Birthday Cakes from Scratch: Decorating Ideas for Your Child's Birthday Cake Plus an Easy Chocolate Cake Recipe.

Baking and Making A Child's Birthday Cake: Even Beginners Can Create a Great Cake
As a young mother, I have now had the opportunity to make five birthday cakes from scratch. Some parents opt to buy cakes at a local store bakery or from a cake designer. Personally, I like to put the time in to making them homemade. Saving a little money is always a plus, but mostly the thought and effort I put into these cakes feel like a special gift I can give my children. My cakes may not be entirely professional in quality, but in general they turn out cute and are made with love. If you're like me and want to make a cake from scratch but don't have a clue about fondant or possess special design experience with cakes, allow me to share ideas I've collected over the last few years. Just a little effort can go a long way. Since I've yet to try to tackle any forms of fondant (Looks great, but how does it taste?), no ideas require more than icing and a few additions along the way to spice it up!

At the end, I'll give you a chocolate cake recipe that my family has used for years. It's simple, moist, hard to ruin, and best of all requires no eggs, which means your little ones can eat the batter fearlessly. Yum!

Kuhn Rikon Cookie and Cupcake Decorating Set
Kuhn Rikon Cookie and Cupcake Decorating Set

Note the accordion shaped bottle for icing. This allows you to easily squeeze out icing while maintaining control.

Norpro 8 Piece Cake/Decorating Set
Norpro 8 Piece Cake/Decorating Set

A basic starting set of tips for decorating.


Starting "Tips"
Before going any further into decorating ideas, I think if you have a child (or two or three) that you are hoping to make birthday cakes for over the years, then it's a good idea to invest in an easy icing kit with a few basic icing tips (you can buy more over time) for decorating, such as a fine writing tip, star tip and round tip (for dots). Other popular choices include the shell tip, flower tip and leaf tip. I have a set much like the Kuhn Rikon Cookie and Cupcake Decorating Set (only mine is Pampered Chef). I have three accordion like tubes for squeezing icing out (versus a bag), and I love it. They are relatively easy to control when writing on your cake or decorating details. I put the icing in the tubes with a butter knife and I can quickly rinse out the icing with hot water if I want to change to a different color. Best of all, I can wash them in my dishwasher when I'm done.

A quick word on color: A basic food coloring should do the trick with most of your icing needs. However, I have come to enjoy dying my icing with icing color gel. The tiniest dabs of gel will bring out vibrant colors in your white icing without affecting the taste. I get these on an as needed basis if I want a very particular shade of a color (ex: a shade of green that I didn't want to experiment with food coloring). I think they also work well for colors like black and red that are hard to create with food coloring. These gels allow you to use an icing you like the flavor of while still maintaining a color you want.

Beyond that, all I have 9x13 baking pans for a rectangular cake, 9 inch circular pans for a double layer circle cake, and a muffin pan for cupcakes, though I'm sure there's tons more you can purchase to make decorating simpler or more fun. Check out my wish list at the end for tools I think would be especially handy and practical in making cakes without being overly extravagant or expensive.

1. Make a Cake Using Props.
This is a fun way to immediately make your cake 3-D. Plus, it cuts back on how skillful you have to be in the decorating department, since the props add "life" to the cake party. Take a favorite child's toy that you already own or else buy it as a gift for their birthday and form a cake theme around it. Small plastic figurines work wonderfully. For my oldest daughter's 1st birthday I even used laminated cut-outs. In that case, I wanted to create a Veggie Tales cake for her without having to draw cartoon character by hand with icing. So, after spotting some cute cut-outs from a craft book, I placed them around a cupcake positioned on the main cake. This made it look as though the characters were all surrounding a miniature cake as part of the celebration. After she blew out the candle we removed the cupcake to make that my daughter's individual little cake to eat. All I had to do was icing the cake and add polka-dots for fun with my small decorating cake kit. Pretty simple with fun results.

A few months ago, I made up a Dora the Explorer cake for my youngest daughter's 2nd birthday. I came up with the layout based on the formula of the show. Any preschool parents well-acquainted with Dora knows that Dora has a destination during each episode and the map guides her over various obstacles. The basic cake idea centered around three small figurines we already owned: Dora, Boots, and Swiper. With the extra cupcakes I baked, I made a hill, a bridge and finally a birthday cupcake (their final destination). You can find detailed instructions for how to accomplish this exact cake here. I had to create the landscape, which actually proved easier than I anticipated. The figurines, though, made my decorating look better than perhaps it truly was. Props are worth using.

