Yummy note: This year for my daughter's birthday party, I decided to go the semi-homemade route for her cake. I fudged a little on the cake, as I used a boxed mix, but I made her frosting from scratch from one of the best recipes out there from Wilton. I know, gasp! :O But when a working mom, tries to get that cake just right, I see no problem with taking an easier way and use good old reliable cake mixes and tried and true recipes to do the job. Plus, they taste great too without a ton of fuss.
I really thought I took my pictures during the prep time of making her cake, so this was a bit frustrating as all I could find were the finished product pictures of the cake decorating. So I will just have to tell you what I did in the meantime, luckily it was pretty easy, so we should be fine.
So Alicia's birthday party was sunflower-themed this year. We had the sunflower cake, sunflower bouncy balls for the kids, take home sunflower seeds in little flower pots for them to plant, and yummy sunflower chocolate pretzel sticks (which can be another blog soon :) Needless to say, the cake was a hit! Everyone loved the shape of it, and how moist the cake was, and how NOT too sweet the frosting was. Here's the frosting recipe, I keep close in my collection... Wilton Cakes buttercream icing recipe, which I'm featuring here. Enjoy. Original recipe here: http://www.wilton.com/recipe/Buttercream-Icing
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine softened
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar (approximately 1 lb.)
2 tablespoons milk
(Makes: About 3 cups of icing.)
In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add in coloring as desired. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use.
Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Rewhip before using. For thin (spreading) consistency icing, add 2 tablespoons light corn syrup, water or milk.
A note on the sunflower cake:
I used a sunflower-shaped baking pan. In that, I used the cake release product you can buy to prepare the pan, which worked like a snap. Super easy. My biggest flop on this part was the waiting time. I turned my cake out too fast, without cutting/leveling off my cake, so it crumbled into nice little chunks! oh boy, did I goof! So box #2 cake mix, here we go. That one turned out perfectly, after I followed directions better that time. So please read the directions that come with your pan, or else you might have an accident.
When I decorated the cake, I let it cool completely, and used a simple powdered sugar and water/milk glaze (1 cup of powdered sugar to 1 tablespoon liquid and mix together to desired consistency, and really that's it.) to cover the cake before I applied the buttercream icing. I used a star-tipped piping bag and started to apply the frosting.
For the chocolate brown center, I used this recipe here and just scaled it down some instead of making a whole batch. http://www.wilton.com/recipe/Chocolate-Buttercream-Icing
Then I applied that brown frosting to the middle using the star again, and then finished it off using a round tip. After the fact, I saw this online here.. http://www.wilton.com/idea/Sunflower-Cake so you could always decorate it this way too!
Also, there are some great tips and tricks on Wilton's website here-- http://www.wilton.com/blog/