Advice about Birthday Cakes

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions: Where to Buy a Birthday Cake?
Questions: How to Make a Birthday Cake?
Advice about Buying/Making Theme Cakes  


Where to Buy a Birthday Cake?

2010 - 2012 Reviews

Affordable, Semi-Yummy Birthday Cake for Kids

August 2012

I was all set to order my 4 y.o.'s bday cake from Raley's, but apparently the El Sobrante store doesn't do custom cakes. Bummer! Where else do you like for kids' cakes with decorations done in-store, half-sheet size that's under $40? I'm interested in recommendations for anywhere else between Pinole and Oakland, west of tunnel, pickup on a Sunday. Thanks! B-Day Mama

Safeway will do this for you - I got a completely customized cake for my daughter's last birthday (enough for 20 people) for $28.00. birthday mama

Costco in El Cerrito makes delicious cakes and they cost about $20. They personalize cakes and just need 48 hours notice. If you don't belong to Costco, you can get a one-day pass so you can shop there. love Costco

We've gotten our birthday cakes for the past 2 years at Maria's on San Pablo Dam Road in El Sobrante. anon

I'm not sure that your information about Raley's is correct. I just got a sheet cake from them (San Pablo Dam store) two weeks ago that they decorated for me, (flowers, names, etc.) and have done so in the past as well. For the very elaborate character-type cakes, those they don't do custom-in-store. But for basic decorations and names they do them right there in the bakery. Safeway and Lucky in Pinole also do similar cakes, though I haven't used them personally. For a more local option, Maria's cakes, on San Pablo Dam Rd. (a little past the Walgreens) does lovely cakes, though it costs a bit more than Raley's (not tons, though). --loves cake!

Baskin Robbins! They have all the designs, affordable, and we've done two large parties with these cakes and they've been praised by all. Ice Cream Cake Lover

Try Whole Foods. I was pleasantly surprised by the affordable pricing and high quality of the half-sheet cake I ordered from them for a baby shower recently. Not sure about kids' decorations, but I assume they could pull something off... sweet tooth

Costco has half-sheet fancy-pants cakes, seemingly designed for a kid's birthday. If you're not a member, maybe a friend can pick one up for you. Not a lot of choice, but cheap and quite edible. If you want special writing, it takes a week. Otherwise you can pick one up in the case. Niki

Try Bear Claw Bakery in Pinole. Great Cakes, Great Prices! We love them! Small Family owned Bakery and have been around a long time Cake Loving Mama

I've always been quite delighted with cakes from Merritt Bakery, right next to Lake Merritt on the east side. Cake Lover

I got a cake at Grand Bakery on Grand Avenue and it was great! Much less expensive than Whole Foods and they can do gluten free if you give them enough time. Bonus: you might get Grateful Dead or other 60's musician trivia if you hang around long enough. Satisfied Customer

Avoid the Safeway in El Cerrito. We recently got a birthday cake there and it looked like something from the Cake Wrecks website. I told them we wanted pink icing. They made it day-glo pink (I can't imagine how much food coloring they must have used to get it that color, but you could definitely taste it). It was right before the party and there wasn't time to get them to fix it. And it still wasn't cheap (I think it was around $40). cake wrecked

Try the Danish Bakery on Telegraph (formerly Neldam's) in Oakland. They are my stand by, road dog, 'go to' bakery for quick cake runs, and they are very tasty and affordable. They do nice cupcakes as well. Jennifer

Birthday cake, nice than Safeway but not too extravagant

April 2012

Looking for recent recommendations for a bakery/baker to make my daughter's birthday cake. She has a theme in mind, but nothing too extravegant. I want something nicer than a Safeway cake, but one that doesn't cost as much as my wedding cake did. Can't do it myself this year

I was in the same situation with my son's birthday this year; I wanted something nice that had the imagery he wanted, but didn't have the time to make it myself. I ordered an 'Americana' cake from Sweet Adeline Bakery in Berkeley and they did an amazing job. The cake was beautiful and delicious. They aren't cheap, but (for equal quality) also not the most expensive bakery out there. You can find their prices on their website:

What you should remember about the pricing is that each image is $20 extra. I had them put my son's favorite Yo Gabba Gabba character on it. At first, I didn't understand the extra fee, but when I saw the cake, it became clear why they had to charge for it. They did a really artful job. Everyone at the party loved the cake--especially my son! It was a bit of an indulgence, but made my son's birthday really special. The people at Sweet Adeline are great to work with. Very friendly and accommodating. They are a relatively small operation, so weekend orders should be made with as much advance notice as possible. Berkeley Mom with no time to bake

You cannot go wrong with any cake from Masse's Pastries next to Saul's on Shattuck in Berekely. Marcia and Paul are amazing people and their cakes are extradinary. Marcia is an artist!! Tell her your theme and she can create something special. You pay for the perfection but it is worth it in my opinion. I have had them make my daughter's birthday cakes for years and now she would not have anything else!! For my 50th birthday party they created this masterpiece of chocolate with balls and swirls of pure chocolate for a cirque de extraveganza. All my guests oohed and awed over it and then when they actually tasted it and it tasted even better than it looked -- all I can saw is WOW. JM Drew love Masse's Pastries

I have loved and used Nancy for both my daughter's b-day party and baby shower from 'Diva's Desserts'- she serves and delivers in both the sacramento and bay areas. Her email is 'divasdesserts [at]' and she has a facebook page under the same name. She custom makes cakes, cupcakes, cakepops to your theme and specification. We got a vegan birthday cake and cupcakes because my daughter is allergic to dairy and its been difficult because she always sees other kids getting these beautiful cakes for their birthday. Well this year she got the best cake ever, and she was so excited! She does beautiful Fondant work! Cake lover

We've used Cakes by 2 moms for the last 3 years for our son's creative visions in the cake world. He's turning 5 this May and we've booked them again! Not only are they delicious, but they are so unique! scoles

Taste of Denmark has great cakes, lots of themes to choose from, at a reasonable price: Got a carrot cake for my husband's birthday and it was fantastic. happy taste of Denmark customer

I highly recommend Braxton's Boxes in Berkeley (510.708.7089). We've ordered fabulous cakes that everyone raved about. One was for a kids birthday party and they probably didn't appreciate the difference, but the grown-ups still mention it a year later. anon

2007 - 2009 Reviews

Delicious cake for daughter's 4th birthday

Feb 2008

I am looking for a great birthday cake for my daughter's fourth birthday. I read the archives, but didn't see any new recommendations. I am looking for a cake that is delicious for adults and kids, not a grocery store cake with whipped cream frosting. I would like a cake made with real buttercream frosting. Back when Just Desserts had local outlets, I thought their cakes were the best. I know I can get a Just Desserts cake at Whole Foods, but I need a big sheet cake. As far as decorations go, subtle is better. I would be willing to decorate it myself. Quality is more important than price, and local would be better. (I live in Berkeley) Any suggestions? holly

to find great cakes and other fabulous sweets, go to their cakes are beautiful and delicious, made from the best ingredients. the owners are creative and talented mom's who are also great to work with. emily

Custom cake for 4-year-old's birthday

Oct 2007

i am looking for someone that makes custom birthday cakes or cupcakes...i need a volcano cake for my sons 4th bday party. Thanks in advance for any recommendations! need a cake!

