Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas present cupcakes

Merry Christmas from our home to yours.  My husband had to work all day long Christmas day (the joys of the first year of residency), so we postponed our Christmas until today, the day after.  The girls and I decided to surprise him with some Christmas cupcakes and show up at work in the hospital.  Thank you pinterest for this idea (or more importantly, thank you the person who did similar cupcakes before who's picture was pinned on pinterest for me to come across).  These came together super quick by just using a dipping technique for the white vanilla icing and making bows out of red modeling chocolate with the blue and green dots out of fondant.  Just a cute little package all tied up with a red bow (instead of string :).

It being Christmas for us today I thought I'd share our news with you--Santa had a special delivery today, and left an extra stocking, pink and full of lots of pink baby clothes.  I guess that means baby #3 is going to be another girl.  We are super excited.  We love little girls around here.  We are excited for her arrival in the spring.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Strawberry Shortcake Birthday Party

It is that time of year again in our home--birthday time for both of our girls.  One benefit of them having birthdays only 3 days apart, and them still being so young is we can get away with doing a combined party for them (I'm not sure how many more years we can get by with that).

This year they both have really enjoyed watching Strawberry Shortcake together--I know what you are thinking--isn't that an 80s show?  Yes, I totally remember watching it as a kid myself and even had my own Strawberry Shortcake doll.  But Strawberry Shortcake has been revamped for the 21st century with a more modern look and new shows.

The first step in party planning was designing an invitation for this event:

(See--she does look more modern than when we were kids, right?!)

Next step for setting up for the party was decorations:

I stuck to a pink and lime green color scheme with red accents.  A few strawberries made out of posterboard served as our "Welcome to Strawberryland" sign on the front door, welcoming all our guests to the party.

Some balloons and a pennant banner tried to hide the TV.

And lastly some chinese lanterns were hung over all the tables where the kids would be working and eating.

The next part in the party planning was the know me--that is my favorite part to figure our for birthday parties, especially the cake.

We just served dessert-type foods (I'm sure all the parents loved that idea--we filled their kids up with sugar and sent them home to their parents to deal with the hyperness :).  Do you recognize that pink polkadot fabric on the table?  I used that 2 years ago when Abby turned 2 and I threw her the Minnie Mouse party.  I love that it fit right in with this theme and I got another use out of it.

Oh boy--did I have fun with this cake.  It was a fun one to make:

I asked my girls if they wanted 2 separate cakes, so they each had their "own" or a 2-tiered cake they could share.  They were set on having their own cakes, until they started looking at cake pictures with me online and saw one similar to this.  After that they were sold on the idea of one larger cake to share.  

The bottom tier is a 9" round butter cake filled with strawberry filling and iced smooth with white buttercream.  Then fondant stripes and scallop overlay were added on top of that.

On top I carved Strawberry's house out of 5 stacked 6" round lemon cakes, filled with a strawberry filling.  That was covered with red modeling chocolate then fondant leaves, flowers, door, and windows were added.  The final touch that brought the house to life was piping yellow royal icing seeds onto the strawberry house.  That really made it look like a strawberry and not just a top-heavy red blob.  My girls were so excited when they saw the finished cake--just seeing their excitement made all the work worth it.

In sticking with the color scheme, we had strawberry and kiwi skewers as well as "strawberry shortcake" skewers (strawberries and angel food cake).  I got these cute green buckets at Hobby Lobby to put them in (and really, did I leave a tag on that one in the picture?!  How embarrassing.  Hopefully I remembered to take it off before the party).

Little bowls filled with strawberry-shaped gummies sat at the front of the table and a tall jar of strawberry twizzlers was nestled in the back.

I have been well-pleased with my pink-topped carafes purchase from Target I made a couple of years ago--they have worked perfectly for at least 4 different parties I have helped with. Here I filled them with pink lemonade, lime margarita, and cherry limeade crystal light.

My other fun baking project for the party was this cupcake topiary.  Special thanks goes out to my dear friend Lisa in Nevada--when I lived there she was always bringing me cake ideas out of magazines to church.  I have been saving those ideas, and this is one of them and I have been looking forward to trying.

