14.7.13

Mia's Peppa Pig birthday party

4 days old, coming home
from hospital
Just the other day I remember bringing home a tiny little baby, weighing only 2.99 kilos, wearing a hand-knit red sweater three sizes too big for her. She was so little and so perfect. I remember waiting for that first smile, remember waiting for her to crawl, to stand, to walk... With each "milestone", Mia took her own time. She did everything but only when she was ready. She didn't give a damn that I was waiting.

7 months old

So many firsts, so much learning -- for her, for me. My first little baby turns three on the 17th. Back then I had to decipher what her various cries meant, now my baby tells me, "I'm so cited about the party Mamma!" Or that "Peppa Pig and Daddy and Livvy and my mummy are my faaavirite." She still loves broccoli but has developed a dislike towards peas. She loves her chocolate but also demands "I want to crunch a green apple Mamma." I sometimes have to remind her to say "yes please" when offered something but she always remembers to politely say "No please" when she doesn't want something. And she knows when she doesn't want something. Of all the things I have learnt along with her; she's taught me mostly that she knows her mind.

But then I am her mother and I know my mind too.

So it was that we had a rather intense negotiation on what her third birthday party cake was going to be. This party was special because she is turning three and because it was also a sort of farewell party. We're moving to Jakarta in August and will not be seeing our Melbourne friends for a few years/birthdays.

Mia fluctuated between Peppa Pig, a train cake, a jungle cake with animals, a Bananas in Pyjamas cake to her grand idea of having a train-in-a-jungle-with-animals-and-Bananas-and Peppa-sitting-in-it-cake. I told her she could have either Peppa or the Bananas and I threw in the promise of Happy Mrs Chicken (a game Peppa Pig plays) along with marshmallows and sprinkles and Granny Pig's apples. She agreed with the "pawmis" she wouldn't go to the party (!) if I couldn't deliver. A little bit of a spoilt brat and a whole lot her mummy's daughter.

So mummy got thinking and intensely Googling. I didn't like any of the Peppa Pig cakes I saw on the net. Most of them had too much fondant. My idea was to incorporate the characters, a chocolate cake (Mia's faaaavirite), sprinkles and chickens. Then I saw these two cakes that were both perfect... Problem was that I couldn't decide on which one.


There was heaps more on the table, forgot to take a pic!
To incorporate Mia's wish list I made a two-tiered cake with hand made Peppa Pig & Family figures and their house, 24 vanilla cupcakes, 55 marshmallows covered in chocolate and assorted sprinkles, 35 Happy Mrs Chicken cake pops, 68 'apple' sugar cookies and one batch of mini meringue blossoms. All recipes were from websites I frequent (links follow below).


 



 

The main cake
I chose to make both the cakes I'd seen. I followed the recipes and advise  to the letter (mostly) and everything from the texture, flavour to the fluffiness was exactly as promised on the website. Thank you Sweetapolita for some excellent instructions.

The main cake was two-tiered. A vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream filling and icing on top and a chocolate cake with chocolate whipped cream icing on the bottom. And heaps and heaps of sprinkles. I mixed 100s & 1000s, fairy sprinkles and coloured sequins to get a lovely, vibrant mix.

Getting there, limbs and smiles left...
Peppa and family figures and the house were made two weeks in advance from sugar/gum paste (ordered online here). The 'bunting' on the cake is made of triangles cut out from pretty cupcake wrappers I found at the local bargain store. The idea was from here except that I used a bodkin and embroidery needle to poke holes and sew in the thread.

For the house, I modified the template (and size) from a gingerbread house template, though with much thinner walls and roof. For those wanting to learn how to make gingerbread houses or houses made from cookie dough etc., the video tutorial is quite helpful. If I ever make a sugarpaste house again though, I'd be making the walls slightly thicker to make for easy gluing-together. To colour in the windows (which I botched somewhat), I used edible food writing pens.

Note: The recipe calls for two 8 inch pans but I made the vanilla cake in two 6 inch cake pans instead, with a little extra batter left that filled in a Texas muffin pan. I also didn't make any extra filling for the chocolate cake. If you beat the melted chocolate icing a hell of a lot, you get enough to fill layers AND ice a 6-layered-8-inch-cake AND ice 24 cupcakes. I know because I made the cupcakes just to finish the left over icing from the main cake. The cupcakes are made of the same batter as the vanilla cake; yielded exactly 24 cupcakes. Also, instead of flouring the bottoms of the pans/baking paper, I just greased the pan really well and also cut out baking paper to line the sides. All the cakes -- two vanilla ones and three chocolate cakes -- came off easily


Happy Mrs Chicken cake pops
I used Green's Chocolate Mud Cake mix and the icing that goes with it for the pops, Wilton yellow candy melts and lollipop sticks. I also used some Copha (Aussie brand of vegetable shortening) to thin-out the melted candy. For the beak and feet, I used sugar paste coloured orange (Americolor gel paste). I used a small-ish drop-flower nozzle to cut out the feet and let them dry overnight.

