The Cheaters Guide To Making Fancy Birthday Cakes For Kids

I’m guessing that you are here reading this because you want to make your child a fancy birthday cake, but for some reason you are hesitant to. Since becoming a parent I have had the discussion with many other parents about birthday cakes. Some prefer to get store bought cakes or those made by freelance cake decorators, while others are happy to make something quite simple; a square or round cake with some simple frosting or icing lathered over the top. Maybe some sprinkles or M&Ms thrown on top for good measure, but that’s the extent of their creativity.

I’ve talked to some that have told me that their kid has asked for a fancy cake based on a theme such as Disney’s Frozen or a Minion cake but with local cake decorators charging $200 plus, it can become quite an expensive thing to purchase just to have it sit there in the centre of a table while the kids enjoy the party, and then looked at for about a minute whilst singing Happy Birthday, and then it’s cut up and served with much of the actual cake wasted by half the kids.

“I just like the icing…”

I love the Internet, I really do. And I love social media. But sometimes it sucks. Sometimes there are things that are shown such as those “Nailed It” or “Failed” memes about birthday cakes where someone has made an attempt to do a fancy cake only to have it not turn out the way that they expected it to. Now, we all laugh at those attempts. Well, I do. They’re funny after all. But the psychologist in me sits back and thinks that possibly this trend in promoting the failures is preventing some people from attempting to make a cake for their child. Hands up if that’s you?

But let’s pause for a second and take a look through this gallery of some failed cake attempts that I’m sure you’ve seen shared a thousand times before on Facebook, but they’re worth seeing again. And after this gallery, I’ll tell you how you can overcome the fear of attempting to make a cake if in fact I’m right with my theory as to why so many are too nervous to even attempt to make a fancy cake…

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As many of my regular readers might know, on the 3rd May this year, the day before Star Wars Day (you know, May the Fourth) I showed my boys the first of the six Star Wars movies. Since then both boys have been somewhat obsessed by this space opera saga.It only took about two weeks before we all bought toy lightsabers and then less than three weeks later the boys were decked out in Clone War series dress up costumes.

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They watch YouTube clips of The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels which we’ve missed in syndication on television, and I haven’t bought them on DVD yet. They also watch parodies about Star Wars and those boring unboxing and “let me show you how to build this Lego set” videos showcasing a Star Wars Lego set. And then, recently, while flicking through some suggested Star Wars clips on YouTube, the youngest came across a “how to make a Star Wars cake” video. And he watched it. The whole freak’n thing. It was like 20 minutes plus long. I yawned. He surprisingly sat glued to the screen.

“Dude, you don’t get to eat it at the end…”

And so it was. He wanted a Star Wars cake.

Although he plays as Anakin Skywalker as per his older brother’s want, he sometimes hates that his character goes on to become the evil Sith Lord, Darth Vader. Oops. Sorry. Spoiler alert.

Moving on…

Because of this he keeps telling us that he wants to be R2-D2. Now, when I say “he wants to be R2-D2” I’m not just meaning as in to dress up as him. He literally wants to BE the little droid.

“Daddy, when I grow up, I want to be R2-D2…”

For those not familiar with the Star Wars character, this is the little astromech droid and star of all the movies, R2-D2.

Photo credit: Wookieepedia

Knowing his want to be Artoo, and thinking about how relatively easy it would be to make an R2-D2 cake, I jumped onto Google and googled me up some cake making ideas. And the ideas started coming in…

The first cake that shows up in my Google Image search results was this cake;

Photo credit: Staked Caked Canberra
Photo credit: Staked Caked Canberra

I looked at that and thought that it might be a bit beyond my skill, and also, could I find the time and patience to be so accurate doing this. So I kept looking.

I wanted the have a three dimensional cake as much as possible so I looked at something a little simpler such as doing just his head. These two options were in the top search results;

Photo credit: Sweet Cheeks Baking
Photo credit: Sweet Cheeks Baking


Photo credit: Hudson Cakery
Photo credit: Hudson Cakery

But I really wanted it to show a bit more of the little guy than just his head, so I thought about doing a laid down version of him. And I found these;

Photo credit: Sugar and Surf
Photo credit: Sugar and Surf


Photo credit: Flickr
Photo credit: Flickr – Pete Holmes

But these were not the droids I was looking for. As I mentioned, I really wanted to do something more three dimensional. And then I found it. The one I was going to base my effort on…

Photo credit: Pinterest
Photo credit: Pinterest

Now, although that is only a photo on Pinterest without it having a link to a website showing instructions on how to do it, this was going to be all the template I needed because I thought I could plan it out in my head without needing a step by step post or YouTube tutorial.

