Sunday, February 19, 2012

Digger Birthday Cake - An Easy DIY Interactive Birthday Cake

My son gets super excited about anything sporting wheels, which gave us a lot of options for birthday themes this year. We already covered Rockets for his first birthday, Two-Two Trains for his second birthday, and this year we decided on Diggers, The Diggers Three (from one of his favorite shows, Bob The Builder), to celebrate his big third birthday!

I searched online for inspiration to see what others designed for construction themed birthday cakes. There are quite an array of impressive cakes that got me excited about designing my own digger birthday cake for our little man!

This year I dreamt up a DIY Digger Cake! I’ve never seen anything like it before, but decided it was totally fitting since my mom and I always design and decorate the birthday cakes each year. I decided it’s the boys turn to decorate this digger birthday cake, because I don’t know a boy who doesn’t enjoy digging in the dirt and they definitely have more expertise than me on creating a dig / construction work site. I’m the first to admit my plan was risky! I really had no idea if this was going to turn into a terrible mess or a wildly happy success. :)

Luckily for the sake of a very happy third birthday it was a tremendous success! Well, other than a minor “stick my finger in the flame of a very intriguing birthday candle” incident. There’s never a dull moment around here!  No worries everything was OK, but I don’t think that will ever happen again!

I love that anyone can make this digger birthday cake! Unlike most birthday cakes that require special cake decorating tips to fancily pipe frosting, this cake is super simple and can be decorated simply with toys, standard kitchen equipment, and a little creativity. I especially love that it’s an interactive cake and really makes for a unique, special birthday memory.

Enough of an introduction, here are all the details for creating this fun digger birthday cake.

The Diggers
I knew I wanted to decorate with toy diggers, so we first did a little shopping in store and online to see what was available.
CAT Mini Machines - Perfect size for decorating a construction themed birthday cake!

We found a collection of assorted miniature sized diggers and construction vehicles just perfect for decorating a birthday cake. I was surprised to find exactly what I was looking for and knew my little guy would love playing with all these realistic mini yellow construction vehicles long after the birthday cake was history. They’re CAT Mini Machines and the packaging indicates they are for Ages 3+.

The Cake
Now that I knew the size of the toy diggers, a standard 9x13 sheet cake baked in my trusty Pyrex glass baking dish would be sufficient for this birthday cake.

The cake and icing had to be brown and chocolaty to look like real dirt and mud at a work site. I used Better Homes and Gardens Best Ever Chocolate Cake recipe which creates a moist and delicious homemade chocolate cake. This was the first time I used this chocolate cake recipe and it was a hit so we would definitely use it again.

I turned the cake out on a large piece of cardboard covered with freezer paper. I made a decorative border that I printed on colored card stock that included the big Happy Birthday wishes, which meant no icing piping needed for this cake...too easy!

The Icing
I used our typical butter cream icing recipe, the one on the packaging of the Domino’s Confectioners Sugar. To make the icing brown and chocolaty, I added Hershey’s Cocoa (no food coloring required) by the Tablespoon until I got the brown as dark as “dirt”. Tip: Count the number of Tablespoons of Cocoa powder you add in case you need to make a second batch of brown chocolate icing so the brown color will match.

I spread the icing on the cake randomly adding swirls and haphazard streaks. It was hard for me not to make it neat and perfect, but construction sites are far from perfect and always get rough and messy before the job is complete, so I tried hard to make it look like a bit of a mess...ha, ha!

The Toppings and Decorations
We prepared the “dirt”, “rocks”, and “mucky muck” as my son likes to call it. For “dirt” we ground up chocolate cookies (I used Organic Newman’s Chocolate Cookies, but Oreos or homemade would be yummy too) in the blender. For “rocks”, we pulsed a variety of nuts (almonds, walnuts, and pecans) in the blender. For “mucky muck”, we pulsed fun size Hershey Chocolate Bars in the blender to look like dirt, small boulders, and stones when complete...they look remarkably realistic. We dumped each into it’s own bowl and stuck in a spoon creating a fun dirt themed topping bar. I also made cute little signs on card stock that said “Dig In” and “Caution Matthew is 3” that were placed on toothpicks to be insert into the birthday cake as the decorators saw fit.

We shopped the playroom and dug out a few construction cones for extra decoration. I organized the toppings, signs, construction cones, and of course the star of the cake...the diggers and we were ready for the birthday celebration to begin!

Time to Decorate - DIY Style

Once the official birthday cake decorators (Birthday Boy, Daddy, and Pappy) were ready, we left the birthday boy hand out the mini diggers and have at it! I like this photo of all the boys hands working together to decorate the third birthday was so much fun!

Lots of laughs and big birthday smiles!

The Final Results
The digger birthday cake turned out amazing!
I love all the little details the boys incorporated in the design: dirt spilling out of the digger buckets, tire tracks on the icing, scoops of cake dug out, little construction cones and signs in all the right places. Now that we’re aware of these hidden talents, perhaps the boys can decorate a few future birthday cakes and give Mom and Grandma a cake break once in a that! :)

I try to go homemade as much as possible, but this cake would definitely work with your favorite boxed cake mix and tub of frosting too...super easy and so much fun.

Happy Birthday!!!

Check out a few of our previous cakes creations (after clicking this link, scroll down to see all the cake posts).


  1. Thanks Amber! My son is now 5 and still loves playing with the mini construction vehicles from this cake. :)