Friday, September 30, 2011

Cora's Rainbow Cake

When I decided on a rainbow theme for Cora's birthday party, I knew I would have to make a rainbow cake.  I had seen several variations on the internet, and they just begged me to try them!

This cake above appears to have been made from six separate layers of cake.  Although it is beautiful, I do not have the patience to bake and cool six separate layers.  Plus, I could just see one of my layers being too thick or unbalanced, and it would throw off the whole effect.  Too much work and too much pressure.  Instead, I opted for this type of cake:

This cake, featured on Omnomicon, is a diet, Weight Watchers-worthy cake.  Since I was making this cake for my two-year-old's birthday party, I did not think it needed to be a diet cake.  For that reason, here is what I did:

I bought two boxes of white cake mix.  (I got white cake that used egg whites only so it would really take to the color better.)  I made each box according to the instructions, and then I separated all of the batter into a total of six bowls.

I used gel food coloring (it has a stronger color, in my opinion) and dyed each bowl a color of the rainbow.

Then, I started pouring the batter into a greased pan, starting with red.  I used about 2/3 of the red and then a little less than that of the orange, and so on.  This is because each time a color gets added on top, it spreads out the color beneath it, and if I had used the same amount of every color, the bottom colors would have been sparse and the top colors dominant.

You can see that by the time I got to purple, I didn't have to use much.  I probably only used 1/3 of the batter, whereas I had used most of the red.

Next, I did a reverse of the colors by making a new pan with purple first, then blue, then green, etc., ending with red.  

Because I hadn't measured exactly, one cake ended up being much bigger than the other.  When they baked up, it was even more evident:

This made layering the cakes a little tricky, but it worked out okay.  I just flipped the smaller one upside down.  

The final product looked like this:

You can see by looking at it that the bottom layer was much smaller than the top layer.  If I'm honest, I'll tell you that it really bothered me.  (Yes, I know I have issues.)  I wish I had either measured more accurately to have two layers end up the same size.  

Actually, I wish I had done would I would suggest you do:  Just make one layer out of one box of cake!  The slices were massive and didn't really need to be.  However, if you do decide to only do one layer, remember when dividing your batter between your bowls that your bottom color will need much more batter than your top color.  So, if you do red first, you'll need significantly more red than purple.

If you do decide to do two giant layers, at least put lots of frosting between them.  My cake didn't have enough at all.  I should have used two full containers of frosting on the cake, but I tried to squeeze by with one and then ended up using part of another to finish the outside.  Don't do that.

So there you go.  Rainbow cakes are fun and totally worth the effect - especially when you first cut into it and see your guest's eyes!  :-)

Now, on a separate but related topic: Rainbow decorations.  I tried very hard to keep my decor extremly simple for this party.  I tend to go a little overboard sometimes (see here), and I really wanted this to be a fun, relaxing party.  For that reason, I only made the balloon wreath I showed you before...

... and some colorful balloons, hung from the ceiling, along with a flower banner:

A red tablecloth with Skittles scattered on it and the kids' rainbow lollipops rounded out the decorations.  It was simple, but effective.  

In a similar vein, the only food I served was the rainbow cake, and, although I had considered more of a menu, I think the simplicity just added to the perfection of the morning.

I can't wait to see what kind of party Cora will want next year!  :-)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cora's Color Party

Last Saturday was Cora's second birthday party.  We invited her three little best friends, who all happen to be boys, and we celebrated with a color party.  My original plan had been to do a "rainbow party" which is still what it was, but I decided to avoid that term after doing an internet search!  Plus, "color party" seemed less girly and she was, after all, the only girl there.  :-)

We started out the party by making colored rice pictures.  I dyed rice different colors (it's just dry rice plus food coloring, pre-mixed with a few teaspoons of rubbing alcohol, shaken in a bag and dried in the sun) and let the kids drop it on their glue, like glitter.

When the extra rice was all dumped into a big container, the kids played in the rice bin with cups, spoons, and containers.

I have ended up keeping the rice bin in the garage, and Cora and I have played with it a few times since Saturday.  

After we were done with the rice, we tried our hand at finger painting!

When we could finally drag ourselves inside (it was a gorgeous morning!), we let the kids play with rainbow stackers (that they got to keep) while we got ready for cake!

The outside of the cake was nothing impressive, but the inside was much more exciting!

I've had several people ask me how to make this cake, and even though you can find some recipes on the internet, I'll share what I did (and what I learned!), in a separate post.  Stay tuned.

After cake, we opened presents.  Among other things, Cora got her first princess dress.  She loves it!  (Isn't it hilarious that she is playing with train tracks in her princess dress?)

We ended the morning with a few photos of the kids enjoying their rainbow lollipops.  

I was going to show a few pictures of the decorations, but there really isn't much to show.  I'll show the two things I did do when I write my cake post.

Cora's real birthday is the day after tomorrow.  It's a whole week of birthday fun around here!  :-)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Apple Picking 2011

Every year we go apple picking.  It is one of my favorite (pre-)fall traditions.  I can't remember why we didn't go last year, but we have gone every other year and plan to go as long as the kids will go with us.  Two years ago we went a whopping four days before Cora was born!  I don't have any pictures of me (thank goodness!), but check out this picture of little, three-year-old Brennan!

This year was my favorite apple-picking trip ever!!  The weather was absolutely gorgeous, and the kids had a ball.  Brennan was a terrific apple picker, and Cora was content to just ride in a wagon the whole time, which was good because I pictured her picking rotten apples off the ground and throwing them into the basket faster than we could stop her.

After we paid for all 23 pounds of apples(!), we sat down and had a picnic lunch.  The whole morning was honestly like a taste of heaven.  The kids were happy and carefree, petting the farm owner's dog and playing with sticks and running around trees... It made me temporarily forget sickness and financial stress and schedules and Jim's schoolwork.  It was a freeze-time moment.

My mom's birthday was yesterday, and, with the help of my in-laws, we surprised her with a basket of Cortland apples (the best in the world... they had to be bought up there), Hershey kisses, and a copy of these pictures:

Next year there will be a six-year-old, a nearly three-year-old, and a six-month-old baby in the apple picking photos!  It's still hard to believe.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Party Prep and Nesting

I have been quite absent lately, and I would normally blame it on being busy, but that's not entirely true.  I have had plenty of down time when I could have been blogging, but instead I've been intentionally "lazy."  I've been reveling in naps and keeping up with housework and resting as much as possible.  I've been tired, sick, and feeling a huge urge to "nest."  And you know what that usually means...

Yes, we have another baby on the way!!!  Baby Riggs #3 will be making his or her debut right around Easter (early/mid April).  I am just over ten weeks pregnant right now with one healthy baby (it's amazing how the thought of twins grows more scary as you have more kids), and I am sicker with this pregnancy than I think I have ever been with the others.  I started throwing up five weeks ago, and I'm sick for about 6 - 10 hours every day.  Emotional, stressed, and sick is not a pretty combination.  So, I've been laying low and trying not to subject too many people to my tears or vomiting.  Instead, I've been doing things that are more productive.

I usually feel my best in the mornings.  I have never once had real "morning sickness," but with each pregnancy I have been sick in the afternoons or evenings.  (With this baby, I'm sick in the afternoon and evening.)

During my productive morning times, I try to do things that will help our family later in the day.  I have been making a lot of soups and foods that can be frozen because the last thing I want to do at 4:00 in the afternoon is cook.

I've also been busy getting ready for Cora's second birthday party.  It is coming up this Saturday (her real birthday is the following Saturday, October 1st), and we are just having her three boyfriends over for a color-themed party.  (I was calling it a rainbow party, but that has all kinds of crazy connotations on the internet, so now it's just "Cora's Color Party.")

I have made a gorgeous balloon wreath that I can now use for everyone's birthday...

... and I have been busy dying rice that the tots can use to make pictures and play with using cups and shovels and other stuff:

(This is just a sampling of the colors... I made more.)

The party is scheduled for 10 AM, so I should be at my best to enjoy watching the kiddos play.  I'm looking forward to Saturday, partly because I can't wait to celebrate my girl, and partly because it puts me one day closer to being done with this sickness.  Four weeks to go until I should feel good again!
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