Since decorated cakes from a bakery can be expensive, making your child's birthday cake can save you a lot of money. Cake decorating does not require much skill; even if you have modest baking and decorating experience, you can still produce a cake of which you can be proud. Once you have decided on a theme for your child's birthday, you can decorate the cake using a variety of techniques.
Fondant is a type of frosting containing gelatin and icing sugar. It can be rolled flat and draped over cakes for a smooth professional look. It is white when first made, but food colouring is easily added to colour the fondant any way you choose. Ribbons, shapes and characters can be fashioned with fondant and are used for decorative accents. Many professional cake decorators use fondant, but even those possessing modest baking and decorating skills will probably find it fairly easy to use. Keep in mind, however, that fondant does tend to be less forgiving than frosting. Frosting can be smoothed over and over, whereas fondant will show cracks and is difficult to rework after it is put into place.
Like fondant, frosting can be tinted any colour and is used to make both simply and ornately decorated cakes. Frosting can be applied with a minimum of tools; only a knife or spatula is required. When placed in a piping bag, any number of attachments can be used to create designs like flowers, waves, leaves or stars, giving you many decorating options. With frosting, you can also use sprinkles, nonpareils or candy to add accents.
Decorating kits are available to help decorate cakes to coordinate with a theme. Favourite movie and television characters, racing cars and animal-themed kits are all available to decorate a birthday cake to a child's liking. Decorating kits often include plastic figurines, balloons or candles and may come with ideas for assembling and frosting the cake.
Cake moulds are available in a wide variety of shapes and characters including princesses, footballs or flowers. Typically, character cakes baked in these moulds are best decorated with frosting piped from a pastry bag, usually with a star tip to create the body and an outlining tip to create lines between colours. Although decorating character cakes can be time-consuming, it is not difficult and can result in a really cute cake.