My First Attempt At A Cake...yikes!

Decorating By christine12377 Updated 16 Nov 2009 , 12:35am by kakeladi

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christine12377 Posted 14 Nov 2009 , 2:07am
post #1 of 16

my son is turning one and ive decided i want to bake a cake for him. ive never done my own cake before, unless you count a box mix with some duncan hines frosting slapped on it. anyway, looking for some advice/feedback.

i want to do a two-tiered cake. i wanted to do maybe two layers of an 8 in round and 2 of a 6 stacked on top of it. i wanted to use chocolate pudding as my filling. then i wanted to ice it and decorate it with fondant shapes.

so ive been doing the research, and it seems like homemade fondant is the way to go bc store bought tastes gross? ive never tried either, that i can recall. come to think of it, ive never had buttercream either i dont think!

here's the issue, ive got a house full of family for the week of thanksgiving, and my son;s party is the saturday after thanksgiving. ive got zero fridge space by then, and zero room. and after researching pudding filling, seems as if i would have to make the cake THAT morning bc i cant keep the cake unrefrigerated. this was a big bummer, bc i was hoping to make the cake and the filling a day or two before, and then do the icing the night before the party, so i can focus on the decorations the morning of.

which lead me to another issue: what type of icing to use... if i had it my way, i would do this: one tier of yellow cake and one of chocolate, with pudding filling. then i would use the store-bought icing, either betty crocker or what have you (i love the taste, its what i grew up on) either in choc or vanilla flavor and ice it up. ideally that would be my only icing, and then i could decorate it with star shapes made from premade and precolored fondant. thing is, i wanted a nice smooth look to the icing. is that basically impossible to acheive with betty crocker type icing? i thought it would be, judging from my past icing experiences...seems i always tear the cake and get crumbs in the icing.

so that led me to think about fondant. and at that, homemade fondant. but i dont have any of the tools i would need to use it. and what if i screw it up, and im making it the morning of, and then i have no time to make another cake?

so then i thought ok i'll just use buttercream for the icing. but can you get a smooth finish with buttercream? and how does buttercream taste in comparison to the duncan hines icing? ive had wedding cakes and the filling is always blah to me...

so as you can see, my mind is spinning. i have lots of questions and concerns. of anyone could help out, i would really REALLY appreciate it.

thanks in advance!

15 replies
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JanH Posted 14 Nov 2009 , 2:17am
post #2 of 16

Hi and Welcome to CC, christine12377. icon_smile.gif

Everything you need to know to make, decorate and assemble tiered/stacked/layer cakes:

Above super thread has popular CC recipes for crusting American buttercreams, several types of fondant and doctored cake mix (WASC and other flavor variations) - and so much more.

One of the "more's" is info on sleeved pastry filling... The chocolate or bavarian cream flavors are similar to pudding and are shelf stable in a decorated cake for a few days.

Also has info on how to smooth your frosting and assemble your cake/s. (As well as how to bake your cakes.)


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prterrell Posted 14 Nov 2009 , 2:40am
post #3 of 16

No offense, I'm just trying to be honest with you and save you stress and heartache. If you don't have experience with cakes, your child's first birthday cake is not the time to try to do this. Decorating cakes is hard work.

If you are really determined to try this, here is what you need to know.

First, you cannot use canned icing to smoothly ice and decorate a cake.

Not all premade fondant tastes bad, just the Wilton stuff. Satin Ice, Pettinice, FondX and Fondarific are all good-tasteing fondants.

Perishable fillings must always be refrigerated. Pudding is a perishable filling.

Buttercream is the standard icing used by bakeries everywhere. It is what the canned icings are (poorly) imitating.

Also, remember that when making a tiered cake, the top tier must be supported by a cake board and with dowels inside the bottom tier.

But, honestly, my recommendation is to either go for a simpler cake that you have experience with or purchase a cake from a bakery.

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SugarFrosted Posted 14 Nov 2009 , 2:45am
post #4 of 16

Hello and Welcome to Cake Central! You will love it here!

