Birthday Cake Bliss and Giving Back

After everyone was snug in their bed last night, I turned on a chick flick (my husband is away on his annual fishing trip in Northern Saskatchewan) and cut myself a really, really large slice of my daughter’s birthday cake. I cut it with great care, ensuring that each bite would be loaded with as much candy as possible.  And as I gorged myself, nibbled delicately on this slice of candy-studded Bedazzled Fairy Cake Mountain, I decided that this was the cake I wanted for my next birthday party—that candy and cake is a deadly good combination.

I’m not sure if I’ll be perceived as nuts or fun-loving. What do you think?

With ponytails born five days apart (plus three years), June is always a hectic month for birthdays in our house.  This past week we hosted two parties – one for each girl. Add another four birthday parties over a two week stretch to the mix, and you’ll agree that it was only understandable that I RSVP’d about the wrong date to one of the parties. Right? (Note the desperate tone of my voice here!)

But it’s the same every year, so I try to plan ahead as much as possible. I made some of my new favourite cookies (Funfetti Cookies by Two Peas and Their Pod) for the loot bags for both parties a couple weeks ago and popped them into the freezer. I also made a Blueberry Coffee Cake for the adults at my four-year old ponytail’s party, and popped it into the freezer.

That left me free to make cupcakes for my oldest ponytail’s party and the Bedazzled Fairy Cake Mountain for the youngest ponytail’s party the night before. I haven’t made many cakes, so making this Fairy Cake was quite an adventure.  It was lots of fun to make and very rewarding, as my little ponytail’s entire face lit up when she saw it. When it comes to birthday baking, it really is all about planning ahead.

Over the past few years, I’ve also realized something else about birthdays.

It’s about the party—big or small. It’s about the cake. It’s about the running around with your friends and squealing with delight. It’s not about the presents! Sure every kid loves to get a few presents on their birthday. But a few carefully chosen presents is all it takes to make my girls really happy on their birthday.

This year we found a great new website called ECHOage. It is a service that allows you to invite your guests using their online platform with great invitations and reminders. Your child decides on one or two gifts that he/she would like for his/her birthday and selects a charity. The parents of the invited guests can then make a contribution online—half the money goes to the charity and the other half goes towards your child’s gift. (I should point out that Echoage has a service fee of 15% of the total funds raised.) I was able to buy each of my girls a couple outfits and a pet for their dolls. They were both more than happy and didn’t miss the mountain of gifts that they would have otherwise received. This was the third year that my oldest ponytail has raised money for a charity on her birthday and she’s raised over $700 in three years. I think ECHOage is the greatest thing ever, because everybody wins. Your child gets to learn about giving back at an early age; the charity receives much needed funds; parents of the invited guests don’t need to spend time shopping for birthday presents; and parents of the birthday boy or girl get to manage the volume of toys coming into the house.  ECHOage is linked to charities across Canada and the United States, so it’s a great option for anyone living in North America. For more information, click here.

If making a cake with the word “mountain” in it isn’t for you, then you might want to try Kristy’s Best Birthday Cake with Raspberry Filling and Super Lemon Buttercream Frosting, or Charles’ Kladdkaka (Swedish Sticky Chocolate Cake), or Eva’s version of Kladdkaka. All of these cakes look really delicious!

Would you believe that I scaled back on the batter for the top three layers?

Bedazzled Fairy Cake Mountain

Adapted from the recipe by Fran Warde in Food for Friends

  • 6 sticks unsalted butter (each stick is ½ cup)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 10 eggs
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • 1/3 cup sifted cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup boiling water

Required: 3 non-stick cake pans, 6, 8, and 10 inches in diameter, buttered, plus one paper muffin liner and muffin tin. (I used springform pans and they worked really well.)

Instructions

Mix cocoa powder and boiling water in small bowl. Stir until smooth.

Make the cake in two batches. Mix 2 cups of flour with 1 ½ tsp baking powder and ½ tsp of salt in small bowl. Put 3 sticks of the butter and 1 ½ cups of the sugar in a bowl and cream together until light and fluffy. (Use paddle attachment if using Kitchen Aid mixer.) Add 5 of the eggs and beat until well mixed. Gradually add flour mixture and mix until smooth. Add vanilla and milk then mix until incorporated.  Scoop out ½ cup of batter and mix with half of the chocolate mixture in a small bowl.

Transfer white batter to a greased 10” cake pan, drop the chocolate batter into the pan by the tablespoon. Swirl chocolate batter into the white batter with a knife or skewer. Bake in a preheated 350° for 35-45 minutes until golden, springy in the center and just coming away from the edges of the pan.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes, then remove from the pan and put onto a wire rack to cool.

Mix the remaining ingredients as before, filling the smaller 2 cake pans (8” and 6”) and the one muffin liner in a muffin tin. Swirl the white and chocolate batter as before. Put all 3 cakes into the preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, checking as before to see if the cakes are cooked. Let cool completely before frosting.

