Classroom Treat "Giant Cupcake"

Classroom Treat “Giant Cupcake”

Last year my Punch Box Birthday Cake was well received, so I thought I would do another “cake” idea to celebrate by daughter’s birthday at school.  Like many schools, it is sensitive to food allergies, so edible treats for birthdays are not allowed. 

Instead, birthdays can be celebrated with small trinkets.  This is where my Giant Cupcake comes in.  I have fashioned mini treat bags to look like slices of cake, topped with a mound of “frosting”. As each student takes a slice (i.e. treat bag) they find a trinket and stickers inside.  Classroom Treat "Giant Cupcake"

Not only is this a fun way to celebrate a birthday, it is a fun project to make with your birthday boy or girl.  My daughter had fun “frosting” the giant cupcake, which made this all the more special.

Classroom Treat "Giant Cupcake"

Classroom Treat "Giant Cupcake"

Now I just have to decide if I make two Giant Cupcakes to serve all 24 kids in her class, or come up with a second treat . . . .


Classroom Treat Giant Cupcake

1 plastic, 10” diameter cheap plastic bowl ( I bought mine at the Dollar Store)
White glue
Foam brush
2 sheets of tissue paper (one for frosting, another for the cherry)
Confetti or sticker gems
12-13 mini treat bags
Masking tape
Goodie bag treats
Bottom of 10” diameter spring form pan (or 10” round cardboard circle)

Place the plastic bowl open side down.  Lightly spread glue on bottom of bowl with a foam brush and smooth squares of first tissue paper over sides to “frost” the bowl.  Glue a small ball of second tissue paper on top like a cherry.  Glue small gems or confetti on sides like sprinkles; let dry.  Place trinkets in bags, then fold over top, half using one fold and the remaining using two folds.  Gently tape down fold with masking tape. Place two strips of masking tape on spring form pan, sticky side up.  Arrange treat bags in a circle, alternating bags in with one fold and two folds. Gently place bowl on top (open side down) on top.

Each 10-inch round cake holds 12-13 mini bags. 




gluten free brownies

High Altitude Gluten-Free Brownies

Hitting a milestone birthday is a big deal for many.  Some splurge on cars, and others have a right-of-passage party. Not my husband. He requested a guitar cake.  That’s right he picked a themed cake over a Lamborghini. Well, not really, but he knew I wasn’t going to get him a car so he settled for the next best thing.

A few years ago I made my son a guitar cake which actually was a lot of work and looked, well, mediocre.  I opted for a compromise: make a batch of homemade, fudgy, gluten-free brownies, cut them out in shapes of guitars, and decorate them in a pattern that replicates a famous 80’s rock band guitar.

gluten free brownies

First, let’s discuss the brownies.  As I have mentioned in other posts, high altitude baking has been a huge frustration.  There are a variety of things to tweak and it takes a while to find the best modification.  Add to that the concept of gluten-free baking and you have yourself a challenge.  I did a bit of research and decided to blend this recipe from King Arthur’s flour with this high altitude recipe from Allrecipes. The two modifications important for high altitude baking were:

  • Extra flour: I added two extra tablespoons of flour (for a total of 7/8 cup rather than ¾ cup of flour)
  • Less leavening agent: I decreased the baking powder to 1/2 teaspoon (instead of 1 teaspoon)

With these two simple changes I solved my problem of soggy brownies, AND I had gluten-free brownies that tasted amazing.

With my brownies done it was time to attempt the guitar shape.  I used a 5-inch long electric guitar cookie cutter and carefully cut out shapes. I placed the shapes on wax paper and then melted candy melts to coat my brownies.  I started with red and poured it over the brownie to coat it entirely.  Next I melted a bit of black and white candy melts to sprinkle over the top.  Finally I trimmed away the excess candy melt and admired my handiwork.  The brownie did in fact mirror the pattern of the famous guitar, as shown by the guitar pics that are decorated in the same pattern.

gluten free brownies

While decorated brownies are only for special occasions in my house, this high altitude gluten-free brownies recipe is my new standard.

High Altitude Gluten-Free Brownies

1 1/2 cups white sugar
¾  cup unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon gluten-free vanilla extract
3/4 cup (2 1/2 ounces) unsweetened cocoa powder
3 large eggs
7/8 cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free 1 to 1 Flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8×8 baking pan.

Place the sugar, butter, and salt in a medium sized saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring with a heatproof spatula until the butter melts and the mixture lightens in color.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl, add the vanilla and cocoa, and then add the eggs and mix until incorporated.

