I'm excited to share the cake I made for Harper's 2nd birthday because it was one of those rare DIY projects that turned out exactly like I hoped it would. But it also took a last-minute change of plans to get there, and that's worth sharing, too.
If you haven't yet discovered the awesomeness that is Yo Gabba Gabba, I highly recommend it! It's one of those kids shows that is very much for parents, too. Lots of quirky actors guest star with their "dancey dances" and indie bands play songs. (We record old episodes on Nick Jr. so we always have some to watch.) It's kind of like if Barney was on an acid trip or something. Strange, but lots of fun. And Harper's favorite character is Brobee, the little green guy.
I figured I could fashion a Brobee cake by making one rectangular cake the body and another cake the arms, which did work. I decided to make one 9x13-inch chocolate cake and one 9x13-inch vanilla cake so people would have more than one flavor option. I used boxed mixes to save time, but I can also recommend the recipes we used for our wedding cakes, which I blogged about on Goodsmiths (RIP...).
The body and legs were easy. I just removed a long skinny triangle to create legs. For the arms, I cut the chocolate cake into thirds lengthwise, and used two of them for arms. I rounded the corners where the hands would be and cut the bottom of the arms at an angle so they would fit next to the body. The other third I cut in half and made one part the head and used the rest to cut triangles to go on top of the head.
That left a lot of delicious cake to snack on.
I had to add a little piece of vanilla cake right next to where the head attached because there was a height difference. Then I smoothed it all over with one layer of buttercream frosting. It took every last bit of a half batch of buttercream to cover the cake.
I did this part the night before so that I wouldn't be overwhelmed with cake decorating right before the party and I'm so glad I did. Here's what he looked like before the final decorating.
By the way, I used a piece of foam core board covered with parchment paper to hold the cake. It worked really well. I certainly didn't have a plate big enough to hold a cake like that.
This is where I had to stray from my original plan. Inspired by this Pinterest post, I had gone out and bought some piping bags and a grass tip at JoAnn (who has an amazing selection of cake decorating tools, if you need any). But when I started piping on the buttercream it very quickly started going wrong. The "fur" was coming out all squiggly and then eventually the tip kept getting clogged and it would squirt out way too much. So I kind of stopped for a minute and decided it was not worth the effort it was going to take to keep using that tip. So I abandoned it and just spread on the frosting with my favorite little offset spatula. And though it took some precision, it was much faster and it looked great.
I've had mixed results with gel paste food coloring so I ended up buying a bottle of liquid green food coloring to dye the frosting. Basically I added enough food coloring (combined with a little bit of yellow I already had) to get a light green color. I frosted on all the light green stripes. Then I mixed in more green to make the remaining frosting darker and used that to fill in the dark green stripes. This is where it really helped to have a Pinterest photo and a stuffed doll to look at for inspiration.
For the details on the face, I used these Wilton decorating icing bags that come with tips on them. I bought one white, one black and one red (about $3 each). I just freehanded the eyes, mouth and unibrow and then iced over the triangles on the head.
I feel like it was just luck that the icing came out the perfect thickness for the details I needed. The mouth was especially easy.
It's one of those things where you have to take a deep breath and accept that you have one shot at getting it right. I suppose you could scrape off the frosting if you messed it up and try again, but I was really hoping not to have to do that.
In the end, Brobee looked like this. (I wiped off the excess crumbs with a wet cloth before serving the cake.)
The cake was a huge hit, and I think people really appreciated the two-flavor option. I also made some gluten-free cupcakes with green frosting. I'm finding that option to be more important now (plus some people just like cupcakes!).
The most important part, though, was that Harper liked the cake. She was so excited when everyone sang to her, and she definitely ate a piece of cake.
It was even better with the homemade coconut ice cream our friend Joanna brought. You know you have good friends when they bring you something like that!
I don't know how much it would have cost to buy a cake like this from a bakery, but I'm guessing several hundred dollars. I think with everything, including the frosting supplies, I spent about $30 to make this cake. Plus, I love being able to do something like this for her. Sometimes — often — I feel like I don't know what the heck I'm doing as a mom. But damn it, I can make a cake.
The next day, this was all that was left of Brobee, so I think it was a success.
Next year, Daniel Tiger?