My middle son has never asked for much and when it comes to birthdays, he's more reserved than most, wanting only to have cake (no singing) and to pick out a "big" gift at the local toy store. He's the wallflower, the quiet one, the one who keeps to himself and never causes a stir. This works out well, since his birthday is only a couple days after the New Year, and given the events throughout the holidays, remembering his birthday has always been quite the challenge. I'm not proud to say, but there was one year we completely forgot! So, for the most part, this hasn't been a big deal... until now.
This year, he was very specific in his request for his birthday - and no matter the request, I was not going to fail my son. He wanted a proper birthday party (and even told us who he wanted in attendance), and for the party to be volcano themed, with a cake that looked like a pizza, but tasted like cake. Seriously....
But hey, my son knows what he wants, and I was going to deliver no matter what!
So, first thing - volcano theme. Oy! Just Google search "volcano themed birthday party" and you will find out why this is quite the challenge. Especially since he explicitly said, "No dinosaurs!". Really??? I could have actually had a life size T-Rex at his party (I actually know someone who builds them), and he indicates that he doesn't want any dinosaurs. C'est la vie!
Then he asks for a cake that looks like a pizza, but tastes like cake. Well, good news on this front - a pizza cake, while a challenge, is actually not terribly difficult to pull off! I managed to find a fantastic resource (i.e. a cake professional), for inspiration for his cake build.
Where to begin! Well, the volcano theme of course. My oldest son had recently wanted to build a volcano as part of covering his science curriculum and ever since then, my middle son wanted to do the same. PERFECTION!
Of course this means, let's do science! After a bit of brainstorming, we come up with the idea of making a volcano and using a chocolate fountain for the "lava". A bit of research and I find a small fondue fountain on Amazon and order that for the party. It arrives and low and behold, the inserts to keep it stable in shipping provide the perfect base to use to build the fountain around. So we begin building our volcano with exactly the dimensions needed to hold the fountain.
Once the volcano shape is done, time to let it dry and then get ready to paint!
Painting is the most fun part of this project and this is where I love seeing my children's personalities shine. He knew exactly how he wanted to paint his volcano, and I think it came out perfect.
Of course we had to do a dry run of the chocolate fountain volcano, and let's just say, everyone is thrilled at the results!
Now that we have a volcano, and "chocolate" lava, time to plan the birthday pizza cake. There are times I am so thankful for Facebook - a simple post asking friends for suggestions yielded so many responses, I was so grateful that I asked. I was able to look into, research and find a few ideas for his pizza cake.
It all starts with the pizza pan - a 15" non-stick pizza pan and simply put the cake batter on the pan (well greased, floured and covered with parchment paper).
Once baked (and I used half the recipe linked above, erring on the side of 3 small eggs when halving the recipe), it was time to work on the "crust. After experimentation, I found a perfect marshmallow fondant recipe, that served as both the crust and when dyed black, the black olives (more on that later*).
I took the marshmallow fondant, tinted slightly with brown dye (you can also use ivory), and rolled it out into about an inch tube, give or take, and attached it to the edge of the cake. You can moisten the edges with sugar water, but I didn't find the need since the fondant is pretty sticky on it's own.
After attaching the crust, we needed to give it the "fresh baked" crust look and used a handheld torch to toast the edges.
And then we add the red dyed, buttercream frosting, ahem... "pizza sauce"...
Then it was time for the "cheese". This was fun. I had my doubts on the recipe for the white modeling chocolate recipe, while simple, terrifying in implementation, since this is all new to me.
But it worked out perfectly! I made it two days in advance, and experimented just to make sure it would shred and low and behold - perfection! Once I added a few "toppings", this pizza came together pretty quickly with proper planning. For the toppings, and to be as nut-free as possible for some of our party guests, we used the following:
"Cheese" - Baker's Square White Chocolate (with corn syrup) for the modeling chocolate (recipe above)
"Peppers" - Red and Green Alabanese gummy worms
"Black Olives" - Marshmallow fondant dyed black, rolled and pierced with a straw
"Pepperoni" - Stretch Island Strawberry and Cherry fruit strips, cut into circles
This cake is starting to look like a pizza!
Of course, the real test is how my son received this cake. I erred on the side of being light on the cheese and toppings so as to prevent it from becoming too sweet.
After picking up an empty box from the best pizzeria in town (and 3 cheese pizzas for the party, of course), I think we nailed this one!
Party prep time and it looks like we have everything in order. Except the kitty - leave those balloons alone!!!
Thank goodness, all the balloons survive until the party and my son is just elated! Once the guests arrived, we decided it was time to "erupt the volcano". All of the kids loved this moment!
He made a request and we delivered!
He enjoyed the (red dyed white) Chocolate "lava', followed by his cake that looked like a pizza.
This is a proud mommy moment - I'm not naturally inclined to this (as is the case for many moms), but I managed and figured it all out for this one special moment.
Happy Birthday to my baby boy! I love you!
*Little trick about those black olives - once you've dyed a small portion of marshmallow fondant, roll it into a 3/4 inch tube and let chill in the refrigerator. Once chilled, slice about 1/4 inch thick and use a straw to poke out the center holes.