Spa Party Pies

Pie as a Birthday Cake

Pie as A Birthday Cake

Who ever said that Birthday Cakes always have to be cakes??? Tradition? One thing I’ve learned when planning a birthday party is that tradition should play a part in some ways but in others…..tradition shouldn’t be the end all be all. Like having a cookie cake. When did that become in style? Pies are gaining a come back in a big way. We are in a small town and there are several bakeries selling pies. One store even dedicated to pie only making!

My kids love pie which helps in the decision. My daughter was turning 12 and at her spa birthday party, I could envision them having cake in the hot tub and knew that it would end up being a mess! Pies were much better. I didn’t make them. I know, shame on me. It was December and time was limited so I got several different kinds from our Buttermilk Sky Pie Shop here in town. It worked out perfect. The kids took a cool wooden spoon and tested all the pies. They were yummy, tidy and all I had to do was bring them.

Spa Party Cookie Cake

Birthday Cookie Cake

Cookie Cake!

If you are like me, you think of a traditional, beautifully decorated birthday cake for a child’s birthday. But you know. It just doesn’t have to be that way.  A friend’s daughter had a spa party where the girls went into a boutique and had their toes and finger nails done.  So cute seeing the line of girls there all together.  Anyway, I diverge.  Her daughter wanted a cookie cake and nothing else.

Honestly, its the design and colors that make this so cute.  The folks that are hired by the ice cream shops that decorate cakes and the cookie cake places and other chains really do a great job.  I would encourage you to go and seek those folks out when someone does a great job and give them a cash tip.  I did this once with an ice cream cake and the gal was so surprised.

Don’t feel like you have to make everything fit into a box any longer.  Let your child lead the way and your birthday party can turn out fantastic….spa party or not.

Spa Party Cake

Cake Edited

This may be one of my all time favorite cakes!!!!! It is so stinkin’ cute I just can’t stand it. For your spa themed birthday, there are so many different directions you can go with the cake or dessert. This cake was a bit large for the crowd that attended the party but who cares. It was adorable. The cake was actually commissioned by a friend of mine who had a spa theme party for each of her girls in the same week! One of the girls wanted this cake and it turned out so cute……have I said that yet?

Cucumber Girls Edited

The cake is a white cake with fondant used to make the icing and the girls around the bottom. Attention to detail was taken with the girls having a mud mask and cucumbers on their eyes! This was made by a lady here in town called the cake lady. Well, I’ve deemed her as the cake lady. I don’t want to post her phone number here but if you live in Knoxville, TN and want her to make a cake for you, let me know and I’ll connect the two of you up. Her name is Karen Martin.

Cupcakes & Icing


If you like to give personal touches to a birthday party, making your own cupcakes is an excellent way to do it. The cake part is important that it tastes good. But I can’t stand a cupcake that has horrible icing. Now, I know that some cakes use fondant to have cool images and that they don’t all taste good. That isn’t what I’m talking about here. Sometimes you just can’t get away with using anything other than the rolled out icing. What I’m referring to is the icings that come on many of the store bought cupcakes and cakes.

I LOVE to make my own icing. I have posted the recipe before and you can find it under recipes. You’ll make way more than you need… problem. Put the rest in the fridge and it will keep for months! For my son’s outdoor birthday party, I made cupcakes out of a box. Yes, out of a box. It tastes just as good as home made vanilla cake does. I used these reusable cupcake cups. The jury is still out on these as it wasn’t the easiest thing to get the cupcakes out to each them……it just makes you feel good. Then I always, always use food coloring that is in a concentrate. It lasts forever! And you don’t have to mix forever to get the color you wish. If you are still using the liquid kind, switch! Concentrated food coloring is the way to go. I purchased this at Michaels, I believe, but you can get it in most grocery stores that carry cake decorating supplies.

Have fun and enjoy icing!

Pirate Party Birthday Cake

Pirate Birthday Cake

This pirate party birthday cake decorated with a skull & crossbones was just the best.  The best part about it is that I didn’t have to make it!  Don’t get me wrong……I LOVE to make the party cakes.  Mostly because my kids know that I’ve made them and that makes the party special.  BUT I’m not the best decorator.  There are tons of other folks out there who can decorate cakes better than I can. And it seems like I’m up ’til all hours the night before the party when I need to be getting sleep!

