Novice Looking For Advise On Baking A 1St Birthday Cake

Decorating By SJEmom Updated 7 Oct 2008 , 6:18pm by SJEmom

SJEmom Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
SJEmom Posted 23 Sep 2008 , 8:07pm
post #1 of 26

I want to bake a cake for my son's upcoming 1st birthday. I was thinking about doing a cake in the shape of a 1. I have 12-16 adults and kids eating cake. Then I wanted to make a small smash cake for my son and mini-cupcakes for the other 1-2 year olds.

What size pan would you recommend for the 1?
Would you make it single layer or double?
If it is single I would want to make it chocolate and yellow - tips on doing that?
For the smash cake - originally thought of doing a small 1 - not sure if that would be difficult or not. Should I just stick to a single layer 4" cake or even a cupcake?

Will it make a big difference if I use a cake mix vs. a recipe? What about for frosting? Going for taste, but also ease of use.

The party is on Sunday, what timeline would you recommend in making the cake? How much can be done in advance?

What other tips/suggestions do you have for me? Thank you so much!

25 replies
margaretb Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
margaretb Posted 23 Sep 2008 , 10:02pm
post #2 of 26

I'm just a hobby baker myself. When my first son turned one, I did his fancy cake and then I made a small cake I cut in the shape of a one and decorated similar to his big cake. I thought I was brilliant for inventing the seperate cake for the kid thing! I think it was cute, so I did it for my next son and will do it for the one coming up. I think I just made an 8inch round cake (whatever was my smallest pan at the time) and cut it out of that. I made the one with the hook on top and the line on the botton (not just a straight line), and I recommend you either practice drawing one on paper first or even cut it out of paper and use that as a guide to carve your cake.

Now, I always make my chocolate cake recipe, but it is crumbly when carved, which means tons of crumbs in the icing EVEN after I crumb coat (i.e. smear on a thin layer of icing first -- sorry if you know that -- not sure how much of a newbie you are). I just read somewhere on here that if you partially freeze your cake before you carve it, it is much easier. Wish I had thought of that before.

The size of pan depends on what you have. And how much cake you think people will eat. Sometimes I have seen people cutting out servings that are huge, and sometimes no one feels like eating much cake. I personally would make a sheet cake (9 by 13 if that is what you have, although I have a 12 by 18 pan so I always use that because extra cake can be frozen -- although usually I send people home with gobs of cake and DH eats the rest) and then a second one to carve the one out of and just put that on top of the sheet cake. So it will be double layer where the number one is, and single layer on the edges. That way you get the cool number one effect, but you also have extra cake. In my family, making a double layer cake with both layers cut into the number one and made out of a 9 by 13 pan would probably not be enough.

Also, I wouldn't bother with mini cupcakes for the other kids, because I think they are a pain (the minicupcakes, not the kids), esp if you are going to decorate them too. Then again, I always find that cakes take a lot longer to decorate than I expect, and I would probably run out of time. It would certainly be easier to just make a bigger main cake that serves everyone. If you have time for it, though, then why not?

I personally prefer scratch cake EXCEPT I love the WASC recipe (white almond sour cream cake -- google that and it should come up as a recipe from recipezaar). I've never been wild about straight box mix cakes, but then again, I've had some homemade cakes that weren't really great either. I think at this point do whatever you are comfortable with. For frosting, I use the recipe from the Wilton Yearbook -- 1/2 butter, 1/2 vegetable shortening (I use Crisco), 1 tsp vanilla, 2 - 4 tbsp milk (depending how think you want it -- for spreading on the cake you will want it thinner). You will need more than one batch of this, though. I usually make mine 4 times the amount and just throw in the whole pound of butter and shortening and use 2 bags of icing sugar (comes in 1 kg bags here). You might not need quite that much, but I would at least double it for the first batch.

