Caelan’s Cars Birthday Party

June 8, 2015

I’m going to do a whole post on Caelan’s birthday party this year! This party was THE party I have been wanting to do for years – super theme-y! And honestly what made it so cool was that Caelan loved it so much!! In the weeks leading up to the party, he watched me buy all the supplies and do all the prep and he was just loving every bit of it. I could have done a super theme-y party for his first birthday and it would have been cool, but at age 1, he would have had no clue. At age 4, he was really into it!

We had good weather on the day of the party which was great because everything was outside. It didn’t rain and it wasn’t unbearably hot, so that was great. However, it was SUPER windy. Unfortunately that made getting everything set up a little difficult and I ended up skipping a few of the decorations because they would have blown away. #fwp

Here’s how we put our Disney Cars themed party together!!

EDIT: I forgot to include the invitations!!!

The Invitations

I combined a few ideas I saw online and designed these invites!

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The Cake

I almost chickened out of making this cake. I almost did a regular sheet cake with Lightning McQueen drawn on it, and that would have been cool. But I’m so glad I went for it and made this Lightning McQueen *shaped* cake!

For the cake, I used this recipe which I have used before and I knew it was very sturdy and easy to carve. I made 2 batches, in 2 9×13 pans. I also made 2 batches of my favorite vanilla buttercream icing. I reserved about 1 cup for details and tinted the rest red with Wilton gel color. Red is notoriously hard to make REALLY red but I managed to do it this time by adding half a bottle of the red gel color and then letting it sit in the fridge for about a day before using it.

I looked up a few tutorials online and printed out some pictures of Lightning from a few different angles and then used all that info to free-hand carve the cake into the shape of a car. I frosted it with the red buttercream. Most of the shaped Lightning cakes I saw online were covered in fondant. To be honest, fondant cakes are not my thing so I knew I wanted to stick with buttercream. I did make the detail decorations with fondant.

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The Games

I grabbed a Pin-The-Headlight-On-Mater game from the party store. It came with 8 headlight stickers, but since we had more than 8 kids, I just color-copied the stickers to make more.

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Ramone’s House of Body Art wasn’t really a “game” so much as it was a station, I guess. In the movie, Ramone does paint jobs at his House of Body Art, so a temporary tattoo station seemed like a good fit. Unfortunately, this was one of the things that got skipped due to the wind 😦

The major game for this party was the Piston Cup race! We had stacks and stacks of boxes leftover from our move last year so, over the course of several weeks, I picked out 6 boxes and made them into cars! I chose to do Lightning McQueen, The King, Chick Hicks (Caelan’s favorite), Doc, Francesco, and Mater. I used scrap pieces of cardboard, styrofoam, and a ton of hot glue to make the cars a little more stable. I spray painted them their main colors and then used acrylic paint and a foam brush for the eyes and any details. The rest of the details I printed out and glued to the cars.

We kept the cars out of sight until it was time for the race, which was a stroke of genius on my husband’s part. Once those cars were out, only the mention of cake tore the kids away from them!

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This is the race track my husband drew in the yard with spray paint! We also stuck little checkered flags in the ground to help the kids see where the track was. They still sort of took a few short cuts 😉

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The Favors

I can’t really take credit for anything but the execution of these ideas! I found everything via Pinterest and Google searches. These Pit Passes looked really cute and the kids could wear them during the party, but also keep them as a favor. I got the lanyards from Party City and the plastic holders from Amazon. I designed and printed the passes myself.

I also grabbed some little trophies so that each kid could take home their own Piston Cup. They are really, really small so I couldn’t even fill them with treats. As it turned out, we weren’t able to set the Pit Passes and Piston Cups out on a table as I had planned (wind!!) so Caelan handed out the Pit Passes and we just forgot to give out the Piston Cups.

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The Food

Despite the fact that all the food was themed, it was actually less food than we would usually have for a party and it was easier to put together. (I was still running around like a crazy person minutes before the party though. Isn’t that always how it is??) We ordered pizza for delivery (we had WAY too much!!), had sodas, water and juice boxes to drink, the cake, and the rest was just snacks – most requiring zero prep! I made the little signs and uploaded them to Shutterfly for printing. Easier and faster than messing with my printer (which I did do for other things). The plan was for the signs to be held with place card holders, but again…wind…so they ended up taped to the tables and I think a lot of people didn’t get it. #fwpagain Here are the foods we had:

Francesco’s Pizzeria (pizzas)

Sheriff’s Stop Lights (fruit skewers)

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Sally’s Cozy Cones (Bugles)

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Sarge’s Surplus Snacks (pretzels, Goldfish, Teddy Grahams)

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Mater’s Taters (potato chips and dip)

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Luigi’s Casa Della Tires (chocolate donuts)

These were supposed to be stacked into a tower, but I skipped that because of the wind (it was REALLY windy!) but these got demolished so quickly it didn’t matter!

