Monday, July 29, 2013

How to Host a Cupcake Decorating Birthday Party - Lilli's 9th Birthday Party

This year for Lilli's birthday party we decided to have a cupcake decorating party and it was a super sweet success.

Lilli is at that in between age where some of the kids get a bit bored with the usual party games we've had in the past. As a compromise we're still having pass-the parcel which is the birthday girl's favourite plus a pretty dessert table (my favourite - make sure to pop back next week to see those pictures) and filling up the rest of the time with cupcake decorating.

The great thing about a cupcake decorating party is that you can go as low cost or fancy as you choose depending on your budget, plus it's great for a wide range of kids (we had 4 years to 9 years olds).

Also, the actual cupcake decorating set up of the party was soooo easy!

I have to admit, I had a little help in the kitchen. I used Betty Crocker cupcake mix, which comes with ready to spread frosting. I also used a couple of tubs of Betty Crocker's ready-made frosting for extra piping. It made the preparation and clean up a breeze. And, because it's so easy, Lilli helped out baking the cupcakes, which gave us some special family time the night before the party and added to the fun.

Lilli and her friends are a pretty crafty and fun bunch so I thought we would set up a few stations with pictures of a finished cupcake at each station along with the ingredients needed. I explained how to pipe a frosting swirl, how to make a fondant flower or butterfly and a quick description of each cupcake on offer and then let the kids go to it.

Cupcake Decorating Ideas (all cupcakes in the pictures are made using Betty Crocker cupcake mix and ready to spread frosting):  

Pretty flowers and pearls

Vanilla Cupcakes and ready to spread frosting vanilla or strawberry
Sugar flowers (CLICK HERE to make your own or buy premade sugar flowers)
Candy coated chocolate balls* or cashous *sixlets (candy coated chocolate) from spotlight or cake decorating stores, cashous from supermarkets.

Put frosting into a piping bag fitted with a large open star tip. Starting in the middle pipe the frosting on working your way out in a circle. Top with pre-made sugar flowers and Candy coated chocolate.

Cookies and Cream

Vanilla Cupcakes and ready to spread vanilla frosting
Oreo Cookies

Chop up a few oreos into small pieces and mix into the vanilla frosting. Put the frosting into a piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Starting in the middle pipe the frosting on working your way out in a circle. Top with a whole Oreo Cookie. Alternately you can spoon the oreo frosting on, smooth into a mound with a knife and top with a whole Oreo Cookie.

Strawberry forever
Strawberry Cupcakes and ready to spread vanilla or strawberry frosting
Pink and white sprinkles

Spread a layer of frosting onto the cupcake and then dip the top in the sprinkles. Put the extra frosting into a piping bag fitted with a large open star tip. Pipe a swirl of frosting in the middle of the cupcake and top with a whole Strawberry.

Sundae Best

Vanilla Cupcakes and vanilla and chocolate ready to spread frosting
wafers or half flake

Put vanilla and chocolate frosting into separate piping bags fitted with a large open star tip. Starting in the middle pipe the vanilla frosting on working your way out in a circle. Pipe a small amount of chocolate frosting on the top. Place a jaffa onto the top center of the cupcake and then push a wafer cookie into the top off center.

Let's go crazy * suitable for all age groups

Cupcake and ready to spread frosting any flavour
Assorted lollies

Place frosting into bowls with flat knife or offset spatula and allow kids to spread the frosting onto the cupcake and then load lollies on as desired.

In the end the cupcake decoration directions were more a suggestion than a rule and the kids had a fun time coming up with imaginative ideas all on their own.

I loved the Oreo stacks they whipped up - cupcake, frosting, Oreo, frosting, Oreo, frosting and topped with a strawberry. Over the top - no way! They were perfect because the kids made them and had so much fun with each other along the way.

Cupcake Decorating Tips

- Don't skimp on the frosting. Go big or go home. I can not stress how important having enough frosting is. Remember these are kids and there WILL be some consumption loss during the decorating. This was one of the reasons I loved using the Betty Crocker tubs of ready made frosting - I had extra tubs on hand in the pantry just in case.

- Also don't skimp on the decorations - same rules apply as frosting.

- Try to make the cupcake designs age appropriate. Younger kids are happiest just adding as many lollies as they can fit, older kids appreciate a few different designs to choose from.