I assume by yellow and chocolate you mean marble it? You can drop by small alternating spoonfuls into the pan. You can pour in some of one batter than pour the other on top and swirl with a knife (but you have to kind of make the knife stir it up and down too). Or bigger globs then swirl with knife. Just make sure you don't put so much of the first one in that you end up overflowing the pan when you add the second one (don't ask how I know). A pan should only be filled about 2/3 full.

Timeline: I generally bake the cakes two days before then decorate one day before (which often extends into the morning of). How busy will you be? Will you be preparing lots of other foods? Crisis cleaning your house (again, don't ask)? You might want the day before free. So bump the cake back a day. If you have a cool safe place to store the cakes, you could make them today. My mom has been known to get me to decorate a cake then put the whole thing in the freezer and taken it out (I assume) the day before it is needed to thaw. Lots of people here freeze their cakes after they are baked and thaw them later for decorating. Sunday isn't that far away, so the main thing is to make sure you have enough time. Do you plan on decorating with a piping bag and tips? You will need more time for that. If you are just going to ice it then put on sprinkles, you won't need as much time (but put the sprinkles on as soon as you ice it or the buttercream will probably crust and the sprinkles won't stick).

Anyway, that's lots to think about and no doubt other people will have great advice too. Good luck!

kakeladi Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
kakeladi Posted 23 Sep 2008 , 10:49pm
post #3 of 26

There are pans already in the shape of #1....Wilton is the brand. Should be available at Michael's Crafts or JoAnn's Fabrics.
It holds one cake mix which serves 15-20. Yes, do make only one layer.
If you want to bake from scratch there are dozen of good recipes on the net. You probably already have one....if not one good one is the Chocolate Mayoniase recipe.
I have made 100s of wedding cakes using mixes.... there is nothing wrong w/using a mixicon_smile.gif You can bake at any time now for your sunday party.
You can make the icing now too & store in the frig.
You will have to re-whip it when ready to use.
Here's some of the many good ones on this site:

As for how to decorate is a link to the gallery on this site for #1 shaped cakes:

SJEmom Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
SJEmom Posted 24 Sep 2008 , 2:51am
post #4 of 26

Wow, a lot of information! Thank you.

First of all, I am actually a bit ahead of the time line - the party is on a Sunday, but not this Sunday, I still have a week and a half. But, in the middle is a pretty big holiday (Rosh Hashanah) where I will be cooking and such, so I am trying to be prepared. It sounds like if I am so motivated I could bake the cake this Sunday, freeze it, then take it out to thaw in order for me to cut/carve it a few days beforehand. How long before the party can I decorate it? Is that best saved for the day before? Does all the decorating need to be done at once since the frosting will set? My thought is that I will frost the cake and then do some simple piping decorations - write Happy birthday and his name, maybe some polka dots, a border around the edges to finish it off. I saw a #1 cake in the picture gallery with some stars that looked great (and a lot like my invitation).

I had seen the Wilton #1 pan on their product website, but I didn't see it at either AC Moore or Michael's. I also don't think that I would find much future use for a #1, so I thought I would invest in a cake pan (don't own a rectangular pan) that would be muli-use. I wasn't intending to do marble, but rather a half/half cake. I can't make any cake with nuts - most of the people we are inviting won't feed nuts to their children. I am intreagued by a mayonaise cake.

WRT Frosting - the recipe that you gave me, is that a classic buttercream type frosting? My DH "doesn't like buttercream", he prefers more of a sugar frosting (like from the supermarket bakery). And, is icing sugar the same as confectionars sugar?

I am not sure about the making doing the 1 on top of a sheet cake - it seems like it would be harder to decorate. But, then I guess I could use a smaller pan size. I don't think I have real big cake eaters. Chances are if I were ordering from a bakery, I would just get a 1/4 sheet.

Thanks again for the advise...

margaretb Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
margaretb Posted 24 Sep 2008 , 4:50am
post #5 of 26

Unless you are using a frosting/filling that needs to be refridgerated, I would say you could decorate two or even three days before and let the cake sit. I personally put cakes in the fridge once they are decorated, but we have an extra fridge downstairs so it's no problem.