Check out (and make sure to click on the blog for a gallery of photos)! My friend just had them make a cake for her daughter's birthday party, and it was gorgeous. They are two local moms who will take any idea you have and turn it into a cake. I'm sure they could figure out a wonderful volcano! And they'll even deliver it. Good luck... -SM

I recommend Braxton's Boxes. Their e-mail is: braxtonsboxes [at] Ron and Pamela work out of their home and make incredible baked goods of all kinds. They seem to like a challenge, so I think they could make you a fabulous volcano cake. Their tel # is: 510.708.7089. I am sure they will create something beautfiul and delicious. Shauna

Hi - I know two moms who make great custom cakes! They enjoy baking cakes and are very easy to talk to about exactly what you would like. I tried a slice of one of their cakes a few weeks ago and it was delicious. You can reach them at: Good Luck, Susan

For custom cakes and other baked goods for special occasions call 510-847-9667, and ask for Ina or Gretchen. These are two wonderful ladies who are easy to work with, creative spirits and can beat the prices of specialty shops. Their website has a portfolio of past creations. Stuck on Sweets

One of my friends has started a cake company...see The cakes look amazing and the prices are very reasonable. Give her a call! anon

Hi might want to try Catherine at BellaCake (catherine_bellacake [at] She did both our wedding cake and our daughter's 1st b-day cake. She is in nursing school now so I don't know how many cakes she is doing these days, but tell her Paula & Rajan recommended her. Good luck....Paula

One of my friends just happened to send me the following message last week: A friend of ours (and her friend) makes lovely, designed-to-order cakes at VERY reasonable prices. See their designs at It looks like they can tackle just about any request--what a way to simplify birthday party planning AND support a new, small, local business! another mom

I didn't see the original post, but I highly recommend Debbie from I am a cake fanatic, and every year I try to out do myself. For my son't last party I had Debbie make a Yoda cake, and we were amazed with Debbie's creation. There's no comparing her cakes with what I've seen or purchased in the East Bay. BTW...the cake didn't just look was excellent, and she delivers. Love my Cake Lady

Good bakery for custom cake for child's birthday

Sept 2007

My son's first birthday is coming up, I would like to get some recommendations for a good bakery where I can get cakes shaped liked Disney characters or in the shape of ships, cars, etc. and also have all the qualities of a good tasting cake. Thanks, anon

Try Montclair Baking in Montclair (530-8052). They will not make Disney cakes or replicate characters from books because of copyright infringement, which is the case with most good bakeries. However, they do make beautiful and great tasting cakes. Cheryl, the owner, made our wedding cake and our child's first birthday cake. She has won numerous national awards, including a Food Network Halloween cake bake-off, and most of the good caterers in the East Bay and San Francisco use her. Call well in advance and expect to spend well over a 00+ for a beautiful custom cake that tastes delicious!

I am unsure if the bakery I use makes disney characters or not, but they made a fabulous pink champagne cake for my family a month ago. It was moist and well made. Virginia Bakery. They are located on Shattuck and Virginia street in Berkeley. Website for info. Renee Hoffman

Bar none, Masse's is great. It's located on Shattuck at Vine, right next to Saul's. The cakes are fabulous, and they have books full of custom made cakes. I wanted to have my wedding cake made there, but we were married on the East Coast . . . Good luck. Andrea Andrea

Virginia Bakery on Shattuck is excellent and does custom cakes. cake lover

2004 - 2006 Reviews

Birthday cake for peanut and milk allergic boy

Sept 2006

The archives have lots of great recommendations for ''regular'' birthday cakes, but since my son has a peanut and milk allergy (so no milk, cream, butter, etc.) we would love some suggestions about where to go for a cake or cupcakes for his second birthday party. Ideally I'd like one big yummy cake that both the parents and kids will enjoy instead of having to do a separate little cake for my son and a different one for the rest of the guests (plus I don't want to worry about people giving him a bite of the wrong one). Any thoughts? yummy mummy

They don't LOOK like a birthday cake (no frosting), but I really recommend Vital Vittles Cakes. Their facility is completely dairy and peanut free. The cakes are delicious! They have carrot and banana/chocolate flavors. You have to order directly from the bakery on San Pablo, to pick up there or at one of the Farmer's Markets they staff.

If you want a dairy-free cake with icing, you can get a nice one from Grand Bakery on Grand Ave in Oakland (as a kosher bakery, they specialize in baked goods with no dairy, since people who observe the kosher laws will not have a dairy dessert after a meat meal). They do round and sheet cakes with icing and decorations Elizabeth

I've made a chocolate vegan cake that is absolutely delicious. It's called ''Wacky Cake.'' I have to admit I was really skeptical because I am a true traditional when it comes to cake (butter, eggs, cream, the works). But this was SO GOOD! Even my uber-traditional mom loved it. Here's the recipe: 1 1/2 c Unbleached All-Purpose Flour 1 tsp Vanilla 1 c Sugar 1 tsp Vinegar 3 tbl Cocoa 5 tbl Vegetable Oil 1 tsp Baking Soda 1 c Cold Water 1/2 tsp Salt Mix flour, sugar, cocoa, soda and salt. Make three wells in the flour mixture. In one put vanilla; in another the vinegar, and in the third the oil. Pour 1 c cold water over all and stir. No need to beat. Pour into 8 x 8-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees F oven until it springs back. You can double the recipe and make two for a layered cake. I just sprinkled powdered sugar on it and it was perfect! Laurel

Hi, I would check with Whole Foods Market. They make many different cakes for specific health concerns Anon

we've attended a bday party and had a vegan cake from whole foods. all of the children enjoyed it tremendously. it was a simple chocolate cake w/ chocolte frosting. they also have (a bit pricey for a whole party at $3 each) good cupcakes which are good to offer children w/ allergies at your events where you may not be serving a vegan option. also, i have baked a vegan cake from ''joy of cooking'' for a class party and that was well rec'd as well. i simply sprinkled the cake w/ powdered sugar and served it w/ fresh strawberries on the side. best, jennifer

Safeway v. Albertsons bakery for bday cakes

June 2006

Anyone have a recommendation for which bakery location they like best for cakes, between Safeway and Albertsons? I'd like to get my sons birthday cake there but I don't know which one to go to. Thanks! Kim

Albertson's. Hands down. I love their cakes. I've served them at many birthday parties, showers, etc. and always get great compliments. If you're in Oakland, go to the one in Montclair.

neither, both are created with shortening leaving that horrible waxy build-up on the roof of your mouth. Costco cakes. Less expensive than either Safeway or Albertson's *and* made with better ingredients.

