Archive for Designer Cakes

Under Construction: Beau’s 2nd Birthday Party (The Details)

Planning events is one of my favorite pastimes. Being able to craft a party that utilizes a beloved theme AND makes someone feel super-dee-duper special is so much fun!

My son turned 2 in June, so beginning in January, I started brainstorming theme ideas for his party. He’s not much of a napper, so I start way in advance since I get very limited time each day to design.

The funny thing? I chose a Construction/Tool theme before he was all that interested in it, and through the planning process, he became more and more fascinated with diggers and dozers and dump trucks. By the time his party rolled around, he was obsessed, so it all worked out. ;)

Let me also say this: Having a Silhouette Cameo made planning this party SO much easier. When I did Beau’s Woodland Party last year, I cut everything by hand. Oy.

LOVE my Cameo…it allowed me to cut out the heading and the pieces I needed to create some excavators. I used Sticky Doos from Hobby Lobby to give the machines some depth, and tore pieces of brown paper by hand to give the ‘dirt’ a jagged look.

Next, I created favors for each of Beau’s little friends. My mom, ever the incredible seamstress, used tea towels to make each child their own tool belt with two pockets.

I cut various construction vehicle from vinyl to create stencils for painting.

And the birthday boy helped remove the vinyl once the paint was dry.

I designed hang tags for some baggies I had leftover from a pegboard project and filled each baggie with chocolate rocks I found on Amazon.

Each tool belt was stuffed with a mini machine and a baggie of chocolate rocks.

Treats for our pals, ready to go!

Since we live out in the country, I knew I wanted to mark our driveway with a sign of some sort. I used my Silhouette to cut out vinyl letters to mask off black foamcore board.

Then, I learned the hard way (with a piece not shown here), that foamcore board does NOT like spray paint. Must be the solvents or something in the paint, but it makes the board bubble up and the paper backing peels away from the foam. SUCH a mess.

So, cue Plan B…acrylic paint. I tried a brush, but hated being able to see the brushstrokes. So I switched to a brayer I haven’t used since my college days of linoleum block printing.

Because the paper soaked up the paint, it took several coats, but it worked pretty well. Once the paint dried, I peeled off the vinyl letters and cut a black strip around the outside edge to mimic a true traffic sign.

One project I do each year is an age shirt. Let me tell you, truck fabric is NOT easy to find! We ended up with this psychedelic construction vehicles print.

But, once the vehicles were isolated, they looked pretty cute on a plain, brown tee. I purchased orange and yellow tin buckets to hold snacks and forks. I happened to have some construction stickers laying around to decorate the tins. I found hard hats at the party store and added the CAT logo in black vinyl.

 

To keep stress low as the party approaches, I always make as much of the food in advance as possible. I knew I wanted to make dipped pretzel rods, so I was excited to read they could be done up to a week in advance. So, I dipped, sprinkled, and packed away our pretzel treats.

Sugar cookies are always a big hit, too. My parents sent me this set of tool cookie cutters they found on Ebay.

I like to use this cookie recipe, as it holds a cutter shape really well and isn’t too sweet (the icing covers that!). I made royal icing in gray, brown, and yellow and got to work outlining and flooding all the cookies.

Cake decorating is a lot of fun to me, too. I had seen this tutorial about making striped cakes, and I knew it would be perfect for our construction zone theme.

Because the recipe makes two cakes, I was able to practice and perfect my angles. And my mess-making skills.

When it came time to decorate the cake, I pulled inspiration from multiple sources. I have a copy of the book What’s New, Cupcake? and it gave me the idea to create ‘trees’ from Tootsie Rolls and sprinkles.

And of course, Oreo cookie dirt! I made Beau his own little cake mound out of scraps and trimmings.

I used fondant to make miniature traffic cones, then added dyed coconut grass and chocolate rocks to round out the landscaping.

Of course, there was a dump truck, hauling a load of rocks from the quarry.

A little construction zone tape put the finishing touches on the cake display.

I knew I wanted some sort of edible “boulder,” so I made chocolate popcorn balls using this recipe. I made them late the night before the party and wrapped them tightly in cling wrap so the popcorn would stay crisp and not get soggy.

To set off the area in the kitchen where the food would be set up, I hung a black curtain over the windows. Then I created a banner from cut letters and shapes attached to satin ribbons.

As for party ‘entertainment’, what’s better than a bunch of rocks and dirt to dig through?!

I set up our pop up tent and draped a tarp over the top for shade. Orange safety netting, marker flags, and painted signs rounded out the construction zone look.

Stay tuned for pictures from Party Day so you can see all these details in action!

