The Pressure of Making a Birthday Cake

At the weekend, I took both my girls to a birthday party. It was lovely, a unicorn theme, there was a fairly entertaining magician who kept the kids amused for an hour, lots of party food and all the children managed to play outside. Even better, because it was held at my friend’s house, the adults all got to mingle and drink cups of tea too.

Then we sang Happy Birthday and the cake was served up. This is what appeared:

Rosie's 5th Birthday Cake
Unicorn themed cake by my friend Lizzie

Errr…… Wowzers!  Such beautiful, intricate detail and when you cut this bad boy open it had 3, yes 3 levels of rainbow marbled cake AND multi-coloured smarties spilling out. I knew that my friend was a good baker, but this was just awe inspiring. We were all hugely impressed. I can’t vouch for how it tasted as my two bolted down their slices of cake, but I’m guessing it tasted as perfect as it looked.

Star Bakers

There’s a few other star bakers several of whom I’ve seen on the blogging circuit including the lovely Charlie at Mess and Merlot. Charlie has posted several blogs about birthday cakes and they always look fantastic. When I asked her for some images to feature in this post, she sent me lots which are all amazing, but here’s a few of my favourites:

Cakes by the talented Charlie at Mess and Merlot

More beautiful cakes all looking nothing less than perfect. So all of this merely adds to my fear and pressure that I feel about making birthday cakes for my own daughters. You may have read my arts and crafts fail post. Let’s just say that my baking is on a similar level.

Every year at this time, I begin to break out in a sweat as I know that I will once again have to Bake A Cake. Our youngest daughter’s birthday is very early in July and our oldest daughter’s birthday is late August. There is exactly 7 weeks between their birthdays, which means every summer since Alice was 1, I end up spending a lot of my summer worrying about making cakes.

To Make or To Not To Bake?

It’s ridiculous isn’t it? So many people have asked me why I don’t just buy a cake. And I’ve no idea why I don’t, but I just seem to have it in my head that it is a tradition that I will make my children’s birthday cakes.

Let me be honest. I am NOT a baker. Let alone a star baker. If these cakes pictured above score a 10 I’m a possible minus 5. Four years ago when Alice was coming up for 1 I decided that despite having not baked a cake for years, I WOULD bake my daughter a birthday cake for her first birthday. I can still remember starting it the night before and although I followed the most basic recipe to the letter, absolutely stressing that it was all going wrong. Despite my mother-in-law questioning what was on the top (Errr… chocolate button butterflies and ladybirds obviously), it was well received by everyone and tasted good.

33 - Alice + cake
Alice’s 1st Birthday Cake

The Following Years

Every year since then I’ve hunted down easy to follow recipes that all involve butter icing. For some reason the thought of using fondant icing and modelling stuff, as shown in the photos at the top, all seem to terrify me. And until last year, considering that I’ve had two children to now make for, it was all going FAIRLY well:

Alice's 2nd Birthday Cake
Alice’s 2nd Birthday- A basic sandwich cake with more butter icing, chocolate buttons and animals.


Eva’s 1st Birthday Cake

Eva’s first birthday – I felt fairly chuffed – I bought a butterfly mould and smothered it in butter icing topped off with sweets. Despite the look on my kids’ faces it went down well even thought they were all bouncing off the walls from the sugar rush!

Alice's 3rd Birthday Cake

Alice’s 3rd Birthday Cake

Running out of steam, I used the same idea 7 weeks later for Alice’s third birthday. OK so she was 3 and really didn’t care that it was practically the same cake as her sister had had the month before.

Last Year

In the usual panic, I thought I’d do a basic purple cake for Eva’s 2nd birthday as she just loves purple. Notice the constant theme of butter icing and chocolate buttons being used throughout. But, so far, so good right? This looks pretty good I think?

Eva’s 2nd Birthday Cake

Seven weeks later, I was looking for more easy recipe ideas for Alice’s 4th birthday party. She was having a party at a mini-soft play place complete with 12 kids. I found what I thought was the perfect recipe for a hedgehog.

