A 3rd Birthday for Baby

I guess I shouldnt call her a baby anymore as she just turned three, but I can’t help it! I still see remnants of her baby fat and chubby cheeks and yet she’s old enough to ask for a Belle-themed birthday party!  It’s bittersweet for sure.

I figured since this was her first real birthday party, we could have some of her close friends over and have a small, intimate party.  The challenge with daycare and commuting is that my schedule never overlaps other parents so while my daughter talks about her friends, I never have occasion to have my path cross with any of her friends parents.  Birthday parties are really a good way to remedy that.

I don’t know where my daughter got an idea for a Belle birthday party, but she wanted it.  I’m not a big fan of character parties so I was trying to think of the best way to accomplish this theme without having Disney paraphernalia everywhere.  I settled on a subtle Belle theme using yellow, gold and white with cupcakes alluding to the movie.

I found this cute cupcake idea on pinterst.  Unfortunately, the Wilton roses that were recommended for this cupcake had reviews that all agreed they tasted terrible.  I was talking to my mom on the phone about this one day and she decided she wanted to make icing roses for the cupcakes and FedEx then to me! Amazing!  I made a simple lemon cupcake recipe with a the buttercream frosting I have blogged about before.

For decorations, I stuck to a simple color scheme of white and gold throughout.  I think it turned out very nice and the kids had a great time!  In my next post I’ll talk about the craft all the kiddies got to make.  Until then, a very happy birthday to my littlest munchkin!

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A Royal Endeavor

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If you saw my last post, you got a peek of the castle cake I made for my daughter for her 5th birthday party.  I’m going to try and describe my step-by-step on how I created this with things I learned while making this.  I used buttercream instead of fondant because I’m not a huge fan of the taste of fondant.

Step 1: The Base

I used (2) layers of 8″ round vanilla cake for the bottom and (2) layers of 6″ round vanilla cake for the top.  I made a double recipe of buttercream frosting, which was able to assemble the whole cake, all layers, and provide a crumb layer for the base.  Recipe below:

Buttercream frosting:

1 Cup butter, softened

4 Cups confectioners sugar, sifted

2 tsp vanilla

4 T milk

Cream all ingredients together.

Make sure before assembly that all cake layers are cooled and the tops are cut so that they are all flat. Between the bottom 8″ round layers and the 6″ top layers, I put a 6″ round cardboard layer wrapped in foil and supported by barbeque skewers so that the weight would not crush the center of the cake.

Step 2: Turrets

I ended up using two types of ice cream cones.  The pointy cones were the tops of the turrets and the tower portion were a combination of the flat sugar cones.  With the pointy cones, I made a royal icing recipe, watered down, and spread it onto the cone.  Then I covered it with rainbow sprinkles and set them on wax paper to set.

I didn’t need anything special for the individual towers.  I simply attached a point cone to a flat cone using frosting first, let it set, then attached that with frosting to the base cone turned upside down.  For the top of the cake, I use a barbeque skewer for the tallest turret that went through the cake and both cones (plus frosting) to provide more stability.

For the top turrets, I wanted to have a hierarchy of the towers so I ended up cutting of the base of two of the flat cones so that you would see the gradual rise of turrets.  I think that the effect turned out quite nice.

Step 3: Assembly

I have never been able to get a really smooth buttercream iced cake.  However, after a lot of research, I found that in order to accomplish this, you ice the whole cake, and then you use a cake scraper, heated with hot water and wiped clean, and run this around the perimeter of the cake.  As you do this, the heat will soften the butter in the icing and give you a perfectly smooth base layer.  It was quite amazing and I will definitely use this method again.

Step 4: Decoration

I basically made this up as I went along.  I cut a graham cracker for the door and then I just iced away.  I thought the top would look more like vines climbing up a tower.  I think though that the main attraction was the turrets so I didn’t want to make it too busy.  I ended up with seven turrets in total since there were seven girls at the party.

This was by far my most ambitious cake challenge yet, especially since I am by no means a professional cake decorator.  I did have a lot of fun though, and I definitely learned a lot.  What was the craziest cake you ever made?

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What to Do With a Gazillion Art Projects?

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My daughter’s daycare has begun a great pre-k program which teaches them all sorts of fun stuff. Each month they have a theme and each week focuses on a different aspect of his theme. For example, the first month was family. So, they all made family trees and learned all about their family and each other’s families. In conjunction with these themed weeks, there are lots of different art projects to help teach them about these aspect. One day they drew a picture of mommy. One day they made a craft project of daddy. They learned the difference between girls and boys and had projects that defined the different genders, etc. etc. Well, we’re now 4 months into the curriculum and almost every day my daughter comes back with a new craft project. There are so many, which are great, but I’m having difficulty finding places to put them!

When I was growing up, I had done a lot of craft projects myself. I didn’t know what my mom had done with all of them. One day, a couple of years back, before any of my brothers or I had kids, we were all home for the holidays and reminiscing about our childhood. All of a sudden, my mom tells us that she has all of our old craft projects stored away in boxes! What!??!! So we pulled the boxes down and spent the afternoon perusing all of our different forays. Some of them were pretty hilarious. Young kids are so honest and open that when you read some of the things we wrote, it was shocking yet funny at the same time!

This moment flashes before my eyes each time my daughter brings home a new craft. I have diligently been labeling each project with a date and what it is (if it is not recognizable to me) or if there is something of note (such as – she glued all of the items on herself) and put them in a stack on top of our refrigerator. I found that if I leave them in an easy to reach place, she often wants to take them and re-purpose the craft into something else.  So, the pile grew and grew.  I, being a little bit of a neat freak, started to get a little agitated with the growing stack of disorganization above our fridge.  I finally had a bright idea to display all the art and reclaim some of the space above my fridge.  Also, it was a great project I could do with my daughter!

IMG_6316Since her room has a little table for her to do her arts and crafts, I had previously decorated with two simple framed pieces of her artwork.  However, I realized I could put this wall to better use and display even more.  I thought that having two strings with clothespins holding up her various art pieces would be a fun way to display all her crafts.  As she made more crafts, we could shuffle things around and pin more up.  My daughter got very excited with this idea.  I taught her how to use the clothespins and she helped me pin up all of her projects.  I let her decide, for the most part, what order to put them up.  The final result is what you see above!  I think that I’m going to need to think of another idea for displaying these crafts as there is no more room for other crafts and the pile continues to grow on top of my fridge.  Sometimes you just can’t win 🙂