As some of you know, I have been on a quest to learn how to make birthday cakes. I love watching all of the cake decorating shows on t.v. and am totally into the current fascination of cupcakes. So, for the twins' first birthday I challenged myself to make two smash cakes and cupcakes for all of our guests. For a good month I tried out different recipes and tested my cake decorating skills....Raleigh had never consumed so much icing in one month (at least, since he has been an adult; can't testify for his childhood years!). Finally, I came up with some perfect recipes that really hit the spot at their birthday party!
To get me started, I played around with the girls' party colors, pink and yellow. At first, I had tested out a simple white smash cake with the store-bought bright pink and yellow fondant for my flowers. The cake was cute, but needed a little pizzaz. So, for their actual smash cakes, I was brave and made my own fondant to get the exact shade of pink and yellow that I wanted. I was so happy with the result!
Here is how I made the smash cakes:
- To make two smash cakes, I used two boxes of white cake mix from Duncan Hines. I really like their recipe because it calls for egg whites; which makes the cake super light and fluffy. To guarantee my cake won't stick to my pan, I use Baker's Choice Cooking Spray AND flour. I poured my cake batter for the first cake into two six" round cake pans and cooked for the appropriate amount of time indicated on the box. (Tip: don't overfill your cake pans...it just makes for more you have to cut off once you start stacking)
- I made my cakes two weeks before the party and stored them in my freezer until I was ready to use them. Breaking up the cake process helps me tremendously!
- Next, I got started on my dirty frost icing that goes in between the layers and covers the outside of the cake before the fondant.
- To make the frosting, I followed Wilton's Home Decorating Buttercream Icing Mix:
1 tsp. clear vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. milk or water
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening (I use good ole' Crisco like Raleigh's grandmother)
1/2 cup room temperature butter
1 lb. confectioners' sugar (1 box)
Pinch of Salt
- Sift the confectioners' sugar into a large mixing bowl.
- Measure remaining ingredients into the same bowl
- Blend on medium speed until all ingredients have been thoroughly mixed together. Scrape bowl when necessary.
- Blend an additional minute or so, until creamy
- In past cakes, I had used their Class Decorating Buttercream Icing but I really liked the Home Decorating because it was less vegetable shortening and easier to spread. Since I was making two cakes, I quadrupled the recipe amounts (did it 4 times) so I would have enough frosting for all of my layers.
- Once my icing was complete, it was time to level the cakes and start frosting. To level a cake basically means to remove the crown (the part that puffs up...that is why you don't need to overfill) and give you a smooth decorating surface. I wanted four layers so that meant cutting each of my cakes in half (torting) and leveling the tops. My tip to all of you is to do this at eye-level and make sure it is on a cake stand that you can swivel. I use a bread knife to tort my cakes. Once they are all divided, I start stacking. (Tip: the bottom of the cake is flat, so you can turn it over so the flat side is on top instead of bottom...it is easier for the final frost on the top of the cake.)
- Next, it is time to fill. Fill your cake by squeezing out a circle of frosting around the outside edge of the cake layer. Next, fill inside the ring with frosting. Repeat with all of your layers. Once all of your layers are complete, it is time to frost the top and the sides. Start at the top and work your way down. Remember: more icing = easier frosting to manage! I always dollop more frosting on my cake than what is needed and once I get the cake covered, I start to smooth it out and scrape away the excess.
- Once my cake was frosted, I stuck that bad boy in the freezer to sit overnight. Whew, that was enough for me for one evening!
- Next day, I started on my fondant. I found this super easy recipe here and I highly recommend going this route for two reasons. 1. It's cheap. 2. You get exactly what you want color-wise.
- For my pink fondant, I bought the berry marshmallow's and it kept its color beautifully. For the yellow fondant, I let my fondant sit overnight and then the next morning I used AmeriColor soft gel paste food color (161 - Electric Yellow) to color it the shade I wanted. Here is a good tutorial on coloring your fondant.
