Arthur Birthday Party: Birthday Cake Recipe | Recipes | PBS Food

Arthur Birthday Party: Birthday Cake

Note: You can double this recipe to make a 9x13 sheet cake or a round layer cake. This cake is very moist, so it really is important that the pans be well greased. And remember that it's a good idea to check with your guests' parents regarding any possible food allergies prior to deciding on a party menu.



  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup baking cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup cold water
  • large mixing bowl
  • mixing spoon
  • sifter
  • well-greased round cake pan (or 8x8 square)
  • rubber spatula
  • knife (for adult use only)


  1. How to Make the Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Pour the sugar into the mixing bowl. Sift the flour into the bowl. Sift the salt, cocoa, and baking soda together into the bowl. Stir these dry ingredients with the spoon until well combined.
  3. Use your spoon to make a well in the center of the dry mixture. Pour the oil, vanilla, and cold water into the well. Mix vigorously until smooth.
  4. Pour into pan(s) and place in preheated oven.
  5. Bake for 35 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean.
  6. Allow cake to cool in pan for a bit, and then turn it upside down onto a wire rack to cool completely. (If you are having a hard time getting the cake out of the pan, run a table knife around the edges.) The cake must be COMPLETELY cool before you ice it, or you'll end up with all those annoying chocolate crumbs in your nice white frosting.
  7. How to Decorate the Cake: Drawing Arthur is actually just a matter of arranging some simple shapes. Use the instructions below and the picture above to learn how:
  8. Cover the cake entirely in the white frosting. Smooth out the top of the cake as much as you can by pulling a knife or rubber spatula lightly across the surface.
  9. Make Arthur's eyes and glasses: Take two sandwich cookies and remove one chocolate side from each. Using a table knife at a shallow angle, lightly scrape the top of the exposed filling to remove any leftover chocolate crumbs. Place the cookies about an inch apart (filling side up) just above the center of the cake. These are Arthur's eyes and glasses. Using the brown gel, draw a small upside down U between the two cookies, and then place two gel dots in the center of each cookie's filling.
  10. Make Arthur's head: With the gel, draw a large U starting from the lower left side of the left cookie and ending at the lower right side of the right cookie. Next, draw a shallow upside down U starting from the upper left side of the left cookie and ending at the upper right side of the right cookie.
  11. Make Arthur's mouth and nose: Toward the bottom of the face, draw a slightly curved capital T angled up to the right. (See picture.) Draw a shallow little U under the top half of the T. Place two small dots just above the mouth you just made.
  12. Make Arthur's eyebrows: Starting at the top center of the left cookie, draw a short diagonal line up to the right. Starting at the top center of the right cookie, draw a short diagonal line up to the left.
  13. Make Arthur's ears: Draw a small light bulb shape on the upper left side of Arthur's head. Follow the curve of the small light bulb to trace a bigger light bulb around it. Repeat these steps on the upper right side of Arthur's head.
  14. Make Arthur's bow tie: Cut the licorice twists into four 1 1/2" pieces, two 1" pieces, and one 1/2" piece. Place the 1/2" piece directly under the center of Arthur's chin. This is the knot of the bow tie. Take two 1 1/2" pieces and arrange them into a sideways V on the right side of the knot. Repeat on the left with the other two 1 1/2" pieces. Insert a 1" piece into the opening of each V.
  15. Make a mistake along the way? No problem. Use a clean table knife to lift up any lines you don't like. Clean the icing off the knife and use it to smooth the white frosting before trying again.


What You'll Need for Decoration: 1 16oz tub of white frosting (two if making a 9x13 or layer cake) 2 tubes of brown writing gel (found in the baking aisle of your grocery store) several chocolate sandwich cookies (the ones with double filling work best) several red licorice twists
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