To celebrate The Husband's 30th birthday, I threw him a hunting and fishing themed party to honor his two favorite hobbies.
First, let's take a look at The Cake. In my book, it was OK... hard to follow the baby shower cake that I was so proud of. This hunting cake looked more homemade... but still a winner in the "cute" department. The Husband didn't decide he wanted a party until less than 2 weeks before, so I really had very little time to put the ideas together for food and get everything done. The one weekend prior, we had my fat-raise-celebration and then a 20 mile run and a party the next day, so I really had to do all the party prep during weeknights which was rough. I recommend starting earlier! The invitation was taken care of by Evite.com, which was the first time I used them and was able to incorporate hunting and fishing pictures of The Husband into the background. It worked out pretty well, tracking all of the RSVPs for us, and we were happy to have around 25-30 people at the party despite many of his closest friends having moved to Chicago!
After looking for ideas on http://www.cakecentral.com/, I decided on the "hunting scene" idea, with the hunter sleeping and a big buck coming in. I saw that idea somewhere, so I will not take the credit but my cake looked a lot different. I hoped The Husband wouldn't get too mad (because he is a very attentive and successful hunter actually), but the silly cake was all in good fun.
I started out looking for a hunter and deer cake props at the local cake shop, which was a no-go. No hunter, and just a bag of tiny tiny 1 inch deers, which wasn't going to work, unless I wanted a microscopic hunter. I looked online and did find a decent set which I put the order in just in time. It was $4 and shipping was $7, BUTto make matters worse, it was the same stupid size as the tiny deer at the cake shop.... the cake in the photo online must have been tiny and I couldn't see the proportions. So, by Tuesday when this arrived, I knew I had to create my own hunter and deer out of fondant. The hunter had to be done, so I could make him sleeping, but I knew the deer would be tough.
I used Wilton's ready made fondant, which was plenty. Using basic 2nd grader playdough skillz, I molded the hunter's body - arms behind head and legs crossed - in a snoozing position. I also made a vest (to be painted orange) and attached it to the hunter. I was pretty pleased with how he turned out.
Next was the deer. I started molding the fondant which I quickly realized was too soft to be able to hold itself up. I created the body, neck and head, and four legs, and finally realized I needed another plan because the deer wasn't going to stand but melt down into itself with big fat 1 inch legs. Using my engineer problem solving skills, I knew I needed a rigid frame for the fondant to attach to, which would hold the weight. I used some little wood sticks (from JoAnn fabric that I had other plans for) and used the hot glue gun to make a "deer frame" and then tore my deer apart so I could wrap it around the wood frame. Having one leg bent to simulate the deer walking was a bad idea, because then the deer never quite stood up straight... as it turns out, he sank into the cake anyway. If I were to do this again, I'd maybe attach the frame to a flat square of wood so the legs wouldn't dig into the cake - to evenly distribute the deer weight. The platform would be covered in frosting, anyway.
Still, while my deer turned out lumpy because I slapped him together quickly (and I like to say it was even a little frumpy), he wasn't too bad. The antlers were tiny pieces of fondant rolled and attached (using water), with a small piece of dowel rod that I pushed into the head of the deer. It didn't fit perfect but as long as it was remotely looking like a deer... it was midnight and I was happy with that!
Next I used some camo fabric and those same little sticks to create a "deer blind" and a "camo chair" for my hunter to sit behind and in, respectively. These items turned out super cute and only took another half hour with the magic of my hot glue gun. I had some extra sticks and made a "Bliss Deer Camp" sign which I thought would be cute for the final cake. Finally, bedtime! I was hiding all these details from The Husband and performed some crafts in our extra bedrooms, including the computer room. He thought I was creating a birthday software program for him (whatever that would entail), because he couldn't imagine what else I'd be doing "online" for hours to prep for his party. Haha!
