My co-worker, Carolyn, has a daughter that is just like her: sassy, smart, and quirky. I should have known there was a catch when she approached me in the office with the idea of a custom birthday cake. After recovering from the initial wave of rosy glow anyone gets when invited to bake, I got out the pen and paper to come up with a battle plan. Most little girls want Hello Kitty or that freaking Elsa character from "Frozen." No probs! Her kid? She wanted science cake.
Just another reason to love their family- they own "it" - whatever it may be!
Even after scouring the internet, I was having trouble coming up with ideas. Fortunately, Carolyn is a creative cookie and a few collaborative ideas began to take shape. I drew three sketches and narrowed it down the best of all worlds. The end results is this two-layered yellow cake with swiss buttercream adorned in all sorts of science. Next time, I'll be sure to make the top layer a little taller so it is flush with the test tube tops.
Before we talk cake, I have to give a world of credit to my wonderful husband. See that awesome "Happy Birthday" writing on the cake photographed above? Yes indeed, that's all him. He is the secret weapon of my cake decorating arsenal. Mike doesn't flinch like some artists if you watch him draw and he can work under pressure. All it took was writing the letter "H" in my kindergartner handwriting and I handed him the piping bag. Thank you, as always, for coming to my aide.
All right! Now cake! The bottom layer is lined in neon green atoms with mini M&Ms as the center. If it it helps, lightly trace the atoms on to the frosting before you start piping. Mike and I alternated because it was killing our wrists.
My original thought was to fill the test tubes with different shades of colored water (and for an adult party, this could be fun with spirits). The birthday girl voted M&Ms - never come between a kid and candy! It also added a personal touch because it gave her the opportunity to help decorate.
The crowning touch was the Erlenmeyer flask topper. Carolyn stuffed it with sparkler candles for a really awesome birthday light show! Seriously, I don't know how the birthday girl managed to blow them out!
In addition, I baked these super easy dairy-free cupcakes. There's always that one kid with they dietary restriction! The cake is chocolate and coconut while the frosting incorporates coconut coffee creamer. These were super good!
If you want the "flat top" effect for easy piping, lightly chill the frosted cupcakes for about 15 minutes in the fridge. Dust a sheet of wax or parchment paper with confections sugar. Flip the cupcake and gently push down the frosted top until it flattens. Refrigerate immediately.
Thank you Carolyn for the fun baking challenge!
Science Themed Birthday Cake and Dairy-Free Cupcakes
Fluffy Yellow Cake
from America's Test Kitchen
used 8-inch round and saved the remaining batter for the small, 4-ich round cake top
if you're worried about having enough batter, make this tiny birthday cake on the side!
from Smitten Kitchen
enough to frost a 9-inch cake
Dairy-Free Chocolate Cupcakes
from Love and Olive Oil
makes 12 cupcakes
frosts 12 cupcakes
1/2 cup non-dairy butter (i.e. Earth Balance), room temperature
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
3 to 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons coconut French vanilla creamer
~1 tablespoon unsweetened almond milk to thin as needed
Using a mixer, whip the butter for 2–3 minutes. Add in the vanilla and salt. Mix well. Start adding the powdered sugar a half cup at a time until well incorporated.
Add the creamer into the frosting mixture and check the consistency. Slowly add the almond milk until you reach the desired consistency.