It’s birthday month, which means there’s lots to celebrate… and there’s plenty of cake to eat. Whose birthday? Well, mine for starters…but also almost everyone else’s. (September is apparently the most popular month for all birthdays. Nine of the top 10 days to give birth fall between Sept. 9 and Sept. 20.)
Our pals at Netflix also just celebrated a big birthday (Happy 20th, Netflix!) and they’ve created a fun new birthday treat for any kid, any month. Called “Birthdays On-Demand videos,” these videos feature 15 of your kids’ favorite series and characters, singing a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday.” It’s the perfect way to get the party started… except you’ll need cake.
That brings us to our favorite part, the cake. While most of us love the idea of baking beautiful cakes from scratch, the reality is that baking a special occasion cake can be pretty intimidating. But we’re here to tell you that it’s not all that tough. You just need to follow a few simple tips to get your cake looking neat and spiffy.
1. Don’t fear the cake mix. If you want to go straight from the box, that’s fine – most of us do! Many people swear by swapping out ingredients on the box (use milk instead of water; use butter instead of oil) to make the cake taste more bakery-like.
2. Give yourself plenty of time to decorate. If you try to do any trimming or frosting of those delicate cake layers while they’re still warm, you’ll wind up with a crumbly mess on your hands.
3. Create a steady work platform. A cake stand is designed exactly for this purpose – and it especially helps when you’re frosting around the sides of the cake and you can easily turn it around. If you don’t have a cake stand, place a large plate over an inverted bowl (and make sure it stands steadily).
4. Don’t stack layers if they’re uneven. Often times your cake layers will rise up in the center while baking, creating a rounded top. Some people advise you to cool the layers upside-down to flatten out the top. But if you still have a rounded or uneven top, you’ll need to level it off. Take a large serrated knife and make a clean cut across the top. (Shhh; don’t tell: My boys’ favorite treat is the uneven top layer of the cake that would otherwise be discarded.)
5. Depending on the frosting you choose, you may need a “crumb layer.” A crumb layer is a first, thin layer of frosting that you spread over the cake, and then you chill the cake. When it’s finished chilling, you frost it for “real.” This crumb layer provides a nice barrier of protection that prevents the spatula from ripping up the delicate cake and getting crumbs mixed in with the final coat of frosting.
6. Remember that imperfections are charming. You might not have the most perfect and even frosting (See the random ripples above?), but don’t fret the small details. If you can get a candle or other decorations to cover up your cake’s little flaws, that’s great, but if not, don’t sweat it. People will still want the cake – Trust us on that.
Oh, and happy birthday!
Blogger disclosure: I am a member of Netflix’s Stream Team, through which I write monthly posts in exchange for a subscription. Netflix sent me the cake and decorations for this post. I did not receive additional compensation. All opinions expressed are my own.