The perfect birthday cake

My kids dreamily talk about what cake they’ll have for their next birthday almost as soon as their last birthday is over. Choosing a cake is a big deal in our family. We spend time looking through Pinterest together… we love it.

I’m not an amazing cake maker – I bake about six cakes a year – one for each of my kids, and a couple for the school fundraising.

When my oldest son Eli turned 1, I remember making a conscious decision that I would not let birthday cake-making be something a stressful thing, it would be a fun thing and bring joy to my kids who would not obsess whether or not something looked ridiculously perfect. I love making cakes for my kids because of how much they get out of it. I don’t love making cakes otherwise.

My first birthday cake, thanks Martha Stewart!

My first birthday cake, thanks Martha Stewart!

My “secret” is that I’ve found one chocolate cake recipe I love from and re-use that every time, but decorate it uniquely.

So far I’ve made a monkey cake, fox cake, Lorax cake, Minion cake, Lego cake, Darth Vader cake, Thomas the Tank Engine, Elsa and more.

Some of the birthday cakes I've made to date

Some of the birthday cakes I’ve made to date

I’ve been asked for the recipe so many times by friends and family because it’s so moist, keeps well and is super easy to make.


Adapted from

2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup boiling water
2 eggs
1 cup milk

1. Dissolve the cocoa in the boiling water.
2. Mix everything together thoroughly in a large bowl, putting in the eggs and milk last.
3. The mixture will be very runny and easy to pour.
4. Put into a 9″ x 13″ pan, or similar.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until a skewer put in the middle of the cake comes back clean.


My daughter loved the "What Does the Fox Say?" song.

My daughter loved the “What Does the Fox Say?” song.

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