A couple of years ago, my sister was visiting over her birthday, so I figured I’d throw together a quick cake, decorate it a little bit, and graciously accept my Sister of the Year award. The cake part came out fine (I’m a pretty good baker), but the frosting kept hardening, so by the end I was essentially plastering thick slabs of frosting to the side and praying they wouldn’t fall off on the walk to the table. And that is when I learned that being able to make a kickin’ chocolate cookie is a far cry from presenting someone with a fully decorated birthday cake.
This is exactly is why I’ve put together twenty cakes that are totally adorable and will make you look like a birthday goddess, but are easy enough to fudge that even I can do them. And, I say, if you’re not a baker or are short on time, a store-bought cake with one of these decorative hacks will taste just as delicious and win you as many awards.
RELATED: 101 Adorable Smash Cake Ideas
Here are my favorite easy birthday cake decorating ideas that look hard, but are simple enough that anyone (including me!) can do them. Check them out in the slideshow.
Crush Chips Ahoy cookies...
...and let the dinosaurs rule the earth (or at least the cake).
If I were making this cake, I probably would have plopped the dinosaurs in the middle of the cake, and it would have looked like I'd just stuck a bunch of plastic dinosaurs on a cake. Who knew all it needed was some crushed Chips Ahoy cookies for rocks and a little chocolate ganache for lava?
Find the full details: Chocolate Chips Ahoy Dinosaur Cake at Butterlust Blog
Turn everyday pancakes into birthday cake.
Everybody knows pancakes can turn a regular morning into a Very Special Morning, so imagine what a stack of cake-batter pancakes can do. Add some sprinkles and a little glaze with more sprinkles, and you've got yourself a birthday treat worthy of candles.
Find the full details: Birthday Cake Batter Pancakes at How Sweet Eats
Add a whole lotta candles for a cake guaranteed to make any kid smile.
Okay, even I can stick a candle in a cake. So, pretty sure I could rock this super simple, over-the-top happy cake that sports a whole bunch of, you guessed it, different styles of candles.
Find the full details: Birthday Candle Cake at Studio DIY
Go crazy and cover every square inch of a white cake with colorful candies.
This is definitely one of those cakes where more is more, so use up ALL the extra Easter candy and cover this sucker from head to toe.
Find the full details: Candy Birthday Cake at Lovely Indeed
Take all those sprinkles one step further with a layer of chocolate ganache.
The only thing that can make an adorable funfetti cake any better is adding a layer of chocolate---in this case, chocolate ganache made with dark chocolate, cream, and the stuff every mom's dreams are made of...
Find the full details: Sprinkle and Chocolate Cake at The Cake Blog
Cut up Fruit by the Foot for a cool fox cake.
I tend to stay away from animal cakes because there seems like a lot of room for error. This fox-face cake keeps it super simple, though, and if you can cut up Fruit by the Foot and draw a triangle, you are good to decorate it.
Find the full details: Fox Face Birthday Cake at Betty Crocker
For kids who prefer ice cream...
...skip the cake completely and pair ice cream sandwiches with upside down cones and sprinkles.
This cake only uses four ingredients (ice cream, ice cream sandwiches, sugar cones, and chocolate topping) and takes just minutes to put together, yet would be a hit at any birthday party and looks like you spent a lot more time on it.
Find the full details: Ice Cream Sandwich Cake at Sprinkle Bakes
Use candy molds for the ultimate Lego cake.
The secret to this Lego cake is simple---candy molds, which you fill with colored, melted chocolate for a cake that only looks tough to construct.
Find the full details: Lego Block Cake at Makoodle
Or go for the drama with a set of extra long candles.
What kid wouldn't love to blow out a set of candles almost as tall as they are? Plus, they have a very princess-y feel, perfect for a kid (or mom) who wants to go understated rather than animated.
Find the full details: Extra-Long Birthday Cake Toppers at Olive & Cocoa
Add gelatin bubbles to cupcakes for a bit of magic.
Remember how you used to make papier-mâché piñatas with flour, water, and newspaper? These cupcakes use the same technique with gelatin and water for a pretty balloon effect that would be a hit at any princess party.
Find the full details: Bubble Gum Cupcakes with Gelatin Bubble at Sprinkle Bakes
Add a row of Dum-Dums suckers to a white cake for a pretty fairy cake.
My kids LOVE going to the hairdresser. I mean, they will talk about it for weeks before we go for one reason---the Dum-Dums pops. They will hold still for their haircut and chat amiably with the hairdresser---all for the promise of a lollipop. Can you imagine what I could get accomplished if we had an entire cake fancied up with those suckers?
Find the full details: Dum-Dums Sucker Cake at Julep
Add licorice to a simple white cake.
At first glance, this cake looks really complicated, but look closer and you'll see the flowers are made of different flavors of licorice. Brilliant, right? And it would be so pretty for a little girl's birthday party.
Find the full details: Twizzler Floral Cake at Handmade Charlotte
Skip the traditional cake and go for a really big donut.
I'm a huge fan of oversized food (in fact, I dedicated a whole breakfast party to it), mainly because kids think it's hilarious. Pair this huge donut with a bunch of extra-small items (for example, OJ in tiny cups) and you have yourself a birthday for the books.
Find the full details: Donut Cake at A Subtle Revelry
Add toys and an easy DIY topper to a plain cake.
Gussy up a simple cake with toy animals and this easy birthday sign made from refrigerator magnets, straws, and pipe cleaners. While Oh Happy Day went with a circus theme, it'd be just as easy to put a princess or toy truck or any toy from around the house on top and call it done.
Find the full details: Carnival Cake Topper at Oh Happy Day
Add spooky (or funny, depending on your theme) eyeballs...
...to a cake for a monster- or Halloween-themed birthday party.
