DIY birthday cakes have never been more fun. Here are a few tips for making this timeless treat at home! Photo: Sharon Wee Creations
Before you get started with your cake, take a little time to research some baking tips and ideas. This doesn't necessarily mean how to make yours from scratch -- but it can mean hunting and scouting gourmet and other speciality cake mixes, which are much easier to find online than in stores. This is also a great time to get ideas, both in terms of flavors and decorating. You can make even the most basic instant mix ultra special with things like fillings and special decorations.
The key to baking your birthday cake is in having all of the ingredients ready to go before you get started. Whether you're making a mix or working from scratch. Let it sit at room temperature while you prep your pans, etc. Before you pre-heat the oven, make sure the rack is in the center. If you're adding things like butter, let it sit a short time to soften to make it easier to blend. You'll want to sift things like flour and baking powder to ensure they're free of lumps.
Get mixing, making sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl as you go for an even blend. If you're adding fruit, nuts or bits of chocolate, do it at the end to prevent the cake batter from changing color. Put it into the pans evenly, making sure that they're well greased in advance. Once in the oven, you don't want the pans touching at all. If you're oven is tiny, it's better to bake separately. Test for doneness with a toothpick -- if it comes out clean, it's ready.
Chill your cake slightly once done before decorating. It'll make it easier to frost. Once it has, first apply a thin layer of frosting and chill it. This will keep crumbs at bay and make for a smoother appearance. If using fondant seems too challenging, there are plenty of simple ways to make a cake look amazing. Sprinkles, colorful sugars and other classics are an option, or you can draw designs or other decor with tubes of frosting, also available at most stores or online.