- Once my fondant was my desired colors, it was time to put it on the cake. Fair warning: I used a lot of confectionary sugar in this process and my kitchen looked like the Christmas fairy had come! Seriously though, if you don't use confectionary sugar, your fondant sticks to your rolling-pin and doesn't fall onto your cake correctly. Not cool. Once your fondant is rolled out, simply wrap it around your rolling-pin and then unwrap it onto your cake. I used a handy-dandy fondant smoother to help me get it to stick on the cake just right. Since I am still a beginner, I haven't quite mastered the fondant being smooth all around....any advice for me on this would be great! Still, my end cake was smooth and pretty, so I was pleased with my result.
- Next, is the fun part: decorating! I chose to use a buttercream frosting to cover my bottom and top circle of the cake. I used the star tip #32 to do a zig-zag border; which I thought was appropriate for the babies. After that, I cut out flowers from my remaining fondant and dusted them with edible shimmer. I stuck them on my cake with left-over buttercream and then added a tiny pink edible pearl to the center of the flower. So cute!
- Go ahead and refrigerate your cake after it is decorated until party time - helps the fondant not to melt.
For the cupcakes, I stuck with my color scheme and made strawberry and lemon cupcakes. All the party-goers said that they were both so good! As I mentioned earlier, I spent the month before the party testing out recipes. When making the strawberry cupcakes, I kept running into the problem of the frosting not being quite right. So, I combined some of my recipes and came up with what worked for me.
- I borrowed my sister-in-law Kari Beth's recipe found here but did not add the chopped strawberries (simply for the fact that Raleigh doesn't like chopped up stuff in his cupcakes!)
Strawberry Cupcake Icing:
This is where I supplemented. Her icing is great for a yummy cake, but it was much too runny for my cupcakes. Besides, I wanted those fluffy, dreamy peaks to my cakes anyway. So, this is how I got it:
- I used the Wilton Home Decorating Buttercream Icing recipe but substituted the milk/water for strawberry jam. I added around 3-4 tablespoons of strawberry jam to my frosting until it started to look light pink and taste like strawberries. My advice is to add one tablespoon at a time so it doesn't get too runny.
- After my frosting is mixed, I put it on high-speed for about a minute to get some air in the batter and make it fluffy. Gotta watch it but it turns out lovely.
- Now, my favorite part of making cupcakes - adding the frosting to the cake. You can easily do this with a zip-lock bag (cut a hole in the bottom) but I tend to use the throw-away decorating bags that they sell at the craft store. Just my preference, I guess. When I ice my cupcakes, I do not add a tip....it makes my frosting smaller and I want it to look like one big cloud landed on top of the cake.
- To start, I squeeze down on my icing bag to produce a dollop in the center. Then, I carefully go around the border of the cake - leave a little room for the cake to show on the edges - and then end back in the center by pressing down and then up for a nice little tail. Oh, how I adore making cupcakes!
Finally, the lemon cupcakes. Y'all, they taste like summer. So good. So very good.
- I found a lemon cupcake recipe here but I decided to make my life easier and just use a boxed lemon cake recipe. I did add the juice and zest from one lemon to kick up that lemon flavor. I know it is the easy route, but gee whiz I had a lot to do! :)
But, there was no substituting the frosting. Here is how to make the frosting:
- 2 (8) ounce package cream cheese, softened (or just buy one 16. oz. package!)
- 1 stick butter, softened
- 2 lbs. confectioners' sugar (2 boxes)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Juice of one lemon (I added the zest too...I love seeing the zest peek out of the frosting)
Using a mixer, blend the butter and cream cheese together until well combined. Gradually add in the confectioners' sugar until fully incorporated. Finally mix in vanilla and lemon juice.
Frost these lovely little ladies like you did the strawberry cupcakes. This frosting isn't as poofy, because of the cream cheese instead of the Crisco, but they look gorgeous when frosted. I think the pink pearls look perfect against the lemon cake and white frosting.
Hope you enjoyed this little lesson on how to make some yummy cakes and cupcakes. Stay tuned next week because I am going to go over how to make the cupcake party circles from home! Enjoy!
Till next time, let your light shine!