Our MOPs group topic this month was birthday parties and I was trying to think of something creative and fun to do...and I couldn't help but bust out my cupcake pan. Cupcakes are so fun, I don't know why kids' birthdays are the only time I can enjoy them without feeling guilty. If you think about it, they are portion control, right? Works for me.
I've created some pretty fun cakes and cupcakes for my kids, but I wanted to do some experimentation with new ideas...so I made two from my repertoire and two new and fun ideas: a pirate, a ladybug, princess, and lion themed cupcakes. All very easy, only the princess cakes used fondant. The rest were frosted with butter cream and embellished with candies and that fabulous "Cookie Frosting" made by CakeMate. I like that it dries quickly and once they are decorated there's no worry about colors or designs getting distorted, melted, or squished in any way. (Though I"m guessing the secret formula in those tubes is not all natural.)
Decorating cupcakes is a wonderful activity during a birthday party or celebration, as it takes some amount of concentration, seated time, and very little effort for the party planner! I would only suggest that the top coat of frosting and any fondant be made ahead of time. (Fondant is easier for kids to decorate if it has hardened.) Just have tubes of frosting or individual dishes of frosting for kids to use as the "glue." Kids are very creative and will make their own little masterpieces.These can easily be made into cakes using a round cake pan, just substitute larger cookie or candy pieces (ie chocolate covered Oreo vice Junior Mint, regular sized chocolate chip for eyes, etc.) You can also use brownie mix when making cupcakes. It's not as crumbly for kids to eat, which is good for them AND whoever is cleaning up after the party. One other note, for toddler parties, I highly recommend making cupcakes in the mini muffin pans. You can buy lollipop sticks at Michael's and stand them in some craft foam for a cute effect. Most kids really only want a bite or two (or just the frosting) and most every kid likes eating food off a stick!
Here's a quick and easy set of notes to recreate the cupcakes:
Lion: Frost with "golden yellow" Gel color. While frosting is wet, coat edges with shaved chocolate (I used dark.) Cut mini-Nilla cookies in half with a butcher knife and press into the cupcakes to create the ears. The eyes are created by dipping mini-chocolate chips into white frosting upside down and pressing into the cupcake...dip just enough so the "whites of the eyes" can be seen. It creates a more dramatic effect than with chocolate chip alone. The nose, mouth, and eyebrows were drawn with CakeMate's "Chocolate" cookie frosting.
Pirate: Frost with "skin color" Gel color. The pirate's patch is a junior mint (how easy!) The other eye is created as described above, by dipping a mini-chocolate chip (upside down) into a bit of white frosting. The rest of the eye patch and mustache were drawn with CakeMate's Chocolate cookie frosting. The mouth is a piece of licorice string cut and pressed into the frosting.
Princess: Frost with pink or purple. I also made the cake inside pink, although funfetti would be cute, too (if you can stand the taste.) To make the crown, color premade or homemade fondant (I prefer the recipe for marshmallow fondant, it has a little better taste) with your choice of princess color. Roll into long rectangles and cut to 10 inches by 6 inches. Then cut this piece in half, to make two 10x3 pieces. Using the wide round base of a pastry tip, cut out 1/2 circles along one edge of each (this will be the top of the crown.) Space it as you prefer, the one pictured is about 1/4 inch apart. Carefully lift the "crown" and place it along the edge of the cupcake, pressing and blending the ends together. The inside is filled with pink and white sugar crystals, and the outside has mini gummy bears (they looked like gems) and gobstoppers and nerds (I know, not very tasty, but it's difficult to find pink and purple colored candy!)
Ladybug: Frost with red "no taste" gel. Use red rope licorice cut into 2 inch pieces as the antennae; press ends into the cupcake. Mini chocolate chips dipped (pointed side) into white frosting and then pressed into the cupcake make the eyes. Wings are drawn with CakeMate's Chocolate cookie frosting, and the spots are mini chocolate chips pressed pointed side down into the frosting. Easy!