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  1. Friday, October 7

    Simple Monster Birthday Cake and Party!

    If you’ve been reading my blog for at least the last year then you know that I love making cute birthday cakes for my kids. It’s pretty much the only “supermom” thing I do. I think it’s because my mom made cute cakes for us growing up, so I simply cannot not make fun birthday cakes! Owen recently celebrated his 5th birthday and asked for a monster-themed birthday party. I thought I would shared how I made his cute yet simple monster birthday cake as well as give you a quick outline of the whole party. It was a lot of fun and easy to pull together, so I need to share the love!

    Simple Monster Birthday Cake and Party How-To

    The Party

    • GAMES: We played two classic party games. First, Pin the Eye on the Monster. Owen and I drew the monster on posterboard then I printed out eyeballs for the kids to attach. Click here to download a PDF of the eyeballs. In addition we played Hot Potato with a stuffed monster. The kids LOVED. THE. GAMES.

    Pin the Eye on the Monster! (i.e. pin the tail on the donkey monster edition!) from @janemaynard including FREE PDF template for the eyes!

    • FELT MONSTER PUPPETS: For the main activity we made felt monster puppets! I bought felt squares at Joann’s Fabrics. I used a very simple template I created for the monster head (click here to download the template). Cut out two of each color, then hot glue gun the two pieces together, gluing around the entire edge EXCEPT the flat bottom, leaving that open (it’s a puppet, you need a place to stick your hand!). I provided the kids with cut up felt shapes, pipe cleaners, pom poms and googly eyes. The kids assembled their puppets on the floor. As they finished their designs, I carefully carried the puppets into another room. The kids played while my friend and I hot glue gunned everything onto the puppets! If you have more than a few kids, you should definitely have two glue guns and two people gluing so it doesn’t take too long. (Thanks to my friend Marie from Make and Takes for the felt puppet inspiration!)

    Simple Felt Monster Puppets for a Monster-Themed Birthday Party from @janemaynard

    • FOOD: Monster Cake (see below for instructions), ice cream and water. Easy peasy!
    • PRESENTS: We opened the presents while everyone was still at the party. I’ve started doing the coolest thing for the thank you notes. I take a picture of my child with their friend and the gift they gave with my phone. I then use the Postagram app to write up quick thank you notes (I make the kids help – I type the note while they dictate). Postagram automatically mails the postcards, then the friends not only get a thank you note but a picture from the party! It’s really cute and makes you seem like a super put-together parent (even if you’re not!). 😉
    • GOODIE BAGS: Simple goodie bags included monster pencils, monster bendables and monster lollipops.
    • DECORATIONS: These monster wall decals worked great for decorating. I added a couple of mylar balloons from The Dollar Tree and a few hanging decorations from Party City. Done!

    That’s it. Two hours of monster party fun that was cost effective and simple for me to implement, even during a busy work week. Heads up: We made 12 puppets and it took me a couple of hours to prep all the felt for the monster puppets (I worked on that while watching TV one night).

    Simple Monster Birthday Cake How-To

    Simple Monster Birthday Cake and Party How-To

    And now for the cake. This simple monster birthday cake was one of the easiest cakes I’ve made yet. NO PIPING NECESSARY. Woohoo! Decorating the cake still takes some time (it took me about 2 hours to do all of the decorating; that does not count baking the cake the day before), but this cake design is very simple and definitely doable for all skill levels.

    Be sure to read my Cake Decorating Guide before diving in. That post has all of my tips for successfully decorating cakes as well as the recipes I use for the chocolate cake and buttercream frosting.

    • Step 1: Bake a 9″ x 13″ cake. Level cake if needed, wrap in plastic or parchment paper and freeze until hard.

    Simple Monster Birthday Cake from @janemaynard - How to Shape the Cake

    • Step 2: Place cake top side down on a cutting board. Simply cut two corners off with a curve to the cut, like you see in the photo above. The corners should be on one short end of the rectangle. The resulting cake will look like a gravestone.
    • Step 3: Do a crumb coat frosting layer then freeze or refrigerate until hardened.
    • Step 4: While the crumb coat is hardening, make the eyes and mouth. I bought white rolled fondant and black rolled fondant (Wilton’s makes fondant, I buy mine at Michael’s or Joann’s). I colored some of the white fondant blue. Click here for a free printable PDF of the eyeball and mouth template. Print one copy of this page. Roll out the white fondant and place the full eyeball template on top. With a sharp knife cut around the circle. Set the large white fondant circle aside. Roll out blue fondant then cut the eyeball template down to the size of the blue circle. Place on the rolled blue fondant, cut the circle and set aside. Repeat process again for the black circle and small white circle. Stack all the circles so they look like the original eyeball template. For the mouth, roll out the black fondant, place the mouth template on top then cut around the edge, forming the oval shape. Next cut just one of the teeth shapes from the mouth template and use that with the white fondant to make six teeth. Place white fondant pieces on the black fondant mouth. Set aside.

    Simple Monster Birthday Cake and Party How-To

    • Step 5: Frost the cake with blue icing, using a knife or cake spreader to make icing on the top and sides as smooth as you can. Wash and dry your hands. Using your index finger, make little swirl marks all over the top of the monster so it looks like fur.
    • Step 6: Place the eyeball and mouth on the cake like you see in the picture above. You’re done!

    I’m super happy with how everything turned out, but in the end finding Owen looking at his cake like this was definitely the best part!

    Simple Monster Birthday Cake and Party How-To


  2. Wednesday, January 13

    Easy Ladybug Cupcakes

    Today I wanted to share the easy ladybug cupcakes I made for Cate’s birthday. One of my “things” as a mom is making fun birthday cakes for my kids, but this year Anna simply wanted a cake made out of donuts and Cate wanted chocolate cupcakes with vanilla icing. While I was a little disappointed to not be making more elaborate cakes, I will admit it was a nice break, especially one week before Christmas.

    Quick tutorial for easy ladybug cupcakes from @janemaynard

    Then, the day of her birthday, Cate informed me that she wanted ladybug cupcakes. I was like, “Uh, what?” I was completely unprepared, but really wanted to come through for her. Luckily I had some red cupcake liners and a pack of candy eyes in the cabinet and was able to pull these off!

    Quick tutorial for easy ladybug cupcakes from @janemaynard

    These ladybug cupcakes are seriously EASY.

    • Cook the cupcakes in red or black cupcake papers.
    • Make a batch of buttercream frosting. Color about 2/3 of it with red food coloring (you’ll need a lot of food color!). Color the rest of the buttercream with black food coloring.
    • Frost the cupcakes with red buttercream using a butter knife, spreading the frosting on smoothly (doesn’t have to be perfect!).
    • Place the black frosting in a piping bag with a small, round tip. Pipe on the outline of the wings, the polka dots, and a head, as shown in the diagram below.
    • Finish off the ladybug with small candy eyes placed on the black icing piped on as the head, right at the edge of the cupcake.

    How to decorate easy ladybug cupcakes from @janemaynard

    I was able to knock these cupcakes out no problem, and the design is so simple even the non-artistic among us can pull it off.

    Click here to get the recipes I used for the chocolate cake and buttercream frosting. (Feel free to use a cake mix, I’m not keeping track!)

    Happy decorating!


  3. Wednesday, December 17

    Anna’s Deep Dish Pizza Cake

    It’s birthday season in our home, which means I’m busy whipping up cakes for the girls! This year Anna requested a deep dish pizza cake from Cakes for Kids by Matthew Mead. I am absolutely delighted with the results and wanted to share it with you!

    how to make a cake look like deep dish pizza from @janemaynard

    This cake was actually quite easy to put together. Here’s how to get it done!