I've had both and I think Albertson's are way better, but Safeway cakes are still pretty good. Personally, I think that either of them are way better than Costco, but obviously individual tastes vary. -- not a Costco fan

You can get great cakes at Albertson or other supermarkets if you are careful to ask for ''whipped cream'' icing. Their default icing is the heavy, greasy, unbearably sweet one that most supermarkets use. The whipped cream is very light and not too sweet. I discovered the ''secret'' when I got to US years ago and I was getting desperate trying to find a good and not too expensive birthday cake. Simona

We recently went to a party where the cake came from the Safeway at Broadway & 51st. It was surprisingly good. I'd recommend a cake from there

Photo Image on Cake

August 2005

Can anyone tell me where I could get a cake with a personal photo recreated on the icing? I may have heard that Costco does it, but I'm not a member so that's not ideal (would have to bug a friend to go with me). Anywhere else? Thanks! anon

Virginia Bakery in Berkeley does this (located on Shattuck near Virginia) Cake lover

Virginia Bakery on Shattuck in Berkeley does photo images on cakes. anon

Neldam's Bakery on Telegraph in Oakland does the photo image on a cake. I did that for my daughter's birthday last year. lenamari

Virginia Bakery (1690 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley) does photo imaging on cakes, at least they did a few years ago when I got one for my husband's 30th birthday. I scanned some photos of him as a baby, made a collage on the computer, and gave Virginia Bakery a computer file. The cake came out great! The images were surprisingly sharp. I believe they're printed on rice paper. Karen

Virginia Bakery on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley does this. There are some parameters on the size of the original artwork, so you may want to call them ahead of time. We had them do a cake that had an image of our son's party invitation on it and it looked great. I've seen the cakes they've done with photos and they look really nice, too. Kim

We have gotten a ''photo cake'' from Toot Sweets on Gilman in Berkeley. It was really well done, and tasted great too! Patty

Neldams Danish Bakery on Telegraph, near I believe 35th. Plus their cakes are great. Way better than the ilk of Virginia Bakery. Amy

Six years ago, I ordered a cake from Just Desserts decorated with an image from a romantic photo of my wife and I. This was for a party in celebration of our elopement. We had used the same photo on the invitations. Just Desserts did an excellent and (dare I say) tasteful job. It was uncanny how closely the image on the cake matched the photograph. The cake was truly a work of art. I kept the cake hidden till it was time to serve it, and it was quite a surprise when it was unveiled. I don't know if Just Desserts still does this, but if they do, I'd recommend using them. Icing on the Cake

Best Place to Get Birthday Cake

March 2004

Where is the best place to get a birthday cake in Berkeley, Albany, or Oakland? Lily

For the past three years, I've gotten cakes at the Safeway Bakery (Rockridge Shopping Ctr). You would be amazed at the number of compliments from parents on how good they are. (Cake is cake for kids.) They have always been nice in letting me customize i.e.1/2 choc, 1/2 white cake; 1/2 butterflies, 1/2 ladybugs. Elizabeth

neldam's on telegraph in oakland!! cake lover

''Best'' can depend on size, taste, decoration, price, and whether it's for kids or adults. If you're a Costco member, you can't beat them for price and size. You can custom order a design or just pick up a standard one on the day. Taste - not too bad, especially the carrot cake. Just Desserts (only retail location on Piedmont Ave) still tops for taste and appearance. Last summer I tried Safeway for my daughter's birthday cake - and all the adults were pleasantly surprised (not that they were gourmets). I went for the strawberry and cream cake - yellow cake with fresh, sliced (not jellied) strawberries in the middle and iced with real whipped cream. Great price, many sizes and decoration options available. Ellen

For kid's birthday cakes, I recommend Neldam's Bakery at 3401 Telegraph Ave in Oakland, CA, (510) 658-1967. I haven't used them for fancy adult occasions because I think other bakeries are better suited for that. But Neldam's is an old-school kind of place that has cakes that appeal to a kid's taste -- fluffy, sugary frosting with moist and springy cake. Their prices are reasonable and you will feel like you took a fun step back-in-time when you go there. Good luck! -a cake fan

Neldams on Telegraph in Oakland makes delicious cakes and charge a fair price. They do rounds and the basic character sheet cakes. The decorations on the rounds are average but you can get them frosted and decorate yourself. I ordered a white round cake for my daughters 1st birthday and they were able to matched my color swatches for the frosting. Virginia Bakery did a beautiful and delicious cake for a baby shower I hosted. They copied the design off of the invitation. timjean

CheesecakeCity in Berkeley has fabulous cheesecakes and a sinfully good chocolate fudge cake. They will write a message on top if you want.510-524 -9404 gail

2003 & Earlier

Bakery for inexpensive birthday cake

Can anyone recommend a good place to buy a birthday cake in Berkeley? I've heard Toot Sweets is good, but was aghast to find out that the cost (for 20+ people) is about $50.!! Any other recommendations or ideas? Or, hints about making your own? Thanks!

From: Jack

With younger children it's easy to get away with making your own cake. I often make mine in a shape that ties in with the theme of the party. A friend of mine usually makes a basic (cake mix/canned icing) sheet cake and tops it with a toy related to the party theme; i.e., for her son's pirate party, she bought a little pirate toy set with plastic people, pirate ship, and treasure chest. This way, the child keeps the toys as a keepsake of the party, and even with a $15 toy, you end up saving money. Once I topped a sheet cake with blue (via food coloring) icing and toy sharks, with each guest getting a shark on his/her piece to take home, but I wouldn't recommend this for young children who may try to eat the decoration!

From: Rachel

For one of my kids' sixth birthday, I bought a cake mold that was shaped like a car. (This was about ten years ago; I found it at the now defunct Bill's Drugs for about $5.) I made a chocolate cake from a mix (I'm no baker), and let my son frost and decorate it with M's, jelly beans, etc. to outline the windows, doors and wheels. It looked really cool in a funky kind of way, and as you can imagine, it was a lot of fun to do. My son felt very special, everyone enjoyed eating it and it sure didn't cost $50.

From: Leah

Definitely make your own if you're willing! I'm not a baker by any means, but for the last 2 bdays - 3 & 4 - I've rented a cake pan at Spun Sugar on University & made 2 fun cakes. Spun Sugar has everything & they're very kind to people who have no idea what they're doing. The first time I made a half sheet cake with 3 boxes of cake mix (it was quite full, but baked just fine - do not think about making your own cake from scratch, it's not worth it!!) then I made the frosting (this is very worth it & easy - get the recipe from Spun Sugar, and try to forget that frosting is made of only butter, veg. shortening & sugar) & created a construction scene on top w/a dirt (brown sugar mixed w/the frosting) road & hill & toy trucks & road signs (saw it in a catalogue of b-day stuff - we gave away the trucks on the cake pieces for party favors). It was all amazingly easy, really fun, and dirt cheap. Last year I rented the train pan (I think it took less than 2 (or 3? ask them) boxes of mix & I made cupcakes with the rest) & decorated w/little stars of homemade frosting in different colors. This took quite a bit longer than the first year's cake, but it was surprisingly simple. I bought one set of decorating tips that came w/disposable bags. (Hint - slice off the bump on top of the cake before you turn it out of the pan on a platter. After I decorated, a long crack appeared on the top bc the ends bent down.) I put the cupcakes above like puffs of smoke. One key is to use the special colors from the shop, and color the frosting the day before using a little color at a time. It becomes somewhat darker over time, and you don't need to use so much of the color. Keeps well in tupperware for at least a day. The half sheet cake had a ton left over, the train shape was basically all gone along w/the cupcakes, but it fed over 20 people. Cut the pieces small anyway - the concept is much more important than the amount. Have fun!

From: Jon

The first thing to remember is that kids don't judge cakes the same way as adults. So, most of the strengths of a $50 Toot Suits cake are completely lost on kids. The kind of cake that kids like has lots of cheezy decorations on top of icing. The number of layers, quality of the chocolate, virginity of the cream, and politics of the baker simply don't matter.

This said, the place that does the best kid cakes for the price, without a doubt, is CostCo. You can pre-order cakes with your favorite message or you can take your chances with whatever they have the day you're shopping.