JanH has given you a great link to fabulous information to help you achieve your goal. Read thru that and I believe many of your questions will be answered.

I do have one suggestion. Have you considered using the individual pudding cups that you can get at the grocery store, the kind you might put in a child's lunch box, for your filling? It comes in chocolate, vanilla, lemon, butterscotch, tapioca...maybe more. It is shelf stable. You won't need much filling for the size tiers you want to do.

That being said, if the cake sits very long (a day, 2 days), even in the refrigerator, the pudding will be absorbed into the cake. A thin layer of buttercream to coat the layers before you put in the filling would help to seal and maybe prevent absorption. In fact, even a thin film of butter would help.

Additionally, you will need a good stiff frosting dam around the edges between the layers, to hold the pudding in and to keep the layers from sliding.

And don't forget to read carefully about using dowels or straws inside the lower tier to support the upper tier and the same-size-as-the-cake cardboard it is on.

Good Luck! thumbs_up.gif

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goodiegoddess Posted 14 Nov 2009 , 3:12am
post #5 of 16

I would have to agree that taking on this must for your first cake with a house full of family might be to much. My first cake took me a few hours to decorate with MANY bumps along the way. I would start with a single layer cake and try for a two tier cake for his second birthday. CC has soooo much information and has been such a big help to me. Cake decorating takes lots of time and it sounds like you have big ideas for your sons cake.

You can make the fondant and buttercream days in advance and they both do not need to go into the fridge.

Good Luck with everything and you found a good place to get help.

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amytracy1981 Posted 14 Nov 2009 , 3:26am
post #6 of 16

No offense, I'm just trying to be honest with you and save you stress and heartache. If you don't have experience with cakes, your child's first birthday cake is not the time to try to do this. Decorating cakes is hard work.

I 100% agree with the above statement! Decorating cakes is very hard work. I do not want to sound mean but your 1st cake will probably not turn out the way you picture it in your head. And definitely do not wait until the morning of to decorate...this will take you a lot longer to do than you think. I always finish my cake decorating the night before the party. Because if I do it the day of nothing else will get done. My house will be a mess, I will be a mess, and my kitchen will be a huge mess when my guests start arriving.
Definitly make a buttercream frosting (not store bought) buttercream is a lot thicker then the store bought and easier to work with. You definitly will not be able to get a smooth finish with store bought frosting. To be honest you will probably not be able to get a smooth finish with the buttercream on your first try. This takes lot and lots of practice. My buttercream is a lot smoother than it was 8 years ago when I first started decorating cakes but it is still not as smooth as I would like it to be. I prefer covering my cakes in fondant to get a smoother look. Their are some helpful videos on you tube and I am sure elsewhere that show you how to cover a cake in fondant. But don't use store bought frosting underneath your fondant it is not thick enough and the fondant will probably pull it off the cake.
You don't need many tools to cover a cake in fondant. Just a rolling pin, a knife (to cut off excess fondant) and your hands (to smooth out the fondant once on the cake). Oh and use some shortening to grease your counter before rolling out the fondant. And as with covering a covering a ckae with buttercream this will take some practice before you get the fondant looking perfect.

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SugarFrosted Posted 14 Nov 2009 , 4:19am
post #7 of 16

It has been pointed out to me that altho pudding cups are shelf stable while still sealed, once they are open, the contents becomes perishable and should be eaten soon or refrigerated.

So I amend my suggestion: If you use pudding cups as filling, and plan to eat the cake fairly soon after the pudding is opened and used as filling, then it is ok to leave the cake out. But if the cake will not be consumed for a day or two, then the cake should be refrigerated.

Sorry about that. Dunno what I was thinking.

