Cake Makin’ with a Manic Mama

It has recently hit me that in less than two months my baby girl will be ONE YEAR OLD! Aaah!! All the recent birthday hoopla has gotten me thinking about that milestone for her, but I’ll be honest, I’ve mostly been obsessing thinking about the birthday cake. I am one of those mothers who feels that I must personally make my children’s birthday cakes or my Mom’s Club membership card will be revoked. Now, I don’t feel that all mothers should do this, just me. Why? I can’t answer that question! But I’ve already started to get b-day cake anxiety about Sophie’s big day. First of all, I have no idea what kind of cake I should make. I mean, she’s gonna be one, so she’s not really into anything yet. For Joshua’s first birthday, I made him this sailboat cake, because his daddy races sailboats.


Not too shabby, huh? It was easy – just a rectangle cake cut into pieces to form the sailboat. The hardest part was the icing. Although I do make a very tasty buttercream icing, I’m not much of a decorator. Still, it doesn’t help me with what to make Sophie. I mean, the only thing I’m really into is reading and blogging, and I am not gonna make a book or laptop-shaped cake for a one-year-old-girl.

By Joshua’s second birthday, he was into Thomas the Tank Engine, so I borrowed a cake topper from my sister-in-law and copied a picture of one she had done before, which resulted in this cake:


Nothing too fancy, but again the icing was really good!

Then for his third birthday, even though I had a three-month-old baby as well, I for some reason attempted birthday cake suicide. Joshua was (and is) still really into trains, and my mom had gotten a train cake pan for Christmas from a friend. So, I decided to try the train cake. The problem with this is I had never actually seen the cake pan until the day before the party, and I was planning on making it that night. When I saw the pan and the accompanying picture, I nearly passed out. There were NINE train cars, decorated with all sorts of confections – gumdrops, licorice, jelly beans, etc. And there was like zero icing, so I wouldn’t be able to get away with my “mmm isn’t the icing good” trick.

Crap! I had no backup plan so I ran off to the store to get candy to decorate with. I didn’t know what to get so I got a little bit of everything. M&M’s, jelly beans, licorice, gummy life savers, mini Reese cups – I practically bought out the whole aisle. Then I got home and sent my hubby and kids to a family movie night at my church so I could get to work on this monster. My hubby, sensing my anxiety, sent my friend Luanne, who was at the church movie night also, to come check on me.

What she found was a mess.

I had already made the cake in the pan, carefully filling each train car well according to the directions, but they all overflowed significantly. So I had a bunch of scraped-off train cake muffin-tops in a bowl on the oven, but unfortunately I had also spilled said bowl due to anxiety-induced clumsiness, so there were cake particles all over the floor. Of course I had started the icing while the cake was baking, but my previously mentioned clumsiness had come into play there as well, and I had spilled a bunch of the bag of powdered sugar on myself and the floor. There were dishes and measuring cups and ingredients everywhere – and I hadn’t even begun the decorating yet!

Luanne was a bit stunned by what she had walked into. “Oh my gosh!” she said, “You’re that person.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“You’re that person, like on tv and in the movies that makes a huge mess when they cook, only you really do.”

She was cracking up. Apparently I’m a rather impressive mess-maker.

Thank God Luanne was there, ‘cause she really calmed me down. I got the train cars out of the pan successfully and began intricately decorating, using the frosting to hold the candy on. Lu sat with me and talked with me and gave me suggestions the whole time. By the time I got to the third train car, however, I knew there was no way in hell I was making all nine. It was taking for-ev-er. So, I ended up doing five, and here is the final result:


I was pleased though exhausted, and Joshua really loved it. There is no way I am doing it again this year though, even though he is still really into trains.

So, now a poll – I still have no idea what kind of cake to make for Sophie, and I’m already being neurotic about it. Emily maintains that I don’t have to make the cake myself, but I say I must make it myself because I made Joshua’s and it just wouldn’t be right not to make hers too. So, what do you think?

My Ballot Box

Should Jenny make Sophia’s birthday cake herself?

Yes, of course, she made Joshua’s first three!!

No, it doesn’t really matter

View Results

For those of you who think I should make her cake (because I am going to), I’d love to hear some ideas for a cute, easy to make and decorate design! After all, this little one keeps me busy enough, I am sure I will not have time for a three-hour cake-decorating session come November 16th!


Hello, this is Emily. I had to jump in on Jenny’s post, seeing as we have already discussed this dilemma in detail.

As she mentioned, my humble opinion is “buy the damn thing.” I certainly have my own list of issues, but feeling the pressure to make fancy birthday cakes is not one of them. In fact, all of Kate’s birthday cakes have come from the friendly bakery around the corner. They have been lovely and tasted far better than anything I could have made. I have offered to order one up for Sophie, but since Jenny thinks this wouldn’t suffice, I thought I would give her a few ideas.