Cake Pops!

I love cute party treats and cake pops are one of the items I’ve been trying to perfect.

Ever since Bakerella starting showcasing the cute little goodies on her blog, I’ve been attempting to learn the ins-and-outs of the entire process. Believe me, there is more of a learning curve than one might think!

Below are some of the examples of the pops I’ve made in the past year. Not only did I love making these for my friends, I also enjoyed stretching my mind to come up with creative ways to display them.

It’s a Boy! pops for my friends Heather and Alex. I made these to share at our Bible study group before baby Owen arrived. I was able to score a green picket fence display rack from Hobby Lobby for free! The styrofoam base works perfectly for displaying cake pops.

I also made some cake balls (minus the stick), just to give that a try. YUM!

This set of cake pops was created for my friend Mandy’s birthday party. She invited all her friends over to dreadlock her hair, and I knew the occasion called for chocolate and sprinkles!

Mandy is an amazing writer, so I wrapped a plastic container with fabric covered with words. I added a green stripey ribbon and a cork-board M.

To help the cake pops stand upright in the container, I filled it with dark chocolate and white chocolate chips.

These cake pops were made for my SIL’s baby shower. A baby girl, could you guess?! :) It was fun playing around with different combinations of sprinkles and decorations. Again, the display was from Hobby Lobby (free), with a coat of pink paint and a sparkly tulle bow.

I failed to get a shot of the last batch of cake pops I made. They were for a wedding shower, and I made round ones and also tried my hand at shaped ones. Hearts. Not as easy as I anticipated.

I only took the best-looking pops to the shower. These were the “defects” left behind to be consumed by my family. ;)

This photo shows a couple of the things that I need more practice to perfect…funky-shaped hearts and cracked candy coating (and there are so many variables that can cause cracked coating, argh!)

But, considering that Bakerella herself only ever shows 5-10 pops at a time, I’m sure even she has at least a few duds in every batch of 48. :)

 

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Practice = Perfect

Though I love to decorate cakes, I can admit that there are a few things I still need to practice. The following cake (made for Easter) reminded me that I still have plenty to learn. Well, not so much “learn” as just improve!

Writing is one. It’s difficult to figure out how much space you’ll need to pen your message on a cake. Sometimes the icing consistency throws you for a loop. Sometimes you just work too fast and things get sloppy. I’ve run into all of these obstacles. Another big area where I’d like to continue to improve? “Fonts”…meaning: I can print on a cake and I can do your run-of-the-mill cursive, but that’s about it. I’d like to spend more time perfecting some other typestyles.

Looking at this photo now (two years after I made this cake), I wish I’d spent more time smoothing the icing. It’s not bad, but there’s still room for improvement.

I’d also seen this cool diagonal design in a magazine and wanted to try it. However, in my excitement, I didn’t plan it out as well as I could have, and the bottom row of diamonds ended up getting a little wonky. If I had done my due diligence, I would’ve used toothpicks to space out the markings evenly.

But as they say, “live and learn.” I think it’s important for all artists to document their work and reassess their growth from time to time. We can learn so much by looking back.

Surely all of us at least have a photo that makes us wonder WHAT we were thinking in choosing a particular hairstyle. :)

How about you? Do you have old photos that teach you lessons about life?

Woodland Birthday: Part 2

The day of Beau’s first birthday, I woke up excited and nervous. Sort of the same way I felt on the morning of my wedding. Is that weird? I’m sure some would say it is.

I’d also like to mention how much of a thrill I get out of planning a party on a limited budget. It forces me to get more creative! Maybe that’s why it reminded me of my wedding…I did the same thing with that event: achieved the biggest WOW possible for just a fraction of what other brides spend.

At any rate, I had been planning Beau’s woodland party for months and wanted everything to be perfect!

I’m SO GLAD I thought to book the amazing Abi Martin as the party-day photographer. There is no way I would have been able to corral my kiddo, play the part of hostess with the mostest, AND capture all the details and precious moments of the party. Abi is not only a talented photographer, she is also incredibly fashionable, VERY personable, and a dear friend to my family. Abi, thank you for capturing our day. I am speechless over these photos.

Beau’s birthday banner was one item I was able to create WAY in advance. It’s hard to tell, but I added glitter glue around each letter. I also attached each circle to the ribbon using tiny brads. That way, the skunk and the number could be changed out for future parties, or I could even sell it to someone with a different name! :)

Remember my sketch from Tuesday’s post? Messy though it was, it helped me pull off this spread:

I LOVED deciding which snacks we should include for this theme. These chocolate nests were one of the first things I thought of. Because one of our guests has a peanut allergy, I substituted butterscotch chips for the peanut butter called for in the recipe.

