How to Train Your Dragon Party – The Cake!

I think the birthday cake’s design is much more important to the mum creating it than the birthday child. Well, it is in our case 😉  While the kids appreciate a good-looking cake, really once you’ve sung ‘Happy Birthday’, blown out the candles and made a wish, the cake gets cut up and eaten. All that work destroyed in a matter of moments!

My son told me he was very impressed with the cake I made, but he says that every year, and I think he would say it whatever I made. I am a lucky mum!

However, I am still prepared to put in an appropriate amount of thought and effort. And he gets to look through Pinterest at examples and see what takes his fancy, so he is happy.

We narrowed it down to three examples, which we then combined. The first one is reasonably simple, and I thought we could replicate it by using a Toothless toy on top of the cake. (Link to pin here.) The second one had a great idea for candles (check out Life is a Party for that one).

But the third idea came to me as we were watching How To Train Your Dragon 2 (for about the 763rd time!). Hiccup’s mother Valka lives on an island, which she shares with the snowy Bewilderbeast. Together they provide a safe haven for other dragons Valka rescues. It seems the Bewilderbeast has provided camouflage and protection for the island by creating ice caves and glaciers.

Here are some images from the movie to give you a bit of an idea. The images are saved on my How to Train Your Dragon Party Pinterest board, which you can check for individual links.

Collection of images from Pinterest

These images reminded me of the beautiful sugar shards which other mums were using to decorate their daughters’ Frozen cakes. Check out Pinterest for many, many examples of those! In fact, one of my friends had done one for her daughter.  So I combined the tips she gave me with some research of my own.

Most recipes for sugar shards call for corn syrup which is not a common ingredient here in Australia. I found an English website which substituted golden syrup, but not wanting a final product as golden as that, I continued looking. Since it is only toffee, surely it could be done with just sugar and water. That’s when I came across Martha Stewart’s ‘Broken Glass Cupcakes’ which uses clear shards as decoration on the cupcakes.

I used her recipe, remembering my friend’s tips as well, and I had success first time! I was very excited 🙂 Martha’s recipe is:

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

3/4 cup water

Bring granulated sugar and water to a boil in a small high-sided saucepan, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium-high, and cook until mixture just starts to turn pale gold around edges. Remove from heat, and immediately pour caramel onto a rimmed baking sheet. Working quickly, tilt pan to spread caramel to edges to make a very thin layer. Let cool to harden.

In Australia granulated sugar is normal white sugar, the stuff you may use in your coffee or on your cereal. Instead, I used caster sugar, which is finer and dissolves a little quicker.

What I did: stirred my caster sugar and water over high heat until the sugar dissolved, then I turned the heat down and let it bubble away without stirring. I wasn’t sure I would see it start to turn gold at the edges so I went with the tip of getting it to ‘hard crack’ stage. This is when dripped into a glass of cold water the toffee is hard and cracks. It doesn’t squish at all, it goes totally hard and snaps when you bend it. It also goes all squiggly when you drip it in the cold water, which is quite cool! I kept my glass of water in the fridge so it stayed nice and cold between testing. For me, getting to hard crack stage took around 10 minutes.

I was so excited when it got to the definite hard crack stage, that I quickly ran to get my phone to take a picture. Of course the rest had gone quite golden in the 30 seconds or so that took!

Hard crack stage of making toffee

But that was ok, I stirred in some blue food colouring and poured it on my baking paper-lined trays and watched it set. It was beautiful! I divided the toffee between 2 baking trays so the shards would be nice and thin, and that worked well with this amount. I didn’t have to wait long to see that it was hard, and I couldn’t help myself, I had to snap it. It was indeed like broken glass.

HTTYD cake 1

Being that my first attempt had turned golden, adding the blue food colouring made the toffee green. I had read this was a common complaint from mums making these for Frozen cakes, but for this cake it didn’t bother me at all. What I intended to do was make several batches of varying colours. You can see the ice caves and glaciers are colours of blue through to green, so whatever I got would work. I even kept some clear/white. The batches that were beautifully clear until I added the food colouring ended up crystallising. That would generally be considered a failure, but it added to the colour and textures so I didn’t mind a bit!

