Trial, Error, and Success

For the past few weeks I have been trying out dairy-free cake and icing recipes for Oster’s 1st birthday party.  I have used many different cake recipes and substituted soymilk for the cow’s milk and shortening for butter.  Most of the cakes came out tasting like corn bread and one recipe even overflowed and sunk in the middle.

Now, I am not saying I am a baker by any means. And usually when I’m trying to attempt to bake it never works.  Actually, I consider myself more of a chef with no business touching confectioners’ sugar or flour. If ever asked, my family will tell you instantaneously that I am no Strawberry Shortcake.

When I told my mom that I would be making all of the birthday cakes from scratch her reply was, “Do you think you can really do that?” She wasn’t being rude. She was really looking out for my wellbeing. As she knows, I have a hard time with butter and flour.  And since I had to substitute butter for shortening and milk for soy, she knew my kitchen would be a disaster for weeks as I tried out these recipes.  Not to mention, my continuous defeat would eventually “break” me.  And, of course, being as stubborn as I am…I want to make Oster’s cakes by myself.

Well, she was right. My kitchen was a mess. And I was exhausted from baking and cleaning and baking and cleaning. However, I did find a recipe that worked for both the dairy free cake and dairy free icing.  And how happy I was with the turn out!

Oster’s theme was space. I made two rocket ship cakes (one for the guests and one for his smash cake), cupcakes, and a moon cake.  In order to make a 9” round cake look like the moon, I needed to use fondant.  “What’s fondant?”, I asked the sales associate.  She asked me if I ever used it. “No”, was my answer.  She suggested that I do not attempt to use it because it is quite difficult for even the most experienced bakers. Well, of course, I want to make this moon cake for my son, so I bought the fondant and called my sister (she IS a baker).

Knowing my lack of skills, my sister nicely tried to talk me out of using the fondant. She gave me some substitute ideas to make the cake look like a moon. I was hesitant to substitute anything else since it took me two weeks to master both the cake and the frosting.  I only had three days to make the moon cake.  When she realized she couldn’t talk me out of using the fondant, she gave me some great advice (make sure you put a generous amount of frosting ON the cake before you put the fondant on, roll the fondant out on confectioners’ sugar, put some sugar on your rolling pin, and smooth the fondant out with the appropriate tool).  Whew!

Well, I took all of her advice and it worked. I did it! Grant it, it took the entire morning and early afternoon on Friday to bake everything and make 4 batches of frosting. I took a break and after Oster went to bed for the evening, Andy and I mixed coloring into the frosting, frosted, and decorated the cakes.


As he put the finishing touches on the guests’ cake, I started the moon cake. I had to dye the fondant gray (with black coloring). Sugar was everywhere and the black dye bled into my fingernails (most of it is out now).  I’m thinking positive throughout the entire process as to not get my lack of baker skills in the way of Oster’s first birthday.

We finished all of the cakes at 11pm! Twelve hours until the guests would arrive.  We put them on the buffet and went to bed.

Thankfully this fondant did not need to be perfectly smooth in order for the astronauts to land.

Needless to say, I was so pleased with how they turned out. My first venture with “homemade” cakes and frosting.  My first time mixing dye. First time using tips. First time using fondant. I was so excited! I know the cakes aren’t perfect but they were for us.

15 thoughts on “Trial, Error, and Success

  1. Holy cow! I bow down to your success – I have never tried fondant. My son’s first birthday was space too, but my cake and everything around in was a flop. I think I would have burned down the kitchen if I had attempted anything fancy.

    • You are so sweet. Thank you. There were many times when I forgot to add an important ingredient (like when the one recipe sunk in the middle). I noticed the shortening was left in the microwave and I never put it in the mixing bowl!

      I don’t think I’ll be using fondant again anytime in the near future. I will have to practice that technique multiple times before I would be able to get it as smooth as all of those pretty cake photos. Thankfully the moon cake required a crater-like texture.

  2. Wow v impressive cake n even more so with the effort!! Is Oster allergic to dairy or to make it more friendly for guests? Coincidentally i also baked this weekend n tried dairy free substitute for the first time!

    HAppy birthday to Oster!

    • Thank you! I can’t believe he’s already 1. This time is going by too fast. Yes, Oster is allergic to dairy. Everything in our house is soy or almond based. I found great cream cheese (that’s not real, of course) and some tasty soy ice cream. It’s taking awhile to adjust our diets (as I miss my cheeses) but our transition has gone pretty smoothly since we found out about his allergy.

      How did your baking go?

      • Is he lactose intolerant? You may have told me this before but what is his reaction to dairy?

        I made chocolate quinoa cake I blogged about it awhile ago but this time made it with vegetable shortening and soy milk instead of butter n milk. It was good! I highly recommend it – has been a big hit twice in a row now! Who knew quinoa would make such a good flour substitute 🙂

  3. Patty, WOW is all I can say. Working with fondant is very hard and takes practice even without the dairy restriction. Good on you for the volume of cakes, you fairly mounted the workload on yourself – ‘a baptism of fire’ and you succeeded. The moon cake is my favourite, the craters are brilliant.

    • Thank you so much. Thankfully the craters covered the lack of skill I had with the fondant. I’m so glad this was the first time I used fondant. I can’t imagine what the cake would have looked like if I had to actually smooth out the fondant for a crisp, clean texture.

  4. Wow, I love your cakes, they look amazing. I admire your determination. Isn’t it amazing the things we do for our kids?
    Congratulations on a successful first year to you mom and Happy Birthday to Oster! 🙂

    • Thank you so much for Oster’s birthday wishes and compliment. It really is amazing the determination and energy we get, no matter how difficult or exhausting the task is, when you are doing something for your children.

  5. I still can’t believe you made… is it three cakes I see there? I am all about buying my kiddo’s birthday cakes haha! I like to bake cupcakes and even actual cakes but usually a small one only. At least you can say you’ve made Oster’s cakes from scratch!

  6. Well done!!! And they look great, fondant are usually tough to work with and so expensive when you order them as finish on a cake. You did great, I have no patience for baking lol

    • Thank you. This was clearly my first shot at really putting any energy into baking, as I do not work well with butter or flour (or the mess that goes along with it).

      I’m glad I have another year before I have to do it again.

  7. Wow! Good for you! We had to do a dairy free birthday cake, too, but I ended up opting for something much simpler (an apple swirl bundt cake). Your cakes looks awesome!!!

    • Thanks! Isn’t it sometimes a challenge when it comes to “goodies” with our dairy free boys? I have to tell you, my husband and I omitted all dairy from our fridge/pantry. Although, sometimes when I go out by myself, I order a coffee with REAL milk and a large piece of chocolate cake 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s