Wednesday the fondant figurines had hardened enough and I knew I had to try out the "painting" idea to make sure it was going to work. I had purchased some special powdered food coloring and had vodka on hand to mix it with to create a paint (like watercolor.. however I imagine there is a way to make the colors darker by using more paint, less vodka, or using gels).
I didn't want to buy every color in "powder" form at $2 a piece so I eventually used my regular paste food colorings with the vodka, and it seemed to work fine. The point of the vodka is that it will dry quickly so while you paint the color on the fondant, you won't affect the fondant finish with water damage. I found the figurines were sticky even with the vodka, after being painted, but they did eventually dry in a day or two.
I created jeans, shirt and other details on the hunter and tried to paint the deer... but he still looked frumpy. I liked the deer's black little hoofs but unfortunately those sank into the cake.
Also on Wednesday, I spent working on more grocery shopping (must've been the 3rd or fourth time!) and a really cute photo album of "Your First 30 Years" by collaborating with The Husband's mother. This was set out at the party and everyone enjoyed seeing photos from his past, years 0 to 30!
On Thursday, I had to cook the venison chili (turned out GREAT... sorry no recipe, I just throw in anything)... some rice krispy treats (The Husband notified me last minute that he needed a "birthday treat" to bring into work for Friday because his secretary was taking the day off.. it wasn't mandatory but he gave me those puppy dog eyes. Nino salvaggio's provided some tasty muffins, cookies and doughnut holes - I was just booked and couldn't imagine actually baking anything). Lastly, as it was past 9pm, I knew I had to decorate the cake as Friday was also booked with his birthday plans. The two layers were baked already (earlier that week) and I knew he liked store-bought frosting so I actually incorporated some of that into my decorators frosting. The cake HAD to be yellow with chocolate frosting (his favorite combo), which worked well with my outdoor scene - chocolate is like dirt! The usual Wilton's chocolate frosting for decorating was used, and shhh, a bit of store bought (don't tell my mom!) It worked quite well actually! I filled the two layers and put on the base chocolate crumb coat (this time I trimmed the cake to make it an even box shape). I used some of the cake trimmings to make a hill, just for some interest in my outdoor scene.
Note that this time I trimmed the edges and top of the cake and it is definitely less pillowy and rounded looking - more of a square. I also used the hot water/spatula technique to smooth out the frosting after it was on the cake.
Next, I started placing my figurines and realized they were WAY too big, but oh well - in cake land, proportions don't have to be perfect. The fake trees I was going to use were too small, so they played the part of "saplings" in the scene.
The hunter in his hunting chair, the deer blind, and the deer all found their homes on top of the cake.
I mixed up some white frosting (Wilton's) with green food coloring to make the grass (using a grass tip), and also the lake (blue frosting) was born.
I added some lake weeds in yellow, for effect. I didn't have time to try to make fondant cattails but the thought was there.
I saved off some white frosting and spent a good hour making various colors of camouflage - a dark green, light green, brown, etc. My plan was to make the sides of the cake a neat buttercream camouflage.
As you can see in these photos, the camouflage is harder than it looks (I saw lots of examples on http://www.cakecentral.com/, but who knows how they pulled that off!) so I actually had to scrape it off and start over - luckily I only did the front side before changing gears. I didn't like what I did next, but after midnight, I wasn't thinking too straight. I decided to just press cookie crumbs (shortbreads) for an "Easy side" but.. honestly it still took a lot of work and looked... well... frumpy again! I should've stuck with smooth sides and put some cute polkadots or even just LINES. These crumbs would be nice for a beach cake.
Anyway, it took a long time to finish everything but I was pretty happy except the crumb siding (though I did add a finishing border along the top edge of the cake on Saturday) and cleaned everything up, and wrapped up the cake to put in the fridge.
I also had to cover the cake (used a cut-up paper grocery sack) so he wouldn't be able to see it when he opened the fridge, as it was a surprise.
It had been a long evening, but productive.
