In honor of St. Valentine, hand some cake-decorating supplies over to your kids and help them write sweet messages in icing. Here's to love, cakes and other good things.
Start by baking your favorite cake mix according to package directions in a heart-shape pan. You can buy these special pans, mini or regular size, from most kitchen-supply and hardware stores. Or, bake your cake batter in a 9-inch square and a 9-inch circle pan (the square pan must have sides the same length as the circle's diameter). Cut the circular cake in half and set each semicircle against adjoining sides of the square to form the top of the heart. The other 2 sides of the square form the point.
With an electric mixer, cream the remaining ingredients together until smooth. When the cake has completely cooled, brush away the crumbs and frost it with this buttercream icing, reserving a portion of the icing for decorating. Divide the leftover icing into small bowls and tint each one with a different color of food coloring. For stronger shades, use specialty pastes, which are available at kitchen-supply and party stores.
Decorating supplies: Fancy frosting designs are easy to create using an icing-filled pastry bag with decorating tips. You can buy starter kits at grocery, kitchen-supply and party stores. Kits that come with disposable pastry bags, three to four tips, and a coupler for changing tips cost between 3 and 6 dollars. When choosing tips, keep in mind that the most versatile ones are the writing, star and leaf.
Before decorating the cake, kids should first practice writing with the frosting on waxed paper. Use the writing tip's plain line for letters, leaf stems, squiggles, dots and outlines. Make stars with the star tip by holding the tip straight down near the cake and squeezing until the star forms. For a neat finish, stop the pressure before pulling away. The star tip also makes a pretty border around the cake. The leaf tip makes a ribbon with a ridge down the center. For a leaf, squeeze out the icing to form the bottom edge, then relax the pressure and pull the tip away to make a rippling leaf.