For Birthdays September Is…

September is the most exciting, busy, and tiring month of the year.  It beats even the holiday frenzy of Thanksgiving and Christmas in our family with the number of birthdays we have along with all the back-to-school shenanigans.  My birthday is also guilty of being in September along with my now, 7 yrs old son, who we just finished throwing a themed party for last weekend.  My son has always had something he was obsessed with since he was a baby, starting with airplanes, dinosaurs, etc, and now we’re at Star Wars, so you can probably guess the theme of his party.  I always start off saying I’m going to make the party as simple as possible, then I start adding things here and there until I find myself staring at the ceiling with about a gazillion things running through my head at 3am and wondering what I got myself into.  We ended up having his party at our local park with about 2 dozen 1st grade boys after inviting school friends, church friends, and his soccer team.  Let’s just say I’m glad that this park is usually empty so we had the place mostly to ourselves and so relieved that there were no injuries aside from a rope burn.

Brayden Star Wars shirt

So I am kicking myself in the butt for not taking more pictures at the party, but I was more concerned at that time in making sure I didn’t lose anybody’s kid and that they were safe than try to document the setup/party.  Just imagine I posted pretty pictures of the “Yoda Soda” made from green Gatorade powder in a large, glass, drink dispenser and a beautiful spread (who am I kidding? ha ha) of a huge bowl of our own hodgepodge trail mix ranging from a “seasonal” Star Wars Lucky Charms type cereal, Star Wars Honey Maid grahams, M&M’s, pretzel sticks, Chex cereal, to Rocket Ship Crackers (Trader Joe’s).

In preparation for the party, I wanted to make those lightsabers from pool noodles, but after some research, I was disappointed that the pool noodles were actually quite expensive.  But I found a pinterest image of one made from pipe insulation and duct tape to make the lightsabers which I thought was perfect; especially the price.  I got the 6 ft. insulation at OSH for $1.29 (Home Depot was cheaper but further from me) and I was able to cut them into 3 pieces.  I got red, blue, green, and gray duct tape to cover the pipe insulation and later added thin black duct tape to add a finishing touch to the handles.

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This is also an after-the-party picture (if you can’t tell by the slight warp to the lightsaber).  It was pretty crazy when I handed out the lightsabers to the boys to play with… had to take them back after 2 kids started crying because someone hit them on the head and they didn’t like it… so hand them out at the END of the party.  -__-

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I used my go-to Soft Sugar Cookie recipe to make the cookies and got the Star Wars stencils from this Etsy shop.  I used store-bought black cookie icing (the kind that hardens, aka. royal icing) to “scrape” the Star Wars stencil designs onto the cookies.  See the step-by-step pictures below.  You could do that really with any stencils.  I did have to wipe down the stencils carefully after each cookie so the edges and lines would stay neat and not get smeared from leftover icing.  Sort of a tedious task, so I used buttercream to frost some of the cookies 🙂

stencil icing steps

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Obviously, I made a huge black mess on my first try with the icing and stencils , but the key is to make sure the stencil doesn’t move and scrape carefully so that the icing doesn’t seep through the cracks and “muddy” the lines and edges.

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Since the party was at the park, I didn’t want to cut a cake there and in order to “simplify”, I did cupcakes with these Star Wars cupcake rings to top them off.  Silver cupcake liners and silver sprinkles for the R2D2 rings, gold liners and gold sprinkles for the C3PO rings, and silver liners with Chocolate sprinkles for the Darth Vader rings.  I didn’t get a chance to get close-up pictures of the actual cupcakes from the party on the Star wars Cupcake stand, but I had leftovers with one C3PO ring on it, so I was able to take those pictures at home.  See below for the recipes I used for the cupcakes.  The yellow cake recipe is by far my favorite vanilla cake recipe and it’s the moistest homemade butter cake you will every try!  I have “The Well Decorated Cake” book by Toba Garrett and her recipes are fantastic.  I usually use her French Vanilla Frosting recipe which tastes like Vanilla ice cream, but I tried this other buttercream this time.

Yellow Cake Recipe (I made cupcakes instead and reduced baking time to 20 mins)

Special Buttercream Frosting (I replaced half of the shortening w/ unsalted butter)

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So imagine all of those cupcakes had a cupcake ring on it 🙂

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My favorite purchase from putting together this party were these $1 cupcake carriers!!!  Yes, you heard me, $1 from the Dollar Tree!  They fit 9 cupcakes, and the lid is high enough not to squash the frosting if I had decided to go crazy on the frosting or decoration.  We were able to stack them to carry, and they even have handles (although I wouldn’t recommend carrying them by the handles since they are just a dollar and I wouldn’t want the bottom to fall off and the cupcakes…)

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We ended the party with the Darth Vader Pinata which was actually a pull-string pinata but my son wanted to whack it so I just cut the strings off and called it good.  Note to self: forego a pinata with 7 yr old boys… they stampede and trample…  Good thing my little 3 yr old (pictured above taking a whack at the pinata) was used to having a rambunctious 7 yr old brother and was fine when they all swarmed around for candy.

