Tuesday, March 21, 2017
How to Make an Ordinary Birthday Cake Look Great, in Little Time
With very little time to devote to making a cake look pretty on a budget, I planned ahead with this latest one. I baked the cake layers a week ahead, and kept frozen. I had cans of frosting bought on clearance for 37 cents a can. I had some pretty doilies bought at 80% off after Christmas at Michael's Crafts two years ago. I used a beautiful cake stand that was a wedding gift 30 years ago. I added artificial flowers which I already had, for the top decor.
On the morning of the birthday
An hour before frosting the cake, I took the layers out of the freezer and set on the counter to come to room temperature. At the time of frosting, I cleaned up the silver base of the cake pedestal with my jeweler's rouge polishing cloth and washed and dried the glass top.
I had gold and white doilies to choose from. I chose the gold as I thought it would make the cake look even more special. The doily cost about 5 cents.
On top of the gold doily, I set strips of waxed paper over the outside edge, to protect the doily from messy frosting. You'll see in a minute what this step does.
I set the bottom layer on the waxed paper and doily lined pedestal and began the frosting. I used not quite two cans of frosting. The reason this frosting was on markdown, I believe is that it was an unusual flavor. It is cinnamon bun flavored frosting, to be used in conjunction with a cinnamon bun cookie mix, also promoted last fall. I bought several of each when I found them on clearance.
When using canned frosting to ice a cake, it's helpful to stir the can up, well, just before spreading. The frosting spreads more readily after stirring. I frosted the entire cake and smoothed the side and top with an offset spatula (easier to use for frosting than a table knife).
It was time to take the waxed paper out. I make sure the cake is centered on the pedestal, adjusting as needed. Holding onto the waxed paper strips on the far side of the cake, I gently slide the near waxed paper strip halfway out. If the frosting is coming away from the cake with the waxed paper, I simply "cut" it off with a table knife by scoring where I want the frosting to break. I go all around the cake and gently slide all pieces of waxed paper in this way, hanging onto the far sheets of waxed paper as I go (this keeps the cake from moving off center). Lastly, I finished pulling all of the waxed paper strips out.
These are the waxed paper strips which caught the excess frosting that would have otherwise looked messy on the cake pedestal and doily.
Last, the top of the cake needed decor. I took some inexpensive artificial flowers and pulled several blooms and leaves off of the stems.
These were dusty, so I washed them in the salad spinner, then patted dry. The reason I mention they were inexpensive is this variety can pull apart and then be put back together again, as opposed to being completely fused, stems to blossoms. I made a pile of blooms and leaves on top of the cake. And there it is, one homemade, reasonably easy and quick, lovely birthday cake that I think would rival any bakery cake.
Frugality doesn't always mean doing things the hard way. Sometimes, it just means doing things the smart and thoughtful way.