I experimented with it the week before the party, for a baby blessing open house for my brand new niece. I learned a few things from that time, and did things a little bit different for this time around.  First of all, you need a 6" styrofoam ball, wood dowel, and craft pot from the craft store.  I glued the dowel into the ball, and stuck it into a spare piece of styrofoam in the bottom of the pot.  A bunch of rocks in the pot helped weigh it down.

Next you need to bake approx. 75 mini cupcakes (I did three batches of my 24 count mini-cupcake pan and had a few left over).  I found that before trying to assemble them on the topiary, it helps to chill them well in the freezer--not freeze them through, but just chill them pretty well.  Next the directions said to begin placing them onto the topiary by inserting 3 toothpicks into the bottom of the cupcake then pushing it onto the tree.  I found that putting the toothpicks into the styrofoam first and then pushing the cupcake on worked a lot better.  Also, when I got to doing the ones on the side and down below, it really helped to only put 2 toothpicks in, push the cupcake on, then stick the 3rd toothpick through the top of the cupcake all the way through into the styrofoam. They stayed on a lot better doing it this way.

After the entire ball is covered, I took a #12 tip and swirled icing onto the cupcakes (again, the directions said to ice them before putting them onto the tree, but honestly I don't know how you would do that and get all the cupcakes onto the tree without smearing the icing everywhere).  Word of caution--first time I did this I used store-bought vanilla frosing--it seemed a little too thin for this project, and some icing was sliding off the cupcakes onto the table, especially on those cupcakes on the side and upsidedown. For this party I made up a batch of buttercream icing that was stiffer, and didn't have any problems with it sliding off the cupcakes.

Next time around I would probably paint the styrofoam ball pink with some acryllic paint beforehand.  I didn't like how the white styrofoam was shining through at some places.

Now that all the prep work is done, it's time for the party...

While the kids arrived, we sent them over to the tables to decorate a green bag with some sparkly flower stickers and crayons (their bag to collect all their party goodies in), then we took them to 3 of Strawberry Shortcake's friends' houses for the activities:

(My niece made these cute signs for me to put up around the house.  Aren't they adorable?!  I was so grateful for all of her help that day).

First stop was Rainbow Sherbet's house:

Each kid got to make a rainbow necklace out of fruit loops and yarn to wear for the party.  Some had fun making the necklaces, while the younger ones more preferred eating the fruit loops :)

Next stop was Orange Blossom's Orchard:

We took the kids downstairs where we had put our fake tree that is usually in the livingroom.  Orange Blossom's tree had lost all of it's fruit and the kids had to search around the playroom and find it all (they were pieces of starburst candy).

The third stop was Gingersnap's Bakery:

They each got to decorate a sugar cookie baked especially for them by Gingersnap--the best cookie maker in Strawberryland.

After visiting her friend's home, Strawberry Shortcake had prepared a game for the kids to play:

A Strawberry Shortcake Walk.  I made 12 more of the posterboard strawberries and we did a cake walk with them using the "Strawbababababerry" theme song and a birthday Strawberry Shortcake song I had.  The kids were so excited when their number was called and they got their special prize.

Finally it was time to sing Happy Birthday and eat some cake and treats:

This picture cracks me up--they are totally eyeing all the food while we sing to them.  They had been wanting  some all morning, and now they knew it was almost time :)

Lastly was present time.  Do you see that cute white stick horse Eliza is holding in the top corner? My friend Annie got the idea from pinterest and made it and and a red one for Abby--they turned out soooo cute.  I love pinterest.

As each guest got ready to leave, we gave out their party favors for them to put in their green bags.  I found these candy sticks at a little Amish store nearby and coordinated the flavor with one of Strawberry's friends (like "lemon" flavor with Lemon Meringue).  Plum Pudding got grape flavor, though (can you believe they didn't have a plum flavored stick ;)  I got the friends from this website here.  They are actually supposed to be for stick puppets, but they worked perfectly for the candy sticks.  I attached a little sign that I made that read: "Thanks for being one of our Berry special friends.  We'd like to share some of Strawberry's Berry best friends with you.  Love, Abby and Eliza."

