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Making Finn’s Flaming Volcano Cake

2017 November 5
by Becky

Finns Volcano Party - Volcano Cake

All my kid wanted for his birthday party was a volcano cake and I was more than happy to oblige. It gave me a fun challenge AND gave me an excuse to make cake!

I’ve never been a huge cake maker, I’m more of a cupcake and cake-pop gal. I’ve made my fair share of cakes for various reasons, but always with meh feelings about the flavor and final result. Plus, I thought it was fun to order cakes from my most favorite bakeries! That is, until I ordered one not too long ago that was a HUGE disappointment. It looked incredible, cost a small fortune, and tasted terrible. The kids wouldn’t even eat it! I thought it tasted like a stick of butter, dry and flavorless, and we ended up throwing 75% of it in the trash. It was devastating.

Never again. I’ve been sharpening my cake-making skills and narrowing down my favorite cake recipes ever since and couldn’t wait to construct something amazing for Finn’s party!


Many people have asked, so thought I’d share how it came together.

There were a few ideas going through my head, like should it erupt with dry ice smoke? I crossed off this plan pretty quick because we wanted to eat this thing, not just look at it, and I didn’t want any dry ice/water mishaps ruining our dessert. (If you want to go the dry ice route, try a rice krispie cake like the one we did for Ethan’s dinosaur party a couple years ago!) But I really wanted a show-stopping topper and edible lava effects, so I turned to the web for inspiration.

Finns Turns 3 Volcano Cake Gazing

I passed by Ashlee Marie’s amazing tutorial for the flame suckers, originally designed for an over-the-top Inside-Out themed party, and they looked so fun to make I just had to give it a try. I’ve melted my fair share of sugar to prepare yearly batches of holiday toffee, but this recipe called for melting isomalt crystals, which I immediately ordered from Amazon. The very clear instructions told me exactly how to make the suckers and they turned out great. I used vanilla extract instead of the cinnamon called for in the recipe to keep them really toddler friendly.

Once it hardened, I felt very Walter White-like. Stu even did a double-take when he walked by.

Finns Volcano Party -Flame Suckers

I made the suckers about a week before the party and popped them in a airtight container.

I also made my cake layers about a week before, four to be exact. Using Ina Garten’s Chocolate Cake recipe that is oh so moist and delicious. The recipe makes two layers, so I doubled it for four. I had trouble finding the exact recipe online, I used my well-loved 1999 Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, but this site seems to have it right.


I double wrapped each layer in plastic wrap and stuck ’em in the freezer, something that always seems to make the flavor even better.

Three days before the party (and one day before our out of town guests arrived) we made the buttercream. This rich and velvety chocolate buttercream was perfect for the outside layer, while my tried and true cream cheese butter cream was best for the inside and decorations. I can’t find the original link for this frosting, but here’s what I use:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces cream cheese

I love how the cream cheese adds the perfect not-too-sweet creaminess to cakes and cupcakes. I probably made 3x this recipe just to be sure there would be enough to generously fill each layer and do some simple decorations. Most of this batch was dyed red—it was supposed to be lava—and the rest green for some grass around the base.

The day before, we assembled the cake, then back in the freezer it went, till everything was firm.


Once nice and chilly, the cake was super easy to shape. Cake shaping is so fun! It was kind of hard to stop carving (and tasting). 


I crumb-coated with the chocolate frosting, chilled, then did a final layer, leaving things “rough” because volcanoes aren’t perfect people.

Next up was the lava. We’ve all seen the “drip cakes”, they are cute and fun and look easy, right? I found what looked like THE tutorial and it all checked out. Make a ganache with white melting chocolate, dye, and drizzle.


The result was really disappointing. That nice, thick color didn’t come through after I drizzled, it was thin and too runny, even though I used less cream than the recipe called for. I even tried to chill it to make it thicker without much better luck. Next time I’ll make the extra trip to Michael’s to get the pre-dyed melting candies, I think they would have worked better!  But the overall effect worked and it was cute the way the “lava” puddled at on the white tier.


It may seem silly to add “grass”, but I think it looked so cute! And it was fun. I used my little v-shaped leaf tip and went to town.


The cake chilled in the fridge overnight and I took it out a couple hours before the party, popping those flame suckers in the top. Finn was so excited!

