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Surprise-Inside Cakes for Birthdays & Beyond

  • Amanda Rettke/i am baker

    Amanda Rettke, food blogger at i am baker and author of new cookbook "Surprise-Inside Cakes," has teamed up with McCormick as they celebrate their 125th birthday, and they're sharing their celebratory surprise-inside cakes with us that the whole family will love. With just a bit of cake, food coloring and inspiration, nothing is off limits when it comes to surprise-inside creations—from stripes and polka dots to numbers and hidden messages.

  • Amanda Rettke/i am baker

    Rainbow Cake

    Find the recipe at i am baker.

    Ingredients
    • 2 boxes white cake mix and accompanying ingredients (or from scratch)
    • Liquid food color
    • 6 cups of frosting (either canned or from scratch)
    Directions
    1. Make one box cake mix according to the directions on the box. Separate batter into three bowls with roughly 1 cup of cake mix per bowl. Add desired food coloring to each bowl (purple, blue and green).
    2. Bake cakes in round pans according to box instructions, but check the cake about 10 minutes before it's supposed to be done. With less mix in each pan, they cook faster.
    3. Repeat for the remaining colors (red, orange and yellow) with a second white cake mix. You'll end up with six layers of different colors.
    Cake Assembly
    1. Make each layer of cake level with a large bread knife. If all the layers are level, then they will display evenly when you cut into the cake.
    2. Place the purple layer on your cake stand or plate. Add enough frosting to cover the top of the layer and to spill over the edges, which is about 1/2 to 1 cup of frosting. Use the flat, straight side of a knife to smooth out the edges.
    3. Add the blue layer and spread the frosting over the layer as you did with the purple layer.
    4. Put the two layers of cake in the fridge for at least 2 hours or freeze for 1 hour.
    5. Repeat Steps 2, 3 and 4 with the green and yellow layers.
    6. Repeat Steps 2, 3 and 4 with the orange and red layers.
    7. Add any decorative finishes that you desire.
    Freezer Tip

    Freezing the cake between layers helps for a couple reasons: 1) The cake can get really heavy by the time you are adding the fourth, fifth and sixth layers, but if it's frozen, the lower layers won't get crushed. 2) It's much easier to frost the cake when it's solid and not wobbling all over.

    Try making a Rainbow Cake for your child's half birthday celebration.

  • Amanda Rettke/i am baker

    Number Birthday Cake

    Find the recipe at i am baker.

    Ingredients
    • 2 boxes white cake mix and accompanying ingredients (or from scratch)
    • Liquid food color
    • McCormick Imitation Strawberry Extract
    • Frosting (either canned or from scratch)
    • Sprinkles (if desired)
    Directions
    1. To create the number, make a colored cake in a sheet pan. A 12x18-inch pan will work well. Tint one white cake mix with liquid food color to your desired shade. (This cake is also flavored with McCormick Imitation Strawberry Extract.) A dark hue will help the number stand out against the white cake. After it has baked and cooled, freeze the cake for at least 2 hours.
    2. Remove the colored cake from the freezer. Using a number cookie cutter, press the number of your choice into the sheet cake and then remove the cake from the cookie cutter. Set it on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. (If the cake feels crumbly, put it back into the freezer for a while and try using the cookie cutter again.)
    3. Repeat this process until you have cut at least 20 numbers out of the sheet cake. Place the cut-out numbers back into the freezer until they are completely frozen.
    4. Prepare the second white cake batter, and pour half of the batter into a greased 9-inch round cake pan. To keep things even, pour 4 cups of the cake batter into a measuring cup and pour 2 cups into the pan.
    5. Take the frozen numbers out of the freezer. Place the first number into the batter-filled cake pan with the base of the number at the bottom of the pan. Make sure there is at least 1/2 inch between the number and the edge of the pan. Continue placing numbers into the pan in a circle, one right after the other.
    6. Carefully pour the remaining white cake batter over the numbers and cover them completely.
    7. Bake the cake for approximately 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Test it to make sure the center is completely cooked with a toothpick.
    8. Remove it from the oven; let it cool for a few minutes; and then place it in the freezer for at least 1 hour.
    9. When you're ready to frost the cake, remove it from the freezer. Cover the cake in frosting and sprinkles. Refrigerate it until you're ready to serve.
    Freezer Tip

    You can freeze the cake up for up to 3 months if it's properly covered to prevent freezer burn.

    Pair a Number 1 Birthday Cake with our "20 Fun Baby's 1st Birthday Party Ideas."

  • Polka-Dot Cut-Out Cake

    Find the recipe at McCormick.com.