Thanks for stopping by today and letting us share our party with you.  We had fun putting it together and throwing it and hope we may have helped give some ideas to our friends out there.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Cupcake Buffet

I hosted book club at my home last month.  I couldn't help myself to doing a cupcake buffet for the evening.  I've been wanting to try a few more recipes out of the book 101 Gourmet Cupcakes in 10 Minutes,where all the recipes are doctored up cake mix recipes, and I came across this andes mint chocolate cupcake recipe and wanted to try it out.  I must admit, though, that I used one of the basic doctored chocolate cupcake recipes from my book, and then tried out her mint buttercream and chocolate mint filling to go with it.  For this chocolate mint fanatic, the filling and buttercream paired perfectly together with the cupcake for the most glorious mint chocolate explosion of flavor.  I was won over at first bite.

I chose 4 different recipes to make--the aforementioned divine Andes mint chocolate cupcake, as well as a scrumptious pina colada cupcake topped with coconut whipped cream and garnished with coconut and a pineapple slice, a black forest cupcake with an amaretto truffle icing and cherry pie filling on top, and a lemon blueberry cupcake topped with whipped cream and blueberry pie filling.  The great thing about these doctored cake mix cupcakes is I can half a recipe, using half of a box of cake mix, and save the other half for another day when I just need a few cupcakes.  Or in this case, I could split the cake mix between two different recipes and have more varieties (like using one chocolate cake mix for the basis of the andes mint chocolate cupcake recipe and the black forest cupcake recipe).

The overall verdict from my friends was that the pina colada cupcake was the favorite (although I was routing for the andes mint cupcake).  One of the tricks that I learned as a little girl from my mom whenever working with cherry pie filling is to add a little bit of almond flavoring to the can of filling--the almond flavoring pairs perfectly with the cherry and helps enhance the flavor.  Just one of those little advices from Mom that I hang onto now that she is gone.

It was a fun book club night.  We talked, laughed, and ate, and thoroughly enjoyed all of it.

Oh, and incase you were wondering, the book we read was Anthem by Ayn Rand.  If you like dystopian type novels, you will enjoy this one.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sugar and Spice Baby Girl

We threw a little shower for my sister-in-law who was having a baby girl.  Since this is number 6 for her, yet only her 2nd girl, she wanted pink, pink, pink.  She has had quite enough blue through the years with 4 boys.  I used a Sugar and Spice theme like I had done for a friend last year here, and went with light pink, medium pink, and chocolate brown.  

I molded a fondant baby bottle, rattle, and pacifier for embellishment on the top of her 8" round chocolate cake that was iced in an amaretto truffle icing and filled with a layer of the same icing and 2 layers of whipped cream with chopped strawberries.  The binkie was my favorite.

Just a few decorations to bring everything together--a pendant Sugar and Spice banner and tissue paper pom poms. 

 I was so excited that I got to use my pink top carafes again which we filled with regular milk, strawberry milk, and chocolate milk.  (Those were a hit with the little kids that were there--it's not everyday you get to have strawberry or chocolate milk, at least not in our home).

Unfortunately this picture was taken before all the food arrived.  The other ladies that attended really outdid themselves with the amazing fruit platters, muffins, and breakfast casseroles that they brought.  We really had an amazing feast and a wonderful morning celebrating with Nicky.

Congrats Nicky!  Baby C make it safely here this past Tuesday.  Both mama and baby are doing great.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Doctor is in

I'm back!  We have had lots of changes around here.  My husband graduated from medical school (hurray!!) and we moved across country from Las Vegas to Iowa for residency.  We have settled in, are officially U of I Hawkeye fans, and ready to make more cakes and desserts.  For my husband's birthday last month I decided some doctor-inspired cupcakes were in order for our new Dr. Larson.

I made all the embellishments out of fondant/gumtex and modeling chocolate (all the red was modeling chocolate).  We had red cross symbols, red/white pills, little blue pills (not Viagra--although that is what my husband's coworker thought they were), bandaids, and thermometers.  I loved the digital thermometer.  I painted the screen and end with silver luster dust and painted the numbers on with black gel food coloring.

 I made a butter white cake filled with strawberry whipped cream, and topped with the most amazing Vanilla Buttercream Frosting--a new recipe I tried out from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.  It is worth trying out.  Trust me.  Light, fluffy, and no greasy-tasting shortening in it at all.

We surprised Dr. Larson at work, embarrassed him a little in front of his co-workers (that's what wives and kids do best :) and left him with a tray full of cupcakes to share with everyone there. Happy 29th birthday, Dr. Larson!

