I just finished cleaning up from a very successful birthday party for Thing 1. We invited a bunch of her third grade friends over to bake and decorate cupcakes, and they all had a blast. She told me afterwards that it was the best party she’d ever had, which is the best thing a tired mom can hear from her little twirp.

Party prep started a few hours ahead. I decided to make a batch of Devil’s Food cupcakes in advance, using a recipe from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes. This is the first time I’ve baked from this book, and I give it a thumbs up. I’m not sure that Martha Stewart and I would get along personally, but I can not deny that the woman has good taste. The army of umpaloompas that I like to imagine she has creating and testing recipes for her sure knows what they are doing.

We decided to do things backwards for the party, and give each guest her party favor when she arrived- those custom made pillowcase aprons I’ve been making for the last two weeks, made following the directions at betz white, though I added a little extra trim at the top of the pockets. Thing 1 and I packaged the aprons in robin’s egg blue Chinese take out boxes decorated with a bit of extra ribbon and a customized tag. Thing 1 stacked them nicely on the table and let each guest pick one as they arrived:

A stack of gift boxes waiting for party guests.

A stack of gift boxes waiting for party guests.

We also set out dishes of candy and all the ingredients for white cupcakes, so everything was ready to go when the party started. I had planned on two hours to bake a second batch of cupcakes, make some icing, and have the girls decorate as many as they wanted. Time was tight, and if I do this again, I’d plan on adding an extra half hour.

The girls arrived and donned their pretty aprons. They came out really nice:

Pretty little aprons all in a row.

Pretty little aprons all in a row.

The girls were great cooks, each taking a try at different steps of the process. We went through 8 eggs as the learned how to separate the whites (we needed only 5), and I explained to then that making mistakes was all part of the learning process. It’s alright to waste a few eggs to learn a new trick once in a while.

Thing 1 came up with the great idea of making marshmallow lollipops while the cupcakes baked. We decided to dip marshmallows in melted chocolate and them roll them in crushed graham cracker for s’mores lollipops:

S'mores lollipops, which lived very short lives before being devoured by hungry girls

S'mores lollipops, which lived very short lives before being devoured by hungry girls

Then we made a batch of Swiss meringue buttercream frosting. I had made one batch earlier, but I wanted the girls to see how to do it. I modified the recipe by using powdered egg whites because they are pasteurized, and the icing still came out magnificent. The girls were fascinated to see how egg whites could be whipped up into something that looked like whipped cream, and they had fun mixing up different colors of icing.

Once we had four different colors of icing ready, we moved to decorating. I set them up with individual paper place mats as stations, which made for an easy clean up later. The girls then very carefully and thoughtfully transformed their cupcakes into freakish pastel monsters:

The girls used various candies to create monster faces on the cupcakes.

The girls used various candies to create monster faces on the cupcakes.

When we were all done and it was time to head home, I packaged a cupcake up for each girl in the take-out container that had held her apron earlier. Of course we had a bunch of cupcakes leftover, so I was able to take a photo to show the final products:

Pretty little monsters all in a row.

Pretty little monsters all in a row. Can you spot Dr. Bunsen Honeydew hiding in there?

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