A homemade Superman birthday cake is sure to make you the hero of a child's Superman-themed birthday party, even if your skill set limits you to a simple design. A sheet cake or round cake with the Superman emblem requires minimal decorating skills and leaves enough room to pipe a message. If you have more advanced skills, try a cake decorated with fondant to resemble Superman's costume, complete with belt, emblem and cape.
Things You'll Need
- Cake pans
- Serrated knife or cake leveler
- Cake filling
- Crusting buttercream frosting
- Non-textured paper towel
- Food coloring gel
- Icing spatula
- Piping bags
- Small round decorating tips
- Small star decorating tips
- Medium or large, round decorating tip
- Rolled fondant
- Spray bottle
- Powdered sugar
- Fondant roller or rolling pin
- Fondant smoothing tool
- Fondant rotary cutting tool or pizza cutter
- Small paintbrush
- Superman toy or candle (optional)
Bake a sheet cake or a square or round cake in your choice of flavor. Allow the cake to cool completely. Sheet cakes are most often decorated with a single layer, while smaller square and round cakes are often stacked in thin layers. Bake two or three round or square cakes and level off the top of the cake with a serrated knife or cake leveling tool. If each cake is thick, you can cut it in half to get two thin layers out of a single layer. Assemble the cake with a thin layer of buttercream frosting, fruit filling, chocolate mousse or a similar filling between each layer.
Cover the cake with a thin layer of buttercream frosting to seal in any crumbs. If you want the cake to be as smooth as possible, make a crusting buttercream that uses vegetable shortening in place of half or all of the butter in a standard recipe. Allow the frosting to form a hard crust, which takes about 20 minutes at room temperature. Lay a non-textured paper towel over the frosting and smooth it over with your hands to smooth out any ridges and bumps in the frosting.
Divide the remaining buttercream frosting into smaller bowls and tint it your choice of colors with food coloring gel. Superman's emblem is red and yellow, so use blue, the other color in his costume, for the main color on the cake. You'll need more blue frosting than yellow and red. Add the food coloring gel with a toothpick and mix thoroughly to avoid any streaks in the color.
Frost the entire cake with the blue frosting. For a smooth cake, dip an icing spatula in a cup of hot water, wipe the water off the blade with a towel, and spread the frosting with the hot blade. Allow about 20 minutes for the frosting to crust.
Print out a picture of the Superman emblem sized to scale with the cake. The Superman emblem is an "S" inside a diamond. The bottom curve of the "S" is narrower than the top to accommodate the narrower bottom point of the diamond. The emblem has a thick border of red and a red "S" inside a field of yellow. Lay a piece of wax paper over the picture with the rough side facing up. Trace the image onto the wax paper to use for transferring the image to the cake.
Position the wax paper image transfer on the blue frosting with the pen or pencil side facing up and the smooth side on the frosting. Trace over the lines with a toothpick, pressing with just enough pressure to make an impression in the frosting. Alternatively, poke dots along the lines to make dots in the frosting; you can do this without poking holes through the wax paper.
Insert a small, round decorating tip in a piping bag and fill the bag with red frosting. Repeat with a second piping bag, a second small, round decorating tip, and yellow frosting. You'll also need to make a bag of red and yellow with a small, star decorating tip. If you use couplers at the tips of the bags, you can simply interchange the decorating tips without needing extra piping bags.
Pipe the red frosting along the outer perimeter of the Superman emblem, along the lines for the thick red border, and along the outline of the "S" in the center. Squeeze the bag with firm, constant pressure so the frosting streams steadily without breaking. Move your wrists gently to control the tip as you work your way around the emblem. Outline the inside field of the emblem -- the background behind the "S" -- with the yellow frosting. These yellow frosting lines are piped directly against the red outlines around the "S" and around the thick, red emblem border.
Fill in the space inside the "S" with small red frosting dots from a small star decorating tip. Start at a corner along the piped outline and squeeze the bag firmly to release a frosting star; stop squeezing to break off the star and lift straight away. Place the star tip immediately beside the previous star and pipe a second, repeating this process until the entire "S" is filled in with red. Fill in the yellow lines with yellow frosting, using the star fill-in technique. Fill in the thick red border with red frosting stars to complete the Superman emblem. Work from the inside to the border to avoid disturbing the frosting as you work.
Outline the Superman emblem with thick black frosting if you want the emblem to pop out from the cake more, similar to the way that black outlines make the images pop out from comic book pages. Outline just the outer perimeter of the emblem, or go over all the thin red and yellow lines with bold black. Use a medium or large round decorating tip to make a bold black line. Draw a line from each size on a plate to test the thickness before choosing the tip.
