Category Archives: Birthdays

Birthdays / DIY / Sweet

A Fancy $19 Cake

May 12, 2016

img_8352-1In case you couldn’t tell from yesterday’s post, I am pretty proud of the tiny smash cake that I made for P’s birthday.

I aspire to be one of those people who makes adorable confections with the perfectly piped icing and sweet, cakey layers. But… I hate cake. I love the idea of decorating a cake, but eating it? Ew. I’m just not into it.

So anyway, for Prim’s party I was totally torn about what to do for dessert. I knew we were going to have a pretty sizable crowd of people attending, so anything homemade would be a bit of an undertaking. I liked the idea of having a traditional birthday cake, but wasn’t feeling particularly motivated to tackle making it myself. I had toyed with the idea of a Costco cake, since those cakes are actually quite good (according to the people I know who like and eat cake) and are very affordable, but I was sort of turned off by the cake designs.

While I was hemming and hawing over what to do, it suddenly dawned on me — why didn’t I just order a plain Costco cake and decorate it myself? Genius!

img_8348-1So that’s what I did. I ordered a plain white cake from the Costco bakery, and did it up like so:

img_8350-1I had purchased that glittery “one” for P’s smash cake, but it ended up being too big for the tiny cake, so I repurposed it for the larger one and surrounded it with fresh peonies, gerbera daisies and babies breath.

I had searched high and low for those old-school sugar letters that every grocery store used to sell and apparently none of them carry them anymore! What happened to them? I was stressing over having to potentially hand-letter a happy birthday message when I came up with the perfect solution:

img_8294Trader Joe’s to the rescue! Thank god for those little cookies. They were the perfect size and totally fit with the theme of the cake. img_8349-1img_8351-1So that’s how I turned a $19 Costco cake into a treat fit for any party. I’d totally recommend this for any occasion. Honestly, the cake looked freaking wedding-worthy (I thought, anyway), and it was so fun to decorate.

I’ll definitely be repeating this craft for many birthdays and parties to come!


Birthdays / Sweet

Sugar-Free Smash Cake

May 11, 2016

I realize that a lot of you will think I’m totally bananas for making Prim a sugar-free smash cake, given that a baby’s first birthday is usually the first time many parents opt to introduce sugar. And that’s totally fine. Prim is not entirely sugar free to begin with — she eats Cheerios and Kodiak cakes, both of which have a very small amount of sugar. So whether your baby is totally sugar-free or gobbled up a pile of frosting on their first birthday — it’s all good. I just wasn’t ready to go full-sugar for P’s birthday, and so opted to to research sugar-free smash cake options. It was kind of tough to find recipes, but I did finally land on a recipe that was made entirely of natural foods (no stevia or artificial sweeteners) and decided to give it a go.


I made Prim’s cake in two four by two-inch cake pans, trimmed down the top of the layers and then stacked them together for a tiny, two-layer confection. The frosting is also sugar-free (though the embellishments obviously aren’t!)

img_8355-1If you’re looking for a no-sugar option for your little one’s smash cake, this recipe is great. The cake layers are more muffin-y than cake-y, given the lack of sugar, but the end result is surprisingly delicious.img_8365

No-Sugar Smash Cake

I made two 4×2-inch cakes + two muffins (which I used as my tasting samples), but I’m sure you could get one 8- or 9-inch cake out of the recipe as well — you’d probably need to double the recipe for a double-layer 8 or 9″ cake.

For the cake:

  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup oat flour (grind whole oats in a food processor, then measure)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 4 medium (about 6-7″) very ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce (I used TJ’s organic unsweetened apple sauce)
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 375°. Whisk together dry ingredients. In a separate bowl (or food processor if you want it really smooth), combine all wet ingredients with bananas and mash/whisk until fairly smooth.
  2. Pour dry ingredients into the wet and stir together until just combined.
  3. Spoon batter into pre-greased cake pans, filling about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way full.
  4. Bake until the batter is fully set and a toothpick comes out clean. (This was about 20 minutes for the muffins and 50-55 minutes for the 4-inch cakes in my oven.)
  5. Let cool in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Frost when completely cool, or wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store in the fridge or freezer until you’re ready to frost them.

Cake Tips:

  • This batter doesn’t rise much, so assume that whatever level the batter is, it will only rise about a quarter higher than that. Also, it will fall a bit after you remove it from the oven.
  • I’m always afraid of over-baking sweet treats, and so usually opt to remove things when just done, rather than risk something hard and overcooked. Don’t be afraid of over-baking these  a little though! The batter is very moist and dense, so it’s better to go a little long on the baking than a little short — the cake layers will be a bit more bread-y and will hold together better if you make sure they’re fully cooked before removing them from the oven.
  • Because this recipe makes more of a muffin-type cake, the layers are pretty dense and durable (which is great if you’re like me and not an accomplished cake-maker!)
  • If you need to speed up the ripening of your bananas, take the bunch apart and put them into a paper bag with a few apples and seal the top — they should ripen in about 12-24 hours.

For the frosting:

  1. Combine cream cheese and vanilla extract into a bowl and whisk together using an electric mixer. Slowly add in apple juice concentrate while continuing to whisk on medium to high speed. Add in apple juice concentrate until desired consistency is reached (I had a couple tablespoons left over from the 1/2 cup.)
  2. Store frosting in a sealed container in the fridge until ready to use and/or store the frosted cake in the fridge until your party starts.

