Simple, Frugal Birthday Cakes

For a number of reasons we have chosen to keep birthday celebrations fairly simple at our home.  We have many special traditions and activities for each birthday, but a few years ago I discovered a way to allow children to participate in creating their birthday cake while saving me lots of time and energy.

Now sometimes we do a nice theme cake for the birthday child.

Click image the train cake post

Click image for princess cake post

However, a few years ago while dealing with severe morning sickness, I hit upon an idea that is easy on mom and that our children enjoy even more than having me spend time making a pretty cake for them.  We let the child decorate their own birthday cake.

The first time we did it, it was honestly out of necessity.  Kaitlin’s birthday is just a few weeks after Christmas and I was nauseated, tired and unprepared.

We purchased some pre-made cookie dough (don’t think too poorly of me, you can certainly make your own) and  rolled it out to make a large cookie cake.   We bought some gel writers and sprinkles and Kaitlin decorated to her hearts content.

She loved it and we had fun working on it together, but I felt like I deserved the bad mom of the year award for not making a real birthday cake for my child.

Our next birthday was just a few weeks later and this time I was ready.  With plenty of time to spare I asked Carter what type of birthday cake he wanted.  He asked to have a cookie cake and decorate it himself just like Kaitlin.  And so a tradition was born.

I still enjoy making a special cake for a birthday celebration, but now we also give our children the option of decorating their own.  Sometimes we make a more traditional, layered cake for them to decorate but most often they prefer a large cookie cake.

Birthday cake/cookie a la 6 year old

I realize that these cakes/cookies will not be earning any decorating prizes and I probably won’t be up for mom of the year since I don’t make a lovely, elaborate birthday cake for each child, but a simple birthday cake/cookie that makes my kids happy and saves me time and energy, that works for me.

Next Wednesday I’m going to post about how we make birthdays special without spending a lot of money.

More ideas for simple, fun cakes:

Wonder how we deal with potty training,  or how we don’t spend any money on paper and still allow our children to get crafty, curious about why I feel a special reason to celebrate that Carter is still here with us?  Please browse the archives or read more of my Works for Me Wednesday posts.

This post is linked to Frugal Friday and Works for Me Wednesday at We Are THAT Family.

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32 Responses to Simple, Frugal Birthday Cakes
  1. Candice
    February 17, 2010 | 7:37 am

    Isn’t it funny how we put so much pressure on ourselves as Moms sometimes, and our kids really don’t care? Loved your story. :)

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    You absolutely hit the point of this post. I was hesitant to post the picture of the cookie cake and yet this is something that our kids love. Why does it matter so much to me what other people think??

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  2. Kaycee
    February 17, 2010 | 8:06 am

    That is awesome. I have never thought of making a Cookie Cake before. Usually my daughter helps her Daddy make all of the birthday cakes. They love baking together!

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    My husband enjoys cooking, but I don’t think he’s ventured into baking. No complaints here though, he and my oldest daughter love to make meals together.

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  3. Jama
    February 17, 2010 | 8:37 am

    Doing what you do best…making memories with your kids.

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  4. Tania @ Larger Family Life
    February 17, 2010 | 9:08 am

    Yep, making our own cakes is part of birthdays here too! The birthday celebrant chooses what they’d like and the rest of us make it (or actually, a couple of us make it and the rest lick out the bowl!).

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    So are your cakes beautiful?

    I love the idea of everyone helping, I’m more of a “limit the number of kids in the kitchen” type of cook. Usually 2-3 helpers is my max.

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  5. Smockity Frocks
    February 17, 2010 | 9:54 am

    You get the “SMART Mom of the Year” award!

    I often think of something an art teacher told me years ago, pertaining to the art work of children. “It’s the process, not the product” that is important.

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    It’s taken me a long time to realize that the process is important.

    When “Smart Mom of the Year” nominations open up, I’m counting on you. :)

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  6. Annie
    February 17, 2010 | 9:58 am

    Great idea! Sometimes I have a “duh, why didn’t I think of that” moment. I don’t purchase my childrens’ cakes from stores or specialty shops because they are either too expensive or just not tasty. They don’t always get eaten and I have to end up freezing them or just tossing it!
    I know my children would love to decorate their own cakes/cupcakes!
    Another great idea is if you know of someone who has a blow-up bouncer like those moonwalks or bounce houses you could ask to borrow it for the day. I had looked into renting one for my sons birthday and it was going to cost us over $200 for only an hour and a half of play. Come to find out, our adult Sunday school teacher has one and loans it out to people and groups as a way to minister to the unsaved in our community! All he asks is that we pick it up, clean it when we are through, and return it! Awesome!
    Thank you for the idea of kids deocorating their own cakes. I think we can make that into yet another fun tradition in our home! ♥

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    The idea of borrowing a blow-up bouncer is great. Our kids would love it.

    Know anyone who owns one in TN? :)

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  7. JenT
    February 17, 2010 | 9:59 am

    Decorating cakes has gotten really simple at our house too. The birthday kid gets to pick the flavor of cake they want and then they always want to put toys on it. They mostly use the Schleich animal toys that we have a ton of.

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    I’ll have to mention the idea of using toys as decorations to the children. Thank you for a great idea.

