So we are a unabashed Star Wars family. I play a Star Wars tabletop miniatures game. Elaina is a huge fan of Rey from the sequel trilogy and continues to ask me when she is getting a lightsaber (Me: “You got one at Disney World.” Her: “No, Dad, a real one.”). And Gabriella enjoys learning her colors, letters, and numbers from Star Wars children’s books, because, why not? Because of this and being a relatively good baker, it was no shocker that my friend’s wife contacted me about a making a Star Wars cake and surprising him with it during his party. But of course, I cannot do anything in our house without being interrupted by two wonderful little girls, so I just let them in on the baking fun. So here goes the Calkins Family’s attempt to bake our very own Death Star.
So about two weeks before my friend’s birthday, his wife sends me a text that she wanted me to bake a cake for his party. I have previously baked them dozens and dozens of cookies, so she knew I am not only an accomplished baker, but also that I am always up a for challenge. Because her husband loves Star Wars almost as much as I do, I suggested that I bake and decorate him a Star Wars cake. She was extremely excited about the prospect, and after considering a few different designs (Galactic Empire symbol? TIE Fighters and a Millennium Falcon? Just Star Wars font?), I settled on proposing a Death Star cake. I sent her a few ideas and she loved them (on a side note, this started a thread of me telling him that we were going to be in Phoenix, which is almost three hours away, so he would not suspect that we were coming). I proceeded to tell the girls what I will be doing for Mr. Dallas (his first name is Dallas, but the still call everybody Mr. or Mrs…. love their manners) and his party, if anything so they do not tell him what we are doing. Of course, they want nothing more than to “help out,” so I wasted no time in putting them to work. Since I am a planner by nature, we were going to bake a practice cake first and then were going to bake the real one the morning of the party.
I was very proud of Elaina in that the first thing she did was pull up her stepstool and begin washing her hands (with soap!). It really makes a father proud when lessons that you teach them actually stick. From here we divided the tasks. Elaina was in charge of mixing the cake batter, (I believe the only help she needed was cracking the eggs and plugging in the hand mixer), Gabriella was in charge of coating the cake pans with butter and flour, and I was in charging of the oven, pouring the batter in the pans, mixing the frosting, and decorating the cake.
First Elaina added the cake mix, and then the eggs.
Then she added the vegetable oil, with Gabriella compiling mental notes so that she could take the lead next time.
Elaina then added the water to the batter, with Gabriella ensuring that she did not fall from the stepstool.
As much as they fight, because that is just what brothers and sisters do (and have done since the dawn of time), Gabriella really does look up to Elaina. She is constantly trying to imitate her and do (attempt) the same things that she is able to do. Sometimes Elaina gets annoyed by it, so much so that I had to explain to her last week that she should be proud that Gabriella wants to be like her. This was apparent in our baking session, as Gabriella just stood on her stepstool and watched Elaina the entire time, not even asking when it would be her turn.
While Elaina continued to mix the cake batter, Gabriella began coating the cake pans with butter. She did a pretty good job with this, but lost interest once I added the flour. Maybe next time she will follow through.
After Gabriella and I completed coating the cake pans in butter and flour, Elaina started getting a little tired from mixing by hand. Anticipating this, it was time for her to learn how to use a hand mixer. I plugged it in, explained the buttons to her, and then let her go for it. She did not disappoint.
Just like her father, Elaina was born to be a baker. She was a natural with the hand mixer and the advice that I had to give her was to use hold the bowl with one hand or use two hands on the mixer. Other than that, she did not require any of my help.
When Elaina was done mixing and the oven was preheated, I showed her how to pour the batter evenly into both cake pans. And much to her and Gabriella’s dismay, I showed them how to use a spatula to get the rest of the batter out, taking away the remaining chocolate batter that they were expecting to eat (“Sorry, girls, but the buttercream frosting that I am going to make later does not have raw eggs in it.”). We waited for the cakes to finish baking and then I taught Elaina how to use a toothpick to test if the cake was done. While the cakes were cooling, I taught Elaina (Gabriella had moved on to playing with her Barbies) how to make buttercream frosting. Of course, she needed to taste it to ensure that it came out alright. And then, setting aside a small bowl for her and Gabriella, I taught them both (with the mention of frosting, Gabriella was back) how to use food coloring to get the perfect colors for our Death Star and for their practice cake (Elaina chose green and Gabriella choose pink).
Before I started decorating the Death Star practice cake, I gave the girls their practice cake and bowls of green and pink frosting. And then let them go to work while I did the same. And surprisingly, they did not make a mess and did not just eat all their frosting. They did so well that I brought out the container of sprinkles so they could put the finishing touches on the cake. Granted, they picked Halloween and Easter sprinkles, but the cake turned out great all the same.
The girls did a great job and I was very proud of them. The pictures post-frosting were a lot messier, as that cake got destroyed by them (note that I said destroyed and not devoured) and the vacuum cleaner eventually needed to make an appearance.
But them taking care of their own cake gave me plenty of time to focus on mine. While fondant would have probably looked better, I like working in buttercream… and frankly, it tastes a lot better too. The single-layer practice cake came out great, and my friend’s wife loved it. The girls and I loved eating it as well, sharing it with my friends that week who came over to play Star Wars Armada with me. Now that we got a test cake done and it received the party planner’s approval, we would start on the real double-layer cake in a week.
It is every kid’s dream to wake up and have frosting waiting for them to consume. When the girls got up that Sunday, the cakes were already out of the oven and the frosting was already made, so I got to hand them each a beater of buttercream right when they woke up. It was also fitting that Elaina woke up in her Star Wars pajamas.
Using some of the leftover cake, I made Death Star mini-cakes for both of them to frost. After they had gotten their morning dose of buttercream (if it is any consolation, they had a big breakfast afterwards), the girls washed their hands and I then taught them to decorate using a pastry bag and tips.
Gabriella did surprisingly well at frosting her cake, keeping all the frosting in the bag and waiting until both her and Elaina had gone before pouring the frosting into her mouth (it was inevitable).
Elaina did great too. At least I know that next time, I can give them each their own bags and let them frost to their heart’s content. And it also gave me the necessary time to complete my project.
So the finished product came out great. Even though it was Dallas’ 49th birthday, his wife asked me to put 50th because a) it made the line sound more like Star Wars and b) it would make him mad (they both worked!). Anyways, he was very surprised, they both loved the cake, and my daughters and I had a great experience making it together. Since then, we have already made cupcakes and cookies together, with them getting better at measuring, mixing, and not making giant messes every time. I love my daughters, baking, and Star Wars, and it was a great experience to have fun while bringing together all three of them. Thanks for checking in on us and I hope this inspires you to bake a little with your kids. Cheers!
And May the Force be With You!