This party was held in the downtown Portland, OR area. I want to the Ben & Jerry’s that was about 5 blocks from a show that we were seeing and asked if they could come up with a pirate style birthday cake. The cake designer was so excited that she was able to be creative and that I just let her go. This can go both ways of course but I had seen some of her work and knew that she was talented. So, I let her go and that took one big job off of my plate.

Now, having said all that…..if you want to create your own skull & crossbones or pirate birthday cake, you can certainly take this design and tweak it to make it your own.  Loved the colors and loved how it turned out.

This was an ice cream pirate cake.  I think I’ve said this before, but please please take it out of the freezer in time to let it soften or it will NOT cut.  Ask the ice cream store what they recommend as all types are a bit different in hardness.  They will be able to advise you.  Also have a cup of warm water to dip the knife in and this will help as well but won’t solve it being hard  as a rock.

Build A Bear Cake

Build a Bear Cake

Build a Bear Cake

If you are having a bear themed party or even a formal Build A Bear Party, go out on a limb and make a cake that looks like your child’s favorite bear!!! Honestly it’s not that hard. Just a little time and tlc. As you can see, this cake looks just like the birthday girls favorite Build A Bear.

The mom took the bear and as you can see next put it right next to her work as she was making it. Don’t forget when you are cutting out and preparing your own custom cake that you do it on the serving platter or plate.

Bear Cake Process

Bear Cake Process

One thing you may or may not be able to tell is that the bear has a double layer of cake on the nose to make it higher.

Honestly, these are my favorite kind of cakes. You can certainly pay several hundred dollars for a beautifully decorated cake and if you don’t have the time or don’t want to fool with making the cake yourself then I’m not downing the idea at all! I just like to stay up ’til midnight the day before my kids parties to make and decorate home made custom cakes…..ha! Seriously, it does take some time. But the kids love it no matter what it looks like and they do see the time you are putting in to THEIR Birthday cake.

Resources: This cake was made by a friend, Kerry Scroggins, and was willing to allow me to share her masterpiece.

Magic Show Birthday Cake

Magic Show Birthday Party Cake

Magic Show Birthday Party Cake

Professional Cake makers are amazing these days. Growing up, we never had such fancy birthday cakes. And the company that makes these not only makes them look great but they taste great too.

This cake was made as a layer cake to resemble a magicians hat and then the bunny and wand on top. Between the layers, there was something like a fruit type jam. Hum. Then with the roll out fondants that you can get and make, the creative juices can just flow. Use cookie cutters or cut the designs out yourself!

Have any of you watch the cake maker on HGTV or something like that. These guys are really amazing!

Anyway, this cake was bought from the Beaverton Bakery in Portland OR and really make the theme of the magician birthday party come alive! ADORABLE!

Decorating Flower Cupcakes

Flower Cupcakes

Flower Cupcakes

If you are planning a flower Themed Birthday Party or an Outdoor Birthday Party, having these flower decorated cupcakes will be perfect!

We attended a party where the hostess had made these herself. If you could have seen the kids faces, wow. I don’t know if it was the super cute decorations or the fact that each child not only was getting a cupcake to eat but also a sucker. Ha!

To make the flower cupcakes, they were iced with regular white icing. Use any flavor of cupcake….whatever your child prefers. Take the cupcake and dip in yellow sprinkles. Besides the one shown above, there were also ones with orange and green “grass” or base coat. Or sprinkles. Simply stick a sucker the color of your choice and then add some green taffy as the leaf.

I think I overheard the hostess say that she had seen this done before, not sure where. I just thought these Flower Cupcakes were super cute and a big hit with the kids!!!

Ice Cream Birthday Cakes

Ice Cream Birthday Cakes

Ice Cream Birthday Cakes

Kids and adults alike love to eat ice cream cakes. So, what better time to have them at a birthday party? We have some good friends that purchase ice cream cakes for every birthday no matter if it’s a kid or adult and no matter if there’s a party or not!

