Dino Dig Birthday Cake

There is probably no boy on earth who enjoys the pleasures of a birthday celebration more than Henry. He loves birthdays almost as much as he loves squirrels!(And that’s sayin’ a LOT!)

Henry’s birthday always begins in his uber-creative mind a few months before the actual date arrives the week of Thanksgiving. Somewhere around the beginning of the school year, Henry told me he knew what he wanted his birthday cake theme to be this year. The conversation happened after church one Sunday at Culver’s where we usually take my daughter and her family for lunch. As we waited for our meal to arrive at our table, Henry sidled up to me for a chat. As he described the cake he envisioned, he enthusiastically gushed words like ‘Velociraptor’ and something about ‘Indominus Rex’ and other Jurassic World dinosaur-ish lingo. Henry had obviously set his heart on a cake that looked like a “paleontological dig site”—he wanted me to make the cake and said he would help decorate it.

So began my Pinterest search for ideas and inspiration. There was no shortage of ideas. I knew right away that I wanted to figure out a way to make dinosaur bones for the dig site. This educational site offered some freebie coloring sheets, so I chose two dinosaur skeletons from their site and resized them to fit on his cake. I laid a sheet of wax paper over the printed dinosaurs, then melted some cake decorating white chocolate candy melts, put the melted white chocolate in a Ziplock® baggie, then cut a hole in the tip of the bag to create a frosting bag and traced the outline of the dinosaurs to create the bones for the dig site. I also had enough white chocolate left to write out Henry’s name and the number 12. I let the designs set for a day to harden up nicely before peeling them off the wax paper and gently placing them on the cake. (I actually made two sets…just in case there was breakage.)

Meanwhile, I baked the Schultz family’s favorite chocolate cake recipe in a 9×13 baking pan.

Meanwhile, I baked the Schultz family’s favorite chocolate cake recipe in a 9″x13″ baking pan. I also made a half-batch of another chocolate cake recipe in an 8″x8″ baking pan for a second half-layer. The first cake is super-dark and very moist; the second layer is less chocolate-y, and a little more dense and less fragile. I frosted the entire cake with my daughter’s favorite recipe for cream cheese chocolate frosting. I kept my frosting job a little rough and dirty looking – after all, it is a dig-site.

Cream Cheese Chocolate Frosting Recipe

1 stick butter, softened

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1/2 c. cocoa powder

4 1/2 c. powdered sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 Tbsp. milk (I used a little more)

Here’s the frosted cake with the white chocolate elements in place.

I found some chocolate-filled cookie wafer tubes at our local Dollar Store, cut the tubes to various lengths, then added them to the edges of the second layer to resemble a retaining wall. The cookie crumbs were saved to be scattered here and there like clumps of dirt.

On Saturday morning, Henry arrived excitedly carrying a little treasure box of Lego Minifigs and other cake-topper elements for his dig site. Henry and his big brother Charlie worked together at putting frosting grass on the top layer of the dig site.

I dug through my box of ribbons and found an orange one to use as a rope to cordon off the dig site. The fence posts would be the 12 birthday candles. Charlie helped construct and place the fence around the dig site. Henry finished the decorating by placing his Lego creations wherever he felt it was best.

The birthday boy was happy. Very happy. Over-joyed, really.

We had to light those candles and blow them out, of course!

I fully realize that Henry is on the threshold of becoming a teenager and there will come a year when he will no longer request a decorated cake from his Grandma Cindie. That year isn’t this year, so I will bask in the joy and blessing of this happy birthday boy and his cake.


A few more pics of the fun details Henry added to his paleontological dig site birthday cake:

Charlie’s Jedi Birthday #10

meeting charlie
Meeting Charlie

After three beautiful granddaughters in a row, the Lord sent a little baby named Charlie, who reminded me that the world of little boys is a fun place for a grandma to be.

And on that day he made our lives all the richer and even more extraordinarily blessed.