Jen, here’s the first one I think you should consider, in honor of the Olan Mills picture of you and me in our Strawberry Shortcake outfits.


I think you could whip that up with no problem.

But, if that’s not fancy enough, you could go with this one.


I’m thinking you should be able to turn that out in about 30 minutes.

However, if you really love Sophie and you’re a really good mom, you could make this.


Sophie is quite the princess after all.

Or, you could always make a cake with Sophie’s likeness on it, similar to this.


That one freaks me out a little, to be honest. Can you imagine the discussion surrounding the cutting of that cake? “I want the nose! No, wait, I think the fist has more icing on it.”

Let’s see… by the time my birthday rolls around in May, you’ll have Bobby’s, Sophie’s and Joshua’s birthdays behind you, and much cake-making experience. Since you’ll be an expert by then, will you make me this one?


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38 Replies to “Cake Makin’ with a Manic Mama”

  1. Deep breath, Jenny! 🙂
    Here is a really really easy cake:
    I am NOT a cake decorator, but dd saw this and wanted it and it’s OH so easy to make. The cake is lemon flavored and the glaze is too! This year we made it (again!) and we added all sorts of sea themed figurines around the bottom….like starfish and stuff. 🙂 You know it must be easy if I actually made it twice!!!
    If you need to borrow the pan, I have it. We’re close! 🙂

  2. Omg, lady!! I thought I did pretty good when I made a round, 2 layer, chocolate cake for my kiddos 1st birthday! 🙂

    Whatever you do, have fun with it. Don’t be pressured to do anything that will stress you out, though. Just relax and enjoy the day!

    (And that likeness baby cake is really wrong! :-))

  3. Don’t fret. Do you have a Michaels nearby? If you do – – GO!! Or maybe Hobby Lobby. I have always found that the hobby stores and sometimes the really good card outlet stores have specialty cake pans. On my oldest son’s bday we chose (of course) Winnie-the-Pooh. I got a cake pan that was in the shape of Winnie. I bought a cake mix and white icing. Baked the cake – with a fair amount of Pam, it came out of the pan great! The best part? The cake pan came with INSTRUCTIONS on how to ice it! Get yourself a good decorating tool with all the tips. Just food color the white store bought icing! Pipe it on to the cake and you’re done! SO EASY!! Hope I’ve helped!
    By the way – my older two are now 9 and 6 – they now like to go to the bakery and pick out their own specialty cakes (WHEW!). (Like I could make a BRATZ or Pokemon cake in 20 different colors!)

  4. The whole point of a first birthday cake is to destroy!!! What about an ‘S’ shaped cake. Maybe make a regular rectangle cake and cut an S shape. Then cover it in MnM’s and let her go to work. Don’t drive yourself nuts and end up too tired to have fun that day (and clean up that night 🙂

  5. I had to laugh when I saw this post this morning… I was just talking to my sil about posting some of the cakes that I have made. I have made almost all of my kiddos cakes, about 15 in all, and they have all been different. I LOVE the train that you made for Joshua.
    I totally think you should make Sophia’s cake! What about a flower? You can make a round cake and place cupcakes around it for the petals (or get a flower shaped cake pan), frost it, and decorate it real flower petals – It would be super easy and super adorable!
    Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

  6. BTW, I become obsessed with my kiddos cakes, too. In fact, my twins’ birthday is at the end of next month and the cake is all I can think about! I’m trying to figure out in my head how I can make a transformer… Any ideas????

  7. Girl you need to relax!! Evan’s first birthday and Harry’s birthday were both at a grandparent’s house so they did the baking of cakes. That is the way to go! She is not going to really remember it any way. The main thing is to get a cake that will get you some really cute messy face pictures.

  8. When I made my first son’s 1 year cake I made a plain rectangle cake. Then cut out a small rectangle from the middle and filled that with blue jello. Added white frosting, a couple huge marshmellows, and a toy rubber ducky and instant bathtub cate. Cute and super easy.

  9. Girl you really must chill.

    The cakes you showed pictures of are beautiful (especially the train–so cool) but you really have enough to do!

    For my shower my baby’s Godmom taught herself how to make a 3D duck cake. I’m not even that into rubber duckies. She had to buy a special mold and other decorating tools to make the frosting look like feathers. And it took her two tries.

    I should mention she’s a lawyer for a firm in NYC and works 75+ hours a week.

    It was adorable but so unnecessary. I would have been just as happy with something store bought–or chocolate chip cookies.

    And I’m an adult, not even a 1 year old who won’t know the difference!

    If baking gives you pleasure, do something tasty but simple. If it doesn’t, buy the thing.

  10. I say something girly….pink, purple and flowery! Just remember that you will have to wash it off of her when she is done, so make sure it’s a color you like 🙂

  11. Haha! We just celebrated Fly’s first birthday, and I made cupcakes. It sure takes the pressure off to come up with a theme! And you don’t have to offer your guests a spoon or fork.

