Thursday, September 15, 2011

The fishing cake & party wrap-up

Finally. All kids‘ clothes sorted. All outgrown stuff packed up and ready to be sold. Time for one last post on the fishing themed birthday party we threw last week! So here are the last details and a roundup. I promise I’ll write about other topics after that.

Of course you all read the previous posts about the party, right? Right? Ok, fine, if you insist on having a life other than reading this blog, I’ll do a quick recap for you (scroll down to the cake if you actually managed to read all previous posts and can still bear to read more about this):

It started with some Internet inspiration and the fishing theme, so first up were the invitations. I found this cute handmade fish stamp and used that on everything that couldn’t move. I really love it, even though it feels like I spent two weeks stamping a million fish.

Next I personalized some water bottles with laminated tags using the fish stamp and letter stamps for the guest’s names.

For his actual birthday a week ahead of the kids’ party I made some garlands, ordered ballons and made his favorite raspberry mousse cake, which ended up a huge pink mess on the plates. A yummy mess though. I also made fish-stamped shirts for the occasion. Of course they were long sleeve (hello, September!) and it ended up being really nice and sunny that day so the brothers only wore them in the morning – enough time cover them in cake, dirt and anything else available to make a mess. Exactly why did I choose white shirts again? Nevermind, we had a great day and I was exhausted.

Then it was time to get ready for the party, so I prepared fishing rods and “fish” to catch. I also stamped (you saw that one coming, didn’t you?) paper bags, added fish tags and filled them with goodies for the kids.

And then it was time for the party! Weather was great and the kids had fun running around the yard. We still had the garlands and balloons up. As I said before (just once… or twice maybe…), while I admire those beautiful parties with the grand dessert tables and every little detail matching down to the cupcake wrappers, that was just not for me. Yeah I know, I am such a bad mommy, I did not make a giant dessert table. No cupcakes, no cake pops, no cookies. Somehow having more sweets in addition to cake, muffins and the candy the kids would be “fishing” did not appeal to me. I mean, do people really eat all that? And while I like the look of those tall glass container with colorful candy matching the party colors, that also did not seem such a brilliant idea considering half our guests were under age 3.

So anyway, what I did end up making was a fishing trip cake.

 It’s actually the birthday boy’s favorite cake recipe, using Ina Garten’s chocolate cupcake recipe and tweaking it a little by adding chopped dark chocolate (how can you bake anything called chocolate without using any real chocolate?!). We do this cake for all sorts of occasions, usually baking it in a Fleur-de-Lis pan. I had the idea for the cake one night while waiting for Max to fall asleep: a fishing trip cake. Inspired by an image seen on the Internet (and of course forgetting to link or clip it) for a camping themed cake, I decided to make dirt using cookie crumbs and water using – no idea what. But it sounded like a plan. So I ordered this Lego Duplo fishing trip set that came with a tent (which ended up not fitting on the cake), a bear, a fire and of course father and son with a canoe, fishing rod and their catch.

I first considered doing a layer cake, but since I wanted to have most of the things done in advance, filling a cake plus trying to frost and decorate it shortly before the party seemed a bit daunting. On another night waiting for Max to fall asleep, I decided I’d simply use our favorite chocolate cake recipe and a springform pan. It might not be fancy, but the cake is delicious and very moist and chocolatey. How can you not like a cake recipe with buttermilk and sour cream in it? The recipe actually makes quite a bit of dough, so in addition to the springform pan I did a small Bundt pan and three cupcakes. When the cake didn’t come out of the Bundt pan, that at least eliminated the need for cookie crumbs – I had enough crumbs already, although I really had to be careful not to eat it all. It’s just soooo good.

Once cooled, I added a thin layer of melted chocolate to one side of the cake and pressed the crumbs into that. Dirt? Check. Water? Ummmmm…. I am not a big fan of buttercream (too heavy, too sweet) or cream cheese frosting (too much cream cheese), but maybe I just haven’t found the right frosting recipe (suggestions, anyone?!). I ended up simply using whipped cream tinted with blue food coloring, which unfortunately looked a bit turqouise rather than blue, but oh well. Add the bear, canoe and the “fire” with five candles and I had a fishing trip cake. And a yummy one. Honestly, I’m still surprised my plan worked and didn’t turn out looking like it was hit by a hurricane.

After cake, some more running around and before I was able to even have a bite of my piece of cake (let alone more than a sip of my coffee), the kids decided it was time to go fishing. Of course I couldn’t just let the kids fish. You need a fishing licence for that, after all. I did the licences trying to match the look of the real ones, complete with fake stamps and kids’ photos, then laminated them to make them last a little longer. To earn their licence they had to pass a text, answering questions about fish and identify different fish. They all got the shark right. And nemo. Identifying a trout was a bit more difficult apparently. Not that I would be able to do that… But I my boys are quite the experts. They were all very proud to get their licence!

Once they got their licence, we put a pop-up on the porch and filled it with gummybears and chocolate candy attached to cards that had, you guessed it, fish stamped on. We also had some plastic fish, lobster and turtles (hmmm) that came with the fishing rods. I made some buckets using paper cups and wire and the kids filled them up with all the goodies they caught. For pics go see this post.

Dinner was pasta salad with fish-shaped carrots for the kids and two other pasta salads for the adults, one using a vinaigrette and arugula, the other one a greek salad with orzo and chickpeas from Gourmet magazine. I love that recipe, it has olives, tomatoes, chickpeas, feta cheese and lemon zest and the layers look really pretty. Now, if I were an expert blogger, I would have filled the salads in pretty jars, tied with some ribbon maybe and arranged just so for the photo complete with a nice napkin, some fresh oregano and an antique fork maybe. Oh well, since it’s just me I tossed it in a glass bowl and forgot to even take a picture. Oops. Oh, and there was my all-time favorite dip, the one I seem to have been making for every party for years now: Ina Garten’s Sun-Dried Tomato Dip. It’s great with bread or just veggies. Can you tell I have every Barefoot Contessa cookbook? Every single one...

The house was a mess, my kids were still running around the yard catching imaginary fish long after everyone left and the fishing licences still get carried around the house. I’d call that a successful party!

Maybe I’ll do an airplane party next. Or a circus one with elephant stamps and popcorn. Or a music themed one with cardboard guitars. Ok, fine, I’ll stop here. What are your party plans?

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