September 2010

When I was a little girl my mom would make me a homemade birthday cake every year for my birthday. It is one of those nostalgic traditions I have decided to continue with my children. My son Evan has had four birthdays and I have made him a cake for each birthday. He loves it and he refers to his birthdays by each cake. He calls his three year birthday the “Yellow Car” birthday and his four year birthday party the “Transformers” birthday. (He only remembers the past two years). I have to tell you, it is no easy task and when you add on all the other things good birthday parties need, I completely get why people order one. It is just one of those things I insist on doing.

My first attempt was a complete disaster. I borrowed my mom’s big box of cake decorating supplies (she took several cake decorating courses and is a phenomenal cake decorator) and found a cute teddy bear pan. I got a recipe for a cake and my grandmother’s icing recipe. I come from a long line of cake decorators. My grandmother owned a confectionery shop (how cool was that to visit when I was a kid) and one of her services was cake decorating. I saw some of the most beautiful 3 tiered wedding cakes in her store as a child. Maybe I come by this urge to decorate cakes naturally… I was going to rock this cake!

I greased the teddy bear cake pan and baked the cake and congratulated myself on what a clever new mother I was. When I got the cake from the oven, disaster struck. The bear was absolutely cemented to the pan. I tried to use a knife to scrape the cake out, but this teddy cake was a massacre. I called my grandmother in tears. She told me I needed to butter and then flour the pan. Ah Ha!

Take two

I remade the cake this time greasing and flouring it. Teddy mostly came out okay but part of an ear, hand and foot were still stuck in the pan. This added character, I thought. I decided it did not look that bad and I thought I could put extra thick icing in those parts. Unfortunately, the little mini stars pattern I was using to ice the cake were not sticking to the broken pieces of the cake. They need a firm, baked surface to adhere to and fluffy cake insides just did not work.

What would MacGyver do? Duct tape is not edible, so I thought I could cut my losses and just smear the icing on (this was after I put jam on the fluffy parts to make the icing “glue” to it. Does NOT work by the way, so don’t try that one at home). I started smearing, but apparently cake decorating icing is way thicker than the smeary icing that I actually needed. I ended up glopping the icing on and trying to cover the bear with icing glops.

Oh my word was that cake a disaster! At least he tasted good and I had succeeded at making a (albeit an ugly) cake.

Ugly Teddy

Evan’s second, third and fourth cakes ended up being better every year. I learned from my mistakes, enlisted help from friends who know how to do this stuff and discovered Wilton’s Bake Easy! A non-stick spray you can get at Michael’s which releases cakes from their pans with no amputations for teddy cakes.

Cake pans can be pretty pricey to buy considering they are normally only used once or twice. How may Teddy Bear cakes can you get away with? Imagine my delight when Stir Crazy Family Fun Centre, a new indoor play place (and so much more) opened this summer in Calgary. They have over 500 cake pans they rent out. They are inexpensive to rent at $5.00 per day up to 5 days with a refundable deposit. I have rented pans from other places but they are very limited with their selection and you only can only keep it out for a 24 hour period.

Stir Crazy is a birthday party mecca to hold your child’s party. It is perfect for all ages. If you plan to have a low key party at home rather than in one of their party rooms, they have an onsite bakery to bake you a cake if you would rather avoid the baking drama. To complete your preparations, they have a huge assortment of themed helium balloons and decorations, affordable already-made loot bags and much more. This is definitely my new one-stop shop for birthday party planning.

This year I will have to make two birthday cakes. I now have a little girl whose first birthday is less than two weeks after Evan’s. Evan has not made up his mind on which cake he would like for his 5th birthday yet but I was eyeing a princess castle cake for Anya when I visited Stir Crazy this past week. Let the fun begin!