The Birthday Cake – Travel Theme

Henry and I with cake copy

These days there are quite a few people around the island that make really beautiful decorated theme cakes; many of which are so detailed, how could I ever even think of attempting to make H’s First Birthday Cake? I was determined. I knew exactly what I wanted and although I had no previous experience with a cake like this, I was happily up for the challenge. I mean, sure, I’ve made many cakes, but never a 2 tiered, layer cake and I was pretty excited about it.

Normally I never ‘try out’ a recipe, but I know how temperamental baking can be. I decided to start early in the week and ended up making two batches of cake to ‘try out’ (R couldn’t have been happier). The kitchen had the lovely sweet smell of cake all week long.

The first batch was a bust simply because I used the wrong food colouring. Since I wanted a dark blue colour, and I was using liquid food colouring, I ended using a whole bottle. The colour was no where close to what I wanted and the cake tasted like food colouring – yuk. It even stained our mouth blue – not ideal in this situation!

I learned quite a few tricks while doing this cake and thought I’d share them here. If you are venturing on a layer cake, here are some tips that helped me:

  • prepare individual layers in advance, wrap in layers of cling film and refrigerate if you are going to use within a day, or freeze them if you’ll be using them after longer than one day.
  • use gel/paste food colouring
  • make sure to have good cake tins. I had 2 different; different size and material. One was a black springform tin that I usually use for cheesecakes and the other was an aluminium grey tin that with a removable bottom. The black springform pan produced far better results.
  • wrap your cake pans with these strips or wet towels to make perfectly flat layers. Normally cakes dome up and with this little trick they stay perfectly flat. I cut up an old, clean towel in strips long enough and high enough for each dish, wet them, wrapped them around the cake tins and fastened them at the edge with safety pins. At first I wasn’t convinced but then found this blog entry by A Cozy Kitchen. It worked wonders.


  • before popping your cake into the oven drop it from about a foot over the counter/table to get rid of as many air bubbles as possible.
  • it’s really important to butter your cake dish, line the bottom with parchment paper and dust with flour.
  • use good quality vanilla essence.
  • while you let your cake cool, put a slice of bread on the top of the cake, this way the slice of bread dries up but the cake doesn’t.
  • trim the edges of the cake so they are flat and even. They will be easier to cover with frosting. I realised this after I assembled the first 2 layers of the first tier and it was much harder to fill in the non even spaces.


  • I didn’t really want to go through the whole process of making fondant for the few decorations I wanted to add. I had tried to make marshmallow fondant a few months ago and its not as easy as I thought so I thought of ready made fondant/sugar paste (which is the same thing) and it worked great.
  • if you want really blue cake, its not enough to use blue food colouring, you need to add a little violet colouring as well, without it the cake is more turquoise than blue. Just be careful not to add to much… you really need to work carefully with the colour.

cake2 copy

Here are some things that I didn’t do but wished I had, a few things that I’ll keep in mind for the next cake :

  • cake masking: do a thin initial covering of frosting and let it set in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour and the crumbs set and allow you to make a clean crumb-free layer of frosting.
  • make a white buttercream frosting/frosting
  • double the cream cheese frosting recipe

You can find some more really great cake baking tips here at Smitten Kitchen

Thanks to Linda Lomelino from Call me Cupcake for the delicious cake recipe, it’s one I’ll be using again.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

(12oz) 1 1/2 cups cream cheese (room temperature)
3/4 cup butter (room temperature)
3 cups icing sugar
2 tsp vanilla

Beat butter and cream cheese until combined.
Add icing sugar a little at a time or it will just fly out of your bowl.
Add vanilla.

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