When it comes to a child’s birthday party, cake is probably one of the most important elements. I am by no means a professional cake baker, but over the years I have found some easy cheats to create cute and charming cakes without having to pay for, or you can do your own extensive piping and fondant work.
1. Raid the toy box. If you don’t have the time or patience to try and sculpt a fondant character, small toys or figurines is one of the easiest ways to give your kids a character-themed cake they’ll love!
My most recent cake was planes-themed and looked great with a Dusty character toy flying high above my buttercream clouds. The topper even served dual purpose as the cake topper and a fun new toy for my nephew to enjoy afterward!
For my son’s second birthday, I selected some of his beloved trains to create a multi-layer Thomas the Tank Engine cake, and one of my favorite cakes was a construction-themed cake for my nephew that incorporated CAT toy vehicles in chocolate buttercream ‘mud.’
2. Create paper toppers. Paper banners and cut-outs are some of the cheapest ways to customize and decorate your cake. For the planes cake, I added a small paper banner to personalize the cake and give it a finishing touch. For the cakes I made for my brother’s wedding, I didn’t have to look any further than the owl-themed invitation to create the perfect topper for one of the cakes. With the addition of some paper flowers, it was a unique look that cost me far less than a traditional topper would have.
At my daughter’s Snow-White-themed party, I cut out paper princess toppers to stick into homemade cupcakes. The yellow buttercream was easy to pipe with a 1M decorating tip and created the perfect skirt for Snow White’s dress.
Does your child have a favorite book? Scan in images from the book and cut them out to create cute cupcake toppers. For my Go, Dog. Go! party, dog cut-outs and a cupcake ferris wheel worked perfectly to recreate one of my favorite scenes from P.D. Eastman’s book.
I always find cupcakes to be far less daunting than an entire cake. Paper toppers can be printed and assembled well ahead of time and then inserted into basic cupcakes the day of the party. Purchase a paper punch to easily cut out multiple toppers and finish off by gluing them to inexpensive candy sticks, coffee stir sticks or even paper straws as I did with my monkey-themed toppers for a friend’s baby shower.
3. Make it sweet with candy. Candies can also be a cheap and easy way to embellish cakes or cupcakes. Inspiration can easily be found in the different shapes and colors in the bins of your nearest bulk food store.
For an elephant-themed baby shower I hosted, I used peanut-shaped marshmallow candies to finish off my mini cupcakes, and mint leaf-shaped candies and pretzel sticks were all I needed to create my cute apple-themed cupcakes.
4. Source the baking out. I enjoy baking and making my own cakes, but realize this is not something everyone enjoys or has the time to do. Most of my options highlighted could easily be applied to simple store-bought cakes or cupcakes. Speak to the employees in the bakery of your favorite grocery store and with a bit of notice, they should be able to match cake flavors and icing colors upon your request.
One great example is from my friend who went through the Walmart bakery department to order cupcakes with plain pink icing for the Minnie Mouse party she hosted. By simply adding two mini Oreos to each cupcake, she was able to make them look like Minnie’s iconic ears. It didn’t cost her much money, saved her time in the kitchen and they still fit perfectly with the party theme.
Cake is meant to be something fun. I hope this list has given you some good ideas for topping off and transforming your next cake or cupcakes into something festive. Your kids and guests will appreciate the effort!
Chantelle is a Pinterest-loving, party-planning, bargain-hunting, DIYing mom who enjoys being able to blog about her creative ideas while getting to spend her days at home with her two children and two dogs. She has a degree in graphic design, and loves all things visual and creative including digital design, paper crafts, interior design, baking and photography.
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