Once the candles were out, the kids immediately asked for those suckers. NOTE: Be sure you make enough suckers for all the kids!

Finns Volcano Party - Flame Sucker Kids

Every little hand had a sucker. They were a huge hit.

So how was the cake? Incredible. I’ve never made (or possibly had) one better. It was rich and chocolatey without being too sweet, with just the right amount of buttercream–light cocoa outside and tangy cream cheese inside. It was dessert for the rest of the weekend.

That’s it! Now I just need more excuses to make cakes! I really enjoyed planning and putting this one together. Ethan has made some pretty lofty requests involving Pokemon-related cake designs for his party in December…sounds way harder. Can’t wait!

What’s your favorite cake recipe? 

Finn Turns 3!!

2017 November 1
by Becky

Finns Turns 3 Volcano Cake Gazing

Finn turned three!! Last Saturday was a gorgeous fall day and we couldn’t wait to celebrate the big guy’s birthday with our out of town visitors—my parents and my aunt and uncle. And…a couple of his little buddies! That’s right, for three months I assumed we’d just do a family party since we’re so new to town, but low and behold Finn has made some friends at preschool and they were very excited to join us for some cake! Volcano cake, to be exact.

That’s right, Finn’s only request for his birthday party was a volcano cake because he is totally obsessed with volcanoes. I’m not sure how it started, but I do know I’ve been asked to tell him volcano stories and sing volcano songs for months now, and any mound of anything he sees (rice, cereal, rocks, asphalt from the construction work outside) reminds him of a volcano. Oh, and he thinks volcanoes eat hot dogs and knows the biggest one (on earth) is in Hawaii. He would like to go to Hawaii soon to check it out. (Me too kid, me too)


Anyway, I figured I could oblige the volcano request with an amazing cake (which I very much enjoyed planning and making) and a couple fun volcano activities. Funny how the second kid has totally different priorities. Finn just asked for cake, while Ethan always wanted the “activities”. School bus, construction, Rescue Bots, dinosaurs…he loved the themed parties and got so excited about every detail, which made planning and making every detail so much fun.

Right now, I’m appreciating the simple requests.

So I cooked up a cake and an easy paper mache volcano (Finn helped with that one) and the day of the party, all we had to do was get Finn out of his Captain Underpants costume and into something a little more appropriate before his guests arrived.


Finn was pumped! It was really exciting to see him have connections with friends, maybe the first real ones he’s had in his three little years. Since it was beautiful outside we partied in the back yard, my favorite kind of party. Spill your hearts out kids.


The kids were REALLY excited about helping me make the volcano erupt. They took turns pouring baking soda into the “vent” and I had the honor of pouring the vinegar…it was a big moment!!

Until it failed.


Ethan and I had tested it all out, we were ready, but our mixture just wasn’t big enough to overflow our vessel. FAIL!!! OMG I was so disappointed. I gave up pretty quick but Ethan was determined, taking over as scientist to make it work. The little kids had a really good time inspecting the volcano and dumping in more baking soda but nothing did the job…it was a dud.

After everyone left, in an act of total frustration, I shoved some saran wrap a few inches into the vent and we had ourselves an eruption. Ethan and Finn took turns mixing and at the end of the day I was adding baking soda and vinegar—white and apple cider—to my shopping list.


So that was it! A tiny party that was tons of fun and made the new age official. That night we opened presents, the winner being a marble run set from the Lakeshore Learning catalog. I always leave that one around for the boys to flip through, just to see what they think is really cool. This set kept them all excited and I knew it would be something they could share.

Turns out we ALL loved putting huge marble mazes together! This particular set gets two thumbs up from our family, it’s really fun figuring out the most impressive way to get those marbles down to the bottom and is a great deal. Finn hasn’t started to build much on his own yet, but he totally gets the concept and I’m sure will be putting together his own creations soon.


So that’s Finn’s birthday! No personalized garments or special vehicles involved, just family and friends and sugar. Don’t get me wrong, I love a challenge with a list of projects that keep my evenings full for a couple months, but this was really refreshing and a welcome change. Finn is happy! And he’s three. It never gets easier to believe.

(I’ll be posting more info about the cake next week…it was really fun to make and totally delicious! The flame suckers were homemade too and super easy.)