2. Make a Cake Using Special Pans.
I bought a butterfly fly pan for my oldest daughter's 2nd birthday. I believe it cost around $12. Costs typically range between $10-20 for a specialty pan depending on how elaborate and large the pan. I'm not always up to spending that extra money, but that year I did. If you know someone with a specialty cake pan, borrowing is always a great (not to mention free) option. You simply make your cake batter, pour it into the shaped pan, and bake it. After cooling, you pop the cake out. The cake has indentations indicating where to place certain icing colors. There is also general directions included. I found this to be an extremely easy cake to make while looking professional.

3. Make a Cake Martha Stewart Style
Some birthdays I have a clear idea of what to make and other times I need to do a little research to get ideas. Enter Martha Stewart, the ultimate craftster, perfectionist extraordinaire. Her ideas while amazing can appear a bit overwhelming and time-consuming. Often I look at her awe-inspiring work and think, "I don't want to put in that much work." or "My icing bow would never look like her icing bow." And those ideas quite honestly can be fairly legit. But, her ideas are worth gazing through, because sometimes they are simple enough for even me to achieve with a little time and effort. Below are two Martha Stewart ideas that I made into my own.

Example 1: If you can cut out paper circles, bake cupcakes, and do come basic icing décor you can make this cute birthday design option. With this cupcake-based idea, you can choose any color scheme or look you want. I added my own touch by developing pictures of my daughter over her past 3 years of life and placing them on blank cupcakes where no letters were needed (Martha simply put dots). This cupcake design can work for a small child or an even adult, plus it's flexible, simple, and fun. For a more detailed tutorial look here. Martha Stewart titles these Polka-Dot Cupcakes, and includes a recipe for cupcakes made with orange zest and a cream cheese icing. I used my Wacky Cake recipe (below) and butter cream Icing.

Example 2: With this idea you can make a cake or cupcakes, and decorate it with one or both of these candy creations. My youngest daughter's birthday is in the spring, so I used both candy butterflies and flowers for her birthday design to fit the season. The addition of candy makes these cupcakes completely edible. I found the lollipop flowers to be a favorite among children. For instructions on how to create these cake or cupcake toppers, go here. Thanks, Martha, for easy Butterfly and Lollipop Cupcakes this mom can make!

More Baking Adventures
With my oldest daughter's 4th birthday rapidly sneaking up on me, I've begun researching my next cake idea. I was looking for a cake or cupcake idea that would be both cute and simple since I will be 37 weeks pregnant on her birthday. Then, my daughter informed me she wanted a turtle cake. I have a soft spot for their (reasonable) little hearts' desires, so that's my new cake adventure to tackle. If it turns out successful perhaps I can give you some pictures and steps for an "easy" turtle cake. In the meantime, best wishes on your birthday baking adventures.

My two girls licking the cake batter the morning of my two-year-old's birthday.  They had batter up to their elbows and all over their faces.  Isn't this the fun part of baking?
My two girls licking the cake batter the morning of my two-year-old's birthday. They had batter up to their elbows and all over their faces. Isn't this the fun part of baking?

Birthday Cake Recipe: That's One Wacky Cake!
Oh and last but certainly not least, here is my go-to recipe for a chocolate birthday cake. My family started using this recipe when my mother was just a baby. We've always referred to this cake as a Wacky Cake, I suppose because it oddly requires no eggs. When recently making my daughter's 2-year-old birthday cake, my two little girls enjoyed licking the bowl without me worrying about salmonella poisoning. Who doesn't love eating the batter of our favorite desserts? The end result of the baked cake is moist, delicious, and well worth a try.

Wacky Cake

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 6 TB of cocoa
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp vinegar (I'll usually use apple cider vinegar, but have used white vinegar as well)
  • 2/3 cup of oil (I usually use canola I have on hand)
  • 2 cups of cold water


  • Sift together the first five ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa, and salt).
  • Make 3 holes in the dry ingredients and add an vanilla to one hole, vinegar in another hole, and oil in the other.
  • Then pour the cold water over top.
  • Beat until smooth.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes.
  • Cool before icing.

