Saturday, May 10, 2008

"Under the Sea" Birthday Party

While remodeling our home, we were living with my husband’s parents. I only bring this up because it made it difficult to figure out logistics of a children’s birthday party. Should we have the party at a local park? Should we postpone it until summer? Should we choose a Gymboree/MyGym type place instead?

Before I could spend another sleepless night considering my options, I made a decision. Inspired yet again by Martha, for my daughter’s second birthday we decided on an “Under the Sea” theme. PHEW!


, my daughter’s new favorite movie (don’t judge me, at least we skipped the first scene) was “Finding Nemo”, but according to my self imposed plan of no character birthdays I had to find a loophole. In the now defunct Martha Stewart Baby magazine they published a template for a fish cake from a sheet cake – which by now I’m sure you can tell I love the concept.


Target is a wonderful place to find blank invit
ations to send through your own personal printer. I found a package of fairly generic solid color invites, and I had a vision. In addition to printing the party information on the invite, I also added some simple squiggly lines to represent seaweed, and “stick” drawings of fish and other sea life. If you don’t have the software to do the artwork on your computer, just freehand it after the fact. I have the multicolor pack of Sharpie markers – they would work perfect for a minimalist illustration project like this. Oh, and you can add the same style artwork to your envelope (there are some guidelines from the USPS that you should follow so as to not interfere with mailing your cute invitations).


At my local party supply store, they have rolls of colored butcher paper, for about 25 cents per foot. I bought orange, blue, yellow and green and used fish templates I made by downloading some cartoon fish coloring book pages. I also freehanded about 6 dozen little tiny fish, you can stack paper about 5 pieces deep and cut a bunch at the same time (super cute for a school of fish). Again, I asked my friend Cindy to come over and cut fish shapes all night. In the end, it was so worth it to have a (cheap) dramatic seascape that encircled the entire family room. (TRICK: use blue painters tape to adhere decorations to your walls – it won’t peel off the drywall paper)

The fish shapes were also used on the food and cake table. I bought a dark blue plastic table cloth (you can use any shade of blue, or a fabric one that you already own) and composed an underwater scene using the cut out fish and by adding some squiggly lines cut from the green paper to look like seaweed. You can put the snacks and cake right on top of the paper fish - not to worry, when food gets spilt all over your scene just toss it all in the recycle bin when the party is over. (OPTION: scotch tape paper fish to the windowpanes – inside and or out and scotch tape is really easy to remove)

Round out your “look” with paper plates and napkins in several shades of blue. I try to use clear cutlery and clear cups so that I can use the leftovers for the next party.


This was my favorite part of the party. I’m sure most of you have heard of this game, we called it “Gone Fishing”. You’ll need a bed sheet, some string or twine, wooden dowels, clothespins, a few helpers and some little prizes (toys, packages of crackers, bubbles etc). We took an old blue striped sheet, and taped our paper fish to it. We then used some string to hang the sheet between two trees – make sure there is adequate space behind
and in front of the sheet for people to play this fishing game.

Cut lengths of wooden dowel – one for each child (can be almost any diameter and does not need to be longer than a couple feet) and tie a 3ft. length of string to it. Affix the clothespin to the other end of the string, and write the child’s name on it. All the children can do this activity at the same time, they just throw their “hook” over the top of the sheet and wait for a “bite”.

Behind the sheet, I had my husband and my friend Cindy work the fish “hooks” – they had individual bags with each child’s name on it and when that child’s hook came over the sheet from the other side, they would hook a prize and tug the line. The child on the other side of the sheet would pull it back over and, believe me, be in awe. I had wrapped every prize so that, first of all, the clothespin hook had something to grab onto, and secondly don
’t kids love to unwrap stuff?

I also gave each child a personalized loot bag to keep track of their fish. You can use anything from a cellophane treat bag to a regular brown paper lunch sack with a wave shaped scalloped top edge – be sure to put their name on it!


I just love making the cake. The anticipation, the planning, the mistakes.

Using the fish template from Martha Stewart Baby, I baked a regular 9x12 sheet cake, placed the pattern on top and cut carefully. (see pattern details). You can use some white frosting in a can (colored orange), frosting in a tube (in
a contrasting color) to outline the face and fins. I also added some detail work with a pastry bag and star tip using white frosting, but you could use almost anything (or leave it off completely). Try using decorative sugars or sprinkles to add detail or use a different color of the frosting in a tube (some of them now have more than one tip).

This is a super easy cake... here are a few tips:

  • use boxed cake - it always turns out right
  • use frosting in a can if you want to, it's easy and it tastes good
  • what are you going to put the cake on? cut a piece of cardboard and cover it with colored paper, or purchase a ready made cake board of plastic or cardboard
  • tuck 2 inch strips of paper towel or wax paper slightly under all the edges of the cake to keep the frosting off of the base board
  • if you plan on writing on the cake, leave enough space for it – or write your message on the cake board
  • remember to purchase candles!
  • make cupcakes too - the kids actually prefer them to a piece of cake (and you'll be sure to have enough dessert to go around)

What a great (and super cute) party, the kids had SUCH a good time! Look at what you can do, by using original themes, creative thinking, spending as little as possible and making it look homemade - even if it isn't!


TaraMetBlog said...

fun theme, nice job!

abigail @ Paper and Cake said...

thanks tara! you made my morning!