Sand Pail Birthday Cakes


You may have thought I jumped ship on finishing the Luau party for the kids’ family birthday party.  But here we are, back to it today.  As I mentioned in the last post, we host a family party (our immediate families) for both of the kids’ birthdays.  With birthdays a month apart, it is just easier that way.  Last year, I made the ultra, giant cupcakes and I liked how each kid got to blow out the candles on their own cake.  I think that factor and the cuteness of these cakes is what captured my attention on the sand pails.


The idea comes from Little Cakes from the Whimsical Bakehouse, one of my favorite books for cakes, cupcakes and frosting recipes.  I made their Caramel Cake, Kid’s Buttercream Icing with Dulce de Leche filling.  It was very yummy.  But because I make my cakes a day before the party, this particular recipe tasted dry for the party (bummer!).  I never have any problem with boxed cake mix being dry on day two, which is one of the reasons I like boxed mixes!



But at least the cakes made up for it in looks!  That and the filling and icing were delicious.   The original recipe called for inverting cakes and shaving them to create a slanted bucket side . . . too much work.  A cake has to be easy enough to make so you can enjoy the process.  I deviated from the book’s recipe and constructed the cakes to fit my party needs, capabilities and numbers.


Here is how I did it (2 Sand Pails):


* Bake six 6″ round cakes.  (Yes, six.  It would have helped if I had more than two 6″ pans.)


* Slice off the rounded tops and then slice each cake in half so you have two flat layers.  *Reserve two rounded tops for the top of your buckets.  I use a Cake Slicer with Adjustable Wire and find it to be so helpful in a good cut.  If you’re more experienced, you probably just use a serrated knife.


* Each bucket is divided into two halves and separated by a 6-Inch Cake Circle (piece of cardboard for support and ease of cutting).  Each half contains three layers of the sliced cake.  So when you look at the singular bucket, three layers are above the cake circle and three layers are below.


* I used the Dulce de Leche filling between the layers and as a crumb coat over the entire cake.  (I’ll share that recipe soon.)


* I assembled the cake of six layers (icing in sections as I built up) and added my reserved rounded tops for each dome.  On the top half of the cake, I inserted three straws for support.


* After icing the cake, I added the piping around the rim of the sand pail.


* We pulverized graham crackers to create the sand and used white chocolate for the handle.



Sand pail cakes for a Luau Party bring it back to the fact that this is a party to celebrate children’s birthdays.  Pineapple-coconut smoothies, leis, hibiscus hair clips . . . that could be for an adult party.  But the pails were the element that drew our minds to the young, fun kids we were celebrating.


And what’s great is that you could make these sand pail cakes for a variety of party themes:  beach party, swimming party, surfing party, first/second birthday parties . . . you could even make one to announce to your kids about an upcoming beach vacation.  Give them clues and bring out the sand pail as the last clue.   Then enjoy the cake!


Happy Birthday to my sweet kids!

Related Post:  Our Luau Birthday Celebration (Part One)

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"In TRAINing" Obstacle Course


If you were with us on Monday, I started sharing about my son’s 5th birthday party.  If you missed the first part, be sure to stop here.  Today, we are talking about the awesome obstacle course (yes, I’m biased).


A child’s imagination is a wonderful thing and often under-used for a kids’ party.  Our party theme was trains, something my son loves.  Even yesterday, we were back out at the railroad and my son told me he just wanted to walk the tracks and pretend he was a train.  (I love the innocence and imagination! . . . and don’t worry, these are 1/8 scale ride-able trains and tracks.)


Before the obstacle course began, I gave “the speech” to the crew of five year olds.  In order to ride the train, they would need to become train engineers.  They would be challenged, put to the test and we would see if they were ready.  Can you sense the drama?  If they finished the obstacle course, they would be worthy of becoming train engineers!


It was really fun to see their excitement and their wide-eyed faces as we described each challenge.  We stagger-started the kids, blowing a train whistle each time the next trainee could start.  Thankfully, each task was manned by one of the parents armed with a hole punch.  The kids were given a boarding pass with the name of every obstacle (see above photo) and the parent would punch their pass when it was completed.



