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DIY Easy-ish Kid Decorated Rainbow Graffiti Cake

A few weeks ago, when paging through Pinterest, I spied a rainbow cake that was covered in fondant that kids used special markers to decorate. Reina’s Art Party already had some key decorations that she’d made herself, so a cake that she could decorate seemed like the perfect thing! There’s just nothing like the joy of kids eating delicious birthday cake so I was up for the extra effort ๐Ÿ™‚

But then…whomp whomp major roadblock: I checked in with our local bakery and they don’t work with fondant. One downside of living on a small island is that you may not always have easy access to things like custom birthday cakes. I figured short of spending hours going to Seattle to pick up a custom $$$ cake, making it myself was the best option.

I percolated on the task and decided to (a) cut my work time way down and (b) play it safe. Instead of covering the entire cake with fondant like you’re supposed to, I got the idea to use a 6″ bowl as a cutting guide to create a perfectly sized fondant circle that would become the top of the cake and frost the sides in my usual smooth finish (explained below).

Making the vanilla cake and buttercream? No problem but I’d never worked with fondant and was pretty nervous about it. The nice bakery chef on the island coached me on how to deal with getting the fondant smooth and nice looking but she prepared me for the fact that it’s pretty challenging and quite time consuming for a beginner. She said to check YouTube for tutorials. Now I’m a good cook, but managing to get the sides of the cake smooth and attractive??? Scary!

“Graffiti” Fondant Instructions

  1. Buy Ready-Rolled fondant (Wilton got the best reviews; Michaels or Walmart had it for under $10) and followed the instructions on the box to flatten and smooth it out on to a big sheet of parchment paper.
  2. Use a very sharp paring knife to trim the fondant with a 6″ bowl as my guide (you can also use your cake pan).
  3. Let your child practice with the food markers on the scraps of the fondant.
  4. Talk through what your child wants to have on the cake and without coaching too much, explained about how to get everything on such a small circle. Maybe practice on paper if you’d like.
  5. Give the OK to decorate and let go of any yearnings for this to be Pinterest worthy ๐Ÿ˜‰ I embraced it being Reina’s doodles and she got the hang of it quickly so this step only took around 5 minutes.
  6. Carefully slide the parchment paper with fondant circle on to a flat cookie tray (no edges! use something flat if you only have edged trays) and set it aside in a safe spot. See the photo below for a glimpse of the finished circle (sorry – I forgot to take a photo of it by itself!).

In addition to the Ready-Rolled fondant, you’ll need to get a few other supplies beyond the cake and frosting ingredients below. Head over to Amazon or Michaels and get:

  1. Wilton Easy Layers 6โ€ Cake Pans
  2. Food coloring (I used old school McCormick from the grocery store)
  3. Your choice of colors in the Wilton Food Writer line; I used Fine Tip Neon markers plus Bold Tip Primary and Extra Fine Tip
  4. Stainless scraper tool
  5. Optional: 6″ cardboard cake round (buy or DIY on x-firm cardboard)

Then go to your fav grocery store for:

  1. Boxed vanilla cake mix without pudding in the mix (your choice, I like Duncan Hines) along with whole milk instead of water amount on box, 4 eggs, small box vanilla instant pudding mix, 1/4 C flour, 1/2 C sugar, 1/2 C sour cream, 1 tsp vanilla, 1/4 tsp salt, melted butter instead of the called for amount of oil.
  2. Your choice buttercream frosting recipe ingredients. NOTE: homemade buttercream is a MUST because no store-bought frosting will have the correct consistency; I like the Sprinkles Cupcake recipe on Genius Kitchen.

On the morning of the party, we baked and assembled the cake, but you could definitely do most of this the day before. Here are the steps that Isabelle and I followed to pull it off:

  1. Make a grocery store brand boxed vanilla cake mix and use the above extra ingredients to doctor the mix for a perfectly moist and flavorful cake.
  2. Divide the batter evenly into 5 small bowls and use a few drops of food coloring to create your rainbow layers and pour into the greased Easy Layers pan. Bake according to instructions on Cake Pan box.
  3. Make homemade buttercream frosting while the cake bakes.
  4. After the cake cools, carefully trim any over-cooked spots or any big uneven areas off with a serrated knife. Our oven runs pretty hot so you can see that we trimmed a few burned edges away.
  5. Decide on the stack order of your colors; we liked top to bottom red, orange, yellow, green and blue, so we placed the blue layer on a 6″ white cardboard cake round, then added a thin layer of buttercream frosting, put the green layer on top, and continued to add frosting then the correct color cake layer. You can place straight on cake plate but I’d strongly recommend for easy chilling/storage to use a round cake.
  6. Using a stainless scraper tool, smooth a final layer of frosting to the top and sides of the cake. It’s important that the frosting is reasonably chilled but not stiff for this step. Otherwise, it will be super challenging to get overly melted and soft frosting to smooth out. Same is true of overly chilled frosting.
  7. Once fully frosted, take a few minutes to really make sure that the sides and top are straight and even. This step is probably the most important when it comes to making homemade cakes look like fancy bakery-made cakes. If the frosting gets too soft, chill the cake for a few minutes to get it just right. Although it may sound challenging, it’s actually quite easy with the scraper tool.
  8. NOTE: if you are making the cake a day before the party, stop at this step and store the cake in the refrigerator in a covered cake holder. Just be sure to keep a small covered bowl of buttercream in the fridge too to use for little touch ups before the party starts.
  9. Carefully slide the decorated fondant circle off the parchment paper on to the top of the cake. You can make minor adjustments to the placement but it’s best not to move it around too much.
  10. Using a mini stainless spatula, blend the edge between the fondant top and buttercream sides. Add additional small amounts of frosting as needed to create a smooth edge.
  11. Top with a candle or candles and chill the cake until ready to serve.
  12. Moments before serving, use canned whipped cream to edge the bottom of the cake and if you have clouds on the top design, fill in the clouds with a bit of cream as well. The cream begins to melt almost immediately so wait until the last possible moment to do this step.

Although it may appear to be complicated, it actually was quite straightforward! The key for us was to decorate the fondant top the day before the party.

Not including the food ingredients and tools that I already owned (scraper, cardboard cake base and spatula) the cake cost $50.62. Not bad at all considering a bakery version would have run at least 1.5 times that amount! And I now have the fun think layer pans with stack tightly for a minimal storage space. I’m thinking an Ombrรฉ cake is next on my list ๐Ÿ˜‰

The best part, beyond getting just what I wanted and not spending a ton is that Reina was so proud that she decorated the cake!

All photos by Marla Smith Photography

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