Thanks JanH! You always rock! thumbs_up.gif

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chefjess819 Posted 14 Nov 2009 , 4:49am
post #8 of 16 my take on this would be that it is a little much on your plate so to speak with thanksgiving and a birthday party within 2 or 3 days of each other with making your first cake and all. you can make very pretty/nice cakes using just 2 8" rounds stacked together instead of the 2 tier thing. not really what you wanted but a lot easier b/c of the stacking issue. if you want to try buttercream duncan hines does make a choc buttercream in a can that tastes a lot like my homemade choc bc. so it might be an option. i used it earlier on a cake since i had way too much to do today to make it from scratch. buy a putty knife in hardware at walmart ($0.99) and use this to get a smooth surface. always use extra frosting on the sides and top to keep the crumbs out of the frosting. as you smooth it out, some will come off, and scrape the putty knife after each pass to keep it from getting bumps. as for the filling....i wouldnt use pudding as it has a tendency to get slippery and the layers might slide off of one another without doweling. you can get whipped canned frosting and that might be good for a filling substitute. good luck with your cake. whatever you decide to do, i'm sure everyone will love it since it comes from the heart! icon_biggrin.gif

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luvmysmoother Posted 14 Nov 2009 , 8:03pm
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I've seen lots of first time cakes that look really great - don't stressicon_smile.gif It's definitely hard work and takes a long time to learn to make a beautiful perfect professional looking cake but sounds like you just want one that will look cute for your son's bday - this is totally doable. Just make it as simple as possible for the first time (maybe a 9X13 double layer cake rather than a two tier one) and use a nice standard buttercream like Wilton's recipe or Indydebi's recipe...fondant will be too much work (esp when you are busy enough already this weekend) plus if you currently don't have the tools for it - it's more trouble than it's worth. You can buy a cute topper or nice candle to decorate the cake with. It doesn't have to be intricate and flawless to be loved and appreciatedicon_smile.gif Best of luck and hope you survive the crazy weekendicon_smile.gif

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ziggytarheel Posted 14 Nov 2009 , 9:16pm
post #10 of 16

If you really want to do this, you can, if you plan ahead and set attainable goals.

How many people are you feeding? (Did I miss that part?) A 2 layer 8 or 9 inch feeds a big crowd!

There are some cute Wilton pans out there. For my son's first birthday 20 years ago, Wilton had a Big Bird pan that required only rough icing and placing the bird face on the cake. It was cuter than a grocery store cake. I also made a "clown house" for my clown loving 2 year old using a heart shaped pan. It was a design from a Wilton instruction booklet, using the point of the heart for the top of the roof, meant to look like a gingerbread house with candies making the house. Easy and fun.

I've come a little farther since those days (not all THAT far), but those things were completely doable as a newbie. If you want to make the time to do this, find something EASY and FUN. icon_smile.gif

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arrianna Posted 15 Nov 2009 , 2:18am
post #11 of 16

Hi, what I would do would be to do as much prep work as possible in advance. I have only made 5 bday cakes so far and would rather work with fondant. Other people hate it and like BC better. You can make all of the fondant a few days early and even cut the shapes if you want. You still need BC to hold the fondant on. You can make that early as well. I prefer making my own, it is easy and cheap. I usually make the cakes the day before and have my decorative things premade and ready to go. Then, the day of get started early. I just made a cake with pudding. It tastes great. I just made instant pudding and added cool whip to thicken it up. DO NOT use as much mild as usual. Start with about half and add small amounts until you thinks it is good. If it is too thin it will be thin and ooze out the side alot easier. Have fun doing it, don't get stressed. Oh, make sure to use dowels in it since it is two tiered. You can do it. Just remember that we are our own worst critics so don't expect it to be perfect. It will be great no matter what.

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Brendabeeper Posted 15 Nov 2009 , 2:57am
post #12 of 16

I have to tell you with a house full of guest and just after Thanksgiving this is a big task. Are you also hosting Thanksgiving dinner? Are your guest suportive ,layed back guests and are you a carefree host. If your the host that everything must be perfect and the guest are demanding or can't be left to their own or not overly helpful this could be a issue.
Last year I did a cake for my son , my first Wilton cake pan cake, I had planned just my mom and brother and immediate family for dinner. The cake took much much longer then I thought. I ended up giving my brother a piping bag and begging his help. ( he knew how desperate I was so he tried) The dinner was not what I had originally planned but the cake got done after everyone was there and the dinner was latter then was scheduled due to finishing the cake. I was so glad it was just mom and brother and not a house full of guests and friends.. The kitchen was still a mess, and I was not dressed. But the cake did turn out good ( cars cake in photo) Get your cake DONE the night before ...your best bet BEST WISHES !

