I know it sounds cliche as ever, but it seems like just yesterday I was posting about the birth of our first child.  I feel like I blinked my eyes and here he is, one year old, walking around the house climbing on everything and chattering up a storm!  It has most definitely been the best year of my life, and I can’t wait to see what this year brings.  

In addition to cooking and baking, another hobby of mine is homemade greeting cards and invitations.  I like making invitations in particular because I think they can really help set the tone for an event.  With these, I tried to incorporate the main colors for the party (blue and green) as well as the beach theme.  I was so happy with the way they turned out!

This was my first experience ever decorating a cake with fondant.  I felt a fondant cake would be the best way to easily incorporate the beach theme into the cake itself, so I did a very small trial run the week before the party using store-bought fondant.  Then for Andrew’s party I used homemade marshmallow fondant (recipe at the end of the post).  This is something I had been previously super intimidated by in the past, but working with fondant is essentially like working with play-dough.  It’s really not that complicated.  I was also amazed at how easy it was to make on my own.  As long as you have a stand mixer, you’re set!  Although I do hope to take formal cake decorating classes eventually, I’m glad I was able to figure this out on my own (with great advice from my friend Chelle – thanks, girl!)

Edit: I forgot to mention how the fondant actually tasted.  I have never been much of a fan of the taste of fondant, so I am probably not the best person to judge.  I thought this definitely tasted better than the store bought kind, but still not something I want to be snacking on :)  However, my friends who actually do like fondant really liked the way this tasted and said this was the best they’ve had.  So, there you go!

Overall I was thrilled with how the cake looked in the end.  The palm tree looked much better initially, and then really began to sag throughout the day so I just gave up on it.  This may seem like excess pictures of the cake, but I wanted to show the various decorations I put around the sides.  I thought the coral and the school of fish were so cute.

And the smiling octopus :)  I plan to do a step-by-step post very soon with instructions for decorating with fondant, so stay tuned for that.  Have no fear, it’s really not bad at all!

I made a strawberry filling for the inside of the cake which was delicious.  I can’t wait to try some of the other variations on the same recipe such as raspberry or pineapple filling.  Yum! 

I decorated the house with two dozen blue, green and white balloons and blue and green streamers.  We had beach-type music playing on the stereo such as Beach Boys, Bob Marley and Jack Johnson to set the mood, and leis for the guests to wear.  Since we had around 25 guests, I tried to keep the menu fairly simple and casual in keeping with the theme of the party.  I never got a shot of the whole spread, but our menu was as follows:

Lava Flows (virgin – these were for the under-age guests, and essentially just a smoothie.  I loved them! recipe to come)
Pina Coladas (for the adults :) )
Grilled Shrimp Cocktail
Tropical Fruit Salad
Veggie Tray with Dill Dip
Deviled Eggs
Pineapple Chicken Salad and Spicy Shredded Pork served on Honey Wheat Sandwich Buns (recipe to come)

For favors, I made beach-themed sugar cookies decorated with royal icing.  They were definitely a hit!

I packaged pairs of cookies in little cellophane bags for easy transport and to help keep them fresh.  I love individually packaged treats! 

And of course, the best part of a baby’s birthday party – the smash cake!  I kept it simple with a plain vanilla cake recipe and my favorite vanilla buttercream.  (Fondant is not messy enough for this usage – we needed good smear action!)  I combined blue and white frosting in the same pastry bag to create the swirled color effect to resemble ocean waves.  I didn’t work too hard on this since after all, it was made to be destroyed! 

He certainly seemed to enjoy it :)  We had a great time and I’m already looking forward to next year’s party!  

Marshmallow Fondant
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Vegetable shortening, for greasing bowls
16 oz. bag plain marshmallows, regular sized (I used jumbo and they worked fine as well)
2 tbsp. water
1-2 tsp. clear flavoring (I used vanilla extract)
2 lbs. confectioners’ sugar, divided
Pinch of salt

Using the shortening, grease a large microwave-safe bowl, the bowl of the stand mixer, a spoon/spatula (or two), and the dough hook.

Add the marshmallows and water to the prepared microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 60 seconds.  Stir with the greased spatula/spoon.  If not all the marshmallows have melted, microwave for 30 more seconds.  Stir in the flavoring.

Reserve 1 cup of the confectioners’ sugar and add the rest to the bowl of the stand mixer, along with the salt.  Create a well in the center.  Pour the marshmallow mixture into the well and turn the mixer on to the lowest setting.  When the mixer sounds strained, turn the speed up one setting.  Turn off the mixer once all the sugar has been incorporated.  If the fondant is sticky, add the reserved sugar 1/4 cup at a time until it is no longer sticky.

Turn the fondant out onto a piece of plastic wrap.  Rub a bit of shortening on the outside of the ball.  Wrap tightly with the plastic wrap, place it in a Ziploc bag and let rest for at least 2-3 hours.  Keep the unused portions covered when not in use.  If the fondant becomes stiff, microwave for 20 seconds at a time until it becomes pliable.  

Source: adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride