As my two little girls grew up, they were into all things princess-y. Barbie and princess stationery, cutlery and clothes aside, they also started asking for princess cakes for their school celebrations! I started looking around at the princess cakes sold in the bakeries – they were really expensive, and not what I had in mind.
I thought, “how nice if I could make my own”. It seemed like an impossible feat, considering that the only thing I have ever succeeded in making at that point is muffins (my first cake sank and was not edible). Undeterred, I signed up for a fondant class which was quite a brave thing for an amateur like me as fondant is notoriously difficult to deal with. That one afternoon in class taught me a few tricks and I came away with a new found determination to make my kids’ birthday cakes. Over the next few months, I spent many weekend afternoons cutting, rolling and practising putting a princess doll cake together, and have been making their birthday cakes since then.
Quite a few friends have asked me how I find time to bake after a full day’s work, running after three kids and serving in a church ministry. I’m no superwoman and at times it does seem like too much to handle. However, baking has become a passion, an avenue of creative expression and can be rather therapeutic! The key thing is that it brings great satisfaction – seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces already makes it worth the while. I know that when they are all grown up, they will remember the many cakes that I have made for them.
It’s not a walk in the park, and the learning journey can be stressful at times. But with a little determination and passion, anyone can learn to bake birthday cakes for their kids. Here’s some thoughts on how to get started.
If you have never baked anything before, try simple recipes like muffins and butter cakes to build your confidence. Remember to always follow the recipe to a tee when you are starting out. You’ll learn how to improvise when you get better at it.
The internet is your best tutor
You don’t have to attend many baking classes in order to learn how to decorate cakes. Pick a few that teaches the basics of how to frost a cake, pipe designs and handle fondant. Then go online and see how others do it. I have only attended one three hour fondant class. I learned how to put a fondant princess cake together by watching numerous Youtube videos.
I find time for baking amidst a busy schedule by making little sacrifices such as not watching TV or taking afternoon naps. We will always find time to do what we love.
Don’t be afraid to fail
I must made at least three rainbow cakes (pictured) before I succeeded in getting the colours and layering right. I was tempted to give up and order a cake for the birthday celebration which was in two days’ time. But I tried again, and it worked. Baking and cake decorating is trial and error and we learn as we go along.
Plan ahead and enlist support
When I am baking a birthday cake to feed an entire childcare centre of 50 kids, I really do need all the time I can get on my hands. Break up the project into small parts and do what you can ahead of time. For example, you can bake the cake one week ahead, and then freeze it. Fondant decorations can be made ahead and left to dry. I also get support and understanding from my husband and domestic helper that they will need to take care of the kids while I spend a few undistracted hours to put the cake together.
It doesn’t have to be perfect
Many a times, I feel rather disappointed that my cakes are not as nicely done as those from the bakery houses. I have to keep reminding myself that those are baked by professionals who do this every day of their lives. I have learned that perfection is not the ultimate goal – my kids do not see the little things that are wrong with the cake. What they see is a beautiful cake that is made by mummy especially for them, because she loves them.