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aundrea Posted 15 Nov 2009 , 3:06am
post #13 of 16

welcome to CC. im sure whatever you make your son and family will love it. just because of the time and energy you put in your cake.
the first cake is always a bit nerve racking and we are our worst critics. have fun and enjoy the process.
best of luck to you and be sure to come back and let us know how it went. would love to see pics!

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christine12377 Posted 15 Nov 2009 , 11:49pm
post #14 of 16

Thanks to everyone for your helpful responses! they are so much appreciated!

To answer some questions: yes i am hosting thanksgiving at my house. my guests for the week are my in-laws, MIL, FIL and two BILs. my MIL will take the reigns for turkey etc, so that's a relief. they are all very helpful and laid back so that it another relief. I'm trying to keep the party small, about 15 adults total. if i decide to make just a one tier, do you think an 8 in round cake (with two layers) will feed us all?

I have to say I have laid my pudding filing idea to rest...however a friend of mine brought over some of her daughters leftover bday cake just today and it was AMAZING! it was one tier, with one layer of yellow cake and one of chocolate cake, with a chocolate ganache filling, and iced with yellow buttercream. it was to die for! im sold on that exact combo or something just like it.....

i do agree with some of you who said i might be a little nuts to attempt a two tier fondant cake for my first try. and i thank the posts who were encouraging enough to say i can do it anyway with proper planning!

i think i will make everything ahead and then ice it the night before. still unsure about the fondant- i will have to see how i like the look of the BC. i will make a test batch of fondant just to taste it and see if i like it!

can anyone tell me if ganache needs to be refrigerated once i put it into the cake? any tips for ganache?

lastly, im planning to do a complete test run, maybe make a practice cake next weekend.

one more question: to tint buttercream, do i use the standard wilton colorings?

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Josie_girl Posted 16 Nov 2009 , 12:23am
post #15 of 16

I have another suggestion for you. You might want to buy a Wilton yearbook. They hold a wealth of information. Also, you might want to make both the 8 inch and the six inch, just don't stack them. The adults can eat the 8 in and your son can use the 6 inch as a "smash cake". You can allow him to dig in and not worry about it. It makes a great photo op!

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kakeladi Posted 16 Nov 2009 , 12:35am
post #16 of 16

For about 15 adults one cake mix should be enough. That will be enough batter for one layer 8 or 9" pan w/a little left over. (2" deep pro pans).
If you want more batter I suggest you use my *original* WASC recipe. The amount of batter you get is perfect for two 8"roundx2" deep pans. However, that will make it hard to have two different flavors. OH, I just thought: Depending on what cake flavors you want you can make up the recipe, split the batter and add some different flavoring to one 1/2. If you want lemon cake add lemon flavoring; if you want chocolate add 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder etc.
As for getting a smooth icing using canned icing (and nothing wrong w/that if that's what you like LOL!) - yes it's possible if you put the icing in a bowl and stir it up well. That will soften it so it goes on the cake smoother. 1st use just a little bit and very, very lightly cover the whole cake; let it dry for maybe 1/2 hour - until you can touch the icing and it doesn't come off on your finger. Now cover it w/your final coating as thick as you want - the thicker the bettericon_smile.gif The suggestion to get a putty knife isn't great; it's not made for using on food. Instead invest in a cake spatula. You can get one at Michael's or Hobby Lobby. Brand name (usually) is Wilton and the small off-set handle one is probably the best investment you can make.
Ganache is rather easy to make. It is nothing more than heated cream poured over shaved chocolate (Or use candy melts). And it will be fine w/o refrig'ing.

If you had fzr space I'd suggest you bake up the cake now, wrap it well in plastic and freeze. It will be just as moist, good and fresh as if you baked it the same day.

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