Monday, November 22, 2010

November Birthdays

As usual we had 2 birthdays this Month: Isa's 7th and Oliver's 11th (though, technically, Oliver is not yet 11; as his bday always falls a few days after Thanksgiving, we opted to do his party early this year). Here are the cakes I attempted this year. For Isa's party I had the brilliant idea to do a Pajama Party, a pretend sleepover. She has been talking sleepovers for a couple of years now, and as she is still too young to attempt a real one, and she asked if we could do something besides her traditional "Tea Party", I decided to try the best of both worlds. We made invites on the computer as usual, and Isa helped me put stickers on and write the girls' names on each envelope. I found some cute ideas for invites, made up a simple "poem" to go on the back, and made do with what we had. Here are the invites.

For the cake I wanted to do a bed with some girls on or in it. I found a cute idea with a girl on her tummy, but it meant doing chocolate molding, which I was not ready to try, nor pay for store bought sculpting chocolate. Then I found a cute pic using what looked like twinkies as girls, tucked into the bed, so I went with that idea. I wanted it to look like Isa's actual bed, so I took a pic of it, and drew a template on parchment paper to create chocolate head and foot boards. I piped the head and foot boards, then put them in the fridge while I worked on the rest of the cake.

Here I am above starting the outline for the headboard. Of course, I had to let my future chocolatiers help use up the rest of the melted chocolate. Below we have Isa working hard to fill in the hearts I outlined with pencil on the back of parchment paper while Jane waits patiently for her turn.

And I just love how EJ is concentrating so hard on her shapes.

My fondant was way too dry and kept cracking, but it tasted great and looked pretty good. I don't make the fondant often enough to have it down yet, but it's getting better. Moving from ultra dry desert climate to ultra humid climate less than 3 years ago threw off my fondant groove.
I do like the way it looked in the end, and I had extra fondant, so I made some simple shapes of things that represent what we did at our party (or any sleepover really), painted them, and stuck them on. I used paste food colors diluted with a few drops of water as "paint", and made bunny slippers, pizza, fingernail polish, popcorn, and a TV. Strangely enough, they were what the girls all asked for once the cake was cut. Funny. Oh, the cake girls had mini cupcakes for heads, icing hair, and extra cake scraps from the leveling for bodies under the covers. I made the cake itself in square pans, and ended up doing 3 layers to get a good height, since an 8X8 square bakes pretty thin.

I was up until 3, finishing Isa's cake, b/c I didn't plan well how to do what I had sketched out, and spent a lot of time ruminating. I work on the kids' cakes at night once they are in bed, so it is a surprise when they see it. They pick the theme and even some key elements, then I run with it and hope they like it. Oliver wanted a Kirby theme with a chocolate chip cookie base. This turned out well for me, b/c I wanted to do a 3D Kirby, which meant learning to carve a sphere cake, then cover it with fondant. Not as easy as it looks, believe you me, and this allowed me to do it on a smaller scale.

I used a couple of metal bowls to bake the cake, then stacked it, iced it, and (stupidly!) attempted to carve it without putting it in the fridge to harden up. I lost a lot of cake that way, as it crumbled off while I was carving it. The shape is NOT great, but it came out OK, since Kirby is sitting, and his round shape changes when he sits. Can you tell I over analyze these things? I also spent a looooong time trying to figure out what to do the hands and feet with. I made mini cupcakes with the leftover batter from both cakes, and those were very useful. For the feet, I just used 2 small cupcakes, with trimmed sides to create an oval for each foot, then covered them with fondant and stuck them on with icing. For the hands/arms I had to support them with toothpicks (3 per arm) and icing to get them to stay. Ideally I would have done rice crispy treats for those parts, as professionals would b/c it is stiffer and easy to mold how you want it, but I had no rice crispies in my house! The facial features are simply fondant rolled and painted as I did in Isa's cake for the side elements. It was not a huge success in my eyes, but when EJ saw it, she said, "It's Kirby!" So I'm defining success as the 3 year old recognizing the character. And Oli's cake only took me until 1am, after we had guests over that night until at least 8:30 for my practice turkey. Next cake or so, I'll be working on more 3D fondant covered elements.

And now, we need to figure out dinner, so I am getting out of here. Let me know if you have any questions about the cakes or party. I didn't even tell you what we did at Isa's party. It was a lot of crazy fun. And tell me about how YOU make your kids'/spouses/whoever's birthdays special!