Making Celebrations, Themes and Holiday Cakes

Making Celebrations, Themes and Holiday Cakes

It seems that no matter what today's date may be, there's always a special holiday or occasion just around the corner. A surprising number of these holidays and occasions easily lend themselves to parties. And parties need cake! So, don't be surprised if you find your new cake baking skills in high demand in the holiday seasons.
Whether snowflakes are in the air, turkey is on the table, or Easter eggs are hiding in the shrubbery, there are literally hundreds of occasions that demand celebration.
And in this article, we hope to inspire you to greatness! Before you know it, your cakes will be a tradition for your friends and family as you share and make memories together.
So, let's examine the occasions, one season at a time - spring, summer, autumn, and winter.
Spring-time Celebrations
Although spring doesn't officially begin until March 20th, we're going to cheat and begin spring a little early - March 17th to be exact.
St. Patrick's Day
Before you break out the green beer, you may want to start working on a St. Patty's Day cake. Leprechauns, four-leaf clovers, Celtic knots and a plethora of green are pretty safe inspirations for your baking design ideas.
Easter is one of the shining spring-time celebrations. Easter eggs, rabbits, flowers, and religious decoration - such as crosses, resurrection scenes, etc. - are usually the basis for successful Easter cakes. However, if you'll be making an Easter cake for an unfamiliar audience, please inquire about any religious sentiments before incorporating icons or religious symbolism into your masterpiece.
Earth Day
Every April 22nd, Earth Day rolls around, reminding us to respect and care for our environment. Earth Day cakes can be made from globe-shaped Earth cakes, or dedicated to an endangered species, or towards saving a particular habitat - the rain forest, our oceans, the tundra, etc.
Cinco de Mayo
Get ready to bake a cake with lots of Latin flair! The 5th of May is the Mexican version of the 4th of July, and independence is always a reason to start celebrating!
Mother's Day
Motherhood is often a thankless job that requires an awful lot of overtime. Why not reward a mother you know with a personalized cake, straight from the heart? This is a great time to test your gum paste skills out on a breathtaking bouquet of sugar flowers and ribbons.
Summer Holidays
Again, though summer doesn't start until June 21st, we'll start out the previous Sunday.
Father's Day
Was a certain mom you know blown away by her Mother's Day cake? Well, surely there's a dad out there celebrate too. A great theme for a Father's Day cake is to take any hobbies the Dad enjoys - fishing, golfing, hunting, etc. - and tie them into the design. Try to weave some of the guest of honor's personality and individuality into your overall cake design.
4th of July
Every 4th of July, we commemorate our nation's independence. And, since it's summer, and school's out any way, why not have a party, and a cake! The flag, stars, stripes and fireworks are great decorations to incorporate into your design layout.
Autumn Holidays
When it's Autumn out, there's hardly a need for a holiday to celebrate. As temeperature's drop and the leaves begin to change, the spirit of fall and the harvest prevail.
Everyone loves Halloween! Whether you like things a little spooky or downright scary, Halloween cakes are a great way to get in the "spirit." Haunted houses, ghosts, zombies, vampires, and other monsters and ghouls offer more than enough creativity to help you get your Halloween cake underway!
Gobble, gobble! At Thanksgiving, families come together from great distances to spend time with their friends and family, giving thanks for the many blessings we've enjoyed.
Turkeys, harvest scenes, pumpkin, corn, autumn leaves, pilgrim scenes, and more are just a few of the objects and designs that will inspire and stoke your creative genius.
Want to learn more? Take an online course in Cake Decorating.
1 and 1/2 cups butter, room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 and 1/4 cup canned pumpkin
2 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup processed cocoa powder
2/3 cup buttermilk
4 ounces chopped semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon corn syrup
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour the bundt pan.
2. With an electric mixer, beat all the butter and sugar until blended. Add one egg at a time and the vanilla. Beat!
Pour HALF of this batter into another bowl.
3. In one bowl of batter, beat in pumpkin with the mixer.
4. In the OTHER bowl of batter, add:
1 and 3/4 cups flour,
1 teaspoon baking powder,
1/2 teaspoon salt,
and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.
5. Now put everything in ONE BOWL (combine two bowls) and mix with a rubber spatula.
6. In a NEW BOWL, mix the rest of the flour, baking powder, salt and processed cocoa.
7. Add this flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk to the big bowl of batter. Use a mixer to blend.
8. Spoon HALF the pumpkin batter into the bundt pan.
9. Drop the chocolate batter by tablespoons on top of the pumpkin batter. BUT DO NOT COVER IT COMPLETELY.
10. Put the rest of the pumpkin batter on top.
11. Swirl with knife to create marble effect.
Bake about 55-75 minutes or until toothpick or knife comes out clean. Let it cool for 10 minutes and then invert pan to remove cake.
Let it cool completely!!
For Glaze, combine all ingredients in microwave or over a double boiler until smooth and melted. Pour over cake.
Let it sit for about 2 hours before serving. Serves 12-16 people.
Winter Wonders
Winter sets in December 22nd, ushering in our first winter holidays.
Hanukkah begins before winter does, but it extends into the arrival. Dreidels, menorahs, and the Star of David are all fairly common design themes you can work into your family's Hanukkah celebrations.
Whether you and your family celebrate a religious or secular Christmas, there are plenty of decorations and designs that you can integrate into your cake:
  • Santa Claus
  • Snow flakes
  • Nativities
  • Presents
  • Snowmen
  • Reindeer
  • Elves
  • Christmas Trees
  • Ornaments
Kwanzaa is an African-American celebration that begins on December 26th, the day after Christmas. It involves bright vibrant colors, corn, mats, cups, and a candle display (called a kinara, instead of a menorah). Here's a great chance to show off your royal icing and marzipan skills.
New Year's Day
There's something magical as one year ends and a new one begins. And a great way to welcome in the new year is a customized cake. Find creative ways to commemorate highlights of the previous year and predict the joys the next one has in store.
Valentine's Day
When love is in the air, it smells like - cake and chocolate of course! If you are wooing Cupid's arrows, or just looking for a great way to show your lover that you care, break out the batter and your icings!
Think: hearts, Cupid, flowers, Valentine's candies, doves and chocolates! All are universal ways to show some love this Valentine's Day.
Miscellaneous Celebrations
Of course, regular holidays aren't the only events you'll celebrate. There are many others that will come your way and require your creative touch.
  • Weddings
  • Christenings/baptisms
  • Baby showers
  • Birthdays
  • Graduations
  • Office parties
  • Anniversaries
  • Bar Mitzvahs
  • Debutante parties
Just remember, as holidays are just around the corner everywhere you turn, be careful not to overwhelm yourself wit the preparations. Use good planning skills and stick to your schedule and deadlines. Just because you're the baker in the family doesn't mean you can't enjoy a little holiday cheer too!