Ice cream cakes a wonderful alternative and I’ve never seen an ice cream store that doesn’t make or offer ice creams cakes of some sort. They aren’t always the most creative cakes but what’s to say that you couldn’t get a plain one, take it home and decorate it yourself? I might have to try that and share it with you for one of our parties. Why do you have to do it all???

Depending on the cake, you can experience a few glitches with ice cream cakes. If you don’t plan to eat it at the ice cream store, don’t forget to take along a strong sharp knife to cut the cake. And depending on how hard or soft you want the cake to be when you serve it up, you’ll need to gauge the outdoor temp. The above photo was taken at a party where the ice cream store is right across the street from a water park (aka location of the birthday party). The store didn’t have a knife to share with the host and was relegated to try and cut the cake with a plastic knife!!! It was not a super hot day and it took forever for the cake to get warm enough to serve. Just food for thought!

Homemade Birthday Cake on Vintage Cake Stand

Homemade Birthday Cake on Vintage Plate

Homemade Birthday Cake on Vintage Plate

Don’t want to pay $100 to $200 or even $300 for someone else to make your child’s birthday cake? Don’t feel comfortable doing cake cutouts and all kinds of fancy stuff? Or don’t have the time to do it yourself? No worries, a regular homemade 3 layer cake can be beautiful and can certainly do the job!!!

This one was beautiful. It was the centerpiece of a vintage inspired outdoor birthday party. Pink on a beautiful pink glass cake stand was perfect. I don’t know the name of the glass but I’m sure someone knows. And making it this way insures that it will taste good! And coming from a mom who has tasted a lot of birthday cakes. I certainly love the parties where the cake is good.

So, if you don’t have the money, time or don’t think you have the talent or tools to make a fancy cake, never fear. Just make a pretty cake. It’s all about blowing out the candles anyway. Did you know that?

Colorful Birthday Cakes

Colorful Balloon Birthday Cake

Colorful Balloon Birthday Cake

A great way to add color to a birthday cake without looking to generic is to chose a pattern that has large blocks of color. Here this mom was using color to connect the elements of the party and used balloons as the image on the cake. They were big enough and totally colorful enough to have the cake stand out.

Other ideas for using blocks of color on a cake would be to use circles of varying sizes. My daughter is in kindergarten this year and they are studying geometric shapes. That could make a fun cake. Then you could always do a striped cake with the stripes in a pattern of colors or random colors. Even the stripes could be of varying patterns.

If you are having a hard time envisioning it, I’m going to share a secret of mine. Go to the wallpaper store or a high end fabric shop and find a fabric that matches the colors you are using and has the shapes you like. And then use that fabric as inspiration for your cake. There are some really beautiful fabrics out there right now. This should not be a tough one to find. Maybe a tough one to chose from as you’ll like too many of them.

Good luck creating your cake and have a color happy party!

Photo taken by Amy Hall of Amy Hall Photography, Portland, OR.

Spiderweb Halloween Cupcakes

Halloween Cupcakes

Halloween Cupcakes

Kids young and old…….and even moms and dads… cupcakes. And there’s nothing better than a cupcake with really good frosting.

These cupcakes were made from a box. Oops. Did I just admit that? The kids don’t want anything fancy and when you are planning a birthday party, in my mind, the cake part of this is just nothing to worry about.

The frosting is my cream cheese frosting colored orange and then bittersweet choc was melted to make the spiderwebs. If you don’t have a piping bag and plan to use a plastic bag like we suggest below, be carefully of putting hot chocolate in it. You might want to opt into using black colored icing instead.

Couple of tips. The Cream cheese frosting doesn’t set hard which is part of what makes it so good. But when you are piping the spiderweb just keep this in mind. Make sure you wait until the cupcakes are cool before icing or it will slide all down the side. Use a good coloring liquid for the icing. The inexpensive ones at the grocery just don’t go very far! And lastly, if you don’t have a piping bag, you can easily do these spiderwebs by putting the chocolate in a zippered plastic bag and cutting a very small hole in one of the bottom corners.

Whether you are having a Halloween Party, a Birthday Halloween Party or just a play date, these Halloween cupcakes are super cute to have set out. And they are yummy to eat.

