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Theme Cakes

  Sand Castle

This is an ice cream cake. To make this, you will need a clean sandcastle mould, a beige ice cream such as butter pecan, maple walnut or French vanilla, sand-coloured cookie crumbs, shell and/or rock candy, optional: candy clay to make starfish embellishments.
Start by softening (not melting!) your ice cream just enough so it can be pressed into the sandcastle mould. Refreeze until firm, then invert onto a prepared cakeboard. Sprinkle on the cookie crumbs, especially along the bottom edges. Add shell, rock and starfish embellishments as desired. The starfish can be made using a small star cookie cutter or by hand. Try using pink and purple to mimic the colours of the more common types of starfish. You can also use green ribbon-shaped licorice or fruit roll-ups for seaweed.

   Edible Aquarium

Sprinkle into individual clear plastic cups a thin layer of "sand coloured" cookie crumbs. Add any shell and/or rock-shaped candy on top of the crumbs. Prepare blue gelatin or agar (plant-based gelatin) to pour into cups (let it cool a bit before pouring into the plastic!). If it is not flavoured, prepare it with white grape juice instead of the water, and add a few drops of blue colouring.
Fill each cup about 1/4 full and let set. Add a gummy sea creature (fish, whale, octopus, shark, etc.), then add another layer of liquid and let set, add another creature, etc. until the cup is nearly full. Consider embellishing with a swimmer or two, or make a large bowl of this and add a toy duck and/or boat on top.

Cave

cave cakeTo make the cave cake, start with an angel food cake or any cake of a similar shape. First, freeze the cake. Once frozen, cut out about 1/5 of the cake from one side. This is the cave entrance. Use the section you removed to form a roof over the central hole of the cake. Ice with a very thin layer of buttercream icing. Make a batch of easy-pour fondant, and cook it on low for about 3 minutes longer than stated in the instructions. Add desired colouring, then pour over the cake. Just before the icing sets, press in some chocolate "rock" candy.
For this particular cake, I scooped off the excess icing (crumbs and all), and reheated it until the colour darkened slightly. The crystals in this were now larger, and I spread small clumps on various parts of the cake to add texture and make it look rockier. We also added some toy animals for decor. Some cone trees would also set it off nicely.
  

Campsite

camp cakeFirst, start with your favourite sheet cake. I baked mine in a casserole dish that doubled as a serving dish for ease of transport, but a regular sheet cake will work in much the same way.
I chose the rich caramel icing for the main icing, and spread marshmallow fluff where the lake would be. I then made the fruity sauce, using blueberry jam and fresh blueberries and a few drops of blue food colouring. I poured this over the marshmallow, then sprinkled on cookie crumbs to make the beach. I prefer the President's Choice Funshine cookies (just toss a few into the chopper or blender to make crumbs), but any plain cookie will work.
Then I made the campfire, and the campers, followed by the sugarcone tree and candy rocks. If you have a larger cake, you may wish to add a tent, which can be made with rectangular cookies (to form a simple A frame) and fruit roll-ups to cover them and make tent flaps.
  

Tent Cake

This is a smaller cake, made from a loaf or pound cake.
Once you have chosen and baked your cake, freeze it. While still frozen, cut a lengthwise, diagonal cut from the upper long edge to the opposite bottom long edge. Using a thick, spreadable icing (buttercream or similar), attach the top and bottom sides together to make an A-frame tent shape. Decorate the cake by covering in a rolled or poured fondant icing. Once that has set, make 2-3 camper "heads" as directed under "campers" and arrange them along one end where the door would be (so they appear to be peeking out the door). Use a knife rinsed in hot water to score the door seam above and below the camper heads. Pipe or roll skin-tone icing to form a hand holding the tent flap "open" just beneath the top camper's head. Embellish with pretzel "stakes" along the sides (just use a small bit of icing and insert pretzel stick).l

