Needless to say, we had to have a cars themed birthday party for our baby, who on his own accord learnt to say khaa (car) at around 11 months of age. After going back and forth between having the party at home versus a children’s play place, we finally decided to have it at the apartment clubhouse. I had about a week and a weekend to come up with the decorations, food, cake, favors and games. I had the most fun with decorations which included raiding party cities and dollar stores for car or road related items. I got some cheap colored chart board, made some free-hand car designs, cut a couple out and traced the remaining fifty or so for the husband to cut. A friend cut out wheels from some black chart for these cars, on which I wrote ‘happy birthday’ messages. The colored chart board cars looked very festive when attached to the end of black and white checkered crepe paper and hung on glass panels. I taped some to the doors and to the walls as well.
The Disney cars scene setter covered the fire place and really highlighted the theme of the party. I was thrilled with the orange cones and the disney cars swimming rings which we hung from the ceiling, they were a steal for a dollar per piece from the dollar store. We arranged black and white balloons alternately on the glass panels on either side of the door way. We used the same black and white checkered pattern pennant banner over the food counter.
If car shaped cookies,crackers, bars or cakes were sold at stores, I would’ve really got some but since they don’t, and I was determined to have something that resembled a car on my food counter, I decided to do car shaped cookies. Disney cars cookie cutters sell for about $17 and my local arts and crafts store sells a set of 3 cookie cutters – a race car, an air plane and a ship for $4. I didn’t want air plane or ship shaped cookies now or later, also I was highly inspired by this blog. She made a camel shaped cookie cutter from an aluminum foil pan, sheer genius! I don’t know if I would recommend this as a home project unless you have the proper tools and a pair of rubber gloves. I tried to use oven mitts and since they don’t quite let you use your fingers well, ended up using and cutting my bare hands. I didn’t follow all her steps, just cut out the edges of a used aluminum foil pan and folded and refolded the base to make it look like a metal ruler. I bent this ruler into a car shape to the best of my ability.
For the cookies, I used the most basic recipe there is, for plain eggless sugar cookies. My husband helped mix two batches of cookie dough before he left for work and I baked and baked till I had about fifty cookies. Most of the cookies were baked when baby took his big afternoon nap. It took me about 20 minutes to ice them and 60 minutes to dry them before packing them in an airtight container. I owe the success of these cookies entirely to my husband, cause the first few batches that I baked two days before the party were quite a disaster – uneven colored, distorted shapes which resembled clouds more than cars and were so hard, they could break your teeth. I was stressed out and ready to give up but I had my husband and another day before the party to readjust the baking time (bake for exactly 11 minutes), the number of cookies that went into each batch and the space on the baking sheet around each cookie so they didn’t collide with each other. Second time around they were perfect little beauties.
My biggest accomplishment of the party has got to be the cake. We enquired at several cake shops, ice cream shops and local grocery stores and everyone carried the same catalogue with the same Disney cars cake model – a rectangular cake with grass and road icing with a toy car on top. We really wanted a car shaped cake and after much persuasion from the husband I decided to give it a shot. Baking a car shaped cake was not the tough part since we got the Wilton cars cake pan but the real challenge for me was the icing. I have never even as much as iced a ‘happy birthday’ message on a cake before. Since I had enough time ( a weekend) to indulge my husband before we decided to go with the store-bought cake, I baked a car shaped cake and tried to ice it. This was possibly one of my brightest ideas cause it gave me an understanding of how thick my icing was supposed to be, to hold the shape rather than run out of the icing bag in the shape of big globs like it did during my trial run and also how much red color I needed to add to the icing before it looked the lightning McQueen red. I felt pretty adventurous after this experiment, and armed with several YouTube videos, I actually decided to bake and ice the birthday cakes myself. Yes cakes, 2 Lightning McQueen car cakes. Seen through a novice cake decorator’s eyes, I thought my cakes were pretty good looking.
For the appetizers, I just stacked about 4 wheat thins with cream cheese in between and topped with some cream cheese and fresh diced strawberry. I thought the red strawberry would go well with the red of our lightning McQueen. Trying to cut strawberry halves into car shapes would’ve been overkill right? So we just used Disney cars cupcake liners to hold each wheat thin pillar. These appetizers were a big hit at the party.
I also grilled some spiced paneer ( Indian cottage cheese) cubes and stuck Disney cars picks in them. My husband cut the cheese and marinated it the previous night, while baby was asleep and I was icing the cakes. I used a simple marinade that I normally use for chicken kebabs. We popped them in the oven an hour before the party. They were really really delicious.
We had pizza, and chocolate milk for kids and sodas for adults. We got some pull back cars for the kids to race with and a Garanimals count and learn bowling set that my son now loves to play with. The kids had a lot of fun with the balloons, cars and with each other, they especially loved the cakes. They gathered around the center table and kept marveling at the cakes waiting to devour them. Our little guy had a grand time. He cut the cake, ate some and smeared some more across his face and posed wickedly for our family pictures. Contrary to all our concerns that he’d be intimidated by such large a crowd, he did pretty well, amusing himself and being a happy birthday boy in general. I am so glad that after so much debate on whether to throw a party, or just go away and celebrate it by ourselves, we decided to have this party, making so many wonderful memories for our new family.