August’s Doctor Who Party and Projector Thoughts

Awhile back I posted about Gus’ birthday party and my plans for it, and in that post I included all sorts of amazing inspiration pictures, and Gus’ party was going to be just like those.

Well. Anyway, Gus had a lot of fun.

First off, it was supposed to be an outside Doctor Who viewing party. Only the weather forecast called for lots of rain and a high of 46. So we knew days in advance that we’d need to move things inside. But that all went fine; we cleared out the library and hung up a makeshift screen ($12 worth of blackout fabric) for the occasion.

I scoured Pinterest for Doctor Who cakes and found quite a few that looked both awesome and intimidating. Then it occurred to me that fezzes (of which the 11th Doctor is fond) are shaped an awful lot like regular old layer cakes. Eureka!

Before I show you my cake, I would like to quote from Anne Lamott’s book,Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son’s First Son (affiliate link). I am slowly making my way through this book, in 3 minute spurts, which is how I do everything these days:

Love also looks like the cake Robby made for Amy, the best cake I’ve ever had. It was three layers of dark chocolate, with a cooked buttercream frosting. It was chewy and resistant, but it melted in your mouth at the same time, don’t ask me how. It was a perfect metaphor for life, the light and the dark together, several textures at once.

And it wasn’t pretty at all.

I don’t trust pretty. Petit fours are pretty, but they’re always a little sawdusty.

I would like to note that when I read this passage, a week or so before the party, I was a bit worried that the cake I was going to make for Gus might end up so pretty it would be untrustworthy.

I should not have worried.

One time Ari and Milo had a treehouse building themed birthday party. I made a cake that was supposed to look like a tree stump, and it was pretty awesome, I have to say. I’ve since realized that this is because tree stumps are supposed to look how my cakes always look: kinda bumpy.

When it came time to make the cake, I realized I’d neglected to learn how to make a gluten free cake. I made one once, a couple of years ago, for Dave’s birthday, and it was kind of crappy. I rely heavily on cookie cakes. But Gus wanted a cake cake, and I didn’t want to screw it up, so I bought FOUR BOXES of Betty Crocker Gluten Free Cake Mix (affiliate link). Actually five, because I made cupcakes, too. Actually six, because I forgot to put the butter in the first batch of cupcakes and had to toss them and start over. And then you use a TON of butter and eggs (a stick of butter plus 3 eggs for each layer of cake) in gluten free cake, so, basically, I think I could have hired a celebrity chef to come to my house and bake a gluten free cake for what I wound up spending on ingredients:

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That Betty Crocker knows what she’s doing, though: the cake was tasty. Also, cows know what they’re doing. I used more butter than I can even fully comprehend that day, between the cake, the frosting, and, later, the popcorn. Mmm…butter. So anyway, note to self before next birthday party: find and test recipe for GF cake without a mix; save $300.

Knowing that fezzes are flatter and smoother than tree stumps, I did a bit of research into how to make cake layers nice and flat. I came across this tutorial from A Cozy Kitchen and gave it a try:

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It actually worked pretty well; some of my layers were not flat, but this is because my pans are too shallow and/or I filled them too full. Once they rose above the top of the pan, the special safety pin towels could not help them. Compare:

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But I managed to stack my FOUR layers in such a way that the cake, taken as a whole, was fairly flat:

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Now the icing. I have a set of Wilton icing colors (affiliate link) that has seen me through many a birthday. I have never come close to emptying a single one of the tiny little canisters of coloring. IME, a little goes a very long way. I no longer have any red icing color.

I thought maybe I’d put in a little burgundy and a little black with the red, to get a nice deep red color. So I whipped up some buttercream frosting and put those in, then started slowly adding the red, waiting for the brilliant, perfect red to materialize:

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Umm. I wound up with a kind of muddy purple. After I’d added ALL THE RED. In a panic, I sent Dave to the store for more food coloring. He came back with a kit including a tube of red gel coloring, and I quickly added the whole thing to the batch of icing.

Still not red.

But closer. And–the good part–close enough to make Gus happy. Gus had the brilliant idea to augment the red with some red sprinkles we had on hand:

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And you can see my tree stump-like frosting job right there. That’s a cake you can TRUST!

I posted it on Instagram and a couple of people kindly compared it a “giant boob.” You know who you are ;).