- Disposable icing bags and tips are available at grocery stores.

- Don't overfill the bags, half full is good, and secure the end with a rubber band. Warm hands will make any frosting a little bit runnier, see above tip re disposable icing bags

- It's a great idea to have some cupcake boxes to pop the finished cupcakes into. Mine were from the local discount store $2 for a set of 3. Make sure you write each guests name onto the box so that their fabulous creations do not get mixed up.

Other Party Tips

The rest of the preparation I did the weekend before. I picked up some cupcake boxes from the discount store and Lilli helped me pop them up and then I added a bit of extra decoration myself (yes because I just can not help myself). If you wanted to you could make decorating the box an extra activity for the kids to do themselves at the party.

I borrowed some kids aprons from a friend for the party guests which added to the fun. I have seen some tutorials around to make your own kids aprons from teatowels if you are crafty and can sew a straight line. Although on the day of the party I completely forgot about the aprons because I didn't have them in my preparation area - doh!

We had 15 kids so we used 5 boxes of Betty Crocker cupcake mix to make at least 4 cupcakes each. I found the mixes to be generous and we managed to make 16 cupcakes from each box. Each box of Betty Crocker cupcake mix actually comes with ready to spread frosting in the boxes, we used an extra 3 tubs of the Betty Crocker frosting for piping(see frosting tips above).

Lilli picked the invitations, we found these cute pop up cupcake girl ones from Paper Eskimo that were perfect for the party theme they come in a box with pretty matching envelopes and thank you post cards.

Take home party bags - The boxes of cupcakes double as a cake and take home party favour and are really enough. But we did up a little bag for everyone which included some fondant cutters (either flower or butterfly), decorating sugar pearls, cupcake cases and a little bag of lollies. The pink and white spot bags were from my local discount store for $2 or $3 for the set of 10. We popped on a little thank you card that came with the invites that Lilli personally wrote to everyone prior to the party.

Plus everyone took home their own box of Betty Crocker vanilla cupake mix so they could easily whip up their own home baked cupcakes.

Stockist Tips
Cupcake Mixes and Ready to Spread Frosting - Betty Crocker available all supermarkets
Betty Crocker Australia Facebook
Fondant Cutters - Sunrise Wholesaler (similar available cake decorating shops online)
Pop up Invitations - Paper Eskimo 
Cupcake Boxes and Party Bags - Choice discount store

Disclosure: the ideas, words and opinions in this post are my own however this post was sponsored by General Mills.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Unicorn Cookie Instructions - I wish I was a unicorn with flowers in my hair

I wish I was a unicorn with flowers in my hair,
I would dance around the forest spreading magic everywhere,
Happiness, fun and music would swirl around me in the air,
Oh I wish I was a unicorn with flowers in my hair.*

I have been playing around with cookie designs for the girls birthday parties and this seems to be a bit of a favourite for Sweet. I guess who doesn't love unicorns, plus ombre pink with touches of gold, it's a magical combination.

EDIT update 2/0/13- we have had the party CLICK HERE to see all the lovely pictures

If you follow me on Instagram you would of course have seen the pretty copper horse cutters as soon as I bought it and lots of progress pictures of me making the cookies along the way. On facebook we had a vote - pink or gold hooves, for which gold won quite easily. Although I'm still undecided as a number of people told me the actual magic is in the horn so it should be the only gold part. 

I hope you love these cookies as much as my kids do. Check back in around a month's time for Sweet's magical birthday party table (which will feature these cookies). Plus next week I will have some of Bubble's 9th birthday party celebrations up.

My cookie cutter was from Ecrandal but you can use any horse or unicorn cutter you have on hand for a similar cookie.

*first and last line of poem inspired by 'I wish I was a punk rocker with flowers in my hair' by Sandi Thom.

Unicorn Cookie Tutorial

 CLICK on the picture below for the video tutorial otherwise continue to read for written instructions.