Crystallised blue sugar toffee

This crystallised toffee crumbled a bit when I broke it up, but I used those crumbled bits as decoration on the cupcakes that went in to school, and it also went on the actual cake

HTTYD cake

So you can see all 3 ideas were combined to create this cake. A plastic Toothless figurine atop a square vanilla cake with blue icing, with the various colours and textures of the sugar shards forming the backdrop. I also used the curly candles to represent Toothless’ plasma blast. To save accidents, I added the decoration to the cake at the park, just before it was served. So taking photos of it were not my priority. Special thanks to my friend Melissa for taking these. She was also the one who gave me sugar shard making tips, so she was a great help throughout this process!

Here it is with the candles lit:

HTTYD cake with candles

Yes, a certain birthday boy couldn’t help but add some extra decoration around the edge of the cake!

Strangely enough, many of the boys asked if the ‘glaciers’ were edible, and declared them delicious when they were allowed to taste. See the big plate of fruit next to the cake? I made whoever come back wanting seconds have some fruit before they could have more cake 😉


Linking up with:

The Pin Junkie

How to Train Your Dragon party – the Viking helmets

Following on from yesterday’s post about how I planned for this party, I’ve got another project that I completed before the big event. I think it’s nice for the guests to take something home that reminds them of the party, if they want to. So I found a great Viking helmet idea on Bug, Boo and Bean, and mostly followed Emily’s instructions when I made them.

I started with making the template for the horns. Emily used corrugated cardboard for hers, I used whatever cardboard I could find in the recycling 😉 But I did adapt Emily’s technique for attaching the horns to the helmets, so I needed 2 pieces for each horn. This is also because my cardboard was printed on one side, which I didn’t want showing. When I was happy with the size and shape of my template I drew around it on my various pieces of cardboard. Since I also needed mirror images (for the two sides) I flipped my template over to do them. I marked the shapes with a 1 or a 2 so I could tell how many I had of each. I was making 13 helmets, so I needed 52 horn shapes altogether.

Viking horns

Then I glued two horns together, leaving the bottom bit open so they could be folded back giving me a way to attach them to the helmet. (This is why I needed the mirror image shapes.) I used clothes pegs to hold them together while they dried. Hopefully this will all make more sense in the photo a little further on.

To make the headband I allowed a head circumference of around 53cm. Some are a little larger, some a little smaller. By this stage I had resorted to asking a friend for cardboard (she’s building a house so lots of spare boxes 🙂 ) so I used corrugated cardboard for this. The strip that goes over the top of the head is 25cm long. I attached it about halfway up the headband strip, not aligning it with the bottom. All these pieces are about 4.5cm wide, matching the base of the horns.

Firstly I joined the two ends of the helmet together using silver duct tape. I didn’t overlap them, so here is where I could make them slightly different sizes by adjusting how much space I left between the ends when I taped them together. Then I added the strip across the top of the head. This covered the ends I had just joined, then over to the opposite side. Several pieces of duct tape horizontally and vertically kept this in place nicely. The horns were attached to the sides. I folded the headband in half to get the spots where I added the top strip and the horns.

Making viking helmets 1

Is it making a little more sense now? I hope so

When that was done I needed to cover the band with the tape. I left the horns uncovered as they were quite neat anyway. The first helmet I taped using a continuous strip. It was fiddly, took a long time, and used a heap of tape. It also looked a bit messy. But I was pretty proud of my creation, and uploaded this photo to Instagram 😉

First Viking helmet

After the first one I cut smaller strips of tape and wrapped them around the base and across the top.

Making Viking helmets

This gave a much neater helmet, used less tape and was much quicker. It took me just under half an hour to make each one this way. Not including all the cutting out. That took a long time.

Top tip: don’t leave making these until the day before the party! I started more than a week before.

The birthday boy was very impressed when he saw what I had made, and wore one straight away. As I continued making them he gave most of them the ‘wear test’.

Viking helmets sawitdidit.wordpress.comAnd the party guests seemed to like them too!

Viking helmets 2

I even got a text the night of the party with a photo of one of the boys eating his dinner wearing his helmet. He wouldn’t take it off!

