This year my son was introduced to Pokémon by his cousins and classmates. Overnight, it seemed like we had hundreds of Pokémon cards floating around our house. So, it was no surprise that my son requested a Pokémon cake for his birthday. I asked him what he had in mind and he told me he wanted Pikachu and Darkrai battling. I was hoping for a black-and-white Pokéball, but I figured I could try making a Pikachu. However, battling with Darkrai was a little more than I wanted to attempt.
I always make a birthday cake the day before the party and then decorate it that evening after the kids go to bed. Some nights that doesn’t leave me a lot of time to get it done, and still get decent sleep. So, I decided to try making an icing plaque of Pikachu earlier in the week. Then, I could just place it on the cake after frosting it. (I found a website, Cookie Journey, that had some good tips and illustrations for doing this for cookies.) I was also hoping that allowing it to dry before placing it on the cake would keep the colors from running into the frosting. For my daughter’s birthday earlier this year, I decorated a cake with my version of The Little Mermaid on it. I used royal icing to create her human half, but I did it directly on the cake. It looked pretty good the first couple hours, but overnight the colors ran and the icing cracked. It was OK, and my daughter still thought it was great. But, I wanted to see if I could improve the results by making the decoration in advance on parchment paper, letting it dry thoroughly, and then placing it on the cake.
So, here’s what I did for Pikachu: First I searched around the internet for an image of Pikachu. I quickly found one and printed it out. I didn’t even have to change the size. It was perfect for what I needed. Next, I placed parchment paper on top of the printed picture and taped it down to a small cookie sheet. Then I made some royal icing. I used the egg white recipe at Joy of Baking. It was a lot of icing — much more than I needed. But, I was experimenting and I figured it was better to have more than enough in case I needed to make duplicates. If you have an allergy to egg whites, or just don’t like using raw egg whites, Joy of Baking also has a recipe that uses meringue powder instead.
I started by coloring a small amount of icing with Wilton black gel. Then, I transferred the black icing to a decorating bag with a small round tip (Wilton #2). Then, outlined the picture of Pikachu with the black icing. I let it set overnight to make sure it was good and dry before filling with yellow. The next day I bumped the paper, and the black icing broke…in several pieces. So, I started over with the black icing, this time making thicker lines hoping it would be a little sturdier. I also made the eyes and mouth to place on it later.
Day three I mixed a small bowl of icing with yellow gel and a little water to thin it out for a smooth filling. Using a small spoon and toothpick I filled in the Pikachu picture with the yellow icing. I gave it an hour for the surface to dry, then I placed the eyes, cheeks and mouth on it. It seemed to be going OK, but I put it in the refrigerator and didn’t give it enough time to dry. I should have given it another eight hours to dry, but I didn’t want to wait until the day of the party. So, I gave it another hour to dry then carefully placed it on the cake. It cracked, but it still worked. And the colors didn’t run too much. I thought I started early enough, but next time I would start with the icing plaques at least a week in advance to make sure they are thoroughly dry. Or, maybe I need to start experimenting with fondant instead.
The most important part is that my son seemed happy with the cake. As a backup plan, I had purchased some Pokémon characters to put on the cake. I decided to put them on the cake with Pikachu. Not exactly a battle with Darkrai, but it seemed to please the birthday boy.
I used a Namaste Foods Wheat Free, Gluten Free Vanilla Cake Mix for the top layer. I mixed it according to package directions and baked in a 9 x 13 glass pan.
I used two of The Gluten-Free Pantry Decadent Chocolate Cake Mixes for the bottom layer. I mixed the two together according to package directions (using plain yogurt) and baked as one cake in a 9 x 13 pan at 350° F for 50 min. It was a very big cake! But it was cooked through and still very moist and yummy.
Frosting layer between the two cakes: I used Pillsbury Chocolate Fudge frosting — one whole can.
To cover the cake, I used a Pillsbury can of Vanilla Frosting and colored it yellow for the sides and the decorative border. I think I had about a 1/4 of the frosting leftover. For the top of the cake, I used 1/2 – 3/4 of a can of Pillsbury Vanilla Frosting. I left it white so the spray food coloring would be true to the colors.
I used Wilton Color Spray Mist (green, red, and blue) to make wide stripes of color on the top. I used a curved piece of cardboard to help mask areas of the cake I didn’t want to get sprayed.
For the decorative border: I just used a simple star pattern using Wilton’s open star tip #32. If you don’t have decorating tips, you could use candy to line the edges. Try M&Ms, Skittles, dot candy, etc.
The cake tasted pretty good. The vanilla cake is not my favorite for birthday cakes: I like a finer texture, but the flavor is good. The chocolate cake was fabulous as always. As for the frosting: A buttercream frosting probably would have tasted better, but it’s so much faster to open a can. I’m so glad it’s gluten-free!