Friday, June 12, 2009


My sons both love Pixar films. It started with Cars when my oldest son was 4 and since then I think we've back-tracked through the entire Pixar canon, with the aforementioned Cars, Wall-e and Toy Story 2 the favourites. Now Pixar has 'up'd' the ante by producing films in 3-D! I knew that we'd be catching Up in the theatre on or near its release date but I didn't quite expect to be bankrolling admission for 10 children, along with my own nearest and dearest. It made sense when I first pitched it to my husband: our older son wanted to have a birthday party with friends from school, but his birthday is in August and it's hard to count on attendees during the Summer holidays. Given he was so excited about Up I figured two birds, one stone: we'll see the movie and move up his birthday by a couple of months so he could 'celebrate' with this classmates.

Shortly after I booked us in I asked my son what he was thinking for birthday cake. A small smile crept on to his face and he said: "I thought we could have 'Up-cakes'.". At that moment I knew that this was my child. I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of this myself. Up-cakes. Brillant!

So Up-cakes, in case you haven't guessed, are basically themed cupcakes. Our version were made in both vanilla and chocolate (cake). Icing was vanilla, which if I had been thinking I would have tinted blue. (I'm slipping) For balloons I used jelly beans in assorted colours, with balloon strings made out of thin black licorce. Thank you Bulk Barn! I had no illusions that the children would actually eat the licorce and was amazed when several did. Leading me to believe these children have way better manners than my own children (who immediately flicked off the offending licorce strings) or they mistook the licorce for something more tasty like chocolate. It was a bit dark in the party room at the theatre. Here is the finished product:

Having a go-to, basic recipe for homemade cupcakes is a must for anyone with young children. I've used the following recipe a few times in my relatively short career as a mum. It's from a fun book I got one year for Mother's Day called Cupcakes Galore. I love this book. It has a ton of creative recipes, many of which are organized around a theme (and we all know I love me a theme).

Basic Yellow Cupcake

1.5 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry ingredients together and set aside.

2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla. Alternately add flour mixture and beat until batter is smooth.

3. Spoon batter into cupcake papers, filling cups about 2/3 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool.

Variation: Basic Chocolate Cupcake - use the above recipe but replace 1/4 cup flour with 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder.

On to the icing. For this I consulted another of my very favourite cookbooks: Dad's Own Cookbook. Here is a simple recipe for Quick Vanilla Frosting:

14 tablespoons butter at room temperature
5 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 tsp salt
5 tbsps heavy cream or whole milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Beat butter until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. I did this in my stand mixer (which I love, by the way. If you don't have one, you should get one). With the mixer running, gradually add 4 cups of the sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, until it is fully incorporated. Add the salt, cream or milk, and vanilla and continue beating until well combined. Gradually beat in the remaining cup of sugar a few tbsps at a time, until the frosting is smooth and spreadable.

Frost your cakes and decorate them as you desire!

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