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The Decorations and Paper Supplies

We had several folding tables set up with red and black plastic table cloths. I ordered plates and napkins from Amazon (because it was cheaper than the party store, which is not usually the case for party supplies!) and got the rest from the party store. We had checkered flag banners, a race banner, and little mini checkered flags. I don’t have a lot of good pictures of these things because – you guessed it – wind!

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The Birthday Boy

The most important part of the party!!! This was all for him and he loved it 🙂

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Sydney’s Baptism

April 9, 2013

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It’s been 10 months since I took a cake order. I had to go back and look through my blog posts to find that out and I can’t believe it’s been so long! April contacted me about a month ago about making a cake for her daughter’s baptism. Nearly 3 years ago, I made the cake for her older daughter, Reagan’s, baptism, and I love when I get to make cakes for multiple events in the same family, so I happily took on the order.

The cake was virtually the same as Reagan’s cake – carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. I love this combination. Carrot cake doesn’t seem to be that popular, but it really is SO good. I was planning for a half sheet cake. I used to make these 2 layers – 2 pans with a single recipe of the cake in each pan – but I’ve found that’s a little bit of overkill. This time I just doubled the recipe and made it all in one pan. It’s technically the same amount of cake (more really, since there’s less trimming needed for a single layer). This size cake supposedly feeds up to 40 people, and since many of April’s 40 guests were children, this seemed to be the right size.

For the decorations, I tried my hand at rosettes. They were remarkably easy with the large closed star tip (Wilton’s 2D) and they came out looking very nice for the cross. The smaller ones for the border were a little trickier. I used a smaller closed star tip for these and I found that the consistency of the frosting was very important (too cold/firm and the icing didn’t flow or got stuck in the tip, and too warm and the shape wasn’t recognizable). I also risked writing on the cake in script – not my strong suit. But I felt that script fit the occasion and I think it turned out decent. Writing on cakes is surprisingly difficult!

One more note about this cake. The cake I delivered was actually my second attempt at this cake. I originally baked the cake on Thursday night (as I do for Saturday deliveries) but when I went to turn it out of the pan, it broke apart, got stuck, etc. This problem is of course not unheard of, especially with cakes made by novice bakers. But I don’t consider myself a novice baker and this has literally never happened to me on a cake order before! And it’s not like I’ve never made this particular cake before and of course I prepped the pan like I always do. So when my fury subsided, I re-baked the cake the following night but this time, I lined the pan with foil-backed parchment paper. I’ve never used parchment before, I always figured it was unnecessary when greasing and flouring the pan works perfectly well. Well my mind has been changed! I will be using parchment from now on! The cake slid easily out of the pan in one beautiful piece and I just peeled the parchment off the back. Sold 🙂


Look Whooo’s Having a Baby!

January 21, 2013

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Lame owl pun? Check.

The 6th baby shower cake I’ve made for one of the girls in this group of friends? Double check.

The FOURTEENTH child about to be born into this group of friends? Triple check, and holy crap that’s a lot of children that just a few years ago didn’t even exist!

Wawa is expecting her baby girl at the end of next month, so naturally we all got together to celebrate with cake, food, presents, and a few of those didn’t-exist-a-few-years-ago children. Of course I volunteered to bring the cake, but it had been 5 months since I last made a cake and I was a little rusty.

I picked out the decoration for the cake using this photo from a Google Image search as inspiration.

I went back and forth over whether I was going to use fondant or buttercream for the decoration but I ended up deciding that fondant was a little too ambitious for how things are going in my house lately. I used 4 different colors of buttercream and did the owl picture with several different round tips. Usually I would fill in the design with star tips, but some of the sections were so small and I knew the star tips wouldn’t fit. I basically just used small round tips and toothpicks to fill in the spaces. I’m back and forth over whether it looks “rustic” or just messy.

I decided at the last minute to make a from-scratch version of Funfetti cake and I found the recipe on one of my favorite blogs, Annie’s Eats. I used my normal vanilla buttercream for the icing, filling, and decorations.

