that kids love.
Like I mentioned earlier, I loved Barbies and hence Barbie birthday cakes. I know there are some complicated ways of doing it, but my mom did it the easy way: she created an ice cream cake. She lined a bowl with plastic wrap (so it’ll come out of the bowl easily) and then layer softened ice cream for a skirt base. Make a hole in the center to later put the barbie in. Then use softened ice cream to finish shaping around the barbie. Then you (our your kids) can frost it and decorate the skirt to your heart’s content.
Find Other Edible Foods to Use on the Cake
Brainstorm different foods that look like what you are trying to create. For example, this beach cake below is made out of crumbled Oreos and Sandies cookies. Below is a picture of ice cream cones to create a princess cake (I know-the picture is of us kids and not the cake so it’s kind of difficult to see). I’ve seen coconut used for snowy winter themes. Teddy grahams are fun for bear themed cakes or goldfish for ocean themed cakes. My cousin made a darling tractor cake using rock candy. One of my favorite birthday cakes she had when little was a castle cake made out of sugar cubes. The point is there are endless possibilities of using other food to decorate cakes.
Use Cake Molds
Several companies, like Nordic Ware or Wilton, have cake molds in the shape of objects so the work is done for you! Below is a rose cake made with lemon cake with a little extra yellow food coloring added. By the way, Ina Garten’s lemon cake recipe is absolutely delicious! There are so many fun cake molds. The other picture of my brother’s bear birthday cake. Companies have everything from gingerbread houses to castles to trains to Star Wars. One day I want to make this pirate ship cake. It’s so cute! I really just want to buy all of them.
Below is the same lemon cake recipe mixed with different food colorings. I left it out a little too long and it burned…So don’t make that mistake. Yes, the mermaid looks a little bit like an alien, but it’s still so fun for kids! If I had replaced her eyes with chocolate chips or something I think she would look better. Didn’t I say in the title of this post no artistic skills are required?! Ha ha. The point is (hopefully) you know that your cakes can turn out this good if not better! Also, as a side note, these ocean silicon molds are oven safe but are small and can also double as chocolate molds mentioned above. There are tons of silicone molds that can do this. I used the same technique to mix colors as with the chocolate molds. Simply fill in the different indents/cavities of the mold with different colors. Larger molds tend to be easier to use different colors with.
Color with chocolate
In my coloring with chocolate post, I described how to trace coloring pictures or art of your own creations to create chocolate designs. I don’t have any artistic skills, but I can definitely trace something! If you want something a little more structured, you can buy this Trace ‘N Decorate kit, but I have not personally used it.
No matter how your cake turns out, remember it’s the thought behind it that kids love. They love being involved in the process. So, happy cake baking! And thank you, mom, for all the great cakes past and present that you have made us.
If you have other easy cake decorating ideas, we’d love to hear about them in the comments!