My Mom and I spent two days on my son's first birthday cake. I wanted something that would feed 35 to 40 people so I decided on two 9 x 13 cakes side by side. I also wanted to offer a variety so we made one vanilla and one in cherry chocolate. This ended up causing some hills in our cake because the two flavors were different thicknesses, but I think it worked out fine in the end.
I also wanted some kind of barnyard theme with a minimal amount of food coloring on the actual cake. We decided on making a barn birthday cake and a tractor as the colored portions of the cake which no one would probably eat.
I knew that I wanted to use graham crackers to build the barn and the tractor. I had assumed that I would use chocolate frosting to glue it all together. My Mom quickly dispelled that bad idea! She suggested we use a mixture of confectioner's sugar and water. It worked extremely well for holding the crackers together.
So the first night we crafted the barn and the tractor body out of crackers and sugar glue. We stored them in the oven (with a "DO NOT TURN ON" note taped to the on switch) to keep them away from my curious cats. That note was crucial. I really think I would have turned it on the next day when we baked the cakes without looking inside! Oh, one more tip, we built the barn and the tractor on cardboard, cut to size. This made it really easy to move the pieces around from table, to oven, to cake.
The next day we baked the cakes, including a small round pan and some cupcakes to use for the baby cake. We iced the barn and the tractor and put the white icing on the sheet cakes. I picked whipped white frosting, which turned out to be a bad idea. It's great for spreading but if you want to put it in a bag and pipe it onto anything, it's horrible. Next time I'll use regular white frosting. We used Wilton's red gel for the barn and green food coloring for the tractor.
I had envisioned making the tractor pull a little trailer with his name on it, that is the rectangle that you see in the center. The cake wasn't big enough to do this so we propped the name up in the center. The tractor wheels are made out of two sizes of peppermint patties. The silo on the barn is the only thing that is not edible. It is made out of a cardboard tube. We were going to use stacked cookies but I knew no one would eat them once they were covered in red frosting and it seemed like such a waste!
My Mom came up with the idea to put the animal crackers all the way around the edge of the cake. It looked really good!
Towards the end of the party after the cake was served we had a great few minutes smashing the barn and the tractor with a rubber mallet!