Tag Archive for Birthdays

#96: Strudel Cups

Seventeen years ago, THIS was how we celebrated my sister “Sonny’s” (Allison’s) birthday:

Well, today she’s the big 1-8, and I would be remiss if I did not give her a

birthday shout out!

Since she’s living in Nebraska for the next month (though SOON to become an Okie transplant, like moi!), and I can’t be there to celebrate her today, I’m doing the next best thing (cyberly speaking): PHOTOS of cupcakes!

The following cupcakes are from my “Abbi-Gail Adventure.” Yeah, remember that? It’s been awhile. These are recipe #96, Strudel Cups:

The ingredients for Strudel Cups are pretty basic: (that’s melted butter in the bowl)

Phyllo dough is a funny thing. It’s pretty much like edible tissue paper. Very strange. I’d never worked with it before, and that was my first impression of it while it was raw…it’s Kleenex-like.

First, you cut the phyllo dough into fourths, cram a piece of it into a sprayed muffin tin, and brush a layer of melted butter on it.

And repeat.

And repeat.

And repeat several more times, in several more muffin cups.

Add some lemon juice to your chopped apples,

…some cinnamon,

…some sugar,

…some chopped walnuts,

some ground almonds and golden raisins, and give it all a good stir!

Fill each muffin cup with a heapin’ helpin’ of the strudel filling.

And bake until golden.

Once these were baked, I removed them (carefully!) from the tins and placed each one on a bright red muffin paper to give them a little pizzazz! Easy, though, not many of us would consider this truly a “cupcake.”


When I see you again, we shall bake! :)

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!

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!


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


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


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


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


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!


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

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.


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! :)


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.


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



My buddies Stephen and Melissa are huge fans of Lost, so it made perfect sense for Stephen to have a Lost-themed 33rd birthday party. Melissa asked me to make the cake and suggested that the Dharma logo would be perfect.

Admittedly, I’ve never seen a single episode of the show, but I do have the power of Google working on my behalf, so it wasn’t too hard to figure out what kind of cake I was supposed to make. :)

I started by printing out the logo at the size I would need for the cake (a 12″ round, which I cut into an octagon).


I then used all the bits and pieces from the template to create black fondant pieces (thanks, Anya, for generously giving me your leftover black fondant!! You are awesome!)


I allowed those to dry overnight on hunks of waxed paper, then transferred them over to the octagon-shaped, buttercream-covered cake.


The waxed-paper-backing technique worked really well and allowed me to get everything lined up almost perfectly!


Then, all it needed was a little buttercream lettering to round out the logo.


Not bad, huh? Especially since I have no idea what this logo represents. HA! :)


Stephen, happy 33rd birthday, pal! Glad to hear your party was a smashing success! Happy to have been a part of it in this way!

Teddy’s Field Journal

It’s not very often that I get to make journals for kids, so I was very excited when my friend Anne contact me regarding her nephew’s upcoming birthday.

Teddy will be turning 4 this month, and in Anne’s words, “he would love a personalized field journal to write down ‘observations.’”

How cute is that?! Anne did some research about Teddy’s favorites and as luck would have it, he loves green frogs! I happened to have the perfect fabric for his book!


To jazz up the fabric a bit, I added orange brads to give the frog’s warts some texture (eww?)


I also used silver embroidery floss for the bugs’ flight patterns.


I love the depth that the sewing gave both the wings and the swirls. I’d been wanting to try this technique for a while, and this fabric was the perfect opportunity!


Teddy’s favorite color is red, and since no observation journal is complete without a writing utensil, I added a red ribbon pen loop and a red mechanical pencil.



Teddy also loves the alphabet, so for the inside paste pages, I used lettered paper in coordinating colors. Anne also included the verbiage for a personalized inscription, so I added that to the inside cover as well.


Anne, thanks for asking me to make Teddy’s book! It was such a fun change of pace to make a child’s journal!

Teddy, HAPPIEST OF HAPPY BIRTHDAYS!! May this book house all your big ideas!


What could this be? A lovable cartoon character’s face? A dice game? A polka-dot cake?


It’s…a bowling ball!!


And no bowling ball would be complete without pins! M was going to celebrate her 4th birthday by going bowling with her friends, and M’s mom called me to request a bowling themed cake.

I cut a 11 x 15 sheet cake into a ball-and-pins shape using a template I created on my computer. The whole cake was then iced with classic butter cream in white and hot pink. The ‘holes’ in the bowling ball were actually dark cocoa Candy Melts.


M’s mom send me a photo from the party. Nothing makes me happier than seeing a kid blow out the candles on a cake I’ve made! :)


HAPPY BIRTHDAY, M! Hope you had a great time at your party!

Leopard Mania!

It’s always a pleasure to get a new client via referral. The following cake was requested by Therese, a friend of Amy’s.

Therese’s daughter Aden was having a birthday and wanted a leopard print cake. So, I set out to find a great pattern I could recreate in royal icing.

I spent several hours piping icing into perfect leopard-like shapes. My shapes are on the left, the pattern I studied is on the right:


Once the spots dried, I iced a 12″ two-layer chocolate cake with pink icing. I then added the birthday phrase, a beaded border, and the leopard spots.



I would loved to see how these spots would look on a tiered cake!


Detail shot of the spots: Outlined in 100% thickness royal icing and filled with a looser version of the same icing to make a ‘pillowy’ look.


Happy Birthday, Aden! I hope it was a great one!!

#35: Cuba Libre Cupcakes

In September of 2009, I started a cupcake adventure. If you haven’t read about it yet, you can do so here.


It’s cupcake post kind of week, and since I used my blog as a virtual birthday treat for my cousin Zoe yesterday, today I’m doing the same for my friend Jacee. Only her birthday will be celebrated in past tense, since it was in December.

Below are the cupcakes I made for Jacee’s birthday…a baked version of one of my favorite (pre-pregnancy, that is) drinks: The Cuba Libre (rum & coke).


The first step is to boil a stick of butter in some cola (sounds healthy, no?)



Then, you get the dry ingredients ready…


and pour in the coke/butter mixture,


along with some cream or half-and-half (depends how naughty you are feeling).


I bought these shaped muffin papers a while back and wanted to see how well they worked. I realized later that using carbonated batter wasn’t probably the best time to try them out.


I was careful to not over-fill them, since I wasn’t sure what would happen as the batter baked and expanded.


While they baked, I cut up some candied lime slices for decoration.


And, as I should’ve suspected, these bubbled and caved much like the Root Beer Float Cupcakes did, only this first attempt wasn’t a total disaster. It must be due to the carbonation in the pop. That’s the only culprit I can think of.


But they were still moist…and there’s nothing a little icing can’t fix. ;)


A couple tablespoons of rum and some powdered sugar made up the icing.


And, naturally, each cupcake was garnished with a lime wedge…like a real Cuba Libre.


And, my cute papers worked fairly well with the batter, even though it wasn’t ideal. I’d be curious to see how well they work with a commercial cake mix…


Bottoms up!