Yesterday, I shared some photos from Josiah’s Very Hungry Caterpillar Birthday Party. Today, I thought I’d share a few tips and tricks for how we pulled it off.
It was important to me that the time I spent preparing for Josiah’s birthday party be quality time with him. Otherwise it just wasn’t worth it. I’ll admit his attention span never lasted a full project…but we stretched them out throughout the entire week before the party, and I think he had fun.
The invitations were our first task. We printed off the “who, what, when, where, and why’s” four to a page of plain white printer paper. Then we used finger paint to add a caterpillar to each one. We used the same fingerpainting method to spruce up some plain dollar tree paper plates.
I blew up some images to stick to the wall…
When it came to the menu for our Caterpillar Feast, the pickles, swiss cheese, and salami were pretty simple and self-explanatory. We added crackers, because my little man loves making cracker sandwiches.
The watermelon was also pretty self-explanatory, but not as easy to find. And I am not going to tell you how much we paid for half of an off-season watermelon.
In lieu of full-sized sausages, we used little smokies. My favorite little smoky sauce is made from one part ketchup to one part grape jelly. But lately have been using my mom’s home-made pepper jelly instead of the grape stuff. We like the zing and it is still very sweet.
The rest of the menu required more prep-work.
We made the lollipops a few days ahead of time. They were made of marshmallow fondant.
To make marshmallow fondant, you simple melt a bag of marshmallows in the microwave with a few tablespoons of water. It takes about a minute total to melt them, but it should be done in 15 second intervals. When they are melted, stir in powdered sugar until it gets too hard to stir, then knead in more powdered sugar until is soft but no longer sticky…you might be surprised by how much powdered sugar those marshmallows can soak up.
To make the lollipops, we mixed blue food coloring into half the fondant and yellow into the other half. We rolled both out on a powdered sugared surface. I lightly wet the top of the blue to make it tacky, and then put the yellow fondant on top. Again, I wet it slightly to make it tacky and then rolled it into a log. Then I let it sit a while…but I turned it over a few times so it would not settle and get flat on one side. Then I just sliced them up with a sharp bread knife. To insert the sticks, I poked a little start hole in the side with a knife and then gently twisted and pushed the lollipop stick all the way through.
At this point, they were all dusty with powdered sugar….but the color popped out very nicely when Josiah painted them with water.
Just be careful not to get the sticks too wet, they are made of paper and will get all wonky shaped when they get wet. Not that I know from experience or anything 😉
To stand them up for display, Daddy drilled a bunch of holes in a piece of scrap wood.
The next project was the ice cream cones. Of course real ice cream cones were an option….but a messy one…and not conducive to setting out for a feast.
When I was a kid, my mom baked cake in ice cream cones…but she always used cake cones so that they would stand up in the oven, and the one the Caterpillar ate through was clearly a sugar cone. I was planning to make a caterpillar out of cake pops like the ones Bakerella makes, and decided I could also use cake pops for the cones. You can find all the details about making cake pops on this blog or in this book…Basically, it is crumbled cake and frosting mixed together and rolled into balls. Crumbling the cake was one of Josiah’s favorite things to help with.
Instead of dipping the cake balls in candy coating and putting them on a stick, though, I put them on an ice cream cones, and frosted them with buttercream frosting. They were a HUGE hit…easily the most popular treat on the table. (I did also make a caterpillar as planned…but he didn’t really work out…did you know that you can’t add food coloring to almond bark? I do now.)
I stood the cones up in some jalepeno popper holders.
Next came the chocolate cake. While any chocolate cake would probably do, we went with Grammy Sammy’s “Buttermilk Brownies” (variations of which I am sure you can find around the internet…) I added marshmallows when they were just about done baking and let them get all nice and toasty before pouring the frosting on (imitating the caterpillar’s chocolate cake which had a creamy toasted marshmallow colored layer).
It really didn’t look much like the chocolate cake in the book, but it was gooey chocolatey goodness…which made most of the mommies happy!
Josiah chose funfetti for the cupcakes.
I am pretty sure the caterpillar’s cupcake was un-frosted. But that just wouldn’t work for me…I am pretty sure cupcakes were designed to hold frosting. I decided to try a recipe I discovered on pinterest: Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting. I almost gave up on it after I burnt not one but two batches of caramel. But the third time around I watched that sugar like a hawk, and was quite pleased with the result!! If if weren’t for the fact that I am trying to kick this baby weight, I would make it again in a heartbeat…but this time I’d make the cupcakes pumpkin!
The caterpillar also ate through a piece of cherry pie. But with the lollipops, ice cream cones, brownies, and cupcakes; I figured the last thing we needed was yet another dessert. So I made half the cupcakes into mini cherry pies.
I saw some of these at the fair last year made by some talented 4-Hers. I used red decorating sugar crystals for the cherries (but you could also use red M&Ms or red hots) and piped frosting for the weave of the “crust.”
I didn’t have a cupcake stand…so I made one with some things I had on hand. This is what it looked like the night before the party:
And here is what it looked like at the party:
I didn’t want a sugar-rush to be the only thing the kids left with, though…and I wanted to encourage an activity other than eating. SO, the party favors were beaded caterpillars for each kid to make and take. I knotted a large red bead onto a pre-cut length of cord (10-12 inches) and glued a couple of eyes to it as the beginning of each caterpillar.
If you throw a Very Hungry Caterpillar Party of your own, leave a comment with your own tips, tricks, or ideas…
I’m linking up to these fun blog parties: