Children’s birthday parties are becoming something of a event that needs a Project Manager these days. I remember when a party with a few school friends consisted of present opening, pass the parcel, musical bumps, ham sandwiches, crisps, cornflake cakes, jelly and ice cream and singing ‘Happy Birthday’ with Mum holding a home-made Victoria sandwich cake donned with the appropriate number of candles. You went home with your cake wrapped in a paper napkin and the greatest thing to happen after that was being invited over for a play date (or over for tea) to play with your friends new toys.
Now, I have 2 children: H’Boo (12) and K’Boo (4).
The first few years of H’Boo’s life consisted of Bouncy Castle parties in June with lots and lots of party food and lots of Aunties, Uncles and cousins. Nursery time parties were ride on toys to play with, lots and lots of party food and games. By the time she started school it had moved up to play centres or hiring out the village hall for 30 children (when she moved school and wanted to make new friends (not wanting to leave anyone out). This progressed to house parties again (with themes – like making and decorating cup cakes or make-up/dressing up) followed by a ‘sleepover’. This year it was a cinema trip – followed by a ‘sleepover’ – which in our house is operation convert the conservatory to a dormitory for 6 girls, to include DVD watching, iPods and copious amounts of texting and Facebook.
So I have done party politics, play centres, village halls, themes, fall-outs, girlie must-do’s and have survived it all – and have already started to do it all again!
K’Boo’s birthday is at the end of January, so bouncy castles are not really an option, nor are garden parties. We have so far had a little party at home with family, followed by the village hall and have since moved onto ‘one play centre in particular‘.
One thing that is a sure thing year after year and I’m not planning on changing this anytime ever – is that we make the invitations ourselves and that I always make a cake (even if I buy one to accommodate numbers also).
No matter were the party is held, the number of children or the age of my children, I think that you have to have your ‘own’ personal stamp on your party and the invitation sets the tone and theme, with the cake being your all important project and centre piece to show off. It doesn’t have to be difficult (sometimes simplicity is more eye catching), but I wanted my children to feel a big part of the plans and to keep one thing for me to have some control over, given that the play centre were doing the rest for me – not a bad trade for great entertainment and no tiding up after!
This year I chose to do a ‘Fairytale Cottage’ for K’Boo’s 4th Birthday and although I found a similar example in a book that said it would take 30 minutes to prepare – in my experience of 30 minute cake creation, it inevitably is not going to take anything like that.
The main reason for this is that if you are making the cake the day before the party, then you will need to reserve some time to add the biscuits for the roof and add the window boxes and flowers – as they will go soggy if down the day or night before on the cake.
Do have them as ready as possible though. If you are adding you own coloured chocolate – do this the day before. And, do the writing icing for the windows as soon as you can too.
**Liquid glucose is a very good way to add things to your cake when the butter icing has already set. **
This is what you will need:
- 5 shop-bought cakes such as angel cake or marble cake
- Pink Butter icing - quadruple amount (here’s the recipe and how to work out the amount)
- A 30cm / 12″ cake board (square or round)
- 18 pink rectangular biscuits (or Nice/Malted Milk coated yourself using white chocolate and pink food colouring)
- 9 yellow rectangular biscuits (or as above with yellow food colouring)
- 10 marshmallows (the long tube shaped ones)
- 1 tube of yellow writing icing
- 1 tube of liquid glucose
- A selection of icing flowers (available from supermarkets in the cake making section)
- Approx. 10 white chocolate buttons
- A packet each of jelly beans and midget gems (small packets should do – but let overs can go in party bags)
Here’s how I did it :
- I bought five cakes the size of a small loaf. They ‘do’ need to be the same height and width (so you may need to slice the tops, so they stack evenly together).
- Roll out the green ready to roll icing approx. 5mm thick to cover the board of your cake (this is the garden).
- Four of the cakes need to make the base, so stack them (two cakes butted together at the bottom and two cakes lengthways across them – like bricks). Sandwich them together with a little icing on the cake board and a little between the cakes. Then cut the remaining cake diagonally in half and add to the top as a rood, using a little butter icing to hold.
- Cover the sides and roof of the house cake thickly with butter icing using a pallet knife. It is easier if you press the icing away from you onto the cake, so as not to lift bits of sponge off the cake.
- Add the jelly beans to the corners of the walls, base of the house and the outer edge of the roof (alternate the colours) and add midget gems to the ridge of the roof.
- Using the liquid glucose to stick them down, make a garden wall out of the remaining midget gems. You can make gate posts using two midget gems stacked. Make a path to where you want the door to be with the chocolate buttons. Save one midget gem for the door handle.
On the day of the party :
- Layer the pink biscuits like tiles on the roof (starting from the bottom) and when you are happy with how they look ..
- Stick the bottom layer to the roof of the cake using liquid glucose. Then stick the next row of biscuits to the cake, overlapping the bottom layer. Finish with the third layer making sure you butt the top of the biscuit up to (not on top of) the midget gems.
- Work out where you want the yellow biscuits to go and then stick them using four dots of glucose on each corner – you should get two windows on three sides (the back and sides) and an upstairs window at the front with a window and door downstairs at the front of the house.
- Cut the marshmallow pieces in half and using a small amount of liquid glucose stick under the windows.
- Use a midget gem for the handle of the door.
- Cut a couple of marshmallows into square shapes to make the chimney.
- Decorate you window boxes with pre-made icing flowers and dot some around the grass on the garden.
- Finally – using writing icing write your child’s age on the door of the cottage.
I put the candles in-between the midget gems on the roof – but you can choose what you use and where you want to put them. For instance, if you are choosing a single numbered candle you can stick it at the gate posts like a gate.
It does take a little time to do this cake – but that depends on how much you want to put into it. The results are breath- taking though and there will be lots of “ooooh aaaaahs” from children and parents alike.
Enjoy the party!