Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Barnyard Birthday

My little people turn 2 today on what they could call "Our Worst Birthday EVER!" Granted, they have only had 2 birthdays so there isn't much to compare to, but this one is pretty crummy. Little Princess couldn't go to school because she got tummy sick (a polite way to say she threw up) yesterday at school, on the way in the door a home, and once again before bed. She is also dealing with an ear infection. Little Man got to go to school but he was very confused as to why his sister wasn't going with him. He was so upset he had to take his chicken into school with him rather than giving it a hug and kiss, telling it to have a good day, and leaving it in the car seat. So, they aren't able to have their party at school (their teacher said she would put up their sign tomorrow when they are both there) and the status of their birthday dinner is on hold being as Dad and Big Brother also aren't feeling well. Mom doesn't feel real great either, but at least I just have a cold.

Luckily, we had their birthday party this past weekend, so not all is lost.

Being the amazing super mom I am I couldn't host just any birthday party, we needed a theme. I thought about what they liked and while a Wiggles party would probably have been their first choice, I didn't know how to decorate that cake. So, I went to the second best option, a farm party. Now, I chose a farm theme not because of their love of visiting farms, but because they know what the cow, sheep, chicken, and horse say. And, I could decorate a cake for a farm party.

It all started with an invite. I put one together and sent it via e-mail.I think it turned out really cute. I used Publisher to create the original document. The picture takes up the background and the text is created in text boxes. I grouped the text boxes and pictures together and saved as a jpeg, which I was then able to import into my e-mail. It sounds a lot more complicated than it was. Just mess around a bit and you can figure it out. If you can't let me know and I'll see if I can help.

The next step was to determine just how far I wanted to take this theme. I decided to go simple with farm themed cakes and cake plates. It just didn't make too much sense to spend a ton of money on decorations. But don't think for one minute the thought of hay bales and cows didn't cross my mind.

I spent A LOT of time on the Internet/Pinterest trying to decide how to decorate my cake and cupcakes and finally decided on a cow cake and sheep, pig, and chick cupcakes.

First, the cow cake.

The supplies: I decided for this party I was focusing on the decorations for the cake and cupcakes so I just used box cake mix and frosting. Now, I'm not going to lie, I usually buy Pillsbury because it is the cheapest cake mix, but it is also my favorite. The cake is always moist and yummy.

I think I used about 1/4-1/2 can chocolate frosting, 1/4 pink frosting, and I can't remember how much white, I think 1-1 1/4 can.

Pan spray with the flour. I did a lot of research on how to keep the cake from sticking and this seemed to be the most popular option. I used a lot of spray.

Black decorating gel (not shown, it was probably still in the grocery bag when I took the picture)

Mix the cake according to package directions and pour into prepared pan. Bake at 350 30-40 minutes. My cake took longer because my oven is off. Take out when a toothpick in the center comes out clean or with just a few crumbs. Crumbs are ok, goo is not. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Using a serrated bread knife trim the cake so the bottom (what is showing in the pan) is flat. Invert the pan on a cooling rack, hold your breath, and gently take the pan off the cake. Luckily my cake came right out. Let the cake cool completely.

While the cake cools, let me tell you a bit about the pan I used. I used the Wilton Animal Crackers pan. This pan allows you to make bunches of animals with just one pan by altering how you decorate the cake. What a great idea, one pan, many animals. Unfortunately, this pan has been discontinued. Probably because you can make many animals from one pan rather than buying a pan for each animal. It took me awhile but I finally found the pan on a discount party supply website. I can't wait to make different animals.

Now that the cake is cool you want to transfer it to whatever you are going to serve it on. I watch a lot of cooking tv so I know that if you are going to decorate a cake on your serving platter you should tear 4 (I think I used 5) strips of wax paper to put under your cake edges to keep the plate from getting frosting on it. Basically you make a ring of wax paper.

Because I am not confident in my ability to decorate a cow I used a small knife to outline the different shapes I was going to make. This worked out ok, but not great because the cake was chocolate so it was dark and the lines didn't show up. I think if you used a lighter cake you could probably use a food pen to draw out your lines. The pan does provide some guidelines, but the cow doesn't use all the features.

The frosting is applied using a small star tip and a pastry bag. I know it sounds hard, but it really isn't. It just takes some practice-which you can do on wax paper and then scoop back up when you are ready to start. The nice thing about this type of cake is that any small imperfections aren't really going to show up (not that I made any, so don't even bother looking).

One thing to watch for is your frosting getting too runny. This probably happens because the heat from your hands warms up the frosting. Ways to get around this would be to have more than one pastry bag to work with or take a break when the frosting gets too soft. Or, it if is 11 o'clock at night you could just keep working.

The first thing I did was fill in the eyes and the mouth with the black gel. I then did the pink, followed by the black, and finished with the white.

Once the cow is decorated you can carefully pull out the strips of wax paper. I really thought this was going to end up pulling the frosting off the side of the cake, but it didn't. This technique acutally worked really well. Those tv cake makers must really know their stuff.

This cake took a couple hours to do, but it was well worth it. The kids really liked their cow cake. Which in case you are wondering, says "Mooo".

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