When asked what she wanted her birthday cake to look like, Mia instantly shouted: “Monkey!” Thus, the inspiration of this year’s bash.
I’m glad I started this project with the birthday piñata 2 weeks in advance… After a failed attempt at making one using watered-down glue and kitchen paper towel squares (as per an art attack video on YouTube) only to find a shriveled-up balloon the next morning, I learned the hard way that the classic papier mâché method of newspapers and a flour/water mixture was the best way to go. You’ll find tons of ideas on how to make the mixture on-line, but it’s actually simpler than it seems:
1 Cup All-Purpose Flour + 1 Cup Tap Water (mixture should be slightly thinner than pancake batter), add water or flour to adjust. Dip the paper strips into the mixture and slide off excess by closing 2 fingers on each face of the paper and sliding down (as if your fingers were scissors). I made two layers of paper (waited a day for the first one to dry). I left a small empty circle around where the balloon was tied in order to pop it once it was dry.
As for the ears; I moulded them out of everything from double-face tape to bamboo skewers and newspapers; then I wrapped them in a final layer of papier mâché. I then painted the entire piñata with a white emulsion paint and, with the help of my sister-in-law, completed the monkey features from a Mod Monkey picture I found on-line with acrylic paint.
The next challenge: Monkey Cake Pops! After purchasing as many tools & supplies as I could from Amazon.com to assist me in making these, I learned the hard way not to pack the cake mixture too tightly into balls or else they expand and break once coated! 20 casualties (out of 60) later…
Among the desserts were banoffee pie cups, banana muffins, super fudgy brownies, and since the theme was pink and yellow: watermelon and cantaloupe lollipops which were an absolute hit with the kids. Not forgetting the amazing monkey layer cake from my cousins’ bakery: Zalatimo Brothers
Before the kids got to the desserts, I made sure they had their tummies full of some healthy treats. Chinese take-out boxes labeled “Food for Hungry Monkeys” were filled with sweet corn and topped with a freshly baked spinach & cheese muffin. As for the beverage, I filled cute monkey head cups purchased on Amazon with natural fruit juice, these were part of the party favors. They were such a hit, I’m posting the recipe for those of you who’d like to try this at home:
Spinach and Cheese Muffins (Makes 12-14)
Ingredients: 2 Tbs Butter, 1/2 small red onion (finely chopped), 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, 2 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp cayenne pepper (I left this out), 2 cups grated cheddar cheese (make sure you chose one that doesn’t contain any food coloring, ‘E’ numbers), 1 cup whole milk, 1 egg, 130g. baby spinach leaves
Method: Pre-heat oven to 170 degrees celsius. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, then fry the onion in the butter until cooked. Set aside. Put the flour, baking powder, cayenne (if using) and cheese in a large bowl, mix the milk and egg together, then slowly pour into the flour mixture and beat with a whisk until all the ingredients are well mixed. Stir in the onion and spinach with a wooden spoon until evenly dispersed. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases of a 12-cup muffin pan until two-thirds full and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until deep golden and the muffin bounces back when touched. A skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean. Leave the muffins to cool slightly in the pan before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
*From the hummingbird bakery cupcakes & muffins cookbook.
To keep the kids entertained I made sure there were enough activities to keep them busy. The first was a craft table set-up with pieces of cardboard cut-outs, tiny glue sticks and craft sticks for a “make your own monkey mask” activity, then with the help of a furry monkey hand-puppet we played monkey-see-monkey-do (like Simon Says) and finally “stick your monkey in the jungle” where I gave the kids a monkey with their name to stick on a jungle poster (since the kids are too young for “pin the tail on the monkey”).
For giveaways, I packed a stretchy flying monkey, a parachutist monkey and a bean bag monkey into yellow lunch bags and tied them with a string and a miniature monkey. Instead of party hats the kids were invited to chose from brown, pink or blue monkey caps (with tails & ears) once they arrived.
For the theme (yellow & pink monkey theme) I added homemade details such as printed adhesive labels on water bottles, printable cupcake toppers and a birthday banner as well as some yellow tissue paper pom poms.
As an extra “thank you” the parents didn’t leave without some fun to take home either! They had a miniature barrel of monkeys key chain to take home (to keep their keys and little monkeys entertained).
Overall, I believe a fond birthday memory was made… Mission accomplished!