The kids had to throw the bean bags (aka coal) into the pipe.



Just like the trains, the kids had to haul freight.

What freight, you may ask.  One of the kid’s 2 year old brother!


This was my son’s favorite.  All they had to do was send three Thomas trains down the tube.


And let me say that this is when saving everything comes in handy.  My husband came home one day after buying pieces of siding for the house.  He told me that he would regret it, but I was going to love what the siding came in.  He was right.  I knew we would do something fun with it.  I mean c’mon, who doesn’t have a 12′ piece of heavy cardboard tubing stored in their garage?



For Brewster’s (Chuggington character) Boulder Pit, the kids had to dig through the newspaper boulders in search of diamonds.  I used my leftover giant diamonds from my daughter’s tea party.



Clarabel is a friend of Thomas the Train.  Her crossing was a fun rope
obstacle set up by my husband.  I love this kind of stuff!



Badge Quest is a phrase from Chuggington.  I made little railroad badges (RR signs) and hid a couple under the cups.  The kids had to search until they found one.  Because I was concerned with the cups blowing away, I stuck skewer halves in the ground to help keep the cups in place.  It kind of worked . . . but it did allow me to stick the badge on the skewer and keep those in place.



The far container had lots of “ball pit” balls.  The kids had to move 10 balls from
one container to the other as fast as they could . . . switching freight.


Koko, another Chuggington trainee, often says, “Can’t catch Koko,” as she quickly chugs off.  The kids had to carry Koko on a spoon between two points.  When I tried this at home, my son had no problem.  But when we got on the uneven ground, the kids struggled.  We let them put one finger on Koko, but if you’re going to try this, I would suggest a larger wooden spoon.


At the end of the obstacle course, each child ceremoniously received an engineer hat
and was told that they were a train engineer!  And with the closing of the course, we headed over to ride the trains.

Before you start thinking I’m crazy for doing all of this, if you are new here, you should know that I used to be a Wedding & Event Planner . . . parties were (and still are) my thing.  You should also know that my husband and I were youth leaders at our church for five years.  We dreamed of obstacle courses, challenges and fun games.

Still more to come!  Check back next week or subscribe by email so you don’t miss a thing!

Related Posts:  
A Chugga Chugga Choo Choo Train Party (part one)
The Train Party (part three)


Birthday Tea Party – The Activities


A key part of any party planning is thinking through the flow of the afternoon or evening.  Are you going to move guests from room to room?  Will you serve different courses all at once or throughout your event?  Do you have games or activities for your guests?


For an adult party or a kids’ party alike, good forethought can make a big difference in the execution and flow of your party.  So now that I’ve built this up completely, today we’re wrapping up our look at my daughter’s Tea Party Birthday Celebration.



I set up the tea party in our basement.  Once all the girls arrived, we made our way downstairs.  The first thing we did was hand out tea hats to the little girls.  We invited seven little girls and their seven baby dolls.  So of course, the dolls needed a hat too.  Enter our first activity.



The girls decorated hats for their dolls.  I had purchased the hats at a craft store, spray painted them, added simple ribbon to decorate the top and also two pieces underneath to tie around the doll’s head.  (See Belle’s head in the top picture.  This was crucial to keeping the hats on the various sized dolls.)  The girls added little gems, pearls and flowers to their hats using a q-tip and tacky glue squirted out on little plates.  For the large gems, I had glue guns available for the moms to help secure the gem to the hat.



After everyone including the dolls had a hat, we moved on to our game.  Sorry, I don’t have any photos for this.  We played a very simple Tea Bag Toss.  I filled sachets with black beans and we pretended they were tea bags.  The girls tossed them into a giant ceramic tea cup and then everyone received a necklace.  And because I wanted the girls to feel like their dolls were guests too, I had a necklace for every doll as well.


After our two activities, it was time for tea.  We sat down for delightful little tea sandwiches and tea desserts.  We sang happy birthday and then opened presents.  I intentionally did our two activities first as not to interrupt sitting down to eat between courses.  I wasn’t so sure we’d get the girls to sit again (especially after all that pink lemonade and sugar cube!).



