HarvardHomemaker

By HarvardHomemaker

I'm a Harvard graduate and homemaker who blogs about living (and loving!) the domestic life with my husband and four young daughters. My blog now permanently resides at www.harvardhomemaker.com. Please visit me there!

Posted on Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 09:09:00 PM in Recipes
Tags: easter,  kid friendly,  first birthday,  baby s first year,  party food,  party,  cake,  applesauce

Easy Polka Dot Cake & Cupcakes

This little cake and cupcakes were so easy, but they look pretty darn impressive, if I do say so myself!  :)  I whipped them out in a hurry (during naptime), and even though I thought the whole experiment was going to fail miserably when I first got started, it ended up working out!  And don't you think this would make a great sweet treat for Easter?  The polka dots resemble eggs a bit... cute!

I used the mini cake as a smash cake at my daughter's first birthday party (see her other smash cake here when we celebrated as a family), and the cupcakes were for the kids at her party.  The older kids absolutely loved biting into their cupcakes to see what color was inside!  

I first got the polka dot cake idea here at easybaked.  I thought about making a beautiful three-layer cake like she did, but how was I going to take a picture of it for this blog without cutting the cake apart before the party?!  (Although let's be honest--that does sound like something I would do... I have been known to bring people a six-pack as a hostess gift with one or two beers {or Mike's Lite!} missing because that's all we had in our fridge on our way out the door.  All part of my charm, people... just trying to get from point A to point B half the time without forgetting anything--or anybody!!) 

My other thought was that a fancy cake looked like a whole lot of work for a kids' party... if I'm going to go to all that trouble, somebody better appreciate it!  :)  So I ultimately decided to make cupcakes.  And then when I had some extras, I pulled together the smash cake at the last second.  Originally, my new one-year-old was just going to have a cupcake like everybody else, but she wound up with her own little cake... I'd say it was a successful first attempt at this!  Now that I know how easy it is, I have a feeling polka dot cakes will become commonplace around here--you can just switch the colors for each season or holiday!  Imagine a red, white, and green one around Christmas; red, white, and blue for the 4th of July; chocolate with orange, red, and yellow in the fall, etc.  What a fun dessert for any party, all year long!

Read below to see how easy this really is... 

P.S.  This post was featured here at whattoexpect.com in a round-up of first birthday smash cake ideas.  Check it out if you are looking for inspiration for your soon-to-be one-year-old's cake!  

You are probably wondering how I got those little balls inside the cake, right?  You make them in a cake pop maker--easy!

I picked up my new handy-dandy cake pop maker, and I was ready for business (got mine on sale at Target for $17, but they are basically anywhere that sells appliances these days).  It said in the instructions to throw away the first little cakes you ever make (and there will be a funny smell to them).  Reading that didn't exactly instill a lot of confidence in me as I was about to serve these to a bunch of kids!!  I certainly didn't want to be responsible for poisoning the children! 

I trusted in the directions that batch #2 would be safe to eat with no funny smells, so I mixed up two cake mixes (from a box) just to make sure I had extra batter since I had to toss some of it.  As always, I followed the instructions, but I subbed applesauce instead of the oil.  I have made cakes that way for years--love that tip!!

While the cake pop maker was heating up, I separated the batter into small bowls.  I then dropped in some food coloring.  I used liquid this time; oftentimes I only seem to find gel.  Even though gel will give you more intense colors in general, I would say that I prefer liquid food coloring.  I feel like I can control the color a bit more easily without it getting too deep too quickly.

Here are the colors I settled on... they're actually pretty bright even with liquid food coloring (vs. gel).

I sprayed the cake pop maker (top and bottom) with Pam and then spooned in the batter.  It only took about 4 minutes or so for them to be done.

This is where I thought things started to get dicey.  The cake balls come out nothing like the ones in the picture on the cake pop maker's box--mine were certainly not uniform in color, nor were they perfectly round spheres!  (Although I realize now that the box shows chocolate cake balls--it's a lot easier for them to seem uniform in color when they are already brown!)  My colored balls had ugly brownish edges on them, and they were also smaller.  Some even resembled Saturn with their bulging middles!  Not the look I was going for.  I have no idea if they would have puffed up more perfectly if I hadn't used applesauce.  That might have made a difference since I do think cakes made with applesauce rise a wee bit less than cakes made with oil.  

At any rate, it didn't even seem to matter in the end.  They still came out fine.  :)  I did pull off some of the pieces on the really misshapen cake balls to improve their appearance a bit--I just tore them off with my hands.  Nothing too perfect.  I had planned to put the cake balls in the freezer for a bit before hiding them in the cupcakes to be sure they didn't over-bake, but after about 30 seconds in there, I figured that was long enough.  I'm not known for my patience when it comes to things like that--I'm in the "good enough" crowd most of the time... besides, naptime was going to be over before I knew it!  (FYI skipping the freezing step didn't seem to matter too much--they tasted really good in the end.)

So I popped those awful-looking cake balls on top of some cake batter and crossed my fingers.  I really didn't have high hopes at this point!

I then covered the cake balls with more batter.  

Excuse the nasty-looking pan, by the way.  I probably couldn't have tried harder to scrub that little bugger for the sake of these pictures, but I honestly didn't even think this post would come to fruition with the way this whole experiment was going!  I'm going to say my husband cleaned it the first time around.  He isn't much of a cook, but he's great about being the clean-up crew to compensate--although he says "those little muffin pans" (insert disdain and annoyed face) might possibly be his worst nightmare.  Apparently there is nothing he hates cleaning more! 

I still had more colored batter left, so I whipped out some more colored balls and tossed them in a loaf pan.  Next time I would cram even more little balls in there to get tons of polka dots!

I covered them with the batter I had remaining...

Ta-da!  Don't forget my tip to simply touch the cake to see if it's done (in lieu of toothpicks).  When it bounces back instead of indenting, take it out of the oven.

I then grabbed a cake leveler and sawed it off until it was flat (don't underestimate how fun this step is, my friends!)

What do you know--I could see some polka dots in there!  And they weren't disgusting-looking after all!!

I decided to cut this little beauty into two and stack the layers to create a mini-cake for the baby.

All I had to do was put a little frosting on there (which I did by opening a container, thank you very much), and then I did use my handy-dandy cake decorating set (find the mother load of all cake decorating needs here) to add her name and a few polka dots.  (I just added a little food coloring to some of the same frosting--I typically use the store-bought frosting even when I decorate cakes despite the fact that it doesn't always want to "let go" when I'm writing letters... but once again, I'm in the "good enough" crowd!)

Online Cake Decorating Class

Here's a shot of the finished product.  A pretty cute smash cake for a baby's first birthday party, I think!  Not bad for a cake that was an afterthought and seemed to be a total disaster midway through!

Here she is at her little party that she shared with her sisters, a few tiny friends, and their older siblings.  

A few sides notes:  yes, she is strapped to the chair safely--a tip I mention in this post.  :) (Use a belt or a long scarf!)  No better way for Mommy to back away and take pictures when there is no high chair handy!  Also, notice the broken candle.  In my haste to get that puppy open, I broke it right in half.  Oops.  No worries, though--remember that I'm in the "good enough" crowd, so I just balanced it right on top and it worked just fine!  Lastly, stay tuned for more from this party--at some point I'll share with you a few simple decorating ideas!

Here's another peek at the cupcakes her friends enjoyed at the party.  They really got a kick out of biting into them to see what color was inside!

One last picture... my kids helped me decorate with the sprinkles.  And just to be clear, this is a shot of halves from two different cupcakes.  I didn't manage to get both blue and yellow in the same cupcake--although that is an idea!!  You could simply cut two balls in half and place them together to create a single ball made from two colors!  Seems easy enough.  So many options!

I made these in a hurry while the baby napped and my older girls were at school, but next time I will definitely have them help me.  They would be all over this!!  This is a great baking activity that the kids can help with... (just like our favorite easy Toffee recipe--my kids are super-star helpers every year around the holidays when we make a boatload of that stuff!!  Yum!)

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I hope this post was helpful and has inspired you to try something similar--it really couldn't have been easier!  I think this is a perfect Easter cake, birthday cake, or any-time-of-the-year cake if you keep tweaking the colors to suit the holiday or season.  I can't wait to try it again with my kids!

If you give this a try, I'd love to hear about it!  

Until next time, my friends... thanks for reading!

HH

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Comments

  • Such a fun post and a cute idea. I threw my friend a polka dot-themed baby shower that this would have been perfect for, but since we are polka dot people, I'm sure we'll have another opportunity.

    Love the polka dot-themed party idea!! Hopefully you'll find another time that's perfect for this. I really think we'll make cakes like this all the time now. I love the idea of a red, white, and green one around the holidays. We always have tons of cookies, but we've never had a "go-to" Christmas dessert in general... maybe this will be it! :) So fun to cut the first piece and see how it turned out!!

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