Posts Tagged ‘Sweet Tooth’


The theme for Nicki’s first birthday party basically materialized out of thin air the day before her party.

I stated planning this party before she was born. I found these colorful pinwheel cookies on pinterest that looked like something from a book of Seuss. I loved the Seuss growing up, and I figured we would be reading Seuess daily, so I wanted to make Dr. Seuss my pary theme. My imagined first birthday party for Nicole was going to be colorful with a sense of whimsy. I was going to bake those cookies onto a lollipop stick.

But Alas, pinterest failed me. All the Seuss parties inspiration ideas I found were based on “The Cat and the Hat”, or “Green Eggs and Ham”, my two least favorite Seuss books. There was a dearth of other ideas. Adding insult to injury, a few months ago I discovered the Llamma Llama Books, which I loved even more the Seuss. I was quickly becoming disenchanted with the Seuss theme, so I started thinking of the party as Dr. Seuss Inspired, rather than Dr. Seuss Themed.


At first I wasn’t going to do invitations. We invited 4 sets of family members, three which had to fly if they were going to attend so I coordinated the party date with everyone months in advance via email. There is no need for invitations when all pertinent party details had already been shared.

But that’s when I had discovered custom printed balloons. Nicki loves balloons. She spied the birthday balloon Domingo bought for me before I did it, and commandeered it. I had to have custom printed balloons. It was a compulsion. The custom printed balloons were from Balloons Tomorrow and set me back $75. (Splurge #1)


I figured the best way to incorporate the balloons would be on the invitations. Of course this meant I had to design the card to affix the balloon too. The Seuss invitations on pinterest were not my style, and I couldn’t come up with anything, so I decided to go off theme. My first instinct was to do a marbled border for the invitation, but my graphics program didn’t have the right texture. I settled for “smoke” texture but something was still missing. I started playing around with “tubes” and found yellow bubbles against a purple “smoke” background really popped. It’s rare for me to be comfortable pairing multiple colors. Normally I pick one hue and vary the shades. Since the yellow bubbles seem to fit so well, and Nicki loves bubbles as well as balloons, it just seemed meant to be. I used the left over card stock to print my invitations. (I am totally getting my money’s worth out of that card stock!)

Picture of the invitation coming. I apparently forgot to take one.


One of my favorite Dr. Seuss books is The Lorax, so I loved the idea of creating an enchanted forest. Once again I turned to balloons. The idea was to create a “balloon forest”. Domingo would later refer to it as a “balloon fog”, since it was toddler height at 2.5 feet tall per “tree”.



We used up all three large tanks of helium, but only 100 of the 300 balloons I ordered. There were 16 balloon trees, each tree was tied to an organza bag filled with marbles. I triple tied the bags since marbles are chocking hazards. Truth be told, so are balloons. I wasn’t too worried, Nicki was the only one there under 25 and there were always multiple pairs of eyes on the birthday girl.

The final cost for the balloon forest was $198 after a 20% off coupon. (Splurge #2) I do feel a touch guilty about this purchase being so over-the-top, but Nicki loved the balloons and I could not find cheaper helium. And really, how often does your baby turn 1? Judge away if you must.

Of course the balloon forest would never work in our home, so we needed to find a venue. (That sounds so fancy, doesn’t it? The “Venue” was just the club house at our complex. The cost to rent it was just $35, and we were responsible for cleaning it afterwards.) I don’t think I can count the venue as a splurge. We had 9 adults and Nicki attending the party, and it would have been a tight fit in our living room, even without all those balloons.’

The “Venue”

Putting the extra balloons to good use.

It just so happened I had snapped a monthly photo for Nicki lying on different colored sheets. I had intended to them to make a Happy Birthday Banner, but the venue didn’t have a convenient place to hang a banner. All the windows were too narrow, and the only bare wall was the brick fireplace. I ended up taping her monthly photos to the windows.

I admit this is totally neurotic of me, but I didn’t want rectangular photos. Where’s the whimsy in that? I settled on circles because they’re relatively easy to cut out and different enough. My originally plan was too have numbers printed out on card stock and overlapped on top of the photos, but they ended up being ridiculously hard to cut out neatly, so I cut them out as a circles as well.

Sample age bubbles for 10 and 11 months.


I never made the pinwheel cookies. Truth be told I forgot about them, which is probably a good thing because we had (Splurge #3)

For the adults we standard party snack fair for us – one cheese, one fruit and one veggie platter. Before Nicki was born I built a bit of a reputation as a dessert guru in the family even though I mostly do easy stuff. I haven’t had the chance to really bake since then, so I over indulged my inner domestic diva wannabe. We had ice cream cone cupcakes, rise krispie and fruity pebbles treats, and multicolored chocolate cake balls.