Actually, if you do the base coat one day and wait to do the piping, it is easier to pick off the fresh icing if you make a mistake. I am terrible at writing, so I try to make sure the icing has set so it is a bit crusty before I start, because I almost always have to lift off at least one letter.

A rectangular pan is definitely multi-use -- I say get it. You are right that putting the one on top of the sheet cake would be harder to decorate. I have done a dinosaur cake on a sheet cake (dinosaur pan) and a cross on a sheet cake (carved). With both, it is a little tricky to ice where the cakes meet because they angle in. With the cross it was also very crumbly which made it more difficult. However, the piping wasn't any more difficult.

Yes, as far as I know confectioner's sugar is the same thing as icing sugar. I guess you would call the recipe a classic buttercream. People do lots of variations where they change the ratio of butter and shortening from all butter to all shortening. Some add cream. I say a video on youtube where the lady added corn syrup or something like that. This site also has a recipe section and you can have a look at other icing recipes.

Sounds like the cake will be lovely.

MistyGirl2008 Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
MistyGirl2008 Posted 24 Sep 2008 , 7:10pm
post #6 of 26

Wilton makes a #1 shaped pan. I often recommend using boxed cake mix if you're really a beginner as they taste just fine and are easy to use. I think the cupcake idea is fun to add extra cake. Perhaps just make and extra big cupcake for the smash cake.

Have fun!

UltimateCakes Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
UltimateCakes Posted 24 Sep 2008 , 7:21pm
post #7 of 26

This is the cake I made for my daughter's 1st b-day. I used Wilton's BC recipe and boxed cake mix (I cheated) icon_biggrin.gif I also have a Winnie the Pooh mini cake pan for the b-day boy/girl. Maybe you'd enjoy this as well?

SJEmom Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
SJEmom Posted 24 Sep 2008 , 9:32pm
post #8 of 26

I love the Winnie the Pooh #1 cake - that is actually the theme I am using for the decorations. However I am not sure that I want such a specific cake pan - not many other uses post party. Would be great if you could rent these character pans.

I actually bought an 11x17 pan today. I was debating between the 11x17 and the 9x13 and bought the bigger size so that I could simplify and just do a single layer cake. I figure I will cut out a piece of parchment paper to practice drawing the 1 and see what size the cake actually will be. I am hoping to do a half/half cake. I was told that I could mix up yellow cake and pour into pan, then make up chocolate and fill the other side. My thinking is that since I want the mini-cupcakes to be yellow cake and I want the smash cake to be chocolate, I will make up 2 batches of chocolate cake and 1 batch of yellow. I know that 6-8 mini - cupcakes won't take up a lot of batter and certainly that won't be missed in a big cake. I plan to make a 4-6" round cake for my DS's smash cake and that shouldn't take up too much batter either, but probably enough that I would want a double batch of the chocolate (I could always make extra chocolate mini-cupcakes with the extra). Is there any issue in doubling a cake recipe?

It sounds like cake mix boxes are thumbs_up.gif in the cake world and an easy alternative to scratch. Everyone seems to talk about making a BC frosting from scratch. Does that mean that cans of frosting are thumbsdown.gif ? Just looking for shortcuts, if possible.

If I have the refridgerator space, is it preferable to refridgerate a decorated cake or better to leave it at room temperature? I like the idea of frosting one day, then piping the next. Although one of the previous cakes I made I made the mistake of trying to adjust something on the base frosting the next day and boy did I make a mess of the cake in trying to "fix" it. I learned that once I put down the spatula with the base, don't touch again.

Thanks again for the help. Am I on the right track?

margaretb Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
margaretb Posted 24 Sep 2008 , 11:32pm
post #9 of 26

The way you describe filling the pan with two batters should be okay. If you can, put cardboard or tinfoil or something between them and pull it out after you have poured in the batter. And don't pour them in until you have both batters ready or else the one that goes in first will spread out over the whole bottom of the pan (unless you have something blocking it, but it will want to push on that and move it). I think I've seen that (the cardboard or whatever) on a show where the chef put a white and a red soup into the same bowl.