  Construction Site
Start with your favourite sheet cake. We actually once made this with a pineapple-upside down cake that we left unflipped. Chocolate cake will lend itself to excavation.
Spread a very thin layer of brown icing over the entire cake.
Now you can get creative! Is it aroad construction, or a new housing survey that is under construction? Use the following items to create your custom construction scene:
  • heap mounds of hot chocolate or ovaltine powder for "dirt"
  • use coarse sugar, such as demerara for gravel (either use as is or add a drop or two of food colouring to some and mix well)
  • chocolate rock candy for boulders
  • coconut grass
  • make partly constructed houses using plain cookies and icing to hold them in place
  • add clean construction toys as desired
  • make candy clay construction cones, or use candy corn for this if available
  • if the colour of your cake is suitable, cut out small pits and heap cake to the side
  • plain licorice or candy stick "pipes"
  • red lollipop "stop" sign (just write "stop" on it in white icing)
  • use fruit leather of various types to make other signs, road markings, etc.
  • for a road surface, ice a strip of cake in icing tinted dark grey; sprinkle on a small amount of black-tinted sugar

  Train

This cake is made in several small loaf pans. To make different shaped cars, choose from the following ideas. Be creative--try using the side of the tank car for your child's name or birthday message, and the engine # for their age or date of birth.
Flatbed: fill loaf pan 1/4 full and bake a shorter cake. Add 3 small chocolate "roll" cakes on top as "logs", kept in place with black licorice rope "chains".
Caboose: Freeze baked loaf cake. While frozen, cut out a section from the top end corner about 1/2 way down the cake so that you leave behind the little "porch" at the back of the car. Cut the removed piece in half and arrange on top (fastening in place with icing) to make the top viewing window. Create a railing ising firm licorice sticks, candy sticks or pretzel sticks.
Tank Car: Use a loaf-sized jelly roll, or bake a loaf cake, freeze, then trim to make it cylindrical. Add a licorice ladder up the side if desired.
Pipe car: bake regular mini loaf cake, add candy sticks as pipes, and pipe an icing frame around the cargo
Coal car: bake regular mini loaf cake, pipe a thick icing outline on the top and add either black coloured sugar, dark chocolate chips (or any other candy) inside the outline.
Engine: for a modern diesel engine, bake a regular loaf pan then ice it to look like your favourite engine line. For a steam engine, bake a regular loaf cake, freeze, then round out the top edges to about 2/3 back to make the boiler shape. Add another 1/4 to 1/3 section of cake to the back top of the engine. On top of the boiler, add a small stack of lifesavers candy (or marshmallows) to form the stack, then add your choice of smoke (see clouds, below). Ice as desired, and add a camper (head only) to each engine window (this will be your engineer). Use a Gold or silver Hershey's kiss for the engine light, and don't forget the engine number!
Wheels: use any dark round cookies; make a larger set of wheels for the engine with a larger cookie type. Join steam engine whees with a licorice or other candy stick. Optional: glue with icing a small round candy at the centre of each wheel.

  Volcano

Ice cream version: Soften (do not melt!) your choice of ice cream (use several flavours in layers for greater effect) and press into your moulds, which are a large bowl and a small bowl. Let set in the freezer again. Meanwhile, prepare your lava. For the molten lava, combine equal parts marshmallow fluff and strawberry fruit sauce (see recipe below). If you want it an orangier colour, use 1/2 apricot jam and half strawberry for the fruit sauce. The marshmallow and fruit don't need to be thoroughly mixed. For lava that is cooling, use a hot fudge sauce, or a chocolate magic shell topping.

Next, invert the larges bowl of ice cream onto your cake board (I suggest using a tray that has a lip around the edge to contain overflowing lava and melting ice cream). Invert the smaller bowl on top, pressing it down firmly. Seal any seams with additional ice cream and smooth to desired shape with a spatula. Press a small indent into the top of the volcano. Return to the freezer if necessary.
Now add the cooling lava, followed by the hot lava and fireballs. Serve with a small sparkler in the top, or put all the candles at the top.
For lava bombs, use tiny round chocolate donuts with white sugar coating, and roll them in orangy-red coloured sugar as well and arrange along the sides and bottom of the cake.

