For my oldest son the party is all about the cake. Well, not ALL about the cake. My oldest son is Autistic and cannot have gluten or dairy products of any kind. The option of buying a premade cake is OUT! My older sister is a professional cake decorator. Unfortunately she lives 16 hours away. For the first two years, she sent my son small cakes that my Mom carried in her lap on a plane. One Bob the Builder and one Buzz Lightyear with Woody. Not just sheet cakes but sculpted cakes. She sets the bar pretty high. I often call her to ask how to questions when I am thinking of the kind of cake I want to make. The first cakes I made were decorated sheet cakes. The decorations became more and more elaborate as each birthday passed. The reason is due, in part, to my sister’s suggestions on how I could make my cake and different things I could use for the decorations.
For the longest time my son wouldn’t participate in party games. It is just too much for him. So I didn’t plan any party games for his parties. I mean really, it IS ALL ABOUT HIM ANYWAY. There is always plenty for the party guests to do when they come over and it becomes one big play date. Mostly the guests are all family. We are talking 7 cousins that are built in friends plus their 2 best friends and all the adults that come along with those kids. For a child with sensory issues and trouble with handling a lot of commotion it is more than enough. Having said that, he does AMAZINGLY WELL with parties and family gatherings. Every year it gets better and better. Every year he spends less time decompressing in a different room. Every year he is more involved with all the other kids during the party. He has even begun to get involved with some of the party games. Other Autism Moms out there will know that this is a HUGE accomplishment for a high functioning individual with Autism.
My advice to others is to keep exposing their kids to events like this, even if it is a bit difficult. Be prepared to let your child have a moment away from the other party guests. Arrive early so they can get use to the environment before all the guests arrive. Find out what places are off limits to party guests and what places your child can go if they need a moment away from the crowd. Don’t spend a lot of time worrying that your child isn’t taking part in the party games. Party games are optional. Give them the opportunity and let them know 5 minutes (if you can) ahead of time that a game will be taking place. They can choose to join in or not. Your family and friends will understand. They will just be happy that you came. If you have to leave early then so be it. The more exposure they have to these kinds of events the better they will get at dealing with all that comes with them. Most of the parties my son goes to, the parents already know about my son’s Autism and accept it openly. We are taking baby steps with parties of new school friends. Some times my son wants to go and some times not. I don’t force him to go to every party he is invited to. However, I do encourage him and suggest he would have fun if he went.
Cake is a big deal to my son. At school when it is some one else’s birthday he cannot have any of their cake. HE LOVES CAKE. If I am informed before hand I will send a cupcake or brownie (another love of his) just for him. Often times they don’t tell me ahead of time, but they always have some of his special snacks on hand to give him. When he goes to parties for other kids, I make sure he has his own cake, ice cream and other treats he may encounter. So when his birthday comes around I start planning his cake around the theme of his choice.
I worked on this castle cake here and there for about a week. It sounds like it took a long time to make but I worked on it for only about an hour at a time. Some of that time was spent looking at other castle cakes for inspiration. I made all the fondant pieces ahead of time because I needed them to harden. The frosting will soften them up again.
The towers were fondant wrapped around cardboard tubes (like paper towel rolls). I used the back of a butter knife to etch the lines to make them look like grout lines.
The top edge of both layers are lined with sugar cubes that have been sprayed with a food coloring mist. I also took a paint brush and dry brushed some black on them to give them a bit of veining like stone.
The windows are rolled fondant colored black with ropes of red and yellow fondant swags underneath. The windows on the towers were laid out to dry on top of the cardboard tubes so they would dry rounded and fit nicely on the towers.
All the frosting is home made. It is basically shortening, powdered sugar and vanilla flavoring with gel food coloring. Because of the shortening the frosting isn’t a consistent color but has flecks of light and dark. It works well for the gray stone walls. All the stones on the castle are just beads of frosting. I used a bit of water on my finger tip to flatten the face of each stone.
I have also made random blocks for the face of the castle walls. I mixed two shades of gray for a marbled look. I simply cut out rectangles. Instead of covering the whole castle with “Blocks” I placed them in random spots around the castle to give the feel that it is made out of stone blocks.
For the drawbridge I used cocoa powder to make white fondant brown. I used the back of a butter knife to make the planks and to etch wood grain into it. I used two skinny wax candles to make the rope that connects the bridge to the castle.
The moat is a blue sparkle gel icing. The whole cake is sitting on a foil covered cake board. To hide the cake board I covered it all the way around with the blue gel icing. Then I created a stone path in front of the castle.
My son insisted on having the cones on top of the towers. I had not planed on adding them so I had not made them out of fondant ahead of time. Many castle cakes use sugar cones for this. We don’t have a ready supply of gluten free sugar cones. I made do with frosting and did the best I could to shape it into cones. Note: red is a very hard color to achieve with frosting. If you need red frosting try to buy it ready made. No matter how much red I added my frosting stayed pink so I added yellow and made orange instead. The same holds true for black.
The flags are fondant triangles wrapped around the top of long candles. I left room at the top so we could light the candles.
I baked the cake the night before so that I could assemble the cake the morning of the party.
For that extra touch, I added a knight fighting a dragon in front of the castle.
I don’t buy many themed paper products. I usually get one package of plates and one package of napkins and they rest are coordinating colors. For this knight party I did get the fun reusable plastic cups for all the kids.
All the kids got favor boxes that included, among other things, inflatable swords. We have a blue hoody dragon blanket. The older kids took turns being the dragon for the little kids to slay.