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Trial and Error: Dora Castle Cake

Attempted Dora Castle cake.

Jenica blogs over at , a blog about strange toys, bizarre things kids do with toys and your general parenting foibles.

A few weeks before her birthday, my 4-year-old daughter found a picture and directions for a Dora castle cake.

“I really want to make this with you, Mommy,” she said.
And although I have no cake decorating experience, the step-by-step instructions looked so simple that I couldn’t imagine how I could mess it up. I mean, who can’t arrange four cupcakes and four ice cream cones on top of a cake?
Me apparently.
Every time I tried to spread the frosting, big chunks of cake would crumble off. Cake crumbs were spread throughout the frosting. It just wasn’t pretty. Then when I tried to apply the cupcake/ice cream cone towers, they slid around the top of the cake and leaned precariously. I suppose the frosting wasn’t the right consistency, but how was I to know? I’d never made frosting from scratch before. We also had an incident where my daughter dumped an entire bottle of star-shaped sprinkles in a 2 inch area on the top of the cake.
Attempted Dora Castle cake.

I was devastated by how awful the cake looked, but my 4 year old was ecstatic about it.

“It’s a little different, but that’s ok because we made it!” she said.
After I got over my vanity, looking at the cake made me laugh. I tried my best and it turned out awful. It just goes to show that no DIY project is ever as easy as the instructions make it look.
We made this cake for our family party. The next week, my 4 year old wanted me to make it again for her friend party. I was humiliated to think about making her friends and her friends’ MOMS eat a cake that looked like that. How embarrassing would it be to serve that cake at a real birthday party? But she wanted it and that’s what was important. So I made the cake again and this time I was able to fix a lot of my mistakes– I glazed the cake in jelly to help the frosting stick and made sure my frosting was a lot thicker.
The second time around the cake turned out almost respectable looking. The towers leaned after a stint in the fridge, but other than that, it almost looked like the picture. The guests at our party were actually impressed that I’d made the cake. Who knew?
When I asked my daughter which cake she liked better, she said she liked them both because we made them together. And she’s right– it wasn’t important what the cake looked like. What mattered was the experience we had decorating it together.