Horse or Unicorn shape cutter
Small plastic rolling pin
Sugar Cookie Dough (see below for recipe)
White Ready Rolled Fondant ^
Gel Food Colour (Dusky Pink, ivory, black, teal)*
Sugar Flowers (Click here for my easy sugar blossom tutorial)
Gold Luster dust and rose spirits
Couple of clean brushes used for food only
Sharpe knife

^fondant dries out quickly, when not in use store in an airtight container or ziplock bag. To use fondant knead until pliable and smooth and roll out on a workbench dusted with cornflour (cornstarch).
*You will need dark dusky pink, medium pink and light pink fondant for the unicorns tail and mane and dark ivory fondant for the unicorn horn and hooves plus a very small amount of black and teal for the eyes.

 The day before decorating colour all the fondant and make the unicorn horns. To make the horn roll out 2 pieces of the dark ivory fondant into thick ropes and then twist together. Using the palm of your hand roll until the desired width, you may need to stop and retwist every now and then to ensure the horn has a tight swirl. Cut to desired length and twist the end until it is has a thin sharp point.

Using the cookie recipe and instructions below cut out and cookie horse cookies, allow to cool.

Knead white fondant until smooth and pliable. Dust workbench with cornflour (corn starch) and roll out fondant until quite thin then using the horse cutter cut out a fondant shape.

Roll out some of the darker dusky pink fondant and cut out a horse shape, you actually only need the tail and mane area. Roll out a small amount of the medium pink and cut out the horse head.

Place the darker dusky pink over the top of the white horse cut out and cut a line across where the tail meets and also along the back of the horse for the mane.

 See picture for example. Do the same for the medium pink to cut out the unicorn's 'fringe/mane'.

Brush water onto the cookie and adhere the fondant, use the rolling pin to smooth the fondant into place.

Use a knife or cake modelling tool to indent details into the horse, like a mouth, nostril and leg definition (if required)

Take pea sized amounts of the dark dusky pink and roll between your palms into a thin rope, then use the rolling pinto flatten into a long ribbon. Twist each end of the fondant ribbon in the opposite direction to make a flowing corkscrew swirl.

Place onto the cookie tail area and use a small amount of water to adhere in place. Use the sharp knife to cut any excess off. I adhered around 3 on the tail and 5 on the mane area (see picture).

Repeat the process with the medium pink and then the light pink until the mane and tail appear full..

Fold a small piece of cardboard into a V to act as a support.

Mash a very small amount of fondant with water to make a firm glue past and adhere the horn to the front mane part, move the cardboard support under the horn. Add a sugar flower on top of the horn (using the fondant water glue) and where the tail meets the body.

Decide if you are having pink or gold hooves and roll out that colour fondant. Use the horse cutter to cut out the feet area and use the sharp knife to cut out hooves. Adhere to the cookie with a small amount of water.

Add eye detail, you can just draw on an eye with edible black pen.

Other wise use a small amount of black, white and teal fondant to make an eye by pressing the colours into small rounds, see picture for detail.

If you are having gold detail, mix the edible luster dust with a little rose spirits and paint onto the horn and hooves.

Allow to dry until set and then store in airtight containers for up to 3 days.

Sugar Cookie Recipe (makes 12 large cookies)

460 grams plain flour (16 1/4 oz all purpose flour)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
230 grams unsalted butter (8 1/8oz)room temperature
220 grams caster sugar (7 3/4 oz superfine sugar)#
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
#use regular white sugar if you do not have caster/ superfine sugar

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.

Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl using an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed to medium low, add the egg and vanilla and mix until combined. Reduce mixer speed to low and mix in the sifted flour mixture until combined. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill in fridge for 30 minutes or so.

Line a few baking trays with parchment/ baking paper.

Dust workbench with plain flour and using a large rolling pin roll out the dough until around 1/2 cm (1/4") in thickness. If the dough is to hard you may need to work/knead it a bit until you can roll it out.

Cut out cookies shapes and place the cookies on the prepared trays. (Knead and reroll dough as necessary, if it becomes to soft you can pop it back in the fridge.)

Pop the cut cookie dough trays into the fridge to chill again for around 30 minutes until firm (or in the freezer for 10 minutes).

Preheat oven to 160 C (320 F) and cook the cookies until they just start to turn golden, around 15 minutes (less or more depending on cookie size).

Cool on trays for 5 minutes and then carefully lift onto a wire rack to cool completely prior to decorating.

- Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for 1 week.

Unless stated otherwise, the above pictures and post are original works and the property of Linda Vandermeer.