Since there aren’t anymore baby showers on the horizon among my friends at the moment, I took a look back at the 6 baby shower cakes for friends I’ve done so far. I’m so happy to have been able to celebrate with each of these girls!

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Welcome Sprout!

August 27, 2012

It seems like its been forever since I made a cake – the last one was Caelan’s birthday cake – so I was very excited to make a cake for a friend’s baby shower this weekend. I “met” Lindsey on my message board about 4 years ago and now she is expecting her first baby – a little girl nicknamed Sprout.

Lindsey is an excellent baker, cook, and hostess herself so I was slightly intimidated to make a cake for her. I ended up using a recipe from her own blog, Our Share of the Harvest, for a lemon cake that she raved about. I love lemon cake also and love an excuse to make one!

I was also going to use the recipe in her post to make a homemade raspberry filling. Unfortunately, I messed it up. No one wants raspberry filling with clumps of cornstarch in it! I didn’t have time for another attempt, so I just went with raspberry jam for the filling.

For the icing, I used my favorite vanilla buttercream (1 1/2 batches, but I think just 1 would have been enough). I assembled the cake and crumb-coated it with white icing and while that was setting in the fridge, I divided the rest of the icing and colored it. I used Violet and Red-Red for the purple color and different amounts of Lemon Yellow for the yellows.

I saw this icing technique on Pinterest and it was actually pretty easy. I spread the purple on the top first, smoothing it out and letting a little bit go over the edge. Then I put on a (messy) line of dark yellow around the bottom and then the light yellow went in the middle. I took my icing scraper (aka a large plastic putty knife from Home Depot) and scraped the sides of the cake while turning it. The icing colors blended perfectly. To be honest, I was kind of surprised at how well it worked! I kind of wish I had made the dark yellow section thicker or that I had been a bit messier in applying the icing so that the layers wouldn’t be so defined, but I can try that next time. I think this technique would look particularly good on a taller cake.

I topped the cake with some silver and pearl sprinkles. I thought it looked really sweet and feminine and I was temped to not write on it because I knew my handwriting would mess it up! I thought the cake called for writing in script, not print, and my script writing is just not very good. That would be why I’m not including pictures of the entire cake in this post, just the edges 🙂

I had to leave the shower before cake time so (as is often the case) I didn’t actually try this cake. I hope someone at the shower enjoyed it!!


Caelan’s Birthday Party: Cake and Cupcakes

June 8, 2012

Obviously, I was going to make the cake/cupcakes for Caelan’s party. Given how many cakes I’ve made for other people’s birthdays, baby showers, etc it would have just been weird if I didn’t make a cake for Caelan. Plus, my mom always made our birthday cakes growing up so it seemed like the right thing to do. And, of course, I wanted to 🙂

Although, my mom also made our Halloween costumes and I think I’m going to have to let that one go. But I digress…Back to cake 🙂

I decided to do a cupcake tower/display for the guests and a smash cake for Caelan. Here are my inspiration pictures – party supplies from the theme I chose.

I had a ridiculous amount of indecision regarding how many cupcakes to make, how many flavors, which recipe, etc. I was annoyed with myself by the end, but for our 36 guests, this is what I ended up with:

  • 1 6″ round yellow cake
  • 1 batch of vanilla buttercream frosting (divided: blue, brown, medium brown, light brown)
  • 4 dozen yellow cupcakes
  • 1 batch of vanilla buttercream frosting (orange) – 16 cupcakes
  • 1 batch of lemon buttercream frosting (yellow) – 16 cupcakes
  • 1 batch of lime buttercream frosting (green) – 16 cupcakes

I used this recipe for the cake and cupcakes. The frosting is all from the same recipe, I just switched out some of the vanilla extract for lemon extract or lime juice for the lemon and lime versions. I made and colored all of the frosting the weekend before which was definitely the way to go. Having that all ready to go when I was putting things together at the last minute was awesome. Frosting the 4 dozen cupcakes took all of about 30 minutes.

For the smash cake, I printed out the monkey from the napkin (pictured above) and traced his face onto some wax paper. Then I laid that on top of the iced cake and traced the outline into the icing. I used various star and round tips to fill in the monkey’s face with the 3 shades of brown icing. It’s kind of a lot of effort to go through for a cake that’s (hopefully) going to be smashed by a 1-year-old, but it really didn’t take that long to do, and it was cute 🙂

A few weeks in advance, I made the cupcake picks. Using the noise makers (pictured above) for inspiration, I designed some cupcake toppers using MS Word. I cut them all out using a giant hole punch and I also cut out cardstock circles in coordinating orange, yellow, and green. A couple evenings of watching TV and gluing paper to toothpicks, and they were ready to go!

