{how to} A Cake Shaped Like the Number One (for My Number One Boy)

My little guy is one year old today! So I made this birthday cake to celebrate.

Initially, I was totally uninspired as to how to decorate it, but I saw he was in his (OK, my)  favorite pajamas and drew my design inspiration from those. See? Art imitating life. Or at least, cake imitating pajamas.

Now I will admit freely that if I saw this cake on the Internet, it would most likely go straight to my “Ain’t Nobody Got Time Fo Dat” board on Pinterest. And yet, I weirdly found myself making time fo dat. After spending the last month or so brushing off suggestions of a big one-year-old birthday extravaganza, as the day grew closer, I started feeling rather sappy about the whole thing. Maudlin, even. And thus begins the tale of how I spent a whole morning making a birthday cake for a person who won’t appreciate it or remember it. Parenthood is weird.

But this post is not really about how I got all OCD on my kid’s cake, it’s more about how to make a simple cake in the shape of the number one, because I found out the hard way that the Internet is really bad at that particular task. I had the vague notion that I could make a 9×13 rectangular cake and cut it in some way, but wanted to confirm this via a simple web search. When I searched, I found some really great ideas, like:

  • “Download a PDF of a number one design, and then lay it on top of the cake and cut the shape out. Then throw away the other pieces.”
  • “Buy a special pan in the shape of a 1.”
  • “Rent a special pan in the shape of a 1.”

Rent a cake pan! I die. And why are these people so interested in throwing delicious cake and/or money away?

Here is the solution I came up with that is free, not-driving-to-Michael’s, and not-driving-to-wherever-the-hell-you-rent-a-cake-pan-from (WHERE IS THAT? I am obsessed with that right now.) Just make a 9 x 13 cake and when it’s cool, cut it roughly like this:

And then trim the curvy parts off, and then put it together, and then shave the small part until it looks roughly one-like.

Then make frosting and cover it all up and it will REALLY start to look like a one. I am torn between calling this particular frosting hue “blue steel” or “sassy denim.”

Then look at your kid’s pajamas, realize you own a car-shaped cookie cutter from that time like nine years ago when your friend moved to Detroit and you made Motor City cookies, then make a whole bunch of little bowls of frosting with different colors, then put them in Ziploc bags and cut tiny holes in the corner, then pipe elaborate things all over the cake, then show up like 3 hours late to work.

Or just, like, put sprinkles or candles on it. Which is probably what I should have done. Because, if this is what happens at one, what the heck am I going to do next year

Some notes:

  • I used this recipe for the cake and it was very good even though when you’re making it, it kind of seems weird (5 egg whites? What the?) I highly recommend it.
  • I made frosting the way I always do, which is to put a few cubes of soft butter in a mixer and a whole bunch of powdered sugar and a little bit of milk and a little bit of vanilla. Then beat the heck out of it on a high speed until it’s all fluffy. Then add more sugar or milk to make it thicker or thinner. Then color it with gel food coloring. That’s how my Mom taught me and that is probably how I will always make it.
  • Blue steel/sassy denim was achieved by mixing Wilton gel food coloring in black and royal blue. The orange is just their copper, and the yellow is yellow. Here is a handy dandy guide about what colors to mix to achieve specific shades.
  • To do the icing design, I first iced the cake with the blue steel/sassy denim then put the cake in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Then I used a car cookie cutter to make faint outline marks on the cake. I followed the outline with the icing then filled them in. To make the icing softer and thinner, so it spreads out and gets smooth, just massage the icing bag with your warm hand to make it a little melty. Everything else was free-hand.
  • I made the cake swirly and turquoise because he is a kid and it seems lame to make a white cake for a kid. Also I am really into gender-normative colors for boys, so blue was the clear choice. Ha ha just kidding.


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9 Responses

  1. camille says:

    I can think of one good reason to get behind “wasting” (i.e. cutting off bits of) cake, and that is that those bits are not making it to the garbage can. I would 100% be eating any trimmed off cake pieces.

  2. eliza says:

    How the heck did I miss this? Happy First Birthday LP!
    Oh, and Kansas. That’s where you find cake pan libraries.

  3. Kim says:

    Thank you so much for this idea!!!!! I was getting ready to look for a number 1 template. I, like Camille, was definitely not going to be throwing away any cake. That’s just crazy talk! 🙂 But now I don’t have to worry about that. Thanks again!

  4. Beautiful cakes luv them

  5. cara says:

    thank you so much! My baby will be one tomorrow, and I was going to somehow turn an 9 x 13 cake into a one, but didn’t know how. This is perfect!!!! thanks!

  6. margaret says:

    I’ll copy your idea for making the number 1 but could you please tell me the recipe for the cake for a 9×13 tin. Thank you