It was our turn to host playgroup this week. Me Too has a birthday that occurs/occurred sometime in the past/upcoming thirty days so I decided to throw a cake and some decorations into the mix and make it a party. You may have heard of the rule that states that the number of guests at your child's party should be equal to their age? Yeah....we blew that rule right out of the water. According to that rule Me Too should have had two guests at his party. Our playgroup boasts nine families and 17 children among them.
We all met at a breastfeeding support group when our first babies were all only a couple of weeks old and have gotten together every Wednesday for the last 3.5 years! Here is a photo of (most of) the oldest children when they were about five months old (Kal-El is second from the left, in the navy blue sleeper, holding the hand of the baby furthest to the left):
Here is a photo of the same children (most of them, some wouldn't cooperate) taken today (Kal-El is third from the left):
The funniest thing I heard someone say today was "you have a really big kitchen, but it's amazing how fast it fills up." At the time there were 24 people in my kitchen...I'll say it filled up all right! Here is one of the two kids' tables. Me Too is in the right-hand corner. I didn't get any very good pictures of the "birthday boy" today, but he is having a family party on Saturday which is really the "official" party and I'm sure we'll have better luck Saturday.
Both boys were subjected to the La Leche League recipe for "First Birthday Cake" on their first birthdays. However, for Kal-El's second and third birthdays I tried to have a little more fun with it. This is a bit of an undertaking for me because I have no cake decorating experience whatsoever. Please try not to laugh. To put this year's cake in perspective, I'll show you Kal-El's second and third birthday cakes first.
Kal-El's Second Birthday (It doesn't look too bad if you don't know the cake kept collapsing so I had to re-build the top of the truck with cardboard and frost it. It looks even better if you don't know that my frosting recipe failed, twice, and my Mom had to make me emergency frosting and send my Dad over with it):
Kal-El's Third Birthday (I said no laughing! Please avert your eyes from the crumbs in the frosting, and yes I did a crumb coat!):
Me Too really loves puppy dogs so I threw together a puppy dog theme for his party. In the end, the cake turned out passable (that is, if you're two) but was a long time in getting there. I'm doing it again for Saturday and I anticipate it will go much more smoothly now that I know what I'm doing.
I found this Wilton bear, stand-up cake pan at a rummage and frosted it to look like a dog.
I normally make my own cakes from scratch, but didn't want to risk it in a stand-up cake. The directions recommended one two-layer cake mix combined with one pound cake mix so that's what I did. It worked well, but my husband wasn't jumping up and down about the flavor. I made my own chocolate buttercream which helped make it palatable :) The mixes worked well for what I needed them to do so I was happy.
If you haven't made a stand-up cake before you should know that the mold comes in two halves that you clip together (The clips are almost impossible hard to open. This holds the mold together well, but it was hard to get the clips on...my fingers just weren't strong enough). The cake bakes standing on it's head. You dump the cake mix in through the rear-end. For the next step, the directions made me a little suspicious. After you dump in most of the cake mix you insert a cone-shaped piece of the mold and fill that with a little bit more cake batter. The directions said something like "some people prefer to leave the cone in for decorating, in which case do not put any batter in the cone." Okay. What would have been nice was a little more information on why some people prefer to leave the cone in. If I had known better, I would have planned for leaving it in rather than removal.
It was messy to grease the cone. The cake that baked inside the cone was hard to get out. Once I got it out and stuffed it back in the rear-end of the cake there was less cake than there was hole. It also was very sturdy with the cone in but floppy with the cone out. I will definitely do it differently for Saturday.
Other problems? Sure! The details of the animal's expression and arms that are molded into the pan are vivid in the picture on the box, negligible in reality, and indistinguishable after you've applied a crumb coat. I drew those details on freehand which was fine for me because the pre-printed looked more bear-like than dog-like.
The major problem was the frosting. I used Wilton's chocolate buttercream recipe which stated you can use either cocoa powder or squares of melted baker's chocolate. I unwittingly went with the baker's chocolate and will definitely use the cocoa next time. The whole animal was supposed to be frosted to look like fur with Wilton Tip 233 (the "grass" tip). It was really easy for about two seconds....and then my tip clogged. It clogged every few seconds the whole time and I had to keep undoing the coupler and unclogging it. At that rate it was going to take four hours to frost the cake. I changed tactics and just frosted it with a spatula like normal and tried to do fur only on the ears. When I was frosting the ears I realized that some of the chocolate had re-solidified when I mixed it with the rest of the ingredients into little balls that were clogging the frosting tip. Once I discovered the problem I scouted the remaining frosting for little pieces of chocolate and the ears continued brilliantly.
My husband has no idea why I would want to put myself through this cake-making again for Saturday. However, I know that I can do it much faster now that I know what I'm doing. I made an analogy to his handyman projects. He always complains that once he really learns a skill well (like putting in crown molding) then the project is done and he never needs to use that skill again (a room only usually needs crown molding installed once, right?). I'm just going to maximize on my skills.
I'll post a photo of version two this weekend.