The day arrived and it was unbelievably hot. I was in a sweaty, stressy mess trying to work out how to salvage a cake which not only looked slightly too small to dish up to 12 kids, but was also covered in butter icing which was slipping and sliding all over the place. This is how it looked when I finally dished it up:


Birthday Cake Disaster!
Alice’s 4th Birthday “Cake”

I mean seriously?!  What on earth is this awful looking creature? Because it surely isn’t a hedgehog! Just take a moment to scroll from this monstrosity up to the unicorn cake at the top of the page and you may, just for a fleeting moment, experience a micro second of the utter humiliation and embarrassment that I felt in presenting this cake.


Alice's 4th Birthday Cake

Alice’s face, just about says it all: “What the hell is this?” To be fair, at 4, she didn’t really care. It was me who was apologising to the other parents for such an ugly looking cake and giving each child a tiny centimetre square piece of cake to make sure it stretched round.

This Year

I’ve got less than 2 weeks to go before it’s Eva’s 3rd birthday. My stomach drops whenever I think about it. Could I get away with ANOTHER butterfly cake? And then, 7 weeks later, what can I do for Alice? If it’s hot what can I do that isn’t a slippery butter icing mess?

I’m feeling the pressure, not least to try and bake 2 half decent cakes within 7 weeks of each other but also because I’ve started thinking, at what age does your child looks at a cake and says “Mum that’s rubbish.” Or “Mum that’s not as good as the unicorn cake.” Could it be this year when my eldest baby turns 5? Or have I got a couple more years to go? And can I in that time, teach myself or learn some tricks to improve a bit? I’m never going to win the Star Baker award, but it would be nice to present my children with something other than a slop on a plate!

Do you make your children’s birthday cakes or do you buy them in?

Any help, hints or advice on easy to make birthday cakes all gratefully received!





Cuddle Fairy


0 thoughts on “The Pressure of Making a Birthday Cake

  1. I think your cakes look fab! Homemade cakes always have that touch of love that shop bought don’t. I too am feeling the pressure of having to make my son’s first birthday cake, he has an egg allergy so it’s impossible to find some premade without paying someone a fortune to make one for him. They all go in and out the same way right? Haha! Wonderful post! #TwinklyTuesday

    1. If you go to Holland and Barrett they have a good egg replacement that I have used when I have done a vegan cake for a friend. It’s called Organ no egg

  2. Homemade cakes are always tricky. I used to make my own for my little one but this year I decided against it.
    I used to do a cake decorating course and I would always recommend working with frosting and ready to roll icing rather than buttercream. I always shop bought the icing and the frosting. You could always use packet cake mix too if you wanted to make a cake at home but making it a little more easy. Working with icing is like working with play doh, only it’s a bit stickier. You should use icing sugar to dust your counter top and your rolling pin/hands when working with it. You could also use cornflour to do the same thing.
    Personally I used food colouring to dye my icing but places like asda and tesco stock colours ones which do the same thing. I always try to keep it simple, working with basic cake shapes, so a square or round cake, place the icing over the top and use the icing to decorate it. Like I said, it’s just like playing with play doh so you just mold it into shape or roll it out and use cutters to cut out shapes to decorate with. Pinterest is always a great place to get inspiration 🙂

  3. Well God loves a trier !! Seriously tho , I’m sure they were delicious and we all have different skills. I accepted from outset I would be a cake buyer not a maker. Charlie’s cakes are outstanding !

  4. Far too much pressure! You’re the one who gets to decide the tradition so be gentle on yourself! When we see beautiful cakes by friends, family and bloody Pintrest it’s easy to forget that they take practice. Baking is especially unforgiving.

    When we make cakes we have a similar story to yours so if time allows we do a few trial runs. It’s always been the tradition that my wife makes her sister a weird cake for her birthday and the glorious failures and odd results have been a better source of stories and memories than the rare times she got it right!

