Cake Basics: Assembling Your Cake

Many decorated cakes are too large for standard plates and platters, or call for a more creative display. If that’s the case with your latest creation, prepare a base or “cake board” that’s a bit larger than the cake and echoes its shape. You can use a cutting board or a cookie sheet, pieces of foam-core, corrugated cardboard or plywood, or other materials with similarly large, flat surfaces. You can also buy cake boards online, for example at the Wilton™ Store. Cover your board with foil, greaseproof paper, plastic wrap, a piece of brightly colored plastic tablecover, paper doilies, or well-cleaned indoor/outdoor “turf”. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination, and can help turn a simple cake into the conversation piece of the party. Check our Catering Supplies catalog for more ideas.

The last step in prepping your cake board is to cover an inch or two around the edge with overlapping strips of waxed paper or parchment before you place the cake on it. (The cake itself should overlap the strips just a tiny bit.) After you have finished decorating the cake, you will then be able to pull out the strips, thus easily carrying away bits of smeared frosting or spilled sprinkles and leaving the board pristine.

After your cake has cooled to room temperature, place it in the freezer for 45 minutes to 1 hour. The cake will be firmer, and easier to cut and frost. Upon cutting your cake into a shape, or in pieces to assemble together, don’t worry if it breaks. Think of your frosting as a combination of glue and cover-stick! No one but you will ever need to know. When the cake is carved into the shape you want it and in place on your board, spread a very thin layer of frosting over all the sides. This is known as the “crumb coat.” Let this coat dry for a few minutes before proceeding. This base coat will help seal in the crumbs, and prevent them from showing up when your cake is completed.

Most of all let your creative juices flow! Use little “props” related to your theme to assist you in your cake decorating, and don’t be afraid to experiment. The recipient of the cake is sure to be touched and thrilled by your effort. ENJOY!

Cake Basics: Mixes and Ready-Mades We Like

Our Favorite Cake Mixes

If you have a favorite family recipe, or just enjoy baking scratch cakes, our hats are off to you! However, if that’s not your scene, it’s good to know that many of the problems traditionally associated with boxed cake mixes have been eliminated. It used to be the main reason to take the extra time to make a cake from scratch was that mixes created cakes that were more tender and crumbly than cakes made from scratch. It was difficult to cut a “mix” cake into a creative shape, because the crumbs would infiltrate the frosting. Not today! We have tested and tasted all the boxed mixes on the market and can share with you our favorites.

The overall winner for great taste and ease in cutting and frosting is the Betty Crocker™ Super Moist Cake Mix™. A close second was the Pillsbury™ Moist Supreme Cake Mix™. Both have plenty of pudding in the mix, and they really are delicious.

If you are in the mood for something really different, make a Rice Crispies™ Treats “cake.” The shapes will work equally well, and it tastes delicious with frosting.

Our Favorite Ready-Made Frostings

In order to achieve that “bakery perfect” smoothness on your cakes, use a standard recipe for butter cream frosting. The downside of this type of frosting is that it generally tastes quite sugary, and uses either lard or shortening to give it a “stiffer” consistency. What’s the favorite of ShindigZ staffers? Not only is ready-made frosting easier, we think it tastes creamier and less sugary. Try Pillsbury’s™ Creamy Supreme™ frosting, or even Cool Whip™. Ready-made may not give a bakery-smooth finish, but they were all very tasty to eat! For best results, refrigerate the frosting first, and keep it chilled while decorating.

We Also Like Paste

We like paste colorings in frosting. They won’t thin your frosting like liquid colors can, and they usually give quite vibrant results with little effort. Admittedly, some strong colors can be difficult to achieve without changing the taste of the frosting. Look for “no taste” pastes, or start with a ready-made that already contains some of the desired color: for example, use pink (strawberry, raspberry) to obtain fire-engine red, and dark chocolate for a head start on black frostings.

Once you’ve selected your recipes or mixes, frostings and colors, why not take a spin around ShindigZ Party’s Birthday Candles and Cake Accessories pages for more ideas? We think you’ll be glad you did!

Cake Basics: Equipment

Bakeries today are turning out cakes that are ever more gorgeous and creative. However, many of us still prefer the tradition of baking our own cakes to recognize special times in the lives of those who are most important to us. If this describes you, you’ll want to take a look at our cake recommendations and tips, starting with equipment. Having the right stuff on hand helps ensure successful baking ventures.


□ 8”-9” round pans

□ 12” round pans

□ 16″ round commercial grade pans – straight sides

□ 9”X13” rectangle

□ 18″ X 13″ rectangle commercial grade pan – straight sides

□ A “ball” style cake pan, such as a Wilton™ ball pan or our own Soccer Ball Cake Pan

Selecting Pan Size

Of course, the pan you select for a particular cake depends mostly upon the number of guests you’ll be serving. Keep in mind, though, that bigger can sometimes be lots more fun, especially if you intend to make the cake the centerpiece of the party. Also, if you are going to carve a shape from a basic sheet or round cake you’ll need to compensate for the discarded scraps and shavings.

  • 1 boxed mix will fill two 8” or 9” pans, a 9”X13” rectangle or a ball pan, and serve 12-14 guests

  • 2 mixes will fill two 12” round pans or an 18” X 13” rectangle, and serve 24-28 guests

  • 3 mixes will fill two 16” round pans, and serve 36-42 guests

  • If you are going to serve a few more people than one of the above the guidelines call for, we suggest either baking up a few cupcakes or a plain sheet cake, which can be cut and served outside the view of the main attraction.

