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A Birthday in the Baking Tent

One night my husband and I woke up our sleeping baby girl at 9pm to take her with us to go get donuts. What on earth, you ask, would possess us to do such a thing? The only acceptable answer: we were watching the Great British Bake Off donut week episode. About halfway through the episode, we looked at each other and said, "We need to go to Krispy Kreme. Right now."

Fast forward six years, and it seems that our parenting decisions have worn off on that little baby. Our now seven-year-old daughter loves to watch the show with me, and she also knows that it is a great way to convince me to let her stay up a little later if we can watch it together.

{This cake was made possible through the Publix bakery and the Hobby Lobby dollhouse furniture section. And to the left you may notice our special homemade chocolate cake (painted styrofoam with fake raspberries hot glued to the top)}

I tried to contain my excitement when Joy decided to have a baking show birthday party this year. The beautiful English countryside. The whimsical set design. The peaceful background music and British accents. And of course... the baking! This theme contained so much inspiration, and my mind immediately started to dream about how I could bring the baking tent experience to life for Joy and her friends.

This year was extra special, as we are living in my in-laws' guest house while we finish up some house renovations. So they generously let us use their home, which has the most beautiful screened porch that made for the perfect setting for this party. This was such a treat for us!

I started with the invitation. I knew I wanted the invite to somehow open like a tent. I created this white tent template on my Cricut machine. Inside, I wanted to replicate as many of the elements from the real baking tent as possible, including the paneling, cooking utensil decor, and the iconic chocolate cake with raspberries on top. You'll see these elements repeated again in the party.

My first challenge was to create the classic baking stations for 10 girls. It seemed impossible (or at least very costly and too much effort!) to get actual butcher block for the tabletops. Enter: butcher block contact paper! This was cheap and so simple to apply to our plastic 2x4' folding tables, and it really did give the look of a real butcher block table. Several people thought it was real! I used one 17.7 "x 118.1" roll for each table (with some left over). The paper came off easily with no residue after the party.

For the paneling on the front of the tables, I found these shaker style panels at Home Depot. They were the perfect width for our 4ft folding tables. My daughter and I had the best time roller painting the panels together. We used Behr Early September for the blue, and we mixed the green using a few different acryllic paints from Hobby Lobby. I used Gorilla Tape (strong duct tape) to adhere these panels to the top of the table.

I made the circular window from foam board and hung it from the back of the television using jewelry string. And you may notice those plates hanging on either side of the fireplace... they're plastic, and I stuck them to the wall using Gorilla Tape ;)

I wasn't planning on covering the sides of the stations, but the legs on the folding tables really did kind of mess with the look. My mother-in-law had the genius idea to use really strong magnets to adhere a rectangle of fabric to the metal table legs. This made the biggest difference!

To finish the stations, I taped a piece of shiny black cardstock to the table and set oven knobs on top to look like a stovetop. Did my husband look confused when he opened an Amazon package full of oven knobs? Yes. But I wanted the girls to feel like they were in the real tent, and I think this detail is what really took it up a notch (pun intended).

As girls arrived, they put on their aprons (embroidered by my mom) and got to work sketching their cake designs that they would decorate later. I was impressed that a lot of the girls' cakes really did resemble their sketches!

Next we moved on to the technical challenge. I knew I wanted the girls to be able to actually measure, mix, and mold something. I have the best memories of making salt dough with my mom every summer, and I knew the simple recipe would be easy to pull off with a group of 7 and 8 year olds. Plus, they could take their creations home after the party and continue to play with the salt dough.

Each station had a recipe card, bowl, pan, measuring cup, rolling pin, pre-measured salt, and canister of flour (everything was from Dollar Tree except the rolling pins). I also set out little bowls of fake berries from Hobby Lobby and Amazon.

This party just happened to be in the middle of the worst heat wave this summer, so I knew we needed to work fast and spend as little time on the porch as possible. In my haste, I made the *critical* mistake of not following my own recipe, and I told the girls to add 1 cup of water instead of 1/2 cup. We just added more flour and all was well, but things were very sticky for a bit.

We gave the girls a variety of baking tools and pans and asked them to use their imagination and make a "pastry." They all created showstoppers, and I was blown away by their creativity!

After the technical challenge, we came inside for a welcome break from the heat. My friend Stacey with Dash Bakery made us these cake decorating kits, and they were such a hit with all of the girls. Each kit came with an uniced cake, white buttercream and spatula to frost, and four piping bags. This was so fun to see each girls' personality in the way they decorated their cakes.

These boxes worked out really well, because the girls could also easily transport their cakes home. We found out later that night that these cakes were not only fun to decorate, but also DELICIOUS.

I kept the refreshments low-maintenence and bought madeleines, lemon squares, and scones from Trader Joe's. We picked up a gallon of Chik-fil-a lemonade through their drive thru, grabbed a fruit platter from Publix, and called it a day.

Finally, it was time for the awards. We made it clear at the beginning of the party that every girl would get an award. During the party, my mom and mother-in-law walked around and "judged" the girls' salt dough pastries and decorated cakes. Some of the awards included "Icing Master," "Most Detailed," and "Most Creative." We had our own Paul Hollywood (my husband) on hand to pass out the awards. And of course, the birthday girl got Star Baker!

As the party came to a close, we sent our guests off with this macaron-shaped chalk from Five Below.

Joy and I agree that this is our favorite party yet. My friend asked me if I was stressed the day before the party, and I couldn't figure out why I had not felt any stress at all while getting ready for this party. Then I remembered... the party wasn't at my house and I wasn't trying to keep my home clean while prepping! The girls' age range was also ideal for this party, and the activities kept everyone engaged and excited.

I can't believe that baby girl we woke up for a donut run is now seven years old. She truly is our Joy, and it is one of the biggest honors of my life to get to know and love her. And take her on many more donut runs ;)


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