Decorated birthday cakes can really be expensive, but it’s easy to do it yourself. Here are some easy ideas for decorating birthday cakes for a lot less!
Decorating Birthday Cakes
Our family has 6 birthdays within a couple of weeks time so, at that time of the year we are often frantically trying to figure out how to decorate birthday cakes for everyone. Decorated cakes can really be expensive and we have a hard time spending a fortune on a cake that’s not going to last very long.
Here are a couple ideas to get you started if you to want to save money or just prefer to decorate your own cakes. You don’t have to take professional classes to to learn to decorate your own cakes and make them really cute.
Try these cake decorating ideas you can do with a simple basic frosted cake.
Use party favors. Go to the party section of your dollar store and buy a bag of party favors to decorate your cake. For example, my one grandson loves balls of every sort so we would buy a package of assorted balls. You could also use some of your children’s own small favorite toys, like miniature Barbies, legos, dinosaurs etc. (We shouldn’t need to say this, BUT– Be sure that you don’t serve the toys to kids who might not know not to eat them. ;-)
Just stack or arrange them in a nice order on the cake, write happy birthday in frosting, add candles and you’re done.
- Remember it doesn’t have to be fancy. Kids love lots of colors, so you could frost a cake in white frosting or whipped cream and then sprinkle a bunch of colorful sprinkles on it.
- Place a huge mound of the child’s favorite candy on the cake – wrapped or unwrapped it doesn’t matter.
- Do you struggle because your hand shakes when writing letters? I did not have a steady hand to write letters on a cake, but I discovered this trick that helped me. Use a tooth pick to write your letters first. If they don’t look right, you can smooth the frosting and start over.
- Use cookie cutters to gently press letters, numbers or a design on top of a cake and use that as your pattern to follow or fill in.
- When all else fails, buy a cake. If you can’t use any of the above suggestions and really feel you must buy a cake, then watch when you favorite grocery store puts their cakes on clearance and buy one on clearance. You can easily freeze cakes so give yourself plenty of time to look and then freeze one if you need too.
- Who says you need a cake? Some kids would love to see a stack of ice cream sandwiches, cupcakes or special cookies with candles in them more than a cake, so think out of the box. If you are desperate, stack something like their favorite Little Debbie cakes and add candles.
Relax– If it has lots of color and candles and has their name on it, most kids don’t care if it is a little lopsided or strange looking. It’s their birthday and they are looking at the world through rose colored glasses, so just do the best you can. You won’t warp them forever if you give them a cake with crooked lettering. :)
jill… good advice… :D
here where i live, the local grocery store (well, one of them, publix) sells cake frosting (buttercream or whipped topping) for a small price… i got a huge container of both of these for $3… which frosted several cakes … and just to let you know, the buttercream you can ask for this in different colors too….
my friend took her already made homemade cake into the bakery section of this same supermarket, and asked them to write happy birthday for her (she gave them some money to do this; she said they didnt charge her but she offered and paid them $2… not sure if any of the other stores would do this but this one did… and then she decorated the cake herself with toys and etc… it was quite cute … :D
thanks for sharing this with us…
my son in law’s mom, what she does is buy one of those pepperidge farm cakes for birthdays and holidays and then takes those tubes of frosting and decorates it… or writes on it… (thought i would share that with you :D )…
again thanks for posting this… :D
Thanks for the great ideas on decorating cakes. It’s upsetting to me how much bakeries charge for their cakes. And wedding cake prices are unbelievable. I don’t understand why so many people want to take advantage of other people the way they do price-wise. How much does flour and sugar and the other cake ingredients cost anyway to justify those high cake prices? Even when you factor in labor costs some people want to make more on a cake price than other people get paid to work all week. So unjust. I appreciate your helpful ideas on how to beat being ripped off.
Great ideas! I love adding colorful berries to the tops of cakes to decorate them, especially in the spring and summer.
Great idea Wendy. I have put pansies on Tawra’s cakes before too. Of course they didn’t have bug spray on them or bugs on them. :) I really like the berry idea.
When my daughter was young, I made cupcakes for her party and put them on a large tray with one letter on each cupcake – Happy Birthday, Margaret. I used white icing and different colors for the letters. The kids loved it because each one got a letter or a decoration. With a sheet cake only some of the kids get the special icing – letters or decorations. If you have more cupcakes than letters, put some flowers or squiggles on the outside ones so everyone gets a treat.
Why not have a decorate your own cupcake party for one of the parties? It needn’t be elaborate to be fun! I have more party ideas on my site, Any Reason for Cake. http://www.anyreasonforcake.com/index.html Check out the Party on a Budget section.
Sounds like fun! Reminds me of the cookie-decorating that preceded the annual carols at the local mall.
Flowers can be made with gumdrops: roll them out flat, then cut the needed shapes with scissors (might need hot water and adults’ help).
You can get some great ideas online too. I made a really cute “dragon” cake for my 11 year old son, and it came out cool. Not super professional, but nice. I looked online and got an idea how to do it. I stuck all the candles in the dragon’s mouth, so it looked like he was breathing fire when we lit them.
hehehehe :D … jill, just ot let you know, this came by surprise, my son was reading the blog (he asked me what i was reading and i told him, so he asked if he could read this and i said sure)… and then he says “awesome mom! … make me a cake like elizabeth did” (i hadnt read what kind elizabeth made until he mentioned this) and well, i am impressed… even i wouldnt have thought of a fire breathing dragon cake! .. hehehehe :D…
mind you, he is 20 yrs old but he loves dragons and swords and stuff like that …
so i told him i would … not saying when but i would… hehehe :D…
thanks for posting all the great ideas everyone … :D ….
thought i would share this with you … :D …
Duncan Hines cake mixes have a recipe on the side of the box for a “pound cake”, you follow the recipe and add a box of instant pudding. Then you bake in a bundt pan. This cake is delicious. I make this for the adults in the family. Just know everyones favorite flavor, and add that flavor of instant pudding to the yellow mix. I microwave a container of the frosting just till runny, and pour over the cake. The frosting hardens, and the cake travels easily.
