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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And Now We Are 5!

I figured that turning five years old was the next big milestone birthday after turning one.  Kindergarten!  Losing teeth!  Summer Camp!  The list goes on and on.  In recognition of this, I wanted to celebrate an extra special birthday for my eldest daughter.  I asked her what theme she wanted and she said she wanted a Queen themed birthday party… not a far cry from the princess party she wanted last year.  And, she wanted a cake, not cupcakes.  Similar to last year, I gave her the choice of inviting six friends to attend to keep it small.

This year her birthday party ended up being the day before Easter, so it was almost a no-brainer to have an Easter Egg Hunt as one of the activities.  After a lot of thought, I ended up deciding on a DIY color-me-mine activity that I’ll post about later. Decorations this year followed a pink, orange, yellow and white theme and I decided to use a combination of tissue paper globes, DIY circle bunting, crepe paper streamers and helium balloons.  Altogether it ended up having a very nice spatial feeling that photos can never quite capture.  However, the main focus for me this year ended up being the cake.

I’m not a big cake decorator.  I have never taken classes.  The only thing I know about making cakes was watching my mom make amazing cakes as a child.  She took classes on cake decorating and learned how to make all sorts of beautiful flowers with icing.  She taught me how to assemble a cake and ice it.  I learned about decorating through watching.  We always had the most amazing cakes as children, all made out of my mom’s imagination.  I remember, as a child, running downstairs in the morning for the days leading up to my or my brothers’ birthdays, to peek into the refrigerator and see what progress my mom made on the wonderful cake she made for each of her children each year.  It was a magical feeling and built up the anticipation for the big day.

So.  Queen party. Cake. Castle cake!  I immediately looked to Pinterest and found some really great ideas.  There are any number of ways to make a cake. I’ll post later about more details on how I constructed this.  Suffice to say, this took me about a week to make since I had such limited time to dedicate to it. However, the effect was wonderful and the delight and joy that I saw on my daughter’s face as well as the faces of her friends was well worth the time and effort.

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Happy birthday my big girl, don’t grow up too fast!

A 2-year old Affair

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This past week-end we celebrated my daughter’s second birthday. This was an especially festive occasion as both sets of grandparents would be present, as well as two of the three uncles and aunts, and the newest addition to our family!  My husband and I unwittingly made a bold decision to go bigger this year. We ended up having about 30 people in total (children, parents and grandparents) and the party was a blast!

My daughter was so excited for her party.  Even though she is only two, she understood that she was having a birthday party and was singing happy birthday to herself and all of her friends (many of whom have birthdays in very close proximity to hers).  We practiced blowing out candles, baking fake cupcakes with her toy cupcake set, and looking at her party dress that was saved for this special occasion.  When today finally came, she was so excited she could barely nap and squealed at the opportunity to change to her party clothes.  It is amazing to see how much she has grown and what she can comprehend, all at the tender age of two.

IMG_5181I had gotten it into my head a while back that this birthday party would be a dinosaur theme. My daughter seemed to really love dinosaurs and while her attentions have waxed and waned, I couldn’t help but stick to this theme. Part of the reason was that on my trip home back in June, I had dug up these really great dinosaur cookie cutters that my mom had used at one of my brother’s birthday parties when we were kids, and I always thought they were the coolest things in the world. I couldn’t pass up a chance to use them myself!

I used a very basic sugar cookie recipe for the base cookie and a royal icing recipe for the coloring.  My mom had bought these cutters from Wilton’s years ago, but had held onto them.  My mom was a great help in lending her hands to aid in the icing of these guys.  I think that they turned out great and we individually packaged each one and put them in a goody bag full of fun things for the kiddies.

IMG_5173Of course, I didn’t stop there.  We also had cupcakes.  I ended up using Magnolia Bakery’s devil’s food cake recipe for the cupcakes and a very simply cream cheese frosting for the decorations.  I added a little bit of sparkle by dipping the top tips of the cupcakes into silver dragees (which, by the way, were a huge hit with the kiddies – sparkly and sweet?  What’s not to love!?!)

All in all, it was a great party.  It’s amazing to reflect upon the last two years and marvel at how life changes in the blink of an eye.  I have to thank my husband for his foresight in ordering platters of food as well as for the grandparents for bringing other yummy snacks while I concentrated on the sweets and baking.  It was a wonderful concerted effort.  Happy birthday to my little honey!