Charlie’s kindness runs as deep as his smile is wide. He just loves coming to grandma’s house! We don’t even have to do anything special – just being here with us is a grand enough adventure for him. He enjoys crafts of any sort, drawing, Calvin and Hobbes, Legos, minerals (especially geodes), snakes and Star Wars.

calvin and hobbes friendship quotes - Google Search

We just celebrated Charlie’s 10th birthday by baking and decorating a Jedi-themed cake together – ALMOST ‘Pinterest Fail’ worthy, but laughably fun to make and super delicious. Ten whole years! These first 10 years passed so very quickly, and I know that the next 10 will fly by with Jedi warp-drive speed. I suspect that in those years there will still be plenty of Charlie’s hugs for grandma, a lot of fishing with Papa, and a lot of doin’ nothin’ together – and his grandparents will love every single minute of it.

Whatever Charlie’s future holds, we are praying our grandson will seek the Lord with his whole heart. May he continue to shine that infectious smile and use his kind-hearted ways as a tool to spread the love of Jesus everywhere life takes him.

Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the LORD! 
Blessed are those who keep his testimonies
who seek him with their whole heart.
who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways.
Psalm 119:1,2

Henry’s Basilisk Birthday Cake

We recently celebrated our grandson Henry’s eighth birthday. I haven’t a doubt in the world that he has already begun planning what his ninth birthday cake will look like and what should be on next year’s birthday gift list.

My daughter described her boy so very well on her Facebook post commemorating her second son’s birth.

“This kid will start a conversation with a stranger with “Do you want to learn about me?” He refuses to let a bee sting slow down his fun. He crosses his eyes in his school portrait just to make people laugh. He’s always thinking about something grand. He has my heart. Happy birthday, Henry!”

He has his Grandma Cindie’s heart too.

Henry snuggled up to me on the sofa at our family Thanksgiving gathering with a special request. He wanted US to decorate his birthday cake together. This boy always has a plan.

“We’ll have mommy bake the cake, ‘cuz her cakes taste good,” then gushed with great anticipation, “and I will help you decorate it because you make the cakes look good.”

How could a grandma refuse?

Henry further informed me of his grand plan. He wanted a “basilisk” cake, then told me everything he knew about basilisk lizards. It’s a good thing that this boy is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to anything reptilian because I had NO IDEA what a basilisk was. Henry and I poked around a little bit on Google so he could show his less than informed Grandma Cindie what one looked like. I didn’t know there were basilisk snakes (of Harry Potter mythology, of course) and basilisk lizards. Henry assured me he wanted the lizard variety. “It’s cool, Grandma! It can run on water.” (Click here if you’re even remotely interested in learning more about basilisks.)

Yes, that is pretty cool. And a pretty ambitious decorating feat for the two of us. I am by no means a professional cake decorator but willingly spend an entire day trying to come up with whatever a beloved grandchild dreams up.

We were up to the baking and decorating challenge.

I ended up baking the cake using my daughter’s recipe, baking up three chocolate 8″ layers to hopefully carve up and assemble into something that resembled a lizard…a basilisk in particular. My hubby helped me shop for a few of the details we would need, per Henry’s ideas, like orange M&M candies to make the eyes and animal crackers to crush and use for making the sand the basilisk would be crawling on.

As his mommy said, “He’s always thinking about something grand.”

In preparation for our big lizard making day, I poked around on Pinterest for a few ideas as to how to create something that resembled a lizard. I baked the three layers of cake ahead of time, then made up some delicious chocolate cream cheese buttercream frosting. I cut one of the cake layers in half and “glued” the two halves together with froting to make the body of the lizard, using this dragon cake as a general guide. I wrapped the body and the remaining cake layers in wax paper, then slid them into freezer bags and placed them in the freezer. Several Pinterest reviewers suggested this step of freezing the cake would make carving the cake and frosting the cut sides of the cake a little easier (it was a good idea).

