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Birthday Party!

princess cake

Emma got TWO birthday cakes for her party: a princess and a puppy dog! The princess frosting (also used to create part of the puppy dog’s eyes) was meant to be buttercream frosting. I have a hard time following a recipe, however, and the frosting turned out much thicker than it was meant to be – so much so, in fact, that it was almost like working with fondant. This turned out to be a good thing, since I was able to easily mold the princess and her (candle stick) wand. And the frosting tasted yummy – always a bonus.

The puppy dog was frosted with Nutella, which worked beautifully and tasted fabulous. His muzzle is coconut, with a dove chocolate (which I thought I put on upside down, but apparently didn’t) for a nose and m&ms for eyes.

puppy dog cake

The cakes were their own adventure. I got home from grocery shopping Friday and realized that we had only three eggs, while the recipes I was planning to use for Emma’s two birthday cakes (we had a lot of people coming over and both cakes were small) required 5 eggs. Mike was working late, and I knew I didn’t want to drag all three kids to another store. I looked in my cupboard for substitutes, found pancake mix, and decided to use that. One extra egg for the almond-flavored princess cake and two extra eggs for the chocolate cake, extra sugar and vanilla (also cocoa for the chocolate cake and almond extract for the princess cake), and we were good to go. I was a little nervous about how they would turn out, but this was all that was left at the end of the party:

chocolate cake rainbow cake

And all leftovers had vanished by the end of the day Sunday. I’m not about to abandon my favorite cake recipes, but this is clearly a solution that works in a pinch – and they were faster to mix up with my three stubbornly non-napping children helping.

The princess cake was a multicolor cake – we divided the batter into four bowls, added food coloring, and poured it into the pan in sections (as best we could). It was easy, and very fun to see the excitement of the kids when the cake was cut.

The rest of the party was a lot of fun. Everyone ate pizza and grapes. The girls enjoyed decorating their goody bags and foam butterflies while the little brothers played with blocks, balls, and trucks. Here’s Emma’s bag and a couple of decorated butterflies. Watching typically shy Emma take the butterflies around to her friends to let them choose their favorite colors and seeing her explain the different crafts we had planned was probably my favorite part of the party. The yellow picture in the middle of Emma’s bag is “a (notably sleeveless) t-shirt and shorts” – two of her favorite things. Anybody surprised? Emma LOVED decorating her own bag, and she has been toting it around non-stop (filled with various treasures) ever since the party.

decorated bag foam butterflies


In other exciting birthday news, I am finally making headway in my quest to get Emma to dress in non-freezing outfits. She has even let me do her hair a couple of times. Like this time – never mind that the hairdo and long-sleeved shirt were removed as soon as I stopped snapping photos…


The first four years of Emma’s life have flown by! I am grateful to have her in my life every single day – from the early days of sleeping no more than fifteen minutes at a time to my articulate, kind, creative, and helpful little girl.

MaryAnne lives in Silicon Valley with her Stanford professor husband Mike and their four children. She writes about parenting through education, creativity, and play. Mama Smiles - Joyful Parenting is a space to share crafts, hands on learning activities, and family outings that enrich lives and bring families together.

17 thoughts on “Birthday Party!”

  1. Beautiful cakes! I love the idea of frosting with Nutella! (well, I love the idea of doing anything with Nutella, really :-)

  2. Aww happy birthday Emma! And I am super impressed with those cakes! I have been a lazy mom for years, buying cakes at Wal-mart, but after Jack’s party I told Jason I’m going to start making them myself. $30 for a cake?! Not happening anymore. Ainsley’s birthday is in 2 months, so I’m going to give it a try then. :)
    .-= Keeling´s last blog ..3 years old =-.

  3. Emma looks lovely – happy birthday to her!!!

    This post was terrific. I love how you overcame obstacles to create two fabulous-looking and very creative cakes. Layering the colours of the batter – pure genius.

    How wonderful that Emma enjoyed helping host her guests and that a great time was had by all. Yea!
    .-= Elisa | blissfulE´s last blog ..Pear Budget =-.

  4. Valerie @ Frugal Family Fun Blog

    Happy Birthday, Emma!!! What fabulous cakes, and it sounds like a lovely party. I love how she got to decorate her own bag! How clever!
    .-= Valerie @ Frugal Family Fun Blog´s last blog ..Sunny Day =-.

  5. You are just so creative! I love your cakes! I’ve used really thick buttercream like play-doh before. If you need it thinner,just mix in some water.

    She is just too precious! Happy Birthday to Emma!

  6. Emma looks so cute.. Happy birthday to her.

    The cakes look so delicious :)

    Emma, Johnny and lilly all of them are lovely, sweet kids. I have been reading your blog for quite sometime.. silently following you :). Thought today would drop a birthday message to Emma.

  7. I love this post. I can’t believe your ingenious quick fix for the bday cakes. They look wonderful too! Seriously, you are so smart and creative.

    I really love that idea for decorating the party bags.

    Cute picture of Emma too.

  8. Those cakes look delicious! I’m salivating a little. :) And Emma looks so grown up with her hair pulled back. She certainly resembles your family, only blond.

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