My sister and mom ended up making the cake balls. Yummy.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a first birthday party without a smash cake. I wanted a smaller cake (we had already done a smash cake) so I purchased a $8 4-inch cake pan off Amazon. I decided to use this number idea. (Since the softer, albeit bigger sprinkles were not a problem on our previous smash cake, I felt safe trying these smaller ones.) Unfortunately I must have forgot to grease the pan and the top of the cake popped off when trying to remove it from said pan. I was so annoyed at myself. At that point I had made 4 cakes (the vanilla ice cream cakes, 2 chocolate cakes for the cake balls, and the ruined smash cake) for a party serving just 10 guests. My mom convinced me to use icing to glue the two pieces of the cake back together and move on. Trouble was, I could no longer level off the top. The cake was just too fragile. I was forced to keep the doom shape.


After icing it I realized it looked like a giant (4-inch) round bubble. That’s when it dawned on me that the invitations had bubbles, and the monthly photos were round like bubbles. I had a theme to her party after all!

Total cost of the party: $316 (plus the cost of food, which I forgot to keep the receipts)

The Birthday Girl Loved It

Catch me if you can!

I’m surrounded!

Inspecting the tree tops.


Yup, Good Party.

I totally failed in my momtographer duties. I did a good job with the still objects, but photographing a one year old in a balloon forest is like trying to capture photographic evidence of big foot. I had so many blurry, obscured photos, it’s ridiculous. I have a photo where the only thing you see of Nicole is her hair ribbon, and another where you can tell she’s smiling but the top half of her face is obscured by balloons. Every single photo has at least some motion blur. This was the best I was able to capture. Daddy did much better with the video camera. Next time higher ISO. Much higher ISO.

It’s been a long couple of weeks. Multiple days working past midnight, graduation requirements stress, etc. So I decided to decompress by making cookies and cream fudge.


I really like the recipe on the back of the marshmallow cream jar. In my experience it’s super easy, makes the best traditional fudge, and is the easiest to modify for fun flavors. Want peanut butter fudge? Substitute 12 oz of peanut butter chips for chocolate. Mint Cream? White chips, and add a teaspoon of mint extract. Orange cream (my favorite!)? White chips and add a tablespoon of orange extract.

For these I substituted white chocolate, and added an extra half teaspoon (for 1.5 total) of vanilla when making the fudge. I used my mortar and pestle to grind up an entire package of Oreos to sprinkle on top. Easy Peasy. Well, except for grinding up the Oreos. Next time I’m using slightly stale, and softer, Oresos.

I lost my candy thermometer a few years ago, and never bothered to get another. Instead, I stir the mixture on medium high/high heat until it starts to boil, then down to medium/medium low for 5 minutes. That works just fine. I’ve also substituted reduce fat butter for full fat butter and seen no ill effects.

It’s October and time to break out the pumpkin! Pumpkin cupcakes that is. I found the recipe for pumpkin cupcakes online a few years ago. I think I may have changed the recipe slightly. The cake batter recipe was my own idea. I wanted an icing that had a doughy kind of taste (like the crust of a pie) but a little sweeter. It’s not a very exciting recipe, but it is the first one I came up with on my own. The idea to decorate the cupcakes to look like little pies came from the book Hello, Cupcake!.

Pumpkin Cupcakes


  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup milk

In a medium sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg into a bowl.

In large bowl cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat eggs until frothy, combine with butter & sugar.

Blend in mashed pumpkin. Alternate between stirring in the dry ingredients and the milk, blending until batter is smooth.

I fill the cupcake tray 1/2 full instead of 2/3rds so I don’t get the cupcake top, and the cupcake is more pie shaped. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes.


The secret to the cake batter taste is a touch of anise. I add 1 teaspoon of butter extract and 1/4th teaspoon of anise extract. Anise has a licorice like flavor, so add very little to not overpower the vanilla and butter. The butter extract gives it that nice buttery taste (like dough). I used like half a drop of red food coloring, and 3ish drops of yellow to give it a batter-like color.


  • 1 cup butter
  • 3 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon butter extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon anise extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Beat butter on medium speed until creamy. Add sugar slowly, mixing it in with the butter. Add extracts, salt and milk. If your frosting is too thick for your tastes, add a touch more milk. If your frosting is too thin, add more sugar.