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Pink fez!

Things got less complicated after that.

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We set everything up on the dining room table, and my new ornament display in the box centerpiece is appropriately Tardis blue.

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My brother, Sean, wore his 4th Doctor scarf:

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Kids showed up and ate pizza. Then we cut into the magnificent giant boob fez and sang happy birthday to Gus.

You know how, for some people, having a birthday party is fun and all, but it’s a little uncomfortable being the center of attention like that?

Gus doesn’t have that problem.

Here he is while everyone was singing, waiting to blow out his candles. You’ll notice none of these pictures are in focus, because he could not stop moving:

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And then presents and then the main event, a screening of the Gus-selected Doctor Who episode, Partners in Crimedoctor-who-party12

(note: dogs scavenging for dropped popcorn)

We ended up with the ViewSonic PJD5132 SVGA DLP Projector (affiliate link), largely because it was under $300, had good reviews, and, after hours spend reading up on projectors we still didn’t really feel like we knew anything about them. So far it’s working out really well, though.

I’m a little amazed by how much I’m loving having a projector. Our TV is tiny by many people’s standards:

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….and it’s never really bothered me. But there’s something about watching stuff up there on a big screen that makes everything so much more awesome. So I thought this would just be an occasional outdoor movie kind of thing, but I think it’s going to wind up being more of an every few days inside and outside kind of thing.

But our current system of duct taping blackout fabric in front of the bookshelves isn’t going to cut it. A week after the party, my library still looked like this:

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Not exactly what you want people to see as soon as they walk into the house.

But we have big plans to make a roll up screen that we can hang right in front of the arch there and have completely out of the way when not in use. That way the loveseat can stay in its rightful place and we can tuck the projector up on one of the shelves somewhere.  So we’re hoping to get that done soon. It might involve remembering how to use my sewing machine, which makes it a little overwhelming.

So there it is! August’s not-so-Pinterest-worthy-but-still-really-fun Doctor Who party. And now he’s EIGHT! Which is just crazy. It still seems so much like he’s still my baby that I call him Abe half the time.


Comments

August’s Doctor Who Party and Projector Thoughts — 24 Comments

  1. Little cake decorating tip…..slice them across the top flat with a bread knife before removing from the pan so they stack flat. You will never miss the “bump” you slice off. Then, you pop your cake in the freezer before frosting, so those little crumbs don’t get mixed up in the frosting and your frosting spreads like butter!
    Love your show!

    • Thanks, Lisa! I’ve heard that before–about slicing off the top–but I’ve always been scared to try it (as you can see, I’m not the most confidant cake decorator ;)). Great tip about the freezer…I’m pretty sure even I can handle that one!

    • Happy birthday! I’ll take a look and give them a try…I have Abe’s birthday coming up next month, so I need to be prepared 🙂

  2. The party looks like a success! And hooray for gluten free cakes!
    Just a heads up, this was the same model projector we had in our basement, and after a year, the bulb lamp burned out on it. The lamp was going to cost $375 to replace, which was more than we spent on the projector. BUT, we think it burned out so quickly because our “tenants” in the basement were horrible at turning it off when they were done using it. So make sure your kids know to always turn it off when they are done. We just BARELY bought a new projector last weekend. And this time we went with a name brand epson one for almost double the price, but we’re hoping this time it will last a lot longer. Again, I’m SURE it was because ours got left on ALL the time. And they were using it every single night, instead of occasional movie nights.

    • Thanks for the warning, Kenz! So do you think you didn’t get the promised 5,000 hours or whatever it says it should last for? I know replacing the bulbs is expensive….if we get the hours we’re supposed to out of it it should last several years for as often as we plan on using it. But we’ll have to see! I will definitely stay on the kids about switching it off; they’re horrible about leaving the TV turned on when they’re finished with it!

  3. so fun!! Looks like a blast.
    Red is such a hard colour. If you want a really deep red then you just need to use a lot of food colouring (and your kids will pee weird colours for a few days). He likes it and that’s all that matters!

    • Hi Emily! Yeah, I was lobbying for something like “Blink,” but I think for our crowd–i.e. 8-12 year old kids who were distracted by each other and popcorn and dogs–Gus’ choice made a lot more sense 🙂

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