This cake cracks me up, and I imagine it would be a pretty big hit with most kids, especially around Halloween. And it's so easy! Simply frost Junior Mints to Oreos and then glue/frost them onto the cake. Voila!
Find the full details: Monster Eye Cake at The Cake Blog
Crush Oreos ...
...and add some toy vehicles from around the house to a simple cake for a construction themed cake.
I know my son is not the only kid obsessed with construction vehicles (who ever knew I'd be able to tell a back-hoe loader from a snow plow?), and he just now tried to jump off my lap to get through the computer screen to get at this construction cake, so I think it's safe to say this is a cool one.
Find the full details: Construction Cake at Fredellicious
Use a heart-shaped baking pan and a star tip...
... to make an adorable doggie cake.
Okay, so you do have to actually decorate this one a little bit, but it's about as easy as decorating comes. You only need two heart-shaped cakes (she used a box mix to keep it extra simple), buttercream frosting with some cocoa powder for coloring, and a star tip for the frosting. Easy peasy.
Find the full details: Easy Dog Cake at The Experimental Home
Use wafers, an ice cream cone, and nougat to create a circus cake.
This birthday cake is probably the most intensive of the bunch and, fine, would take some patience and tools, but can you imagine how thrilled your two year old would be to see the lion of their dreams come to life? I'll let you make the call whether that thrill is worth the pain that mane might instill on your psyche...
Find the full details: Lion Cake with Mane at Wilton
Use store bought items to create a fairy princess castle.
This is another one where at first glance it looks like a really tricky cake to make, but when you break it down it's totally doable; the towers are ice cream cones atop crackers with candy heart flags, while the drawbridge and windows are waffle cones decorated with marshmallows. Truly fit for a princess and a mom who doesn't have a ton of time.
Find the full details: Princess Castle Birthday Cake at Bondville
Use a large star tip to create roses for a magical princess cake.
So, I haven't tried out this (allegedly) super-easy frosting technique, but I have been assured that it only looks hard. Like really, really hard. Like if you master it, you probably can graduate from this blog post and go straight into creating those Olafs who take off their own heads to the cheers of legions of birthday party goers.
Find full details here: Rose Cake at I Am Baker
Pour a whole lotta sprinkles on your cake for maximum impact.
I feel like sprinkles are one of those things where you can really never have too many. I mean, have you ever heard a kid say, "Actually, I'll take the donut with just a couple of sprinkles because too many will definitely ruin the fun."? Of course not. That would be CRAZY because everyone knows more is more, and if you're going to have sprinkles you might as well really have sprinkles, and if you substitute shoes for sprinkles you'll know how I really feel.
Find the full details: Sprinkle Cake at Endlessly Inspired
Or, get crazier, and go full floral for a perfect tea party cake.
This is another one that I feel like gives you excellent bang for your buck. The different color flowers keep it young enough for a little girl's party, while the one frosting tip makes it easy enough that even a frosting novice can tackle it.
Find the full details: Floral Cake at I Am Baker
Group cupcakes together for an adorable fish birthday cake.
I'd say cupcakes are usually easier to make than a full-on cake, which is why this fish cake is so perfect---you get the ease of cupcakes but the drama of a larger cake, which goes over just swimmingly in my book.
Find the full details: Fish Cupcake Cake at My Bake School
Or decorate mini cookies with store-bought flowers for a delectable garden.
So you still don't feel comfortable making a cake? No problem here. How about these ganache filled sugar cookies, decorated with crushed Oreos and mini flowers from Michaels that only look hard? Delish and everyone knows cookies are a lot harder to mess up...
Find the full details: Flower Pot Cookies from The Gunny Sack
Use two bundt cakes to create the number three.
The best part about this cake, I guarantee, is M&Ms cover a multitude of mistakes, not that I would know anything about that at all.
Find the full details: 3 Birthday Cake at Enchanted Mommy
Summon the power of magic...
...(or the power of frosting) to make a mind-bending, anti-gravity cake.
Can you imagine bringing this cake out at a party? You could ride on that coolness factor for weeks (or at least hours). And it's deceptively easy! You essentially ring a store-bought cake with Hershey bars, use frosting to "glue" the M&Ms to a stick, and wait for Penn and Teller to call.
Find the full details: Anti-Gravity Cake at It's a Fabulous Life
Recreate a childhood favorite with easy-ish decorating techniques.
I'm not saying these are the easiest cakes of the bunch, but I feel like they're totally doable, especially when you see how adorably they turn out. You only need a couple of frosting tips, some googly eyes, and a kid who understands the allure of a grumpy do-gooder. (He'd hate that I just called him that, wouldn't he?)
Find the full details: Oscar the Grouch cupcakes from I Am Baker
Use the magic of Oreos and candy to create hilarious owl cupcakes.
These owls are just too adorable for words. Unless it's "nom, nom."
Find the full details: Owl cupcakes at Raspberri Cupcakes
Give them an extra surprise with a candy-filled piñata cake.
Cake is awesome, but cake with candy in it? Seems like we just took your party to a whole new level. (And, I promise, while it's not quite as easy as filling a traditional piñata with candy, it's pretty darn close.)
Find the full details: Piñata Cake at A Designer Life
Go totally pink for a fairy or princess party.
There's something so light and magical about an angel food cake (I'm one of those crazies that would take one over a chocolate cake any day). Add a little pink food coloring and you have a cake fit for a queen (or, more likely, a princess, if it's anything like our house).
Find the full details: Pink Angel Food Cake at Sweetapolita
Skip the cake and go straight for the sugar with a candy cake.
I have to imagine there are kids out there who just aren't into cake. For them, pick a bunch of their favorite candies and create a candy cake with a literal bow on top.
Find the full details: Candy Birthday Cake at Crazy Little Projects
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