Frosting Tips:

  • The more you whisk this icing, the lighter and fluffier it will be . I whisked it on high for about 5 minutes total, adding in about a tablespoon of juice every 30 seconds or so. Keep in mind that the more juice you add the thinner the frosting will be, while the less you add the thicker it will be — but the juice makes it sweet, so the less you add, the tangier the frosting will be. If your frosting appears too thin, try whisking on high for a bit to get it to come back together.
  • Because there are no preservatives in this frosting, it can start to turn brown a bit as it sits out (due to the apples). I would recommend frosting your cake the day you’re going to serve it (you can make the frosting ahead and store it in a sealed container in the fridge until you’re ready to use it). I frosted my cake the day before, stored it in the fridge and noticed minimal discoloration, but opted to add another layer of frosting the morning of the party, which brightened the cake right back up.
  • You can dye the frosting using food coloring if you’d like, but if you’re looking for a natural dye, try roasted strawberries or beet puree for a red/pink hue, or roasted blueberries to make the frosting purple/blue tinted. You could also add some of the roasted fruit (not the beets!) to the middle layer for a little sweet treat!


Baby / Birthdays / Primrose

Prim’s First Birthday Party

May 10, 2016

img_8357-1We celebrated Prim’s first birthday over the weekend. Since her birthday happened to fall just before our move, we decided to have a combination going-away/birthday party to celebrate the start of Prim’s second year and the start of our new adventure in Amsterdam.img_8464 img_8465img_8466img_8346-1KC’s mom and I worked hard to plan the party, and in the end everything really came together nicely.

img_8467-1It was so nice to have so many close friends and family come over to celebrate Prim, and Prim did fabulously amidst all the attention (this girl loves a party!)

img_8367 img_8356-1Prim wore a grey Baby Gap dress, which was the very first thing we purchased after we found out we were having a girl, and used as a gender-reveal gift during Christmas for my parents. Her pink sweater was my mom’s when she was a baby (and look how sweetly Prim coordinated with her Nonna on her special day!)img_8354-1I made Prim a little no-sugar smash cake (recipe coming up tomorrow!), which came together surprisingly well. I was a little doubtful that it would work out the way I intended, but actually ended up being adorable and perfect.

img_8350-1img_8473-1This was the cake we served to guests — I’ll be posting about this beauty later in the week as well. (Doesn’t it look fancy? It was $19!)

img_8365I can’t believe this sweet little peanut is one already, but what a great way to ring in the end of her first year.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to come out and share the day with us. It was so special having you all there, and we sure are lucky to have such wonderful people in our lives.

Baby / Birthdays / Primrose

Happy Birthday, Primrose!

May 9, 2016

Dear Primrose,

As of 1:13pm today, you are officially a one year old.IMG_4718I can’t believe it’s been a year already. 365 days of kissing your cheeks, belly, hands and feet. 12 months of snuggles and milk parties and stories and songs and silly faces. 52 weeks of firsts, from smiling to cruising, from first foods to first words.

IMG_4694IMG_5020IMG_5134I remember a year ago today so vividly. I remember the doctor placing you on my chest and holding you so tightly and feeling overwhelmed with love. And everyday since then, your dad and I have loved you and watched you grow, learned with you and watched your little personality emerge.
IMG_6323IMG_7197img_6984You are so funny and sweet and silly, and being your mama has been the greatest gift.

img_6718img_7521-1We love you so much, Sweet P, and we can’t wait to see what year two has in store. Happy birthday, beautiful girl. img_8366Love, Mama

Birthdays / Primrose

Prim’s Birthday Wish List (or, what I would like to buy her, but won’t)

April 28, 2016

Prim’s birthday is now less than two weeks away, and even though we already bought Prim a gift (which she won’t receive for at least another month because it’s currently packed away with our stuff, sailing on the high seas to the Netherlands), I keep seeing adorable items that I would love to buy her.

I totally get why people go overboard with things for their kids. It’s so easy. Everything is so tiny! So adorable! Not quite as expensive as adult things! (Usually.)

We’ve been very good about keeping Prim’s toy situation to a manageable level — and proof positive that babies don’t need much to be entertained, almost all of Prim’s toys were packed up and shipped weeks ago, and does she care? Not in the slightest. Give this girl an old magazine to tear apart and she’s good.

The list below has nothing to do with what Prim actually wants for her birthday (because, let’s face it, what Prim really wants is to be able to go through the bathroom garbage and to play in Penny’s dog bed. Heaven!)

Here’s really what I have my eye on for Prim’s birthday (but won’t be buying her):

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 5.32.16 PM

The cutest floppy mouse doll.

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 5.41.16 PM Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 5.41.35 PM

An adorable (and totally impractical for Amsterdam) summer dress.

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 5.42.30 PMFreshly Picked moccasins in granite, size 3. (Prim has the weathered brown pair in size 2, which I managed to purchase on sale. And even though I thought they were a little frivolous, I have to say that these shoes are the best — so soft, and they actually stay on! She wears them almost daily.)

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 5.34.09 PM Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 5.34.53 PM

A totally unnecessary (but oh so cute!) baby bonnet.

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And finally, a rattle to remind her of her home state. ♥