P.S. Now, if I could only convince my wife that the CostCo pies are as good as FatApples for adults then I'll be saving at least $50/year.

From: Sharon

I have always baked cakes from mixes for my sons. They don't like store bought cakes. I make one vanilla and one chocolate. I frost and then let them decorate the cakes. They come up with good ideas, like lego decorations or disney characters. They always rave about the cake because they had a helping hand! If you have leftover batter you can make cupcakes. They like that. I would prefer Virginia Bakery or Toots but kids seem to like the simpler things in life. Here's a tip: try Andronico's on Solano for day old cakes which are very good because they keep them refrigerated. I believe they come from the Toot's across the street and are discounted quite a bit. I also think Costco makes great cakes and they are cheap. Good Luck.

From: Sue

When I have needed a birthday cake for adults I have sometimes purchased one from Just Desserts or another of the better bakeries around Berkeley. However, for children, I have found that purchasing an expensive cake is definitely not worth it. Lots of kids don't particularly like cake, or they don't like frosting and I've ended up throwing most of it away, because they'll eat only a few bites. For the last few birthday parties I've just made a simple chocolate cake (on the back of the Hershey's cocoa can) with just a thin layer of frosting. The kids usually get a kick out of the homemade decorating -- with lots of tube frosting flowers. We also usually add sprinkles. And the kids love to help prepare their own cake. It adds a lot more time to the whole birthday party preparation, but I think it's worth it.

From: Roger

Good, large, cheap sheet cakes can be purchased at Costco.

From: Cecilia

I have found the best bakery for children's birthday cakes to be: The Virginia Bakery--located on Shattuck and Virginia, I believe (near Andronico's). I searched all over Berkeley and El Cerrito when we moved here last year. I must have searched and gone to at least 20 different bakeries-- french, gourmet, grocery stores, etc... They do an excellent job, the cakes are incredibly tasty, and they have several choices for decorations for children's themes, i.e. the Teletubbies, Disney characters, princess cakes, etc...Also, their prices are reasonable, around $30-35 for a cake which serves 10. They are very friendly as well.

From: Sherry

You can get very nice-- and cheap birthday cakes at Costco. Also Lucky and Safeway have nice cakes for cheaper than toots sweets. Virginia Bakery too but they are also expensive. There are also several bakeries at the Pacific East Mall (old Breuners) in Albany -- off the Central Ave.exit.

From: Cecilia

I highly recommend the Berkeley Bakery on Solano (527-9616, ask for Harry). They are expensive, but the cakes use more natural ingredients and are less sweet. I opted to go for a slightly smaller cake (for my daughter's birthday party) that had fresh strawberries and an icing that wasn't cloyingly sweet. Everybody, including the adults, really liked it. (We're trying hard to cut down on the sugar my 3-year-old daughter is exposed to because she's already had 2 cavities!)

I know that Virginia Bakery also makes cakes that are very popular and less expensive, but when I've tasted them at parties, I've found them way too sweet, almost artificial- tasting. Of course, kids don't seem to mind that!

From: Eleanor

When it comes to children's birthday cakes, think ice cream instead of cake. In my experience, most children prefer ice cream and it's easier for a non-baker to deal with. We have purchased ice cream cakes from Baskin-Robbins and Ben & Jerry's which are quite good, but expensive. We bought a plain green loaf shape and added our own plastic figures on the top in keeping with the Ninja Turtle theme. Get the candle holder picks since it will be quite solid and hard to add candles. I made my own ice cream clowns by putting a round scoop of ice cream on a sturdy flat cookie (Lu maybe), adding M's for eyes, forcing icing through a garlic press for hair, and inverting a pointed cone on the top for the hat. I also made a doll cake by using a cone-shape mold pan designed for cake and filling it with ice cream instead. That became the skirt when turned over. Then I stuck in a purchased doll top and used icing for the bodice (ice cream didn't stick to the plastic body) and purchased candy flowers to decorate. My kids were able to help add the decorations to both projects, which they enjoyed more than any professionally done cake.

From: Diane

I know many people are unfamiliar with the new Pacific East Mall that jut opened a few months back in the Richmond/El Cerrito/Albany area just off Pierce. There are 3 places in that mall that sells good cakes. One is the Ranch 99 supermarket which has a special bakery section. Their cakes are pretty good and it's light and fluffy and not too sweet. They can put fruits in the middle, custard, buttercream, etc and decorate it. There's also the ShungKee Bakery and Cafe just across from the supermarket. They also have very good cakes. They can do everything Ranch 99 Supermarket can and more. Then there's also the Goldilock Bakery and Cafe. Their cakes are more pricey than the other two places but it's good. For adult birthdays and special people, we often get the cakes from them...

From: Kimberly

You can get rather large (and surprisingly good) sheet birthday cakes from Costco for -- I forget how much, but definitely less than $20. There is a choice of designs, and they will write on a Happy Birthday message for you.

From: Denise

To the parent seeking brithday cake suggestions: Price-Costco in El Cerrito off Central Avenue has large sheetcakes in various flavors readymade and takes special orders for custom decorated cakes with kid and adult themes. They are pretty tasty--nothing gourmet but better than Betty Crocker's and quite reasonable and huge (I can't remember exact sizes but they will feed a crowd).

From: Deborah

one more idea: make a cake or cupcakes and frost, but don't decorate. Then let the kids do the decorating at the party, with shakers of sprinkles and some small candies (like m). For 3 yrs and up...

How to Make a Birthday Cake?

Angel Food Cake for 2-year-old

April 2004

My two year old has requested a strawberry cake for her birthday party. I'm no cook, but I thought I could pull off an angel food cake with strawberries and cream...if I could buy a decent angel food cake! Can anyone recommend a good source? Taking it easy this year

Guess what?! Angel food cake is just about the easiest one to make with a mix. I used to do if from scratch until I asked the person who made a good one which recipe she used and she said it was a mix. Any brand. All you need is a mixing machine and an oven and a tube pan. Good luck. stephani

While I'm sure a 2-year-old would not be enough of a gourmet to be unhappy with a store-bought cake, are you sure she will consider an angel food cake with actual strawberries on top to be a ''strawberry cake''? She may well be picturing something definitively pink, or want the same flavor she had at someone else's party, in which case I suspect an angel food cake will disappoint.

Baking a cake really isn't hard. And you can buy strawberry flavored cake mix; using a cake mix takes about as much effort and expertise as fixing boxed macaroni-and-cheese.

