Baking my kids’ birthday cakes from scratch is something I’ve done since the time my eldest had his first birthday. I’ve often regretted setting that bar when birthdays fall in the  middle of stressful weeks, but when the candles are blown out, I’m grateful I went to the extra effort. That being said, I am NOT a cake decorator by any means. I do the very best I can to create the cake they have requested, and I don’t stress about the fact that every one comes pretty close to a #nailedit on a #pinterestfail Facebook article.

I usually grant their cake wishes, no matter how strange… but this year I had to alter it a bit. When Ninja Chase asked for an American Ninja Warrior cake, I was originally inspired by thoughts of slicing into a giant warped wall. After doing some research and looking at a lot of other people’s attempts, I decided this one was just too much for me. The construction was a bit more than my culinary giftedness would allow. I asked him if he could settle for a Ninja Turtle cake, which he was just as excited about. #momsavestheday.

Usually, I try to keep the kids’ cakes a surprise until they’re all done, but they wanted to help me with this one, so I tried to throw in a couple new skills to make it a Ninja challenge.

The recipe I found ended up being just ok, so I won’t link to it. It was quite a lot of work for a relatively mediocre result. Chase had requested vanilla cake with chocolate frosting, so here’s what we did:

First, we prepared the pans for baking, and the boys learned about parchment paper, greasing and flouring.


Then, we got out the sifter, which proved to be very tedious for the Ninjas. They kept having to switch as their hands got tired. (If you have ever sifted three cups of flour, you can relate. When they weren’t looking, I dumped the last cup of flour in un-sifted. Please don’t tell Ina Garten.)


The next step is where we strayed from the recipe a bit to learn about a new ingredient and a new skill. I have had half a vanilla bean in my spice drawer for several years now, just waiting for the perfect recipe. I figured this was the day for it to fulfill its vanilla bean destiny.


In addition to the vanilla extract, we cut open the vanilla bean and scraped all the seeds into the batter. That smell is amazing. We put the leftover bean into our sugar bowl to make vanilla sugar. Yum.


A ridiculous amount of butter was placed into the batter… 1/2 Tablespoon at a time, every ten seconds.

The batter for this cake was just gorgeous. So light and fluffy – like angel food cake batter!


After the cakes baked, I was really impressed with the loveliness of them… so high and golden.

Now comes the fun part… the decorating!! As I’ve mentioned in the past, there are some ingredients we really try to stay away from. One of them is artificial food coloring. For me, it triggers migraines, and studies have shown that it really affects behavior of kids. Usually we find it pretty easy to stay away from food coloring at home, but birthday cakes are challenging. I want my kiddos to have a fun cake that dazzles them…without it making them (and their mom) sick. The solution we’ve found to this is to use candies to decorate the cake instead of frosting, or in this case, just to cover the top with toys! It’s like a bonus birthday gift!

I used a couple ingredients on this cake to make it fun that were easily removable. “Fruit” strips for the ninja turtles roads and a small stripe of green frosting around the outside. Here’s the finished product!


Like I said, the flavor of the cake was good, but not really worth all the extra effort of scraping vanilla beans, timing out individual pats of butter, and whipping egg whites. But I don’t think it made his birthday any less special.

He likes sweatbands. Can you tell?

I’m so proud of this little Ninja. 

Next week the Ninjas get a break because we’ll be out of town. But the following week we’ll be back with something a little more healthy than chocolate chip cookies and birthday cake! 😉


5 thoughts on “It’s my party, and I’ll bake if I want to

  1. Great post, Johanna! I especially loved the “vanilla bean destiny” part. 😉 The cake batter and cakes turned out gorgeous, not to mention your end result. I think the cake turned out wonderfully and Chase sure looked happy!


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