Dress Up A Cake Mix & Party Planning Tips

Caston's 1st bday
Caston on his 1st birthday with his cousins.

I grew up in a family where birthdays were a BIG celebration!  Homemade cake, ice cream, amazing food and a mother who would even wake us up at the crack of dawn beating on a pot with a spoon, singing “Happy Birthday.”

As my brothers and I got older she would simply sing the song to us in the morning and now as adults she still calls us up and sings and will even leave us a birthday message on our cell phones.  I love that woman!

It’s funny how we become our mothers.  I can attest that I am proud to be even a sliver like my beautiful and amazing mother.  Just as she made us feel super-special on our birthdays, I try to do do the same for my little ones.

Caston’s 1st birthday was a huge day, not only for my little guy, but for me because I had waited forever to throw a birthday party for my own little one.

We celebrated in high-flyin’ style with an airplane party, as airplanes were his favorite toys.  His PaPa had made him three amazing model airplanes (that still hang in his room) and PaPa had many other airplanes that he had made through the years that made perfect decorations.  I made an airplane ticket invitation that turned out very cute and we made all homemade decorations and turned the house into an airport, equipped with a runway, balloon clouds, baggage claim area (for presents), cockpit (food area), captain chair (for the birthday boy) and a tree-tier airplane cake.  I made airplane sugar cookies for our guests to take on their rides home, which were quite tasty.  It was a success and the day flew bye…

Caston's 2nd bday
Caston’s 2nd Birthday Party with his BUZZ Toy Story cake.

His 2nd birthday “buzzed” in with a Toy Story Party, highlighting Buzz and Woody, Caston’s favorite movie characters.  We took his Toy Story toys and books and used as decorations, plus I purchased a few items.  I made what I like to call my most time consuming birthday cake, a Buzz cake, which probably took me about 3.5 hours to decorate because of all the colors I had to dye for the icing and then decorate.  WARNING: You might think that a pan sheet cake is easy, but I find them to be the most time consuming of all.

The menu included food that followed the Pizza Planet theme from the movie, including Green Alien Punch, Alien Marshmallow Pops, Slinky Dogs, Space Ranger treats, and Rex-o-Chips.  We scattered green army guys around on the tables and played Pin Caston on the Rocket Ship (the rocket from the Toy Story movie).  For the guests I made gift bags with a few Toy Story themed toys and games, crayons and a rocket ship homemade cookie.

Caston's 3rd bday
Caston’s 3rd Pirate Party…Arrgh Matey!

And here we are to his 3rd birthday.  When I asked him what he wanted for his birthday, he asked me for a Pirate Party, as he is currently all about Jack Sparrow and Pirates of the Caribbean.  Which, I really can’t blame him…pirates are pretty cool in my book too.

I found pirate eye patches, swords, and hats online, along with a pirate ship cut out and large pirate to hang.  I grabbed some pirate plates, cups and a banner that said “Arrrgh Matey” at a local party store and was set.

Using Photoshop I made pirate map invitation (I always make my own invites, super cheap and so creative).  For food we served Pirate Dogs (Circle B Ranch Jersey Style Hot Dogs), Ocean Water Punch, Shiver Me Timbers Fruit Kabobs, Cheesy Medallions (Springhill Dairy Cheese Curds), Chips A’hoy (potato chips), and Land Ho Cupcakes.  We had pirate tattoos and Matey Loot (which were the guest gift bags).

Caston loved his party and he scored big on his 3rd birthday with his very own pirate ship from Jack and The Neverland Pirates and Pirate Island set-up.  Can’t wait for Cora’s 1st birthday party this coming summer…already thinking about what to do.

What I’ve learned about children party planning:

1.) Keep it simple!  Simple food, simple decorations and simple games.

2.) Have age appropriate games and activities planned for young ones.  Coloring, Pin the Nose games or even a scavenger hunt.

3.) Make your own cake or cupcakes.  You can take a simple box cake mix and dress it up (I’ve provided those tips below) and folks will never know.  I took the Wilton Cake Decorating Classes 2 years ago and learned so much!  Classes are cheap and fun, plus if you stay-at-home with your kids and are looking at making some extra money, cake decorating is the way to go.  I still do a little on the side myself.

4.) 2 hours is the maximum number of hours for any youngling party.  After that you better be ready for meltdown city and overstimulated kids.  And, we know what happens then…

5.) Go online for decorations or make them yourself.  I make lots of my own decorations, they are cheap and easy.  Plus, there are lots of online printables that put that special touch on your party theme.  Hello Pinterest!

6.) Skip paying the money to have little ones parties at a birthday location.  Parties in your home are much more relaxing for your children and you.

How to Dress-Up A Box Cake Mix
Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Cake Mixes- truly the best cake mix I’ve eaten. My favorite has become the Golden Butter mix. But, I don’t just follow the mix recipe – I add to it. Lots of folks do this…they take a mix and add some things to make it taste homemade, don’t be ashamed, be happy it’s so easy!

Here is how I turn a boxed mix into something delectable!

Add to a boxed mix some of the following:
– 1 cup sour cream
– 1 box instant pudding
– ½ cup chocolate chips
– Butter instead of oil
– Milk instead of water
– Add vanilla flavoring
– Add extra butter flavoring
– Add other extract flavorings (lemon, mint, orange, almond).  Add some spirits to the spice up the flavoring. Rum is always good, but my favorite is Irish cream or amaretto. You will substitute for half of the water called for in the mix. Of coarse you might not do this for a kid’s party….
– Do the same with coffee (strong). Great with chocolate cakes!
– Grate in some citrus peel
CakeBy adding some of the above ingredients you can make a boxed cake mix moist and tasty! You will follow the boxed mix instructions, but replace the water and oil with butter and milk and add extra vanilla flavoring (usually about 1 T.).
Or, you can follow the mix recipe and add instant pudding before you add the liquid ingredients. Next, add the liquid ingredients and mix well. When your mix is mixed well and not powdery add sour cream and beat.
Simple enough, don’t you think?
Here’s a cake I did for my friend’s daughter, Addison, last year.  I took a teddy bear cake pan and made it a penguin.  Only took me two cake tips to decorate it.
Happy party planning and baking for your little wee ones!

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