If you are really opposed to the idea of baking it yourself, how about a strawberry ice cream cake? Cold Stone, Ben & Jerry's and Baskin Robbins all sell ice cream cakes. Holly

Recipe for cake follows. Bur first a note: Actually, An Angel Food cake is not the easiest cake to make. It requires beating egg whites until stiff, but not grainy, and requires you to purchase an angel food cake pan (since real angel cake has to be made in a tube pan). Moreover, angel cakes can fall if there's a loud bang while they are baking, or if you open the oven at the inappropriate time. I suggest a white cake instead, but if you are set on an angel cake, purchase a pan with a false bottom; it makes the removal process much easier. Another note. Whites whip much better if they are room temperature so don't skip this step. Here's a recipe: 1 1/2 cups egg whites (11 to 12 large eggs) 1 1/2 cups (150 g) sifted confectioners sugar (sift before measuring) 1 cup (100 g) sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring) 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla Special equipment: a 10-inch tube pan (about 4 inches deep) with a removable bottom Let egg whites stand in bowl of a standing electric mixer (see cooks' note) at room temperature about 1 hour before making cake. (They should be about 600F, slightly below room temperature.) Set oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 3500F. Sift together confectioners sugar, flour, and salt onto a sheet of wax paper using a triple sifter or fine sieve. Beat whites in mixer until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat at medium speed until they form soft peaks. Add granulated sugar gradually, beating, and continue beating just until whites are thickened and form soft, droopy peaks. Beat in vanilla. Sprinkle one fourth of sifted dry ingredients over whites and fold in with a rubber spatula gently but thoroughly. Fold in remaining dry ingredients, one third at a time. Gently pour batter evenly into ungreased tube pan and bake until top is light golden, cake retracts a bit from pan and springs back when touched lightly, and a tester comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Invert pan onto neck of an empty wine bottle or a large metal funnel and cool cake completely. To remove cake from pan, run tip of a long, narrow knife between outer edge of cake and pan. Tilt cake pan on its side and gently tap bottom edge against counter. Rotate pan, tapping and turning a few more times, until cake appears free. Cover pan with a metal rack or cardboard round and invert, tapping pan firmly to loosen cake. Lift pan from cake. (It should come out beautifully, like a pillow taken out of a slipcover.) Slice cake with a serrated knife, using a sawing motion. Tsan

Surprisingly, if you don't want to make one from scratch (you would need a plan for all the leftover yolks!), there is a cake mix that is not too bad. I think it is made by Betty Crocker...anyway, I have only ever seen one angel food cake mix on the shelves. Claire

Whole Foods usually carries them pre-made, both regular and chocolate.

Chocolate Cake for 1st birthday

March 2004

I'd like to make my daughter's first birthday cake, but I don't have a recipe for a good chocolate cake. The icing will be orange-chocolate. I've heard that the cakes with coffee as one of the ingredients are pretty good. Anyone have a good recipe? happycamper I found a great recipe on Epicurious (Double Chocolate Layer Cake) It is the best chocolate cake I have ever made at home. Don't worry if you don't have 10-inch pans. I just use 9-inch pans and pour leftover batter into a muffin pan. I'm sure it will be delicious with your orange-chocolate frosting. Joanna

Try: Mahogany Chiffon Cake It's an old, old family favorite of a friend of mine and has been their birthday cake of choice for decades now! (FYI it requires an angel food tube pan and presents beautifully. When icing it, somewhat runnier icing is better) Mahogany Chiffon Cake 3/4 c. boiling water 1/2 c. cocoa 1 3/4 c. sifted cake flour 1 1/2 tsp baking soda 1 tsp salt 1/2 c. vegetable oil 8 egg yolks 2tsp vanilla 8 egg whites (1 cup) 1/2 tsp cream of tartar 1 3/4 c. sugar Heat oven to 325 degrees. Combine boiling water and cocoa; cool. sift flour, soda and salt into mixing bowl. making a well, add in order; oil, egg yolks, cocoa mixture and vanilla. Beat with wooden spoon until smooth. in large bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar to very stiff peaks. Do not underbeat ( a dry rubber spatula leaves a clean path). Pour egg yolk mixture in thin stream over entire surface of egg whites, gently cutting and folding in with the spatula until blended. Do not stir. Pour into 10-inch angel food tube pan. Bake 65-70 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. Invert pan on bottle utnil cold. Loosen from sides of tube with a spatula. Turn pan over and hit edge sharply on table to release cake. Hope it turns out well. have a great birthday party.

P.S. If you like this recipe, consider buying the awesome cookbook it comes from, called ''Yum!'' put out by El Cerrito Preschool Co-op (professionally published). 350 recipes, lots of award-winners, international stuff, desserts aplenty and kids- stuff. $12 each. Christine

I'm crazy for cake and have tried many recipes for chocolate cake and found this one from Martha Stewart to be the best. Moist, dense and oh so delicious! One Bowl Chocolate Cake Makes 2 eight-inch square or 3 eight-inch round layers Unsalted butter, for pans 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for pans 3 cups all-purpose flour 3 cups sugar 1 tablespoon baking soda 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 3 large eggs 1 1/2 cups buttermilk 3/4 cup vegetable oil 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 1. Preheat oven to 350B0. Butter two 8-by-2-inch round or square cake pans, and line bottoms with parchment; butter parchment, and dust with cocoa. 2. Into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low, stir in eggs, 1 1/2 cups warm water, buttermilk, vegetable oil, and vanilla until smooth, about 3 minutes. 3. Divide batter among prepared pans. Bake, rotating once, until tester inserted in center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes for 8-inch layers, depending on amount of batter. 4. Let cakes cool in pans on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely, right side up on rack. timjean

I have a wonderful chocolate cake recipe. It's extremely easy, uses oil instead of butter, so it stays light and moist: 1 cup unsweetened cocoa 2 3/4 cups flour 2 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp salt 1/2 tsp baking soda 2 1/4 cup sugar 1 cup vegetable oil 4 eggs 2 cups water* Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9'' baking pans. Mix all dry ingredients in large bowl. Mix all wet ingredients in another bowl. Ad wet ingredients to dry and beat until just smooth; do not overbeat. Pour evenly into pans; batter will be thin. Bake for approximately 25-35 minutes or until a clean toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. * You can substitute up to half of the water with milk, buttermilk (makes a richer cake), or even some coffee, if you choose. Liz D.

I'm not sure, but is chocolate appropriate for a 1 year old? Or perhaps the cake is for grown ups only? For baby, there is a carrot cake recipe in What to Expect the First Year. I suggest your local library.

Try the Texas Sheetcake in Joy of Cooking. So yummy and amazingly EASY. Especially because you serve it right from the pan. chocoholic

I don't recommend coffee for a chocolate cake for kids. It just fuels the fire of over the top energy even more. However, I have come across a great moist chocolate cake recipe (and am looking forward to everyone else's. It's from a book called Quick Vegetarian Pleasures and its on page 215. It uses that vinegar-baking soda reaction to get its rise.....Preheat oven to 350 (and make sure it is ready cuz the batter MUST go in as soon as it is mixed). Wait 10 minutes for oven to begin to heat. Butter and flour (I like cocoa powder instead) two 8 inch cake pans. When the oven is hot thoroughly combine 2&1/4 cups unbleached whit flour, 1&1/2 cups sugar, 1/2 cup cocoa, 1&1/2 teaspoons baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Pour into the bowl 1&1/2 cups WARM water, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 1&1/2 teaspoons vanilla extact, and last of all 1&1/2 teaspoon white vinegar. Stir all briefly until well combined and pour into pans and get it into the oven very soon. Bake for 30 minutes or until the center tests done. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, THEN remove cakes from pans and cool completely. Yum. Yum Yum Yum

NON or LOW sugar Birthday Cake for Toddler

Dec 2008

Can you offer a specific recipe for a fruit- or fruit-juice sweetened birthday cake for toddler. I was thinking of applesauce or the like. I'm really looking for a recipe that you've tried and loved, rather than some general ideas. Prefer whole grain flours, too. Thanks so much.

