June 17, 2011

Our little guy is six!

Remember when you were young and really looked forward to your birthday?  That's how it should be for all of us, every single year.  Children's birthdays are so exciting - it's all about celebration and what a special day it is for the child.  Getting older is actually a good thing for them! 
I love my Jalen (aka, "our little guy") so much.  He just turned 6 and it was such a joy to watch his little face light up when everyone sang "happy birthday" to him.  That's my favorite part of a child's birthday party.  That moment when everyone stops and sings for the birthday boy or girl and it's all about the child for that moment.  I've been known to stop the song midway and demand everyone sing louder...happily, this year's crowd was quite rousing and didn't require that.

We had a bowling party to celebrate - so much fun!  For the all-important birthday cake, he passed up on anything I offered to make (I thought I could handle some cupcakes) and preferred a commercial "hot wheels" cake.  He's been feverish about cars since he was an infant and has picked a car-related cake in the last 3 years where he's been old enough to choose for himself.  This cake was bright and colorful (healthy, it is not), a whole lot better-looking than anything I could attempt!  I may make  a lot of sweets and desserts but fanciful cake decorating is definitely out of my realm.  The cake had 2 layers, plain/vanilla and chocolate, with chocolate pudding in the center.  I knew I'd get in trouble for that plain layer and sure enough, I got an ear-full from the now 6-year old.  I had to explain to him that there are kids and people in this world who do not like chocolate.  I think he was taken aback by this but accepted it.
Not to be totally outdone, I made some sugar cookies for the party.  I also made that little ice cream "cake" you see at the beginning of this post for the occasion and we enjoyed it a bit more quietly on our own on his actual birthday after the festivities with friends and family.  Well, I should say I assembled an ice cream cake since I didn't make the ice cream myself.  I put together this ice cream cake using chocolate and mint chocolate chip ice cream, two of our little guy's favorite flavors.  The cake may be a bit homely looking but it was made with lots of love. 
In addition to having this cake on the actual big day, he chose to go to "Legal Sea Foods" for dinner so he could have eat...their hot dog!  He loves their hot dog...I think it's the buttery bun he falls for.  It's ironic, I know, but it's his day and he can do what he likes (within reason).

A big thank you to all the family and friends who celebrated with us!  It's amazing how quickly times flies and it just seems to quicken even more with kids in the picture.  I guess in some ways, birthdays are a reminder to stop, celebrate, and appreciate what you have.

Behind the scenes:

No matter how easy a child's birthday party sounds in theory, there are always a slew of unavoidable details.  Looking back, it doesn't seems like much but at the moment of preparation, it feels a lot worse. 

For instance, baking and decorating the little sugar cookies took hours the day before the party.  I really wanted to do something and I thought some cookies in the shape of the birthday boy's initial and birthday cake and a few other shapes would be cute.  And this reminds me...did I ever mention that  in this same spirit of wanting to make something homemade and "special" for my wedding years ago, we handmade heart-shaped sugar cookies for our wedding favors?  Let me just say that baking and decorating dozens of cookies from scratch with your almost-husband a couple of nights before the wedding is not a great idea.  I don't know what I was thinking!

I used the same go-to sugar cookie recipe that I talked about for Easter.  The hot weather didn't help with rolling out the cookie dough and for the sake of time, I just popped them into the oven without bothering to freeze them first so they'd hold their shape more neatly.  I didn't think the children would notice.  I tried to keep the decoration simple, using some sprinkles and sanding sugar but did make a batch of icing.  I used only 2 colors: green, the birthday boy's favorite color, and red because I wanted to color the candle's "flame".  And did I mention that the flame tip of the cookie would break off almost every time I'd try to remove it from the cookie cutter so I'd have to mend it.  This time around, I placed the icing into little plastic squeeze bottles; this made the process a bit easier.

I think I've already established that decorating is not my forte but happily, the cookies were a hit with the children.  I think I got them all on a big sugar-rush before the bowling even began!  They were ready to party!

As for the ice cream "cake" I assembled, that was relatively easy though messy at times and there were definitely a few tricky moments given ice cream's unfortunate tendency to melt!  Quite clearly, I am your humble amateur baker and amateur ice cream cake assembler as well.  But though the cake may not be the neatest looking thing in the world, it was made with love and the best of intentions. 

I used a standard loaf pan for the ice cream cake to get more height but you could certainly use a round pan for a more traditional cake look.  I sprayed the loaf pan with some oil and lined it with a big piece of plastic wrap, with enough of a overhang to fully cover the top.  Then simply put your ice cream into the refrigerator to soften up.  Scoop and spread a layer of chocolate, then a layer of mint chocolate chip, and another layer of chocolate ice cream, freezing after each layer about 15 minutes each.  Smooth the top and cover with plastic wrap and freeze overnight (or at least 4-5 hours).

Once the ice cream cake has hardened (I recommend overnight), take it out of the freezer to unmold.  You might need to sit the pan in some warm water for about 5 seconds and then it should flip right out.  But warning, the bottom layer will likely be melting and you'll need to pop it back in the freezer for about 15 minutes.  To try and jazz it up a little, I melted some semi-sweet chocolate to spread over the top.  It didn't spread as easily as I envisioned since the chocolate pretty much hardened on contact with the ice cream so I just did the best I could.  Add a little sprinkling of sprinkles to brighten it up and I think it's ready for the birthday boy. 
When I was making this "cake", the chocolate ice cream was melting faster than the mint chip so the chocolate ice cream took over and smeared across the sides of the cake, hiding most of the mint chip on the outside.  I think the center is a lot better looking.  As I mentioned, the melting ice cream was an issue.  I had a puddle of chocolate ice cream on the plate within a few minutes of unmolding it and applying the chocolate on top so it's important to put the finished cake back in the freezer again to harden.  I did that overnight. 
Don't skip the chocolate coating on top.  It's the best part!
Lastly, if you're looking to make something like this and don't want to go through the plastic wrap and multi-layering, you could buy a rectangular shape carton of ice-cream and cut out/remove the carton.  Then, set it on a platter, add some melted chocolate, and decorate however you like to achieve a similar result.  I saw that in a magazine recently and that was the inspiration behind this little project.

I'm happy to report that the birthday boy had a lovely birthday.  It's been a lot of fun.  Feels like we've been celebrating for weeks but it's officially a wrap...until next year!

Happy Birthday, Jalen!  May your life be sweet...


  1. my gosh, that all looks so delicious! those cookies- yum!
    and that ice cream cake i'm totally trying for charlie's party!
    what a sweet mama you are!

  2. Thank you, Jaime! I'm sure Charlie will have an awesome birthday! I hope you do make the ice-cream cake. : ) You might have a favorite brand of ice cream but just so you know, I had luck with Breyers. It's the mint chip in the middle and that layer spread much easier than the chocolate that was not Breyers...



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