Saturday, December 21, 2019

Cakes and Cards! (2019)

We don't start doing holiday-specific things until all the kids' birthdays are over. From mid-November through mid-December, life is a lot of cakes. Then we immediately switch to cards. I ask my kids every year if they really want to crank out a hundred homemade cards again, or if we can just take a picture or skip it. They always want to make cards.

Lots of creativity and construction in our house! Here's the recap of how all of it went. (And no, we haven't dug out of all the mess yet, but at least our tree is up before Christmas.)

First cake of the season was for Quinn just before Thanksgiving. He didn't want a party with friends, but liked the idea of doing something new with the family, so we took him axe throwing. That was a blast. There is a great place a few blocks from our house where they have bouncy houses for all ages, air hockey, pinball, laser tag, and axe throwing. Made for a great day! But there wasn't much of a theme to build a cake around, and Quinn didn't want an axe cake. He just wanted to be surprised, and insisted he'd like whatever I made.

What does the kid like? Cereal. So I went the easy route and simply decorated his cake with cereal.

Ian was nice enough to separate out all the generic brand Fruit Loops by color for me, and we stayed up late and watched TV while I put cereal all over the cake. (My impulse was to mix up all the colors because that would look pretty to me, but Quinn likes order and patterns, so I decided concentric rings in rainbow order was the way to go. Random fact: blue was the rarest of the colors to sort out, and orange is in abundance. Additional random fact: all fruit loops taste the same, regardless of color, and despite what your mind wants you to believe.)

Quinn was surprised and super happy with his cake. (Which was chocolate inside, by the way. He always wants chocolate inside.)

Next up! Mona's cake. She turned 16 this year, and didn't want a friend party either, but did decide it would be fun to go glow bowling out in The Dells with family, so we made a day of it at the end of Thanksgiving weekend along with her uncle and cousin.

Mona did know what she wanted her cake to look like, but told me if it was too hard I didn't have to do it. I like a challenge, however, so it took three tries, but I did it!

Behold the Piñata cake!

We watch a lot of "Nailed It" on Netflix, and on the Mexican version they made little piñata cakes, so I thought I knew what to do. But no. I tried valiantly to make it all out of cake, but no matter how short I made the legs or how many skewers I used to try and support them, those cakes simply collapsed.

I wound up making the legs out of the cake box cut in half, and sculpting the head and ears out of rice crispy treats. Even then, frosting the cake took so much time that I had to take a break and put the cake in the freezer for a while so the ears would stay up.


Piping all that frosting on took forever and really wore out my hands, but it was worth it. Because look how cute it came out!

Mona whooped when she saw it, and she laughed, and then she cried, and then she took a million pictures. Totally worth all the work. Plus, when we cut into it, it was full of candy. I hope I never have to make a piñata cake again, but if I do, I will know how to make it work.


Here is my one genius tip I can share that I figured out while doing the piñata cake: If you need to switch colors of frosting in the piping bags, but still need the same tip over and over? Put the tip in its own bag and switch out the bags full of colored frosting into that one. Professionals probably have multiples of the same tips, but I don't, so when I realized I could just put a bag inside another bag and go from color to color easily, I was rather proud of myself.

The last cake was Aden's, which she made again herself for the annual "Food for Thought" fundraiser for the Hunger Task Force at her school. She won first place the last three years (her freshman year for her dragon/geode cake, next for her candy sushi plate, and last year for her working chess set). And while looking for links I realized I never posted about her chess board cake, so here's a peek at last year's cake, with pieces all made from modeling chocolate:

We joked this year she should simply make a cake in the shape of a first place trophy. As funny an idea as that was, Aden is too modest for that, so she went with a sandcastle.


Aden's sandcastle cake utilized most of my failed piñata cake attempts. (Lest anyone think we were being wasteful!) She kneaded together the crumbled cake with icing the way you do when making cake pops, and sculpted the outer structure of her sandcastle. There were failed attempts to build tall towers using the rice crispy treats that weren't sound enough to survive being transported to her school before she settled on the lower design. The center of the cake was regular cake. The turrets were made of ice cream cones. Everything was covered with icing, then coated with graham cracker crumbs. Aden made her own modeling chocolate to create all the shells and pearls. (She wanted company when she stayed up late the last night to finish it all, so she let me paint all her little shells with food coloring.)

The sandcastle cake was heavy, as well as spectacular. And yes, she won first place again. She even got an extra award for having participated in the fundraiser all four years of her time in high school. (Personally, I think having four amazingly decorated cakes are a cool addition to her portfolio for college.)



With cakes finally finished, we set in on holiday cards.

I had a thought to make some simple trees out of pretty paper and leave it at that. We make so many, I find it easier if they are basic and identical. But my kids made all of them this year, and the three of them kept switching places in the assembly line (mostly because when Mona gets slap-happy the cards get weird and the other two object, although personally I like the weird). So all the cards are really different from each other this year. And several ended up being assembled upside-down, so if you're someone on our list who gets one of those, it's not some kind of "holiday in crisis" message like an upside-down flag. It's They may be 18, 16, and 13 now, but definitely still kids.

Here is a sampling of how some of these cards came out:

It's been a busy birthday/holiday season. Lots of concerts and recitals, lots of people coming and going. One of the best parts of performing at this time of year, is we usually get to do it in some pretty beautiful venues. I never take that for granted.

We even got a new mirror ball for the living room as our family present this year. (Yes, we have a mirror ball year round in our living room.) The old mirror ball's motor died, so we upgraded to a bigger ball. Too big a one, actually, since my brain didn't fully comprehend what going from an 8-inch diameter ball to a 16-inch ball really meant. We also ordered a separate motor with a super handy remote control, but it was REALLY fast (30-something revolutions a minute), so we returned both the giant ball and the fast motor for a more reasonable sized ball (12 inches), and a nice slow motor (about 4 rmp).

So it's been a season full of lights and music and laughter and family, and I don't know what more anyone could want. Well, better health for a few of us. We are hoping for everyone feeling fine in the new year. Beyond that? We're great. Hope you are, too.

Happy Everything, and we'll catch up again in 2020.