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.
Easiest party cake I ever made.
No, wait, this one was... see, marshmallows are the king of cakes.
Fondant icing cakes
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 mermaid and the blobs.
Ah, that's better... Unfortunately, it had nothing to do with me... [Source]
Little cut-out shapes seem like a much more sensible approach to fondant... [Source]
Smoke and mirrors cakes
The 'smoke and mirrors' approach to cake decorating. A pretty banner, multiple sparklers, a well-chosen candle... tah dah!
Shut the front door cakes
Some people are just uber talented and produce the sort of cakes that no-one wants to cut. These are the kind of cakes that we bookmark on pinterest with full intentions of rolling up our sleeves and having a go. And then we look really closely at the masterpiece in the picture and then go out and buy a Pattinson's Patisserie cake instead. It's not so much inspirational as depressing, you see. Divert your eyes...
This is also a Harry Potter cake, no figurines required... it's just tear inducing, really... [Source]
Do you think they were having a 'I'll take your Everybody's Doing It Rainbow Cake and raise you a Very Complicated Matrix Cake' moment? [Source]
Yeah, yeah, but does it taste good? (How's my life: I'm heckling cakes forgodsake). [Source]
Of course, you could just go with the smoke and mirrors approach and stick a toy Buzz and Woody on top of a Greens Vanilla... [Source]
Ah, never mind. Cake is cake, right? Caaaaake... you can't go wrong, I promise.
You'll find loads more party cake porn on my pinterest board. If you need an invite to join pinterest, just drop me a note and I'll figure out exactly how one does that...
Next time: Tables
[First image found here]