Yesterday my friends Alison, Darra, and I hosted a baby shower for our other friend Tracie at my house. We went with a baby block theme, which should be pretty apparent in a minute. After I decided on the theme, I of course wanted to decorate the cake with baby blocks somehow. While searching for baby block cake decorating ideas, I instead stumbled upon the idea of making the cake itself into baby blocks. I’ll go into more details about the cake later for anyone who is interested in how I made it. It certainly wasn’t perfect and if I were a professional baker would probably wind up on something like Cake Wrecks, but I was definitely pleased with the way it turned out.
The rest of the menu was brunch type food: potato, acorn squash, and goat cheese gratin, a Mediterranean strata, curried chicken salad with croissants, berry salad, and regular salad. We also provided coffee, orange juice, and hot spiced apple cider to drink.
Party City didn’t have any baby block themed shower stuff. They also had very few choices that weren’t gender specific. Since the mommy-to-be isn’t finding out whether she’s having a boy or girl, I picked the best gender neutral set of decorations they had. You can kind of see the garland thing strung above Darra’s head. My cats were fascinated by it hanging up there and kept trying to figure out how to get to it, so I was super disappointed when they had zero interest in actually playing with it after I took it down and offered it to them.
After enjoying the spread of food we played Baby Song Name that Tune. I clipped short segments of songs (about 10 sec) from songs that had the word baby in the title. There were 20 songs and people got 1 point for the song title and one point for the artist. I sometimes forget that most of my friends are not into music nearly as much as I am, so people struggled through the game more than I thought they would. I think they still had fun though even if they did lousy. The winning score was a 28 out of a possible 40.
After that game we moved on to opening presents. We played baby shower bingo during that. I handed out blank bingo cards to everyone. They had to write items they thought would be included in the presents in the blank squares and then they could mark their squares off if that item was opened.
Our final activity of the shower was decorating wooden baby blocks. I have been to several showers in the past few years where we have decorated onesies, which is a cute idea but since it is done so often now I wanted to come up with something a little different. I ran across the idea of decorating blocks somewhere while looking for different baby shower ideas online and thought it was a great idea. I ordered the wooden blocks from this wood crafts site and bought markers that can be used for decorating wood at Michael’s and Joann Fabrics. And yes I am the nerd who broke out the dictionary because I was trying to make a U block since the baby’s last name begins with U and couldn’t think of enough things that began with the letter U.
Our shower favors were also of course baby block themed. They were little candles shaped like baby blocks.
All in all I think it turned out to be a great shower.
Now for anyone who is interested in the actual making of the baby block cake. I made two 9 x 13 cakes and cut them into six approximately 4 inch squares. Then I stacked them to make 6 cubes. I thought I might need to cut off some of the cake to make them 4 inch squares, but with the shrinking of the actual cakes during baking I pretty much was just able to cut each cake into 6 equal squares, which worked out great. I made one chocolate cake and one yellow cake so that each cube had one chocolate layer and one yellow layer.
I used this recipe for the chocolate cake and this recipe for the yellow cake. They were good recipes for this kind of cake because the cake was fairly dense and didn’t fall apart when cut, but just for regular cake eating purposes I’m not sure that I was very happy with either one and probably won’t use them again. Don’t get me wrong they were still tasty, but I have better cake recipes than either of these turned out to be. The buttercream frosting I used on the other hand was a keeper. I’m always trying out new buttercream recipes because I often find many recipes to be cloyingly sweet. I wound up using this recipe with a few tweaks. One I only put in about 1/3 teaspoon of almond extract because I find it to be a really strong flavor and 1 teaspoon seemed like a lot. I also did not include butternut extract because I have no idea what that is and wasn’t about to try and hunt it down. I figured the almond and vanilla extracts would suffice. The almond extract definitely gives it a slightly different flavor than the normal buttercream. I obviously wouldn’t use this frosting with a lot of cakes, but it worked really well in this case. I wound up making 2 and half batches of the frosting because there is a surprising amount of surface area that needs to be covered when making this cake.
I put each block of cake on it’s own little sheet of parchment paper, which made it much easier to handle each individual cube. I started off frosting the cakes with a crumb layer, which I admit I’m usually pretty lazy about when frosting cakes, but it’s a must for this cake because of the cut sides. For anyone not familiar with a crumb layer, it’s a thin layer of frosting that you put on the cake which traps all the crumbs from the cake in it. You then put the cake in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to let that frosting harden. Then you frost the cake for real. The crumb layer keeps all the cake crumbs trapped so that they don’t show. After frosting each cube I decorated them using a pastry bag and round icing tips. A small (number 5 I think) one to put the edges on the blocks, and a large (number 12 I think) to make the letters and numbers on top of the cake.
The one thing I didn’t have, which I think would have made the cakes come out slightly better is a an offset spatula. As many cakes as I bake in a year it’s surprising I didn’t have one. I think using that rather than a butter knife would have made the frosting come out smoother, but oh well. I tried to find the night I made the cakes, but neither my local Target nor my grocery store had one in their baking sections. I’ve ordered one from Amazon, so I’ll be prepared for my next cake.