Linking up with:

The Pin Junkie

Thrifty DĂ©cor Chic

How to Train Your Dragon party – the planning of a 9th birthday celebration

The party has now been and gone (and all the boys appeared to have a good time!), so I will share some details with you. I thought I’d start at the very beginning (a very good place to start, as Maria would say) with how it was all planned.

Even though my son’s birthday is in May, we started thinking about this party months ago – in those quiet-ish days after Christmas. It’s nice for a young boy to have something to look forward to after all the hustle and bustle of the festive season has died down!

We started with the theme. I knew he would want a How to Train Your Dragon 2 party, but I had a couple of other options up my sleeve just in case. I know him pretty well 😉

Once the theme was approved by the birthday boy I started a Pinterest board ‘How to Train Your Dragon party’ and we began gathering ideas. Anything that looked like it might help was added – cake ideas, games suggestions, decorations…even colouring pages and scenes from the movie. This all helps the brain to start ticking over to see what might work, or what we might be able to adapt.

I also started a Word Document where I listed ideas that we had decided on. This included the guest list when that was finalised, colour scheme, decorations, food, and games. A few weeks before the party I started writing lists out on paper as well. You may like to use a phone app so it is always with you, but lists are important however you choose to make them!

Once we had come up with the date of the party and decided on a venue, we created the invitations. You can read about how I did that here. We usually opt for a local park as our party venue. Open space + fresh air = happy children! It does mean you need to be well prepared on the day, but if you forget something then you make do, or do without. Forgot a bottle of soft drink – oh well, there’s plenty of water instead. It’s not the end of the world. Forgot the matches or lighter – that’s a bit more important, but nevertheless ask around to see if someone else has something you can use, or just pretend! And as a last resort, home isn’t too far away.

The weather can be an important issue when holding a party outdoors. We were watching the weather reports very closely a week from the party, and keeping our fingers and toes crossed. We didn’t have a wet weather alternative, but the forecast was for only a very small amount of rain if any. So we took the risk….and we were very lucky that it stayed dry!

Ok, so the guest list was finalised and the invitations emailed out. I set up a folder in my email inbox, and when responses came through I moved the emails to the new folder so they wouldn’t get lost. I also updated my Word document to show who had replied.

On a separate note, when you ask for RSVPs and some people don’t respond, I think it is perfectly acceptable to follow up. A polite ‘Did you get our invitation to xxx’s party? We are just finalising numbers and need to know if zzzz is able to come. We are paying a deposit/printing up t-shirts/engraving names on plaques so need to know by tomorrow, thank you.’ Of course, I just made up those last examples, but if you were holding the party at a venue where you need to pay per guest, then it’s very important to have correct numbers.

A couple of weeks before the party, I started adding things to my weekly shopping list. This saved a last minute budget blow-out, but also meant I could see what was available and adapt our plans to suit.

Red and black decorations (1024x751)

As you can see, we went with a red and black colour scheme.

A mid-afternoon time slot and an outdoor setting meant that the food for the party needed to be simple and easy. No hot dishes for us! Depending on where and when your party is held will determine your food and drink choices. You may also consider having your party catered, so that will need to be organised well in advance.

Something else we planned well in advance of the party was what to put in the lolly bags. Yes, we included some lollies – it is a party after all – but I like to include something that will last a little longer than a day. So I searched eBay and came up with a set of dragons. I ordered a couple of sets because at that stage the guest list had not even been discussed. Each boy got one 🙂 Here is a similar set:

ebay dragons

In the days leading up to the party I added more detail to my lists of what we needed to take. Important things like candles, a knife and lighter for the cake, what order we were going to play the games and what was needed to play those games eg balls, pins and blindfold etc. As far as I am aware, I only forgot one thing – blindfolds for ‘Pin the…’ game. So we made do. In the car was an old jumper which we cut off the sleeves to fashion into a blindfold. The boys thought it was a dirty sock!! I did reassure them that wasn’t the case.

I will be adding more posts about the party over the next few days, so make sure you come back for those.

And here’s what we did for last year’s birthday – an Adventure Time theme 🙂

So there you have it – how I planned and prepared for my son’s 9th birthday party! I’ve probably left out a vital stage or two, so please ask if it seems something is missing. And if you’ve got any great tips for planning a party, please share!

Linking up with:

The Pin Junkie