Introduction: How to Avoid a Cake-tastrophe!
Go ahead and compare the 2 pictures...I know you are anyway. Can you tell which is mine? I will give you a hint; mine does not have any writing on it...okay, or recognizable Sesame Street characters!
I'm going to describe what went wrong so that you don't make my same mistakes!
Step 1: Materials...Brought to You by the Letter "C"
-Vanilla Cake Mix (I know...seems like the easy way out, but with juggling visiting inlaws and 2 kids under 3, it was about all I could handle!)
-1 Stick Butter at room temp (Real butter only!)
-3 Cups Confectioner Sugar
-2 Tbs Milk
-1 tsp Vanilla
-2 Tbs Beet Juice
*Mix on medium for about 3 minutes until smooth
-Edible Eyes (I found these at a local department store)
-Coconut (I will not use this next time...did NOT look like hair or fur as I anticipated!)
-Sprinkles (I turned to these out of desperation to cover the mess I'd already made)
Step 2: What I Did Wrong...Brought to You by the Letter "T"
First of all, I rushed. I made the cake, prayed it cooled quickly while I whipped up the frosting, then did not give myself any time to experiment. Big No-No! Give yourself plenty of time!
I have piped frosting before, so I thought this would be easy, but it was not laying how I had hoped, so I grabbed a knife to just spread it on the old fashioned way (thinking I could cover the poor technique with characters). As I tried to spread the frosting, the cake stuck and some of the top pulled up mixing in with the frosting. I think my frosting was too thick and beginning to harden making it tough to spread.
I was going for a Sesame Street Cake to go with my Elmo theme for my 1-year-old's party. While it is fun to match the cake to a theme, it is also important to match the cake AND theme to one's skill level and technique. In other words, KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid). Clearly this was not my forte this first shot (although I do feel that I can redeem myself...my kids are young, and I have lots of parties left to go...unfortunately, characters will likely only get more complex from here though. I mean, what could have been easier than red fur, an orange nose, and a pair of eyes?!)
Step 3: What I Will Do Next Time...Brought to You by the Letter "P"
Next time, I will make the cake ahead of time such as the night before the party. Perhaps I will even make it 36 hours or so before, then I could try to frost the night before. Through discussions at the party, I learned that I can frost a cake and leave it in my basement overnight and the frosting should stay excellent (if made correctly the first time around). That way, I would not feel rushed, and if I encounter a dilemma, I would have time to come up with Plan B!
I need to practice my techniques first. I need to practice piping, and I could do so on a sheet of paper first. I also need to ensure that the cake is not inside of something when trying to frost. I had it in a square baking dish covered in foil. It needs to be on a pedestal or something where you can really maneuver it to add the frosting and decorations.
It is important to have a clear picture in mind when working on something such as a cake. Sketch it out and carefully consider the materials. Try to envision what the final product will look like based on the materials. Don't try to throw everything on the cake with the kitchen sink and expect it will look anything like you had hoped. Be thoughtful and methodical about the process.
When all else fails, have a backup plan in which you can quickly pay for some last minute cupcakes or a cake...don't stress so much about a theme...after all, it's cake and as long as it tastes good, no one truly cares that much! Bonus if you have young kids who really don't know the difference anyway if you do mess up!