Fun Cut-up Cakes: Dalmations, Minnie Mouse and Other Shapes from Childhood
Fun, easy cut-out cakes
When I was a kid, every time my birthday rolled around, my Mom would ask what kind of cake I wanted. She wasn’t referring to chocolate versus marble – she meant the design. We had several good resources to choose from for ideas.
My sister chose the elephant cake
Baker's Coconut Animal Cut-up Cakes
First was the Baker’s Coconut Animal Cut-up Cakes cookbook from 1959. This was one of those promotional items a company would create to promote their product. Well, I hated coconut. Still do. But this little booklet brought years of joy to me and my siblings.
The best thing about it, beside the instructions on how to cut the cake into different shapes, were the full-color photographs of the finished product.
When it was my sister’s birthday in October, I would peruse the booklet anyway, dreaming of what cake I might choose when March rolled around. By the time my spring birthday hit, I was full of ideas.
I chose the butterfly cake
Since I am a Pisces, the fish cake was a must. We used Life Savers for the bubbles. It was iced green, no coconut, of course, and was the hit of the party.
One year I chose the butterfly design- this was a tricky one. The more cut edges to the piece, the more difficult it is to keep loose crumbs out of the icing while frosting. My Mom taught me that you always put wax paper under the edges and ice from the bottom up for a cleaner look.
When my daughter turned five, she chose the dog, “Spot the Fox Terrier”. We decorated him as a Dalmation, however, since she'd been a dalmation for Halloween that year and I'd had one as a pet when I was a kid. It came out quite nice, and she enjoyed adding the black frosting ‘spots’.
My Daughter's Dalmation Cake
My earlier attempt at Minnie Mouse had much poorer results. Everyone at the party thought it was Ms. Pac-Man. (I was a Pac-Man fanatic back in college!)
Betty Crocker's New Boys & Girls Cookbook
A second resource we used for cake designs was Betty Crocker’s New Boys & Girls Cookbook. One cake stands out in my mind as the piece-de-resistance of my childhood: my brother’s castle cake from his 8th birthday. I'm not sure which cookbook it came from. My mother made the drawbridge out of Hershey’s chocolate bars, ice cream cones formed the towers, and those little colored mints scalloped the edges. This was a cake fit for King Arthur!
My brother's castle cake
Betty Crocker's Cakes Kids Love - 1969
Betty Crocker’s Cakes Kids Love
Our third and final resource for cake designs was Betty Crocker’s Cakes Kids Love from 1969. This tiny hardcover book had more ideas than Baker’s, but the pictures were drawings, not photographs; this limited its appeal to us as children.
One cake my mother undertook was it's “Animal Parade” cake. A double layer round cake (not cut into a shape!), it was decorated around the sides with a medley of bears, roosters, mice and such, made of Nilla Wafers and red hots. Impressive enough, but I must say, I’m a sucker for a cut-up shape cake, myself.
Animal Parade Cake
After my husband & I were married, we discovered that his mother had made a cut-up cake from Baker's Animal Cut-up Cakes too. It was the rabbit, which was featured on the cover of the 1956 version of the cookbook.
As my kids got older they requested store-bought sheet cakes and ice cream fudge cakes from Dairy Queen for their special occasions. By then, cut-ups were old hat. I had already decorated rectangle cakes to look like Spongebob and enlisted frosting to simulate Pokémon. Let's face it- I wasn't as skilled a decorator as my mother was. (Take a look at that turtle cake for proof!) That’s okay. They're all good memories.
Of course, today the internet is full of countless ideas for cut-ups and decorating. For me, sifting through the photographs of Baker’s Coconut Animal Cut-up Cakes still brings a smile and that feeling of being king for a day. I bet those cakes would have looked awesome with coconut.