I am not one of those mummys that has a house full of eco friendly toys, turns up to school fetes with perfectly decorated cupcakes, or knits her own yoghurt.
My baking is pretty rubbish really. But I do it anyway mostly because I like it. Baking is dead easy. You follow the instructions (and if you don't have anything to measure in, like me, then a cup is a tea cup, and a tablespoon is about two and a half dessert spoons), pop it in the oven, and in about 15 minutes (for a dozen cupcakes or cookies) you have the house smelling luscious and everyone talking about how fabulous you are.
In short, I'm lazy. I want maximum returns for minimum effort. I want to bask in adulation and admiration, and have people gasp at my domestic prowess. Naturally this does not involve bringing them around to my house. All illusions would be well and truly shattered.
When it comes to a home made birthday cake, you want something that looks fabulous but really can be done by anyone who has zero artistic ability. And doesn't really know how to bake. So here's the top five, easy, birthday cake ideas that I managed to find.
1 Smashable Cake
The top spot belongs, without a doubt, to PlayPennies reader Nicki, mum to three aged 6 and under. This is the birthday 'cake' for her son's third birthday. It is a smashable cake. The chest is a chocolate shell. With the help of a hammer, the child can smash it open, to reveal treasure (lots of gold wrapped chocolate coins).
Nicki says "I used a plastic tupperware container, brushed it with vegetable oil and put it in the freezer for an hour. Then melted chocolate melts in a double boiler and using a pastry brush created a mold. I put the chocolate back in the freezer to set." She used icing pens to decorate the chest. The sand is soft brown sugar.
Her son had a great time, armed with dad's hammer, reducing the cake to pieces.
I really don't think it can get much easier than that to create a cake that will impress children and adults alike.
One reason I'm put off making a birthday cake is that in the week before a birthday party there's just so much to do. I work from home, but still I work full time. So fitting it in is pretty tough. I love the idea of this cake, which I found on an American parenting site (recipe HERE) for several reasons.
First, my son loves snakes. Second, there's no cutting up involved. It's all cupcakes so you can just hand them out. Third, cupcakes are dead easy to make and, crucial this point, you can freeze them. So you can make the cupcakes weeks beforehand. Just don't forget to give them time to thaw thoroughly!
The recipe uses a cracker to make the snake's snout, but I would be inclined to use a very thin square of chocolate. I think that fruit leather is the same as a fruit strip. Alternatively, see the last entry for using Fruitellas or Starbursts instead.
3 Castle Cake
There are lots of ideas for this online, and they all use pretty much the same sorts of things. Especially the ice cream cones for the turrets. Some use the pointy ones, and others the flat bottom ones, and yet others a mix of both. You could use a shop brought Victoria sponge too for the cake.
It works for boys and girls - just change the colours you are using to the child's favourite. Here's a video for one cake HERE. And while I didn't like this cake overall, I did like the idea this cake maker had HERE for making the turrets using sheets of icing.
Be the trendiest mum at the school fete. Wow your child's friends at their next birthday party. The coolest thing to hand out at the moment are cake pops.
Cakes on a stick! I first saw these advertised in a magazine by a bakery that specialised in children's parties. Just one month ago. I was impressed and thought you had to go to a bakers to get something like that.
But no. I have found this recipe HERE and honestly, it sounds so simple. I'm also going to do a test freeze on these. If they do freeze, I'll be able to stockpile them in advance. And if that happens, then this recipe falls in the category of total genius!
Baking the cake is, for me, the easy bit. It is the icing that takes the time. I love both of these ideas here! How cool does the stripy one look? And all it uses are normal and mini sized M&Ms. The other cake has been iced by softening candy fruit chews (maybe something like Fruitellas or Starbursts?) and rolling them flat. Simple or what?
To make the wet sort of icing you'll need for the M&Ms idea, put a cup, or two cups, of icing sugar into a bowl. Scoop out a teaspoon of butter and then rub that into the icing sugar. Add a little cold water one table spoon at a time, mixing it up, until it is the thickness you want.
Here's something for the next cake sale at school. Do two sponge cakes in square tins (use something like Sainsbury's Basics sponge mix). Do a filling of mock cream and jam. Then ice it over and cover in softened fruitellas or M&Ms. Genius!
I've edited this post to add a picture of my own 'smarties' cake. I took the M&Ms idea and did it with smarties for my son's school's summer fair. It certainly made an impact and I got lots of comments about how fab it looked.