Sunday, February 15, 2009

Birthday Cake Contest & 2nd Birthday Parties

This past weekend was Ailin's 2nd birthday (yesterday, the 15th, to be exact). She was fully aware that it was her special day and was super excited about all the decorations, sweets and presents. What excited her most was singing Happy Birthday countless times and holding up her two fingers, saying either "Two!" or "2-sai!" This is a far cry from her first birthday when she didn't really have a clue.

This year's theme was Elmo, one of her favorite characters. I had bought the party supplies last August in the USA along with the canned Betty Crocker frosting and boxed cake mix. Hey, I am not above using instant...I am a working mom, after all.

So, what I did was continue my tradition that I started last year. I ordered a custom cake from the Pont Neuf bakery in Inage. Using a photo, they made an exact replica of Elmo's face - marzipan icing, inside was 3 layers of white cake with whip cream and nuts in between. Then, I make an Elmo cake (from "scratch") and compare the results. Which tastes better? Which looks better?

This year, Pont Neuf won hands down. They did an excellent job, but I must say that the price was way more than I expected. I was quoted the price of 4500 yen (about $45), but when I picked up the cake, they charged me 6600 yen (about $66). I swallowed my pride and sheepishly paid this outrageous price because for one thing, Ailin was turning red and screaming in her stroller because she wanted to get out and walk. And, for another thing, I sometimes find myself so shocked at things that people say or do that I can't even react, and this was one of those situations. When I told my MIL and Yusuke about it, they said, "Oh, you have definitely been had. You looked like someone who was willing to pay any price for that cake." Honestly though, despite this being Japan where bargaining is rare, I look back and think that I could have easily argued the price down. I mean, it was 6:00 in the evening, so who else would they be able to sell that cake to? Whose gonna throw such a cake in the trash just because a customer refuses to pay that price? Of course, they would have agreed to bring it down closer to their original quote.

This brings me to explain why the quote was different from the final price. According to the bakery workers, my only choice was to have strawberries and whip cream in between each layer. I told them that my family hates strawberries in cake, so please use nuts instead. (We have this same conversation every time I order from this bakery, actually!) We went back and forth about that - them telling me strawberries are my only choice, me telling them not to put anything in then, them saying "how about another fruit?", me saying "how about nuts?", them saying, well it depends on the baker who is working on that day and what he wants to do, me saying okay, whatever, and them saying, "the price might be higher than our quote", and me saying "great." Perhaps I did seem like the type of person who "will pay any price." So, I am going to be more careful from now on when it comes to ordering from that bakery...perhaps we will all make do with strawberries.

The custom Elmo cake was meant for the family birthday party on Saturday evening. Ailin fully enjoyed the dinner made by MIL, loved the Elmo cake, and then got some presents from Baba and Jiji. (Yusuke and I had not yet bought her anything...shame, shame.) Baba had made a doll for Ailin which she arbitrarily called Mary. Ailin thinks that Mary is a witch and refuses to play with her though. Actually, Mary is kind of homely (even MIL admits to this), and her hair and clothes to sort of resemble that of a witch. We told Ailin that Mary is a witch but her job is to protect Ailin from other witches, so in that case, Ailin allows Mary to sleep with her and her other babies, but she doesn't want to touch or play with her.

After that, I started to frost the cupcakes for Ailin's birthday party, which would take place the next morning. My original plan was to put the cupcakes in a circular shape and frost them to look like Elmo's face. After placing the cupcakes on the circular tray, I realized that geometrically, this would not work out. My alternative plan was to frost each cupcake to look like Elmo's face. Sounds easy enough, right?

When I was making the red frosting, however, I ended up with pink, only getting pinker. So, I added a little blue which turned it kind of pinkish-purple, and then when I tried to fix it with more red, it became this horrible purple.I only had black tube frosting (meant for Elmo's eyes and nose), so I decided to just write "Happy Birthday Ailin" on the cupcakes and be done with it. I am totally aware of the fact that it looks like something you would see on an episode of The Addams Family. Luckily, Ailin is too young to care about the color of her cupcakes.

I just thought of this now, but since Ailin likes monsters so much, I could have just made a purple monster face out of the cupcakes. Too bad I was not in a more creative mood on Saturday night.

Anyway, the birthday party on Sunday was great. Her 3 Bilingual Kids Club friends and their moms came. Each mom brought a dish or two to share. (I asked that in lieu of gifts, they help out by bringing food for the party. I didn't want the stress of having to make the whole menu!) Ailin had lots of fun and everyone seemed to enjoy the party.

We played "Ailin's Favorite Character Toss" and "Pin the Nose on Elmo". We also put out art supplies and let them make a collage on the coffee table. That was about it. Much simpler than last year and less hassle with a small amount of guests. Yusuke stayed to help out until about an hour before the party ended, and then he went off to a movie.

At the end of the party, we were saying good bye to the guests at the door when Ailin snuck off and attacked the leftover cupcakes. She managed to climb up on the bench and grab one and eat it before I realized. She got the purple frosting all over her clothes and arms, so I gave her a bath before putting her down for a nap.

Max had a great weekend too. The weather was great, and I took him for a nice long walk in the sea-side park. On Sunday night, he got a much-needed bath. He looks and smells nice now.


deenster said...

Looks like the party was fun! Hard to believe that your little girl is already two!! Wow. She is beautiful!

Gina said...

Happy 2nd birthday to Ailin, I also can't believe she's 2 already!
The party looks like it was a lot of fun. And yup, I use cake mix from a box too and same for the frosting. Life gets busy and I'm fine with it. : ) I bet it was delicious.

medea said...

I like your cupcakes! I'm impressed that you found someone at all that will do marzipan, I couldn't and had to do it myself. How awful that they charged you so much more though. Strawberries cost more than nuts, anybody knows that. They're just trying to penalize you for not being a sheep. ;) Personally I hate fruit in cakes too. Why ruin a perfectly good dessert with something healthy???

Happy birthday to Ailin. Hope the Terrible Twos are so terrible around your place. Congrats on expecting another little bundle as well! I can't believe our kids will be so close in age- too bad we don't live closer.