Cake. Caaaaake. The very word sends most children into raptures, so it’s no surprise that even with all the ridiculous fussing we parents do for kids’ parties these days, the caaaaake still rules the day.
If it pleases you and makes life easier, you can buy in every decoration and every single other item of food at your child’s party, but you better believe that a home made cake is a necessity. It doesn’t have to be a difficult cake and it absolutely doesn’t have to be perfect, but you’ve just got to have a go. Bringing out the shining cake at the end of the party and seeing the shining faces that go along with it – that’s parenting nirvana to me.
Logistics. Depending on complexity of cake, start the day before, if not even earlier. Bake the cake(s) you need, cool them and then freeze the cake. Yes, freeze it. It thaws absolutely fresh and a cool cake is a lot easier to ice than an out-of-the-oven-on-the-same-day cake. Just make sure you allow it to completely thaw before you ice it. Condensation makes icing slide right off. Not that I would know…
Aim to serve the cake a good half hour before party closing time. It takes longer than you think to light up a cake, deliver the cake to much fanfare, sing the birthday song, do the X claps for luck, blow out the candles, take out the candles, search for the knife, cut the cake, fight off the many little fists that go grabbing for the bits with the most icing and serve the cake. Yes, longer than you think.
One more thing… remember to cut more pieces than you need so you can offer them to the parents at pick up time. It’s a nice gesture and a great way of moving all that excess cake!
Maximum impact can be achieved with no skill whatsoever. The key is packet cakes and lots and lots of lollies.
For Capper’s mermaid party back in the day, I forgot I had no cake skills whatsoever and attempted modelling with fondant icing. Do not attempt modelling with fondant icing for the first time on the morning of a 2 o’clock party. It’s sticky and it’s hard to colour (I don’t care what the books say) and it just doesn’t act like clay at all. Don’t worry, you’ll get there in the end, just make sure you keep putting that icing back into the fridge whenever it goes gooey and do leave enough time to finish the fish…
The ‘smoke and mirrors’ approach to cake decorating. A pretty banner, multiple sparklers, a well-chosen candle… tah dah!
When in all else fails, stick appropriate figurines on. They almost (almost) look like you might have made them along with your melting castle. A flag or two is also very handy for diverting attention away from epic fails.