We recently threw a Halloween (birthday) party for my three year old. His birthday is in August, but he’s batty for Halloween (see what I did there?) – so we went with it. You can read about the party as a whole here, but I wanted to give a few more details about the good stuff – the food – so we’ll start with the cake!
I decorate cakes sometimes as a side hobby/job, which may sound at first like it’s a great thing when it comes to planning my kids’ birthday parties. It’s a double edged sword though. On one hand, I don’t have to pick a cake from the book at Wal-Mart, and I’m able to give my kids a custom cake that doesn’t break the bank. Because my budget is definitely going to land my kids a Wal-Mart cake if I’m not doing it myself. (I feel like I should say that I actually love the Wal-Mart whipped icing. Like I sometimes actually crave it. But I don’t want to make my kids pick a sheet cake when they know good and well I can make them something else!) I don’t have to worry about a cake surviving a drive. I hate cake driving! And I’m pretty sure everyone else on the road hates cake driving too. I know my husband especially hates cake driving when he’s the one doing it because I can’t control my gasps and need to grip the door handles on every turn. Next time someone is driving like crazy slow in front of you, take a deep breath and convince yourself they’re delivering some kid the birthday cake of their dreams. It’ll help calm you down. Maybe. I also don’t have to worry about somebody spelling my child’s name wrong or sending us a cake wreck. Not all of my cakes have turned out perfectly, but I don’t recall any TOTAL disasters. Okay, maybe one. These points are all great reminders of why it’s nice to be able to bake my own cakes. However, I always tell my children to take their expectations down a notch for their cakes, because I’m not just making their cake, I’m having to do decorations and other food and clean my house too! So it makes for a bit more work on top of regular birthday planning. Therefore, I need the cake to be easy and fast when it’s for us.
Super Easy Pumpkin Cake
I asked my son what he wanted for his Halloween birthday cake, and his only requests were “sprinkles and pumpkins.” So I went literal, and gave that boy a sprinkle explosion topped with a pumpkin. He loved it. To me it kind of looked more like a sprinkle disaster, but kids do. not. care. I don’t know what it is about sprinkles, but they want them on donuts, cakes, and anywhere else they’ll stick.I cannot tell you how easy this pumpkin cake was. The pumpkin part alone would be plenty for a small party, I just needed a place for the requested sprinkles so I did two tiers! The bottom cake tier was assembled from two 9″ round cakes. I leveled my layers with a cake leveler (a serrated knife would work fine too!), placed one on a 12″ cake board, then iced them with buttercream. I put the iced bottom cake in the fridge for about 10-15 minutes to let the buttercream get somewhat set so that as I tried to press sprinkles into the cake I didn’t wind up with a palm full of icing. I could not find Halloween sprinkles anywhere (because remember – this was an August party!!) so I went with a bright blue/green/white round sprinkle mixture along with orange and black nonpareils. In hindsight, I definitely should have just picked one of those color schemes, because I did not love them all mixed together. And not to mention, the different sizes of sprinkles didn’t adhere to the cake uniformly, so keep that in mind too if you’re mixing several types of sprinkles! Again though, the man of the hour was thrilled with the sprinkle situation, so I am happy.
*Note – if you are making a tiered cake as pictured, and are not familiar with how to stack cakes read the tips at the bottom of this post!
Once the bottom cake was sprinkled, I began work on the pumpkin. For this element I baked two bundt cakes, leveled them, and built the pumpkin cut-sides together – with a healthy heap of buttercream in between, of course. There was a gaping hole in the middle of my pumpkin, so I filled it with scraps from the leveling. (I did not serve the scraps in the middle! They were just in there so I could have a surface built up to ice as the middle of the pumpkin & to set my stem on!) I dyed my icing orange using gel food coloring. I would highly recommend buying gel coloring if you are coloring buttercream, as liquid coloring will cause your icing texture to change and possibly separate. To get the icing on the pumpkin smooth, I iced the cake first not caring what it looked like – just getting icing for coverage. I then took my small angled spatula, and starting at the bottom of the pumpkin ran it up and over the top smoothing toward the center. I went all the way around the pumpkin doing this, making sure each stroke slightly overlapped the one before. This ended up leaving small vertical ridges of icing where the strokes were, but I actually liked that since pumpkins don’t have a smooth surface anyhow!
The facial features were cut from black fondant (you can get it cheap at a craft store with a 40% or 50% off coupon if this is all you need it for!) I was stumped on what to do for the stem, and did not want to just put a huge ball of brown fondant in the middle as that seemed wasteful. I ended up using a little bit more of those cake scraps from the leveling mixed with some extra icing to form a cakeball stem, coated with chocolate candy melts that I had left over from the time I bought the stuff for but then forgot to make a treat to take over to our new neighbors. Oops. Perhaps I should take them a belated welcome treat? Maybe one cakeball stem? The birthday boy loved his cake, and it was not so time consuming that I couldn’t get anything else done! That’s my kind of cake.
*For stacking cakes, you’ll want to make sure that the top tier has a cardboard cake circle underneath it approximately the same size as the bottom of the pumpkin. The bottom tier will need some sort of supports added so that the weight of the top tier does not crush the bottom one over time. You can either cut 4-6 wooden dowel rods or straws to the height of the bottom cake, and evenly space them so that the top cake will rest on them. The dowel rods will be a stronger choice than straws if the cake will be sitting for a long time.