If you’ve been following DoSayGive on Instagram since the beginning, you’ve likely seen my annual post with our school bus cake. I’ve been doing this since my oldest went to kindergarten — every year, the night before the first day of school, I make a school bus cake for us to share. It’s something that all of my children look forward to, and it marks the start of a new season.
My college roommate, Megan, once told me that her mom did this for her every year growing up, and I filed the idea away for when I had children of my own. I just thought it was the sweetest idea! Traditions don’t need to be complicated or perfect (many years my cake was lopsided!); traditions are meant to bring families together and solidify memories.
After years and years of making this cake, we finally put together a little how-to so you can start this tradition with your family. You can use a boxed cake mix or your favorite homemade recipe! Have fun with it and get your children involved in the baking, too.
Back to School Bus Cake
1 Recipe vanilla cake (homemade or box mix)
1 Recipe vanilla buttercream frosting (homemade or store bought)
Yellow food coloring
Black food coloring
Oreos (or Mini Chocolate Donuts, but those can get a little messy)
Mini Nilla Wafers
Red and yellow Skittles or M&Ms (You can also use Red Hots if you can find them!)
*You can get creative with the decorations – I change it up every year based on what I can find in the candy aisle.
Prepare the Vanilla Cake
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray two loaf pans with non-stick baking spray and line the bottom and sides with parchment paper.
2. Prepare the vanilla pound cake per the instructions (either your recipe or per the box), and evenly divide between the two loaf pans. Bake until the cakes spring back to the touch or a cake tester comes out clean. (Tip: you can use regular cake mix but pound cake provides a sturdier base!)
3. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool before removing them from the pans.
4. Cut 4 inches off of the bottom of one of the loaves; set aside.
Prepare the Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
1. Prepare the vanilla buttercream frosting per your recipe instructions. If you purchased store bought frosting, scoop it out of the container and into a bowl.
2. Color the frosting yellow using the yellow food coloring; set aside.
Assemble the School Bus Cake
1. Using a platter or cake board, place the full-size vanilla cake loaf on the board.
2. Spread yellow frosting to cover the top of the loaf, then place the shorter loaf cake on top.
3. Cover the layered loaf cakes with yellow frosting until it is fully covered and the frosting is smooth.
4. Scoop a small amount of yellow frosting into a separate bowl. Add a few drops of black food coloring to create a black frosting for decoration.
5. Using a piping bag with a small round tip, pipe the windows of the bus and the front grill of the bus with the black frosting.
6. Place the black licorice around the base of the bus, the red Skittles for the siren lights, and the yellow Skittles for the headlights.
7. Place the Oreos for the wheels of the bus, and the Mini Nilla Wafers to represent the kids. (You can also print out photos of the children which I often do!)
8. Decorate the kids’ faces with additional frosting; be creative to make them resemble your family! Or sometimes I print out photos and stick on the cake instead. They love this!
9. Serve and enjoy!
Like I’ve said before… Traditions: You don’t need a lot of them. You don’t even need fancy ones. You just need to keep them. I hope you love this sweet and simple tradition as much as my family does!
And be sure to tag @DoSayGive on social media if you make one!