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If you’re contemplating putting together an all boys birthday party of 6-7 yr olds… may the force be with you.  🙂  My son loved it and I think they had fun; that’s what counts for me, but would I do it again?  Ask me next year.

Thanks for reading~

-Flora

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Weekend Mashup: Cherry Blossoms, Cupcakes & Egg Hunt

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Spring and Easter season have the best colors!  The pretty pastels in pink, yellow, blue, the cute little bunnies, eggs, and chicks; flowers blooming, and the world waking from a winter slumber.  It’s definitely one of my favorite time of year.  I had heard there were pretty cherry blossoms at the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park during March and April and I had been wanting to see them.  So our family took a trip out to see some pretty cherry blossoms Saturday morning, but I was disappointed.  I saw one fully bloomed, beautiful cherry blossom tree at the entrance of the garden and didn’t see any more inside.  The garden is really beautifully landscaped and we still had a good time taking photos, walking around the garden and watching the Koi in the pond, but I had envisioned paths strewn with cherry blossom petals that fluttered down from the branches throughout the garden.  Perhaps I need to go later in April or take a trip out to Japan!  (or a reality check)

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I had the privilege of taking dessert to a friend’s Easter egg hunt at her beautiful home over the weekend.  Her home had the perfect layout for hiding eggs and a nice size grass lot for the kids to run off all their sugar and play games like egg toss, egg-on-a-spoon-race, and more.  I know my kids had a blast and my youngest, C, who is not yet 3, participated in all the games.  It was fun watching her balance an egg on her spoon.

As you probably know, I enjoy baking and constructing layered cakes (eating them too!) but there’s something about pretty cupcakes, frosted and decorated in soft pastels that really make me happy.  I can’t look at one without eating them, which is why I get into trouble whenever I bake these little morsels of heaven.  I had been wanting to eat coconut cake, given it’s Easter season, so of course I thought I would make coconut cupcakes!  I love coconut, but I know not everyone is a fan, like my daughter A, who can’t stand anything coconut and banana.  Still can’t figure out why… they’re so tasty.  To make her happy, I added sprinkles on some cupcakes and only added shredded coconut on half of the batch.  I tried to make bunny ears with marshmallows like I’d seen on Pinterest, but they looked a bit awkward on the mini cupcakes.  I had recruited help from B and A to make the marshmallow bunny ears, but I didn’t use most of them.  Now they’re sitting in a container on my counter and getting snacked on every time I enter the kitchen.  I should probably move them to the back of my highest cabinet.

IMG_0221 Awkward on the mini cupcakes…

I used my go-to yellow cupcake recipe which uses cake flour and sour cream and replaces half of the vanilla extract called for in the original recipe with almond extract.  I did the same to the cream cheese frosting recipe and added almond extract so it would compliment the coconut nicely.  Perhaps it’s the cake flour or perhaps it’s the sour cream, but this recipe produces soft, moist, almost melt in your mouth cupcakes.

Yield: a dozen regular cupcakes or 40+ mini cupcakes

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Vanilla Almond Cupcakes
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1 cup sugar (I usually add 2/3 cup)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Prepare a mini muffin pan by greasing the cavities or inserting cupcake liners. (You may also use regular size muffin pans, see below for longer baking time)
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  In a separate bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light.  Add one egg at a time and then add vanilla and almond extract.
  3. Add half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, then half of the sour cream and repeat with the remaining dry ingredients and sour cream.
  4. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups and bake mini cupcakes for 12-14 mins.  Bake regular size cupcakes for 20-25 mins.
  5. Let cool completely before frosting.
Cream Cheese Almond Frosting
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp
  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temp
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  1. Beat the butter and cream cheese together in a stand mixer  or a handheld mixer until smooth.
  2. Add the sugar, vanilla, and almond extracts and beat until smooth.
  • Sweetened shredded coconut
  • pastel colored sprinkles

After the cupcakes have cooled, use a butter knife or a small spatula to frost the cupcakes (or you can pipe) then top with shredded coconut or sprinkles.  I like using the shredded coconut for this rather than the flaked ones.  (They look better)

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Happy Baking and thank you for reading!

-Flora