Sure, it feels like just yesterday that your child or dog was turning 5, but suddenly it's time to plan another birthday party. That's okay, it's just a party for twenty kids or so, how hard can it be? Remember, your party has to be superior to all the other kids' parties, or your child will go through life regretting that Spider-Man was invited but never came.
So when it comes time to start planning, all you have to do is ask the birthday boy or girl to pick a theme, and then get ready to break some copyrights. Because your child is going to pick a beloved family-friendly character so popular that they are surrounded by a protective circle of animated lawyers at all times. Sometimes these lawyers disguise themselves as backpacks, as in the case of Dora the Explorer, or as fearsome monsters, as in Ben 10. What you need to do, then, is agree to have a licensed-character-themed party (don't let the lawyers hear), then start getting creative. Here's how that works:
When your child asks for a Lilo-and-Stitch themed cake, you go and have the baker make you the best Hawaiian-Beach-themed cake possible. Then you can pick up some Lilo and Stitch action figures, plonk them down in artistic poses, and have the best totally-legal licensed-character cake in the neighbourhood!
Or, you can use a transfer sheet to get that image of Copywright-Protected-Miley onto a simple flat cake. Again, totally legal, but pretty flat. A few layers or toys on top will spice up the presentation.
Really, party wide themes are not that difficult to apply. A centrepiece such as a cake, costume, or display can often be the only element that actually reflects the main idea. Everything else, from the table setting to the room decorations, can just echo the colour scheme and general design of the centrepiece, tying the whole affair together. For more details, you might want to read more aboutWhat Colours Mean (The page is written specifically for weddings, but can be applied to any event).
To get a theme on the cheap, scour the house for every bed sheet, item, and piece of construction paper of the same colour as the main character or environment. Remove anything in the main room or yard that distracts from the theme.
Remember, it's pretty easy to turn cakes into landscapes, stages, game boards, fighting rings, etc. It's a lot more expensive to bake five-tiered castles, action heroes, and carousels. Know your budget, and plan accordingly. Here's some help:
Cheaper cakes for boys:
Super Mario: The simple geometric shapes and worldwide popularity of the character make putting Mario on a cake pretty simple. Just make sure you're making a tiered cake, round or rectangular, and decorate the sides with the Super Mario world. The top can have a mushroom, square question block, action figure, anything.
Wrestling: Just use a square cake, make cinnamon-stick posts in each corner, and connect licorice or red vines to the posts to make a wrestling ring. Action figures of wrestlers will not be hard to find.
Dinosaurs: You can make an actual dinosaur out of bits and pieces of shaped cake, but remember, we're talking about cheap cakes. Use a wide cake as a base, a smaller rounded cake as a volcano, and decorate with jurassic frosting. Some toy dinosaurs on the top should complete the illusion.
Star Wars/Outer Space: A rounded cake will do an admirable job of becoming a planet with a few craters. Use the plate to simulate rings around it, or put it on a mirror to make a whole planet.
Cars: Again, you can sculpt a realistic vehicle out of cake. Or, you can just make a racetrack on top and drop a hot wheel on it.
Cheap cakes for girls:
Princess: the good news is that between Barbie, Disney, and numerous 99-cent store knock offs, princess stuff is everywhere. More good news is that it's easy to bake a rounded cake, drop a doll into the top, and turn the whole thing into a hoop skirt.
Mermaid: There are two simple ways to do this: 1: Use the rounded-cake/doll-in-the-middle idea, but build a mermaid tail with frosting down the side. Use the cake as the rock upon which she sits, not the dress in which she steals hearts. 2: It's not hard to create a beach landscape on the top and down the sides of a flat cake, and toys will do the rest.
Dora the Explorer: If the top of the cake is a map, then a Dora toy will fit in perfectly.
Pop Star: The top of a flat cake makes a great stage for little diva dolls. With enough toys, an audience can be compiled.
Cheaper cakes for grown-ups:
The present: Wrap a bow around a brightly rectangle cake. A fondant bow is beautiful, but don't try to make it yourself. Using a real bow works, but will complicate the serving process.
The beer tier: For real classy guys, use beer bottles as the columns that support the second tier of their cake.
The big book: It's easy to turn a rectangular-shaped cake into a rectangular-shaped book. Just scrape horizontal lines for pages into three sides, and title appropriately: "Ray's Book of Really, Really Long Life," or "How to Pick Up Chicks," or "How to Lose Weight: Don't Eat Cake."
The naughty body part: Not for amateurs. In fact, they're not really that cheap.. I just wanted to make you aware it was possible.
The golfer: The top of any kind of flat cake will provide more than enough landscaping opportunities to make a first-rate, edible golf hole.
Simple Party Planning
Having too many options has paralyzed a lot of party planners. Knowing that the centrepiece is taken care of will simplify everything else. With the main idea complete, the decorations, entertainment, and food organizing will all be simpler. And remember, if the cake is prominent enough, guests won't notice that you've hung bed sheets on your walls to simulate a palace chamber.