Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The 3rd Birthday Bash

My son turned the big '3' a couple weeks ago and I still can't believe it. I'm also surprisingly taking it much better than I did when he turned 2. He was never your typical 2 year old so I'm wondering if the terrible twos are still coming. It's just one of the perks of being a parent, right? That and having a birthday party every year...or in our case two with a third that still hasn't happened yet.

Yes, three parties. We had two already and they were pretty fun. It can get a bit stressful for me to plan all of that and prepare everything, but in some strange way, I live for it. I'm starting to think my life has to be hectic in order for me to function properly.

The first party was on my son's actual birthday. It was pretty small with the three of us, my parents, my in-laws, my sister and my husband's brothers. I kept the meal simple with some lasagna, green beans, salad, and the amazing cake I made.

The next party was the next day. It was for my side of the family at my parents house. I've decided that I'm going to do everything in my power to never have another big party at a house that isn't mine. It's just way too hard to go to someone else's house to prepare. We managed though, and it turned out great, but it was pretty tiring. The meal was hot dogs that were wrapped up ballpark-style with all the trimmings, soft pretzels, pasta salad, corn salad, baked beans, chips and another awesome cake.

More about the cakes. Oh, those heart and soul of the parties.

Since Christmas 2010, my son has been obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine. I swear, we're going to have to build an addition onto our house pretty soon just for Thomas toys! Because of his love of the train, I had to take advantage and make the birthday parties Thomas-themed. You wouldn't believe what kind of things they have! You can easily spiral out of control looking at all the party supplies and favors that are just for that specific theme.

This is the giant balloon that is still floating in our living room. It just won't die. 

I didn't go too crazy with decorations though because I wanted the cakes to be the main focus. I had them planned out for a couple months before the party but didn't really start getting things ready until that week. Because I was cooking everything myself, I decided to make the smaller cake for the small party early in the week and freeze it. I'm so glad I did because it alleviated some of the last minute stress and I got to focus on the bigger cake the Friday before the party weekend.

I mainly just frosted and decorated the cakes because the first was a boxed mix while the other was an unfrosted sheet cake from Costco. By the way, they're cakes are amazing.

I had so much fun making and decorating these cakes. I also made my own buttercream frosting (recipe here) because I can't stand the store-bought kind. I might use fondant next year so I can get a little more creative with the shapes and styles though. It tastes horrible but looks fantastic!

The first cake I made is a simple round, yellow cake with some of my buttercream between each layer. I then coated it with green tinted buttercream and went to work on the details. You wouldn't believe how much green food coloring I went through! I made the bridge out of cardboard and foil then covered it in the frosting so you couldn't tell. The rest, with the exception of the toy train, is just frosting that I applied with various tools - spreading with a butterknife, piping the rocks with a ziptop bag that had a little corner snipped off, and a piping bag with a star tip for the trees and bushes. I also made the rocks have a more realistic 'slate' look by dipping my finger in water and smoothing out each one.

For the second cake, I made a 13x9 inch chocolate cake to make the tunnel out of. I cut and layered pieces of the 13x9 and then cut and shaped it with a knife. I positioned it and hollowed out about a three inch section for the opening of the tunnel so one of my son's trains could fit in. I then made different colored buttercream to finish the effects that were pretty much the same as the first cake.

Both cakes took a little time, but the look on my son's face when he saw them made all the work worthwhile. I'm really proud of my work and can't wait until next year when I can do it all again! Maybe we'll just have to have a half-birthday...

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