Firetruck cake 1

Brooklyn-based mom Torrey sent us in these birthday pictures from three different parties—we love the clever ideas going on here, so we’re showing them all:

“I’ve become sort of birthday obsessed since having kids.  Mostly because I remember the great parties that my mom would create for me when I was little–all of them homemade, nothing fancy but all totally special and unique.  So, at the risk of overdoing it, I’m sending you pics of the last three parties I’ve done for my two boys, Otis and Rex.

For Otis’s second birthday, the theme was construction worker.  We did a very simple party that turned out great and was so easy.  For the “activity” I bought a bunch of small wooden construction trucks (from Michaels) and put them out on a low table with a bunch of paint and let the kids just go for it.  Decorations were all construction themed but were minimal and mostly picked up on a trip to Home Depot.  The construction hats were a huge hit and were just cheapo plastic ones ordered from one of the on-line party supply stores.  The cake was so simple and a huge hit.  After stressing for weeks about how I would make a bulldozer cake, I found an idea on line:  just fill the back of a bulldozer with cake–easy and doubles as a present too.  I did chocolate cupcakes (from a mix) and pieces of brownie broken up to look like rocks.

By the time Otis was turning three, his new obsession was fire engines and firemen.  We occasionally let him watch Youtube videos on the ipad of fire engines and most of the videos are either small town parades or videos kids (and probably parents) have made of them playing with fire engine toys.  He loves all of these but found one video that he would watch over and over–a video from the Betty Crocker kitchens of a very peppy lady making a fire engine cake. (This is the link to the Youtube video…it’s so camp, but it actually makes it really easy…) At first I thought it was hilarious, and then I realized I was going to have to produce this cake for his birthday.  I am not a baker, and certainly not a cake decorator, but I studied that video for days and finally just went for it.  I used a mix for the actual cake, figuring that the work I’d have to do decorating would make up for not making it from scratch.  I used a standard butter cream frosting and gel food coloring–I don’t think you could get anything close to the bright red needed with regular food coloring.  The cake was such a hit that a friend’s daughter (who was at the party) insisted on having the same cake at her party the next year.  This cake is actually do-able even if you’re not great at this kind of thing.  It took awhile but it was worth it–the kids absolutely loved it.

Making my life a little challenging, Rex decided he wanted a giraffe party for his second birthday.  All the giraffe birthday cake ideas were totally beyond my capability–huge structures with rice crispy treat legs and fondant–so we kept it simple with a sheet cake (I used the Barefoot Contessa’s birthday sheet cake recipe with lemon butter cream frosting) decorated with M&Ms.  For the activity, we made a donut forest (construction paper leaves hanging from the ceiling with donuts on strings dangling at different levels) and made the kids “eat like giraffes” (ie, no hands).  As you can see in the pictures, there was a fair amount of cheating going on…”

(By the way, we’d love to see your pictures—preferably horizontals—of silly, funny, clever, or otherwise show-stopping birthday cakes you or someone you know has made. And if you’re really inspired, we’d love to see the whole party. Send us an email to Please include your name, how you would like to be credited, the occasion, the recipe, and the inspiration or story behind the cake. Images must be 550×380 pixels wide.)


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