I framed 12 photos, one favorite from each month of Beau’s life, and interspersed them among the decor.

Stanley the Gnome helped hold down the fort.

I found this cool jar at a Hobby Lobby outlet store here in town and filled it with rocks, moss, and a doe and her fawn.

Here’s a shot of the goody bag contents: one finger puppet, one bird whistle, two colored pencils, two magnets, all contained in a burlap bag.

And since I believe in EVERYONE getting a party favor, I made acorn cookies for the adult guests.

Another shot of the food table, this time, with my cake topper included as the centerpiece. You’ll notice the cake stand is perched on top of  a log. FREE! from my in-laws’ woodpile! :)

Me and my birthday boy. He’d just woken up from his morning nap, so he looks a little stunned. But, MAN, if he isn’t just the cutest thing I’ve ever seen! :)

The cupcakes below are exactly what I envisioned as I was planning out the food table. I’d never covered cupcakes in fondant before, but the technique worked perfectly for creating smooth mushroom tops. The white polka dots were made out of royal icing that I blopped out and dried several weeks in advance. The risers were borrowed from my friend Mikie and covered in green Canson paper that I cut to look like grass. The cool thing? Mikie used these same risers (sans grass) last summer at the baby shower she co-hosted for Beau and me.

For those who aren’t huge fans of fondant, we also had a handful of buttercream-topped cupcakes with paper toppers I made.

To balance out the sweetness, I made sure to include some good ol’ Chex mix!

Another easy (read: inexpensive) centerpiece I made was a 14″ tall cylinder vase full of acorns (picked up off the ground at my in-laws’ house!) and topped with a friendly gray squirrel.

“Trail Mix” is a necessary component of any woodland party, wouldn’t you say? I made Fawna’s version using peanuts, sunflower seeds, raisins, mini marshmallows, and Reese’s Pieces. Sweet AND salty. Mmm.

Here’s the cake topper from Tuesday’s post. Doesn’t he look right at home on top of that two-layer chocolate cake? :)

 

Whenever I host a party, I’m always looking for new ideas for cute displays. I used B’s party as an opportunity to try another technique I’d seen: creating paper cones to hold snacks.

Interesting side-note: this “grass” is actually the bottle drying rack we received as a shower gift when Beau was born! I just added a thin hunk of styrofoam to the base so I could insert the sticks that held up the cones.

I also made my little birthday boy a shirt, using scraps of fabric that my mom and mother-in-law already had in their attics. I’d only made two other shirts before, and the design for them was much easier. I was curious to see how easy it was to create a character using multiple pieces and interfacing. It worked well! And now that the shirt has been through the wash a few times, the canvas I used for the beard and eyebrows is beginning to fray a bit around the edges, making it that much more beardly. :)

Seeing as how it’s been over 100 degrees every day for the past month (or since time began, it seems!), I made sure to have icy-cold drinks. I had a simple ice-water-with-lemon combo in a huge cookie jar I’ve had for years and I made cherry limeade punch in a cool drink dispenser I borrowed from my friend Natalie.

I received many compliments on the punch. And it couldn’t have been easier to make! I used this recipe, with a slight alteration. I started with a double batch, following the recipe as written. Then, because it was a bit tart for our liking (and I needed to make sure we had plenty), I added an additional two bottles (2-liters each) of Sprite. Perfect!

Beau’s little pals were so cute in their swim suits. Check out this guy: such a poser! :)

One of my artsy-mom friends has the cutest kiddos! We were so glad they could come to our party!

We had a puddle pool available and B and his little friends had the best time filling up cups, containers, and squirty fish.

After swimming, it was time for cake! And, boy, did Beau like it when we all sang “Happy Birthday to You.”

He started with a small nibble of fondant, before realizing that the entire cake in front of him was not only destructible, but tasty, too!

And he wasted NO time tearing it up!

The last picture is one my sister Sonny captured. It’s so fun to see the pure joy on his face!

Oh, what messy fun it is to turn one!! :) I love you, baby boy. It’s an honor to be your mama. Mwah!

Woodland Birthday: Part 1

In my last post, I mentioned how much I LOVE planning parties. So, you can imagine my excitement when 2011 started and I realized my baby would be turning one year old.

In June.

Nevertheless, I began brainstorming early because, as any artist-mom knows, there isn’t a lot of free time for being creative (unless coming up with an idea for dinner counts).