    • Use a 9-inch cake. After you remove the cake from the pan to cool, wash the pan. When you level the cake, take off about 1/8-1/4″ so that when you put the cake back in the pan for display, there is space between the top of the cake and the top of the pan.
    • Once the cake is back in the clean pan, frost the top with red-tinted butter cream for the sauce. I used red, a bit of orange, and a smidge of green to make the red color. Pipe the “crust” around the edge with buttercream that has extra vanilla extract mixed in (to make it a little more brown). I just used a ziploc bag with the corner cut to make the fat pipe with the frosting. Use cinnamon to add brown spots to the crust, rubbing in lightly with fingers.
    • Marzipan is the key to the beautiful veggies on top! For one 9-inch cake you need a 7-ounce package of marzipan, found in the baking aisle at the grocery store. Divide the marzipan into 4 equal parts. When you roll out the marzipan, place parchment paper both underneath and on top when rolling. For the mushrooms, roll out the marzipan thin and cut mushrooms freehand, using a bit of cinnamon to add color. For the bell peppers, knead in green food coloring with a bit of brown, then roll pieces of marzipan out into a skinny snake shape, make circles and then crimp the circle like a pepper. For the pepperoni, knead in red and a bit of brown food coloring into the marzipan and then roll out thin. Using a small circle cutter, cut circles and then texture with a pastry brush (genius!). I used the rippled edge side of my round cutter for the pepperoni. For the onions, roll out the marzipan then use concentric round cutters to make the onion shapes.
    • Unsweetened shredded coconut worked perfectly for the cheese! I sprinkled most of the cheese directly on the “sauce,” then placed the veggies and sprinkled a bit more “cheese” on top.

    how to make a cake look like deep dish pizza from @janemaynard

    Voila! Deep Dish Pizza…that tastes like cake! It was seriously funny all afternoon with the cake sitting on the counter. It really looked like a pizza!

    how to make a cake look like deep dish pizza from @janemaynard


  4. Friday, September 26

    How to Make an Airplane Birthday Cake + Friday Show and Tell

    Okay, so there’s a lot of “mom stuff” I don’t do. I’m not crafty. I don’t make baby food from scratch. I am a terrible gardener. The list goes on and ON. But I do absolutely love making my kids’ birthday cakes. Every year they tell me what they want and I figure out a way to make it happen! For Owen’s 3rd birthday he requested Ripslinger from the movie Planes, or as Owen put it, “the green bad guy plane.” I was a little nervous but I pulled it off! The best part was Owen loved it and today he’s asked multiple times to see pictures of the cake. (That splash sound you hear is me turning into a puddle on the floor.)

    how to make a kids airplane birthday cake by @janemaynard

    how to make a kids airplane birthday cake by @janemaynard

    This cake was one of the easier ones I’ve done, so I have to share the step-by-step with you. Here’s how to make an airplane birthday cake!

    • Bake a 9″x13″ standard cake. I used my favorite chocolate cake recipe (which you can find in this linked post) and it made for a nice tall cake, which gave the plane more height. I doubled the frosting recipe in that same post, which gave me enough frosting for the crumb coat and final coat with a bit left over.
    • After you bake the cake, freeze it. Once it’s frozen, make one cut as shown in the diagram below, then flip one of the pieces so it lines up with the other piece perfectly when you stack them.

    template for cutting a 9x13 cake for an airplane shape by @janemaynard

    • The fat end of the triangle you created is the front of the plane – the smaller end is the back of the plane. Shape the front to round it off. Once the cake was done, I wished I had also angled the back end of the plane down a bit so that the entire plan had an upward slant towards the front of the plane, instead of just parallel to the ground (know what I mean?). Feel free to play with the shape or just keep it super simple like I did.
    • I used one of the pieces of cake I cut off the front when shaping the nose of the plane to create the cockpit on top.
    • Frost between the layers, and then follow the directions in my cake-making guide post for frosting (freezing cake, crumb coat, etc.) The beauty of this cake is you only need ONE COLOR OF FROSTING! Save a bit of white for the window, but other than that you can just make all the frosting one color.
    • For the wings and things, I used cardstock! Just cut them into the shape you like and then stick the shaped wings and things right into the cake. You can get colored cardstock or just color white cardstock with a permament marker the color you want he wings to be. (Since I was making Ripslinger, I also made the flames out of cardstock colored with permanent markers and stuck them to the side using frosting as glue.) Don’t worry, no marker transferred to the frosting anywhere!
    • The propellors were 2 popsicle sticks colored with black Sharpee marker, broken in half and then stuck in the front. I should have put a black circle of frosting or a Junior Mint on the front in the middle of the propellors. I didn’t, but you can!
    • White frosting and black piped frosting made the window in the cockpit, and chocolate chips, stuck pointy side in, served as the eyes.