Friday was his actual birthday so we celebrated at Mario's (see post), but I knew I had to assemble my mexican layer things so I stayed up until 1am making those post-dinner. The Husband went out to the bar so he was out of my hair. I set my alarm so I had a full night of sleep, but got right to the preparations Saturday morning.
The party turned out great. I had planned on Andrea coming over early to help set up and I would've been way behind if she hadn't, whew! It was a drizzly day but I donned my best camouflage and was giving the house a good deep cleaning, and then commenced decorating. I had driven up to my parents house the previous Sunday to gather a few hunting supplies - specifically Mr Fake Deer for the lawn. I worked on the sign Monday or Tuesday night on bright orange paper (to go with my hunting theme of course) mounted on foam board and tied with twine, which included a birthday greeting for Tim, and would welcome guests. It turned out cute!
I also had ton of help from Kitchen Marx and Kitchen Bliss The Original (sister- and mom-in-law) who thankfully provided me some tasty guacamole and chocolate brownies, both of which I received a ton of comments on how delicious they were (and I concur!)
Now let's get to some recipes. I had a heating tray set up to keep some food warm and was able to cater some of the food. As you may have read in our Pasty Taste-Off, Weldon's Pasties are The Husband and I's favorite locally, and I asked them to make me some special half-size pasties which worked out perfectly when cut into three triangles, as bite-size pieces. I also made the Mini Bacon BBQ Cheese Burgers as seen during the superbowl (though I did a better job on the Super bowl ones, oh well!), and I made a miniature vegetarian version of my 7 Layer Tortilla Pie - and made Mini Four Layer bean and cheese triangles (see below). That plus the venison chili rounded out the main eats. No recipe on the chili.. way too many ingredients. I tried writing it down but it is also special knowing it'll come out a little different each time.
I had appetizers which included chopped veggies and fruits with a Dill dip from Nino Salvaggio's, and I had two cheeses out with rosemary crackers. The only other thing that was homemade was the Spinach Artichoke dip (I finally tried Andrea's recipe which was different AND WAY BETTER than the one we tried for the Wreath Party), which was awesome with chips and chunks of rye bread.
I was a little behind on prepping the Mini Bacon BBQ Cheese Burgers but after they were finished this was a very low-maintenance food party so I was able to enjoy myself. I only had to periodically heat food in the oven and then place on the heating tray as needed. Crockpots did the rest of the warming work!
Mini Mexican Triangles (Vegetarian)
2 cans refried black beans (I used Amy's organic)
1 can black beans
4 cans of refried beans
1 1/2 cups salsa, or however much. I didn't measure.
taco / southwest seasoning, garlic salt, and cumin
32 tortillas (I enjoyed the three different colors: tomato basil-red, spinach-green, and regular (2 pkgs))
Mix the refried beans with most of the salsa and add taco seasoning/garlic salt/cumin until it's tasty.
Mix the black beans into the black refried beans and add the chopped fresh cilantro, a little bit of salsa, and some taco seasoning, garlic salt, and cumin until it's tasty.
Starting with one regular tortilla for the bottom, layer with refried beans and some shredded cheese of your choice. (I used white cheese with the black bean layer and yellow with the other two.. it really doesn't matter). Place a green tortilla on top and spread with black bean mixture, and white cheese. Place red tortilla on top and spread again with refried bean mixture and more cheese, and put another regular tortilla on top.
I stacked these into piles of two, separated with one paper plate, and covered each pair in foil, to make a total of 4 pairs. These were fine in the refrigerator for up to a few days, and when ready to eat - take them out and bake on a cookie sheet at 350 for 15-30 minutes or until crispy and melty. You could also fry them, or just warm them up in the microwave for a soft consistency.
I cut them into 6 triangles after baking, and placed on my heating tray for the party. I served them with salsa and verde sauce, and sour cream or guacamole would also be tasty.
Andrea's Artichoke and Spinach Dip (this is a keeper!)
