** This post linked to Made By You Monday at Skip to My Lou! ****

We had Ella’s rainbow-themed 4th birthday party yesterday.  I LOVE that she chose the theme of rainbows over her original theme of (gag) Disney Princesses.  I have had quite enough of the princesses.  The change came after I spotted a rainbow-striped polo dress in Carter’s one day and knew Ella would flip over it.  Sure enough, she loved it and when I suggested a rainbow party, she never looked back.

It is still quite cold here in Michigan, so we had to add a layer of clothing under the birthday dress so Ella was warm enough for school. She didn't mind one bit!

I decorated the kitchen the night before her actual birthday using the tried and true Martha Stewart tissue paper flowers using rainbow colors, and I made a simple banner to hang in the kitchen and later at the party.  These banners had always mystified me for some reason, until a friend told me how she makes hers.  I used scrapbook cardstock, a small decorative bucket to make the circles and my printer for the letters.  It was SO easy.  When it came time to string it up, I used a barbeque fork to make the holes because I didn’t have a hole punch and it worked perfectly.  Ribbon would have looked better, but that’s a LOT of ribbon.  I used twine and once it was all together, I don’t think it mattered much.  Ella loved the banner and informed her not-yet-two-year-old brother that if he happened to forget that it was her birthday, he could just reference the banner.  Nice.  Nothing like some fresh four-year-old sass to start the poor guys’ day.

...mangled curtains courtesy of my children...

The cupcakes were my favorite element of the party and were honestly the most time-consuming.  But for a small-ish family party, it was worth the effort, especially when I saw the smile on Ella’s face when she saw the inside of her cupcake.  I saw the recipe on The Girl Who Ate Everything (I will add recipes at the end of the post).  I loved how vibrant and happy they looked.  Rather than use standard cake mix only and canned frosting (which I have been disliking more and more each time I eat it) I used the modified cake and frosting recipes The Girl posted.  They were a huge hit and the coconut extract in the frosting not only added to the fun feel of the rainbows, but it had everyone guessing and raving.  I will use that frosting recipe for a very, very long time.

I will pause here and say my cupcake frosting skills are seriously lacking.  It kind of put a damper on things to have flat looking cupcakes.  Beth… please help me!

Another favorite element for me was the rainbow fruit platter with “cloud” fruit dip.  Ella has loved fruit from the time she was in the womb and having fresh fruit really brightened up the dinner menu (broccoli cheese soup and hot sandwiches).  I used strawberries, mandarin oranges (“not the ones with the yucky white stuff” per request of the birthday girl), pineapple, kiwi, blueberries and grapes.  They were arranged in a rainbow pattern on a platter and the idea was to have the fruit dip placed as a cloud, but the fruit took up all of the space.

I also made rainbow pudding, an idea I saw here just in time to whip some up for the party.  I wanted to use smaller cups but didn’t have enough time to search for them, so I made a double recipe of vanilla pudding, tinted it in 6 colors and layered it up in the glasses.  They were WAY too big for the kids, but still looked cute and the kids got a kick out of them.

Ella had a wonderful time and I think everyone else did, too.  She may be my only girl, so I had an extra fun time making everything bright and fun for her.

Now… planning begins for Benjamin’s birthday party, which is at the end of next month.

***  Recipes ***

Modified White Cake Adapted from Our Best Bites

1 White Cake Mix

2 eggs

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup milk

1/3 cup vegetable oil

Combine all ingredients until incorporated (about 30 seconds), then beat on medium high speed for 3 minutes.

To make a rainbow, divide the batter into bowls equaling the number of colors you plan to use.  Tint the batter.  Line cupcake tins. I had 6 colors and used a healthy teaspoon of each color for each cupcake.  I started with violet and worked my way up to red, smoothing each color out after adding it.

Bake according to directions on the cake mix box.

Frosting From The Girl Who Ate Everything

3 sticks butter

6 cups powdered sugar

5 tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

dash of salt

Mix butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy.  Add coconut extract, vanilla extract and salt and combine well.  Gradually add milk (you may not need it all) and mix 2-3 minutes until fluffy.

“Cloud” fruit dip

1 large container marshmallow fluff

8 oz cream cheese, room temperature

Put fluff and cream cheese into a bowl and mix until well blended.  Chill until ready to serve.