Resources: Click here for our our Cream Cheese Icing Recipe. For the cake mix, I use Duncan Hines Mix. Bittersweet Chocolate can be found at higher end groceries. Or you can just using icing colored black.

Halloween Party Birthday Cake

Halloween Birthday Party Cake

Halloween Birthday Party Cake

I found this idea for a Halloween Cake and thought it would be perfect for my daughter’s Halloween Birthday Party. She was turning 6 but I think that this cake would be great for any age person that was having a Halloween theme party.

In actuality, the cake was not for the kids……it’s a cream cheese cake and I didn’t think that most of the kids would want any. So, I had the cake for the parents and then had ice cream for the kids. The parents loved it and it isn’t a very heavy cream cheese cake.

Party Girl with her Cake

Party Girl with her Cake

What was interesting about this age is that it took my daughter forever to blow the candles out…….maybe it was the 30 pairs of eyes that were looking at her. Yet, my 4 year old just dug right into blowing the candles out.

Photos taken by Amy Hall Photography, Portland, OR.

Princess Party Cake

Princess Party Fondant Cake

Princess Party Fondant Cake

Oh My!!! This might have been the most beautiful Princess Party Cake I’ve ever seen. Nothing makes a party more special for a birthday girl than to have a fabulous cake. And this is that cake!

These folks are truly artists with fondant. I have been to another party where they make the cake ans it was equally as beautiful. Just amazing. They are in Portland, OR. Not sure if they will ship the cakes or not. But even for your own idea, this was a beautiful Princess Party Fondant Cake and it also tasted great……which is always a plus……

Resources: Bakery Bar in Portland, OR.

Photo taken by Amy Hall Photography, Portland, OR.

Bumble Bee Cupcakes

Bumble Bee Bug Cupcake

Bumble Bee Bug Cupcake

This bug party had the cutest cupcakes. They were all decorated like bugs. Some were bumble bees like this one. Others were lady bugs and then butterflies. Believe it or not Ladybugs were the most popular amongst the kids.

This bumble bee cupcake is chocolate with chocolate icing. Then the bee is a soft yellow squirt of icing with small stripes. The wings are slivered almonds.

Superhero Cake Decoration

Superhero Cake

Superhero Cake

I love how the design on this superhero cake matched the image on the invitation! That can really tie a party together. That and colors. The bakery that my friend uses is called the Dessert Tray in Beaverton, OR. Not sure if they ship but I know there are bakeries out there that do offer shipping and will even do fun shapes.

But back to this superhero cake. Some folks think that the party is all about the cake. And I do not disagree with them. I am always up for a bite of cake. If I’m going to ruin my diet on cake, I want it to taste good and this one was delish!

It’s amazing what you can do with fondant. Any design you think of can be transposed on to a cake. There are even companies who will digitally copy an image on to the fondant! Anyway, I think it would be very hard to do a cake in the shape of a superhero and this solution worked out perfectly.

Resources: The Dessert Tray

Photo taken by Amy Hall Photography, Portland, OR.

Truck & Car Birthday Party Cakes

Truck & Car Cakes

Truck & Car Cakes

For my son’s second birthday party, we had a truck and car party. He was and is fascinated by cars and trucks! And since we had girls coming, it allowed me to do car things for them and truck themed items for the girls.

These cakes are mini cakes made from one pan form. I took a black disposable table cloth and painted a road on it to be the centerpiece of the table. Then after decorating the cakes, I put them on the road with some figures we had around the house for a little whimsy.

The truck and car cakes are small enough that they are just like cupcakes. Which if you have a child you know that cupcakes rule right now. Each child can easily eat one. I used the cake directions from the pan and they not only turned out well but were even yummy!

Resources: Williams Sonoma Car and Truck Cake Pan made by Nordic Ware. These aren’t available on Williams Sonoma any longer but the pan is very heavy duty and I would not blink twice about purchasing it second hand from someone reselling it online. Pan makes 8 different kinds of cars and trucks.

