I haven't posted about this yet because it's taken me three days to recover from it.
Also, I didn't take enough photos. I let a friend convince me to let her take photos during the party so that I could actually be in the pictures for once, but apparently in my post-party-prep stupor I didn't do a good enough job of showing her how to focus my camera, so . . .
Anyway, this was the cake I made for the party:
As you can see, it was actually two cakes. The top cake was a butter yellow cake, coated with a clear powdered-sugar-and-egg-white glaze (made with pasteurized egg whites, of course-- let's not poison the kiddies, here). I applied the glaze with a pastry brush, then added the rainbow sprinkles while the glaze was still wet so that they would stick when it dried. My European blogfriend Peter Nacken will be pleased to note that the cake was cooked, in true Extravagant American Child's Birthday Party fashion, in a $30 Nordic Ware Castle Bundt pan.
The bottom cake was a chocolate cake. The frosting was homemade vanilla-mint buttercream, made with all butter and no shortening, because I don't like shortening.
If you've never made frosting from scratch at home before, I sincerely recommend you try it. It's really not that difficult, and once you've tasted homemade buttercream frosting, you will never, ever want to go back to the kind you get in a can. Seriously. My recipe follows:
1 lb (4 sticks) unsalted butter
2 lbs (one standard package) powdered sugar
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
other flavor extracts, food coloring or cocoa optional
Let butter soften to room temperature. Put butter in a large, heavy mixing bowl, and chop it into chunks with a knife or mash it up with a spoon to make it easier to beat. Add milk and vanilla. Gradually add sugar, beating with a handheld electric beater, until sugar is fully incorporated and mixture is fluffy. Unplug beater and then hold a household auction for the privilege of licking it clean.
(Yes, folks, that was ONE POUND of butter and TWO POUNDS of sugar sitting on top of that chocolate cake. And it was worth every single calorie).
In addition to the castle cake, I also mixed, rolled, cut, baked and decorated cookies by hand in the shape of cars and train engines:
I had to make these cookies twice, actually, because half of the first batch got burned when my husband forgot to take them out of the oven for me while I put Isaac to bed. This will henceforth be known as "The Great Birthday Cookie Burning Incident."
I also made some trains and cars without icing so that Isaac would actually eat them.
I also made cookies in the shape of letters that spelled out "Happy Birthday Isaac," with the idea that I would make more train cookies and put the letters on top of the train cookies and have an edible "Happy Birthday Isaac" train going around the table. Then I realized that idea was INSANE, so I wound up laying the "Happy Birthday Isaac" cookies in a circle around the cake, but unfortunately I didn't take a photo of it.
I put up crepe paper decorations all around the dining/living room:
And arranged a cracker tray, a deli meat tray, a deli cheese tray, and a vegetable and dip tray, all by hand.
My husband was strangely absent for most of these preparations. I believe his disappearance may have had something to do with a mysterious Dell box that came for him in the mail Friday afternoon . . .
However, he managed to tear himself away from his new electric lover in time to put a folding gazebo tent, a folding table, and some folding chairs outside, so that we would have extra seating space for the party, because we live in a 900 sq ft apartment, and the TV weatherfolks had predicted that the showers the sky was threatening would hold off until the late afternoon.
Ten minutes later, it started to rain.
But it turned out okay, anyway, because half of my husband's family who'd said they were coming-- you know, some of the family I spent a week talking to on the phone trying to schedule the party with? Them? Didn't show up.* So we had lots of room.
Speaking of cake, I made the mistake of letting my well-intentioned mother-in-law convince me to do the presents before the cake. You know, like you'd normally do at a birthday party, instead of my weird unconventional plan to do the cake before the presents.
(Do you see me there? Sullenly regarding the proceedings? Don't I look like someone who's been up since 6 a.m. decorating after baking until 2 a.m. the night before? Yeah, thought so.)
So of course, Isaac started crying piteously the moment he realized we all expected him to put his brand new toys away and let us SING to him while we stood in a circle around a BIG PILE of STICKY FOOD that happened to be ON FIRE.
He started screaming in terror midway through the second line of "Happy Birthday," which caused people to stumble to a halt mid-song, until I forced a laugh and said, "Why don't we try singing 'Sad Birthday to You' instead?" after which everyone finished the song, and my husband hurriedly blew out the candle.
Then Isaac refused any cake (I thought at least he might try the kind without frosting, but I guess the group singing bit was too traumatic), and ran off to play with his new Thomas the Tank Engine Duplos.
After the party, he promptly fell asleep, without having eaten more than two bites of food all day, and then when he woke up two hours later he screamed for two hours straight.
All in all, I would say this party went over quite a bit better with him than last year's.
*This wasn't their fault, though. Apparently there was some last minute work interference. Silly work.