More by this Author

Comments 34 comments

prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

Wow.... this was so beautiful. I love art and cake decoration is part of the beautiful art. You need sense of art to make this so wonderful. Well done and you got my VOTE. Cheers..


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

Ashlea B, you're such a pro!! Great cake making tips!

MPG Narratives profile image

MPG Narratives 5 years ago from Sydney, Australia

Beautiful looking hub with great instructions too. Your cakes look so yummy. Great job and welcome to Hubpages.

Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 5 years ago from Germany

Wow! It´s beautiful! This hub is great and Voted Up. Thanks for all the instructions. Now I have to follow you to learn more about your baking and decorating skills and of course to read all your hubs. Bookmark! Thanks for sharing. By the way, welcome to HubPages.

neha.pjadhav profile image

neha.pjadhav 5 years ago

yippee!! no more cake disasters for me now!

Rhoda Talisaysay profile image

Rhoda Talisaysay 5 years ago from Philippines

Not finish reading yet but thumbs up! Great !!!

jtrader profile image

jtrader 5 years ago

You're very creative!

Swords 5 years ago

Absolutely fantastic Post! Lots of great information and inspiration, both of which we all need!Thank you for another great article. Where else could anyone get that kind of information in such a perfect way of writing?

Mr. Sword

shampa sadhya profile image

shampa sadhya 5 years ago from NEW DELHI, INDIA

I voted up and useful. I love to bake cakes. If not on all the birthday's of my son but on some of it I baked it at home. The most beautiful reward I received after baking the birthday cake was the special smile on my son's face. It makes me feel that I've given a lovely gift to my son on his birthday.

Your hub is really useful and your cakes are very creative. Nice ideas I have got from your hub. May you be able to bake more with more innovative decorating ideas.

Ashlea B profile image

Ashlea B 5 years ago Author

Thank you all. You are all so encouraging! I do love to make cakes for my girls. They motivate me to do my BEST for their special day. Even though I'm not a pro-cake maker, it's nice to know you can still make cute cakes for your kids with very little experience or materials. My oldest daughter just turned 4 last week, and I made a turtle cake for her per her request. I was relieved and pleased with how well it turned out! Phew!!! Maybe sometime I can add a hub for a turtle cake, since now I know how. :o)

mark_bradshaw profile image

mark_bradshaw 5 years ago from Illinois

This is great. Love those ideas. Congrats on hub of the day!

Oh, and the wacky cake is vegan! Awesome!

Esmeowl12 5 years ago

I love the Veggie Tales cake. That is so creative!

vertualit profile image

vertualit 5 years ago from Bangladesh

Cool hub and congrats you :)

Hannah 5 years ago

Cool Hub!

I once made a cake for my son. He loved legos so I used rice krispies cut into lego shapes, covered in fondant, and dotted with frosting! It wasn't that hard and the results were great.

Cakes are so fun to make! Awesome hub!!

VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 5 years ago from United States

Congratulations on having the hub of the day. I think your hub ideas on cakes are really exactly what hubs ought to be--personal experience explaining how something works. As the mom of 5 kids, I've baked lots of cakes! I generally follow your type of ideas and hope in the future to write up some hubs with cakes and birthday ideas. Like you, I really believe that making a cake and having a home party is a gift to my kids. I want to make "home made" a family tradition that gets passed down. To encourage you, I should say that my daughter who is turning 16 in Aug. has been to a lot of fancy and expensive "sweet sixteen" parties. I wondered whether she would want one like that, but before I even asked, she had planned a home tea party where she wants us to make crafts and dress up. So--they do grow up valuing your love and time!

raniagul 5 years ago from islamabad

i dnt know how to make d icing 4 decoration want separTE note on that ...thankx

u hav writen baking soda in the recepie, i normally uses baking powder 4 baking..wht will u say 4 this...r they same or different?

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

First off - let me say, CONGRATULATIONS for scoring Hub O' The Day Honours!!!!!!

I remember when I was a kid - my Mom used to do custom cakes, and our home fridge and freezer was full of icing that would, rather mysteriously, DISAPPEAR.

