How trying to channel Martha Stewart was a failure


I have two boys; my eldest is six, and takes birthdays very seriously.

Months before his actual birthday, there are discussions involving themes for the party, the type of cake he would like, and who he would like to invite. For his birthday this year, he would like me to make his cake in the shape of the millennium falcon from Star Wars… Let’s see if that works out, particularly when I reflect on my other attempts at birthday cake creations.

For my baby shower, I was given a copy of the Women’s Weekly Kids’ Party Cakes cookbook. I was thrilled as we never had this book in our house when I was growing up. I dreamt of the amazing creations I would bake for my children. I would channel my inner Martha Stewart.


I take comfort in the words from Masterchef – “as long as it tastes good”. Because the way some of my birthday cake creations have turned out, well, at least they tasted great.

My son’s second birthday cake, a train, was a disaster. In fact, the whole back carriage of the train fell off just as the guests arrived so I was frantically sticking fondue skewers through the cake to hold it together, while telling people to quickly take photos before the whole thing fell apart.

I tried butter cream icing on his fire engine cake. Despite having a winter birthday, the butter cream somehow starting melting and kept sliding off the cake.

It continues along this theme for the rest of his birthdays. Thankfully he doesn’t seem to be emotionally scarred from them.

I thought though I may have learnt from these experiences when it came to his younger brother’s first birthday. I was going to stack the odds in my favour. I had the picture I found on Pinterest of the cake I was going to make. I had the pre-coloured ready to roll out icing. I had the alphabet letter cutters. This was going to end my losing streak.

No. The alphabet letter cutters managed to mangle up the icing and the icing got stuck in them. The icing also stuck to the bench top after being rolled out, despite me dusting the bench with icing sugar, as recommended.

Martha Stewart was either having a good laugh at my attempts, or was shaking her head at me in disbelief. Birthday cakes and I just don’t get along.

I’ve learnt over the years that kids birthday parties do not always go according to plan. And that’s ok.

Now you’ve had a giggle over my failures, here are some tips that I hope can help with the next child’s birthday party you’re planning.

Don’t look at Pinterest for inspiration. As well-meaning as it may seem, it will only break your heart when you can’t recreate the designs! I have learnt this the hard way.

Image source:
Image source

Forget bunting. It looks amazing, but unless you sew for a living, it will drive you crazy trying to make it. A friend of mine said she spent weeks making 200 flags of different colours to attach to the string, only for the weather on the day of the party to be so windy, they couldn’t go outside and use the bunting!

Piñatas can be great fun, but make sure you double the ‘keep clear zone’ around the piñata. Kids armed with sticks who are determined to break out those lollies can be dangerous.

If you use toys as cake toppers or decorations around the edge of the cake, make sure your child knows that they will NOT be eaten or cut up. At an Octonauts themed birthday party I went to, there were tears when the birthday child thought Captain Barnacles was going to be sliced up with the cake for everyone to eat. No one wants that sort of trauma.

Don’t worry about planning lots of elaborate games. We planned a treasure hunt for our eldest son’s pirate themed birthday party. Complete with clues and a map that would lead them to the next clue, the next map, and eventually, the ‘treasure’. Well, one child got so excited, he ran all over the garden, skipped all the clue spots and went straight to the treasure chest and started eating all the lollies before anyone else could get there.

A friend of mine said her children still say their favourite party was the one when one of the kids found a dead bird in the garden.

I wouldn’t call myself an expert on kids’ birthday parties, but I’ve been to enough to know that the only thing that matters, is that at the end of the day, the birthday boy or girl is happy. Oh yeah, and make sure you have a bottle of wine ready for later on when the clean-up has been done and the kids have gone to bed!

Have you had any birthday cake disasters?

Do you have any tips for making a birthday party a success?

I originally wrote this as a guest blog post for All Wrapped Up.

Make sure you’re following Life, kids and a glass of red on Facebook for extra giggles and snippets of silliness!

Linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT.

24 thoughts on “How trying to channel Martha Stewart was a failure

  1. So I used to go nuts with cakes, I made the merry-go-round, complete with wooden horses and cachous attached with tweezers for my first born’s 1st birthday! Never again. Less is more when it comes to birthday games I reckon.


  2. I love baking but I’m not so great with experimenting. My favourite is a classic sponge (loaded with lashings of cream and fresh berries).


  3. Ahh yes, yes I have had many a cake disaster. My parents are both excellent bakers and mum would go all out on cakes for our birthdays when we were kids. I tried to do the same for my kids. Critics claimed the number one cake I made for my daughter looked like a giant penis. It’s pretty much been all down here from there, but as you say as long as your child is happy 🙂 Great post. #teamIBOT


  4. They never look like the Pinterest ones but all the kids are interested in is the icing anyway! I do go all out because I love birthdays but I’m enjoying the fact that the older the girls get the less people need to be invited to the parties and they are drop off. My girls get to choose from the WW which cake they want but I have to give them guidelines to my actual capabilities!


    1. It’s the pressure to recreate the cake to the quality in the book! I’m sure there are many other parents out there that cringe when their kids select their chosen cake from the cookbook, thinking to themselves “how on earth am I supposed to make that?!” I think I might have to go with giving them a shortlist of approved cakes they can choose from so I know I can make it 🙂


  5. My cakes always feature plastic toys and the kids have never complained – at least they always taste good and children are not harsh critics unless you leave off the lollies.
    Tonight was my twins 9th birthday – the 5 min packet chocolate chunk brownie cake I threw together (just 4 of us) was slightly singed on the bottom by the extra choc I added. The baking paper was fine;
    I hacked it off a bit, flipped it back over – iced it warm (with a leftover packet of icing from last week) added Mini m & m’s roughly in their 1st letter of name. Re-used 9 candles and then we sang happy birthday indivudually & blew.
    Best cake ever lol.
    Thank you for linking up WW-MLDB


  6. Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate! That is why I won’t go near those fancy smooth coloured icing creations! I would make a hell of a mess! Haha.


  7. The 6 layered rainbow cake I made without levelling off the layers was a disaster waiting to happen! I was petrified the layers would slide off each other as I carried the cake outside. In the end it held together but my stress levels were off the scale! Never again!


  8. Yep, I always look at Pinterest and always fail… and to make things more interesting, my girls’ birthdays both fall in the warmer months so my bloody fondant is always too soft to work with. I will make a great cake.. one day!


  9. Oh the cake is my biggest source of stress! I’ve attempted a couple, including a 6 layer rainbow fondant cake (with the help of a clever friend) but with my kids birthdays only 3 wks apart, it’s just too stressful so I now outsource the cake duties. Luckily I have a couple of super clever friends who work wonders with fondant! Xx


  10. I agree, as long as your children are happy, that’s all that counts. I avoid baking birthday cakes at all costs. Hubby and I did do a joint effort for the twinions birthday last year. I baked them and he decorated them. 2 dinosaur cakes that kept us up all night making. Never again…

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m sure you’re great at other things that I don’t enjoy but I love cake decorating. Sure it can be a bit stressful when the kids want to “help” you make it and you’re trying to make it Pinterest, or in my case blog, worthy but it’s kind of my thing. Don’t hate me!


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