To get half a drop of red icing, I typically insert a toothpick into the food coloring container, and then wipe said toothpick on the icing to transfer a tiny amount of food coloring.

April 30, 2011

Low(er) Sugar Cake Pops

I noticed a bump in traffic to my blog the past few weeks with a few visitors from Google looking for “Sugar Free Cake pops” and “Diabetic Friendly Cake Pops”. I had previously mentioned that you could use sugar free cake mixes and icing to reduce the sugar, so I thought I would give it a try and see how well they turn out. My only hesitation is that the icing uses Splenda instead of sugar. While I believe Splenda is better for you than some of the other options, any large quantity of artificial sweetener is probably not good. I thought I’d take the opportunity to try a low sugar frosting recipie.

I started with this absolutely sugar free recipe, and substituted whipping cream for heavy whipping cream. The down side is pudding mix contains aspartame. I figure (and I admit I have no real knowledge) that this recipe probably has a smaller amount of artificial sweetener from the sugar free frosting made with Splenda because pudding doesn’t tend to be as sweet as icing. Therefore, one could get away with less. At least in theory.

To make this frosting, mix the pudding mix into the following liquids, and whip for about 5 minutes minutes until creamy.

  • 1.5 ozs sugar-free instant pudding mix
  • 3/4 cup skim milk
  • 2 1/4 cups whipping cream

The heavy whipping cream has a lot of fat, especially saturated fat. Given that candy melts are also very high in saturated fat, I decided to go with the regular whipping cream (heavy whipping cream has no sugar, regular has a very small amount). The trade off is the consistency’s not great for icing a cake – but we’re making cake pops so it doesn’t need to be! I probably used a little over half of the icing I made.

The pops were yummy as always. The sugar in the pops are mainly good sugars (from milk) which have a low glycemic index.

Calorie Count (Approximately): 61.7
2.8 Calories from the Pudding
43 Calories from the Cake Mix
0.6 Calories from the Skim Milk
15.3 Calories from the Whipping Cream

Sugar Count (Approximately): 0.4 Grams
0 grams from the Pudding
0 grams from the Cake Mix
0.1 grams from the Skim Milk
0.3 grams from the Whipping Cream

Fat Count (Approximately): 2.4 Grams (1.3 Saturated)
0 grams from the Pudding
0.8 grams from the Cake Mix (0.3 Gran Saturated Fat)
0 grams from the Skim Milk
1.6 grams fat from the Whipping Cream (1 Gram Saturated Fat)

The calories/fat/sugar count of a “regular” cake pop vary by the type of cake and icing you use. I pulled a random box of cake mix at the grocery store to get an estimate of about 83 Calories, 7.2 grams of sugar and 3.8 grams of fat. My goal for low sugar also cut my fat count by a third. The big problem is the candy melts (which I didn’t include in the totals). Wow are they bad for you. They double the fat and calorie count, and add another 6 grams of sugar. Worse still, the fat is almost all saturated fat! I’m also not a huge fan of the taste, so I have plenty of motivation to find an alternative.

April 10, 2011

First Cake Pops

Cake pops were a lot of fun, and surprisingly easy! I don’t have a recipe so much, as a set of directions.

  1. Start with your favorite cake, crumble it up into little pieces
  2. Mix in your favorite frosting until you can shape the cake and it stays together
  3. Roll the cake mixture into balls, inserting a lollipop stick. (Dipping the stick in chocolate before inserting into the lollipop can help it stick better.)
  4. Refrigerate or put them into the freezer for the cake to firm up
  5. Dip in melted candy melts to coat.

I had a slight problem with the lollipop sticks popping out of the cupcake bite, so I ended up dripping some melted candy melts around the base of the ball and the lollipop stick to glue it together. If you do this, make sure you refrigerator them again! I had a problem where the cake ball ripped by the candy melts on two of my pops.

There are lots of awesome decoration ideas. I’m sure cake pops will become a staple in my baking repertoire.

Oh, one more thing that’s awesome: If you don’t mind making cakes from a box, you can actually make this extremely low sugar. There are some sugar free cake mixes (using sugar alcohol, which is the sugar substitute used for diabetic friendly foods), and sugar free icings (using Splenda).

All I can say is YUM!

To make the sweet vinaigrette dressing combine (wisk)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
(Recipe from

Drizzle over freshly cut strawberries & spinach for a wonderful spring time treat. I used an egg slicer to slice my strawberries. If you do that, don’t cut out the white core of the strawberry before slicing. The remaining berry looses all structural integrity and turns into strawberry puree.