    The other way to look at it is now your children are getting older they can get involved in the cake making!


  5. Oh god – this strikes The Fear into me because I’m obsessed with making homemade cakes for birthdays and tend to go into a trance-like state and overdo the whole thing. For my daughter’s 3rd birthday last month I made a total of 15 bakes items including 3 ‘main’ cakes – why?!?!?!?! Who needs 3 main cakes?! My MAIN main was a Minions cake that she thought was Mr Potato Head, mega backfire. Anyway, personally I do love a homemade cake that you’ve decorated, I know professional cakes look fab but when your children are small I think it’s a lovely thing to do for them and the photos are hilarious to look back on. I adore your butterflies (I did that for the 2nd birthday) and the hedgehog looks brilliant, if a little ‘warm’. You did good 😊😊 #bloggerclubuk

    1. A little warm!! Hah hah yes indeed!! My goodness you go the other way and go to town. It’s all I can manage to scrape together a tiny deformed hedgehog! Perhaps you can sell off the likes of your surplus cake to people like me?! Xx

      1. I was deranged – at one point I had five minutes spare while the baby was sleeping and whipped up a panicky cheesecake…! I would absolutely donate my wares but I’d feel inhumane accepting money, I’d settle for a crunchie in the post 😉 xx

          1. Mais Oui 😉 I saw the BEST wedding cake idea on Facebook earlier – from the front it looked like a three tiered traditional cake, with white icing and very pretty flowers. But the reverse had the icing parted like a pair of curtains and the three tiers were decorated to look like superhero characters. So clever. Er, obviously I can’t do that. Caterpillar?! X

  6. I am not a star baker. I thought that was a real phone until I said wait- is that a cake too?! GEEZ some people are seriously talented. I’m not one of them. I think your cakes are fab! They are full of love & look delicious too. Thanks so much for joining us at #BloggerClubUK x

  7. Oh I love your hedgehog…and the butterfly….and the first birthday cake. I mean who doesn’t love butter icing and chocolate buttons – yum! Kids don’t care about instagram-worthy cakes although Mess and Merlot I salute your talent). And if it looks spectucalrly bad just say your husband/the kids made it. #BloggerClubUK

  8. I think your cakes are fantastic, and the hedgehog is awesome!! My personal opinion is the whole cake thing has gone a bit too far, kids don’t care about the topping they just want to get their little hands on a piece and shove it in their mouth. The photos look pretty, but I would rather look back and be quite chuffed that (as a non baker myself) I made that thing and put love and hard work into that cake and the whole thing was eaten. Your cakes are fabulous and mine look pretty muck like yours! 🙂

  9. haha! you are very brave to make your own cakes (in all fairness, they aren’t too bad lol) but I cannot bake cakes at all! and so for me shop brought is the way forward, that or commission someone else to make it lol 😉 keep trying.. after all, practise makes perfect! #coolmumclub

  10. I have never even attempted to make a birthday cake as know it would be total cack! I think in life you’ve got to play to your strengths, and cake making is definitely not mind – but I definitely salute anyone who gives it a bash! Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub lovely x

  11. Charlie does make amazing cakes! But I think yours look great too! I’m the same – I always go for using butter icing rather than attempting fondant icing too! I did however abandon making cakes for birthdays pretty fast & am now firmly onto buying them! I think the hedgehog is really cute! #BloggerClubUK

  12. You know I’m all for anything covered in sprinkles and flake!! I’m very flattered that you like my cakes but like the comments above also say, there’s nothing like a birthday cake made by Mummy, kids eyes will light up at the sight of it. (I know I probably shouldn’t say this but I actually prefer slightly wonky cakes made with love to ‘perfect’ cakes which have been bought.) x

    1. Thanks Charlie, I think this is why I feel like I HAVE to do it every year because they’re made with love! I just need to try and raise my game nearer to your level by the time they’re old enough to be embarrassed (about 2 years then?!) X

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