Archive for the ‘Cakes’ Category

Dino-Mite Party Decor

16 Jun

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Koren has themes already picked out for all his birthday parties through the age of 12.  This was the year of the Dinosaur Party.  I was super disappointed that the Herd Museum doesn’t have their Dinosaurs Live! exhibit up this time of year, but we probably would have melted in the heat anyway.

I thought he would want to outsource the party this year, but upon hearing about the possibility of a Dino Dig in our back yard, decided he really wanted to have it at home again.  I was fine with this because I have a feeling that our years of having home parties are limited and it will be all Pump it Up or Chuck E Cheese in the future.

Out of fear that the cake would melt in the sunroom, I opted to have the food in the dining room this year, which meant covering up my purple wall.  A few paper plates and table cloths did the trick.

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I’m annoyed that I didn’t get better pictures of… well, anything.  But I was running behind schedule and having to take pictures in between greeting the guests and everything was kind of a blur.

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The cake was fun, and I finally figured out how to do palm trees that are structurally sound (enough) and look decent. As long as I can keep the cat from playing with them.

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Our standard “plywood-over-a-coffee-table” worked nicely this year also, with JUST BARELY enough room for all the attendants.  We moved our actual dining table out to the sunroom, where it served nicely as a come-and-go crafts table.

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I usually don’t bother with party hats, but these little triceratops were too cute to pass up, and stood up when placed over a punch cup.

 

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And of course, food.  This was a big party day, and a lot of the kids (including mine) were attending multiple parties this day… so I couldn’t in good conscience have nothing but cake to offer.

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…Ok, so maybe Jello Jigglers aren’t exactly a healthy alternative, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to use my dinosaur cookie cutters.

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We had very little food left over, which made me very happy.  I hate having to find room to store a bunch of leftovers after a party.

And last but not least, party favors.  I put the kids to work assembling these, so I hope everybody got the same distribution of goodies inside.

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Angry Birds Cake

25 Oct

Kaelin has had her heart set on an Angry Birds theme for her 7th birthday party since approximately the day after her 6th birthday party.  Since it wasn’t Disney, I was happy to oblige.  Really, I’ve been pretty fortunate in the overall lack of Disney princess obsession she has developed.

We ended up having her birthday at a pumpkin patch located on a ranch, so Angry Birds became Western Pumpkin Angry Birds.

I scoured the web for Angry Birds cakes, but  couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for.  So I invented it.

I neglected to take as many “in process” pictures of this cake as I usually do.  But you’ll probably get the idea.  It took me a full day plus a couple of evenings.  I did attempt buttercream for the first time in a long time.  Not sure what I did the first time I tried to make buttercream (several years ago) but that time it tasted like straight butter and was disgusting.  This time, however, I had success and created a pretty delicious (if I do say so myself) frosting that is a lot cheaper than buying the decorator frosting tubs.  It’s a relief to no longer be scared of buttercream.

My initial model

Chocolate piggy halves

Stone tower covered in fondant

Stone tower – these were made of styrofoam because a) it’s sturdier, and b) I didn’t need that much cake

The base of the cowboy hat was made of gum paste. I dried it on a cake smoother to give it its shape.

Cowboy Piggy and the logs are made of cake.  I did learn something very important.  Moist cakes and buttercream frosting get very soft when luke-warm.  Next time I will freeze the cake before covering it in fondant so it will keep its shape.  It’s really disheartening when you suddenly discover that your piggy has aged 30 years in an hour, and now has wrinkles.

Extra bird… because you can’t really have an Angry Birds cake without any birds. Another lesson learned though… you can’t turn gum paste into chocolate gum paste just by adding cocoa powder. It gets very dry and cracky and will not absorb the powdered sugar you have to use to roll it out.

At the party. Remember that “buttercream gets soft when warm” thing? Piggy took a nosedive into the grass halfway through the party. Fortunately, everybody thought it was funny and fit with the theme.

 

 
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Posted in Birthdays, Cakes, Kaelin

 

Ahoy Matey! Pirate Party Decor

09 Jun

For Koren’s fourth birthday, he chose a pirate theme.  My goal was to go for “cute pirate” rather than “scary pirate” for obvious reasons.  I originally intended to stay completely away from any skull and crossbones imagery.  Unfortunately, I soon discovered that it is pretty much impossible to throw a pirate party without the famed Jolly Roger.  Still, I tried to minimize it as much as possible.  After an obscene amount of time spent on Pinterest, I narrowed down my ideas and ended up with the following:

 

The Setup - before the chaos ensued.

It was going to cost me over $100 to rent a bunch of kiddie-sized tables and chairs for a few hours, so I sent Jens to Home Depot for a cheap plank of plywood. We placed it over a coffee table and covered it with a tablecloth. In lieu of chairs, I used foam puzzle floor mats for the kids to sit on - which also helped protect the carpet.

