An Easy Manga-Style Cake for the Decorating Deficient

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Make a Manga-themed birthday cake that's easy, fun and colorful. All Images: Lisa Kay Tate
Make a Manga-themed birthday cake that’s easy, fun and colorful. All Images: Lisa Kay Tate

I’ve had my share of cake decorating fails, but I still like creating something special when my kids’ birthdays roll around.

This year, when my Manga-crazy daughter turned 14, I wanted to make her a Manga and Anime style cake that fits her own vibrant personality, but was short of both time and cake-decorating ability.

Here’s an easy way to create a Manga-themed cake that captures the color, energy and fun of the Japanese animation style people all over the world love in just three steps:

Kanji calligraphy makes for an attractive birthday message. Practice first on scrap paper.
Kanji calligraphy makes for an attractive birthday message. Practice first on scrap paper.

Step One: The Text

Bake or purchase a plain, blank cake. This idea will work on either round or sheet cakes, as long as the top surface is relatively flat. I created a tiered cake using two different sized cake pans, but this isn’t mandatory. White or bright colors look best; steer clear of darker colored icing.

One of the things my daughter loves about Manga is, even when translated into English, the artistic “exclamations” which are part of the artwork remain in Japanese text in the books. I thought it would be fun to write her Birthday wish in Kanji calligraphy, a style of Japanese writing using Chinese characters. The cake actually just says “birthday” as is found on boards and greetings, but there are translators and Kanji guides online if you want to add someone’s name.

I used gel-type icing in a small tube to write this, as smaller tubes are easier to hold like a pen. I did have to practice on a piece of paper first.

Manga-themed figures, badges and other small items, as well as Pocky sticks will bring a cake to life. Anime images (like vocaloid pop star Hatsune Miku) will transform birthday candles as well.
Manga-themed figures, badges and other small items, as well as Pocky sticks will bring the happy spirit of Manga to life. Anime images (like vocaloid pop star Hatsune Miku) will transform birthday candles as well.

Step Two: The Decorations

Last year, I learned the less you actually have to build on the cake, the better, so I decorated a “multi-fandom” cake for my daughter with a patterned sugar sheet, and little trinkets representing all the things she loves.

This year, I did similar using Manga and Anime themed characters. Book, music, game and toy stores are good places to gather inexpensive items. I used small “mystery packet” figures, erasers, small badges, from series like Tokyo Ghoul, RWBY and Kiki’s Delivery Service, as well as a backpack hanger (with the hanger attachment removed) of vocaloid Hatsune Miku. I also added some sticks of Pocky (many supermarkets carry them).

So you don’t overwhelm the cake with candles, or put any figures in danger of getting burned, use shaped number candles and add a few small images from catalogs or magazines of a favorite Manga characters with icing.

Both rolled and box sushi can be recreated in candy form using rice cereal treats, gummy candies and fruit leather.
Both rolled and box sushi can be recreated in candy form using rice cereal treats, gummy candies and fruit leather.

Step Three: Add Some Sushi!

This last step is, the “icing on the cake,” so to speak.

About the same time my daughter discovered Manga, she discovered she loved Sushi! We decided a cool way to finish off the cake, was to make some candy sushi pieces. There are plenty of candy sushi ideas on party sites, but I created the simplest kind I could, using gummy candies, rice cereal treats and fruit leather.

First make the rice cereal treats, using the standard recipe. The original Rice Krispie recipe can be found on their site, as well as on the back of the box. Instead of spreading it in a pan, spread the mixture thinly on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.

Next lay three gummy worms together on the sheet of rice cereal. I used Twizzlers since they’re a favorite of my girls, but gummy worms look prettier. Next, roll it gently like a wrap or burrito. This will be sticky, so keep your hands clean and dry. Cut this “wrap” the length of the gummy worms, and cover it gently with fruit leather. It will look like a big red or blue spring roll. Using a sharp knife, gently slice it in several pieces, and it will look like pieces of sushi.

If you have any left over treats, form them by hand roll them into small two-inch by one-inch“bricks,” place a gummy fish or bear on top and secure it with a thin strip of fruit leather for box sushi.

Place these on or around the cake, for a festive Manga party tray no one would every know it took little work to make.

I learned last year with this "multi-fandom cake" the less you do shaping the cake the better. I'm leaving the special shapes to the professionals.
I learned last year with this “multi-fandom cake” the less I shape the cake the better. I’ll leave the special shapes to the professionals.