When it was time to leave, each girl (and yes, her doll) were given a tea cup sippy cup.  So many of the little girls were thrilled that their baby doll received a cup too and it was so much fun to delight them!  

If you missed the first two posts, you can check them out here:
Tea Party Decor
Tea Party Foods

* And I want to send out a BIG thank you to my cousin, who came early to the party and took most of the pictures you’ve seen in this series.

Birthday Tea Party – The Tea Foods

If you have been following along, you know that we hosted a “Bring Your Doll” Birthday Tea Party for Sweet Girl’s 3rd birthday.  You can catch up on the last post here.  Today, we’re taking a look at all the tea sandwiches and tea fancies (desserts).

Tea foods are meant to be small so I opted for three tea sandwiches and three tea desserts.  I’m getting hungry just looking at all these pictures!

It was important for me to have a buffet setting that all the little girls would be able to see.  A regular-sized table wouldn’t do, so I used an old double school-desk and nested my piano bench under it.  Perfect!

The Tea Sandwiches:

There are two important things to know about making tea sandwiches.  First, always work with frozen bread.  When you are using cookie cutters to create different sandwich shapes, you will have less tearing and crushing of the bread by freezing it first.  Only take out what you need at the moment and work in an assembly-line fashion.

Second, lightly butter your bread first.  It will keep it from getting soggy.  So for any of the sandwiches that don’t have a thick spread (ie. peanut butter), layer a thin coat of butter down first.  And move fast, that bread is thawing.

Cream cheese sandwiches – I colored the cream cheese with a little maraschino cherry juice and then topped with half a cherry.

Peanut Butter & Jelly – perfect for a child’s party.  For each of these tea sandwiches, I used one white slice and one wheat slice.

Ham & Cheese Sandwiches – Deli ham, colby jack cheese with a tiny dab of cream cheese between each layer so that it would hold together.  The garnish is cream cheese (piped on) and a sliver of carrot.  Except for the gluten-free sandwich in the center, wheat bread is on top and white on the bottom.
The Tea Fancies:


Little Cupcakes:  Vanilla cupcakes with my favorite Kid’s Buttercream from this cookbook.  The cupcake toppers were made with my Silhouette Cameo.  Boy, I love that thing!


Petit Fours:  These are delectable and sweet treats!  It is a cake covered in sugary icing cut into various shapes.  Thank you to my mom, who made this batch of goodies.


Chocolate Tarts:  Every party has a food that gives you great difficulty, right?  Well if there was ever one, this was it for me.   The chocolate tarts come from this recipe on Brave Tart.  The recipe is in ounces instead of cups or tablespoons.  So the trouble first started when I had to find an online conversion tool for each ingredient (because ratios are different if you’re talking flour or sugar).  Then, there was the making fit into my pans . . . I won’t bore you with any more.  They didn’t come out perfect.  But filled with chocolate pudding and garnished with a raspberry, they were pretty good.

Our “tea” for the day was . . . simply pink lemonade.  And the girls loved it.  They kept asking for more “tea,” but we only let them put a sugar cube in on the first cup.


Tea is so much fun!  Next week, I’ll be sharing about our party activities.

Related Post:  Birthday Tea Party Decor, Birthday Tea Party Activities

(This post contains affiliate links.  Please see my Disclosure Policy on the About page for more information.)

"Bring Your Baby Doll" Birthday Tea Party

Tea parties . . . just the thought causes me to sigh and smile as I wait for the tinkering of china, the entrance of brewed tea in a beautiful tea pot and tea fancies to grace my lips.  Yes, I love tea parties . . . and so does my Sweet Girl.

She regularly enjoys having a tea party at the little table in her bedroom, inviting her babies and stuffed animals as the guests.  My son also joins her, but I think for him, it is more about the vanilla wafers I offer than a heart for tea.

This year’s birthday theme for my daughter’s kid-party quickly became a no-brainer.  We would host a tea party.  But we would invite the baby dolls too.

Let’s start at the beginning.  The invitations.  

I made the tea cup and tea bag invitations using the print and cut feature on my Silhouette Cameo.  I wanted a room filled little dresses so we made sure to tell the guests to wear their best dress.