Write "Happy Birthday" on the cake in an empty space outside the Superman emblem, using a medium, round decorating tip and your choice of frosting color. Try white for the message so you can incorporate all the Superman colors: red, blue and yellow for the costume, and red, white and blue because Superman strives to uphold "truth, justice, and the American way."
Pipe a border around the top edge of the cake and along the bottom edge where the cake meets the cake board or plate. Pipe star borders with a medium or large decorating tip, keeping the stars close together. Alternatively, use a medium-sized shell decorating tip. Instead of stopping the frosting flow as with the star technique, maintain continuous flow as you move the tip in a hump motion, similar to writing a lowercase "m" in cursive.
Bake and stack a square or round layer cake in your choice of size, such as a 9-inch round cake or an 8-inch square cake. Try stacking three whole, leveled cakes for a three-layer cake, or cut each of the three cakes in half to make a cake with six thin layers. Stack the layers with your choice of filling in between. Apply a crumb coat of icing to the cake. Smooth out the frosting with a non-textured paper towel after the frosting crusts.
Knead royal blue food coloring gel into a ball of fondant to tint it the same blue as Superman's tights. Add the gel a little at a time until you achieve the perfect shade.
Dust your work surface with powdered sugar. Set the ball of fondant on the work surface and roll it out with a rolling pin or fondant roller to about a 1/4-inch thickness. The fondant should be 5 to 6 inches larger in diameter than the top of the cake. Roll up the fondant around the rolling pin, much like paper towels rolled around a tube, making it easier to pick it up and transfer it to the cake.
Spray the buttercream on the cake with a very fine mist of water, using just enough to moisten the crusted frosting, making it tacky.
Unroll the fondant over the cake, centering it as best you can. Leave the fondant pulled out away from the sides of the cake. Rub a fondant smoothing tool over the top of the cake to smooth out the fondant. Lift the fondant away from the cake to smooth out any wrinkles or air bubbles. Continue with the fondant smoothing tool down the sides of the cake until the fondant is completely smooth. Cut away the excess fondant from the cake board with a rotary fondant cutting tool or a pizza cutter. Ragged or uneven edges will be concealed later.
Roll out a piece of yellow fondant to 1/4 inch thick. Cut the fondant into a strip about 1 1/2 inches wide and equal in length to the distance around the outside of the cake. Brush one side of the fondant lightly with water from a clean paintbrush. Smooth the fondant strip onto the sides of the blue fondant-covered cake to simulate Superman's costume belt. Position the belt around the midsection of the cake, halfway between the top and bottom edge.
Cut several 1 3/4 inch long, 3/4-inch wide strips of red fondant. Brush the back of the red strips with water and smooth them in place to make belt loops. The belt loops should be placed perpendicular to the yellow strip and spaced evenly around the cake.
Make a Superman emblem equal to half the height of the cake. Cut identical yellow and red diamond-shaped pieces of fondant. Use a wax paper tracing to imprint the Superman emblem onto the red fondant. Cut out the "S" from the red fondant diamond with a precision knife. Brush the yellow diamond lightly with water; line up the red "S" diamond over the yellow diamond; and press lightly on the red fondant to fuse the two diamonds together. Brush the back of the yellow diamond lightly with water and press it centered on the belt at the front of the cake.
Roll out a piece of red fondant to about 1/4 inch thick to make the cape. Make the width equal to about three-fourths of the cake diameter. Add the cake height, half the diameter, plus about 2 inches to find the length needed for the cape. Bunch up one end and trim the fondant to make it look like a cape tied around the neck. Drape the cape over the back of the cake, allowing the extra 2 inch length to drape off the cake board, and placing the bunched, tied end just behind the center of the cake. Do not smooth the cape against the sides of the cake.
Stand a Superman toy or Superman candle upright in front of the tied end of the cape. You can even push the legs of a Superman doll down into the cake so its torso sticks out. Use only new toys or toys that are cleaned, sanitized in a solution of 10-percent bleach, and thoroughly rinsed. As an alternative to a toy or candle, make a larger version of the fondant Superman emblem to place centered on top of the cake.
Write a birthday message on top of the cake toward the front with red, white or yellow buttercream frosting and a medium, round decorating tip. If you have room, write the birthday message on the cake board instead.
Roll several red, blue and yellow fondant balls to about 1/2 inch in diameter. Place these around the bottom of the cake as a border, stopping directly against the sides of the red cape. Alternate the colors in a pattern as you place the balls. If they don't stick to the cake board, dab a bit of water on the side so they stick in place where the balls touch the cake.
Tips & Warnings
- The Superman emblem isn't an equilateral quadrilateral diamond, but it's actually a five-sided shape similar to a cut diamond gemstone. The shape has two long, pointed sides at the bottom and two short sloping slides that lead to a flat top.