Grace Stevens is one of my favourite mompreneurs and I always love an opportunity to collaborate with her, so when she accepted my invite to go live with me on my Facebook page and Youtube to share baking tips for kids parties I was over the moon. It was such a fun live video and I learned so much, unfortunately her electricity went out and the video got cut short but I got the tips from her for the last few items on my list!
About Grace Stevens
Grace Stevens is a Cape Town mom of four. She started out as an educator and taught Grade 2 for almost 10 years. She is trained in education and it is her passion to help other people. She is a cake designer and an author of two cake decorating books which are aimed at people who just want to make pretty cakes for their families. She also teaches cake decorating and baking, as well as business classes to help mompreneurs that want to start their own business or to grow their existing business.
She holds in person classes but since the pandemic she has created courses for her website and also has online classes.
Simple No Baking Tips For Birthday Cakes
- Follow The Recipe And Be Precise
Baking cakes is not the same as cooking a meal where you can change it up a little. If you don’t follow the recipe 100% you are not going to get the right result.
Every ingredient in the recipe has a role to play. For example salt is not used as a seasoning in baking, it sets the crumb. It is important in the structure of the cake. With bread if you put too much salt in you slow the yeast development.
So respect your recipe!
- Don’t Use A Liquid Measuring Jug For Dry Ingredients
Ok I am so guilty here, this is a place where I have definitely gone wrong!
Make sure never to use a liquid measuring jug to measure your dry ingredients, it is going to go wrong. If you do an experiment and measure 250ml in a measuring jug and then pour those same ingredients into a cup, you will find that it is not the same.
If you need one cup of flour or sugar then use your measuring cups for those purposes.
- Use Your Scale – Weight Is Precise
When a recipe gives ingredients by weight use your scale to measure your ingredients. Cup measurements are different sizes. In American recipes a cup is 200ml and in South Africa a cup is 250ml.
When you are using measuring cups there is always room for discrepancy, but going by weight there is no margin for error, nothing will fluctuate.
- Don’t Trust The Package Volume
Even if you buy something that gives the weight of the package still weigh the ingredients. As Grace says in the video the amount of times the given weight on the package is not the same as the actual weight is too many times to count and this can make your recipe flop.
When companies package their products there is a small margin of error that comes into play. If you buy a 100g pack of nuts and weigh it at home you may find that you only get 95g or perhaps 110g, but if your recipe requires 100g don’t trust what is said on the packet and use it without measuring.
- Don’t Overmix Your Cake Batter
When you overmix your cake you overmix your gluten. The gluten part of your cake is what holds the structure of your cake together. When you mix your cake batter mix it on the low setting until just mixed.
When you get this technique right you will find that you get a more tender crumb with your cakes and you are not going to get that dome on top.
- Don’t Decorate A Fresh Cake
Once your cake has been baked and cooled down wrap it in Clingwrap and let it sit for at least 6 hours before decorating it. In fact your cake can be baked two or 3 days ahead of your party, wrapped in Clingwrap and stored in an airtight container and it will still be perfect.
Tips For Making Cakes Look Divine – As In Not So Homemade
- Trim Your Cake
Trim the dome off the top of your cakes so that the top of your cake is level so that your cakes lie flat on each other when you layer them. You want the top of your cake to be level and the sides to be straight. This is the easiest way to bake boutique looking cakes.
- Weigh Your Batter Into The Cake Pans
As mentioned above you want your cake to be level and lined up. A good way to get this right from the start is to weigh your batter equally into your cake pans. This means that your cakes will come out the same size and uniform from the start which means you will not be wasting much cake.
- Give Yourself Time
If you are rushing you are more likely to make mistakes and it takes all the fun out of it. Plan what you will be making for the party and work out what you can make ahead of time. As mentioned above your cake can be made a few days ahead of time. Fondant can be kept for months in a cardboard box, so don’t leave it for the very last moment.
Tips For Keeping It Yummy But Healthy
One of the biggest things that I aim for at my children’s birthday parties is to make food that is yummy but healthy. I always buy sweets but I put those into party packs for the kids to take home afterwards. At every party I have the birthday cakes, a strawberry cheese cake and a peppermint crisp tart but for the rest of the food I try my best to keep it as healthy as possible while still keeping it fun and tasty. Here are some of the suggestions from me and Grace:
- Cheese Board
Cheese boards are a huge hit at birthday parties and a lovely thing to include for the adults that stay for the party. Buy a variety of cheeses and some crackers to put on the platter as well as some rice crackers for anyone that is gluten intolerant or more health conscious. You can add in lots of other things to the platter such as nuts, grapes, biltong, pickled onions, gherkins, olives, hummus or pesto.