Linda Vandermeer is a blogger, baker, maker and author of the cookbook ' Sweets on a Stick': More than 150 kid friendly recipes for cakes, candies, cookies and pies on the go!. Published in the US the book is available at most online book stores:

Link to Amazon:

Or at Fishpond (free shipping Australia)
Sweets on a Stick: More Than 150 Kid-Friendly Recipes for Cakes, Candies, Cookies, and Pies on the Go! 

This post is not sponsored. Affiliate links may result in earnings, however will not cost you any more :) 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Alien Zombie Brain Eating Cake Pops

I was walking down the Candy/ Lolly aisle at the store and I noticed bags of brains.

Well they're not really supposed to be bags of brains, but I saw bags of 'berries' with squirty squidgy insides and I thought - wow they totally look like brains - AWESOME. Y'all did exactly the same thing when you saw them didn't you.

So, life changing,  now that you can pick up bags of brains the options are endless. Endless I tell you, 'cause seriously brains just add that special something to every treat.

Well my 4 year old (The Destroyer) thinks so. I'm not sure if you remember his birthday cake. Let me remind you. Monkey Brain cake that he begged me to make for months before his birthday.  I would say I don't know where this brain obsession comes from but I would be fibbing. I'm not saying it was a bad idea for his dad to let him watch Indiana Jones, but we've just agreed not to talk about it any more.

Anyhoo, I made this batch of Alien Zombie Brain Eating Cake Pops up and when he saw them he said 'Well done Mummy'. Well more like he exclaimed! That is high praise indeed, it's like top marks A+++. Seriously I felt so proud - how does he do that to me :)

The best part is these are some of the easiest 'cake pops' you will ever make mostly because they are not pops, so no messy cake falling off the sticks. The design is based on the 'Army of Ghost' cake truffles that I made up last year which is a dip and drip method, so easy that kids can definitely help out and the messy globby dripping actually adds character and is part of the design.

Anyway back to these new ones, if your household is not so much into brains, you can just have plain old alien cake truffles by omitting the berry 'brains'.

They are still super fun.

Alien Zombie Brain Eating Cake Pops

Cake or Cookie pop mixture (Click here for Oreo Truffle recipe; Click here for Tim Tam Truffle recipe)
Green Candy Melts *
Copha or paramount crystals
Edible eyes (Buy at craft/ cake decorating store or for edible eyes DIY instructions CLICK HERE)
Berry lollies, the type with the liquid center if possible (or gummy brains or nordic berries)

* I prefer candy melts for this project as they usually set faster. You can use white chocolate coloured with specialty oil based food colour (not regular food colour it will ruin your chocolate), but it is probably cheaper to pick up a bag of candy melts from a craft or cake store if you do not already have the colour handy. You may need to modify the amount of copha or paramount crystals you need.

Line a baking tray with parchment/ baking paper.

Shape the cake pop mixture into little domes, mine were around 2.5cm (1") high, and press them onto the prepared parchment tray to make the bottoms flat, ensuring there is about 10cms (4") between each dome. Place in the fridge to chill for around 30 minutes.

Place around 200g of the candy melts and 20g of shaved copha (or paramount crystals) in a microwave safe bowl and melt at medium low heat for 2 minutes. Remove and stir, return to the microwave and heat for another 1 minute at medium low, remove and stir. If the mixture is not yet fluid return to heat again for burst of 1 minute until no lumps remain.

Remove the tray of cake pop domes from the fridge and holding the pointy top dip the base of each pop into the melted candy melts and then return to the parchment lined tray. Quickly repeat for all domes.

Then grab a spoon and carefully pour mixture over the top of each dome so that every dome is completely covered.

Working quickly pop on some eyes. Y'know however many you think your aliens might need. Also you can add the brains at this stage.

I added the eyes and the brains separately at a later stage by remelting the left over chocolate and then sticking them on, but that was mostly due to the bodies already being set because of the time to take photo's. You can do which ever makes you happier/ is easier.

Linda Vandermeer is a blogger, baker, maker and author of the cookbook ' Sweets on a Stick': More than 150 kid friendly recipes for cakes, candies, cookies and pies on the go!. Published in the US the book is available at most online book stores: 

The above pictures, tutorial and post are original works and the property of Linda Vandermeer.