He had begged me for months.
“Mommy, I’m serious: the only kind of cake I want for my birthday is a Skylanders Portal of Power cake.”
Oh, that’s all? Right.
I’ve proudly made and decorated each of my kids’ birthday cakes every year. It’s kind of my thing. But my “thing” also involves renting a pre-formed Wilton cake pan from Bulk Barn that comes with instructions that are as easy as paint-by-numbers. I’ve made a monkey, Wall-E, Dora and the list goes on.
But guess what? There is no Portal of Power cake pan. I would have to brave this one on my own. So I did what any cake-fearing mother would do: I Googled. Lo and behold, it seems most parents went to Fondant School of the Arts before embarking on their Skylanders cakes and all I could find was picture after picture of these elaborate fondant-fueled cakes. There was no way – considering I Googled the night before the party and the fact that I don’t know how to make, roll or stamp fondant – I was going to be able to pull those off.
I decided to wing it. I unplugged The K Man’s Portal of Power from the Wii, brought it to the kitchen and made a shopping list:
- Vanilla cake mix
- Chocolate cake mix
- Three tubs of vanilla icing
- One 12-inch foil cake tray (for presentation)
- Six KitKats
- 20 Reese’s Peanut Butter wafer sticks (a Bulk Barn find that admittedly wasn’t on my original list; I was actually planning to cut additional KitKat bars in half before stumbling across these wafers)
- Two white chocolate discs
- Pearl white and silver candy balls
- About one-quarter cup each of decorative yellow, blue and purple sugar
- A new Skylanders character
Combined with the things I already had at home (two 10-inch spring-form cake pans, cooling racks, black food colouring, Smarties, piping bags and various icing nibs), I started. The time? 11 a.m.
Here’s your step-by-step process to make a Skylanders Portal of Power birthday cake (scroll all the way to the end for more photos):
- Preheat your oven following what’s on your cake mix box.
- While the oven is heating up, grease your cake pans and snap your KitKat bars in half, lengthwise (so each KitKat bar will yield two sets of two bars stuck together). Put them on a plate and set them aside with the rest of your decorative stuff.
- Take one of your vanilla icing tubs and put three-quarters of the icing into a small bowl; keep the remaining one-quarter in the tub. Take black food/icing colouring (the Wilton gel stuff is amazing but POTENT, so add slowly) and add a small dab at a time to the icing in the bowl. You’re aiming for a mid-grey colour that’s not too light and not too dark. Now take a good dollop of the black food colouring and mix it into the icing remaining in the tub. You want this black. Put the grey icing into a bag using a tip that’s similar to Wilton’s No. 4 tip (and set aside one similar to No. 30 for later); and put the black icing into a bag using a tip similar to a No. 101 (and set aside a No. 3 for later). If your house is warm, put the coloured icing only in the fridge until you’re ready to use them. If it’s on the cooler side, they should be fine left out.
- Make your first cake mix (I suppose you could do both at the same time, but I worried about messing up the cooking time by putting both cakes in the oven at the same time) and bake it according to the directions on the box. When it’s cooked, let it sit for 10 minutes in the pan before releasing the spring-form. Then let it set another five minutes and take a bread knife (or cake knife if you’re all fancy and have something specifically for this job) and carefully even out the top so it’s no longer rounded but totally flat and parallel with the bottom of the cake. Then transfer to a cooling rack.
- Make your second cake mix and follow the same instructions as in step No. 4.
- Let both cakes cool to the touch. This will take some time, so you can now open your new Skylanders character and set him to the side for later. Take the packaging and cut out the Skylanders logo, creating a backing to help it stand up by cutting more of the cardboard into a square, folding it and using non-toxic glue to affix it to the back of the logo. It should be dry by the time you need it.
- Carefully transfer the cooled chocolate cake to the decorative foil tray (upside down so that the cut side faces DOWN).
- Use two-thirds of a tub of vanilla icing to spread a somewhat thin but by no means sparse amount of icing on top of the first cake.
- Add the cooled vanilla cake on top, also upside down to ensure the perfectly flat part (formerly the bottom!) is face-up.
- Using the remaining one-third of your icing and the final tub of vanilla icing, coat the tops and sides of the cakes. I put my cake on a lazy Susan to make the job easier. You want the sides very smooth, and the top should be in a swirling pattern (an icing spatula works really well).
- Take some yellow sugar in your fingers and sprinkle it on top of the cake, following the swirling pattern. Follow this with the blue and purple sugar as well. Add some of the pearl white and silver balls (sparingly).
- Grab your KitKats and stick the first pair vertically along the side of the cake. Follow this with two Reese’s Peanut Butter wafer sticks, horizontally stacked two at a time. Repeat this pattern all the way around the cake. They’ll stick to the icing really well as long as you’ve lined your cakes up perfectly.
- Now take your two white chocolate discs and select a prime spot on top of the cake for the Skylanders character to stand. It can be anywhere and you could certainly put more than one character up there! Depending on the character’s base, you might be able to get away with one disc, but I needed two. Face the rounded side of the disc DOWN so the very flat side is face-up.
- Then take the Skylanders logo you cut out and glued and put it on top of the cake, too, wherever you want.
- Get your icing! Pipe all of the grey icing first following the pictures here or by looking at your kid’s Portal of Power (arches, squares that cover the top of the KitKats and part of the cake, circles for the “elements” [for which I used Smarties], any “doors” in between the KitKats as shown), but be sure not to pipe the very bottom until you’re done ALL of the icing.
- Pipe the black icing accents as shown.
- Now you can finish piping all the way around the base of your cake with the remaining grey icing to give it a finished look.
- Add Smarties (and note that mine are drooping because it was too damn hot in my house for this business).
- Stand back, admire and, for the love of Pete, take some photos before your kid sees or touches it. You’ve created a masterpiece!
The time? 2:20 p.m.
The K Man was beyond ecstatic when he first saw his Portal of Power cake, and he declared me the Ultimate Skylander Mom. And that’s the best gift he could have given me on his birthday.