Check out, by Debra Lynn Dadd. She wrote the book Home Safe Home (about chemical free homes) and also has a website on natural sweeteners. You asked for specific recipes, and i confess i haven't baked the cake recipes she offers (mostly cookies, and breads and pies i've tried). I've found them consistently good, with a rare exception or two. She offers tons of info on different natural sweeteners, their flavors and the pros and cons of the type of sugar and how the body processes it. As a hypoglycemic who still enjoys the occasional sweet, i have found it an invaluable resource. She also has a regular email newsletter through which she offers new recipes and info on natural sweeteners. She offers ideas on baking with rice syrup, barley malt, maple syrup, cane juice and many others. They are definitely a tad ''different'', but they taste great to us! Julie

We do this: instead of cooking cous-cous in a pot with water, cook it in a pan with apple juice with the same amount of water you'd use. Pour cous-cous and juice into pan and add raisins and nuts to taste right then--when it's all cooked in a few minutes, take it off the stove and it will harden as it cools--then you can slice into squares or slices. Fast and inexpensive!! Great for toddlers--and I've also made it for other kinds of potluck gatherings and everyone loves it. You can add anything--ice cream, rice dream, liqueur or whipped cream for adults to dress it up if you want but it's not necessary. Eating My Toddler's Dessert

March 2004

I'm having a birthday party for my 2 year old, and would like to make a fun BEAR shaped cake, but don't want to serve CAKE because i don't want to serve up lots of SUGAR. Several of the parents coming are also interested in finding creative ways to have sweet treats that are NOT filled with sugar. NOR filled with nutra-sweet type products. does anyone have suggestions to make low/non sugar birthday cakes? thanks, from a sweet-tooth lori

Why don't you try splenda? anon

What about making homemade bread? You can make it into a shape, I have. It will be pretty puffed up, but delicious. An egg bread or a honey wheat is tasty. You could even make individual buns. At age two, they should be pretty happy and unaware of what we think of as standard birthday fare. dck

I have a cookbook called ''I can't believe this had no sugar'' or something like it that contains carrot and other cake recipes sweetened with fruit juice concentrates. But it's still fructose. You can generally cut sugar by 1/4 to 1/2 w/o changing the taste of a non chocolate cake too much. A raisin/milk/cream cheese mix in the blender makes a decent frosting. For my daughter's first birthday 'cupcake' I followed a whole grain muffin recipe on a Bob's red mill bag (kamut I think) and used carrot as the grated fruit and added water plumped sultanas. My daughter ate it. The adults got real carrot cake. jess

LeLeche league has a few different cookbooks (or they did when I was nursing some years ago) that feature some great low sugar cake ideas. Try doing a search for that... Beth

My husband is not crazy about birthday cake, and one year we made cornbread for a cake. Recently I have make gingerbread from the New Laurel's Kitchen, that you could make with molasses only as sweetener and it is very tasty. Yesterday my son came home with a fruit cup that each child had for a treat instead of cake, at a school birthday party. And I thought of some of those cute little fruit designs made with sliced pineapple or canned pear halves, that look like bunnies or flowers. That could be a very cute cake alternative. jewel

If you wish to learn about the various types of alternatives to white sugar, the following URL is well-researched. Splenda appears to have had few well-designed studies and confers some impressive side effects. Fructose in high quantities also has some unplesant side effects worth checking out. I personally prefer maple syrup and stevia, the former to accomplish the browning and texture, the latter to achieve the desired level of sweetness. Nori

See also: Bakery for Sugar-free cake

Use-again Candles

Anyone know of a place that sells those big tall birthday candles that you reuse each year until age 18/20? I had one of these as a kid and it was fun to burn it each year down to the next age--always something to look forward to! I haven't seen them anywhere. Erika

I just saw one in the Miles Kimball catalog. It's $22 and plays music. You can find it on thier website Type birthday candle in the search box. MWishbone

Themed Birthday Cakes

Animal shaped cakes

June 2003

I'm wondering if anyone out there has advice on how to construct a cake that looks like a lion or a zebra? My daughter's third birthday is approaching and when asked what kind of cake she'd like (I was expecting the answer to be ''chocolate'' or ''vanilla''), she very firmly announced ''a lion.'' Since then she's vascillated between a lion and a zebra, but in any case I need help! I'm a fairly experienced baker, but I'm not very good at envisioning things. I looked at cake books at the library, but although there are bunny cakes galore, I can't find a lion or zebra. Has anyone out there made one or does anyone know where I could find a picture/model/directions for how to do so?

I highly recommend as a great resource for birthday cakes. I found a horse cake on this site: I imagine that you can make the horse and then decorate it with licorice whips or black icing for a zebra-look. I also found a Tiger Cake at that you could use for inspiration for a lion.

Also, there is some sort of recipe for ''Zebra Cake'' I found searching on It involves putting together oreos with whipping cream and freezing, then when one slices it there is a striped look. Happy birthday to your child! Jeanne

Check out FamilyFun magazine's website ( Click on 'Cake Finder.' I didn't see a lion or zebra, but they have a horse and some other fun recipes/instructions for various animals. Stephanie

Call Spun Sugar on University Avenue, and ask them if they have a lion- or zebra- (or horse-?) shaped pan. They probably do, and you can probably rent it. And Spun Sugar will have the necessary colors and doodads to make the cake look as it should. Wendy

Try Sharon

A lion face is easy. Make a round cake, frost it in carmel draw a cat face in brown or black (or what ever color you want). For the mane use carmel frosting and pipe it all around the face. Good 'ol Martha Stewart has a patern from a few years ago. You could look that up, it was in one the kids issues. Have fun. Love to bake shapes

You may be more ambitious than me, but if you'd like to keep it simple, my kids were always satisfied if I just got a flat cake and had the shop put a picture of whatever they wanted on the cake. My kids in turn have asked for a basketball cake, clown cake, Raiders cake, and a ballerina cake that I can recall, and each time were totally satisfied by a simple decoration on the top of a flat cake. susan

I suspect you're having a hard time because you're imagining the shape of the entire animal. Think instead of doing just the head/face and it will be easier. Here are some I found.

Zebra: These are actually for ponies, but easily adapted by icing in black and white stripes:


Here's a tiger -- add cookies or coconut around the edges for a mane to turn it into a lion:

Have fun! Holly

I made a lion cake for my daughter's birthday and it turned out well -- in fact, if you mention the word 'birthday' in her presence, she announces with great excitement, ''I had a lion cake!'' It was a round layer cake with yellow frosting. I used black gumdrops for the eyes and nose, and *thin* black licorice ropes for the whiskers. (FYI, the only place I could find the licorice was that candy shop on College and Russell in the Elmwood). For the mane, I made gingersnap cookies and stuck them into the side of the cake so that they stuck out like tufts of hair. I thought about buying cookies to use for the mane but couldn't find any that would be large enough -- remember you'll have to stick a fair amount of the cookie into the cake so that it won't fall out, and so if you use a commercial cookie, you probably won't have enough of it sticking out to really look like the mane.

Feel free to email me and I will reply with a photo of the cake - - a picture's worth a thousand words, they say! Also I'd be happy to give you some other tips and pass along a few things I learned.

