An Easy Family Birthday Celebration

By Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

We had a family birthday party for my grandchild, who just turned one. There were just seven of us, including the birthday baby.

Given it was a busy time, I was looking for a way to acknowledge this milestone in a festive way that would give our grandson his due, but not be an exhausting production. So, as a family, we decided on a weekend brunch.

If you have a birthday celebration for a child coming up, some of these ideas may be helpful to you, too.

The first thing I always plan for is the cake. This sets up the party theme. I’ve baked many a birthday cake when my kids were young, improvising to create Bert and Ernie, making a jailhouse cake when the party was on Alcatraz, and so forth. Last year, I made Elmo cupcakes for my granddaughter.

Still, my best cakes have not been my own ideas, but have come from the book, “What’s New, Cupcake?”, by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson c. 2010, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Using cake mixes and canned frosting, various kinds of candy, boundless creativity and imagination, the authors have invented the most amazing cupcakes—ants on a picnic, Chinese takeout, whales at sea, bees on a honeycomb, Indian corn on the cob, and more.

For my granddaughter’s first birthday a few years ago, I made the rubber ducky cupcakes, which were adorable, but one of the more challenging projects from the book.

This time, I decided on String Monsters—quick to make with canned frosting, tinted with gel colors and piped from zipper-top plastic bags. The eyes are fashioned from Dum Dums (mini lollipops) threaded through O’s (peach-flavored gummy rings), with a brown mini M&M affixed with a dab of frosting. I baked the cupcakes from scratch because I have a simple recipe I love, but a cake mix is fine, too.

Setting the Stage:

  • To create a party atmosphere, we blew up some helium balloons and tied them to the dinner chairs and the high chair. The baby had fun pulling on the ribbon to bring the balloon down and letting it rise up again.
  • To reinforce the monster theme, I bought monster squeeze toy party favors that were age-appropriate for the baby. But the adults seem to have the most fun making squeaky noises.
  • For the menu, I set out smoked salmon and all the fixings on a large wooden cutting board. To toast enough bagels for the family, I ran them under the broiler, watching carefully to prevent burning. A fresh fruit salad with seasonal selections from the farmers’ market was an easy addition.
  • I baked the cupcakes ahead of time and decorated them early in the morning, the day of the party. To ensure that I could complete the cupcakes in time, I assembled the eyes the night before and tested out the method for making the string frosting bodies so there would be no surprises the next day.
  • For a table centerpiece, I set the monster cupcakes on a footed cake stand. Since I didn’t have confetti, I used my three-hole punch to cut some from colored paper. I also scattered mini M&Ms amongst the paper to add more color.

It was a simple, but fun party. Baby went home with an abundance of gifts. And no one was exhausted afterwards.

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Posted: Jul 16th by Sandy_Hu