Kids' table, complete with Ship Sale Sandwiches (thanks Mom & Dad for the PB&J cutouts!) and Scallywag Shish Kabobs

Cake Table with cardboard ship's mast. I'm pretty pleased with the ship's mast, which is part of a cardboard ship I plan to assemble for Koren to play with in the near future. Kaelin got a cardboard tower playhouse as souvenir from her Tangled party, and it was something both kids were able to appreciate for months after the party.

Cake Table

The Cake. See the previous post for details on this bad boy.

"Oz-ARRRG-ka" water ... Get it??? ARRRG! That was Jens' idea. I can always rely on him for a good pun. Or a bad one.

Fish & Chips (Goldfish crackers and carrot chips)

Cannon Balls (chocolate donuts)

Jolly Roger Jello (blue jello with an orange slice, a recycled idea from Kaelin's Tangled Party)

Because you can't have a pirate party without Pirate's Booty.

Blackbeard's Berries - these were a hit with the kids.

It kind of bugged me that my bowls said "POPCORN" on them, so at the last minute I sliced up some thank you notes and taped over them. Because I'm a little obsessive like that.

Pirate's Loot Table

I was pretty pleased with how everything turned out.  After weeks of planning and assembling, it was finally time for the festivities to begin!

 

 

Pirate Treasure Cake

09 Jun

This was my first time experimenting with ganache instead of frosting.  It went pretty well, though I ended up layering it really thickly because I wasn’t very good at smoothing it effectively before it hardened.  Even though it made the cake sturdier, it was kind of difficult to cut and ganache is really, really rich – so next time I will make an effort to keep it thin.

This was after the first layer of ganache - I added a white chocolate layer on top of this.

I covered the ganached cake in marshmallow fondant and added red stripes.

I molded the lid for the chest out of gum paste.

I then painted the lid with melted chocolate in the hopes that when the chocolate hardened, it would help keep the gum paste in the proper shape.

I discovered that my treasure chest base was half an inch wider than the lid, so I had to trim it.

I covered the base and lid of the chest with brown fondant, then scored it with a pizza cutter and painted it to make it look more like wood.

Wet paint.

With gold coins.

I made the gold accents for the chest out of fondant painted with gold and edible glitter.

I assembled the chest base on the cake and accessorized with some raw sugar and chocolate coins.

Finally, I put the top on the chest and held my breath waiting for it to break and fall.

 

Miraculously, it held together.

And even stayed put through the party the following day.

AND I even kept my kids' fingers out of it (not an easy task) for a full day. Though Koren periodically snuck into the laundry room to open the fridge and "just look at it."

Overall, I’m pleased with how it turned out.  It’s no Tangled tower, but I also didn’t as much time at my disposal as I did for the Tangled cake.  It ended up about half as detailed as I had initially imagined, but by Thursday night, I had hit that “Screw it” point that seems to happen toward the end of every large undertaking.  You know when you’re trying to move and instead of packing up those last two boxes of Random, you just start chucking stuff in the trash bag and don’t even care because you’re too busy freaking out about all the other stuff you still have to do?

Yeah.  It’s like that.

But really, it was mostly fun.  And by the time the next birthday rolls around, I’ll probably be ready to do it again.

Probably.

 

Oh Baby!

08 Apr

Last weekend we enjoyed a surprise baby shower in honor of my cousin Julie who was in town visiting with her sisters.  It was kind of a double surprise:  Julie didn’t know she was having a shower…

And none of the sisters knew their mom (my aunt) would arrive, having made a covert op flight from the east coast as well.

The shower was tons of fun and everyone had a really good time.  Even the kids:

 

I was asked to make a diaper cake for the event.  But I got a little bored with the idea of another diaper cake, so I decided to go for a diaper stroller instead.

It went surprisingly well, considering that I was kind of making it up as I went along.  I watched a few tutorials on making diaper strollers, but became frustrated when I saw the ladies hot-gluing diapers into place.  Isn’t the point of a diaper cake so that the mom-to-be can actually USE the supplies that go into it?  I’m happy to say that every inch of my diaper stroller is useable for actual baby care.

Because I clearly have too much time on my hands (huh?) I also volunteered to make a cake to match the diaper stroller:

The colors look a little odd because of the lighting.  But you get the general idea.  Oh, and cake pops, because when you have extra cake laying around you have to make cake pops.  I’m pretty sure that’s a rule.

Even though I hate cake pops.

Unless they’re chocolate.

Honestly, I was a little disappointed with the finished cake.  It wasn’t my best creation and from up close looked kind of … sloppy.  Jens says I’m too much of a perfectionist when it comes to my cakes.  But I have STANDARDS.  And this one didn’t quite measure up.

At least it seemed to go over pretty well with the guests.

 

 
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Posted in Cakes, Crafts, Family, Photos

 

Tangled Tower Cake

28 Oct

What happens when you let your soon-to-be-6-year-old daughter sift through images on Google to pick the kind of cake she wants for her Tangled birthday party?