Oh, and as for a zebra... when I was a kid, my mom used to make something we called ''zebra cake.'' My brother and I loved it! It might not be what you're looking for because it won't look much like a zebra from the outside, but maybe you can take this idea and turn it into something that can be decorated to look like a zebra on the exterior as well. Anyway, this cake is very simple. Buy a box of simple chocolate wafer cookies (she used Nabisco ''famous'' chocolate wafers) and make whipped cream. Spread a good amount (I'd say about a 1/8'' to 1/4'' layer) of whipped cream over one side of the cookie. Repeat with another cookie and stack it on top of the first. Do this with the entire box of cookies, eventually putting your tower on its side so that it is a log. Then spread more whipped cream around the entire outside of the log; wrap it tightly in saran wrap, and refrigerate overnight. When you're ready to serve the cake, be sure to cut it on the diagonal so that each piece will have several black and white zebra stripes. The cookies will have absorbed some of the moisture of the whipped cream, so they will be soft and cake-like. If memory serves, it's delicious!

Happy baking, and happy birthday to your daughter - Sarah

One of the best ''specialty cake'' stores in the Bay Area is in Marin, called Cake Art. (415/456-7773) They have specialized cake pans, books showing how to decorate, and nice people who teach and advise on same. I just got the supplies for my son's wedding cake there (he got married day before yesterday!). They were helpful to me in figuring out how to cope with the intense Sacramento heat we would be encountering. Give them a call! Ilene

Go to and type in Lion. They have some cute pans that can be used for a variety of animals. I searched there and found a great Lion cake. I didn't check out Zebra but you might try it there too.

What I have done before is get a simple drawing, coloring book type and enlarge it to a desired size to use as a template on a 9 X 13 sheet cake. I then make the cake in the pan, remove it and freeze the cake overnight. This makes it much easier to cut with fewer crumbs. Then I put my template on top of the cake with toothpicks and cut the outline. Leftover parts of the cake can be used as needed to attach to the main cake with glue icing. I then make icing in the appropriate colors and ice the cake. The trick here is to have some good pictures to use as guides and to keep it relatively simple. You can also use google eyes. I am not an artist but this has worked for me and my toddler seemed quite happy. Be prepared for lots of messy faces, we had blue ones. Mom of an almost three year old

Octopus Cake

June 2003

So my little boy wants an ''Octopus cake'' for his upcoming third birthday. (''with monster candles, too.'') Now, is this something I can make? Anyone out there have a website or an old Good Housekeeping clip that details how one goes about creating the abovementioned Octopus cake? Any moms who've already tackled this particular sea creature and can advise me on which pans and food dyes to use? Or should I just up and buy a big rubber octopus to plop on top of your standard issue cake? I invoke the spirit of Martha Stewart! Julie T.

Here are a couple of ideas:

Use a bundt cake (or rounded metal mixing bowl) for the center part of the octopus (since they're rounded). For the arms, you could either back a rectangular cake and cut in 8 squiggly shapes and/or piece the odd pieces together with frosting; or (and especially if the bundt cake will serve enough people) purchase some long candy snakes or worms and group them together. If you make the arms out of cake, when it's frosted, no one will see where you've pieced it all together. You can also decorate the plate the cake goes on with purchase jelly fish, etc. Don't underestimate the purchased candy pieces' ability to add interest. They can also be used for eyes, suction cups, etc. Catherine has octopus cupcakes - check it out at Heather

I love doing specially shaped birtday cakes! (My recent triumphs include a frog, a quail, a train, and a ''caturtlepiller''. Only the train was not my own design.)

I found a simple idea for an octopus here: and one for a cupcake (with jelly worm candy tentacles) here:

That cupcake could be made full-size by baking the cake in a bowl for the head, and using something larger (licorice ropes?) for the tentacles. Or, stack the bowl-shaped cake on top of a regular round cake layer, frost, and then decorate with icing (with the tentacles drawn down the sides, as if the octopus were sitting on top of a rock or something).

Or, use the bowl for the head and cupcakes or shapes cut out of a cake layer for the tentacles - curled up.

If your son would be happy with one that looked like those baby toys, you could use ice cream cones (with or without cake baked in them, or filled with frosting or whipped cream) for the tentacles.

Dyes are easy -- just ask your son what color the octopus should be, and use regular food coloring to achieve the appropriate color of buttercream icing.

I also ran across a few sites describing how to make octopi out of hot dogs. Sounds cute. (You just slice into the end of the hot dog before it's cooked to make 8 long, thin wedges (leaving about an inch of the opposite end uncut), and poke holes for eyes, and when you boil it, the 'tentacles' curl up and the 'eyes' pop out.) Maybe you could offer octopus hot dogs, and an (easier) fish shaped cake. :-) Holly

You don't say how old your son is, and if he has a SPECIFIC octopus in mind. With younger kids, you can often get away with something pretty home-made (i.e., not totally realistic). For example, a round cake on a big platter, with ''tentacles'' made from strips of cake, or a line of cupcakes (enough for all the guests?), or candy, or whatever. Or maybe a PICTURE of an octopus on top is what he has in mind (did you ask for details?) Often - if you call it an octopus cake, it is one! R.K.

Here's an idea: make a layer cake. Make the bottom layer out of a large sheet pan. Cut out the tentacle shapes radiating from a central body hub. Make the top layer(s) with a domed/rounded metal bowl roughly as wide as the 'central body hub'. Use dark chocolate icing between the layers and to cover and you can avoid using food coloring. kim

Thomas the Train Cake

March 2004

We're having a Thomas the train theme birthday party for our 2 year old son. I'm looking for a bakery preferrably in the Concord, Walnut Creek, Lamorinda area to make a Thomas cake. I'm willing to travel outside of these areas if someone has a good recommendation. I know I can't be the only mom searching for a Thomas cake! Thanks.

As the mother of three boys I have made Thomas, Toby, and a James, Edward and some other engine cake (also Theodore Tugboat, pinball games, etc.) I am only an average baker but it can be done pretty easily. I just make a large flat cake and then using an enlarged picture of Thomas or whatever, cut out the right shape. Lots of blue frosting and some detail work with white and chocolate and it is a good enough job to make a little one happy. I also have a pan which makes an engine cake which is three dimensional and stands up. I believe you can get one on line at ''I Love Toy Trains'' . All that said, I think any good bakery could make something you would like given a picture. Cake baker

We got one at our local Albertson's in Oakland -- it's one of the themes they feature as one of their many personalized cake selections. I'm sure your local Albertson's can help. mom of a Thomas fan too

I'm curious to know if anyone has ever found a Thomas the Train cake - because I never did. One way to go would be to bring a picture of Thomas and have Albertsons's do a photo transfer. They turn out great and I think their cakes are delicious. Good luck! Nancy

Blue's Clues cake

July 2001

A few weeks ago, someone posted the name of a place (bakery?) where a cake pan in the shape of Blue, the puppy from Blue's Clues, could be rented. My daughters 3rd birthday is coming up soon and she has her heart set on having a Blue themed party. I would really appreciate it if someone could tell me where to rent / buy the cake pan. Richa

Note from Myriam: This is most likely Spun Sugar in Berkeley. You could also try Wilton's website:

I recently went to a Blues party where the mom had made a cake that looked like a Blues foot print by making one round layer cake and then putting 4 (5?) cupcakes around the top of it. The cake was the exact right color blue (she said she got the vibrant food coloring at Sur La Table). It took just a minute to figure out what it was but I thought it was very clever and creative. Also cheaper than renting a Blues pan. Just a thought in case you can't get the cake pan... air

Bug theme

August 2005

I'm looking for bug themed cake decorations for my daughters birthday (ladybugs, butterflies, dragonflies etc.). I've heard of edible ones made of sugar and I'm sure plastic ones are available too. All I have been able to find are butterfly shaped plastic rings in many colors. I have checked at Party America and found nothing there. Does anyone know of anyplace where I can find something appropriate?
Thank you,
Going buggy planning a bug-themed party

I made a ladybug cake for my son's 3rd birthday--I can email you how I did it plus a photo if you want. It wasn't too hard and all from scratch. Big hit with the kids. Laura

Hi Going Buggy ~ Have you considered baking a ''bug cake'', instead of just decorating it with toy bugs? I baked a 'ladybug' cake for my niece that was baked in a bowl and then decorated it to look like a ladybug. This link is what gave me the idea:

I decorated the cake with candy from ''Sweet Dreams''. She had licorice whip antennae, blue M eyes attached to tiny marshmallows, red wings with flat black candies for her dots, coconut grass that was tinted green with food coloring, etc.