Carefully stir in the flour and the baking powder until well mixed, and then stir in the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it to the edges. Bake the brownies for 40-45 minutes, until the top is set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or nearly so.

Remove from the oven and cool completely before cutting. Once the brownies are cool, cover tightly with plastic.



Punch Box "Birthday Cake"

Punch Box “Birthday Cake”

My school-aged daughter recently celebrated a birthday and I wanted to be able to bring something to share with her class at school.  Like many schools these days, her school respects allergy concerns and has banned food items for parties. Since I couldn’t bring in an edible cake or treat, I wanted to devise a “cake” that served small goodie bag trinkets instead.

 Punch Box "Birthday Cake"

What came to mind was a popular game for trunk-or-treat events – the punch box.  A punch box is typically a piece of cardboard with holes cut out that are covered with tissue paper.  Trick-or-treaters punch through a piece of tissue to reveal a prize.  Why not transform this idea into a “birthday cake”?

Punch Box "Birthday Cake"


For easy of construction, I made my Punch Box “Birthday Cake” out of plastic party cups, tissue paper, and rubber bands.  I used one cup per kid in my daughter’s class and used a box that was suited to arranging the cups to get a layered cake effect (i.e. twelve cups around the bottom and six cups on top).  I fashioned some candles out of construction paper and voila – an inedible, yet fun cake.

The Punch Box “Birthday Cake” was a hit and netted compliments from teachers (including the art teacher!) when I walked into the school.  I’d love to hear your ideas for non-food birthday celebrations.

 Punch Box "Birthday Cake"

Punch Box “Birthday Cake”

18, 16oz. colorful drinking cups
18, assorted trinkets, stamps, or small toys
18, 10-inch by 10-inch squares of tissue paper
18, rubber bands (at least 1/8th inch wide and ~2.25 inch diameter)
One, 5-inch x 7-inch x 10-inch box
Wrapping paper
Duct tape
Construction paper (optional)


Note: These instructions make one “cake” serving 18 children.  To accommodate a larger group size, increasing the number of cups, trinkets, tissue squares, and rubber bands by one per child. A larger box or multiple boxes will be needed to accommodate the extra cups.

Place one trinket or toy in each cup.  Place one piece of tissue paper over each cup opening and secure with a rubber band, sliding the rubber band about halfway down the cup.  Wrap the box as if it was a present, then secure twelve of the cups to the short sides (three cups per side) with a bit of duct tape and (side of cup to side of box). Secure the remaining cups with a bit of duct tape to the top (bottom of cup to top of box).  Tie a ribbon around the top cups and a ribbon around the bottom cups and box to secure in place.

To use, each kid gets to punch through the tissue paper on top of one cup to claim their prize.


I found that hot glue was not a great choice as the cups were a bit too heavy and I was a bit too impatient to hold each cup in place.  The ribbon is necessary to make the “cake” look pretty and keep the cups aligned.

When using the punch box, place on top of a table or use a larger piece or wood or cardboard under the bottom layer, otherwise enthusiastic kids can knock the cups right off the package.



No Bake Dragon Cake

No Bake Dragon Cake

It all started with a batch of corn flake cookies I made for Christmas this year. A simple thought transformed into a theme for my 3-year-old’s birthday party . . . .

 My family has been making corn flake cookies for as long as I can remember.  These treats are similar to a rice crispy treat made with corn flakes and just as delicious. The original recipe calls for forming the cookies into a wreath, much like Lauren shows in her blog, however we have gotten in the habit of merely making ball shaped cookies perhaps since we are more interested in eating the cookies than making them look pretty. 

As I made them this year I thought that the texture would look great as the skin of a dragon for a birthday cake. I immediately got excited about a no bake dragon cake – cut down on birthday party prep time? Sign me up! While I had some ideas, I scanned Pinterest for some decorating ideas and came across another easy dragon cake posted by parents magazine.  Their recipe calls for cutting a Bundt cake into multiple pieces, rearranging, and frosting in a new shape.  My plan was to create something even more simple.

I decided to use the corn flake cookies to create the body, a pre-made pound cake to make the head, and a variety of candy for decoration. First, I prepped the candy additions.  I used two white candy melts for eyes by dotting the centers with some black frosting and let the frosting dry so that it did not drip. 

dragon details

Next I used 4 pieces of laffy taffy (two purple, one yellow, and one pink) to make wings and flames.  I rolled out the laffy taffy using a rolling pin to the thickness and width I wanted, then cut shapes using a pizza cutter.  Similarly, I slightly flattened four orange air head candies and cut them into triangular spikes. I decided to use sugary candy as the decoration pieces since they add great color variety and don’t melt as easy from the residual heat in the corn flake cookies like a chocolate coated cookie or candy (I made a mock up earlier in the month with sliced cookies didn’t work as well as the candy).