Well, ok, what happens when you let her pick the cake AND you have a small problem with turning down a creative challenge?

You end up with this:

Rapunzel's Tower from Tangled Movie

Honestly, it’s not as detailed as I had initially planned for it to be (could have used more windows, some leaves, etc), but there comes a point in every project at which I completely quit caring about detail.  As it was, I probably spent at about 15 hours on this cake over the course of several days.  I enjoyed it, but it was truly a labor of love.

And honestly, it wasn’t that difficult, artistically speaking – particularly since there was no carving involved (that little room that juts out from the tower?  the inside is Styrofoam, and it’s held on with some monster toothpick spears.)  There were just a lot of steps and I was on my feet for very extended periods of time, from which I still have not fully recovered.

A couple of things I learned along the way:

  • Scissors are probably the most underrated tool when working with fondant and gum paste.  Absolutely essential, and so useful.
  • A magic eraser will usually get food coloring out of Corian counter tops.  If not, a steel wool soap pad works wonders – even on red food coloring that has sat on the counter overnight (oops)
  • The force of gravity and fondant’s inherent stretchiness make applying fondant vertically a very difficult task.
  • Powdered sugar turns to cement once it gets a little moisture in it and dries, and it’s nearly impossible to clean off counter tops and floors.  Even if you can get the lumps off, the surfaces remain sticky through and unreasonable amount of scrubbing and cleaning liquids.
  • I used Duncan Hines boxed cake mixes, because the idea of making a cake from scratch in addition to building this monstrosity seemed pretty laughable.  I got the cheap, plain chocolate and yellow cake flavors, and alternated them up the tower.  For the base, I spent the “big bucks” and got their Decadent triple chocolate cake mix – and it was totally not worth it.  I got lots of compliments on the taste and moisture of the cheapo cakes, which tasted much better than the expensive one, which was also a little dry.

I posted a picture of the finished product on Facebook, but for those that were curious about the process, here are some photos chronicling the evolution of this “gravity-defying” cake.

My initial model, to judge the size and construction of the finished product.

Gum paste window, taking shape

Top portion, covered in fondant with gumpaste "wood" trim. Also, red food coloring (which I used to make the brown wood) bleeds. And it completely fades in the sun.

 

I used toothpicks to attach the window to the cake.

I made the roof out of Rice Krispies treats and ice cream cones. Between the fondant and the Rice Krispies treats, you don't even want to know how many bags of marshmallows I went through.

The trim was looking a little dull to me, so I painted it with food coloring to give it that "wood texture" look.

I covered the Rice Krispies and cones with fondant shingles.

The base cake - double layer Duncan Hines Decadent Triple Chocolate. Not worth it.

Covered in Buttercream

I covered the base with green fondant and began to stack the tower layers. I used Cake Stackers, because there is no way this thing was going to remain upright and intact with anything less than a steel skeleton.

The narrow part of the tower was a stack of 8 2" cakes, alternating chocolate and yellow cake.

Textured "stone" fondant on one side

Textured stone fondant on the other side, covered with white fondant with a crack-shaped space for the stone to show through.

Adding the top, as well as some embellishment to the "cracks"

 

Plastic character figurines. In case anyone couldn't tell whose tower this is.

Flowers and vines detail

Finished product from the side

Finished product from the front

From the other side

This is what was left after the party.

I had a few people ask me if it hurt to cut and serve up the cake after I’d put so much work into it.  And the answer is NO – it felt GREAT.  Because really, there’s nothing worse than putting your heart and soul into a cake only to have nobody touch it.  A devoured cake is the best reward.

 
 

Baseball Cake

25 Jun

For Koren’s birthday cake, I decided on a baseball theme.  I started with a dome-shaped cake using Wilton’s Sports Ball cake pan.

I iced the dome, then covered it with blue fondant that I made out of marshmallows.  I find marshmallow fondant to be much more edible than the store-bought kind.

I cut the bill out of cardboard and covered it with the fondant as well, then fastened it to the hat.  I then added embellishments such as the button on top and used a needle to mimic the stitching on the hat.

I cut the home plate out of sheet cake and covered it with white fondant.  I then piped multi-shaded green “grass” onto the cake board with Wilton’s “hair” frosting tip.

I added a layered fondant patch to the front of the cap and placed it onto the base, using a piece of cardboard to support the bill and keep it lifted.

I then added some baseballs – which were essentially cake balls covered with marshmallow fondant.  I drew “stitches” on with edible markers.  I did learn that you have to be picky with the brand when you’re using edible markers.  I tried to be thrifty and started with Betty Crocker markers but they bled so badly that I had to go back and spend the big bucks on Wilton markers.

The glove was kind of a hasty afterthought because I had an extra dome cake and didn’t know what to do with it.  I drew the features on with icing and used a needle to imitate the stitching.

The finished product:

 

The result:

Everything but the cap was eaten at the party, and the rest was finished off at a gathering a couple of days later.  Overall verdict: Success!