I've got some theories about what would happen to Mother's cake Icing - but I'll never share them!

Avory Shell profile image

Avory Shell 5 years ago

Great Hub! I love baking, and this is full of some fun cakes I'd like to try out.

bellawritter23 profile image

bellawritter23 5 years ago from California

I have been staring at that birthday cake featured in the hub of the day all day now and I want it YUM!!! lol great hub....

Lyn.Stewart profile image

Lyn.Stewart 5 years ago from Auckland, New Zealand

very nice ... love it

Ashlea B profile image

Ashlea B 5 years ago Author

Thanks for the compliments and congrats! Thanks too for those who shared their personal cake ideas or experiences. I have been amazed at some of the cakes I have seen people make. I like when people share instructions on cakes they have made, too. So, I hope some of my instructions (detailed ones included in other hubs) and ideas can work for someone. Thanks again.

Ashlea B profile image

Ashlea B 5 years ago Author

And Todd Wesman Shaw... that is too funny! I'm sure I could guess your theory, and your Mom probably did too. ;o) I can just imagine your poor Mom going to icing a cake with no icing on hand. Hehe.

Ashlea B profile image

Ashlea B 5 years ago Author

@raniagul... I usually use a buttercream icing recipe, but there are many options out there to try. There is a difference between baking powder and baking soda, though honestly I'm not sure what. I just know some recipes call for both, so I'm guessing they aren't really interchangeable. Anyone else know?

Jennie Demario profile image

Jennie Demario 5 years ago from Floating in the clouds

that's so cool! move over cake boss lol i love the picture with your girls

GoodieReviews profile image

GoodieReviews 5 years ago

That Dora cake is awesome! My youngest son and daughter would love that. I actually WOULD say you're a pro!!

Rhoda Talisaysay profile image

Rhoda Talisaysay 5 years ago from Philippines

How to make ICING please? thankssssssss Ashlea B

cardelean profile image

cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

I love all of your ideas. You are a natural. I just started making my kids birthday cakes this year. I made a Tangled Rapunzel cake for her (wrote a hub about it too if you're interested) but I found that the gel food dyes were a lot better to use too. Monday is my son's birthday and I'm making him a John Deere cake. I was going to get a box cake mix but now I'm thinking that I'll try your recipe, thanks! Excellent job!

Ashlea B profile image

Ashlea B 5 years ago Author

Cardelean... I looked for your hub on the Rapunzel cake, but I couldn't find it. Can you send me a link to it? I would like to see it. My daughter likes Rapunzel (and long hair... hehe). Thanks for your encouragement.

cardelean profile image

cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

No problem. It's actually titled Disney's Tangled birthday (invitations, activities, etc. but I'll send you the link. And the encouragement is well deserved!

edw4rdcull profile image

edw4rdcull 5 years ago

I love cakes with original motives because it shows the love with which they were made

raniagul 5 years ago from islamabad

thanx 4 reply,my sister told me that in chocolate cakes u can try bakin soda as chocolate will supress the smell of it and u also used it in waky cake

Ashlea B profile image

Ashlea B 5 years ago Author

Rhoda... sorry for the delay. I don't have a really special icing recipe, but it's simple. It's called Buttercream Icing. You take 1lb of powdered sugar, 1/2 cup butter (softened), 1 tsp. vanilla, and 3 TB. of milk (adding more milk if needed). Blend all ingredients in with a mixer until desired consistency. I think it's better thicker than thinner (or you get drippy icing when trying to spread and decorate it). If icing is too thick add more milk... too thin? Add more powdered sugar. If you want chocolate simply add cocoa (powder) 1 TB at a time until you get the amount of chocolate you like. 6 TB is a pretty rich chocolate. I believe I did about 3 TB on my Dora cake for the chocolate icing. Hope this helps!

Rhoda Talisaysay profile image

Rhoda Talisaysay 5 years ago from Philippines

Thanks Ashlea! i am very happy you did take time to reply me though i was really sad at first... i thought you egnore me....

Ashlea B profile image

Ashlea B 5 years ago Author

No Rhoda... just needed to take a little time to get out my recipe and type it out for you. We are expecting a baby any time now so we've been busy with preparations and also with the holiday. I had this tucked in the back of my mind to do. Thanks for your patience.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article