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Unexpected Baker: How to Use Your Old Leftovers to Make a Birthday Cake

Updated on March 24, 2013
The foundation of your cake is the most important.
The foundation of your cake is the most important.

Baking cakes is an art form, or so I've heard tell-- it's hard to master and it takes time to perfect. Sometimes the average adult can't find the time to make their loved one's a hand-made birthday cake while trying to balance work or maybe even schooling. So I set out to combine both my own time at work as a dishwasher and my baking knowledge to create an easy no-bake cake out of leftovers. Waste not, want not! And honestly, who wouldn't want such a creative cake?

The foundation of your birthday cake masterpiece needs to be sturdy, compact and preferably cold. I used cold garlic mashed potatoes. To create a decently-sized cake, you may need several weeks worth of leftovers. I was lucky enough to have access to several thousand trays full of leftover mashed potatoes. Form your potatoes or cake base of choice into a neat rectangle, flipping the cake over once.

Don't be afraid to be fancy with your cake-- remember that it's for someone you love dearly!
Don't be afraid to be fancy with your cake-- remember that it's for someone you love dearly!

Once you have the foundation of your birthday cake all squared up, you can begin to embellish the bottom of the cake. I added cold tater tots around the edge of my cake to hide the unsightly plastic tray beneath it. You can choose to use fancy china for your leftover-birthday cake, but all I had at my disposal was this tray. The tater tots add a nice 'Je ne sais quoi' to the cake and create a lovely, eye-catching border. I began to add frosting to the top of cake every time leftover ketchup or spaghetti sauce came my way.

I found that mixing the two mediums together created a very nice color that smoothed easily over the top of the cake. You can mix and match your own ingredients to create a frosting specific to your's or your loved one's tastes. If you use leftover spaghetti sauce, you may end up with extraneous noodles in your cake's frosting. Never fear- when I tasted my cake, I found the noodles added a particularly pleasing greasy texture.

See how pretty this cake is turning out to be?
See how pretty this cake is turning out to be?

I had to work quickly on my cake, since I was also at work, but the thing about leftover birthday cake's is that they are so quick and easy to make, so it was no problem that I was multitasking! I finished frosting and picked out the larger pieces of noodles simply to make the frosting look smoother. Once I got my hands on some dried cranberries soaked in Italian vinaigrette, I decided to ring the cake with them, and I'm so glad I did! The purple color of the cranberries compliments the deep red of the frosting and creates a very appealing border. You can use any small snack-food as your cake border, but I highly suggest some type of fruit, as it adds a certain elegance to your leftover birthday cake. If your cake is for a child, chocolate chips might do the trick-- just remember that they have to be leftover! Try throwing them in the garbage for two days and then scoop them out for the right effect.

Getting closer to the final product...
Getting closer to the final product...

Since it is a birthday cake, you mustn't forget to add the candles! You can always use the age-old classic wax birthday candles, but the newness of freshly opened candles can throw off the whole mood you've been creating with your leftover birthday cake. I used fried green beans on my birthday cake and the deep moldy green offset the red and purples colors beautifully. I couldn't have been more pleased with my cake. Make sure you add the correct amount of candles and get creative! The older, the better! Dig around in your fridge for all sorts of old candle-shaped creations. You can always dip the tips of your candles in a little alcohol for the desired burning effect. Blowing them out might be difficult, but it will make the birthday all the more special and memorable.

The finished product! Isn't it beautiful?
The finished product! Isn't it beautiful?

Now you're reaching the last step- wasn't this an easy, rewarding process? Not only have you cleaned your fridge out, but you've finished an adorable birthday cake in record time! Don't try and spell out happy birthday or do any lettering unless you have stale leftover frosting, at which point, I suggest you mix it with a little dated ginger ale or other flat pop to make it sweeter and easier to squeeze. I didn't happen to have any such leftovers at my disposal, so I simply sprinkled some old shredded carrots on the top of my cake to create a very attractive spread of edible confetti. The orange contrasts ever so nicely with the frosting and cranberry rim and the finished product is both palatable and pleasing to the eye. Surprise your loved one's with your leftover birthday cake and embrace the recycling trend to its fullest!

Look how happy he is!
Look how happy he is!

Happy birthday to you or your loved one! Enjoy your cake and come back soon for the next installment of Unexpected Baker.


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    • duffsmom profile image

      P. Thorpe Christiansen 

      6 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

      You are a hoot kiddo. I was a huge Erma Bombeck fan and since she passed away, there has been no one who really replaces her great style and sense of humor. You have done it! I look forward to more Shanna.

    • Ask Ashley profile image

      Ask Ashley 

      6 years ago from California

      lol This definitely was NOT what I expected when I opened up your hub...With such an intriguing title, you tricked me. I think the most amusing part of this story is hearing that your coworkers actually helped you. It must have been a slow day at work, that's for sure...but a fun one at that!

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 

      6 years ago from Planet Earth

      Hilarious! And you deserve extra points for making lemonade out of the lemons on your job. Or cake from leftovers, I should say. Voted up and funny!

    • Shanna11 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Utah

      Clevercat- Hahah, I tend to make split-second decisions and I fail to properly think things through. This was just one of those "I am so bored, my job sucks and these mashed potatoes are extremely malleable" kind of moments!

      Chaplin- Thank you! My coworkers were all very amused by it and helped collect the vast amounts of mashed potatoes used for this. I thought it was hilarious at the time, but now I can't look at the pictures without gagging.

    • ChaplinSpeaks profile image

      Sarah Johnson 

      6 years ago from Charleston, South Carolina

      That is just hilarious. One, that you did this at work, and two, that you took pics and made a Hub about it. You might start some kind of wild trend with this!

    • theclevercat profile image

      Rachel Vega 

      6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Ahahahahahaaaaa! I didn't stop laughing throughout this entire Hub. What even possessed you to do this?

      "The tater tots add a nice 'Je ne sais quoi." Oh Unexpected Baker, please come back soon!

    • Shanna11 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Utah

      We wear gloves, so that helps... I just seem to lack a gag reflex. It's definitely not my favorite job-- people waste so much food and I swear they make ridiculous messes out of their trays on purpose, but I've come to accept my station in life. Lol!

    • Brainy Bunny profile image

      Brainy Bunny 

      6 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Eeeeeewwwwwww! You are very brave to stick your hands in other people's leftovers! When I worked in the dining hall in college, I got sick every single time it was my turn to scrape the trays.

    • Shanna11 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Utah

      Haha, I'm pretty much the head of laughs and creativity in the dishroom. My coworkers wait for me to lead so that if the manager walks in, I can take the fall. They're great, huh? ;)

    • CWanamaker profile image


      6 years ago from Arizona

      Haha this is great! My kids would love the opportunity to "play" with their food like this. If I worked at a restaurant I would definitely make leftover cakes just to get some laughs. Awesome!

    • Shanna11 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Utah

      Lol--My Saturday shifts as a dishwasher are so long... each week I have to get progressively more creative so I don't go insane and put myself through the dishwasher. Next week I'm going to go for a three tiered wedding cake! Lol, it really is quite gross, but for some reason I'm fiercely proud of it!

    • MadWhiteWaitress profile image


      6 years ago

      ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.... I'll give you this, you're very creative! I would never eat such a contraption (even being pregnant, with my weird taste buds, this still turned my stomach.. lol) however it was entertaining =)

    • Shanna11 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Utah

      Haha, isn't he cute? He actually got turned into the cake, so he was rather short lived... but it gave the cake an extra something special! :D

    • robotmonster profile image


      6 years ago from San Francisco

      How cute!!! It's like a snowman's head.


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