How To Make A Number 1 Cake

Number one candle on a blue birthday cake.

Image © Godsgirl_madi, under a Creative Commons license.

You don't need specialist equipment like a numbered cake tin to create an impressive first birthday cake for your toddler!

This simple recipe shows you how to make the perfect number cake with just two rectangular cake tins. You could even use ready-made cake mix to make this bake even easier. It also gives you decoration ideas for your child's first birthday cake. If you are after more birthday party inspiration, take a look at these amazing ideas for birthday cakes that your kids will love.

What You Will Need:

For the cakes: 710g all-purpose flour, 450g unsalted butter (at room temperature), 600g caster sugar, 8 large eggs (at room temperature), 480ml milk, 2 tbsp baking powder, 2tbsp vanilla extract, a pinch of salt

For the frosting: 200g unsalted butter (at room temperature), 360g icing sugar, 680g cream cheese, 2tsp vanilla extract

For the icing and decoration: ready-to-roll fondant icing of the colour of your choice (optional), some sweets or icing pens, a candle

Equipment: Two 33cm x 23cm (9"x13") sheet cake tins, an electric whisk or mixer, a cake board or large flat serving plate

Birthday cake with light pink rose swirl icing and a gold number one candle on top.
Image © Mohammad Danish, under a Creative Commons license.


1) Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F). Place an oven rack in the centre of the oven. Grease your cake tins with some softened butter or margarine - you could also line them with baking paper for extra safety.

2) Start preparing the cake mix: in a bowl, mix and whisk the flour, baking powder and salt.

3) In a different bowl, beat the butter, caster sugar and vanilla extract with an electric whisk (medium-high speed) until the mixture becomes light and fluffy. This should take 3-5 minutes.

4) Add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture one by one, and keep beating well. Turn the whisk or mixer to low speed and add a third of the dry ingredients, then half of the milk. Keep alternating and mix until you have added all of your ingredients.

5) Divide the cake batter between the two cake tins. Smooth the top of the mixture with a spatula or spoon. Bake the cakes for about 35 minutes. To check whether they are ready, insert a knife or a toothpick into the centre of the cakes: it must come out clean before you can take them out of the oven. Once they are out of the oven, place the cakes on a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes.

6) While you wait for the cakes to cool, prepare the frosting: with your electric whisk or mixer, beat the butter until it is light. Add the icing sugar and keep whisking until the mixture becomes fluffy. Add the vanilla extract, then the cream cheese, gradually. Beat until the ingredients are fully incorporated.

Bright pink cake with white stars around the sides and a number one lit on top, a couple of presents next to it.
Image © freepik, under a Creative Commons license.

7) It's time to assemble your Number one cake. Once your two cakes are cooled, remove them from the tins and flatten the top with a bread knife. Place one cake onto your cake board or large plate, add a layer of frosting on top of it then place the other one on top, like a sandwich.

8) Now that you have a large rectangular cake, carve out the shape of a number 1 with a bread knife. If you are unsure of the design, refer to a photograph or a model. If it is easier, you could carve out individual shapes one at a time: first the rectangular base, then the larger rectangle to form the main part of the number, and lastly a triangular shape for the top of the number 1. If necessary, stick the parts together on your cake board with more frosting.

9) Cover the whole cakes, including the sides, with the remaining frosting. If you do have fondant icing, roll it out into a thin, even layer then wrap it around your rolling pin and gently place it onto the cake. Smooth out the icing with your hands and trim any excess with a knife. If you do not have fondant icing, simply add another layer of cream cheese frosting onto your cake and smooth it out with a spatula.

10) You have a canvas, now it's time to decorate your Number 1 cake! Here are some suggestions: with icing pens, draw the outline of the Number 1 in different colours, and place your candle in the middle. Alternatively, you could cover the number cake in different sweets, but make sure they are soft and not dangerous for a toddler to swallow! Once you have finished decorating, your homemade Number 1 cake is ready to go!

Number one candle on top of a present and cupcakes around it.
Image © freepik, under a Creative Commons license.

Tips And Recommendations:

This Number 1 cake can be made with any cake recipe of your choosing: chocolate cake, sponge, lemon drizzle, etc. You could also flavour your cream cheese frosting with cocoa, lemon, or other flavourings you have at hand!

If you are really short on time and want to make your life easier, you could buy ready-made cake mix to make this Number 1 cake. Alternatively, you could only use one cake pan and make the number cake single-tiered!

If you have any children with allergies, you can replace the plain flour in the cakes with a gluten-free alternative such as spelt.

You can save the excess cake you carved to create a number one shape to make some birthday cake pops! Just follow this fun recipe to make rainbow cake pops.

Good To Know:

This birthday cake should serve 8-10 people.

Although it is best eaten fresh, this Number 1 cake can be made in advance: the sponges will keep up to five days in the fridge in an airtight container, and once decorated the cake can last up to two days in the fridge! You can also freeze this cake by leaving it in the freezer in an airtight container for up to two months.



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