(An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but with doctor-inspired cupcakes like these, I may not mind going to the doctor ;)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sesame Street Birthday Party

Here is part 2 of the Dinosaur/Sesame Street Party that my friends Rachele and Emily threw for their kids.  This part is focusing on the Sesame Street half (to see the Dinosaur part go here).  Emily asked me to do the cake for her little girl who was turning 2.  She showed me this cake for an idea, and this is what I came up with.

It was an 8 inch cake covered in sky blue fondant and decorated with white fondant clouds that I cut out freehand.  I did a Mickey head-shaped cloud that was in the back just to see if anyone noticed, but no one said anything, so I guess I hid it pretty well :)  The sign was also cut out freehand except for the letters for Addie's name which I used my Cricut for.  

I molded Grover, the presents, and the balloons out of a fondant/gumtex mixture, but did Elmo out of modeling chocolate--anytime I need red, I usually use modeling chocolate now--easy to make and so much cheaper than buying red fondant (and I don't think I could make a true red fondant myself).

I love how Emily used her Sesame Street Treasury book set to put the cake on.  What a fun touch.  She had so many fun elements to her dessert table, including little Sesame street characters and buildings.
Her Happy Birthday Adelaide banner across the table was darling and added so much to her table.

She had such a fun idea for the favors bags.  Each one had the first letter of each kid's name taped to the front, and inside she had made crayons in the shape of the child's first initial and age (for example: my oldest got a bag with an A on it for Abby, and inside there was an A and 3 crayon since she is 3 years old).

Stickers, bubbles, and playdoh helped finish off the favors, and the kids loved them.

 At the party, Emily and Rachele had set up a "build your own lunch" bar, complete with uncrustables sandwiches for the kids, chips, apple slices, crackers, and chicken salad sandwiches.  The kids loved being able to pick all the parts to their picnic lunch.

The birthday girl wasn't too keen on the idea of everyone looking at her and singing to her.  Her reaction to the birthday song was priceless.

It was such a great party--being able to celebrate both Addie and Beckham's birthdays.  I'm glad I was able to help out by making both birthday cakes.  It's not any day you get to go to a combined Dinosaur/Sesame Street party :)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dinosaurs and...Elmo?

My two friends Rachele and Emily decided to throw a double birthday party for their kids Addie (turning 2) and Beckham (turning 3), mainly because they needed to do it the same weekend and would be inviting all the same people, so they just joined forces for one great party--2 themes--but one party. Beckham wanted a dinosaur party, while Addie loves Sesame street, so there were 2 different dessert tables decked out in the different themes. This post I'll focus on Beckham's dinosaur theme, and do a second post on Addie's Sesame Street theme (too many cute things to show in just 1 post :)

Rachele found the exact cake she wanted me to make (found here)--I was grateful when she said I could just do 2 tiers instead of 3 (we still had tons of cake left over with just 2 tiers), so I modified the design a bit. I made the dinosaurs out of fondant/gumtex mixture and allowed them to harden for a few days on the outside of my big stock pot on its side so they would have a slight curve to them.

I did the same chevron design on the letters as on the example cake but wasn't sure where to put them since I had one tier left to deal with. I ended up sticking them behind my Tyrannosaurus Rex--I decided it kind of gave it a camouflaged appearance which was fun. I piped on the grass with my leaf tip--super quick and easy.

Rachele did an amazing job with the table. I was in awe with how cute everything turned out that she made.

She had got a new Silhouette machine and had fun using it to make her letters, invitations, and other decorations for the party.
Aren't these little rice krispy treats adorable?!

The favors bags that the kids got were too cute--I almost wanted to keep it for myself instead of let my daughters have it :)

Seeing all of her cute decorations made me want to buy a Silhouette too. It was the perfect dinosaur table for a fun dinosaur party.

The birthday boy with his family (that's my talented friend, Rachele--so sad she's moving to Florida and us to Iowa in a couple months for residency--too far away to plan parties together:(

The boys fought over the dinosaurs. They each wanted one. I was surprised how well those dinosaurs hardened up--they didn't break easily, even with a bunch of 3 year olds running around with them.

These kids had a blast. It was a great party--more pictures to come of the food and activities in my next post. So glad we could be a part of it! Thanks, Rachele.