Birthdays for the kids come once a year, and each milestone is celebrated as much as the year before. But just like the clockwork of a birthday approaching, the dread of how you’re going to pull off a party-worthy cake may set in as well.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with ordering an elaborate cake from a bakery. But, if going the homemade route is your preference, whether for the flavor or to save on your party budget, there are plenty of unique ways to dress up a cake all on your own. And the best part? They don’t require a drawer full of specialty tools.

Each of these ideas can be made by either baking a cake from scratch or using a box mix, and the same goes for your option of frosting as well. Opt for an eight-inch round cake or use a rectangle cake pan for a larger cake, while still achieving the same look. Using everything from sprinkles to candy, even the most novice of decorators can pull off a cake trick, serving up a kid’s birthday party cake that will be remembered forever.

Mimic the Grocery Store

If your child is hard set on having the same cake they saw at their friend’s birthday party that came from a grocery store bakery, there’s a trick for that. If you opt to do homemade, whether you don’t like the flavor of a grocery store cake or you’re not willing to shell out the extra expense for decorating, you can put your own cake decorator skills to the test.

The majority of stores that have their cake options in a book in front of the bakery counter can sell you just the kit of toys that they use to decorate with. Each cake displayed in the book has a corresponding toy kit from DecoPac, and if you ask the bakery department for just the kit, most Safeway, Rosauers and Walmart bakeries will sell it to you for under $10.

Use the kit and pair it with colored frosting to decorate the cake at home. For a Disney Princess cake, pick up the kit from your grocery store and then use corresponding colors to match the look.

Frost the whole cake and use a Ziploc bag (if you don’t have piping bags) with the tip of one corner cut off to create a dotted border along the bottom of the cake. Utilize multiple Ziploc bags with various colors to create drop flowers by piping small dots in the shape of a flower to add extra detail.

Make a Construction Scene

For the monster truck or construction equipment lover in your life, making a simple dirt cake will do just the trick. Bake a chocolate cake, either from scratch or from a box. Frost the sides and top of the cake but leave a circle in the middle of the top of the cake without any frosting. Dig into your cake using a spoon to create a dirt pit and bring the chocolate cake crumbs to the top.

Add a monster truck scene or construction equipment on top using small toys from the dollar store. To complete the look, consider adding Oreos crushed in a food processor to make the dirt look even more realistic. Utilizing a Ziploc bag with the tip of one corner cut off to create a small hole, pipe a circular border to complete the bottom of the cake.

Sprinkle by Number Cake

For the child who loves a big splash of color, a rainbow cake is the way to go. And you can create something that looks complicated at home in just a few steps.

Bake your cake and frost the whole cake with white frosting, or another color of your choice. Mix several of your child’s favorite choices of sprinkles from rainbow nonpareils to rainbow jimmies for a fun combination.

Using construction paper, cut the number you’d like to place on top of the cake to create your outline. You could use the same format for a star, a heart or any age of the special birthday boy or girl. Pipe a border around the top of your cake using a Ziploc bag with the tip of one corner cut off in the color of your choice.

Once your cake is frosted, put your number on top in the center, and then pour the sprinkle mixture all the way around the top. Gently pat down the sprinkle mixture to make sure sprinkles are in place before removing the paper. This will create a sprinkled top, and when you remove the paper, you’ll have the number revealed front and center.

Other Ideas for Decorating

Part of the beauty of baking and decorating a cake at home is that you can truly make it your own and one-of-a-kind. Cakes can be decorated with anything from favorite cereals to candy to mountains of chocolate. Use candy in a variety of shapes and colors to cover the sides of the cake or use colorful cereal to decorate the top.

For a monster-style cake, choose to frost your cake in a bright, bold color and then add candy eyes from the grocery store to complete the look. Even the simplest of materials from the store can make all the difference in elevating the way you decorate a kid’s birthday cake.