Cassie Walker Throws a Party!
So, I have some pretty cool friends around here, and they do some pretty amazing things. Cassie Walker is one of those amazing people. She’s a good friend to me and a great supporter. Well, she’s also crazy talented, so I bullied her into doing a guest blog spot for me (I’m sure this won’t be the only one). So, without further adieu, here is Cassie and her amazing parties.
Birthdays are HUGE in our family. My kids know that one day a year, the world is theirs. They each have a ‘yes’ day. (inspired by the book, YES DAY!) My kids start planning their ‘yes day’ months in advance, knowing that some things require a little more orchestration than a simple, “Can I watch TV all day?” Along with this comes their parties and cakes. I love to bake and my kids love to design their cakes. They get inspiration from books, cartoons, the internet, and sometimes they just draw something up and bring it to me as a custom order (like my son did this year with his Mario Cake). I’m hardly a gourmet and my artistic skills max out at copying. But with the internet as my ally, I’ve been able to create some pretty fun cakes. Some of them are downright not awesome. But to my kid, at that time, they were perfect. Enjoy!
1st year Heart Carrot Cake: This was my first child’s first birthday cake. While I don’t still have the recipe, I know exactly where it came from… What to Expect the first Year. That book was my baby bible. This cake is filled with vegetables and has no sugar-not kidding. I make the letter ‘D’ out of grapes. My son freaked out when everyone sang him happy birthday so he never even really tried the cake. I did later and it was alright. It is a pretty sweet, simple first year cake.
Airplane Runway: This was from my son’s imagination. It’s a box cake with a watch tower made out of an ice cream cone. I used canned frosting that I dyed with Wilton Icing colors (concentrated paste). The planes were actual di-cast toys that he got to keep. They cost about the same as the cheap cake decorations but lasted longer. As you’ll soon see, I’m a fan of putting real toys on cakes instead of cheap, plastic decorations. For the words, I put the frosting in a quart sized bag (the sandwich ones are too flimsy), cut a small hole…practiced to make sure I liked the size (always start with a small cut) and then piped on the words.
I used to get the Kraft magazine in the mail a while back and one time, just before my two boys’ birthdays (which are both in the summer), they featured this cake. They were sold the minute they saw it. The actual cake however, sacrifices taste in favor of looking more authentic (black licorice tracks, really?) So, we improved on the cake (Kit Kat tracks) and added train cars filled with my kids favorite candies. My oldest son had a Spiderman themed party that year, so Spiderman got to ride on the train as well (this time it was a candle, not a toy). I even covered the cardboard with foil this time!
This was an ambitious effort. It was my first attempt at fondant. I used a box cake mix and played around with different sized round pans in my kitchen until I thought the dimensions were right. I ended up using ramekins for the ears. I used a marshmallow fondant recipe. It was really easy to work with. I used Wilton concentrated paste for the dye and just played around with shapes and cutouts until it looked like I wanted. I cut all the shapes with these cookie cutters. I did first frost the cake with canned frosting, and also used the frosting as glue to hold on my shapes. Toddles toys were really expensive at the time, so the topper is an actual cake topper. (This was 3 years ago, and I actually can’t find the topper online anymore.
This was a lazy year (new house, new baby). Both my sons got cupcakes. For the second birthday my mom brought a cupcake stand, to add a little something extra. My kids chose their flavor and toppings. The first chose rings so that everyone could have a prize in their cupcake. The second chose his favorite candy, M&M’s and chocolate covered pretzels.
My daughter only specified Tinkerbell, so I got to use my own creative juices for this one (meaning, the internet). I just did a google image search and designed a cake around the things that I saw that I liked the most-that looked within my skill set. The cake is a boxed cake (shocker!) made in a bundt pan. Why? I don’t know, except I thought that seemed fancy. It’s frosted with canned frosting and then covered with leaves made from marshmallow fondant. Again, I used Wilton Concentrated paste for the dye. Then I played around and made some dots and flowers. The flowers actually looked quite awful themselves, but on the cake they sort of blended in. And when they didn’t, I stuck a fairy on them (actual toys). Then I made a bunch of chocolate dipped strawberries and filled the bundt cake with them and added them around the edges, since my daughter loves them.