Dragon cake - naked
Idea and photo credit: http://www.dinnerwithjulie.com/2010/08/07/chocolate-dragon-cake/

We would celebrate Henry’s birthday on the Saturday which followed his official birth date. Henry would come over in the morning after breakfast. We’d work on constructing his cake throughout the morning, Papa would take him out to lunch (so grandma could do parts of the construction that were better done without the help of an 8-year-old), then we would resume decorating the (hopefully) lizardy-looking creation during the afternoon. All of this in anticipation of a family celebration of his birthday with pancakes for supper (his request) followed by his special birthday cake and presents.

We had fun together. I’m not sure that we ended up with the basilisk of his imagination, but one thing was clear. No matter how it turned out, Henry would love it because he had worked on it with me. Several heartwarming times throughout our day together Henry told me he loved me.

As we worked side by side, at one point Henry asked me if we had bought a birthday present for him. Before I could answer, he quickly added, “It’s okay if you didn’t because making this cake with you today is like the best present ever already!”

My heart smiled.

I assured him we had a present for him too then teasingly asked, “Do you want me to take your present back?” Eyes wide open he wagged his head an emphatic no.

Making Animal Cracker Sand

The first task for Henry was to crush the animal crackers to create the sand that would be used later in the decorating phase. As he rolled over the crackers with the rolling pin, he retold the family story of how he would squirrel away animal crackers under the cushion of his highchair so he could help himself to a treat when Mommy said no to his request.

We laughed together.

Next step was for Henry to carve the tail out of one of the layers of cake. We made it fatter than a real basilisk’s tail because nobody would want a piece of cake that skinny. Henry deemed it the perfect lizard tail. I popped that tail back into the freezer while we worked on carving the legs and head and crown-thingy (the crest, I think) out of cake. Henry let me do most of that carving, adding ample praise as I worked.

Tail-carving time

Henry told me about his best friends at school.

It was lunch time. Papa took Henry out for lunch so I could pay attention to my mom’s needs. Momma has Alzheimer’s. I had worried that she would not cooperate, as she can be a handful on one of her bad days. Thankfully, she had rather enjoyed watching us work at the kitchen table together.

While Henry and Papa were enjoying cheeseburgers at Culver’s, I put the lizard head together and affixed it and the tail to the body with more frosting. Returning from their guys’ lunch together, Henry was super excited to see what had been accomplished in the construction phase, and we set ourselves to work creating a cross-section of a tree for the lizard to climb. We stuck the lizardy-looking parts in the freezer again while we worked together to create tree rings and bark out of chocolate frosting.

Next came the hard part. Frosting the little guy. I made a batch of cream cheese buttercream frosting without chocolate. I reserved a little plain white, then tinted the remaining frosting in a few shades of green. We propped Mr. Basilisk on the log, then added legs and started frosting with a crumb coat of green. (Freezing the cake greatly helped keep the cut edges under control, as did using a frosting spreader dipped in warm water.) Once he was thoroughly crumb coated, we started piping on frosting, smoothing here, adding “scales” there, shoving bits of leftover cake and frosting into gaps, and chatting as we worked.

Henry added the orange M&M eyes and was happy with how it looked. Basilisks also have white dots that run down their sides. Henry carefully added  white chocolate chips for the bigger dots and then and dotted white cupcake sprinkles in just the right places to make the little ones.

While he worked on those details (and snitched a few white chocolate chips), I melted some of the white chocolate, then tinted part of it green and part of it orange (took a little artistic liberty on that color). I piped this onto wax paper to create the  arched fin-like crest that continues along its back and tail. After the melted chocolate hardened off on my chilly back porch, we peeled it off of the wax paper and added those fun details to his birthday cake.

The birthday boy’s eyes lit up. He had one word to describe our creation.

“Awesome!”

That’s the same word I used to describe my day with the birthday boy.

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