I sliced the pound cake to make the shape of a dragon head,and then frosted it.


I made the corn flake cookie batch, formed it into a mound and curving tail, then added stripes with spray.


No bake dragon cake

I placed the frosted head near the corn flake cookie body than added dragon details with my premade candy shapes.  The result was a cute no bake dragon cake that delighted all the party attendees.  I can’t believe I actually made this the same day as the party!

No Bake Dragon Cake

A variety of kid activity conflicts meant that I hosted the party mid-afternoon. In lieu of a meal I served light snacks:

  • Swords and Shields (Cheese Sticks and Crackers)
  • Fire Breath Mix (purchased Cajun Trail Mix)
  • Dragon Horns (Bugles)

To add to the dragon theme for the party I went with simple games and decorations that my kids helped me prepare.  Both of my kids are into doing crafts, so I thought planning for the party would be a great way to spend time together.  We made two large murals of dragons,

mural1 mural2

made a pin-the-tail on a dragon, and – drum roll – made a piñata. They helped cut the paper, coat the form (a 12-inch balloon and a snout made with a paper towel roll cut in two) with paper mache (the paste is equal parts flour and water) and paint. 





The last touch for the party was a pair of dragon wings for every kid.  Both my kids asked for dragon costumes for Christmas, with specific colors.  I came across a no-sew dragon wing idea from Bren on that was so easy, it really made my dragon costume gifts simple to do.  Since I had enough leftover fleece from that project it was a pleasure to make wings for our party guests. They were also a good excuse to get the kids to run around and burn up their candy and cake fueled energy!


PinkDragonCostumeAll the attendees had fun with the games, so much so that it is hard to say if the piñata or dragon wings were the bigger hit.  And I can’t forget to mention that the birthday boy loved his no bake dragon cake!

no bake dragon cake

No Bake Dragon Cake

no bake dragon cake

2 white candy melts
Black frosting
4 pieces of laffy taffy (2 purple, 1 yellow, 1 pink)
4 pieces of orange air head candies
12 ounce premade pound cake
1 jar of blue frosting
4 tablespoons butter
1 (10oz) package of marshmallows (40 count)
6 cups corn flakes
10 drops green food coloring
Wilton’s Color Mist food color spray, blue
6 -8 gum drops (2 red, 4-6 orange)

First, I prepped the candy additions.  I used two white candy melts for eyes by dotting the centers with some black frosting.  I let the frosting dry overnight so that it did not drip. 

Next I used 4 pieces of laffy taffy (two purple, one yellow, and one pink) to make wings and flames.  I rolled out the laffy taffy using a rolling pin to the thickness and width I wanted, then cut shapes using a pizza cutter.  Similarly, I slightly flattened four orange air head candies and cut them into triangular spikes; set aside.

Cut the pound cake to make the head by slicing down the center halfway and then cutting from one side in widthwise to remove one quarter of the cake.  Save the small piece for another use.  I find I get a cleaner look by first frosting with a crumb coat.  I spread a layer of frosting on to seal in the crumbs, then put the cake in the freezer for ~30 minutes and then remove from the freezer and put a final layer of frosting; set the frost cake aside.

Lay waxed paper over the surface you want to use to serve your cake. Next make the corn flake cookie batch  by melting the butter over low heat, then adding marshmallows and slowly melt, stirring often.  When melted, add green food coloring, stir until an even green color is achieved, then and corn flakes.  Stir quickly until the corn flakes are coated, then place on the waxed paper by forming a large mound with a medium size tail curving behind it. Then, add blue stripes by spraying with the Wilton’s Color Mist food color spray.  While the corn flake cookie batch is still sticky, use the orange airhead spikes to create a ridge down the back, then transition to orange gum drops down the tail.  Stick one wing on each side of the body.  If necessary, use tooth picks to prop up the spikes until ready to serve (the residual heat may cause wilting). 

Place the frosted head close to the corn flake body, and then gently place the flame under the snout, use two red gum drops for nostrils, and finally add the eyes and two more small spikes for eyebrows. Store lightly covered until ready to serve.

Note: I made this the same day as the party to keep the corn flake cookie part soft, since I did not have an air tight container big enough to store the entire cake.  I loosely covered in wax paper and plastic wrap.