Friday, April 15, 2016

Cake Decorating for Kids

When I asked our daughter what American Heritage Girl badge she wanted to work on first she emphatically exclaimed "Cake Decorating, after all I am a Baker and cake is yummy!"  Well I may be a Baker by marriage, but I have zero experience in cake decorating, so we set off learning together.

Step 1: Be Inspired

My brother and sister in-law had just received four foster children and one of them was about to have his 3rd birthday.  The little boy just loved buses, so we thought how awesome would it be if his foster cousin made him a bus cake for his birthday.  So my daughter and I started searching the Internet (thank you fellow bloggers and Pinterest!) for inspiration.  There are some pretty awesome cakes out there, including 3D cakes, but we decided on trying something similar to this awesome cake by What's Cooking on Planet Byn:

Step 2: Gather Supplies

Once we decided on a general theme and design, we headed to the store.  We kept things pretty simple for our first cake.  I'll share some other cakes we made in a bed that we used special decorating tips, but for this first cake we just loaded the icing into a ziploc bag and cup a small hole in the corner of the bag.  We also used a boxed cake mix.  We made our own icing for this first cake to try to avoid some of the preservatives in canned icing, but we did learn on our second cake that icing needs to be just right otherwise it does not work well with some decorating tips (especially the star) so we have used canned icing for our others cakes.  We bought several different kinds of food coloring and gel.  It's nice to have a variety and some extra icing for Step 3!

Step 3: Experiment and Practice

If you have extra supplies, scoop about 1/4 cup of icing into several different bowls.  Experiment with the different food coloring dyes and gels.  We found that it is much easier to make black icing if you start with chocolate icing.  Once you are satisfied with your colors, fill a pastry bag or ziploc bag and practice making straight, curved, zigzagged lines, and writing the alphabet on parchment paper. If you do not have extra icing, you can always practice a bit and then scrape the icing back into your pastry bag.

TIP:  If you put your pastry or plastic bag into a mug and fold the top of it down over the mug, it will be much easier to spoon your icing into the bag.

*How do different color icing's taste?  Some coloring may make your icing taste bitter.  We were very pleased with the taste and texture of the Wilton food coloring gel.

*How does changing the degree that you hold the pastry bag affect your design?  When making writing and lines it is best to hold the bag at approximately 45 degree angle to the right.  When making stars or dots you want to hold the pastry bag at a 90 degree angle (or perpendicular) to the cake.  Holding it straight up and down when making lines or too far off of the cake was a common mistake she made in the beginning.

*What happens if you smooth the icing out with a finger wet with warm water?  This was a really fun technique she used on her Darth Vader cake!  

Step 4: Bake!

Bake your cake according to the directions on the box, or follow the recipe if baking by scratch.  If you are looking for a gluten free cake mix, I can say that the Pillsbury Confetti Cake Mix is very good!  Be sure to allow your cake to cool completely before icing.  This can take several hours, so plan accordingly.  Be creative and open to using other food items to decorate with.  

Step 5: Start decorating!

PATIENCE, PATIENCE, PATIENCE!!!!  Remember, it is not a race to see how fast you can decorate the cake.  It took us several hours to do our first cake.  I used an index card and toothpick to mark in the icing some of the straight lines to make it easier to follow.  Since we had some extra icing we decided it would also be fun to decorate the aluminum foil.  We used mini chocolate chips to be the gravel road. Our daughter came up with the idea of using a Hershey kiss for the light on the bus.  We could not find small enough gluten free donuts, so we used some of the cake we had cut away to make the hood of the bus to make the wheels. Have fun and use your imagination!  And remember, it's ok to make mistakes.  Some mistakes are easily fixed; others lead for opportunities to be a bit creative. 

Step 6:  Clean up!

We finished the cake and I breathed a huge sigh of relief that our littles ones managed to play so well while I helped our daughter with her project.  BUT I let my guard down for just a minute to go to the bathroom before cleaning up. I won't be making that mistake again!!!

Step 7:  Eat and enjoy the fruit of your labors!!!

Of course, cake is always best shared with friends and family, so if you do not have a reason to celebrate, find one!

Step 8:  Review and Repeat!

What lessons were learned?  What would you like to try next?  My sister-in-law held a cupcake decorating workshop on Easter for her nieces.  My daughter really enjoyed using the star tip and wanted to try to decorate a cake using it.  We attempting to make a flag cake using the star tip, but our icing was too runny.  

So, we tried again using canned icing and had much better results!


Next project:  Make a Darth Vader cake for our son Luke's 1st birthday (my husband is always saying, "Luke, I am your Father", so we thought it would be a fun theme!). 

Luke sure enjoyed it!!!

Our daughter is already looking at ideas for making a train cake for her other brother.  

Follow us on Instagram @pocketful_of_treasures and tag us if you make a cake! We'd love to see your child's creations. Check out the Homeschool Tab and American Heritage Tab for more fun learning ideas.

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