Some places you CAN rent character pans. Call around and ask -- maybe try a bakery or cake shop, or a craft store. Even post on a freebie website saying you want to borrow/rent that pan for a day.

Canned frosting will be more expensive, I think, but hey, do whatever is easiest for you.

Doubling the batter should be fine -- make sure you double the add in ingredients as well. Hee hee, when I was a kid I remember my cousins decided to make chocolate chip cookies, and they doubled the recipe. It said 1/2 TEASPOON salt, so they doubled it to 1 TABLESPOON! I saw them doing it and told them it should be one teaspoon, but they would not believe me. So I left, and they sure believed me once they tasted the cookies.

You absolutely can refridgerate your cake. I usually do. The only ones I have heard that you shouldn't refridgerate are fondant covered cakes. Just make sure nothing is going to fall or DRIP on your cake.

tracey1970 Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
tracey1970 Posted 25 Sep 2008 , 12:53am
post #10 of 26

I have a number one cake in my photos. I carved it out of a 12x18 pan. I shaped it to match the 1 that was on the party plates, napkins, and decorations.

kakeladi Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
kakeladi Posted 25 Sep 2008 , 1:48am
post #11 of 26

Yes you can use canned icing if you want.
Here in the states it will be soft. If any piping is done you probab ly would have to thicken it w/additional Powdered/icing sugar.
As for frig'ing or not......I'd say it depends on your it hot &/or humid? Is your home AirConditioned? You could get by w/leaving it out on the counter for 2 days if it's not hot.
Many people say refrig'ing cakes makes them dry &/or tough.......I have not found that if the cake is iced &/or properly wrapped.

moxey2000 Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
moxey2000 Posted 25 Sep 2008 , 2:12am
post #12 of 26

I tried adding powdered sugar to canned icing one time icon_confused.gif was not pretty icon_cry.gif . If you don't want a typical buttercream try Indydebi's Buttercream thumbs_up.gif (it's in the recipes here on CC). It uses Dream Whip and the taste is awesome, plus it crusts nicely and it's really easy to work with icon_biggrin.gif .

SJEmom Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
SJEmom Posted 25 Sep 2008 , 2:14am
post #13 of 26

So, off of a parenting forum I got this advise for making a half/half cake:


Yes with an 11x17 you can mix the yellow cake first in the mixer. Tilt your cake pan slightly by putting one end on top of your 1st empty cake box. Pour the yellow mix in and leave it slanted. In the same mixing bowl you can mix your chocolate cake, don't even need to was the yellow batter out, no one will ever notice. Then remove your cake box to flatten the cake pan level on the counter. Pour the chocolate batter on the other side. The two batters will meet up about the middle. I don't marble it but end up with a bit of a wave effect between the two flavors. If you want to marble it, it would be simple enough to do with a knife I'd think. Tilt the pan a bit to level all the batter nice and even and pop in the oven. It bakes for about an hour I think with that size pan.

Sound right?

tracy1970 - that is sort of what I am thinking about. I am hoping my first attempt comes out as good as yours. I take it from your description that using canned frosting wasn't good on the cake. Maybe I will need to take the plunge and try to make my own.

Climate wise I am in the northeast - not so humid this time of year. I guess it would be fine to leave out.

Thanks for all the advise - so helpful!

Oh, one more question, and I guess it is an important one - is there a place to find baking times for various size pans? Most of the recipies I see are for two 8" rounds with baking times for that. The other advise I got above said 11x17, about an hour. What about mini-cupcakes or a 4" pan? Does it matter based on recipe or is it fairly consistant across pan sizes?