    Show and tell time! I just have one quick share today. I put together a really fun post for Babble of CRAZY stuff my friends’ kids have eaten. It’s pretty awesome. Be sure to click through and check it out!

    As usual, feel free to share anything you like in the comments, it’s show and tell after all!


  5. Thursday, December 19

    The Girls’ Birthday Cakes + Chocolate M&M Frosting

    One of the only over-the-top-Mom things I do is make fun cakes for my kids’ birthdays. Cate and Anna had both of their birthdays this week so I’ve been a busy baker! Anna opted for a vanilla cake shaped like a fish. Cate decided to go with chocolate cupcakes topped with M&M frosting. I wanted to share the cakes with you, since I always do, as well as the recipe for the frosting because it was YUMMMMMMMMM.

    chocolate m&m frosting from @janemaynard

    Anna’s cake was inspired by a goldfish in the Cakes for Kids book by Matthew Mead that we love so much! The cake is essentially a 2-layer cake (8 inches or 9 inches works) with a thin crescent cut off the top or each layer before frosting. Those crescent pieces become the fins. The frosted layer cake gets tipped up on its side and and then the fins are added, with toothpicks securing the top and back fins. I think this might have been the hardest cake I’ve made so far, surprisingly. It didn’t come out as cute as I’d hoped but it did come out better than I expected! 😉 Anna was completely happy with the cake and that is all that matters!

    anna's fish birthday cake from @janemaynard

    I think what made this cake so tricky was that I made the fins a different color than the body (to look more like Flounder from The Little Mermaid), but it’s hard enough attaching those fins without having to worry about the frosting colors mixing. Bottom line: this cake was hard but we made it work!

    anna's fish birthday cake from @janemaynard

    Cate took it easy on me and just wanted chocolate cupcakes with M&Ms. I decided an M&M frosting would be good and took inspiration from a recipe on the blog Cookies & Cups. I changed the recipe to a chocolate buttercream frosting and made it a little thinner. The frosting was fudgy and crunchy and oh-so-delicious. Quick note: when the frosting is just made, the M&Ms are still crunchy, but as it sits, the M&Ms get softer. This is not a bad thing, but it goes from crispy M&M fudge frosting to chunky-chocolate fudge frosting. Just wanted to set expectations properly! If you can whip up the frosting last minute, that’s what I would do! This is not to say that we haven’t happily enjoyed the leftovers!

    chocolate m&m frosting from @janemaynard

    If you’d like to see the misadventure I had when I started to frost the cupcakes, click here. Fair warning, it’s scary! Moral of the story? Always use a star tip when piping chocolate frosting. And that’s all we’ll say about that!

    Chocolate M&M Frosting
     
    Prep time
    Total time
     
    Author:
    Ingredients
    • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened to room temperature
    • 3 cups powdered sugar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 2 tablespoons milk
    • ⅓ cup cocoa powder, sifted into the bowl
    • 1 cup M&Ms, processed to a coarse dust in the blender
    Instructions
    1. In a stand mixer or with beaters, beat together all of the ingredients on medium-high speed until well-mixed. Spread on cake or cupcakes and eat immediately! M&Ms will be crunchy at the outset but will soften as the frosting sits.

     


  6. Tuesday, September 24

    Little Blue Truck Birthday Cake

    I love making my kids’ birthday cakes. The tradition stems from my childhood. I remember so many of the cakes my mom made for me and I also remember being sooooo excited for each of those cakes. They made me feel special and like my mom could work magic. My brother and I have both continued the tradition with our own children. It’s one of those things that I really love to do for my kids.

    little blue truck cake | thisweekfordinner.com

    little blue truck birthday | thisweekfordinner.com

    little blue truck and big green toad cakes | thisweekfordinner.com

    Each time I make a cake I share it on the blog (let’s be honest, I like to show them off!), but I never get around to explaining how I put the shapes together. I thought I’d give a quick rundown of how I assembled the Little Blue Truck cake.

    First and foremost, be sure to read through this post to get lots of tips for successfully decorating cute cakes. The instructions below mostly focus on how to create the shape of the truck, but the tips in that post are just as important!

    I decided to make Little Blue just a day or two before Owen’s party, so it was pretty last minute. I was planning to do a 2-dimensional cake in the shape of Little Blue as he appears on the cover of the book. While the cake was cooling, Anna found a 3-dimensional truck cake in our favorite book Cakes for Kids and plans changed!

    In Cakes for Kids, the truck cake utilizes loaf pans to create the shape, but since I had already baked a standard square cake for my 2-dimensional version, I went with my own design. It actually worked really well, so here’s what I did!

    cutting instructions little blue truck cake | thisweekfordinner.com

    • Find something to use as a “lift” for the cake – I used four blue duplo legos (I should have used white or black). Cut a piece of cardboard that is just a smidge smaller than the largest piece of cake. On your cake board (the final board the cake will be displayed on), line up the legos (or whatever you’re using as a lift) underneath the cardboard cutout so that the legos are near the edges and placed where the wheels on the truck would go. Set the cardboard cutout aside, then secure the legos to the cake board using frosting. Freeze so frosting gets hard and legos stay in place.
    • Put a dab of frosting on the cardboard cutout, then place the largest piece of cake on the cutout, lining it up so you can’t see the cardboard. Frost cake with crumb coat then freeze.
    • Place one of the smaller pieces on top of the frosted cake,  where the cab of the truck would be, making sure to use frosting to attach it to the cake below. Spread a layer of frosting on top of the small piece you just placed, then add the second small piece on top. Shape the two small pieces using a knife so it’s narrower at the top. Apply crumb coat of frosting and freeze.
    • Frost cake with the pretty layer of frosting.
    • Use white rolled fondant to make the windows, bumper, headlights, license plate and grate. I added a smidge of black food coloring for the bumper and grate and a smidge of yellow and orange food coloring for the license plate. Windows and headlights stayed pure white. I used a black edible pen to draw in the eyes on the headlights and lines on the grate.

    little blue truck cake cake | thisweekfordinner.com

     

    • To get the right size and shape for the windows/etc, I held up a piece of cardstock to the cake, estimated the size for each piece, then drew out the pieces and cut them out of the cardstock. I adjusted the templates where necessary then traced the shapes on the fondant with a knife, then cut the pieces out. Be sure to roll the fondant out quite thin or it will look too bulky on the cake (some of my windows were a little thick!).
    • Place truck on top of legos on the final cake board, securing with frosting.

    little blue truck cake lego lift | thisweekfordinner.com

    • Dab a bit of frosting on the edge of an Oreo cookie then stick to the sides of the cake, covering up the legos from the side, for wheels. If a little frosting squishes out around the edge of the Oreo, use a toothpick to clean it up.

    little blue truck cake | thisweekfordinner.com

    • If I had planned ahead a bit more, I could have filled the back of the truck with animals, but I didn’t, so Little Blue had a light load that day!

    There are some fancier Little Blue Truck cakes out there that are sooooo cute (you have to check out this one – thanks for the link, Hillary!). But my simpler version worked just fine and Owen was ecstatic about his cake, crying out “Little Blue Truck!” every time he saw it. Plus, it is a pretty generic truck so you could make whatever color truck you want!

    owen and his cake | thisweekfordinner.com

    A quick note on the big green toad cake: I simply cooked an 8-inch round cake and then cut a few pieces out around the edges to make a shape of the toad’s head, with fondant for eyes. Super simple!

    big green toad cake | thisweekfordinner.com

    My various birthday cake links if you’re interested!