B1 and B2’s birthdays are just four days shy of being exactly two years apart. In the same month as their birthdays we also celebrate our wedding anniversary, my sister’s birthday and, this year, the release of Season of Salt and Honey. Plus, we normally have overseas guests and family staying with us. Which means April is a muchos busy month at our joint. Last year, with less on my plate, I didn’t even attempt an invite-friends-party for the girls. And I ordered birthday cakes from Little & Friday instead of making them myself. It was only afterwards, as I flippantly explained to someone that we “skipped the girls’ birthdays this year” and watched the horror wash over her face, that I felt the guilt start to steep. I scrambled to explain that we didn’t really “skip” them, we’d just opted for a very small, family-only party, see…? But the horror didn’t fade from her expression. I resolved, then and there, to a) have a invite-friends-party next year and b) make them both cakes. Gawddammit.
Oh, how very quickly another year rolls around. And with it, more tasks, more busyness. As we headed towards April this year Matt gently suggested I buy the cakes like I did last year. “No!” I wailed “I’ve never made them birthday cakes!! I promised myself!! I’m going to do it!!” #notcrazyatall
I was utterly determined despite being nervous. I have made lots of cakes before but I have never made an actual BIRTHDAY cake and certainly not one for a kid (or two). Those people who make cake trains and cake dragons and free-standing cake fairies with candy wings shooting edible sprinkles from a red licorice wand… Yeah, I’m not one of those people. I didn’t even ask the girls what kind of cake they wanted apart from “Which flavour”, to which they both, thankfully, replied “Chocolate” (Actually B2 wanted strawberry but I pretended she said chocolate). So these were my recipe requirements – Must be: chocolate AND dead-easy / completely fool-proof AND not require a stand mixer because I don’t have one.
Due to the success I had shamelessly messing around with BabyMac’s “Anne” Chocolate cake recipe (for my Road Trip Cake) I decided to follow the original recipe dutifully this time (because I had self-raising flour! Look how organised I am!). I simply doubled the quantities to make two cakes. The original recipe is better than the one I meddled with. It’s just so easy. Absolutely no sifting or separating. Bung it all in and mix it up. My hint would be to make sure there are still a few wet crumbs on the skewer when you test its doneness. If the skewer is completely clean as a whistle the cake can be a touch dry, but a few clinging crumbs and it’s perfecto.
Here it is: BabyMac’s “Anne” Chocolate Cake recipe
I elected to go with the frosting recipe I sourced and tweaked for the road-trippin’ cake. Why? Because I’d made it before and because it was so easy to whiz up using a blender stick thingy-ma-jig with a whisk attachment. Except that when I made it this time my blender stick thingy broke and almost burned my hand and has had to be placed in the kitchen appliance graveyard. I finished the icing off with a good ol’ fashioned wooden spoon, feeling sad and dubious and….it still worked! Yeea-ah!
Here it is: Easy chocolate icing:
*This makes enough to top two cakes or cover the tops and sides of one cake*
170 grams dark chocolate
2 1/4 cups icing sugar
120g butter (softened)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Melt your chocolate in a bowl over a pan of boiling water, or in the microwave in 20 second bursts. Once melted and cooled (but chocolate is still liquid) add all other ingredients to bowl of chocolate. Mix with a handheld beater or mixer till smooth and creamy.
Clearly, given inability and unwillingness to expend much effort, cake decorating needed to be extremely easy too. No cutting and shaping and adding of jelly or shoving in of dolls bodies or surrounding with chocolate fingers. No sir-ee! In my quest for the perfect (lazy) idea I searched Pinterest for about two minutes and found my answer. Woodland vibe! I bought Schleich animals, in a vaguely Woodland theme, but you could use any plastic animals you already have or find. I’ll admit I was slightly dismayed by the making of small hats for the animals but I figured the kids deserved some effort, it being their birthdays and all. Those I made by cutting up a painting B1 had done at kindy (complete with sparkles already glued on. Thanks, kiddo) and securing the seams of the crowns / hats with colourful washi tape before adding a tiny dab of PVA to help the hats stick to the animals’ heads. I re-used stamped paper banners with their names that I’d made for their shop-bought cakes last year, nabbed some dolls furniture and miniature cakes from my Mum (Yay for Mums with weird tiny stuff!) and bought a ton of gold sugar from a cake supply shop that was closing down. Bought so much, in fact, I have been offering it up to others, in case anyone should ever have a “Help! Pimp My Cake!” crisis. You never know. But if I hadn’t happened to stumble across huge quantities of cheap gold sugar I would have used sprinkles – brown or rainbow – whichever was easier to source.
So with those elements complete, it is time for…
The Final Assemblage Equation:
+ sprinkles / gold sugar
+ party hat wearing animals around small wooden furniture
+ candles / banner / other cake paraphernalia
= Stupendously Simple, Super Cute Woodland Birthday Cake.
You did it! Whoop whoop! High-five! Give yourself a gold star!
The extra bonus is that the plastic animals make great bath toys. In our household Bear and Stag (aka Daddy-reindeer) are The Kings and they order all the other animals about. All the animals take rides around the bathtub in a wooden boat, apart from when the mast pops out of its hole and The Kings order the boat off to the boat repair shop. For some inexplicable reason The Kings speak with british accents and refer to everyone as “Madam”.
Do you have a great birthday cake trick? Please share!