Cake and Cookies
Cookie cutters from Williams-Sonoma made icing 3 dozen Elmo sugar cookies manageable because at least Elmo’s facial features are outlined for you. I don’t exactly know if I would have dared attempt them with another set of cookie cutters, though, certainly, braver souls have done so. Fortunately, I was able to snag a box of cookie cutters on clearance at Williams-Sonoma. You may be able to still find them at original or mark-up price on eBay, as well as knock-offs. Sadly, I expect they will not be available at Williams-Sonoma now, as the store associate informed me that the reason they go on clearance is not for lack of sales, but that the store’s licensing agreement lasts for only so long, and once the licensing agreement expires, they have to pull the items from sale immediately, without waiting until they sell-off its remaining stock. This task was nevertheless so time consuming! Sure, this was the first time I had iced dozens of cookies in one sitting, so perhaps there is a better way to organize all of the steps entailed in icing a cookie with 4 necessary icing colors: red, orange, black and white, so it doesn’t take the 3-4 hours for me that it did.
As for the Elmo face cake, this guy looks alright in photos and for my friends who came who have very generous opinions of my abilities, it tasted alright too. However, Wilton character cake pans seem to me to be pretty finicky, especially since the shaped pans (and only these, not Wilton’s line) are made from thinnish aluminum. Following the baking instructions in the cake pan insert, at the appointed time, and then 10, then 20, then 25 minutes after that, the center was still very underbaked. But then by leaving it in the oven for so much longer, the sides of the cake were overdone, making it a bit crunchy. Tastewise, still good, but who wants to eat a not-purposefully crunchy cake? This was a frustrating endeavor that I wish had turned out better.
Lesson learned: Make a test cake in advance, not the night before. Short of that, reduce the temperature called for in the recipe by at least 25 degrees and lengthen the time. Check the Cake Central discussion boards for more on the topic. The red velvet cake recipe from bakerella yielded exquisitely moist and delicious cake on my non-Elmo occasions.
Tip #3: Wilton’s instructions call for a star tip to ice Elmo and create his fur. I found that, at least in my view, a more realistic red furry monster face could be made with a leaf tip #352 using it at its “incorrect” angle to create, not wide leaves, but short skinny strips of fur that tapered off. I tried the grass or hair tip #233, but my cream cheese icing kept getting clogged in it and the smallness of the strands didn’t suit a big face cake. Cupcakes are a different calculus, and would work, I think.
In the last week or so of my steady progress at Elmo crafting, I still wanted to do something that would give the party a little oomph. Having already re-created the Sesame Street sign with my daughter’s name on Adobe Illustrator, ready to print on paper, I decided to try my hand at making a custom Sesame Street lamp post, but way, way simpler and involving zero carpentry skills. This is where the not-for-profit treasure trove and (possibly) hoarders’ delight of SCRAP came in, where I found a variety of materials to complete my projects, all for a few dollars. This sign was meant to be made when my eyes fell upon an unfinished dowel already on a wooden base in SCRAP’s deep and plentiful warehouse. I have no idea what its original use was, but it was definitely going to spiffed up for the party.
Tip #4: If you are considering making your own lamp post, instead of a styrofoam ball, increase the realism by topping your post with a white glass christmas tree ball, or a clear one that has been painted white.
Elmo, Cookie Monster and Big Bird hanging tissue poms, made from tissue pom kits from on of the local Daiso Japan stores in the area, with tissue paper already pre-folded accordian-style, and facial features printed on letter-size cardstock
Festive tablecloth. Seriously, I was so energized by the suite of projects I had set up for myself that, though I had a plastic Sesame Street-bordered tablecover from Party City, I sewed even the tablecloth for the buffet table using a sturdy cotton decorator fabric in polka dots and primary colors to lay out instead.
Luckily, there were only 12 children attending the party, so this sewing project to make drawstring backpacks fit for toddlers with Sesame Street cotton prints was manageable and, after a good amount of time spent learning to make just one, the other 11 more or less lined themselves up in almost assembly-line order, and I was able to finish them in one weekend day plus an evening or two.
The goodies in each bag included a Sesame Street coloring book (found variously at Dollar Tree, Target’s Dollar Spot, and Joann), an 8-pack of Crayola crayons, a sheet of stickers (which otherwise come in packs of 4 from Dollar Tree), and an extra Elmo iced sugar cookie.
Each knapsack was personalized with the guests’ names on their own Street signs, printed 4 to a page on full size sticker sheets (like the ones used to create shipping labels) and individually cut out. The bags turned out great and are infinitely reusable!
As a mom, my FTW! moment was completing the street sign lamp post table decoration, having my daughter come upon it, and seeing her look all around this object in apparent appreciation, while she quietly whispered, “Thank you, momma, thank you.” All this for a two-year old’s birthday? For this two-year old? Worth it.