So, having said that, I’m going to take you through a tutorial of my own to show you how I fudged my way through making this myself. And the reason why I am doing this will be evident at the end.

First off, I made two cakes. I thought I was going to need three, but two were enough.

          r2d2 cake baking tutorial step 1

I cut the cakes in half and sliced off the convex top on three of the four parts made.

  r2d2 cake baking tutorial step 2

Although I didn’t take a photo of this, I actually separated the last two pieces and slipped some off cuts in to build it up and extend the body a little more. As you can see in the next photo when I’ve added the fondant to cover the body, the body is a little longer than the above photo.

r2d2 cake baking tutorial step 3

From here I added his head. I have to admit that I made it too dark and had three attempts to make it a lighter grey as shown in that Pinterest version I was copying, but I settled on the shade that I ended up with the third time.

r2d2 cake baking tutorial step 4Let me pause for a second here. This seems like as good a time as any to tell you this. Let me put it in the form of a disclaimer.

DISCLAIMER: This cake WILL NOT be perfect. But that’s okay.

Now, let’s continue…

I assumed that I would use off cuts or bake a square cake and cut the legs out of that. But when I was at my local cake decorating supplies store, the woman behind the counter suggested that I use rice crispy style store bought bars. I used the Kellog’s LCMs and cut them accordingly. And with the off-cuts I made his third leg, or as my 4-year-old called it… R2-D2’s penis. Moving on…

r2d2 cake baking tutorial step 5

Next I had to cover them with fondant.

r2d2 cake baking tutorial step 6

It was at this point that the birthday boy admitted to me that it finally dawned on him that he was getting an R2-D2 cake. This, despite the fact that I told him I was making one for him.

From here on in he was very interested in watching me make it. And this becomes the important part of the story. THIS is the memory I want him to have. THIS is what I want my legacy to be. I want him to see that his dad cared enough to attempt something even though, wait for it, I was as scared as all hell before going into this because I wanted it to be perfect.

But look at the smile on his face. This is a kid who never wants his photo taken unless it’s on his own terms. This is a kid who walks away from family photos a soon as the person taking the photo calls out “smile.” But at this point in the process he sat on his chair as I started cutting the next shape and he asked for a photo with his cake. Look at that face. Happy as…

r2d2 cake baking tutorial step 7

Before I go on, I want to take you back to a few weeks ago. Up in the Hunter Region of New South Wales, about a two hour drive north from Sydney there is a place called the Hunter Valley Gardens. Each winter, because it doesn’t really snow in this part of the world, the gardens creates a winter wonderland with fake snow you can build a snowman with, a temporary ice rink and mini toboggan hill. We went up there for the day and after having a fun day in the fake snow, we visited the little shopping town of Pokolbin, just near the entrance to the gardens.

While I was browsing through a knick-knacks store I came upon a section that had books for parents. Amongst the titles was a book I was hoping to get my hands on. It’s fellow Dad Blogger and viral internet story star David Vienna’s Calm The F*ck Down. I have mentioned David’s viral post twice before, but now I need to tell you about his book.

The book’s publisher uses this as the description for the book;

If you’re a good parent, you probably drive yourself batshit with worry. This book is for you. Based on his viral blog post and addressing concerns from “my baby won’t poop” to “my boy likes girl toys” to “everything costs too much,” David Vienna‘s wise and funny parenting advice will amuse and inform—and remind you that (almost) nothing is worth freaking out about.

So I bought myself a copy. And the timing couldn’t be more perfect because I had an impromptu plane flight on one of those discount airlines that I had to take for a work trip. Now I always take books with me on flights but end up watching the in-flight entertainment. But not this time. Because the in-flight entertainment for this airline needs to be watched on your own device, I didn’t fancy watching shows on my smart-phone wasting my battery when I could be reading.

David’s book is a wonderful read, and it possibly deserves it’s own blog post rather than being hidden amongst this post about making a cake, but seeing that he inspired me to calm the fuck down and just get on with making my kid a cake, I thought it was apt to talk about it now.

And so I added more detail…

r2d2 cake baking tutorial step 8And even more detail…

r2d2 cake baking tutorial step 9Until suddenly it was finished.

r2d2 cake baking tutorial step 10

Well, I thought I was finished at least, but my 4-year-old kept telling me throughout the process that I needed to add some red. I thought he was just saying that because in our cake decorating box there was a lump of red fondant from a previous cake I made, but he was adamant that R2-D2 needed a red light on his head.

“Just here Daddy…”

He pointed to where he wanted me to put a red light. And then he told me he wanted two red lights, just because, well, he needed his input.

r2d2 cake baking tutorial step 11I am proud of my effort. Is it perfect? By no means. But when my 6-year-old tells me while I’m putting him to bed something that gave me shivers, I knew that all the mess, and all the effort was worth it.

“Dad, you should make cakes as your job so that other kids can have fancy birthday cakes as well.”

In the eyes of my boys, this cake is perfect. To me, it’s a good effort, but it’s far from perfect.

To me, this cake could be that second cake on the “Nailed It” meme. It’s the hey, take a look at this poor attempt. Only, it’s not really. It’s better than those efforts.

And this is why I think that it’s a good effort. It’s because I stayed within my means. I knew the sort of level that my cake making abilities allowed for and I went with that.

And that’s how you can cheat at making a fancy cake. Find one that looks easy enough, and do it. Because, you know that you can. You know that you should.

And you know your kids will love you for it. Just look at the smile on the face of the birthday boy as his number 4 sparkler sparkles while we sang Happy Birthday to him.

r2d2 birthday cakeHis brother was very eager to get the cake cutting under way.

r2d2 birthday cake cuttingAnd then comes the sad part. I must warn you of this heartbreaking moment. All that effort, and you’re left with only half a cake to show for it.

r2d2 birthday cake cutEspecially when your kids have had so much fun that they are worn out by 4:30pm and crash in your bed.

tuckered out boys

And here’s some of my previous efforts…

My Hoot cake from the Giggle and Hoot television series
My Hoot cake from the Giggle and Hoot television series
The Lego Ninjago cake
The Lego Ninjago cake

I don’t normally ask this, but if you think that this could help your fellow parents get off their butts and attempt to make a cake, please share this story with them. And if you’re lucky enough, you might get an invite to their kid’s party, because, cake.

And it would be really cool if you clicked on this link to the post on my Facebook page and you shared that.

14 thoughts on “The Cheaters Guide To Making Fancy Birthday Cakes For Kids

  1. Super impressed with the cake! My six year old has requested the Millennium Falcon for his birthday this year – I am freaking out as to how I’m going to re-create it. Especially with my track record of birthday cake fails! He may end up with a number 7 covered in smarties instead 🙂

  2. I am really nervous about making kids cakes but for my childs 5th birthday tomorrow, I found your blog and your Star Wars R2-D2 cake looked the easiest!! So I am going to follow your instructions. Thank you for sharing and fingers cross mine looks like somesort of robot stars wars resemblance.

  3. I just wanted to say a big Thank you for this tutorial.
    My son decided that he wanted an R2D2 cake for his 5th birthday. My first thought was ‘how on earth am I going to do that’. After trying (and failing) to talk him out of it I stumbled across this link through Pinterest & thought maybe I could do it.
    I’ve finished the cake now & although it’s not perfect I’m really happy with how it turned out. Thank you so much.

  4. My daughter has requested an R2-D2 cake for her 6th birthday next month.. I’ll attempt this, but I can barely frost a cake, so we’ll see how it goes.

      1. IMG_1499.JPG
        A tribute to Kenny! (And as a birthday cake for my 6 year old). Thanks for this page. I wouldn’t have thought it possible otherwise!
        I hope you can view the picture, I can’t work out how to attach it!

  5. I love making cakes for my kids. They never quite work out exactly how I envisage, but I enjoy making them, and my kids love the cakes. That’s enough for me. I found this as I was making an R2D2 cake for a friends kid in lieu of a birthday present.

    I came back to share the R2D2 cake i made. I went for the full 3D and it worked out pretty well. I don’t consider myself a brilliant cake decorator. In fact I think the only thing that sets me apart is my willingness to try and fail.

  6. Great article thanks 🙂 I love having a crack at making cakes for/with my kids. They are part of the cake planning and design process so the real memories are of the cake creation and not of the final product. I’m super keen to make a Star Wars cake at some point and thinking of attempting an AT-AT but this may be a bit too adventurous… Here’s my most recent cake 🙂

  7. Great article thanks 🙂 I love having a crack at making cakes for/with my kids. They are part of the cake planning and design process so the real memories are of the cake creation and not of the final product. I’m super keen to make a Star Wars cake at some point and thinking of attempting an AT-AT but this may be a bit too adventurous… Here’s my most recent cake 🙂

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