Cake version: Use an angel food cake (or any cake that is that shape) and a small (16 cm/ 6") round cake to build this cake. Ice the top only of the angel cake, and place the round pake on top. Carve a small pit through the centre of the round cake (this will reach to the bottom of all the cake). Insert a small yogurt container down the centre to be sure it will fit, then remove until all of the icing has been applied. This will hold the dry ice, should you care to use it.
Make up a batch of spreadable (buttercream or similar) icing, tinted to the main colour you want for your volcano base, and ice a very thin layer over the entire cake.
Make up a batch (or 1/2 batch--you will only need about 1/2 cup total for this step) of pourable icing and divide it into two or three parts. Colour each part a suitable lava colour. Optional: make up some fruity sauce using strawberry and apricot jam. Mix a few cake chunks and crumbs from the section you cut out earlier with the darkest colours of lava. Pour the different lava colours from the top of the cake and down the sides randomly. Add a few chocolate candy rocks here and there as desired.
When it is time to serve the cake, insert the yogurt container into the centre of the cake, and using gloves and tongs, add a couple of dry ice pellets to the container and use a turkey baster to add some warm water to the dry ice. Add a sparkler on top for a more explosive effect (the dry ice "smoke" will roll down the sides of the cake so the sparkler will still burn).

Seasonal Cakes

  Dirt Cake


This is best made in clear glass or plastic containers. You can make one large group serving, or individual dirt cups.
There are many versions of this dessert available.
For the layers, you will need an assortment of ingredients (choose at least two of the following):
  • dark cookie crumbs
  • light coloured cookie crumbs
  • crumbled cake pieces
  • hot chocolate or chocolate Ovaltine powder
  • chocolate or hot fudge sauce
  • crumbled chocolate bar pieces
  • chocolate or carob chips or chunks
Choose at least one of the following:
  • brown ice cream (chocolate or coffee flavoured)
  • green ice cream (mint, spumoni or pistachio)
  • chocolate mousse or pudding
And for the garnish use garden variety candy: gummy worms and other critters, chocolate rock candy, coconut grass (see below), etc.
First add any cookie or cake crumbs, in layers. Next add the ice cream or mousse, again, in layers. Follow this with any sauces, then sprinkle on more crumbs, powder etc. Lastly, arrange gummy worms and garnishes as desired. Be sure to push a few gummy worms down the sides of the container so they show through.
If you make a large serving of this, you can also garnish it with sugar cone trees on top.
  

Haunted Graveyard Cake

Start with your favourite sheet cake. Ice it in light green or light brown icing, then sprinkle on a generous amount of coconut grass. Along the sides of the cake, create a wrought-iron fence using black shoestring licorice. Make tombstones using oval-shped cookies, or candy clay. If you are feeling fancy, you can coat the cookies in easy-pour fondant tinted grey before inserting into the cake. Pipe on details (R.I.P etc.) with icing, or use a toothpick dipped in melted white chocolate (coloured to suit) to write on details.
Choose one (or more) of the graves to "haunt" by piling dark cookie crumbs in front to make it look fresh (or even dig a hole in the cake if you are feeling especially morbid, and pile the crumbs as dirt beside the hole). Make a white candy clay "ghost" by rolling a ball then elongating it to a point at one end; add facial features with a toothpick dipped in food colouring or a melted dark chocolate chip, then insert just behind and peeking out from behind the tombstone, or attached to the back of the tombstone using icing.
Additional details you may wish to add: candy pumpkins, traling vines and weeds (piped on with green icing), candy black cats and/or bones, icing or cake sprinkle flowers at some of the graves, candy clay barren trees, and paper "beware" signs (paper on a toothpick).
  

Jack O'Lantern (Pumpkin) Cake


This is a simple, but effective cake. Start with a round cake, single or multi-layered. Make a slight indent on either side of the area that will be your stem, and cut a tiny wedge on either side to round out the area beside the stem. Ice the stem a light brown, light green or beige colour as desired. Ice the rest of the pumpkin with your favourite spreadable icing, tinted orange. Smooth the icing by dipping a spatula in warm water, and make the natural "bumps" you find on a pumpkin. From a sheet of yellow fruit leather, cut our Jack O' Lantern facial features. Place these in position on the cake. Use the end of a butterknife to gently press the edges into the icing so that the features are set in a little. You may wish to trace around the features with some contrasting piped icing, but it is just as effective without this as well.   

Snowman Cupcakes


Use your favourite white cake batter, and slightly underfill the cupcake sheet before baking. Let the cupcakes cool completely. Add a round scoop of vanilla icecream on top of each cupcake, then add three mini chocolate chips for buttons, five for a mouth, two for eyes and an orange Hershey's mini kiss for the nose. Add two pretzel sticks out the sides for arms, and serve.
  

Christmas Tree

Bake your favourite rectangular sheet cake and let cool. With the cake turned so it is in "portrait" position, cut a line fom the bottom left corner to the centre of the top. Cut a second line from the bottom left corner to meet the first at the centre of the top. The centre triangle will form your top layer, and the two smaller triangles will be arranged in the same shape to form the bottom layer.
Ice the cake in either green icing, or white if you prefer a snowier Christmas tree effect. For the green tree, sprinkle on some coconut grass to simulate needles if desired. Decorate your tree with your favourite candy. Foil chocolate balls and bells, mini candy canes, and round gumdrops are especially effective. Don't forget to add a star (cookie, foil, candy, candy clay or a small sparkler) to the top of your tree!

  

Swimming Pool

Start with your favourite sheet cake. Ice the entire cake with light blue icing of your choice. Try butter cream, or spread marshmallow cream (add a few drops of water, and spread it with a spatula you dip in warm water), then pour on some fruit sauce made with blueberries, and a couple of drops of blue food colouring. Another way to make the water is to make up blue gelatin or agar, make a rim of thicker icing around the outside and a very thin layer beneath the "water", then pour the gelatin or agar on top to set.
Along the outside of the cake, press in plain rectangular cookies to make walls. Create a diving board using a wafer cookie, and add an icing or licorice ladder up the side leading up to the board.
Make swim noodles using lengths of coloured licorice, and rings using lifesaver candy. Insert gummie bears or bear cookies as swimmers, or use a camper's head (see campers below) on top of the ring. Make a buoy line using a length of shoestring licorice and lozenge-shaped candy distributed over it along its length, or just pipe white icing and add icing floats.
To make a tiled deck, use Chicklets-style gum or other tile-shaped candy around the sides. Add a gummy shark and/or whale for fun.   

Summer Cloud Cake

This is a light, cooler cake that is best served on a warm summer day. It can be made with any plain chocolate, white or golden cake, or even a store-bought shortcake flan.
You will need:
a cake for the base (any plain cake will work)
flavoured agar or gelatin mixed and ready to pour
whipped cream
1 teaspoon of sugar

Use a fork to pierce holes all the way down through the cake, evenly over all the cake surface. Pour on the agar or gelatin mix and refrigerate until it has set in the cake. Whip the cream with the sugar and spread evenly over the cake surface. Embellish with toy airplanes, hot air balloons and birds as desired.

Embelishments

  Trees

To make sugar cone trees, start with sugar cones and spread with a light coating of icing. Green icing will be most effective. Make some "coconut grass" (below) and sprinkle this on a clean work surface. Roll the iced cone in the "grass" until evenly coated. You can also use green cake sprinkles instead of coconut grass.
 

  Grass


Pour 1/2 cup of grated coconut into a closable container. Add a drop or two of green food colouring, seal the container and shake. Add more food colouring if desired. Sprinkle on your choice of icing before the icing sets.
Or, use green cake sprinkles for grass.
  

Clouds


The easiest way to show these is to use cotton candy. You can also use marshmallow fluff or popcorn balls, or thread popcorn on a wire. Cotton candy and fluff can be used on both 2-D and 3-D style cakes; popcorn is best left for 3-D cakes.
  

Campfire


candy campfireThis needs to be assembled in place.
Sprinkle some cookie crumbs in a circle the size of your fire. Cut up a few yellow, orange and red jujubes or gummy candies and arrange in the centre; these are the flames. Arrange several pretzel sticks in a teepee formation over the flames. Insert a single yellow birthday candle (which will look much more effective than the striped one in the picture!) in the centre through the middle of the flames. Circle the entire fire with chocolate rock candy. candy camper
  

Campers


Take a fig cookie and, working parallel to the rounded edges, cut out the middle 1/3 of the cookie. Press the cut sides together to form the sleeping bag. Decorate the sleeping bag with icing or candy clay. Use any round skin-toned candy for the head. Use icing or candy clay to form hair around the head, then paint on a face with a toothpick dipped into watered down food colouring.

  

Recipes

  Rich Caramel Icing
Ingredients:
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
3 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine sugar and milk in saucepan, cover and heat for 3-4 minutes. Uncover and cook without stirring to 238-240 degrees Farenheit. Add the butter and remove from heat until it cools to 110 degrees Farenheit. Add the vanilla and beat the icing until it reaches a good icing consistency. If it is too thin, refrigerate for a short time, then beat it some more. If too thick, add a little more milk and beat.

  No-Fail Cream Cheese Icing
This easy icing adapted from "Super Baby Food" by Ruth Yaron, has the consistency of buttercream icing, spreads well, and tastes fantastic.

Ingredients:
3/4 package cream cheese, softened (this equates to 6 ounces or 61 grams)
4 tablespoons softened butter
1-1.5 teaspoons lemon juice (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
4 cups icing sugar

Cream the first three ingredients together, then slowly mix in the icing sugar. If you wish to thin the mixture, add a few drops of milk.
  

Fruity Sauce


This is best if it uses jam made with sugar rather than corn syrup (aka glucose), but any kind of jam will still work. Into a small saucepan, add 1/2 -1 cup of your favourite jam, and about 1/4 that amount of water (more if the jame is expecially thick, less if it is a bit runny). If the jam has large chunks of fruit in it and you desire a smooth topping, run it through a blender with the water before heating. Bring the jam and water to a slow boil for about one minute, then turn of heat but let the pot remain on the burner for another couple of minutes. Remove from the burner, cover and let cool to room temperature. Stir the mixture well before using on your cake or dessert.
  

Yogurt Sauce


Combine: 4 tablespoons thick yogurt (or regular yogurt plus 1 tablespoon powdered milk), 1 tablespoon blueberry jam and 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice; add fresh berries if desired. Blend in blender or food processor until smooth. To thin add a few drops of water; to thicken add powdered milk.
  

How to Make a Healthier Cake


Perhaps it would be misleading to call a birthday cake healthy, but there are some steps you can take to add nutrition without sacraficing flavour.
  • add 1 tsp of brewers yeast to your dry ingredients; this will give the cake a boost of several B vitamins
  • substitute part or all of the flour with whole-grain flour
  • replace all or part of the sour cream in a sour cream cake with thick plain yogurt or silken tofu
  • use skim, 1%, rice or soy milk when the recipe calls for milk
  • choose an icing or topping with less sugar, such as the yogurt sauce above, or top your cake with fresh fruit or edible flowers
  • use natural vegetable colourings for decorating (available in health food stores, or make your own)
  • use natural ingredients to create colours (i.e. strawberries for red, kiwi for green, etc.)
  • instead of hydrogenated or modified margarine, use a mixture of 1/2 butter and 1/2 olive oil
  • avoid using shortening!
  • consider cakes that have a naturally low fat or sugar content, such as angel food cake
  • most cake recipes will work just as well with a slightly lower amount of sugar; experiment to see what works for you
  • use aluminum-free baking powder
  • pre-made frostings tend to contain hydrogenated or worse, partially hydrogenated fats, and are best avoided
  • remember that artificial sweeteners may have less calories, but are generally unhealthy alternatives; these are not suitable for children
  • bake your own cakes to avoid hydrogenated fats, artificial colours & flavours, additives and preservatives