I love imagining and planning out a great party theme, so when my daughter’s first birthday started quickly approaching, I was primed for the challenge. But I had also promised myself not to go overboard, like I did with our son’s first birthday party. The only thing I remember from his party is being exhausted. I wanted this to be a more intimate affair that I could actually enjoy, because, let’s face it, she wasn’t going to remember it. My other challenge was to think of a theme that was feminine but not overtly pink and sparkly. I’m not opposed to those things in moderation, but it’s nice to try something outside the box.
My daughter loves being outside. One afternoon, as we were sitting by our flower garden, I watched her play with a tiny wooden mushroom that my grandma had given us. From time to time, my grandma will hand me a little bag of figurines and miniature items she found at thrift stores and rummage sales for the kids to put around our garden. The mushroom was tiny and cute, but also bright and sassy, just like my daughter. Inspiration hit! A woodland-themed party would be perfect for her love of the outdoors and would feel seasonal, since her birthday is in fall.
In my effort to keep things simple, I decided to only focus on a few things: cake, cupcakes, and treat bags for the few kids attending. A quick trip to our local craft store (without the kids) resulted in plenty of perfect items.
Here are my tips and tricks for creating the woodland touches:
Bunting Cake Topper
I made a little bunting banner with my daughter’s name, to top the cake. This was super simple and took about 10 minutes, using supplies I already had.
- Cardstock or heavy paper
- Double-sided tape
- 2 small twigs or wooden skewers
- Using ruler and pencil, draw the number of rectangles needed to spell your message on the cardstock. They can be any size, they just need to be double the size of your desired bunting pieces, since we will be folding them in half to make squares. I made mine 2″ tall by 3/4″ wide. Cut each piece out with your scissors.
- Fold each piece in half lengthwise. Use your marker to write a letter on each one. Make sure that your folded edge is at the top when writing the message.
- Line up your pieces in order and use them as a template to determine the length of string you will need. Make sure to leave a bit at each end for tying. You can always trim it shorter later.
- Sandwich the string inside each piece and use the double-sided tape to keep it in place.
- Tie each end of the string to a twig.
I baked the cake and cupcakes the night before the party and frosted them the next morning. I used a carrot cake recipe for the cake and just used a boxed mix for the cupcakes. I made cream cheese frosting for the cake and 12 cupcakes.
To decorate the cake:
- I made the cream cheese frosting from the above link and tinted it light blue with food coloring. Next, I stacked each layer of the cake with a little bit of frosting between them, and applied a smooth layer of the blue frosting to the entire cake.
- For the red border and dots, I used a pre-made tube of frosting from the grocery store. I know from experience that achieving true red with food coloring takes a lot of it, which will end up making your frosting too runny to use. Whenever I need a strong color, like the red, I opt for the store-bought frosting. That being said, I used the star tip that came with the frosting to make a small border around the base of the cake and then used the smooth, round tip to make dots on the sides and top.
- I placed my bunting banner on the top of the cake and arranged the other items around it. Voila!
I decorated cupcakes using the pastry bag filled with the blue frosting. Then, I topped each with an adorable edible mushroom.
Note: I like to bake, so it was fun, but there is no reason you couldn’t buy a pre-frosted cake or cupcakes and add the decorations yourself to make things even simpler.
For the treat bags, I decorated some kraft paper bags with stickers, wrote each child’s name on the front, and filled them with goodies. I like to use snacks, stickers, and balloons. Too often, my son comes home from a party with a treat bag full of junky little plastic toys that I end up throwing away a week later.
Our little party was a great success with very little work for me. I ordered food from our favorite Italian place and served it on paper plates. Easy clean-up!
My daughter was a little confused when we first presented the cake and sang “Happy Birthday.” What was everyone looking at? Was she really allowed to touch that pretty cake? She timidly stuck her finger in a cupcake and licked it. Wow! Frosting! She was hooked. Needless to say, there was not a crumb left on her highchair tray, and she desperately needed a bath when all was said and done!
Most importantly, she had fun playing with her family (and all the balloons!), and I was there to enjoy every moment rather than sweating over party details.