Big mistake though was using Wilton black colour to make the dots for the eyes. There was nothing wrong with the colour except it would not dry out and ended up smudging on many of the pops. Next time when I make eyes on any figures/pops, I'll go the extra length of colouring fondant/sugar paste and cutting those out.






Marshmallow pops
The local supermarket had these somewhat triangular marshmallows (unlike the straight, tall ones seen on most websites). So I first poked skewers through some mini cupcake wrappers, then dipped them in chocolate and poked them into the pointy end of the marshmallows. Once dry, I dipped the mallows in melted white chocolate and assorted sprinkles, shook off excess chocolate and gently pushed up the cupcake wrappers. The end result looked like mini cupcakes, a happy result.


"Apple" sugar cookies
I saw this lovely cookies on another website and just had to make them. I was also dying to try out the "flooding" method of filling cookies with Royal Icing. And since it makes perfect sense to try out a terrifying new technique for a big party, I did it! The cookies, a form of shortbread, were absolute winners taste-wise -- not too sweet and just the right crispness. I used Wilton's premade royal icing that you just mix with warm water and it's ready.

The tutorial for flooding on Sweetopia was excellent and helped me get over some of my royal icing fears. I used the hints and tips on Sweetapolita on how to get exactly same-shaped cookies and to avoid them from spreading. Mighty convenient and I was very happy with the results. It's also far easier to store this RI (or one made from meringue powder) than royal icing made from fresh egg whites. (Forgot to take pictures of the filled out cookies, but will do so soon)

Mini meringues
(No picture, will get one soon) The idea was from the rose meringues on Cake Journal, a website I subscribe to and that has some excellent and very clear tutorials on heaps of cake/cupcake related stuff. I'd made the rose meringues for a weekend getaway a couple of months back but didn't want to make something as big. Practically too making the rose meringues would have meant at least 2-3 batches of meringue to beat. I wanted something that gave the pleasure of biting into a lovely, crisp meringue but was more bite-sized.

So I did my version of 'mini meringues'. I used the rose meringue recipe, a Wilton 1M piping nozzle and baked the meringues at 100 degree C for 8 minutes and then let them cool in a turned-off oven with the door closed* for at least an hour or two.
(*Unlike pavlovas where you leave the oven door slightly ajar for the pav to cool, you have to keep the door shut on the tiny meringues for them to dry out to a lovely crispiness).

I made the meringues a week before and stored them in an airtight container, layered with baking paper and with a bowl of baking soda sitting at the bottom. The baking soda absorbs moisture and keeps the meringues crisp.


Tissue paper puffs
No those aren't edible. :) But they make excellent and rather cheap decorations. Reading through comments on some websites, I found that the 'kit' to make these puffs costs around USD 40! Each packet of tissue paper cost me about a dollar, so that's a total of AUD 7 on the puff balls and a whole lot of satisfaction watching them turn out right. Though the idea for the balls I originally found on the Martha Stewart website, this tutorial works really well. I however used more tissue paper to get fluffier balls. 

I also loved, loved, loved the idea of mini, glass milk bottles for the kids, though we ended up serving juice in them. I bought cheap, striped paper straws from the local bargain store. The price for the straws at Invite Me was about AUD 9.50 per packet while Bill's Bargains in Yarraville had them at AUD 2.50. I also bought some polka dot take-away boxes and used them to serve popcorn and chips to the kids... and later to pack cupcakes for the adults.

 
For the kids' party favours, I bought polka dot bags from the bargain store, printed and cut out some Peppa Pig characters and wrote each child's name on the tag. The bags had some bubble-blowing bottles, stickers, a mini packet of Smarties, leftover mallow pops, a tiny smiley badge and blow-out whistles.

Wow. This is a looooooong post. Apart from the sweets, there was roast chicken (store bought), bread rolls, salad, chips, dips and cheeses. And the tastiest home-made slices, quiches and sausage rolls, courtesy Mia's Nanna, who arrived four days before the party. She managed the kids, managed dinner (Mummy forgets food when making cakes!), helped finalise menu and plan shopping list and action-plan with Mummy, helped clean the house, even washed the mixer bowls and other baking equipment to keep it ready for the next round. Once the guests started coming in at the party, Nanna pretty much held fort. Thank god she was there!

We will miss our friends and family here in Melbourne and hope that when we come back, we'll have more fun times and parties together... for Mia and for my little Livvy. :)


PS: Now then, do you have any tips on what icing's best for the humidity in Jakarta? (Picture Partner pulling hair out here)

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