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  8. Stephanie
    February 17, 2010 | 10:15 am

    Such a great idea!! And something your kids will look back on with fond memories!

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Oh I hope so!

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  9. Nicki
    February 17, 2010 | 10:58 am

    My girls enjoy making and decorating their own cakes, too. They’ve gotten pretty creative at it, and even took a 4H class on cake decorating to improve their skills. Last summer they both decorated their cakes (and of course, little sis copied big sis). You can see the cakes at my blog:
    http://400things.blogspot.com/2009/09/beach-parties.html
    Cookie cake is even easier!

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  10. Anita Chamblee
    February 17, 2010 | 11:57 am

    My girls really like making their own cakes for their birthdays and for the boys’ b’days as well. Part of being a mom is working yourself OUT of a job!!

    [Reply]

    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Sometimes I feel that I have worked my way out of a job. Amber is a much better cook than I am. Then I look at the cleaning and realize I have job security. :)

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  11. Katie from NC
    February 17, 2010 | 12:40 pm

    My mom always said that all a kid needs is some bright frosting and they will love their cake. Looking back on pictures of ones she made for us (and yes, we LOVED them) I noticed that the frosting colors are all very bright.

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Bright frosting and sprinkles, as long as there are sprinkles my kids are content.

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  12. Stephanie
    February 17, 2010 | 1:37 pm

    You might have thought you were “slacking” so to speak, but what a great idea! More than a fancy cake, kids just want to be involved and making family tradiitons is the best way! Great idea – thanks!

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  13. Young Wife
    February 17, 2010 | 2:56 pm

    That is such a great idea! How fun!

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  14. Stephanie
    February 17, 2010 | 6:22 pm

    I like it :D

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  15. Dawn
    February 18, 2010 | 8:46 am

    Kimberly,
    I made a “Big Ben” shaped cake (hours of work) for Ben’s 10th b-day. The next month was Bri’s b-day and I didn’t have the energy for anything elaborate, so I made a cookie cake and let them decorate it. Ben’s reaction to his expensive, difficult to make cake… “What is it???” Both boys’ reaction to the cookie cake… “Wow! This is great!! Thanks Mom!!! You’re the best!” You’re right. Why do we put such pressure on ourselves? They’re kids and simple things are always more meaningful to them.

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Our children want US, bottom line. Yet we THINK that they want all the material things. You’re right, way to much pressure on ourselves and on other moms. :)

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  16. thesleepyknitter
    February 18, 2010 | 10:47 am

    LOVE this idea! We’ll do it this summer with our toddler. We’ll be out of state for a month as she’s having a surgery, but buying a pre-made giant cookie and some decorative icing/sprinkle tubes at the store would be easy and wouldn’t require access to an oven — we could even manage this in a hotel room. Our little girl would love it! Thanks for sharing such great ideas (and for answering my off-topic question yesterday about kids and chores!). Blessings from the sleepy knitters!

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  17. Henny
    February 18, 2010 | 11:48 am

    I say it *does* make you mom of the year – b/c you cared more about your kid’s wants than looking like the perfect mom! go you! too many mom blogs are really “all about me” blogs. blogs that make a mom look great… and quite honestly i get sick of it. I like reading about real life. about moms doing things for their kids. I love it!

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Thank you!

    Society sets up a standard that is false. The standard is all about material possessions and how we look to the world. Your comment made me realize how I have accepted some of those ideas. Why would I hesitate to post about something that our kids love and that makes our life easier?

    My standard should be God’s Word. He says, teach your children to love Me. Pour out your life for your children as Christ poured out His life for us. There are no requirements for birthday cakes in scripture.

    Stepping off the soap box now. :)

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  18. Lari
    February 18, 2010 | 5:26 pm

    That’s a great idea! We keep birthday’s simple around here party wise…they get to pick their favorite meal and grandparents come over. I do enjoy making their cakes…they’re not always picture perfect but the boys love them. I think the cookie idea is brilliant!

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  19. Andrea
    February 19, 2010 | 1:50 pm

    I don’t think you’re slacking at all, and in fact your kids probably enjoy their cakes a whole lot more than they would a fancy, beautifully decorated cake. And in fact, I’m sure any mother would agree that there’s no more beautiful artwork (or in this case, decorated cake) than that made by your own children!

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  20. Corrie @ "Cents"able Momma
    February 24, 2010 | 10:58 pm

    I think it’s great that you let them decorate their own cakes…I’m sure they enjoy doing that much more than eating a “perfect” cake.

    I remember the fun of decorating our own cupcakes at my slumber birthday party one year when I was little. I don’t remember anything else about that party but we did have fun with our cupcakes.

    As far as the cookie cake…my 6 year old would much rather have a cookie cake than a regular cake (in fact he did for his last birthday).

    By the way…I enjoyed meeting you at the sandwich lunch at Blissdom. Congrats on the new girl!

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  21. Nikki
    April 30, 2010 | 11:08 pm

    I don’t remember reading this post! I’m so glad I found it in the Frugal Friday post line-up. We have a birthday coming up in 13 days for my fourth child. He’s turning three– so it’s just a family birthday. But I am a horrible cake decorator. I feel so sad about the job I do on my children’s cakes.

    I am SUPER EXCITED about making a cookie cake for him to decorate himself. How easy!

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