Creative DIY Birthday Cakes in Less Than 30 Minutes

It’s only April, but I’m already thinking about what we’ll do for Mason’s second birthday in August. There’s been lots of birthday talk among the LIC Mamas–many of us have spring and summer babies–and it’s gotten me thinking about how I want to celebrate Mason’s big day. I had so much fun planning his bash last year (a safari-theme cookout) that I can’t wait to dream up this year’s plan. But first I have to come up with a good theme…suggestions welcome!

Although the details are still murky in my mind, I know I want to make Mason’s cake. (Last year I splurged on fancy cupcakes from Sprinkles because I was too overwhelmed with the prospect of planning Mason’s first birthday party to deal with making the cake.) But that milestone accomplished, making his cake every year is just something I want to be able to do for him.

Here’s the catch: I’ve never baked a cake. My mother wasn’t a big baker when I was growing up, so I never really learned how to bake, beyond a simple batch of cookies or muffins. And while a good part of my career has been in food, my focus has been primarily on cooking and wine-pairing, so I never really had to hone my baking skills. But now that I’m a mom I feel like I need to become a better baker. Chalk it up to my love of those Duncan Hines commercials with the mom baking and the kids smiling.

Anyway, Mason’s second birthday is probably not the best occasion for my first foray into cakes. But I’ll practice a lot before then, and I’ll get advice from my co-worker Erica, a trained chef who is also the food editor for Parents. She recently came up with six DIY birthday cakes, including the “Mini Smash Cake” (above, left), that are beautiful but not complicated. Mason loves dogs right now, so perhaps I’ll make him the Paw-Print Cake (above, right)–she used Necco Wafers and Smarties candies for the prints! And I think the Rainbow Cake (left) covered with jelly beans is really fun.

Wish me luck. I have this image in my head of me covered in flour from head to toe with splotches of frosting in my hair. But I’ve got faith that I can do it. My baking process might not be pretty, but the smile on Mason’s face when I serve the cake will be totally worth the effort. (Plus he’ll only be two–too young to judge me if the cake is lopsided!) Stay tuned for pictures of the whole debacle adventure.

Is your tot’s birthday coming up? What kind of cake will you make (or buy)?

Mason's 1st Birthday Cake + More Great Finger Foods

On Saturday, the day after Mason turned 1, we hosted a safari-theme cookout on our roof to celebrate his birthday. Sixteen of our friends, along with two babes Mason’s age, came over for the bash. We served burgers, classic potato salad, red coleslaw with grapes, heirloom tomato salad (fresh tomatoes with basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt, and black pepper), fresh fruit salad, and tortilla chips with tomato and pineapple salsas. Mason ate everything but the chips and salsa; bits of burger, potato salad, heirloom tomato salad, fruit salad, and grapes from the coleslaw all made excellent finger foods. But the cake was Bug’s favorite.

After weeks of debate, I chose traditional cupcakes. I’m not much of a cake baker so I ordered the cupcakes from Sprinkles, a cupcake bakery on New York City’s Upper East Side. I loved the idea of cupcakes because Mason could have his own personal cake and we could serve a variety of different flavors to our guests. I chose the classic Sprinkles design, which is very simple and elegant, but requested an M topper for Mason’s vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting. In addition to vanilla, our guests enjoyed chocolate, strawberry, banana, chocolate-peanut butter, and red velvet. Chris documented Mason enjoying his cupcake, from the moment he first saw it to smashing it all over himself and his chair. Enjoy our photos — and share your memories of your babe’s 1st birthday here!

Mason gets his first look at his cupcake as the group sings “Happy Birthday” to him.

Bug takes a taste of frosting — so delish! Plus, I have an audience cheering me on.

The cake part is yummy too, especially with the frosting!

Best. Thing. Ever.

The cupcake tower from Sprinkles, sans the ribbon that matched our party colors (we forgot it!). The “G” on the cupcake in the middle (front) means that it’s gluten-free for mommy.







Baby's 1st Birthday Cake: Traditional or Healthy?


Mason’s first birthday is August 19, which means I’ve been thinking about his first birthday party for the last six months. We’ve decided to have a rooftop cookout, and now I’m pondering the menu. Should we keep it simple and just grill burgers and veggies, or should we grill some shrimp and chicken too? Which cookout sides should I make?  What will everyone want to drink? I have tons of recipes in mind, so it’s just a matter of narrowing down my list. But what about the cake?  Should I make a traditional frosted birthday cake for Mason, or should I make him a healthier cake that’s more like a fruit muffin? What kind of cake did you serve for your babe’s first birthday, or what kind do you plan to serve?

Please weigh in — I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Image from