Tuesday, July 22, 2014

All Things Birthday Sweets

I luv to throw birthday parties for my kids. Not only for celebrating a year milestone, but also for getting together with our friends, especially the ones who live very far from us.

For me, hosting a birthday party takes a lot of planning. I started my planning as long as three months in advance. Depending on the birthday theme, I sometimes had to search and order products on the internet, including their birthday presents.

Throwing my kids a birthday party also takes experience. When Brek turned a year old, I had no idea what I was doing... or not doing. Grandma asked me where were the first birthday decorations. What birthday decorations? Two hours before our guests arrived, I rushed to store nearby and picked up a generic first birthday bear theme. I ordered a cake from a local grocery store and asked my husband to pick it up after work. He didn't bother to look at the cake. So Brek's cake read, "Happy Birthday, Andrew!" Yup, apparently, this Andrew kid didn't get his cake. For entertainment, we had tween neighbors smashed up the football shaped piƱata. It was fun just to get together with our friends, but it was a sad first birthday party.

But my kids' birthday parties improved each year. What mistakes made on previous year were never repeated again. Keep in mind the followings when you throw any party: location, number of guests, amount of food and drinks, activities, goodie bags, and thank you notes.

So far, my kids' birthday parties always took place at my home. My friends told me that it was no clean up if they had parties outside of their homes. But to me, being at home is more relaxing. Plus guests can stay as long as they want to.

The party usually started out with an activity like arts and crafts. As soon as all the kids arrived, we would do the actual theme party activity. Following all the fun, we had lunch or dinner. I usually waited about an hour or so to have a birthday dessert. Opening up presents would be the very last activity. After everybody was fed and happy, kids played with the toys, and grown ups just sat around, supervising kids and catching up on life.

Here are some of the successful birthday themes.

Camden's first birthday: Farm Animals
Because Camden had food intolerance, I baked him a pumpkin muffin as his first birthday dessert. It was free from dairy, eggs, corn, and legumes. I placed the muffin on top of a tractor toy which I decorated with farm animals birthday theme. He nibbled on it the next day. It was very low key. Mostly we just hung out with our kids.

Camden's second birthday: Sesame Street
Camden watched Sesame Street nearly every day. He luv Elmo, so I thought Elmo cake would be nice. But no food coloring. While Brek was watching Sesame Street on DVD with Camden, he saw the end credits of Elmo and other Sesame Street characters made out of veggies and fruits. Brek and I had a light bulb moment. Why not make Elmo cake using fruits and berries. Elmo cake looked... well, like Elmo with a lot of berries. Click here for Elmo cake recipe. The room was decorated in Sesame Street characters.

Brek's 6th birthday: Picnic on the Moon
Brek wanted to do a space theme, so I came up with picnic on the moon. For a moon room, my husband and I cleared out a room and darken the windows. Spread out a picnic blanket and placed a lava lamp and flower lights in the middle. Kids sat around the lights, and they had pizza and juice. Cake was a spherical cake with hand made clay dough of Brek sitting against the mini picnic basket. Nobody cared for the cake and ice cream. Kids just wanted to hang out on the moon. Brek's friends went home with their own picnic baskets filled with goodies.

Keep in mind that a birthday doesn't have to have a birthday cake. As long as something sweeter was served, kids would be happy. For Brek's 7th birthday party, I made him a seven layers dessert: cookie crumbs, ice cream, whipping cream, chocolate syrup. Kids luv the birthday dessert. Some even asked to have just ice cream. Whatever made them happy. After that easy experience, I decided to serve more of birthday dessert instead of a traditional birthday cake.

Here are some of the successful birthday desserts.

Since Camden outgrew all of his food intolerance four months before he turned three, I decided to bake a Wubbzy cheesecake and sponge cupcakes. Wubbzy was yellow so the cheesecake was a smart alternative to no food coloring. The Wubbzy and his friends cupcake picks were colorful printouts that were glued on to the card stock.

Camden's 4th birthday was a Knight theme. It was all his idea. He wanted to be a knight. I even sew him a knight costume which he also worn on Halloween. I made a big sheet of chocolate rice crispy treats because rice sorta looked like pebbles. On the side, I also made chocolate cake push pops. I bought a knight cupcake liners, picks, and castle goodie boxes on line. All were used to decorate Camden's birthday dessert.

LEGO Ninjago's cake pops were really cute and tasty for Brek's 9th birthday. Since I decided not to use food coloring (even though we only had to avoid dairy and legumes at that time), I drew a Ninjago characters on different colored foam cutouts. So the cake pops were still colorful without the food coloring added. Of all the cakes and desserts I made for my kids' birthday, these cake pops were very time consuming. Still had fun in the kitchen.

A few times, I volunteered to make my friend's kids their birthday sweets. Once, her son birthday theme was snakes. There were a lot of inspiration on Pinterest but involved a lot of food coloring. I wanted to make it simple but three dimensional. So I went with Snake cake pops. They were much easier to make than the Ninjago's cake pops. No food coloring on these cake pops as well. Just melted chocolate for snake skin. The snake's tongue was a slice of carrot. The dessert floor were roughly crushed graham crackers. To make these cake pops looking like a snake, I used a small box and poked holes to place each cake pop's handle inside the box. Just had to line the cake pops so they came together and looked like a snake slithery on the ground.

For Brek's 11th birthday, I made s'more in a jar with graham crackers, marshmallow fluff, and chocolate pudding. The theme was outdoor camping even though the party was indoor. I also made s'more pops with homemade marshmallows dipped in melted chocolate with sprinkled graham cracker crumbs. Remember to decorate the jars to make them special. I bought card stock with outdoor theme, cut out little pictures, and taped them on the outside of each jars. Pretty simple but made a big statement.

This year, Brek will turn 12 in August. He told me that he no longer wants a birthday party. He admitted to be too old for a birthday party. (sigh) Kids... grow up too fast. All he wants this year is to have his best friends over, hoping they would like to have a sleepover. You know, I will bake him something birthday sweet anyway, right? Camden's turning 5 in November and already wishes for a mine craft theme. My mind is already spinning the wheels with ideas. Knowing Camden, he probably changes his mind... tomorrow and chooses a different birthday theme.

Allergy Info: All of the birthday sweets can be modified according to your allergy free diet. With food intolerance or allergy in your family, be sure to provide guests with food and drink that you normally consume without any allergic reaction. I've cooked and baked everything from scratch for each birthday party since Camden became intolerance with some foods. Everybody's told me that they luv to eat whatever I cooked or baked each year. See, allergy friendly foods are pretty tasty. I always keep the appetizer or meals very simple, so I can concentrate on the birthday sweets.

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