2 cups mayonnaise (real, not Miracle Whip salad dressing)
2 cups shredded monterrey jack
2 cups parmesan cheese
2 10oz frozen spinach packages
2 cans artichoke hearts, chopped
Drain and chop the spinach and artichoke hearts. Mix all ingredients together in a very large bowl.
This can bake in a 9x13 pan in the oven for 20-30 minutes at 350. However, we put as much that would fit into my mini Crock Pot on "high" which heated it up until it was melty and delicious, which was perfect. The Mini Crock Pot worked great on "warm" keeping this recipe out, and you only needed to stir it every once in a while as it sat. I baked the excess that didn't fit into the mini crockpot and refilled the crockette as necessary.
Ideas About Throwing A Hunting and Fishing Theme Party
Chances are that if you're throwing this party, your husband has tons of supplies that can be used as decorations. Think outside the box but keep it safe (avoid lures with hooks!): Decoys (ducks, geese, etc), bobbers (new from the store), live shotgun shells and other ammunition to sprinkle over the table, pine cones (I had some leftover from Christmas), camouflage chairs, seat pads, and go to the craft store for some camo fabric (often on sale!)
I cut up camo fabric to use as table runners in the kitchen, dining rooms and living rooms. I used several hunting accessories for decorations and made sure to get out his duck and deer calls / sound makers. Camo hats, gloves, masks, can all be fun. I used some camo plates and cups (as found on this website which I highly recommend - http://www.justcamousa.com/) as well as some regular army camo plates and cups from Walmart. The rest were blaze orange or other coordinating colors from Paper Party Place in Troy.
We had our basement ready for the at-home archery range and invited other guys to bring their bows for some indoor archery but you could also set up a skeet-shooting outing or do it yourself if you live in the country. A fishing outing would be cute, too, at your nearest public lake.
Other ideas I considered but didn't have time or just decided against them: having outdoor / hunting theme shows on the TVs in the background.. (the best I could do here was Deadliest Catch), getting fish bowls and buying some real goldfish for added affect - put the bobbers to float on the top, have some "outdoor sounds" playing in the background, use pine-scented room spray, incorporate some pop-up camo tents (maybe assemble outside?) for kids or people to check out, and maybe construct some kind of fishing game where you win a prize (this would be good for kids)
Let's face it, you'll have to get creative here. A google search of "hunting theme party foods" comes up pretty short. If you have a full freezer of game, that is a good place to start. Think about having a fish fry, making venison chili (or venison something), using up those venison sausages, or other meaty appetizers (duck, pheasant phajitas, etc!)
After I exhausted the freezer raiding ideas, I started thinking about Deer Camp / Hunting Lodge foods that the guys typically eat. Chili, lasagna, mexican stuff, and at least in our part of the midwest - PASTIES. Pasties are described in one of my other posts, but this was a perfect thing to serve, whether you do it in cut triangle pieces or miniature size, or whatever. I haven't met anyone who didn't like a little pot pie. See above picture for the mini pasties which were cut into 3 triangles, baked for 30 minutes at 350, and then placed on the heating tray.
You can also attempt to find animal-shaped items like Goldfish crackers or little peep marshmallows... caribou tracks (those Caribou Coffee chocolate covered coffee beans or even chocolate covered raisins would work)... who knows what you'll come across here!
Lastly, you can get creative with incorporating animals or the act of hunting into your foods. For instance, the cookies my girlfriend Andrea made were absolutely adorable - little duck and bunny shaped cutouts, with arrows shooting into them and blood splatters, using food coloring gels. That was perfect for our humor, anyway... we loved these!
I also was going to try camouflage covered rice krispy treats using colored white chocolate, but seeing how my camo came out on the cake, thank god I didn't attempt that. Done right, that would've been cute. Or even blaze orange drizzles over your favorite bar cookie, etc. Think outside the box!
I could only come up with a few ideas that would work for my situation so the rest of the food was just regular party fare and birthday boy favorites! Have fun!