Fire Engine Birthday Cake and Cookies

When I turned three--or perhaps it was four--my brother and I had a joint birthday party out by the pool.  We both had summer birthdays, and we were only one year apart in age, so it was probably much easier on my mom to throw one party with both sets of friends as opposed to two.  Besides, as long as there were the requisite cake and presents with my name on them, what did I care?

There is very little that I remember about this party without the aid of photos.  I do remember that one of my friends cried from the moment that her mom dropped her off until the moment that her mom returned to take her home.  This girl refused to get into her bathing suit to go swimming, and she didn't even want a piece of cake.  I have no idea what her name was, but I am guessing that my mom was thrilled to have her as a guest.  I'm pretty sure that we had a pinata filled with candy, only because my birthday parties always featured a pinata.  My attire for the party was my favorite late-70s model purple bathing suit.  Oh yeah, I was chic.IMG_0587

What I don't remember about my party is what gifts I received for presents, although there was probably at least one Barbie and a stuffed animal or two.  Other than a handful of friends and crying girl, I don't remember who was there to help us celebrate.  I don't remember what we had for lunch, and I don't recall the cake.  It was probably a Carvel though, as those were my favorite, even though they were impossible to cut through without nearly dislocating a shoulder.

Today's 3-year-old birthday parties are much different from the ones that were held when I was little.  Elaborate themes, jumpy houses in the back yard, large budgets, and long, multiple-generation guest lists are all standard.  The food is much different too.  Hot dogs, pizza, and Carvel cakes have been replaced by catering and custom sculpted cakes.  This weekend, I made a cake and cookies for one such party, honoring an adorable three-year-old named Dominic.  The theme of the party was "Fire Engines," so coming up with a correlating idea for the cake was pretty easy.  The idea was easy.  The cake, not so much.  I stayed up all night on Friday working on it, working right up until the time of the party, so that when I delivered it, you can only imagine how absolutely stunning  I lookedI'm talking about buttercream in my hair and food coloring on my clothes stunning.  I'm surprised I didn't scare Dominic away.  He seemed to approve of my work though (Phew!Those three-year-olds can be pretty demanding), and I was happy with how the cute themed cookies turned out too.  Here are a few additional notes regarding this custom pair of sweet treats: IMG_0584

  • The fire truck was made from 3 standard cake recipes, which I baked in three half-sheet pans.  I made two chocolate and one vanilla.  For sculpted cakes, it is really important to use dense cake recipes, as opposed to lighter recipes that are prone to crumbling during the assembly and shaping.
  • The buttercream for the entire cake was a simple white chocolate buttercream, which I like to work with because it is very spreadable and easy to pipe.  I piped most of the cake using a #21 star tip, and some of the detail and outlining was done with a #2 round tip.
  • The ladders were made from fondant, which I allowed to dry and harden for 24 hours.  The ladders were secured to the side of the fire engine with pretzel sticks--I like the entire cake to be edible so people don't bite into something like a toothpick!  The tires, fire hose, and pool of water were also created with fondant.
  • The "lights" on top of the fire engine were made using three Jolly Rancher candies.
  • The entire cake sat on a standard 2X2-inch wooden board that I bought from Lowe's, which I wrapped in plain black fabric.  It would have been much too heavy for a regular cake board.
  • The cookie cutters were purchased from a great baking supply site called Sugarcraft.  They have just about every shape imaginable, and their prices are really low.

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  1. Hi Nicole!
    Sorry for the delayed response.  Ive been finishing up a cookbook, which has taken 100% of my attention!  Anyhow, this link has some pretty good instructions for the cake, which are similar to what I did:

    I think that purchased icing should be fine, but I think that star piping will give it a much cleaner look as opposed to just spreading the icing on the cake.  Also, dont try to make the cake all at once.  Give yourself time, even a few days, to put everything together.  It can be exhausting!

    Hope this helps!

  2. When you did the half sheet baking pans how did u put them all together/cut them into the shape? Did u put all three cakes on too of eachotger then shape them or how did u do it? Also I'm going to use just store bought frosting and mix in the coloring from there will that work okay? I have never made a cake like this before would it be easier to frost the whole thing or would it look better to star pipe it? Any tips or pointers would be great!!:)

  3. Hi Theresa!

    Thank you for your email!  I actually ordered my gel paste coloring from the site . It was called Super Red, and it was made by CK Products.  You should be able to find it on the site under the Colorings section.

    Hope this helps!


  4. Hi Michelle!

    I used a royal icing for the cookies.  If you let it dry for several hours (or preferably overnight), it become very hard and will not smudge when placed in bags.  You can find a recipe here (I use the version with egg whites):

    Please let me know if you have any more questions!

  5. What type of icing did you use on the cookies? I am will be making them for this weekend. I am finding that reg frosting doesnt hold up well with youi put them in a bag.

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