{Not-So-Healthy} Birthday Cake Decorating Ideas

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Every year, the AWANA program at my church hosts a Cake Decorating contest, and all the parents kids get busy making delicious concoctions that are as pleasing to the eye as they are to the tummy. Since the youngest age in AWANA is 3, and my Certain Little Someone will not reach that milestone for a few months yet, I haven’t participated in the contest in the past except as an occasional judge. I do, however, enjoy tasting them in the cake-eating party that follows the judging.


This year, I did submit a cake (or rather cupcakes) to the contest (there’s an adult category), mostly so that my Certain Little Someone would not feel left out, and would have some allergen-free cake of his own to enjoy. I even let him help me decorate. !! Probably a mistake. I really have no words to express how I felt when blue frosting was smeared all across the carpet of my dining room floor. OK, that’s a lie. I did have words. Words they probably heard all the way in Africa, something along the lines of, “WHATINTHEWORLDAREYOUDOING?!?!?!?!?  STOPSMEARINGTHEFROSTINGINTHECARPET!!! AAAGGGHHHH!!! {sob}”. (The sob was me, by the way. My Certain Little Someone was remarkably unaffected by the entire incident. Oh, to be 2 again!)

Since my Certain Little Someone is dairy-free and so am I, I didn’t even bother trying to make a healthy frosting. Most healthier frostings rely heavily on the qualities of milk and butter to achieve the right texture and taste, so I’ve given up for the moment on even attempting anything other than basic decorator’s frosting.

Baby Fish

One thing I really regret is using food coloring to make these cakes. Next time I decorate a cake, I’m going to try my hand at natural food dyes – either store-bought or made from highly pigmented foods like blueberries and the like.

Also, I didn’t have time to experiment, so I just used plain old jell-o to make the “sea” in my cake. I really wanted to try out this low-sugar all-natural jell-o recipe in the future, but I simply didn’t have time to experiment this past weekend when I was making these cupcakes.

Mommy Fish

Was there anything healthy in these?,” I hear you asking incredulously. Well, yes. A little. I used palm shortening in the frosting, a step above run-of-the-mill shortening. And the cupcakes are made with mostly whole (non-wheat) grains, raw sugar, and coconut oil. And the fish faces and fins are made with all-natural fruit roll-ups without any coloring and all that junk.

Daddy Fish

In case you’re curious, here’s how to decorate these cupcakes (original idea from Good Housekeeping):

You will need:

1 batch cupcakes (half baked in regular size tin, half  in mini-muffin tin)

1 batch decorator’s frosting (see recipe below), tinted blue

1/2 cup blue sugar (see instructions below)

2 fruit roll-ups

1/2 package Skittles candy or M&Ms

1 small tube black gel frosting

1/2 batch Jell-O “Jigglers” recipe (or homemade jello)

Line a cookie sheet with foil. Frost all the cupcakes smoothly with the blue frosting. Roll the edges in the blue sugar, and place the cupcakes in the pan in rows of 3. Cut rounded triangles from the fruit roll-up for the faces and fins, making jagged zigzag edges on the fins. Place them on the cupcakes, then fill in with Skittles or M&Ms (Hint: Start with the farthest edge of the cupcake, placing the candies upright on their edge, then placing the next row in front of the first, and so on, to achieve the scaled look). Use the tube of decorating gel to add an eye and mouth to each fish. Fill in the pan around the cupcakes with cubes of jello for the water.

Colored Sugar

Place desired amount of sugar in a bowl; add food dye. Stir until evenly coated. If using a liquid dye, spread the sugar on a sheet of wax paper until dry. If using gel, mix it in thoroughly with the sugar using the back of a spoon or a fork.

Here are some more of the cakes that were submitted to the Cake Contest, if you want some inspiration for your next birthday cake:

Watermelon Cake

Now, I know I said in the title of this post that these are not HEALTHY, and it’s true. However, making and decorating a cake at home is far HEALTHY-er (and CHEAP-er!) than purchasing it from a bakery. I don’t know if you’ve ever looked at the list of ingredients used at commercial bakeries, but it often seems worse than a box mix or packaged cake to me! Anything you make at home has got to be healthier than that!