The Decor


With china and lace being the primary elements, decor was easy.  The tables were filled with dematasse tea cups, tea luncheon plates (which usually fall on the smaller side), dematasse spoons, tea napkins, cream and sugar.  This is an easy theme for me thanks to my mother who used to cater tea parties.  All the china, linens and lace are borrowed from her.

But if you don’t have the one-stop resource, you can borrow china from several different people.  As you may notice, I deliberately did not match the place settings.

Because our guests were all shorter than a yard stick, I intentionally created a buffet table that they would be able see.  I nestled my piano bench into an old (and long) double school desk.  Using photo boxes, I added height and dimension.  (Go here to read more about setting your buffet table like a pro.)

The backdrop to the buffet table is filled with pink and white streamers, pom poms and eyelet lanterns.  I borrowed the white eyelet paper lanterns from a friend and found the Martha Stewart pom pom kit on clearance.  (The deal was too good to pass up.  I would have spent more on the tissue paper alone.)

For the centerpieces, I wanted something pretty, but playful.  I made these cardstock rolled roses with my Silhouette Cameo.  The ivy bowl is filled with styrofoam floral balls . . . which incidentally are super fun for a three year old to play with and a big pain to clean up.

Are you ready for tea?  Later, we’ll take a look at the yummy food and fun activities that engaged the little girls.

Birthday Tea Party Foods
Birthday Tea Party Activities

(This post contains affiliate links.  Please see my disclosure policy on the About Page.)


Table of Prizes – A Birthday Party Game

Check out this fun game for a child’s birthday party.  You can tailor it to fit any age and any group.  It is called, “TABLE OF PRIZES.”  (Did you hear the booming announcer’s voice?)

My cousin has played this game for her kids’ birthday party the last couple years.  But the history goes back further than that.  Her own dad used to run it for many of her childhood parties.  And now the tradition continues!


It is a trivia game where the child who answers quickest and correctly goes up to the TABLE OF PRIZES (did you hear it this time?) and selects a prize.  Depending on the age of group, you could ask questions of nursery rhymes, Disney characters, riddles or anything at all.  This year, my cousin had someone pull names out of a hat and invited three children up at a time for the opportunity to answer the trivia.  The children stayed up front until they answered a question.


In the end, all the children went home with a prize.  It was super fun, although some kids had a tough time selecting which cool prize to take.  It was cute to watch the internal struggle.  My daughter went through a couple things before settling on a little bottle of red nail polish (who knew that kids’ nail polish lasts longer than adult polish).


Hmm, I bet this would be a hoot if you ran this game at an adult’s birthday party too.  Just come up with fun trivia, clever prizes and watch the competitive streaks come out.  I would love it!


Chalkboard Art for Your Next Party

Chalkboards are a great and versatile way to add character and personality to your next party.  When I hosted my father-in-law’s “Drowning in Milk” dessert table, I upcycled a framed picture and painted it with chalkboard paint.  The chalked messaged (not the one above) looked great hanging above the desserts.

So when I came across this post from In My Own Style, I knew I needed to pull out the chalkboard and get it ready for the next party (in this case, paint it yellow).  Diane shares how to draw like an artist on a chalkboard.  I am using her tips for my cousin’s party sign (above) and then also for my kids’ family birthday party later in August.

It is hard for me to come up with anything artistic on my own, but if I can see how something could look, I can recreate it.  For example, seeing how the text should look in various fonts makes it much easier to write it on the chalkboard.

“The Glamour Room” pictured above is my first attempt.  I can’t wait to try something else!

Here is the gorgeous chalkboard art from In My Own Style.  Isn’t it beautiful?

How can you use chalkboard art for your next party?  

Related Posts:
Greeting Your Guests – The Party Approach


A Monkey Cake

With birthday season beginning at my house, I’m taking a quick look back at previous years.

This is the Monkey Cake I made for Sweet Boy’s 1st Birthday.  You can find the instructions here from Martha Stewart.  It was very easy and makes use of your metal bowl for baking the cake – something I love doing to get the dome shape without having to buy another cake pan.  (I also did this for the Ladybug Cake.)

Let the birthdays begin!