A Merry Prankster-inspired bus birthday cake that looks so bad it’s good

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As we all know, DIY doesn’t always have pretty results… so as part of my continuing series of ugly DIY that my kid loves anyway I present this partial-failure of a bus birthday cake I made for my son’s second birthday. I didn’t want to make just ANY bus, of course — no, I wanted to have a Merry Prankster-inspired bus. For my son’s second birthday. Because… he’s so into tripping? (No.) Because I thought it would be fun? Yes!

I had to Google it (YES, this happened before Pinterest! How did I survive?!), and I was totally sure I could ace a cake like this. Never mind that most of my baking attempts end in tears and cakes that are falling apart. Also: let me make no bones about it. I made this cake the morning of his birthday from a box mix and I gobbed tons of sugary, rot-your-teeth-out icing on top of it. And it was fucking delish. Now that this is out of the way, we can proceed.

What you’ll need

  • Cake mix OR ingredients to make a cake
  • Frosting
  • Food coloring
  • Icing writer
  • Oreos
  • Glasses or bowls to hold the frosting

How you do it

Step one: get your ingredients and materials ready.




Step two: follow the instructions on the back of the box for the cake.



Step three: set up your frosting-holding glasses. Spoon a little bit of frosting into each (I tried to do equal parts). Add your food coloring and mix each color.



Step four: when the cake is out and cooled, cut it into two pieces. You want one of these to be longer than the other. Take the longer piece and cut it in half — these halves will be the body of the bus. Apply your frosting to the body. I just used a butter knife and haphazardly applied the different colors in a kind of pattern, but I’m sure some of you can get real fancy with it.


Step five: once you’ve frosted the body, retrieve the original smaller piece — it’ll be the front of the bus! Put icing on the side facing the body and attach it to the body that way. Begin frosting the smaller piece. Attach the Oreo wheels to the bus, draw windows and whatever else you want on the bus… and there ya go! Insta bus birthday cake success!



… kind of. Right?

Also, in case you’re wondering, I also made a regular ole school bus.. it just wasn’t nearly as fun. And my son loved them both all the way until the moment where he realized they weren’t real buses he could play with:


I’m curious — do you have anything to contribute to our “ugly DIY” series? Send a tutorial or drop a photo in the Flickr pool!

Comments on A Merry Prankster-inspired bus birthday cake that looks so bad it’s good

  1. Hah! I love his face in the last pic. “Why can’t I play with it?” Great job on the bus cake though. I have issues when I bake and try to make something other than a plain old 9×13 cake, so I applaud your trippy bus 🙂

  2. I loved this!

    Sidenote: I must be extremely tired because as I scanned through the picture, the one of the knobs on the stove made me think it was turned to “cake” instead of “bake” and I thought “Huh. That’s pretty helpful to have a cake setting on the stove.”

    It made me laugh, at least. 🙂

  3. I am terrible with any type of intricate patient detail oriented tasks, so I am VERY lucky to have a good friend who is incredibly talented in cake design! My effort would be probably elicit “what is it?” or “hmmm, it’s… Interesting!”

  4. For my daughter’s first birthday I made a round cake and I knew that there was no way I was going to pull of anything uber-creative, so I kept it simple and just did frosting…until I decided that it needed to SAY ‘Happy Birthday’. I hodge-podged a piping bag and attempted to write free-hand. Well, the Happy looked OK, but the Birthday got too long and curved up the side of the cake. The pictures are so far from those beautiful first birthday cakes you see in all the books…but it was eaten just the same. 🙂

  5. I’m pretty un-crafty. I don’t have steady hands, so any sort of arty thing is usually beyond my scope.
    Usually, what I do to compensate for this is to have my daughter help with everything I do. That way I can say, “Look at what M helped me do!” And no one need ever know that I’m an utter failure at just about everything.
    But I’m a huge fan of crappily decorated yet delicious desserts. And I think your bus is awesome.

  6. it doesn’t have to be out of Martha Stewart for a kid to love it (though I don’t see Martha making a Merry Pranksters bus cake any time soon). 😀 3 hours or 12, all the kid sees is “BUS!!!” and that’s all that matters.

    also can someone PLEASE tell me what the heck pintest is and why everyone is obsessed with it?! I feel out of the loop.

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