Let's face it, birthdays can be expensive. Not only do you have gifts to purchase, but you have to have a cake, too. If you buy your cake, it can be really expensive ($15.00 or more).
Or, you could make your own cake. I can usually purchase box cake mixes for $1 or less, when I find it on sale and use a coupon. I also make my own frosting, which is another big cost savings there.
Maybe, you're worried that you have to have fancy cake pans, or you have to have all kinds of cake decorating experience. That's not true. I've made my share of cakes with fancy car-shaped cake pans, etc, but you don't have to have that. And even if you do, I found a cake shop where I could rent cake pans to save money.
With a little creativity, you can turn a cake made in different-sized glass bowls into a turtle. Or you can use a small bowl and some toys to create a Buzz Lightyear cake.
Or, you could print a coloring page off the internet and trace it into a Curious George (or whatever you want). It's called a Buttercream transfer and here are directions on how to do it. As far as having cake decorating experience, all you need is a little practice making stars (the most basic cake decorating stroke).
Have Your Kids Help
For even more fun, you can involve your kids in making and decorating their own cake. Not only do they have a delicious (and frugal) cake for their birthday, but they probably had a blast helping you out in the kitchen. The cake may not turn out perfect, but what's more important – the perfect cake picture or the fun your child had with you in the kitchen? Besides, pictures of cakes are always quite forgiving :-). Mine always look better in pictures than they did in real life.
Buttercream Frosting Recipe
To help you get started, here's my recipe for buttercream frosting (made with the new trans fat free Crisco).
1 cup shortening (trans fat free)
1 cup butter
2 tsp. clear vanilla (if you want the frosting to be white) – Wilton sells the clear vanilla
2 lbs. powdered sugar
4 tbsp. milk
Mix the shortening and butter, then add the vanilla and milk. Slowly add the powdered sugar. Then blend for about 5 minutes.
If you're interested, you can see pictures of many of the cakes that I've baked for my kids over the years.