Cool Theme Cakes

Popular Theme Cakes

By now, you're aware cake decorating is not just buttercream anymore. Are you yearning to dress up your boring box cake with unforgettable decorations? If so, you're not alone. Cake decorating has really come alive, and the trend is toward innovation and having fun.

Dressing up old boring cakes with a theme is always a thoughtful way to express your caring. The days of buttercream and plastic decorations are still alive, but with a bit more originality you can dazzle the birthday guests or brighten the occasion. Consult the Internet, cake decorating books, and magazines for ideas. Information is out there for just about any subject, and cake decorating is a popular draw. When times get tough, the tough migrate to the kitchen, rather than trendy restaurants. Clip pictures and recipes and make sure the pantry is stocked with cake baking and decorating ingredients.

This cake can be decorated as a single or double layer cake with a combination of fresh and marzipan fruit. Marzipan can be made ahead and stored for just such an occasion. Combining seasonal fruits, nuts and berries can add a lovely touch to an otherwise plain cake.

Shown here is a simple blueberry trifle made with sponge cake, fresh blueberries, blueberry syrup and whipped cream. As long as you have cake, you can display and serve it in any form.

What brand of box cake should you use? Believe it or not, if you plan on using a mix, the Wilton method suggests using Duncan Hines cake mixes. This will provide you with certainty and uniformity. When you use a cake mix, add one or two tablespoons of Wilton meringue power. This ensures the cake will rise higher than normal.

Any cake, especially a theme cake, should be level. The above Dora cake does not look level in the photograph. Even a single layer cake may need torting to level it off. Bulging filling and lopsided cakes steal from the professionalism intended in the theme. No need to freak out. Remember, there's no such thing as the perfect cake. Repairs can be made. Once it's sliced and eaten, no one, except you, will know there was a little more icing on one side. The idea of someone taking the time to do the work is really what counts. There's always a next time.

Note: Even if you have greased and floured your cake pans, removing the cake from them can be tricky. If you remove the cake too soon, you risk the cake breaking up. If you let it cool too long in the pan, you risk having the cake stick. The secret is to wait just long enough for the cake to cool, but not entirely. Also, much depends on the type of cake you have baked. Always tap the bottom of the pan against the counter top to release air pockets that may have formed. Run a spatula or knife around the pan which helps the cake to release easier.

This is a very balanced, well-designed, professional cake. The wings and head are crafted from Styrofoam and the foliage came from a nearby farm. I'm sure this decorator this decorator gave some thought as to how the cake should be sliced.


Portrait Cakes

Although portrait cake shave been around for awhile, people are still asking for them. The two little dogs look very sweet and well posed on the cake. The difficulty with portrait cakes is the cake looks only as good as the portrait itself. This cake was part portrait and part hand decorated. Even so, it's time-consuming to get everything aligned. You'll need to plan out your decorating and placement of the pictures.

Portrait cakes that are totally icing-painted are not only time consuming but rare. Not every decorator is willing to put in the hours. Royal icing is fragile and the decorator needs to be extra careful of breakage and have a back-up ready. Darn! I couldn't find an Elvis cake so this will have to do.

Portrait cakes may be made in any flavor, even carrot cake. A short-cut when designing a portrait cake is to have the photograph printed on plastic. Cut a piece of waxed paper to fit the back of the plastic reproduction. When it's time to slice the cake, slip the knife beneath the plastic, remove, and pull away the waxed paper.

Gum Paste

The black bow and bands between the tiers of this cake are made from gum paste; a pliable, dough-like mixture that can be rolled extremely thin to make lifelike flowers or bows. Like marzipan, it can be shaped into berries, grapes -- all sorts of things. It's edible, but don't expect much insofar as taste. It's bland and tasteless.

The consistency should be pliable, but not sticky, and should snap when pulled apart. This consistency is easier to achieve if the gum paste is aged for a few days.


  • 1 cup gum paste mix (available at cake specialty shops)
  • 1 tablespoon hot water
  • Vegetable shortening, for greasing


1. Combine 1/2 of the mixture with the water in a small, lightly greased mixing bowl.

2. When completely blended, gradually work in the balance of the mix by kneading into a ball. Grease the surface of the ball lightly with the vegetable shortening and wrap well in plastic.

3. Place in an airtight container in a cool, dry place to set for 12 to 24 hours before using.

If the paste is too sticky, add a bit of the powdered mix; if too stiff, add a bit of shortening.

This picture shows a mixture of gum paste on fondant. Because the ingredients for making gum paste from scratch are found only in specialty cake stores, and there's no taste advantage for homemade, the recipe outlined here is the best way to proceed.

Gum paste can be kept for several months sealed in a plastic bag inside an airtight container.