The first thing I did was choose a theme. I had seen enough buzz on Facebook to know that many of my fellow moms were doing zoo, farm, or jungle themes for their babies’ first birthdays. I wanted something a more unique for B’s first birthday party, but I liked the idea of an animal-based theme. So, after plenty of lost sleep (WHY does my brain go 100 MPH when I’m trying to fall asleep at night?!), I landed on “woodland” as my focus.

I scoured the web for ideas and began constructing my inspiration board. I found photos of things I knew I wanted to include and also made a list of buzzwords I felt related well to the theme:

I knew I wanted to make favor bags for all of B’s little friends, so I began by contacting a friend of mine who had used burlap for her wedding (table runners, etc). She had scraps that she was more than happy to part with, so my mom sewed little square bags to contain the favors (picture coming in Thursday’s post).

Then, I began ordering a few specific items off Amazon, including these warbling bird whistles (probably more familiar to us parents than our kiddos!) The whistles came in four colors and we made sure no siblings received the same color.  I included a note with the whistle so people would know to “just add water.”

I found a picture of woodland critters online that I thought were darling, so I used the image as a template and re-drew them in Illustrator so I could use them throughout the party. I made these magnets using flat gemstones. Each guest got two magnets in their goody bag, and, again, no siblings received the same ones.

I also managed to find some really awesome colored pencils that were made from twigs! Each guest got two pencils apiece.

One of my favorite items in the goody bags were some woodland finger puppets. I found the instructions for sale on Etsy and ordered both sets of woodland animals (10 in all). My mom made two of each critter and I’m kicking myself now for not getting a photo of all of them together! Each child received one puppet. The leftovers (below) will be going in a time capsule for Beau to play with when he’s older.

Next, I began to focus on the food table (isn’t that everyone’s favorite part of a party?) I knew I wanted to make some signs describing the food, and though I’d made table tents in the past, I had always wondered if they could have a more 3D aspect.

They CAN! After messing around with some scrap paper, I felt confident that my little woodland signs could be more like pop-ups than flat pieces of paper! Most people probably wouldn’t notice the difference, but to me, this experiment was a big success!

Naturally, I wanted to have a great cake for Beau’s first birthday! What sort of baker would I be if my own son didn’t have a cool smash cake to destroy?! Since I have limited experience with fondant, I enlisted the help of my friend Anya, who is a fondant figures GENIUS! She came over to my house and gave me a lesson in figure-making. Since the party details didn’t include the eager beaver, I decided he would be perfect for the cake topper.

I did learn how to cover the cake board on my own, and added some chocolate-covered chow mein noodles as a dam…they also served to hold up the beaver’s tail since our 100-degree weather and high humidity kept making it want to break off! (ACK!)

And, of course, no party of mine would be complete without some sort of schematic. HA!

Since the party was going to be held at my in-laws’ house, I transported all my decor the night before and planned how I wanted the table to be set. Naturally, in my rush to get out the door, I had left my camera at home. So…I drew a sketch that would embarrass my art school professors. :)

But, it got the job done and made the day-of prep MUCH easier. It also gave me a spot to write down what else I needed to grab from my house…something that would not have been possible with a photo.

Come back Thursday and see how all the elements came together! I couldn’t have imagined the party would go so well!

It’s a…

When my friends Lindsay and Jason learned that they were expecting, they knew they wanted to find out the gender of their baby in an exciting way. So, instead of finding out for themselves at the midwife’s office, they had the ultrasound technician call ME. How exciting!!! For 24 hours, I got to be the only person who knew what they were having!! (correction: I blabbed to my husband, who was sworn to secrecy!) :)

I got to create my first “reveal cake” for this fun couple. They had planned a party for the day after their ultrasound and all their friends and family members were invited. There, Lindsay and Jason would find out what they were expecting, either a…

or, a …

From the time I heard from the technician until I went to bed that night, Lindsay called three times! I ignored her calls because I was certain she was going to try and get me to crack. I even got an instant message from her, asking if I was ignoring her. :)

I loved the suspense, and I loved being part of their big announcement.

At the party, people were trying to get me to spill. Jason’s own mother even said “Lindsay said it’s okay for you to tell me the color of the cake,” to which I responded, “chocolate.” ;) Guests were asked to guess, and the vote was 19 for Girl and 9 for Boy.

So, what was the baby? This video tells all. We had told everyone that the color of the cake would tell the gender of the baby. My favorite moment in the video (:18 mark) is when a 4-year-old guest asks “is it brown?!” LOL.

J&L Baby Reveal from Abbi Z. Meadows on Vimeo.

CONGRATS, guys!!! Thanks for asking me to be a part of your special reveal. It was awesome. I can’t believe your little one is already so big! Seems like I just made this cake last week! Love you!

