Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Kids' Birthday Cake Idea: Decorating With M&M's!

Several weeks ago my nephew, Benjamin, told me he wanted an M&M's cake for his upcoming 4th birthday. I wasn't sure what he may have been envisioning at the time, or if he'd even remember that he'd made such a request, but I was up for this challenge...and wanted to blow his 4-year-old mind.

So, like any determined DIYer unfamiliar with the world of children's birthday cakes, I took to Pinterest for some good old fashioned inspiration, which led me to this cake (anyone know the original source?), which was the perfect jumping off point for how we decided to decorate Benjamin's cake:

While I went with the number 4 (his age) as the design, I think the same concept would apply really well to both letters and shapes — wouldn't a heart or star be neat? We've been excited to share the details for how I made the cake here on the blog, so let's get started!

We used a basic cake & icing mix for this cake (nothing fancy), but you could use any preferred homemade cake and icing recipe you want. Bake cake in two greased round cake pans according to package directions. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before removing from pans, then allow to completely cool before stacking and icing the layers — we want a thick and sturdy icing base to stick all of the M&M's onto, not a messy melty one.

While the cake was baking and cooling, I went ahead and separated all of the M&M's into single colors so they'd be easier to work with when it came to decorating. It's funny how there seemed to be more of less of certain colors — brown was definitely the odd man out:

While separating the candies, you might come across some of the non-uniform pieces — this is where I'll expect you'll want to run some "quality control" sampling if you know what I mean...

Once cake layers have completely cooled, use a knife to remove the raised and rounded cake portion on the bottom layer, creating a flat surface that's easier for icing and stacking:

Place bottom cake layer on the plate or cake stand you'll be serving it on before icing and decorating. Apply a generous layer of frosting across the surface of the 1st layer, this will create that delicious icing layer in the center of your cut pieces of cake:

Stack 2nd layer of cake evenly atop the bottom layer and ice the entire outer surface. It's up to you whether or not to cut and flatten this 2nd layer — I liked the look of a rounded top, so left it as is. Make sure to apply a generous coating of icing across the top, edges and sides of the cake — doing so will give you lots of "glue" to hold all those M&M's candies in place when decorating. Don't worry about a perfect icing finish since the entire surface will be covered in candy:

Now we're ready to decorate! As you can gather, I wanted to make a big "number 4" design since it was Benjamin's 4th birthday.

I started by stacking M&M's in the shape of a number 4 as a focal point, right in the center of the cake. Benjamin has declared the green M&M's to be his favorite, so it was an easy choice for which color to begin with:

From there, it was just a matter of tracing around the number with a new row of the same colored M&M's — all one by one:

Once the "4" got large enough to almost cover the top surface, I went around it again with one more row (in yellow) that spilled over the top and down the side a little for a fun 3-dimensional effect. Then again, since the green M&M's are Benjamin's favorite, I filled in the rest of the top surface and a few rows over the side edges with green candies:

From there, I applied a single row of the blue candies around the entire base of the cake to create an edge, filling in the rest of the open cake space around the sides with orange candies:

Having a generous amount of icing on the cake was so helpful, allowing for a strong hold and a little wiggle room if I misplaced a candy — I could just move it around until it looked right:

The entire decorating process probably took about 20 minutes, but was a lot of fun and kind of methodical if you like detail-oriented tasks — we were really happy with how it turned out:

So, how did it go over with the kids? I'd say these expressions need no further explanation:

The cake turned out to be a big hit — all of the kids enjoyed getting a big piece to try. It's special moments like these we try to cherish, where a simple M&M cake can make someone's day.

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  2. I love this cake! Great idea. Wanted to share with you: instead of cutting off the bottom layer to make it even, flip it so the "bottom" of the layer is up. It is already flat!

    1. What a great idea! Thanks for the love and the idea for future birthdays!

  3. very good. will like to learn more and what is that brown thing that u applied on the surface before icing it?

  4. Thanks so much for posting this, it looks great! I am going to try it for my nephew's b-day tomorrow.