You can get really creative and have fun with this.
- Fruit Platter
This a great way to give the kids something sweet to eat but keep it nice and healthy at the same time. It’s also quick and easy to set up.
- Finger Food Platter
There are so many great foods that you can add to a platter, you can also easily order platters ahead of time for your party so there is less work for you to do. Checkers offers some superb platters as well as many other stores and mompreneur businesses.
Great things to add to platters include samoosas, chicken wings, small ribs, sausage rolls, sausages
- Sandwich Platter
Sandwich platters are a quick, easy choice and the best part is that kids love them!
I had a huge sandwich fail at one of my kids parties when the sandwiches went hard within minutes outside, which was so disappointing. Make sure to follow Grace’s tip from the video to prevent this – shred a lettuce finely and cover your tray with lettuce, then put the sandwiches on top of the lettuce and spread more shredded lettuce over the top. This will keep the sandwiches fresh and tasty.
I’ve seen this before and I thought it was just garnish, now I know better! I will most certainly be trying this at the next party.
Another tip for sandwiches is to spread your butter and your fillings all the way to the ends of the bread. This will seal it and help to keep it moist and fresh.
- Have Plenty Of Water Available
This is a point that I completely forgot to add in while we were live, but it was in my notes! Have plenty of water available along with all the other drinks that you have on offer. Kids are going to be running around like crazy for hours and the best thing for them to drink is water so make sure you have that as an option for them.
I’ve done this at every party and the water always gets hit hard.
How To Keep Costs Down
- The Venue
One of the biggest ways to keep costs down is to have the party at your home or a public venue where there is little or no cost. While your kids may want to have the party at a restaurant or a paid venue it really can get pricey.
We have our kids party at a park in our area and we pay a small once off fee to book the venue.
- Doing It Yourself
The more that you do yourself the cheaper it will be – but also keep in mind that doing everything for your child’s birthday party can be a lot of work. So figure out what you can do yourself without getting overwhelmed and what things will be best to order elsewhere.
- Keep It Simple
There is really no point in getting extravagant and spending loads of money, especially when chances are that is probably not what the kids will remember. Focus on keeping it simple and building memories.
There is nothing wrong with having hotdogs to eat and simple things like jelly and custard cups are always a huge hit and are very cost effective.
- Don’t Over Cater
Many moms make a huge amount of food for birthday parties and it really is not necessary. You are not providing a catering service for everyone, you are simply providing some snacks for the party. There is no point in spending a fortune on food that may not be eaten.
Best Tips For Getting It All Done Yourself
- Ask Your Child What Will Make This Birthday A 10/10 Experience
I love this tip that Grace gave in the video. We may think we know what will make our kids birthday party a raging success but it really is best to ask. Your child may want something so simple in comparison to what you expected so instead of trying to do what you think your child wants just ask and you may be surprised to find that you can make your child’s birthday amazing at half the price and effort than you thought.
- Ask For Help or Outsource
Yes you want to do it all yourself, but there is nothing wrong with asking for a bit of help from your family and friends or to outsource some of the work to make it a bit easier on you.
- Recruit The Kids
Kids love getting involved in planning and preparing for their birthdays and there is a lot they can do to help. They can do things like set out the serviettes and cake forks.
One thing that my kids are in charge of every year is folding the party boxes and packing them. They love doing it.
Getting the kids involved will give them skills in hosting and doing things for themselves.
- Time Management Is Essential
I love this tip and this is something that Grace stressed the whole way through our live video – planning and time management is essential. I can see exactly what she means and this is going to be my focus moving forward. There are so many things that can be done well in advance of the party, things that I have often left until the day before.
Break up your tasks and get things done well in advance so that you can enjoy the fun things like decorating your cake rather than be stressed and overwhelmed.
Here are some things you can consider doing early that will make things easier:
- pack party packs – these can be done long before
- your buttercream icing can be made up to two weeks before hand, just cover the bowl and keep it in the fridge, you can then take it out the fridge half an hour before you want to use it and give it a bit of a stir with a spoon to get it smooth
- make your cake 2 – 3 days before the party and cover in Clingwrap and store in an airtight container
- put the table cloth on the table and put the chairs out the night before
What Should You Do and What Should You Outsource?
- Play To Your Strengths
Do the things that you enjoy, the things that are fun, that you are good at and that you love to do. When you find something that works stick with it and perfect it rather than trying new recipes and experimenting.
If you are not good at doing something and you don’t enjoy it then outsource that.
- Look At The Costs
While it may cost less to do most things yourself there may be some things that will cost less for you to outsource.