CakeRN Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
CakeRN Posted 25 Sep 2008 , 3:20am
post #14 of 26

For all of my cakes I bake at 300 or 325. It bakes it slower and keeps if from doming on the sides. I would suggest buying either a couple of 'flower nails" at Micheals or bake even strips. These will help with getting the center baked evenly since your pan is large. For extra moistness in a cake I add ( as many others do too) 1 box of dry pudding mix along with an extra egg to what the directions call for. I use Duncan Hines cake mixes. As far as time....put it in for 50 min to begin with then check it. I will probably take 60 to 75 min or more for that size cake. Make sure you have a cake board big enough for your cake and a cooling rack also to turn your cake out on.


tracey1970 Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
tracey1970 Posted 25 Sep 2008 , 7:42pm
post #15 of 26

I would make my own icing if I were you (lesson learned on my #1 cake). I use a combo of indydebi's recipe and sugarshack's. They both use all shortening, though, and I like a bit of butter in my buttercream. So I use half butter/half shortening, with the hot liquid coffee creamer (the flavours are awesome in icing), the dream whip powder, and the powdered sugar.

SJEmom Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
SJEmom Posted 26 Sep 2008 , 1:36am
post #16 of 26

Teri - If I am carving the cake, would I want that extra moistness? Is Duncan Hines a good mix for getting a cake that won't crumble when shaped (if I partially freeze it first)? And some mixes say that there is already pudding in the mix - do you still add it? Also, when I go to the store, I honestly have a hard time differentiating the different types of chocolate cake - which one will be more dense for shaping purposes?

kakeladi Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
kakeladi Posted 26 Sep 2008 , 3:12am
post #17 of 26

If you bake w/your nose your cake should come out moist, tender and yummmy icon_smile.gif
Times are just a guide. I also bake at 300 degrees F. For an 11x15 pan (I thin k that's what you said you will be using) I would figure on aobut 30-50 minutes. When you begin to smell it you are getting close to done. At that point watch it. When you check it usually I slightly wiggle the pan (pull the rack out part way) If it jiggles (expecially in the center) it needs more time. Continue ck'ing about every 10 minutes. If you can touch it near the center & it springs back any at all it is done. If the cake has pulled away from the sides of the pan most likely it is overbaked.
Yes, icing sugar & powdered sugar are one & the same.
Your cupcakes & mini pans will take much less time to bake.....maybe only 15-20 minutes.

SJEmom Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
SJEmom Posted 26 Sep 2008 , 8:31pm
post #18 of 26

I was at AC Moore today and saw Bake Even Strips, but they said they were only for 8" or 9" pans. I am baking in an 11x17. I also didn't understand about how to use the flower nails so I didn't get them.

I did buy cake mix - Duncan Hines, and I bought pudding mix. On the side of the box it gave a recipe for "pound cake" which basically adds the pudding mix an extra egg and a different ammount of water. I guess that will give me the more density I will need (while still moist) to carve it into the 1.

I will try to make my own frosting from one of the highly rated recipes. I will let you know how it goes. Baking this Sunday. Cooling, freezing, then thawing partially to carve and then back to the freezer before frosting my base frosting (to reduce crumbs?). Decorating 1-2 days before party.

margaretb Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
margaretb Posted 26 Sep 2008 , 11:46pm
post #19 of 26

Bake even strips can be pinned together or overlapped or whatever. You can also use old towels. Here is a thread on bake even strips:

The flower nail would be put in the pan upside down (so it doesn't fall) and the metal will heat up and thus help bake the middle of your cake. You can also take a strip of tinfoil, fold it so it is about an inch wide and then rip little feet to make it stand up or fold it like this: _/\\_ (but squished together) and stand it up in the middle. Here is a thread on the heating core:

Neither the bake even strips nor the heating core/flower nail/tinfoil is mandatory. Some bakers say they just bake larger cakes at a lower temperature. I got the bake even strips and started using the tinfoil heating core and I am happy with them, but I do plan on trying the lower baking temperature at some point too to see if that does just as well and saves me some steps.

