Save money by baking and decorating your own easy DIY birthday cake by doctoring box cake mix and using ready-made icing.
Each month Marty from A Stroll Thru Life organizes our recipe hop. Be sure to check out the other recipes this month at the end of this post.
Easy DIY Birthday Cake
You'll find a complete source list of the items used at the end of the post. Like and similar items are used.
My kids are both in their early twenties and in college. They both graduate from Clemson University in December 2021. I can't they have one more semester.
My mother took cake decorating classes as a hobby when were kids. She made many of our cakes when we were little.
While I never took decorating classes, I made my own cakes for our children when they were young using my mom's tips from her kit.
Please note that I am not trained nor an expert. With Youtube and instruction booklets, you can tackle this easy DIY birthday cake as well.
I actually sold all of my big pans and character pans on the Facebook marketplace a couple of years ago. I still have all of mom's tips and basic supplies.
I've been loving the larger tips that are available today. There are even some that are huge referred to as Russian tips that I have not tried….yet!
Out of the set, I decided to use Wilton 2 D tip to icing the cake. It makes large rosettes and is so simple. I practiced 3 times on waxed paper before moving to the cake. Here is a video that I found on YouTube that shows just how simple it is.
Ashlyn turned 22 on January 30th. I took a few photos as I prepared her cake with plans to share it here with you.
While I share recipes here on the blog, I am in no way a food blogger so process photos are usually just quick cell phone snaps.
Birthday cakes are expensive! Now, mine is in no way bake shop quality, but it was pretty darn good and looked so festive.
Biggest plus…Ashlyn loved it and was overjoyed that made it like I did when they were younger. I haven't made a decorated birthday cake in probably 8 years.
Did you know that you can doctor up cake mix? It makes a huge difference!
Ashlyn requested both chocolate and vanilla for the layers.
I used this mini set of pans. They make an adorable smaller, but taller cake. They still use 1 box of cake mix to fill them.
In order to honor her birthday request, I made one box of vanilla and one box of chocolate. I didn't need all of that, so I froze the layers that I didn't need and used those within a month. This gave me enough for 2 cakes. I alternated the chocolate and vanilla layers.
I had never doctored up a box cake for a vanilla birthday cake so I started researching. I made this recipe for how to make a box cake better recipe.
I must say that it made the box of vanilla cake amazing! It was so fluffy. I did end up throwing away some of the batter. You are adding more ingredients to it so it makes sense that you'd have more than you need.
For the chocolate cake box mix, I used this recipe that I've had written down in a book forever and have used numerous times. I'm not even sure where it came from.
My pans are 6 inches and for a thinner cake. It uses 1 box. Please adjust your baking time accordingly. For my oven, I bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes. I use a cake tester stick.
- Substitutions for your basic chocolate box cake
- Replace 1/2 of the water with brewed coffee
- Replace the other 1/2 of the water with milk (not skim)
- Add a teaspoon of vanilla
- You will NOT be using water called for on the box.
- Instead you will be using 1/2 brewed coffee and 1/2 milk
- Nothing else on the box mix changes.
- Bake as directed
The milk and coffee really add flavor. You do not taste coffee at all!
These boards are great for your cakes. You can easily pick it up from your turntable to place on your decorative cake.
You'll notice that the layers are wrapped in plastic wrap. I baked them the evening before and froze them after they had cooled. They weren't going to be in the freezer long so I didn't worry about freezer paper.
I freeze my layers before icing. Take them out of the freezer and only let them slightly thaw.
This makes them easier to trim to have a straight cake.
Slightly frozen layers are also easier to frost. You don't get as much crumbling.
Always add a dollop of icing in the center of your board to keep the cake in position.
I love using a cheap turntable to icing my cakes.
Sometimes I make homemade icing, but most times I don't. I have 2 cans handy per cake. Mix it a bit by hand.
Ashlyn also requested a “Naked” cake. This is the look where you can still see the cake through the icing. It's so easy to do. It doesn't have to be perfect.
These mini cake pans really make the cutest cake! ALWAYS put little strips of waxed paper under your cake. When you are finished icing the cake, remove the stips. You will be left with a clean cake plate ready for your decorative touches.
You can't do decorative icing with the regular cans. You have to use decorator icing. It is much stiffer to work with and holds the shape.
Pick your icing color. These are gels. Use a toothpick to transfer the color to the icing. A little goes a long way. Start out with a tiny amount and add to get the desired color.
The set of tips came with bags. It didn't come with a coupler set, but worked fine without one. Mine didn't work with it because these are larger tips. You'll want to gradually cut the tip of the bag until it securely slides in place like this.
Fold the bag over your hand like above. Use a mini spatula to pack the bag with the tinted icing.
Twist the top of your bag to enclose the icing. Please refer to the above video for technique. The box of tips also came with an instruction book.
It's not perfect, but it's made with love. That's what counts!
Would you believe that I picked up my turntable, cardboard rounds, the 22 candles, and the 22 cake toppers at Dollar General!
With Covid, we moved away from blowing out candles on a cake. To think about it, I can't believe we did this to begin with! LOL!
Let me know if you have questions. This wasn't exactly the typical recipe post!
Now be sure to check out what my friends are sharing today.
Marty @ A Stroll Thru Life