For this cake I did actually buy the cake pan. My son wanted a volcano cake the next month, so I figured I could justify it. I used a 40% off coupon from Joann’s. I didn’t, however, want to buy the weird little half dolls that they sell in the cake aisle to go with it. They creeped me out for some reason. So I just used a real doll (Tinkerbell), and jammed her legs in the cake. A little messy, but she cleaned up just fine. Of course I washed her thoroughly before jamming her into the cake. I used a strawberry flavored boxed cake and canned vanilla icing dyed pink. No fancy details, just big loping swirls that I thought made her dress look ‘billowy.’ It also looks better to be messy on purpose than to try to be all nice and smooth and only sort of accomplish it. For the top I just put frosting in a quart sized bag (sandwich bags are too flimsy) and swirled on the frosting until she was fully clothed. I piped a belt, name, and detailing along the bottom and topped each with a raspberry. Then I surrounded her with lots of fruits. She’s a fruit fairy after all. (No, she’s a tinker fairy, come on, Cassie. Just kidding, this is from Sharla).
This cake came straight from Nick Jr. I made the cake just like the directions stated and if I did it again, I would just buy a pre-made pound cake. Box mix for pound cake isn’t as moist or as good as just buying it already made. Even the way they have you shape the cake I think would be easier to accomplish by cutting a rectangular pound cake. Mine was uneven and as a result a little unstable. I melted the frosting, but was worried because it was a little hot that day and I worried about the frosting being too runny, so as a result my finished boat wasn’t the smoothest. I wanted the wonder pets to ride on the boat, so instead of the paper sail I just disassembled the fly boat toy my daughter got for her birthday and added the pets and the toy sail to the cake. I also couldn’t find the purple ring candy, so I cut my leftover donuts I used for the wheels into the relative shape and then frosted them. This cake was pretty cute, but none of the kids actually liked eating more than the frosting and the little sweet tart balls
For the wonder pets party each child was given a cape and hopped in the fly boat. I made the capes following the pattern here. With the leftover material we made capes for the animals they ‘rescued.’ (small stuffed animals my older kids “donated” to the party.) We hid them in the yard and they got to keep the animal they found. We used craft glue and it was messy and didn’t dry quickly. Perhaps an instant spray glue would have been better…
I could not get a picture cute enough to do this cake justice. It really was the cutest cake I have ever made. For Mother’s Day, my mom gave me the book, “Cupcakes, Cookies and Pie, Oh My!” I usually don’t like books because the internet has everything, but this book is chock full of brilliant cake ideas. Even if the actual cakes don’t float your boat, the tips, tricks, and recipes are extremely versatile. The author’s website has tips and tutorials also. This is the only cake I’m not going to lay out step by step. Although the instructions weren’t hard, it was 4 pages long. And I do believe in giving credit where credit is due. The book is newish, so if you don’t want to buy it, the library would probably have it for full details.
He was made from one 1 lb. frozen pound cake (most stores sell the smaller one, so I had to search several stores before I found it. Of course it was Walmart). The frosting is canned vanilla and chocolate, melted and then poured to look smooth. This is an incredible trick! Melted vanilla tinted yellow is also how I made the dog bowls, which are mini strawberry shortcake bowls. The ‘water’ is blue tinted frosting melted and poured in. The dog food is cocoa puffs. The dog was assembled and held in place using straws and toothpicks and his feet are brownie bites.
When making a cake like this, it can get incredibly expensive to buy all the little parts (I needed one gum drop for his nose, for instance). This is where the bulk bins at Winco are your best friend. Saved me a ton! For the fur to look like fur I scooped frosting into quart sized bags and then piped on little vertical lines in brown and white. The last trick is the ears. They are marshmallows cut diagonally. Dip the sticky inside in sprinkles, secure with toothpicks, frost and voila!
This cake was awesome and gross. I used my strawberry shortcake recipe for this cake. I have the best strawberry shortcake recipe EVER for 2 simple reasons. It’s the easiest thing ever to make and it tastes better than anything else I’ve tried. Obviously there’s a little bit of subjectivity here, so you can try it for yourselves.
Cassie’s Strawberry Short Cake:
1 box store brand yellow cake
Fresh Strawberries (Costco is always the winner here in terms of taste and price)
Make the cake according to package directions. While cooling, cut and sugar your strawberries to your preference. Once done, whip up a batch of homemade whipped cream. Easiest thing ever and always a HUGE hit. Everyone always makes these gourmet, homemade, hard as rock shortcakes and then just gets whipped cream in a tub or can. That is backwards! Cheat on the cake, people!, not the topping. Makes all the difference.
