Jewellery Box Birthday

We have a lot of summer birthdays in our family and L’s recent seventh birthday was the latest in the string. I had thought that my days in the icing sugar cloud of despair were over, but L was having a jewellery-making party and had set her heart on the jewellery box cake she found in Debbie Brown’s erroneously-named book, 50 Easy Party Cakes.

Assembling the cake

I really must hide that book. The cakes look so pretty, so appealingly colourful, smooth and neat. I have other books of party cakes for kids, but my children never give a second glance to their swirling swathes of buttercream icing and multicoloured sprinkles. They are drawn irresistibly by the bewitching charms of Debbie Brown’s cakes with their pretty fondant models and magical themes.

Decorating the cake

If only they really were so easy to make. Debbie Brown’s cakes never seem to have crumbs poking out through the joins in the icing or stray nailprint stabs from a moment’s lapse in concentration. Her sugar glue apparently never runs and her silver dragees stay irritatingly in place, stuck shinily to the cake rather than slipping around in her fingers. Her fondant models never droop and the covering on her cakes never sags. She gives you all the information you need in the book to be able to reproduce her cakes at home, except for that vital witch’s spell that tames the recalcitrant ingredients.

Making the bracelet

I have found a way through this over the years. I have learned not to give up when the fondant icing first sticks to the worktop and the smooth surfaces give way to impressions from my clumsy fingers and thumbs. I keep going even when the details are lost in a fog of icing sugar, when the straight edges are all bumpy and when the whole cursed thing seems to have become an irretrievable disaster.

Top of the cake

I carry on regardless until the cake is finished and then I close the book and walk away.

Cake in waiting

Perhaps this is the point at which the charms begin their work for when I return, I invariably find that it hasn’t been such a disastrous endeavour after all.

Necklace and ballet shoes

My cake might not be as perfect as the images in the book …

Jewellery box cake

… but the excited appreciation of my children somehow transforms my terminally flawed efforts into the most beautiful party creation …

Birthday candles

… and crowning birthday glory.

Cutting the cake

Happy birthday, L – and thank you to Mark for calmly photographing my work in the depths of the icing sugar cloud of despair!

Leave a comment


  1. Jeannette

     /  August 24, 2009

    Belated HAPPY BIRTHDAY to L!!! She looks as thrilled with her cake as she should be, it looks lovely Kate, like a real jewellery box! Anne’s younger daughter, also L, wanted a similar cake a couple of years ago, but thankfully she loves decorating cakes herself, so we did it together, I baked the cake and just ‘supervised’ the decorating! I have a picture of her holding it, it looked quite impressive, not perfect of course but she was pleased with it and that was the important point.

  2. Constance

     /  August 24, 2009

    I too have been caught up in the fabulous birthday cake frenzy, sculpting a stone outcropping out of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s yellow cake and desert-tinted (v. light chocolate) neoclassic buttercream for my son’s 5th birthday many moons ago when the Lion King was all he could talk about. Mufasa held court on top of the outcropping while the other animals gathered below around a watering hole. The cake, in photos, seems much less impressive than it was in person, but he loved it and that was the important thing. I applaud your efforts because they are born out of love and that is what our kids remember long after the cake has been eaten. The cake itself, by the way, was the best cake I ever ate! LOL

  3. the look on L’s dear shining face says it all! i adore the ballet slippers and the texture of the cake and the whole look of it is enchanting. i’m sure that some day your kids will be doing this for their kids and carrying on a beautiful tradition.

  4. Hope you had a wonderful birthday L.! Your cake looks beautiful and delicious.
    I think you should request e Taj Mahal replica cake next year. It’ll be fab and do-able. lol.

  5. I have that book to! But some of those cakes are by no means easy, which is good I think because you have something more challenging as your skills improve. It certainly shows your skills aren’t lacking looking at the cake and the face of one happy little girl!

  6. It’s lovely!! I only wish that had a daughter to make this for! You did I great job and you’re daughter will never forget your efforts.

  7. Bravo for the love and energy you put into this project! And I find it looks just the same as the original I found on the net:

  8. I think I’ll start ‘supervising’ the decorating too next year, Jeannette – it sounds like a wonderful solution, hehehe!

    I think it’s far better to have cherished memories than superb photos, Constance – your Lion King cake sounds fantastic!

    I certainly remember many of the birthday cakes my Mum made for me when I was little, Rose – it’s nice to think of the tradition passing to my own children.

    Thanks, Melinda – that was .. errr … helpful …? 😉

    Hi pics – it’s the “skills improving” bit I seem to be missing out on!

    Any ideas for boys cakes would be most gratefully received, Aimee – I’m not sure I’m up to full-blown railway stations or building sites!

    Thanks, Astrid 🙂 (hehe, you found the picture I’ve been keeping firmly shut inside my book – I’m just relieved you noticed any similarities!!).

  9. I love the bit about “the erroneously named 50 Easy Cakes.” Oh, so true. If only projects were as easy as the books claim. Despite all your worries and woes, the cake turned out fabulously! Good job!

  10. Thanks, Lynn 🙂

  11. This is gorgeous! What a lucky little girl you have!

  12. Emma

     /  January 11, 2010

    So glad I’m not the only one muddling through with sticky fondant and fingerprints everywhere!

    My mother always made us fantastic cakes when we were growing up and I don’t remember them being any less than perfect every year. I’m sure our children will feel the same about our attempts, whatever we may think, and they too will be cursing the crumbs and sugar glue, wondering how we got everything to look like the pictures in the book.

    The jewellery box looks super. The look on her face says it was all worth it.

  13. lovelavender28

     /  September 8, 2012

    The look on your daughter’s face is priceless. I think you did a wonderful job on the cake. They love the cake made for them but also all the love and time you put into making their special day memorable. My children are grown but they still like me to make them special cakes. The cakes I made years ago seemed to be so time consuming but I am glad that I took the time. After all these years, they look back with fond memories of cakes from their childhood. Keep up the good work.

    • Thank you – and it’s true! My children compare notes about the cakes I’ve made for their birthdays – they obviously have very vivid memories of them (not ones that are too bad, I hope!)

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