I still don't know where the year went...
My ‘little love bug’ turned 1 a few months ago (they didn’t lie; that first year went super fast just like everyone said!) annnnd so in the month beforehand I spend ages trolling pinterest for Ladybug birthday cake ideas 🙂 I had about 20 people to feed at her party, so this was the cake design I went with!
I wrote detailed instructions below, so I know it looks like a short book. :/ Don't let the instructions intimidate you! Tiers are easy to stack, and both tiers are easy to decorate!
All my 'scratch cake purists,' hear me out on this - you'll see cake mixes in the recipe below; I recommend this if you want to use the top tier as a smash cake! My favorite scratch recipes are delicious, but they bake too dense for little hands to smash. After making many smash cakes over several years, I've found cake mixes to work the best. If you'd rather use a scratch recipe though, here's my Favorite Vanilla Cake Recipe.
Recipe, supplies, and all my tips are below! 🙂 Enjoy!
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Ladybug Birthday Cake
- 1 10 inch cardboard cake circle (8" would work, but moving the cake is easier with a larger circle)
- Cake leveler or a serrated knife and a ruler
- large offset spatula (to spread frosting)
- cake scraper or pastry cutter (to smooth frosting)
- Cake turntable (this will make decorating much faster and easier)
- Ruler for spacing dowels or straws and centering top tier
- piping bag with leaf and grass tips (linked is a set with bags and both tips!)
- Ladybug cake topper (I used the one from this decor set)
- 12 oz one and a half packages cream cheese, softened
- 24 Tablespoons butter, softened (three sticks)
- 10-12 cups powdered sugar
- 4-6 Tablespoons milk
- 1 Tablespoon clear vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt if using unsalted butter
- (Save and add later)
- 6-7 drops Red gel food color I used Americolor Super Red
- 3-4 drops Green gel food color I used AmericolorLeaf Green
- Combine melted butter, buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl, and beat until blended. Add cake mixes and stir moistened (about 30 seconds), then beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.
- Using a kitchen scale, pour 600 grams of batter into each of your 8” pans. Divide remaining batter evenly between the remaining two 6” pans – I had about 375 grams in each of my smaller pans. (Using the kitchen scale guarantees your layers will bake to be the same height.)
- Bake for 35-37 minutes, (or until a skewer comes out clean). Allow cake layers to cool for 10-15 minutes on a wire cooling rack before removing from pans, and cool completely before frosting. Set in the fridge or freezer to accelerate the cooling process if desired.
- Once the layers have fully cooled, the caramelized edges can be trimmed from the sides / top of the cake using a serrated knife if desired. Be sure the layers are completely cooled or chilled before trimming. If you try to trim the layers while they’re still warm, they will crumble and break. While you’re waiting…make your frosting!
- Beat together softened cream cheese and butter; slowly add in powdered sugar alternating with milk until frosting reaches desired consistency. Add vanilla and salt if needed and beat until well combined.
- (I waited until my layers were stacked and crumb-coated, then removed a third of the remaining white frosting for the top tier and green ‘grass’ border and colored the remaining frosting red for the base tier.)
- Once your cakes are cool, level them (if needed/desired; these cakes usually bake fairly flat so I didn’t trim much from the tops). This can be done with a cake leveler or a large serrated knife and a ruler. Place a smear of frosting on your large cake circle (to keep the cake from sliding while you decorate it) and center your large first cake layer in the center of the circle. Spread the layer with frosting. Add your next cake layer on top, and repeat the process with your remaining 8” cake layers.
- Next, repeat the same process with your 6" cardboard circle and cake layers. Of note – if your circles aren’t pre-center-punched, be sure to grab a dowel or scissors and make your own hole in the exact center of the 6" circle - this will allow you to center the top tier on the base tier later on.
- Now you're ready to crumb-coat . If you're unfamiliar with crumb-coating, it's just what it sounds like – spreading a thin layer of frosting over the entire outside of the cake tiers to keep crumbs out of your final layer. Once your crumb coats have set (this takes about 10 minutes in the fridge), frost your top 6” tier white, then remove about ½ cup of frosting to color green for decorating, and color the remaining frosting red.
- Add your final layers of frosting to both tiers and smooth (I like to use an offset spatula and bench scraper for my final frosting layers).Note – for my larger tier, I was able to smooth the frosting fairly well free-handed, but I struggled getting the sides smoothed on my smaller one. Trimming the layers just smaller than the cake circle and using the cardboard as a guide for my bench scraper worked well for smoothing the frosting on the top tier!
Stacking the tiers
- (Doweling a tiered cake is done to ensure that the top tier doesn’t crush the lower tier, as well as keeping it centered.) Cut four straws to the height of your base tier, and cut one at an angle for the center. Grab your ruler for this next part! Push the straws down into the base tier just over one inch from the cake edge, placing them evenly at quarter intervals around the cake. Place your last, tallest straw or dowel into the exact center of the cake, making sure to keep it straight as you press down.
- Now you’re ready – center the hole in the bottom of your top tier cake circle over the tallest dowel and let the top tier gently down onto the base tier. The dowel will poke into the center of the top tier to hold it in place.
- For the base tier polka dots, roll thin about half of your black fondant and cut about 20 1-inch circles (I used a circle cutter from this set). I spaced mine over the base tier at random, 2-3 inches apart.
- To make the ladybugs, roll about ½ a tablespoon of fondant into an oblong circle and flatten slightly on one end. With a dab of water stick about a ½ teaspoon size ball of black fondant to the flattened end. I used a toothpick and the blunt end of a skewer to make the lines and dots on the ladybug’s back, but a paintbrush would work as well. Allow 1-2 hours to dry before transferring to the cake.
- Now you’re ready to finish decorating! I used a piece of bent wide wire to make the little dotted lines on the side of the cake, but an angled paintbrush would work as well. I found it the easiest to put on the lines first and then the ladybugs at the ends.
- Last step - add your Ladybug cake topper to your top tier - and step back and admire your cake!