Grizzly Bear Mom
Making a cake and icing from scratch sis easy, just practice a few times and you will lean how. Your family will enjoy eating your errors, or just put your mistakes trifle, or save for crumbs. I’m no artist, so I color icing and let kids swirl their own cup cake and sprinkle whatever decorations on top. Or leave the cake in the pan and just front the top. It will taste so good no one will care. I never understood why people purchased storebought sheetcakes. They taste like sweetened grease to me.
I had bought a cake from the bakery for my daughter’s 10th birthday (strawberry shortcake), but one of the kids was allergic to strawberries, so I made a second homemade cake…yellow cake mix with a few drops of orange extract and food coloring (orange)….bundt pan….Used vanilla ice cream with same extract and color, but added a fistful of coconut to ice the cake….Then froze it…After the kids had strawberry shortcake, they DEVOURED my cake and some even came back for more!!!FYI: Serve it frozen…I’ve also doctored carrot cake with raisins and coconut….YUM!!…Feel better Tawra!! Paula
for a few of our younger birthdays, my mom made us “ice cream cone” cakes – cake mix as directing, pour in one 8″ square pan, one 8″ round (or 9″, but make sure the square and round are the same size, or round is larger than square, but square cannot be larger) and bake as directed. remove from pan to finish cooling.
when cool, cut circle in half, and mark the center of one side of the square in the middle. cut corner-to-center of square in a \/ shape. do not eat the other pieces! place foil or wax paper on a jellyroll pan, and place the \/ piece and one half of the circle together, frosting where they join (flat part of circle, top of \/ not a side). frost top and place other half circle on top of half circle, and the side pieces turn around and place baked edge sides together (frosting as glue) on top of the \/, again frosting between the circle cut edge and the \/. frost top and sides of cut square piece with lt. brown frosting (can add brown or red/green coloring to white/buttercream), top and sides of circle with white/buttercream frosting.
use a toothpick or knife blade to put a basketweave/# pattern on the brown frosting. use rainbow or chocolate sprinkles on the white part. can add other decorations as you choose. voila! an ice cream cone cake!
Check out your local library branches for different character or shaped cake pans. All you need is a library card to check them out. I made my daughter a butterfly shaped cake for her 3rd birthday and she had great fun decorating it with sprinkles. She didn’t care that she dumped them all in the same place, she had fun!
I have a birthday in about a month and a half so I like this posting. The picture of the cake looks SO GOOD. The ideas are great.
Grizzly Bear Mom
for fun consider making cup cakes. Have different bowls of icing (vanilla and chocolate)for the kids to swirl their cup cake tops in. Offer springkles, nuts, m&ms, etc for decorate. Easy, cheap and entertaining.
We had our kids make and decorate their own birthday cakes, of course with age-appropriate help. One reason this worked so well is that we noticed that the “birthday person” seemed to get out-of-sorts on their birthday, just waiting for people to do things for him/her, so having that child spend time doing their birthday cake would occupy their time on something fun and productive,and the child was happier, and we all had a better day! We had many birthday cakes with plastic horses or plastic army men on them, and we all enjoyed the creation!
Grizzly Bear Mom
great idea Linda. I especially like licking frosting off of army men and plastic horses.
If you want to do fancier cake decorating, try the Wilton classes at Michaels. They have a 4-session basic class that is reasonably-priced and a lot of fun. One of the best tips I learned was how to make a smooth surface on the icing by laying a paper towel over it and smoothing it out with your hand, then carefully lifting off the towel. The other tip that was very helpful was to use a thinner-consistency icing to cover the cake and for writing, and a thicker icing for dimensional decorating (flowers, piped borders, etc.) to hold the shape.
For the cake itself, I like The Cake Doctor Cookbook, which shows how to take a regular boxed cake mix and add a few extra ingredients to make it outstanding. The carrot cake recipe is the best carrot cake I’ve had. Or if you have a Kitchenaid or similar stand mixer, a homemade cake is just about as easy to make as a mix, as the mixer does most of the work for you. I’ve made scrumptious, yet easy, cakes with my Kitchenaid and the old-fashioned recipes from the great old red-covered Betty Crocker cookbook. And icing is easy to make with powdered sugar and butter/margarine, and tastes a lot better than the canned stuff.
I do recommend the Wilton classes. The cake decorating one I have used the things I learned from it not only to help save me money but to earn money too. Another class I took of Wilton’s was the candy making one. You wouldn’t think it but it helped with a lot of my cooking things in general. I also recommend another basic class to take is a sewing class.
If you need from scratch cake recipes we have many on the web site and a section of them with many basic and other ones in Dining on a Dime.
I love the sprinkles idea! I really think the boxed cake mixes and homemade frosting are better than store bought! I add vanilla flavoring to my yellow cake mixes and it gives good flavor!!
My kids may be in the minority, but neither really cares for fancy decorated cakes. I make a lot of cookies, brownies, bar cookies, and blondies because they’re easy to pack in lunches or take a tote on the go, ECT. My kids think it’s a huge treat to have their favorite cake flavor for their birthday. My oldest son’s favorite is a Texas chocolate sheet cake. I make it special by baking it in 3 round pans then use the cooked icing between the layers then a whipped chocolate butter cream to cover it all. My youngest son always wants a homemade strawberry cake baked in layers with strawberry preserves and a strawberry buttercream. I then bought fun candle’s to for them to blow out. Just another thought for those who want another different idea.