If you'd like a picture, I can try sending it to you, although I have never sent a pix on this website. But the ablove link is a lot of fun to look at. Best, Jerri

My son's 3rd birthday is coming up, and he has asked for a yellow and brown cake - and someone suggested making a ''bee'' cake - with several alternating layers of yellow and chocolate cake. Since then I've been thinking of making 2 different icings, and decorating the cake in stripes as well. Jen

Spun Sugar, cake decorating shop on University Ave,, should have lots of options for you. Also, what about buying some madeleine cookies and icing them imaginatively to turn into ''beetles''...with shoe lace licorice for legs and antennas?? Have fun going buggy! anon

Hello, Try Spun Sugar in Berkeley on University Ave. Natalie

There is a Cake decorating/Candy supply store in Berkeley, on University called ''Spun Sugar.'' They may have what you are looking for, or will know where you can find it. Their website is: Good luck! Sweet tooth

When I was a kid my mom made a ladybug cake for my birthday. You use a round cake pan for the body, and then a cupcake cut in half for the ''head''. You basically frost the cake in red frosting, or red sparkly, and make chocolate ''spots''. I made buggy cupcakes for my daughter's birthday, which are also easy. Just frost the cupcakes to look like ladybugs, using plain MnMs for the spots and string licorice for the line on their backs and for antenna. Good luck! Holly

I'd try Mr. Mopps on MLK. They have lots of little plastic bugs, worms, etc. and would likely have butterflies you could stick on a bday cake. Maybe give them a call before you trek down there to save yourself an unnecessary trip. Good luck and have fun!

At my son's 4th birthday, I made a sheet cake and then together we placed gummy worms squirming all over the icing. Very popular with the kids. Colorful too. And easy - you can get them at the grocery store. Maybe there are other kinds of gummy insects if your daughter is not into worms. Ginger

Mr. Mopps ToyStore on MLK and Rose in Bkly has a big stand of cubbies with all kinds of critters, party favor type stuff, balls, etc. You can find all kinds of creepy crawlers there. Have fun. june

Crocodile Cake

Nov 2004

My soon to be 3 yr-old son wants a crocodile cake for his birthday. I am not the baking, cooking type of mom so any ideas on how to get pans shaped like a crocodile heads, etc. will be much appreciated. Thanks EA

There are instructions online for making a crocodile head out of a plain ol' sheet cake:

If you're mildly artistic, you could probably also cut a sheet cake into a side-view of a crocodile.

This place may also sell a croc cake mold - not sure if they sell retail or not.

Good luck! Sounds like fun! -- JP Jeni Paltiel

I've found that really elaborate shapes can be difficult and lost on the kids. And all dark green icing might end up looking yucky. So an alternate idea would be to include plastic crocodile (s) on a simpler cake, maybe graham cracker sand and a water area. I'd check out Spun Sugar on University- where you can rent many shapes of pans, or just get lots of ideas from the staff. They are very helpful and encouraging that it can end up being pretty easy. a fellow non-baker

I can think of several different ways to make a ''crocodile'' cake using a regular rectangular pan, but I doubt you'll find a crocodile-shaped pan! You could try Michael's and any party supply store, which carry Wilton pans, but I would suggest one of two simple things:

(1) Bake a rectangular cake, frost it with green, brown and blue to look like a swamp, and decorate it with small plastic toy crocodiles.

(2) Bake a rectangular cake and cut a shallow triangle off of two of the corners so that you have something that looks like a reptilian head. Use part of the triangles you have cut off to make 'eyes' that stick up. Frost the entire thing with green, and then pipe brown frosting on for the details of eyes, mouth, nose. Cut a few sticks of gum into triangles and apply to the sides for teeth. (Often for an animal shape, it's easier to do just the head than to create the entire animal.)

I've done a frog, a turtle, a caterpillar, a quail (!), a train and a fire engine so far, and I'd be happy to help you out if my description above isn't clear enough. holly

Firetruck Cake

Goldilocks Bakery in the Pacific East Mall shopping center at the Albany/Richmond/El Cerrito border (between the El Cerrito hill and the freeway) will do all sorts of wonderful looking birthday cakes on wild themes from Hercules to merry go rounds, from Winnie the Pooh to firetrucks and the like. You can see many neat looking sample cakes displayed in their window. This mall is new (only about a year old) and has all sorts of interesting businesses and tasty asian restaurants. Give them a call to get a quote on the cake. Caroline

If Just Desserts doesn't already have a fire truck cake in their custom book, they will happily put any fire truck design you bring into them on the cake of your choice. (You need to bring it in a week in advance.) If you actually want your cake to be in the shape of a fire truck, I suppose they could do that too, but you'd probably better call/stop in well in advance of the big day to find out. You can order a custom cake at any Just Desserts location. Good luck! Melissa

To the parent who wants a bakery recommendation for a custom (firetruck) shaped birthday cake: Ladyfingers Bakery in Oakland is a fabulous bakery. The people there are very helpful and happy to talk about special orders. Bring them a picture of what you have in mind, if you can. Their prices are lower than comparable high-quality bakeries in the area, probably because they are not in a pricey location. But the cakes, and everything else there, are the best I've ever had. Louise

When my son was three we did a tour of the firehouse for his birthday party. We just called our local firehouse ahead of time and they were incredibly nice. We brought them some danish, and they gave us a tour of the firehouse, let us climb on the trucks and showed us the equipment. They also let the kids try on the firecoats and boots. We have a very cute picture of my little boy in a fire coat. They gave us hats, and we went home and ate a cake with a picture of a firetruck on it from the Montclair Bakery. If you bring a picture they will attempt to make a cake that way. They are a very good bakery, so you're getting a cake that adults and children both enjoy. myr

Have you thought about baking/decorating your own cake? Spun Sugar (on University) rents cake pans of all shapes and sizes for only a couple dollars. I just decorated my son's cake for his 2nd birthday (Thomas the Tank Engine) and the results were actually quite good considering I'd never done it before. I just followed the directions that came with the pan (which I bought at a Party City). It requires a bit more time, but was definitely worth it! Even if you're just looking for someone professional to do it, I know that Spun Sugar can give you referrals -- I saw cards and brochures by their register. I bought last minute supplies from them and they were VERY helpful. Good luck!

Check out this website: It has a fire truck cake you can make yourself. Good luck! Heather