    Other Equipment & Supplies

    □ Flexible metal spatulas – one with a narrow tip for small areas, and one with a large tip to smooth frosting on large flat areas

    □ Pastry bag and couplers

    □ Pastry bag decorating tips, including 2-3 writing tips, and a star tip at minimum

    □ Cake boards

    All of these items can be purchased at specialty baking stores, and many craft supply stores now carry them.

    We hope you’ll find our cake equipment checklists useful! Find more ideas on our Cake Decorating and Catering Supplies pages.

    Spark Dreams of Rescue Heroes with a Firefighter Birthday Party

    If you ask a room full of young children what they want to be when they grow up, you’re sure to hear several say, “I want to be a firefighter!” Firefighters have a cool job, wear cool gear, and drive the coolest trucks. The folks at ShindigZ Party know this, and stock lots of Firefighter Birthday Party Supplies for this classic theme.

    Start with a Firefighter Kit-N-Kaboodle. The basic party kit includes table cover, plates, cups, cutlery, curling ribbon, balloons and invitations. The deluxe version has everything the basic kit does, plus streamers, mylar balloon, customizable Attach N’ Go Banner and Silver Spiral candles.

    Young children are often too excited by parties to eat much, so the best plan for this age group is to schedule the party at a time that doesn’t coincide with a mealtime, and to stick pretty much to beverages, ice cream and cake.

    Help the birthday child choose a slogan to use on the invitations. Some ideas are:

    “Sound the alarm: Joey’s Turning 5!”
    “Nate is Our Birthday Rescue Hero!”
    “Fired Up for Birthday Fun!”

    If you can hand-deliver invitations, it might be fun to attach each to a small die-cast fire truck. Another idea is to purchase our inexpensive Fire Chief Hats. Write or print out the party information on labels and stick one on the inside of each hat. Be sure to include the instruction to wear the hat to the party!

    Use the red and black balloons from the Kit-N-Kaboodle in odd-numbered clusters (5, 7, 9, etc.) because that looks best. A big bunch tied to mailbox, lightpost or porch shows guests the way to the party, and others can be placed on tables and in corners, on their own or suspended, or weighted if you are using a helium tank. Create a centerpiece of helium-filled balloons each leashed and tied to the rest with curling ribbon and anchored by foil weights placed in an upside-down firefighter helmet. If you decide against using helium, suspend the balloons from the ceiling or a light fixture above the table you want to decorate.

    In any case, you may want the birthday cake to be the centerpiece! Our Firetruck Cake Decorations can help you transform a simple sheet cake and a bit of decorator’s icing into an exciting fire scene that party guests will want to view up close.

    Use streamers for splashes of color throughout the party area. They can be suspended, twisted, draped and taped outward from focal points where you’ve hung balloons, used in swags reaching from corner to corner, and run in cascades vertically down walls or doorways.

    As a final mood-setter, enthrall party guests with the red flashing Police Party Light placed on the gift or food table.

    Next post: Activities for the firefighter birthday theme.

    Boys and Girls Love to Party with My Horse

    Whether you put them in a barn or corral them in the backyard, birthday boys and girls who love horses will love the My Horse party.

    Have (or help) your child choose a slogan for the party to set the tone and make it his/her own:

    “Horsin’ Around Birthday Party!”
    “Riders Rule at Taylor’s Horse Birthday Bash”
    “Blue Ribbon Birthday for Brianna!”

    Select invitations from the My Horse Birthday Party Supplies page, or, if a more Western flavor is desired, print up labels with the slogan and party information and attach each one to a cowboy hat that you hand-deliver.

    The basic My Horse Birthday Party Kit includes invitations as well as a table cover, balloons, curling ribbon and tableware to serve up to 8 guests – and can save you 40% over buying these supplies separately! Upgrade to the deluxe My Horse kit for the same basics plus a large horse mylar balloon, streamers, customizable Attach N’ Go Banner and birthday candles.

    Streamers are an economical way to add splashes of color to the party venue. In a house, drape them from the middle of the main party room outward to each wall, giving each a bit of a twist before attaching the wall end. In a barn, swag from stall to stall. Group balloons in clusters of 3,5, 7 or more (odd numbers look best) to suspend from the middle of the ceiling or central ceiling light fixture, also to use in centerpieces, tie to chairs, and place in corners. For a different look, add helium to the balloons and weight them where necessary. Don’t forget a balloon bouquet for outdoors on a mailbox or light post, to mark the party spot!

    If the party space is outdoors, strategically place a few bales of straw for ambience and seating. Indoors, add the cardboard (Haley) Horse Standup. Haley is 4’ high and 5’ wide and ready for her close-up in photo ops with the guests.

    Make the cake the star decoration with our new Horses Cake Deco Set. These cake toppers can help you transform a simple sheet cake and some decorator’s icing into an idyllic scene with two horses.

    The Brown Horse Piñata is perfect with the My Horse theme, with bandannas as blindfolds for this activity.

    Shop for horse-lovers and more in ShindigZ catalog of animal birthday party themes.


    Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

    Join 22,033 other followers

    %d bloggers like this: