I love to go all out on my kids birthdays. I just really want their big day to be special. Every year my kids get to pick the theme of their choice and then I plan a party around that.
I try to throw the party for as little as I can but there are just some things that cost money. So to offset the cost I normally make the birthday cake instead of opting to buy one. You don't have to be incredibly talented at baking (box mixes and premaid frosting are great) or decorating to make a cake that looks like you have spent some money on it.
My daughters cake from this year. The theme was Dora the Explorer. I used game peices from our Dora candy land game for the characters. I had cake mix and rainbow chip frosting that I paid about .25 for with coupons. For the other decorations I created my own version of fondant( see recipe below), rolled it out and used cookie cutters. It took a bit of time to do so I gave my daughter some of the fondant to play with while I worked. She had lots of fun. It was the most time consuming cake that I have made but my nephews thought that I had bought it was so good that I bought it. I felt pretty good about that and I only spent about 2.00 to make it.
Imitation Fondant Recipe:
1 stick butter or margarine
powdered sugar (as needed to stiffen dough)
vanilla extract (about 1/2 tsp.)
food coloring (amount depends on the color desired)
In a stand mixer mix butter, powdered sugar and vanilla on low to medium speed until it makes a stiff dough (like a slightly stiff playdough consistancy). The amount of powdered sugar you will use depends on your humidity and the amount of food color you use. Form into ball, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 to 30 minutes. Roll out between two peices of plastic wrap as it will stick to counter tops. Cut into desired shapes. I found that the key to using this dough is to try to keep the fondant as cold as possible. It helps to work in small amounts while keeping the unused portion in the fridge. It didn't look like it would taste very good (regular fondant can be really gross) but it is actually very good.
My son's cake from last year. The theme was army. This cake was so easy to do. Using packaged cake mix and canned frosting (all that I got for free with coupons), I just frosted the cake. In order to make it look more like dirt and mud that the army men were standing in ;I grated a chocolate bar (also free)to look like dirt and broke off bigger peices of the bar for rocks. I decided with all that chocolate that it would be really good with some vanilla so I scooped out the middle of the cake and put in vanilla pudding (I got it for free at Walgreens).
The army men we bought at the dollar store and with the cost of eggs and oil to make the cake I only spent about 1.50 for the cake. The time to decorate it was about 20 minutes. It was really yummy!
This cake was for my son's 6th birthday. He was absolutly obsessed with Speed Racer that Year. We had invited a lot of kids to a party in the garage and I thought that it would be easier to have cupcakes instead of a regular cake. I covered a piece of cardboard with foil for a base.(makes for a really easy cleanup) Then I set out the cupcakes in the shape of a rectangle. I spread frosting over all the cupcakes so it looked like a regular cake. In the center of the cake I used black frosting (canned white tinted black from food coloring I had bought on Halloween clearance) to make a road and then decorated it to look like a street. At the dollar store I was fortunate to find the cars for only 1.00 each. I used canned frosting and cake mix that I had gotten for free and cupcake liner that were from Christmas clearance. It took me maybe 25 minutes to decorate the cake. But I only spent about 3.50 on it. What made the price of this even better was that I had seen the same Speed Racer cupcake cake with similar cars at the store for over 20.00. Not the best tasting ( (I think that black frosting is disgusting), but the kids ate it just fine. And more importantly my son had a great birthday.
Here are a couple more pictures of cakes that I have made for my kids.
I have had no training in making cakes or decorating them. But with a little help from Betty Crocker and looking at websites with cakes to get ideas; I was able to create special birthday memories for just pennies compared to buying a cake retail. I have found that if you use what you have (ie. action figures, barbi dolls) and if you shop sales and clearance you can come up with creative birthday cakes with out breaking the bank.