Butter Frosting

  • 2 ½ sticks softened unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3 cups icing sugar

Put the butter and icing sugar into a bowl, add 2 tablespoons hot water and beat until soft and creamy. Put the largest cooled cake onto a plate or cake plate and spread with butter frosting. Put the middle-sized cake on top and spread with butter frosting. Repeat for each of the remaining layers, ending with the muffin. The icing does not need to look perfect as it will be covered with the top frosting.

Top Frosting

  • 5 cups icing sugar
  • Water (I used just under a ½ cup)
  • Assortment of candies (I used smarties, skittles, swedish berries, chocolate covered raisins, red shoe laces, coloured mini marshmellows, and pastel candies with hearts.
  • Food colouring of your choice

Put the icing sugar into a bowl. Add water a little at a time and stir until smooth and blended. It should be thin enough to run down the cake, but still thick enough to cover it entirely. Pour over the cake, letting it cascade down and cover all of the cake.

While the frosting is still wet, add the candies, sticking them all over the surface.

NOTES:

  • The top frosting on the cake keeps sliding down the cake as you pour/drizzle it from the top. I cleaned up the base of the plate before decorating with the candies. It shifted a little after the candies were added, but I think the fact that the rows of candies are perfectly straight adds to the charm of the cake.
  • I used pink food colouring for the top frosting.
  • I sliced of a few small bumps on the cake tops before icing. This was easy to do.
  • The dollar store is a great place to buy the extra long candles and candies, especially those little pastel heart candies with expressions like “be mine” or “email me” (this wasn’t on the candies of my youth).

Blueberry Coffee Cake and Funfetti Cookies

Blueberry Coffee Cake

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Blueberry-Coffee-Cake-1275

My adaptation – added 1 tsp of lemon zest and 1 tbsp lemon juice to the batter; mixed blueberries with 1 tsp flour then poured half of the batter into the pan, followed by half of the blueberries, then remaining half of batter. Sprinkle second half of blueberries on top of batter, followed by the topping.

Funfetti Cookies

http://tastykitchen.com/blog/2012/05/funfetti-cookies/

Make a wish!

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44 Comments on “Birthday Cake Bliss and Giving Back”

  1. A_Boleyn says:

    OMG … it’s amazing how much sugar kids consume when they’re little. I remember the stuff I used to eat and still can’t believe it. 🙂

    The charity aspect of bday giving is very laudable. Props to you for thinking of it and your ponytails for thinking of others at such a young age.

    • Yes, it is true. This is definitely a special occasion kind of cake with all that sugar in it!

      Thanks Maria. Hopefully their interest in charitable giving sticks with them as they grow. It is a different world than when I was growing up, and it’s important to me that they appreciate what they have.

  2. This cake is actually sugar heaven – I know you have just had so many wonderful birthdays but what about mine? 😉
    Gorgeous job!

    Cheers
    CCU

  3. GOOD GOD! I want this birthday cake!! You’re daughter is very lucky, I’m off to show my mum 😛

  4. Beth says:

    That is one fun cake! And I love the photo at the end, of the ponytails blowing out the candles. So sweet!

    I’m in the same boat as you. My girls were born three years minus nine days apart. And they always got their own party. It meant a super-busy birthday season, but I always felt efficient, because I only had to think about loot bags, cakes and party themes once a year.

    • Thanks Beth. You raise a good point. I think there are some efficiencies to doing everything at the same time. I was able to use the same cookies for both sets of loot bags and buy a large supply of paper bags etc. Always feels good to have it done for another year doesn’t it?

  5. Averil Gomes says:

    Happy Birthday to both the ponytails… What an busy week that must’ve been… but such a fun filled one too.

  6. Great cake Barb – who needs a Barbie one when you can have a Fairy one:)

  7. I’m exhausted just reading about how many birthday events your having this month, Barb. But this fairy cake looks amazing, as do the cookies and the coffee cake. And what a super wonderful idea the ECHOage charity is…for sure I’d be into that if I had kids. The ponytails look like they had a fabulous time at the party, judging from your picture! Hats off to you and a belated Happy Birthday to the Ponytails!

    • Thanks so much Betsy! You know it really was quite a week. It has been a little frenzied, but lots of fun too. I’m glad that you like the ECHOage idea. I figured why not share the details on something so positive with our blogging community — especially since they are connected to charities in the U.S. too! Birthday parties really remind me how fortunate we are….

  8. Eva Taylor says:

    I’m guessing that jury duty is over?
    What a great looking cake, Barb, can I put my order in for my birthday? Don’t worry, you’ve got time, it’s four weeks away!
    What a great shot of you and the birthday girls, it’s nice to see your Mom in the background too. So nice to have the party on your lovely back deck.
    Belated happy birthday to the ponytails!
    That darn fishing trip…but me time is always a good thing.

    • Yes, I wrapped up the jury selection process last week thankfully.

      I’ll accept orders, but you’ll have to come over as I can’t imagine trying to transport this cake!

      Mom had a great time, although we always tire her out. She helped decorate the cake, as we had to move quickly before the top layer of icing hardened.

      I’m enjoying a little time alone with mom in the evenings this week too. 🙂

  9. Sissi says:

    What an amazing, decadent birthday cake! I have never seen anything so big, colourful and amazing. Your daughter and her guests must have been in heaven!
    It’s probably a silly question, but did you make it twice for both daughters???

    • It is not a silly question Sissi. My eldest ponytail had a “nails and cupcakes” party, so I made marble cupcakes with purple icing for her. She asked me if I would make this cake for her “real” birthday on Thursday, since we had her party a little early. I’ve managed to get out of it for now, but I have a feeling she like this cake next year. Thanks for you kind comments! (To tell the truth, I was a little worried because I’ve only made a couple of cakes before and had no idea how this would turn out.)

      • Sissi says:

        Barb, I have made dozens of cakes or hundreds rather and I would never be able to make such a beauty! (Thank you for answering my question).

  10. Norma Chang says:

    Sure go for the Bedazzled Fairy Cake Mountain for your next birthday party you’ll be perceived as fun-loving.
    That sure is a great looking cake, must have taken you hours to put together and decorate.

    • Thanks for the advice Norma! I think I will! You know, it just took a little over an hour to decorate on the morning of the party. I baked the cakes the night before and that took just over an hour also. Because it makes a mountain of a cake, it looks like more effort than it was.

  11. What a blissfully fun looking cake!

  12. Kristy says:

    Happy birthday to your ponies! Five days apart? That will keep you busy. 🙂 And Barb this cake is FANTASTIC! I would love a slice of that – full of as much candy as possible. I have never seen a cake like this before – so creative. I’m sure the girls just adored it. And thank you so much for the shout-out. 🙂 Although now I can’t decide which cake I’d like better…

    • I’ll pass along your birthday wishes to the girls. You know, it really tasted good with all that candy on it. I’ve been wanting to make this cake for a few years now and finally bit the bullet and bought the cake pans to make it. Like you, I don’t bake a lot of cakes (although I do like to bake). All the cakes that have been posted recently look super delicious. I love lemon, so I know I would enjoy your cake too.

  13. There isn’t anything sweeter than a little girl’s birthday.. and that is quite the cake!! Filled with candy-love! I think the ECHOage is such a great idea, it really gets kids in the habit of donating at such a young age.

  14. Charles says:

    Wow, that’s an impressive looking cake – very mighty! Was cutting it a problem? I always imagine mountainous cakes must be difficult to slice. Such fun though – I bet they loved it! I’ll admit to not being a huge fan of candy like this, although I don’t mind M&Ms so I could use plenty of those for decoration 😀

    Thanks so much for the mention Barb, it’s very kind of you! I love the idea of ECHOage too – 15% commission on their part seems a *little* steep, but the concept is fantastic… great way of learning about the importance of giving, and I guess this way the recipient ends up with some decent larger gifts, hopefully of a higher quality, instead of a mountain of cheaper ones!

    • You raise a good point Charles. I looked at the parents at the party and said “now how do I cut this thing.” I actually took a page out of cutting wedding cakes and removed one of the layers and cut that up first (my eldest ponytail grabbed the cupcake at the top for herself). Yes, M&Ms would be great — they are similar to Smarties, but Smarties are made in a peanut-free facility so I always use them for kids.

      The 15% is high, but they do offer a lot of services: online invitations, reminders, thank you notes and a same day reminder with address etc. I think that the benefits make up for the fee. We actually don’t typically get “cheaper” gifts per say, but it really is the volume. It ends up to be more toys than Christmas and I just don’t believe they appreciate things that way. I didn’t have a lot growing up, so I worry that my girls will grow up with a sense of entitlement since they have so much. We’ll see how it all goes.

  15. MissMessy says:

    That cake looks so much fun. I want one for my 21st!

  16. That really is a cake mountain! I can see how kids would love it, it looks so festive and fun and no doubt very delicious too.

  17. Suzi says:

    Wow, this is one amazing cake. Just look at that – I am so impressed it is soooo cute and big. What a great job, almost makes you not want to cut it, LOL. NOT.

  18. Karen says:

    I can just imagine the huge smiles on everyones faces at the party when they saw the cake. Just as big as the cake is fun…perfect for a little ponytail.

  19. Tandy says:

    Birthday blessings for the little ones! It is so good that you make each of them feel special for their birthdays, and I love the giving back concept you are instilling in them 🙂

    • Thanks Tandy. Today was the “real” birthday of my 7-year old ponytail. It was the last day of school for the year and she had a great day. I’m so pleased they’ve embraced the giving back concept so far.

  20. Happy birthday to your little ones, two birthdays five days apart…wow that can be really hectic but I think you did an amazing job with the cake, what kids (and grown ups like me) won’t be over the moon with a cake like that 🙂

    • Thank you so much for your kind comments. It was hectic for sure, but also very rewarding. I think the benefit of both birthdays being so close is that you just get into the grove of planning and it all comes together. Thanks for stopping by — I just loved your lavender chicken recipe!

  21. mydearbakes says:

    Wow, your creation looks amazing! =)

  22. Super cute cake… It looks so girly and fun:)


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