For such a large amount of cake and cupcakes, it actually didn’t take me that long to put together. Honestly, the biggest challenge was clearing space in our fridge for 2 large cupcake boxes and a cake box! But it was a good excuse to clean out the fridge 🙂


Boston Cream Pie, take 2 (-ish)

February 27, 2012

The first part of the year is birthday season in my family. My birthday in January, then both of my parents in February, then my sister in March. My brother- and mother-in-law also have birthdays in the early part of the year. We used to have a separate birthday dinner for each person, but in recent years we’ve decided to double up or combine celebrations to accommodate many people’s schedules (and basketball season).

This year, my parents and I (and Bill and Caelan) got together to celebrate my birthday (4 weeks late), my dad’s birthday (1 week late), and my mom’s birthday (1 week early). I wanted to make a cake, but since mine was one of the birthdays that we’d be celebrating, I decided to go with just a “cake” rather than a “birthday cake”.

Boston Cream donuts are my favorite and I’d never tried to make a whole pie before, but this seemed like a good time to give it a shot. I made a half-assed attempt at Boston Cream cupcakes awhile back, but this time I used an actual recipe and made real pastry cream. Or attempted to do so.

I made the pastry cream (I used the recipe from this post on Annie’s Eats) the night before I was going to assemble the cake and put it in the fridge overnight. I was disappointed the next day to find that it didn’t set up and was unusable. The pastry cream is essentially a custard and custards are definitely tricky, but I’ve made them many times before (in the form of crème brûlée) and was successful. Anyway, I didn’t have time to risk another attempt (and I’m not sure exactly where I went wrong), so I looked around my kitchen for something to improvise with and I came up with a mixture of french vanilla pudding mix, milk, Cool Whip, and a tiny bit of vanilla extract. It was passable (though actually less so after being chilled).

Then I made the frosting (dark chocolate ganache) and though I’ve made it several times before, I had issues with this too! It was too thick to spread so I kept adding half-and-half to make it manageable.

The cake tasted good (though I’m less and less enamored with that recipe the more I make it – I should try a new yellow cake recipe) but it wasn’t a real Boston Cream pie. So it looks like I will be making a 3rd attempt at this at some point because I really want to get this one right!!


C is for Cookie

January 11, 2012

[pictures from Kristy]

I made a baby shower cake last October for Benjamin’s mom, Kristy, when she was pregnant with him. It’s one of my all time favorites! So when Kristy asked if I could make cakes for Benjamin’s first birthday I was happy to do it AND she had a great idea. We used the pictures below (click on them for the sources) to come up with a plan for a 1/4 sheet cake and 2 dozen cupcakes.

I decided to use the yellow cake recipe I found over at Smitten Kitchen. I’ve used this recipe once before and I know it makes a nice dense cake which would be great for carving since the plan here was to carve the sheet cake into a #1. I added chocolate chips into the mix since Kristy wanted a chocolate chip cake.

I made up 1 batch of chocolate buttercream icing to fill the sheet cake and I made up 2.5 batches of vanilla buttercream for the top of the cake and the cupcakes.

For the fondant decorations, I used white and black fondant to make 25 sets of googly eye balls. I also cut out some large dots in red, orange, green, and blue for the cake. I used mini Chips Ahoy cookies for the cupcakes.

For the Cookie Monster topper, I decided to make it out of blue fondant and then use royal icing for the fur. I was sort of winging it here because I wasn’t sure if the royal icing would stick to the fondant, but it did. I used a grass tip (Wilton’s #233) for the fur for both the Cookie Monster topper and the cupcakes and it worked perfectly.

I made these cakes and their decorations over the course of 4 days. I meant to count how many hours I spent on it, but it was hard to tell. I took lots of breaks to take care of my son so that made counting hours tricky. I think it was about 8-10 hours total though.

As much as I am happy I took on this project and as proud I am of how it turned out, it reminded me that I do not have the luxury of 8-10 extra hours in a week for cake baking. It’s really hard to make it work these days. I am in awe of those moms out there who work full time, take care of munchkins, and still have time for a time-consuming hobby like this….’cause I really don’t.