Let me preface this post by saying that I’m not a baker by any means. Or a cook. My husband is gifted in both of those departments. But when I do, on occasion, want to make something, I tend to have big ideas. Ideas that take forever, end up messy, and usually turn out okay. It was no exception with my son’s 1st birthday cakes.
I set out to make 3 cakes: a smash cake for his actual birthday, a smash cake for his birthday party, and a cake to serve the 35 guests who were coming.
I am also not gifted in planning serving sizes, so I baked a lot of cake layers. Yellows and chocolates. I scoured websites for the perfect cake ideas. But most of them required fondant. Or at least lots of talent – talent cultivated in some sort of culinary school. I went to The University of Virginia and William & Mary and didn’t take any classes that required a kitchen.
But then I stumbled across the idea to bake a smash cake inside of a can, referenced in a blog I love and follow, and the original how-to post she linked. This idea was so.perfect. for what I needed and ended up being the perfect size for my son who won’t eat cake (but who will eat an entire mini ice cream cone, we discovered last night). I didn’t use the recipe provided, but I did use my mother’s and grandmother’s icing recipe, which I knew would be delicious. I also varied from the instructions in that instead of using parchment paper, I lined the inside of the can with baking spray and flour. Then I used a measuring cup to pour the batter neatly into the can, filling it halfway as directed.
Two almost-identical smash cakes!
I found edible sparkles at Michael’s to use on the cakes. Then I added a fancy shell chocolate to the top as a garnish, which complimented the nautical theme of his party (we used to sell these at the gourmet candy store where I worked in Williamsburg, but Wal-Mart also carries them!). I also put his favorite strawberry yogurt puffs along the bottom. I made two of these smash cakes, one for his birthday dinner, and one for his party. One with yellow cake, one with chocolate, both of which ended up on the floor by the handful.
Then it came time to create the birthday cake for his guests. I decorated it on my birthday, the same day as the party. Not the way I wanted to spend the first half of my birthday, but I was happy with the results. I couldn’t begin to attempt the perfect crab-themed cakes I pinned on Pinterest, but then I came up with the idea of a sandcastle cake – because surely sand would hide my (inevitable) imperfections! Sure enough, when I Googled “sandcastle cake,” I came up with lots of great ideas and settled on this one as my inspiration.
I crushed up vanilla wafers and graham crackers for sand. I bought Honey Maid Lil Squares (cinnamon flavored, because they looked like sparkly sand!) to line the sides of the castle, and I bought edible gold bakers’ spray paint for the turrets. I also used a kabob skewer to hold it together.
I made snickerdoodle cookies (well, sugar cookies covered in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar, to be more specific) with sliced almonds to look like sand dollars, inspired by a trip I took to Panama City Beach, where my brother, aunt, uncle, and I uncovered hundreds of sand dollars on the ocean floor (those, however, were brownish-green). Thank you, Pinterest:I tied these in little bags with anchors as party favors, but picked out my favorites to use to garnish the cake. I loved the idea of using different-sized ice cream cones as turrets, held together with homemade icing and fastened to the sides of the cake with toothpicks. This idea was from the same google search, but I also saw it illustrated in a French book my son loves.
With all of the leftover cake batter and my skepticism that I hadn’t made enough cake to serve 35, I also made cupcakes. After a last-minute Pinterest search just before the guests arrived, I enlisted my 6-year-old niece’s help to unwrap a pack of white lifesavers I already had and decorated the cakes with little buoys, along with the gold spray paint, sparkles, and of course, my homemade frosting.
We didn’t run out of cake (in fact, we had lots leftover to freeze!), it tasted great, and just as I planned, the cake imperfections were mostly buried in sand.
And the best part of the party? Being peer-pressured to do a smash cake WITH my son, since it was also my birthday. He had no interest in eating his own cake, but he did love kissing cake off of my cheeks! It was definitely my favorite part of the party, a moment that won’t ever be duplicated unless I have another baby on my birthday!
(Thank you to my amazing sister for the adorable digital scrapbook page!)