  12. Does Sophie have a favorite book? Lucy’s favorite book was the very hungry cateripllar so she got a butterfly cake. Or even just do a round cake with an iced butterfly on it. But then again, I can’t cook or bake. Our cakes come from the store. My poor deprived kids… you make me look bad.

  13. Go ahead and make it. I’ve made cakes for my kids’ birthdays on and off for years. They love it. You don’t have to make an over the top cake. Heck one out of a box would work just fine. All that matters is that your little one loves her cake. Good luck!!

  14. Try – they have lots of great ideas for 1st birthday parties and some really cute cakes with instructions. Above all, don’t stress! The stuffing it in her face is the cute part, plus she won’t remember it. It’s really for the adults’ benefit.

  15. I made a nearly identical traincar cake for my son’s first b-day! I also made his 2nd cake, but it was no big deal; for his third I spent a ridiculous amount of money on a Star Wars cake–cute, but tasted like flavored Vaseline. My daughter turns one next month; we’re out of town on the weekend before and after her big day. I’m all about the assembly cake, as I can see you are! I can’t even make those stupid tiny stars that my Grandma insists a monkey can do. So I’m making a princess cake–kinda based on the one Emily is taunting you with. I have to be able to make and assemble it between 2am and 2pm the Sunday we get home. Here’s the plan: plain 2-layer yellow cake, lavendar icing, coat a sugar cone (pointy kind) with icing, decorate with sparkly sugar and some real tulle coming out of the top like a princess hat! Make tiny version (maybe with cupcake?) with another hat for her to destroy. Gotta do it–they’ll have enough sibling rivalry without my adding “only made a cake for your brother” to the list!

  16. I thought I was the only person who obsessed about a 1st birthday party – but since everyone knows I don’t bake or cook, I stress about the overall theme and ambience =) As it turns out, Ethan loved the homemade cookies (in the shape of little “E’s” and “1’s” better than the storebought cake. Just remember: you now have TWO kids while baking, not just one =) Good luck with the cake! I’m sure anything pink will do nicely!

  17. I am the same way with homemade cakes, but I am literally the only person I know who does that. Everyone else just buys one at the store like a sane person.

    Lily’s first birthday were very easy lady bug cupcakes. Red frosting, black licorice ropes and m&ms. Hannah got a cake shaped like a….1. How exciting and original. It was cute though and ridiculously easy to make. Lily’s 4th bday is in 2 weeks and I am doing an ice cream cone.

    Check out Family Fun, Parenting and Parents websites. If you want to be really bold head over to Martha Stewart. Let us know how it turns out.

  18. Hey – former PC rep! Check out the hat cake in the kids cookbook. TOO CUTE! I was going to do it for Gabbi’s but ran out of time. Thanks for this blog – gives me some ideas for sophie’s cousin just 3 weeks after her. 🙂

    Have fun with it – think CHOCOLATE!

  19. Hey, Scooby
    I suggest a pumpkin cake since Sophie’s b-day is close to thanksgiving and that would be easy and since she is our collective “punkin”.

  20. I made my daughters 1st birthday cake. I was going to buy one but felt guilty. So I made most of the ingredients organic. Unfortunately, I was up at 2 in the morning decorating it. I have the pics and recipe on my blog if you want to scroll down to see it. It was the elmo cake. It was very basic with decor bought at michael’s. Also, cake central has tons of great ideas. Good Luck!

  21. For my son’s 1st bday, I was determined to make his cake myself also. My mom always made our bday cakes, and they were true works of art featuring our Barbies, My Little Ponies, or whatever we were into that year – I have very fond memories of them. So for my son’s 1st bday I made his cake using cupcakes, and positioned them on a piece of cardboard covered w/wrapping paper, in the shape of the number one (use a dab of icing on the bottoms as glue to the board). I iced them as one whole unit and used colored icing to write his name across the bottom leg of the 1 and put some balloons, etc. It was really cute and everyone loved it. Guests can just take a cupcake off, no cutting. The extra cupcakes that weren’t used were served on a platter beside the cake, just iced w/ sprinkles. You could also shape the cupcakes into your daughter’s first initial. This is a very easy but cute way to make a bday cake. Good Luck, and your daughter will be happy one day to see the picture of her homemade cake!

  22. I’ve been through what I call the “cake wars.” What about getting a cake kit. What is our daughter’s favorite cartoon character? I’m not sure if you live near a Michael’s, they they have terrific kits with instructions, pans, and everything you will need to turn out something really lovely. When I was in college, let’s just say I baked my way to a degree. I still love to bake. I’ve done Barney, Fred, Huckleberry Hound, Mickey Mouse. These are times that the children will never forget, so whatever you make I’m sure everyone will love it.

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