Saturday, 19 January 2013

Ship ahoy

Justin's fourth birthday party was pirate themed so I decided to make cake in the shape of a pirate ship.

I didn't have anything suitable in any of my cake books so I searched online and saved some of the images I liked best. Luckily in my searching I also found a template for the shape of the cake, which I resized to the size of my rectangular cake tin and printed out; this helped quite a bit with carving the cake into the right shape.
The cake took a full day to create this year as I wasn't able to prepare much in advance; I really didn't know how big it was going to turn out so had to pull it all together on the day. I did manage to bake the sponges a few days before and to cover the board with some fondant icing that I coloured blue - I didn't blend the colour totally leaving a marbled, wave-like effect - and edge it with a perfectly matched blue ribbon I already had.

I baked three large rectangular Victoria sponges and cut and carved the cake from this. The bottom of the cake was made up of two layers sandwiched together with blue buttercream. I covered this with ready coloured brown (chocolate flavoured -yum!) fondant and pressed a wood effect embosser into it. I then made up the bow of the ship with another two layers of sponge and the stern with two large layers and a smaller layer (again all sandwiched together with buttercream). I covered each of these with brown fondant: the bow I covered around the sides with a single strip and cut a piece for the top then pinched the edges together; the stern I cut a piece that went up the back, over the top and down the step-like layers, then cut two pieces for each side and again pinched the edges together. I then placed the extra parts onto the base.

I hadn't used an embosser before and found that I needed to press the pattern into the rolled out fondant before I put it onto the cake to get a good effect. I then added lines for planks and "nail" holes at the end of each plank.

Then came the fun bit, adding character and bringing the ship to life:
 - I used Curly Wurly's for the railings along the decks: I cut them to size which was a bit tricky as they were quite brittle and then dipped the cut ends into some melted chocolate, fixing them onto the cake with more melted chocolate and dusting with gold powder.
- I used half a Crunchie for the plank (cut horizontally and dipped into chocolate) which I fixed onto the ship with two cocktail sticks and some melted chocolate.
- I added portholes cutting an oval out of white chocolate; this was perhaps the trickiest bit as the chocolate kept breaking and in hindsight I should have used fondant which would have been much easier to work with. I then put the candle holders into the middle of the portholes.
- I piped blue buttercream for waves along the bottom of the ship.
- I moulded the very front of the ship out of more fondant (I had thought to do some sort of figurehead but time and inspiration weren't on my side).
- I added some pirates (I cheated and used plastic figures as I didn't have the time to make some little pirates - these had so much more character than anything I could have made, plus there were four for the four year old!)
- I piled up some Cadbury Snowballs, sprayed gold, for canon balls (fixed together with white chocolate) and lots of gold chocolate coins for loot.
- I cut Justin's name out of red fondant and added to the board, decorating it with shimmering marzipan shells/starfish.
And finally, I added sails. I had planned to use rice paper for the sails but it all went horribly wrong when I tried to paint a red cross onto it, going sticky and ripping, so I resorted to regular paper which I printed with a red cross for one sail, red stripes for another and a skull and crossbones for the last one. I used a chopstick for the back mast and a piece of bamboo for the main one (as the chopstick wasn't tall enough).
The very finishing touch on the day was adding the candles to the candle holders fixed into the portholes and lighting them for the birthday boy to blow out.
Arrrrr matey, raise the Jolly Roger!
© 2013 Nicola Noble: Please observe the rules of copyright and blog etiquette. If you use my ideas or images, please link back to my blog. And do let me know - I'd love to take a look

Arr matey's - it be Captain Justin's 4th birthday

My baby boy became four years old last week - how did that happen? Four years old seems a turning point from still being a baby to being nine months before starting school - eek! To celebrate, Justin had a pirate themed party.