    Ingredients

    Cake:

    • 2 boxes white cake mix and accompanying ingredients, divided
    • McCormick assorted food colors and extracts:
      • 1 teaspoon raspberry extract
      • 20 drops red food color, divided
      • 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
      • 20 drops green food color
      • 1/4 teaspoon orange extract
      • 20 drops yellow food color
      • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

    Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:

    • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, softened
    • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    • 6 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
    • 3 tablespoons milk
    Directions

    Cake:

    1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare one cake mix as directed on the package. Divide the batter evenly among three bowls (about 1 1/3 cups of batter in each bowl). Stir the raspberry extract and 10 drops of the red food color into the first bowl. Stir the lemon extract and green food color into the second bowl. Stir the orange extract, yellow food color and remaining 10 drops of the red food color into the third bowl. Pour each colored batter into separate, greased 8-inch round cake pans.
    2. Bake 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
    3. Cut out circles from each cake with a 1-inch round cookie cutter.
    4. Prepare the second cake mix as directed on the package and stir in the vanilla extract. Divide the batter evenly among three, greased 8-inch round cake pans. Press the assorted colored cake circles into the batter in each pan. The cake circles will be visible.
    5. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. The cake circles will remain visible. Cool the cakes in their pans for 10 minutes before removing them from the pans to cool completely on a wire rack.

    Frosting:

    1. Beat the butter and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until they are light and fluffy.
    2. Gradually add the confectioner's sugar alternately with the milk and beat well after each addition. Scrape the sides and bottom of bowl frequently. If the frosting is too thick to spread, gradually beat in an additional 1 tablespoon milk.
    3. Fill and frost the cooled cake with the frosting.

    Do you need help planning your birthday party? Check out our "Party-Planner Perfection."

  • Amanda Rettke/i am baker

    Green Ombre Cake

    Find the recipe at i am baker.

    Ingredients
    • 2 boxes white cake mix and accompanying ingredients (or from scratch)
    • 1-ounce bottle of McCormick green food color
    • Frosting (either canned or from scratch)
    Directions
    1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare one cake mix as directed on the package, and divide it evenly into six small bowls.
    2. Using the green food color, tint the six bowls of frosting as follows:
      1. Bowl A: no food color
      2. Bowl B: 2-3 drops food color
      3. Bowl C: 4-5 drops food color
      4. Bowl D: 1/4 teaspoon food color
      5. Bowl E: 1/2 teaspoon food color
      6. Bowl F: 1 teaspoon food color
    3. Pour the batter into six greased, 6-inch round cake pans. If you only have three pans, bake the cakes three at a time for about 18 minutes. Start checking the cakes at 15 minutes, and remove them when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
    4. After the cakes have cooked and cooled, place the darkest layer, Cake F, on a cake stand or serving platter. Cover it in about 1/4 cup of white frosting. Place the next darkest layer, Cake E, on top and cover it in more frosting. Repeat with Cakes D-A until you have stacked every layer and the white layer, Cake A, is on top.
    5. Cover the entire cake in a thin layer of frosting; chill it for about 30 minutes in the fridge; and then cover it in a final thick, smooth coat of frosting.
    6. To decorate, you can press three different colors of green sprinkles into the top edge of the cake. Start by placing the darkest color on the very edge; then place the medium green just below the dark green on the side of the cake; and place the lightest green below the medium color and trickle it down the side a bit.
    Tip

    Freeze the cake for at least 2 hours before serving. Dip a very sharp knife into a glass of boiling water, and use it to make the first cut. Then dip it back into the boiling water to clean and re-heat between each cut.

    Are you looking for a unique birthday party idea to pair with your unique cake? How about throwing a "Birthday Party That Gives Back"?

  • Raspberry Heart Cake

    Find the recipe at McCormick.com

    Ingredients
    • 1 box white cake mix and accompanying ingredients
    • 1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons McCormick Raspberry Extract, divided
    • 24 drops McCormick red food color
    • 2 teaspoons McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract
    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
    • 4 cups confectioner's sugar
    • 5 tablespoons heavy cream
    Directions
    1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
    2. Prepare the cake mix as directed on the package. Place 1 1/2 cups of the batter into a medium bowl. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the raspberry extract and red food color.
    3. Pour the mixture into a greased, 8-inch square baking pan. Reserve the remaining batter.
    4. Bake 12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
    5. Cut out heart shapes with a 2-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter. Set aside or place in the freezer for easier handling.
    6. Stir the vanilla extract into the reserved batter. Pour half of the batter into an 8-inch loaf pan that has been greased with non-stick cooking spray.
    7. Press the cake hearts vertically into the cake batter in a line in the center of the loaf pan. Pour the remaining batter over the hearts.
    8. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the white cake comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes before removing it from the pan to cool completely on a wire rack.
    9. To make the frosting, beat the butter and remaining 2 teaspoons raspberry extract in a large bowl until they are light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioner's sugar alternately with the cream, and beat it well after each addition. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl frequently.
    10. Frost cooled cake with frosting.

    Are you hosting a sleepover birthday party? Check out "The Sleepover Survival Guide."

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