The edges won't matter so much to you since you will be cutting them off. However, if you find you have overbaked your cake or the edges have overbaked (dry and crusty), wrap your cake it in plastic wrap (in or out of the pan) while it is still warm, so that the steam will penetrate the dry parts instead of leaving the cake.

PJ37 Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
PJ37 Posted 27 Sep 2008 , 2:45am
post #20 of 26

Here is a link for carving the cake in a number shape.

I carved the one in my photo from a 9x13 cake. I used 2 and made it double layered. I had extra and made a small square cake for the birthday boy!

SJEmom Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
SJEmom Posted 27 Sep 2008 , 11:44pm
post #21 of 26

I am not sure I get the heating core or stips. I think I will try baking at a lower temp. If I start to notice the edges getting too done, would it help to put aluminum foil over the edges?

SJEmom Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
SJEmom Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 1:33am
post #22 of 26

Cakes are baking! icon_smile.gif

I have a nice big cooling rack for the 11x15 and a smaller one for the 6" round. I will let it cool almost all the way before freezing it. Do I want to put it on my cake board before freezing and do the carving/decorating all on the board? Would I cover one board for the "work" part and then transfer to the "real" one for the decorating and presenting?

tracey1970 Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
tracey1970 Posted 1 Oct 2008 , 12:43am
post #23 of 26

Do not freeze the cake on the board. The condensation from the freezer may warp the board or make it less sturdy. I freeze all my cakes and never with the board. I decorate and serve on the same board. Once you have a cake decorated, you'd mess it up if you tried to move it to another board (unless you put another board under the cake that's the exact same size as the cake and then fixed that onto a larger board for decorating). Plus, your bottom border of the cake would partly be on the board. If you tried to move the cake from that board to another, you'd demolish that border. I do the bottom border last. Decorate the whole cake first, carefully wipe any mess off the inch or two of the board that's bigger than the cake (with a cloth/paper towel), then do the bottom border. The board will be clean.

SJEmom Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
SJEmom Posted 2 Oct 2008 , 12:30am
post #24 of 26

Oops. I covered my board with the Wilton cake board foil and transfered my cake on to it, wraped in Saran Wrap and froze. I baked it on Sunday. I was planning to take it out either tonight or tomorrow night to shape it, then put it in the refridgerator before frosting it. I am hoping that I don't mess up the foil covering while shaping the cake. 11x15 is not an easy cake size to move.

In the future, how should I freeze cakes? On cooling rack?

tracey1970 Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
tracey1970 Posted 2 Oct 2008 , 4:46pm
post #25 of 26

It should be OK. You can always slip another board under that one if it gets wobbly. I just freeze the cake. I wrap a cooled cake in two layers of saran and two layers of foil. Big cakes are awkward to do, but if you very carefully apply the first layer of saran, it's pretty easy to move after that. Plus, as long as you are careful, each layer of wrap makes the cake easier to handle as the wrap holds it together. Be sure to try and get out as much air as you can while wrapping - you'll never get it all out if you don't have one of those things that sucks air out of bags before freezing. I've never had a problem just getting most of it out with my hands while I am warpping.

SJEmom Cake Central Cake Decorator Profile
SJEmom Posted 7 Oct 2008 , 6:18pm
post #26 of 26

Thanks for all your help! I did it! The cake turned out great and tasted as yummy as it looked!

I didn't have any issues with the cake baking unlevel. It did take quite some time to fully bake the cakes. I think adding pudding to the mix increases the baking time. I also reduced the temperature on the big cake and nothing got overdone. The cake froze and defrosted well. Cutting after being in the freezer was super easy and not too many crumbs. Frosting went okay and ended up doing more decoration that originally thought, but it matched the tablecloth and decor really well.

Here is the link to the picture!

Thanks again for all your help. I might do this again sometime. Cake tasted yummy and it wasn't too difficult and I had fun with the decorating part.

Quote by @%username% on %date%