Princess Birthday Cake

Princess Birthday Castle Cake

Princess Birthday Castle Cake

This Princess Castle Birthday Cake I made for my daughter’s 4th birthday. It’s not the most perfect cake but she loved it! Remember that’s what matters. It doesn’t have to be a perfect cake for the little ones to ooh and ah over it. Just a little glitz and they are happy which makes you feel good about the time it took to make the darn thing.

First cut a piece of cardboard a little larger than the size of your castle and cover it with aluminum foil.  (You’ll want to assemble the castle cake on what you plan to serve it on as you will not be able to transfer it from one platter to another!) I made 4 cakes to cut up for making this castle. Needless to say I had a bit of waste. Make sure cakes are completely cool.  It’s easier to work with and when icing your castle, it won’t slip off the sides. There was one full cake for the bottom. I cut a cake up for the wall of the castle. It was wide and probably could have been a little less wide. Then I made 2 or 3 layers of circular cut cake for the turrets.

Slip cut pieces of wax paper under the edge of the cake between it and the aluminum foil. Any icing that runs off the side will fall on the wax paper.  You’ll be removing the wax paper when you are finished icing the cake and everything will look all nice and neat. You’ll want to “seal” the cut edges of the cake with an icing that hardens so that you can ice the cake top with whatever you like. Again. I’m all about taste, so I used my cream cheese icing for the top layer. It doesn’t give a perfect edge but it is soooo good.

To embellish the princess castle cake, I found some chocolate cookies with royal symbols on them for the doors, windows and bridge. The jagged edges on top are made with mini marshmellows. Pink sprinkles give the top a little color. And the towers are made from 2 ice cream cones coated in pink sprinkles and topped with a toothpick and pink ribbon for the flag. I didn’t want to purchase a whole package of these ice cream cones so I went to the local ice cream shop and bought 2 cones only. They were happy to sell them to me.

You can go as far as you want with your own decorations on your princess birthday castle cake. Don’t stress out over it but have fun making it!

Pig Party Cupcake Favors

Pig Party Cupcake Favors

Pig Party Cupcake Favors

Cupcakes are a great favor for a simple party for little ones. There’s nothing better than going home with a cupcake to eat later. I made a custom box for the kids to carry them home in so that the icing didn’t get all over the car! You can see those in another post.

For this pig party we had a regular size birthday cake in the shape of a pig face. Because of that, I didn’t want the cupcakes to be replicas. So, I used the colors and just made simple dots. This could also be done in black and white for those pigs that are black and white. Not all pigs are pink!

Here I used my cream cheese frosting for the pink layer and for the dots. It makes the decoration a little sloppy just like a pig!

Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe

Melting White Chocolate for Cream Cheese Frosting

Melting White Chocolate for Cream Cheese Frosting

This Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe is great for cakes and cupcakes where you want a really moist yummy frosting. It won’t do as well on cupcakes or cakes where you want the icing to have perfect corners or shapes. I use this icing a great deal because I think it tastes divine and that trumps the decoration being perfect. I want the best of both worlds. Who doesn’t? And I find that I don’t like the icing that you use to cut shapes out of nearly as well.

Cream Cheese Frosting

2 oz cooking white chocolate
(1) 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 Tbl Heavy Cream

Sifting Powdered Sugar for Cream Cheese Frosting

Sifting Powdered Sugar for Cream Cheese Frosting

1. In a double broiler, melt white chocolate over low heat and let stand ’til room temperature. Note: If you don’t have a double broiler simply put a metal mixing bowl over a pot of boiling water. This insures that you don’t burn your white chocolate.  And you don’t have to sit and stir it the whole time.

2. Sift and measure confectioners’ sugar and set aside.

3. In a mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add in the white chocolate and vanilla and beat until mixed well. Gradually mix in the confectioners’ sugar and mix until the batter is nice and fluffy. Beat in the heavy cream.

Hints: This can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 30 days. Don’t tell anyone but I’ve kept it longer than that and it works just fine for those small batches of cupcakes you make for your kids. Make sure you let it warm up to room temp before trying to frost cupcakes.  And after cooking cupcakes, let them cool to room temp or the icing will slide off the side!

Photos taken by Amy Hall Photography, Portland, OR.
Continue reading Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe