People tell me how georgeous my cakes are, I like to brag that, I just have a natural flair, but I'm not a cake decorating expert, no even close, I'm just a mother of two children. If you think that cake decorating is for the really talented.. I'm not agree with you. You can never go wrong when a cake is baked with love, from scratch, with the best ingredients, with a little know how and practice, you can decorate beatiful cakes.
My mother just made a cake and frosted it, she may have added sprinkles and she wrote a happy birhday message with icing. Those were our cakes,they may not have been well decorate, but they were tasty, and those memories will be in my heart forever. You can make a birthday even more special if you bake and decorate the cake by yourself to your love ones, they will appressiate that.
First at all you need to have decide on the theme; believe me, once the theme is decide everything else falls into place quite easily. I always refer to some magazines or books for inspiration, depending on my kid's preference. My little boy is 10 years now, he ask me for different characteres like pikachu or spider man, things like that.
Make sure you have all your ingredients and basic material ready, so you don't have to run to the store mid-way, and don't wait 2 hours before the party to start baking your cake,remember this is a timed process,to be able to comfortably decorate a cake, you need a good cake board. Most of the times I make my own because is very easy, just get a sturdy cardboard and cut it to the requisite size and cover it with foil. Ideally your cakeboard should be an inch wider than a cake on all sizes.
Cakes tend to dome or crack during the baking process and before you start icing your cake, you need to level your cake: Take your cake off the pan and allow it to cool completely, I allow the cake to cool for at least 3 hours, then, level the cake by slicing the dome with a serrated knife...