Back to the volcano cake. I used the same cake pan as I did for the fruit fairy cake because it turns out princess skirts look a lot like volcanoes. I used the whipped cream for the snow and pureed the strawberries for the lava. Some kids wouldn’t even touch it, it looked so gross. Those who did were rewarded for their bravery.
Here are the extras for the landscape: Canned vanilla frosting tinted green with concentrated food paste. Spread over entire pan and then going over the entire surface lay your knife down and quickly pull up to create the grass. I used candy rocks from the bulk bins, blue tinted frosting for the lake, crushed up graham crackers for the beach, and at the last minute, lots of tiny Pokemon figures got stuck everywhere.
This wouldn’t be a complete post if we didn’t give you set-by-step instructions of pulling off a magnificent party, so here it is, the Mario party to end all Mario parties…
I doctored a box cake (funfetti) by substituting buttermilk for the water and using 4 eggs instead of whatever the box said. (recipe from the most awesome cake book EVER: Cupcakes, cookies and pie, oh, my!) I used 3 different size cake pans borrowed from the lovely Amy M., and then baked me up some cakes. The layers are two eight inch rounds, two 5 ½ inch rounds, and 1 ramekin. The key to getting the cakes to fall out of the pans is to line the bottom of the pan with waxed paper to fit and then to spray it all with nonstick cooking spray. Cool in pan for 15 minutes, invert and lift pan off cake.
Frosting: From a can, colored blue.
Vines and Clouds: Made from Candy Clay:
-one 12 oz bag of white chocolate chips, melted in microwave).
-1/3 cup light corn syrup added and stirred until well combined.
Wrap in plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature. It needs at least 3 hours to firm up and can be made up to 4 days in advance. When ready to use, knead until smooth, add coloring and knead to blend in. Then shape into whatever.
Bottom Stripe: Fruit Leather
Sprinkles: Included with the funfetti frosting
I ordered the invitations from here and it was the best $7 I spent. I worked with the seller to customize it and she very timely sent me the JPEG file that I then printed myself at Costco. So cute and so worth it!
We set up Mario Kart on the Wii for the kids to play as they arrived.
There was also a table set up of Mario pictures to color to decorate their bags. The kids then used the bags to collect “Star Coins” (I couldn’t actually find star coins, so I used these)
We had the kids perform an obstacle course that they collected star coins at. Some of the stations were Mario related, others had nothing to do with Mario. The kids didn’t mind one bit. The stations were:
1. 1-grab a balloon and carry it through a tunnel.
2. Then walk on a balance beam while ducking under _______ (enter the name of your favorite flying Mario villain here).
3. Jump on the balloon to pop and collect the coin that was inside the balloon (getting them in there was tricky, but doable).
4. Climb a vine to collect the star coin on the ceiling
5. Throw a ring to knock over a water bottle and collect the coin under the water bottle
6. Find a star coin buried under every pillow and blanket in our house that were all piled into the spare room
7. Scale the over sized Love Sac and then dig for a star coin in a bucket of balls on the other side.
Once they had all their coins, they could redeem them for prizes at the Mario Store, which included:
· Wii-mote crayons, ordered from Etsy These were SUPER CUTE, but the kids didn’t really dig them. They’re obviously not that practical and most of the kids wanted something else and not these.
· Toad’s Trail Mix (made from Swedish fish, chocolate molded stars, pretzels and whoppers). Huge hit.
· Mario Galaxy Glitter Play dough. The recipe came from here and I just put them in little jars with a Mario Sticker on them. AWESOME!!! The play dough feels like the real deal and 3 months later, it’s JUST AS SOFT!
We also set out a big table with all of our play dough supplies and let the kids go crazy. And to top it off, we build plastic cup towers that the kids shot down with Nerf guns. Again, not related to anything, but a huge hit that was FREE J
As an aside, our son also got Mario related items for his birthday and we were very pleased with all of them so I thought I’d pass them along. Click on the item and the link will take you to where we bought them from.
Yoshi-He’s smallish, but we’ve been pleased
Wall Decals-This is the real winner and on his wall, it looks awesome. It took 3 weeks to get here however, so plan accordingly (shipped from Israel). My son has very dark paint on his walls and it still looked fantastic.
And there you have it. Cassie, you are really and truly amazing. Your cakes are fabulous but the love you poured into them is really what is inspirational. Big thanks for this amazing post. We here at All Things Fabulous know that you, my friend, are FABULOUS!