Buttercream Ducky Birthday and Smash Cake Tutorial

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The twins just turned one and for their party I decided to make them something special. This was the second cake I’d ever decorated, so if I managed to pull this off, you can too!

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This cake was chocolate with a white, handmade buttercream frosting. For the cake itself, I used a popular modified recipe which is widely available online. It’s just a boxed cake mix with a few additions to make it less crumbly. I only did a single batch, but if you’re doing two smash cakes for twins (like I did) then I’d really recommend a double batch—the main cake ended up being pretty thin.


1 chocolate or Devil’s food cake mix (with or without pudding)

3 eggs

½ cup water

½ cup vegetable oil

1 small package (3.9oz or 110g) of instant pudding mix—just the powder, don’t make pudding. Omit this if your cake mix already has pudding in it.

1 cup sour cream

Mix all your dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately, then combine and mix well.

For the pans, I used a 9X13” dish for the main cake, two small glass bowels for the smash cakes, and a (cleaned) porcelain egg crate I keep in the fridge to hold my farm-fresh eggs. You need something with multiple small round-ish compartments that is oven safe. A metal ice cube tray would also work, or a form for cake pops. These will make the ducky’s bodies.

Grease and dust these pans very well. I used olive oil spread with my fingers and then dusted flour all over them until the oil was covered, then shook out as much flour as I could. The whole point of making this cake is for it to look good, so don’t just spray and pray for this step—it’s important.

Pour your cake batter into the various pans and bake in a 350F preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before carefully removing from the pans. The cakes need to be completely cool before the icing is added.

For the icing, I used the classic Wilton’s buttercream icing recipe. For this I did do a double batch. There is enough in one batch to icing a cake, but for decorating it also you really need a double batch. I had a comfortable amount left over but would have been short with just one batch.


½ cup Crisco

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Approximately 1 pound (1/2kg) powdered sugar

2 tablespoons milk, reserved.

Most people when they make homemade icing have one of those electric mixing bowls that do all the work for them. Those look awesome! I don’t have one of those. I have one of these:

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It took a lot of whipping. A lot. The birthday party was two months ago and I’m just now recovered enough to type this post.  Not really—it wasn’t that bad and not nearly as messy as I hear people complain about with an electric mixer. I used my largest mixing bowl and mixed the Crisco and butter together with the vanilla until combined, then I slowly added a cup at a time of the powdered sugar. I mixed each cup gently into the cream mix with a regular mixing spoon and after it was fully moistened used the whisk to beat in some air. Almost no mess, and the whipping itself was minimized. After the powdered sugar is fully added and the icing is whipped, you will want to set aside enough of this thick icing for all your decorating—any icing you will need to put into a piping bag will need to be thick. What’s left over you add the milk to, one half-tablespoon at a time until it is thin enough to spread comfortably.

I made the icing a few days ahead of time so I could add my coloring and allow it to sit. The colors will become more vibrant if allowed to sit for a day or two, and the icing is safe to store at room temperature for up to two weeks. You will want to use the gel icing food coloring, not the regular liquid food coloring because that will change the consistency and thin out your icing. For this cake I make about two cups of blue, two cups of yellow, a half cup of orange for the duck bills and a tiny amount of black for the eyes.

Now for the good stuff! To decorate I used standard icing bags and Wilton icing tips #352 (Leaf tip), #18 (Open Star tip) and #3 (Round tip). First I spread the white icing all over the sides and outside tops of the main cake and the two smash cakes, then I spread the blue icing over the areas with no icing (for the “water” areas). I allowed this layer to harden.

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The duckies were made separately. I found a lot of tutorials on how to make fondant ducks, but I hate fondant and wanted it to be fully buttercream, so this was my own creation. I had a total of 12 egg carton cake balls but ended up using several for practice and ended up with eight—six for the main cake and one for each smash cake. It’s important to allow each layer of icing to fully dry, so it takes a long time from start to finish. I cut squares of parchment paper to keep each duck on while I worked.

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First I used a regular butter knife to spread yellow icing all over the cake balls that would become the duck’s bodies. The rest of the yellow icing I put into a pipping bag with a leaf tip. On each side of the duck’s body I made two parallel lines for the wings and on the duck’s little butt I made a single vertical ridge for a tail.

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The head was made using the star tip and is really just a blob of icing opposite the tail. After the head fully hardened, I again used the leaf tip with the orange icing to make two parallel lines for the duck’s bill. After that I just used a toothpick to carefully place a dot of black icing for each eye, and my ducks were done!

To place them on the cakes, I used some leftover yellow icing to make a blob where I wanted to duck to go. This acted as a “glue” for the duckies. Then I (very carefully) picked up the ducks with my hands and placed them on the blob. Once it was positioned correctly I used more yellow icing with the round tip to fix any bits of icing that my fingers took with them and to run a line of icing all around the base of the ducky for additional “glue” and stabilization.

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Once that was done I used the round tip to write “Happy Birthday” on the cake and put it in a very safe place until the guests arrived. It wasn’t difficult to make, just mostly time consuming since each layer of icing had to harden before the next step could be done. At first the boys weren’t sure what the cake was, but they sure enjoyed eating it once they figured it out! And the cake was a big hit with the family!

Birthday collage

Hope you enjoyed this little tutorial, feel free to Pin it and if you liked the baby bibs my twins modeled, please check out my store on Artyah.com, where I sell my handmade teddy bears, lovey and bibs!

www.artyah.com/seller/SimpleChildhoods    Happy baking!

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4 Responses to Buttercream Ducky Birthday and Smash Cake Tutorial

  1. Jacy Amoret says:

    This is so darn cute!!! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Infoélla says:

    This is so cute!! Great tutorial!

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