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Kids Birthday Cake Themes and Tips from Southeast Michigan Bakeries

It's an essential part of any child's party. Local metro Detroit and Ann Arbor shops offer insights and advice on picking the right one, whether you splurge or DIY.

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Zingerman's also makes its own fondant, says Amy Emberling, one of the bakery's directors. Because the fondant is made in-house, the bakery can create a more appealing, kid-friendly flavor, and it's only slightly pricier than all-buttercream cakes. "It tastes like Oreo filling," Emberling says.

TLC for your OOAK cake

Cakes need a little love to stay perfect for your child's party, says Monica Ingles, who runs Sorella's Homemade Baked Goods in Livonia with her sister, Bertha Ferguson – both of whom grew up on pastries and specialty cakes in their Italian family.

Make sure to have room in your car – and then in your refrigerator – for the cake. Ingles reminds parents that buttercream frosting melts in warm temperatures, so keep it chilled until party time. "It's like butter," explains Ingles. "You wouldn't serve butter for bread cold or melting; it needs to be at room temperature."

At Sorella's, incidentally, they've worked and tweaked their buttercream recipe for years until they perfected just the right mix of silky, smooth buttery taste.

Here, you'll find buttercream cakes and fondant designs, along with single-portion treats like raspberry mousse-filled chocolate chiffon cake covered in chocolate and cheesecake pops (cheesecake bits on a stick that are then dipped in chocolate or other toppings).

With younger kids, Ingles admits that Elmo is always popular. But one of her favorite cake designs was a Candy Land board game – complete with all edible parts.

Go DIY with a baking theme

For a truly one-of-a-kind birthday cake, let guests join in the fun of making the cake. With your birthday boy or girl, drop off a wooden spoon with an invitation attached. Let the guests know they'll be getting messy!

To prep: Create simple aprons for each guest by using kitchen towels and ribbons. At the shorter end of the towel, sew a 16- to 20-inch piece of ribbon (depending on the age and size of your guests) on one end, and then sew the other end of the towel for the head loop of the apron. Lengthwise, halfway down the long side of the towel, make the back ties for the apron by sewing a 16- to 20-inch piece of ribbon on either side.

Then, make two eight-inch round cakes for the party. And purchase or make large (think four- to five-inch) sugar cookies for guests to decorate. Purchase or make cake frosting. Choose other cake decorations to have on hand for guests, too, like colored sugars, sprinkles, chocolate chips or small candies.

Big hint: Leave the cleaning for after the party. Your kitchen is going to get messy. Don't even bother to sweep before the sprinkles come out.

During the party? After you've played party games and unwrapped presents, explain to guests that they will be helping make the birthday cake. Give each guest a large sugar cookie to frost while you frost the larger cake. Let the kids dive into different colored frostings and top their cookies with sprinkles and other fun decorations.

When you're done frosting the cake, let guests help you decorate. Carefully wrap up the decorated cookies to send home with guests, along with their aprons, as party favors. Take pictures of your one-of-a-kind cake and then enjoy!

You can also make decorating the apron with sequins, permanent markers or fabric paints part of the birthday fun.

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