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Some of the most important women in my life are gardeners. I am not. In fact, you might say I have a black thumb. I bet if you gave me enough time, I could even find a way to kill an artificial plant. But then again, that’s not what this post is about.

No, this post is about celebrating the green-thumbs in my life. Though I originally made the following cupcakes for the back-to-back birthdays of my sister-in-law, Ali, and mother-in-law, Robin, I cannot continue this post without offering up a shout out to my sister Arica, who is turning 25 today!

Happy Birthday, Seester! I LOVE YOU!

Now, Arica is a gardener for sure. She gets it from my Grandpa. I, however, get cupcake baking skills from my Grandma (and the book Hello, Cupcake).

This set is meant to resemble garden rows, complete with veggies, tools, and cookie crumb dirt!

1gardenrows

The shovels were made from pretzel sticks and candy melts. The “seeds” were candy-coated sunflower seeds.

2shovel

Heads of lettuce were made using green Tootsie Rolls and icing-covered corn flakes.

3lettuce

The peas were made from green Tootsie Rolls and M&Ms.

4peas

Radishes were made from red and white Tootsie Rolls and icing-covered corn flakes

5radish

The carrots were my most favorite veggie to make…orange and green Tootsie Rolls. The carrots were then scored with a knife and rubbed with cinnamon to give them a fresh-pulled look. Yum!

6carrots

So what if I don’t have many outdoor gardening skills…these ‘veggies’ taste better anyway. ;)

Baby Sabbatical

Not long ago, I found the cutest fabric in Hobby Lobby:

fabric

After my mom and I spent some time hashing out ideas, she created this cute maternity top for me:

cute top

And it fits The Bump and I perfectly!

cupcake

Tomorrow, I will be 33 weeks pregnant. If my mom’s prediction of Baby’s arrival time (read: early!) turns out to be correct, that leaves me only about 5 weeks before I’m officially on Mama duty.

And there’s still plenty to do, like finish setting up Baby’s space:

bassinet

Get all of Baby’s clothes and diapers washed and ready to go:

fuzzibunz

Bake a bunch of lasagnas and quiches and other dinners that can be made ahead and frozen:

PW lasagna

(Just because I’ll take a break from baking for clients doesn’t mean I get off the hook completely!) :)

quiche

All that to say, I am taking some time off from creating. A Baby Sabbatical, if you will. In fact, “sabbatical” is defined as “a rest from work, or a hiatus, often lasting from two months to a year.”

I can’t predict whether my break will be closer to the two month end or the one year end of that spectrum. That will depend mostly on Baby’s temperament and my energy level. (I sure hope it’s not a YEAR!)

But I can tell you this for sure: I finished my last cake order this morning and I’m only taking orders for custom books through TUESDAY, MAY 25th.

So…if you are planning to want a journal, photo book, or sketchbook made for an upcoming birthday, anniversary, or other special occasion, please order NOW. I want to be able to guarantee I can get it done for you before Birth Day!

In the meantime, I will continue posting about the projects I have completed…until the queue runs dry! :)

Thank you so much for your understanding and for your patronage over the past few years. Your loving support and sweet comments mean a lot to me!

Abbi

Boy or Girl?

One of my good college buddies, Geoff, and his wife Cheyenne are among the many friends I have who are becoming parents this year. They are incredibly talented photographers and designers, so it came as no surprise that they planned a special party to announce their baby’s gender.

When they had their ultrasound, they had the technician write the gender down and place it in a sealed envelope. Then they took the envelope to a cake baker, who made a cake revealing the baby’s gender. They borrowed the idea from a friend, and as a cake baker, I can only wish I would’ve thought of this! Perhaps one day someone will want me to bake them a special announcement cake like this. Enjoy the video:

Boy? or Girl? from Cheyenne Schultz on Vimeo.

Geoff and Cheyenne: I am SO THRILLED for you guys! You are going to make terrific parents!! Congratulations, again!

MJ’s 8th birthday

My, how time flies! When Andrew and I met, his youngest daughter was just 5 years old. Now she’s a beautiful 8 year old who just gets smarter and funnier and prettier every day.

mesa

Since MJ was turning 8 on April 8th, this was her one and only Golden Birthday. So I was extra excited when she asked me if I’d make the cake for her party at Remington Park.

Her request was perfectly ‘MJ’: A tiered chocolate cake with pink icing and polka dots. So that’s what she got! :)

polka

Her little friends were so cute. They kept saying, “You MADE that?” and “You make really good cakes!” I love kids…they are so easily pleased.

singing

Happy birthday, sweet girl! We love you and are SO proud of you!

yum!