With the party being so close to Christmas I sent the invitations out at the end of November. I found an image I liked online and tweaked it, then printed it onto white paper, ripped and aged the edges (by wiping a "used" tea bag along the outside edges). The final touch was adding some glitter paint to the sword and chest and some stick-on jewels (a bargain from Poundland) to the treasure chest, then rolling the invitation up and tying it with some red ribbon before hand delivering to each of the guests.
For the first time ever we got outside entertainers in. It was a difficult decision as I like to plan the kids' parties to the n'th degree but I also wanted Justin to have a Tumble Tots party. Sophie started Tumble Tots (a gymnastics based physical play and activity group for preschool children and toddlers) when she was just two years old and Justin joined once Sophie started school and they both have had so much enjoyment from it. The ladies who run it took over the business about 18 months ago and I persuaded them that if they were ever planning to do parties then I was the perfect guinea pig. Thankfully they agreed and were happy to accommodate the pirate theme I was asking for. The brightly coloured Tumble Tot equipment provided a real WOW factor for the children as they arrived and they all had such a fabulous time. I even saw the most timid child giggling away at one point which was so nice and the party was an amazing success.
That left me the food, party bags and cake to organise. Over the past three years I have learned to be organised with Justin's birthday falling exactly two weeks after Christmas and this year I got the party bag bits and pieces and pirate themed plates/napkins etc in November - long before the madness of Christmas took over. 

I had won a £25 Party Pieces voucher for completing a post-purchase survey at the beginning of last year, so I used that to buy really nice bright pirate themed party ware.
I decided to be really simple with the party bags and got plain red paper bags which I labelled with a pirate name sticker and filled with a mini pot of playdoh, a box of pirate stickers (both from Toys R Us), a pirate tattoo, some gold chocolate coins and a pirate pencil and rubber. Total cost just under £1.50 per bag (including the bag and sticker) - hooray!

I am very lucky having a family who love to join in and Mr Snowball even went so far as to borrow a parrot costume from my niece (we had a couple of weeks of fun joking about the theme of the party: "I thought you said it was a Parrot party!".
 Even my dad joined in, and with the beard looked the part of an old sea captain ...
 © 2013 Nicola Noble: Please observe the rules of copyright and blog etiquette. If you use my ideas or images, please link back to my blog. And do let me know - I'd love to take a look.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

2012 Magic Elves final update

It all got a bit busy in the last few days before Christmas and since then I have also been planning for Justin's 4th birthday and pirate party, so haven't had a chance until now to post the final antics of our lovely Christmas elves.

So this is what they got up to in the last few days :
- reading all Sophie and Justin's moshlings a new book - The Night Before Twistmas (a very well written Moshi Monster parody)
- setting up a zip wire from the top of the stairs to the front door and whizzing down it on metal coat hangers. Thanks to Rudolph teddy we got photos and even a video clip with the kids loved.
- on their last morning with us, Sophie and Justin found the elves sitting at the breakfast table with wrapped presents which turned out to be a Moshi Monster nightdress for Sophie and Star Wars pyjamas for Justin for them to wear on Christmas Eve night (sadly I forgot to take a photo of them in their new nightclothes).

That night we put Sally and Colin with their passports next to the tray holding the mince pie and beer for Father Christmas and a carrot and water for the reindeer. We said our thank yous and good byes and gave them both a big kiss; sure enough on Christmas morning they had gone back to the North Pole for another year. 

Here is a summary of what they did this year. They:
  1. Got the Christmas decorations out and put up the tree and lights for us, ready to be decorated
  2. Had a bath in the baby doll's bath in front of the fire
  3. Made snow angels in desiccated coconut
  4. Watched all our Christmas DVDs with popcorn
  5. Hid under a huge pile of tinsel
  6. Unravelled lots of toilet paper rolls and hung then down from the stairs
  7. Hid in the cereal packets at the breakfast table
  8. Hid in our new car
  9. Played noughts and crosses on the whiteboard
  10. Dressed Sophie and Justin's Build-a-bears in elf costumes
  11. Fished for carrot goldfish in the bathroom sink
  12. Made chocolate rice krispie Christmas tree treats
  13. Got in a muddle wrapping each other up in Christmas paper 
  14. Giving us tickets to see The Snowman stage show in London
  15. E-mailing Father Christmas with a report on Sophie and Justin's behaviour so far
  16. Playing a game with marshmallows
  17. Hiding behind the my first attempts at crocheting
  18. Shrinking in the washing machine, then growing back to normal with the Magic Restoring Powder
  19. Having a chocolate fest
  20. Making paper water balloons and chatterboxes
  21. Reading a Moshi Monster book to the moshlings
  22. Whizzing down a zip wire from the top of the stairs to the front door
  23. Leaving new nightclothes for the children to wear on Christmas Eve night
Overall they were very well behaved this year and very generous with gifts and deeds and we really hope to have them back again next year.

© 2013 Nicola Noble: Please observe the rules of copyright and blog etiquette. If you use my ideas or images, please link back to my blog. And do let me know - I'd love to take a look.