Archive for June, 2009

Daddy Rocks!

June 19, 2009

To celebrate Father’s day, I looked for an easy craft my daughter could make for her daddy. I wanted something she could make mostly herself and something he could keep at work to put a smile on his face during a stressful day. I found this simple craft for a paperweight at Family Corner.

photo courtesy of familycorner.com

photo courtesy of familycorner.com

I love salt dough! My daughter really enjoys mixing the ingredients together and then squishing the dough. It’s a wonderful sensory experience that even toddlers or young preschoolers will enjoy. I let her smash the dough into whatever shape she wanted…this meant mostly a giant lump.

I didn’t have any pea gravel as called for in the directions, but I did find some nice glass rocks in my craft box. These are the kind of rocks you would use to put into a vase or candle arrangement. The directions state to arrange gravel pushed into the dough to spell out “Dad Rocks”. Since I wanted this craft to be hers as much as possible and since at almost 3 she can’t spell, I let her arrange the beads as she wished. She thoroughly enjoyed smooshing them into the dough.

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I placed the dough onto a cookie sheet sprayed with non-stick spray. I baked it for 2 hours at 250 degrees. Then it cooled for about an hour. It looked pretty nice just plain as it was.

But I thought it would be much more fun to let her paint it too! Daddy is a huge Dallas Cowboys fan so I happened to have navy and silver acrylic paint on hand. That part was pretty fun too!

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I made sure to let her know that this was a surprise for Daddy for Father’s day. But in true preschooler style, when Daddy asked her about her day that evening, she described the wonderful surprise she had made him! We couldn’t help but  laugh at her excitement. The best Father’s day gift for him and any dad is the adoration and love of a child. My husband has that gift 365 days a year!

What a cool paperweight!

What a cool paperweight!

Happy Father’s Day to my awesome husband who is a wonderfully loving Daddy!

For complete instructions and ideas for other Father’s day crafts visit: Dad Rocks at the Family Corner website.

Gone Fishing

June 11, 2009

I was recently thrilled and honored by my friend Sheila’s request to bake her daughter’s birthday cake. I love a good reason to bake something fun and what better reason than for the birthday of one incredibly sweet two-year old? Her party was being held at a local splash park and so Sheila chose a fish theme for the decor.

Kids Kampus Jacksonville, FL

Kids Kampus Jacksonville, FL

Sheila is very crafty and her party decor is always perfectly matched to her theme. She found a recipe for an adorable fish cake at the Disney’s Family Fun website. I was excited to make this cute cake and hoped it would put a smile on the birthday girl’s face! I also hoped it would live up to Sheila’s expectations as I didn’t want the cake to be the dud in her party decor!

After reading the recipe, I knew immediately that the Necco wafers had to go! Have you ever eaten a Necco wafer?

image courtesy of the Candy Baron

image courtesy of the Candy Baron

If you haven’t had the umm…pleasure…count yourself lucky. I think of Necco wafers as “old people candy” and with that said, I apologize to any seniors reading this. But Necco wafers taste like lightly sweetened chalk and the thought of covering an entire cake in them was frightening. Sheila suggested using candy melts and they turned out to be the perfect solution. What could be better than covering a cake in candy?

candymelt

The inside of the cake was a yellow cake. I’ve been testing recipes to the find the perfect yellow cake one and finally discovered one I love…all thanks to the wonderfully resourceful Bakerella. Here is the link for her yellow cake recipe. Now I did make a few changes to get the cake I wanted. Instead of all butter, I used half butter and half butter-flavored shortening. This really adds some extra moisture to the cake. I also used 2 teaspoons of vanilla instead of vanilla and butter flavoring. I tried her sugar water trick, although I brushed it on with a pastry brush, and think it did help to keep it moist.

The original fish cake directions state to bake a 13 x 9 cake to cut out. I did bake it that size, but before cutting out the shape, I ran a cake leveler through the middle to create two layers. I then frosted the middle before I cut the shape out. This did make it more difficult to cut, but more frosting means a moister and more flavorful cake. One of my pet peeves is a sheet cake with no center frosting. The cake tends to be dry and you end up with a mouthful of dry cake. Don’t get me wrong, I will still eat such a cake as I haven’t met a cake I’ve turned away yet, but a little more frosting is the difference between a good cake and a great one!

I used Wilton’s buttercream icing recipe. There are more flavorful icings (or frosting if you prefer that term as I do), but this one really holds up well in the heat. This was an outdoor party at the end of May so that was definitely a concern.I tinted the frosting as directed. After frosting the cake, I added the candy melts by alternating the colors to create the scales. I wasn’t happy with the unfinished edge of the bottom of the cake. I could have piped frosting around it, but instead cut candy melts in half to create a border. I have to say, while this cake took some time from start to finish, I was pretty happy and proud of it!

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In retrospect, I would make a few changes if I were to make this cake again. I realized somewhere around midnight as I was decorating, that I had no where to write “Happy Birthday” or the birthday girl’s name.  I should have used fondant to cut out the letters and attach to the side of the cake. I improvised on the way to the party, stopped at the grocery store and purchased those candy letters sold in the bakery aisle. They did the trick, but the fondant letters would have been bigger and I think prettier. In the future, I also would save some of the batter to make one cupcake. The candle could then be placed into the cupcake and the birthday person would have their own mini-cake. As it was, we placed the candle on the top fin.

photo courtesy of Sheila Sierra photography

photo courtesy of Sheila Sierra photography

All the  party guests seemed to get a kick out of the cake and really enjoyed it! Most importantly, the birthday girl had a smile on her face as she blew out her candle! Making this cake just reminded how much I love baking for children and I can’t wait to do it again!