I was recently thrilled and honored by my friend Sheila’s request to bake her daughter’s birthday cake. I love a good reason to bake something fun and what better reason than for the birthday of one incredibly sweet two-year old? Her party was being held at a local splash park and so Sheila chose a fish theme for the decor.
Sheila is very crafty and her party decor is always perfectly matched to her theme. She found a recipe for an adorable fish cake at the Disney’s Family Fun website. I was excited to make this cute cake and hoped it would put a smile on the birthday girl’s face! I also hoped it would live up to Sheila’s expectations as I didn’t want the cake to be the dud in her party decor!
After reading the recipe, I knew immediately that the Necco wafers had to go! Have you ever eaten a Necco wafer?
If you haven’t had the umm…pleasure…count yourself lucky. I think of Necco wafers as “old people candy” and with that said, I apologize to any seniors reading this. But Necco wafers taste like lightly sweetened chalk and the thought of covering an entire cake in them was frightening. Sheila suggested using candy melts and they turned out to be the perfect solution. What could be better than covering a cake in candy?
The inside of the cake was a yellow cake. I’ve been testing recipes to the find the perfect yellow cake one and finally discovered one I love…all thanks to the wonderfully resourceful Bakerella. Here is the link for her yellow cake recipe. Now I did make a few changes to get the cake I wanted. Instead of all butter, I used half butter and half butter-flavored shortening. This really adds some extra moisture to the cake. I also used 2 teaspoons of vanilla instead of vanilla and butter flavoring. I tried her sugar water trick, although I brushed it on with a pastry brush, and think it did help to keep it moist.
The original fish cake directions state to bake a 13 x 9 cake to cut out. I did bake it that size, but before cutting out the shape, I ran a cake leveler through the middle to create two layers. I then frosted the middle before I cut the shape out. This did make it more difficult to cut, but more frosting means a moister and more flavorful cake. One of my pet peeves is a sheet cake with no center frosting. The cake tends to be dry and you end up with a mouthful of dry cake. Don’t get me wrong, I will still eat such a cake as I haven’t met a cake I’ve turned away yet, but a little more frosting is the difference between a good cake and a great one!
I used Wilton’s buttercream icing recipe. There are more flavorful icings (or frosting if you prefer that term as I do), but this one really holds up well in the heat. This was an outdoor party at the end of May so that was definitely a concern.I tinted the frosting as directed. After frosting the cake, I added the candy melts by alternating the colors to create the scales. I wasn’t happy with the unfinished edge of the bottom of the cake. I could have piped frosting around it, but instead cut candy melts in half to create a border. I have to say, while this cake took some time from start to finish, I was pretty happy and proud of it!
In retrospect, I would make a few changes if I were to make this cake again. I realized somewhere around midnight as I was decorating, that I had no where to write “Happy Birthday” or the birthday girl’s name. I should have used fondant to cut out the letters and attach to the side of the cake. I improvised on the way to the party, stopped at the grocery store and purchased those candy letters sold in the bakery aisle. They did the trick, but the fondant letters would have been bigger and I think prettier. In the future, I also would save some of the batter to make one cupcake. The candle could then be placed into the cupcake and the birthday person would have their own mini-cake. As it was, we placed the candle on the top fin.
All the party guests seemed to get a kick out of the cake and really enjoyed it! Most importantly, the birthday girl had a smile on her face as she blew out her candle! Making this cake just reminded how much I love baking for children and I can’t wait to do it again!