When it comes to birthday cakes I would much rather reach for a box of Betty over the store bought slab. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a natural born baker, there is just too much room for error and not a lot of room for winging it.
Baking requires a certain skill I have just not mastered. And after tonnes of trial and error I’ve learned that modifications are not easily made when working with confections. So out-of the box was my go-to for years, until… I stumbled across a little hack that has become a complete game changer when it comes to creating a brag-able birthday dessert.
The $5 cake.
In addition to traditional birthday cakes of all shapes and sizes, your local grocery store will likely carry small 6” rounds that come in a variety of flavours including chocolate fudge, vanilla, cookies n’ creme, carrot and more. And since my kids aren’t major cake lovers anyway, these cheap and cheerful cakes were an easy grab so we’d have somewhere to stick a candle.
While these cakes are pretty enough to eat right out of the package, I’ve found that adding my own flare is a win-win and has become somewhat of a calling card for me. Check out some of the fun and fabulous ways we’ve added our own flare to this $5 fav over the years.
From easy upgrades like scattering hazelnut chocolate balls all over for our Ferrero Rocher lover, to adding drips and drizzles of neon tinted icing for a neon themed party, to only embellishing the candle with ears for a Mickey inspired fete.
Adding trinkets and toys can really help play up the theme and adds an irresistible touch of whimsy that is so easy to execute. Here we paired an ironman action figure with some sparklers for a surprisingly effective avengers spectacle.
For this paw patrol inspired campout, I gathered tiny plastic pups around a homemade campfire. I used broken hazelnut cookie straws to create the logs, fruit leather strips for the fire, and mini marshmallows mounted on skewers and then roasted for the full effect.
Fondant can add a whole lot of wow and is surprisingly simple to work with. Another store bought item you can use right out of the box. I was once very intimidated by it, but its play doh like consistency makes it easy mold into any shape. Bonus, the kids will love helping with this one too.
Our pig themed party was inspired by a cake we found on Pinterest and our sweet Ps long time love of Piglet. It was way easier than I thought it would be too. I started with the $5 cake, stuck chocolate cookie fingers around the circumstance to create the pig pen, and tied a ribbon around to hold them in place. I then covered the top of the cake with hazelnut spread which hid any imperfections from the store-made rosettes I removed. Finally, I tinted and rolled fondant into these adorable swine shapes to create our mud bath beauties.
Once again, I had a request for an over the top cake, this time in the form of a unicorn. Pip and I actually worked on this one together. We started with the $5 cake base, this time opting for a red velvet version that had a nice firm edge. We rolled out a sheet of fondant and laid it over the entire cake trimming away any excess. We then rolled out our ears and tinted some fondant blue for the inner ears and horn. We tinted store bought vanilla icing to pipe on the pretty pink mane and used a bit of black icing for the eyes. I still can’t believe we pulled this off.
Although not oozing in culinary confidence, I will say that elevating a cake from store bought to spectacular has become such a fun way to fly my creativity flag and add some serious wow factor to our party table. I wonder what we’ll create next?