My son recently had his second birthday and before his birthday I asked him what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday. He promptly responded with “ocean” and “baby shark” (his vocabulary is limited but rapidly growing these days). I certainly don’t consider myself to be an expert cake decorator, but decided to accept the challenge. Luckily for me, our church was passing out little fish shaped candies for an Easter event with the theme of being fishers of men (Mathew 4:19). The little hard candies and Swedish fish that were passed out made the perfect additions to my son’s ocean themed birthday cake! This ocean themed cake was made from scratch using our favorite recipe for Texas sheet cake from one of my Mennonite cookbooks. For more cake recipes you can try out my Amish Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Icing or Strawberry filled Vanilla Sheet Cake Cupcakes.
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Ocean Themed Birthday cake (with Baby Shark cake toppers)
- Mixing bowl (linked below)
- 2 9 inch cake pans (linked below)
- Saucepan (linked below)
- hand mixer (linked below)
- Piping bag (linked below)
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup butter
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour leveled
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 large eggs beaten
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the cheesecake filling:
- 8 oz. cream cheese softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- dash salt
- 2 cups confectioner's sugar
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
For the frosting:
- 1 batch Swiss meringue buttercream from Sally's Baking Addiction or basic buttercream
- several drops blue food coloring
- Swedish fish, hard fish candies, shark gummies, gummy worms etc.
- Baby shark cake toppers linked below
- 3-4 crushed graham crackers (for sand)
Preheat oven to 350.
- In a small saucepan, melt butter with one cup of water over medium heat. Once the butter has melted stir to combine with the water, then remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
- In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, salt and baking soda together, then stir in beaten eggs, sour cream and vanilla extract. Add the warm (not hot) butter and water mixture and then stir gently to combine until there are no lumps remaining in the cake batter.
- Line the bottoms of two 9 inch round cake pans with parchment paper and spray the sides with cooking spray, then divide the cake batter between both cake pans. Bake in the center of the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes, or until the cakes are golden and set on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool, then remove the cakes carefully from the cake pans and discard the parchment papers.
- Combine the softened cream cheese, salt and vanilla with a hand mixer, then add sifted confectioner's sugar (1/2 cup at a time) mixing well between each addition. Whip the heavy cream in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form, then fold into the cream cheese mixture until combined and smooth. Trim the tops of the cooled cakes as needed, then top the bottom layer of cake with the cream cheese filling (you may not need all of the cream cheese filling), leaving space on the sides to allow for a ring of frosting to seal in the cheesecake filling. Top with the second layer of cake.
- Mix the frosting of your choice as directed in the recipe. Using a piping bag and a round tip, pipe a ring of frosting between the layers of cake to seal in the cheesecake filling, then frost the remainder of the cake using the piping bag and an icing spatula (see photos below for reference).
- Decorate the cake on the tops and sides with crushed graham crackers for sand, fish candies, baby shark toppers etc. (Candies and toppers linked below.) Keep refrigerated or see storage notes below.
Some equipment needed for this Ocean themed birthday cake:
- Mixing bowls I prefer to use stainless steel mixing bowls for my baking needs. I find stainless steel bowls to be easier to clean and sturdier than most other types of mixing bowls.
- 9 inch cake pans You will need two 9 inch cake pans for the amount this sheet cake recipe makes.
- Saucepan A saucepan is needed for melting the butter and water together before mixing them into the dry ingredients.
- Hand mixer I prefer to use a hand mixer for mixing up the cheesecake filling.
- Piping bag A piping bag and a round tip is the easiest way to get an even layer of frosting onto the cake before smoothing it out with a cake spatula.
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Ingredients needed for the sheet cake: Water, butter, vanilla extract, flour, salt, baking soda, sour cream, eggs and sugar.
Cheesecake filling (not shown): Cream cheese, salt, vanilla extract, confectioner’s sugar and heavy whipping cream.
Frosting and decorations: I prefer to use the Swiss meringue buttercream from Sally’s Baking Addiction (great blog to follow for bakers by the way), or a basic buttercream. For the decorations I used hard mini fish candies (the ones linked are similar), Swedish fish, graham crackers, Baby Shark cake toppers, gummy worms and a homemade toy boat made by my husband’s 3D printer (you can use any toy sail boat, surf board, etc. simply wash it well in soap water before using as a decoration for the cake).
Step 1-2: Melt and combine the butter and water in a medium sized saucepan over medium-low heat, then allow to cool slightly. Combine the dry ingredients, then add sour cream, eggs, vanilla extract and the melted butter mixture. Mix until the cake batter is well combined and lump free. The cake batter should be thin as shown.
Step 3: Divide the cake batter equally between two 9 inch cake pans (lined with parchment paper and greased on the sides), then bake in the preheated oven until the cake is golden on top and a knife or toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center. Cool, then remove carefully from the cake pans and discard the parchment papers.
To help prevent the cakes from collapsing in the centers after being baked, keep the oven door shut for the first 20 minutes of baking. If the cakes brown too fast, you can move them to a lower rack and/or lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees.
Step 4: Combine the cream cheese, vanilla and pinch of salt with a hand mixer, then add sifted confectioner’s sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing well between each addition. Beat the heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks form, then fold into the cream cheese mixture until smooth and creamy. Trim the tops of the cakes to remove the rounded domes (if needed) then spread the cheese cake filling over the center of the bottom layer of the cake, leaving a space for the frosting ring. Top with the top half of the cake.
Step 5: Mix the frosting of your choice (a few recipes are linked above), then frost the cake using a piping bag with a round tip, and an icing spatula. Be sure to pipe a ring of frosting into the center of the cakes to seal the cheesecake filling inside.
Frosting a cake is a bit tedious for me, I like to slap things together in a few minutes or so (haha), so achieving the perfectly iced cake is still a work in progress in this house. If you wish to read additional tips for frosting a layered cake, you may enjoy this article: How to frost a Layer cake by Boston girl bakes. Note* I did not add the extra rings of frosting into the center of the cheesecake filling (only the outer ring to seal in the cheesecake filling), feel free to use your preferred method.
Step 6: Decorate the cake to your preference. Have fun and enjoy!
Storing this ocean themed birthday cake:
Because of the cheese cake filling, heavy whipping cream and more in this cake, you will need to keep this cake refrigerated in an airtight container, or wrapped with Saran wrap. Leftovers can also be frozen in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
Feel free to pin this recipe for later and tag me on Instagram to show off your own creation of this ocean themed birthday cake!