Last weekend we celebrated Madeline’s sixth birthday with friends and family. Sometime last year she became obsessed with pirates and the idea of searching for lost treasure. So it came as no big surprise when she requested a pirate-themed birthday bash.
She had only two requests for the party:
1. That we have a treasure hunt that ended with the party guests discovering their goody bags.
2. And that I make a treasure chest cake.
The first was easy-peasy for me. I enjoy making up silly rhymes and had fun thinking of places to hide the clues.
I assumed the second would be much more of a challenge, especially since Nana and Pop (my husband’s parents) usually take on cake duty. My husband looked at me pouring over pictures of treasure chest cakes and said, “Why don’t we just pay someone else to make one?” He didn’t doubt my ability (I don’t think), but he didn’t want me to be stuck slaving away in the kitchen and/or to be stressing over a cake. Plus, we’re firm believers in not feeling obligated to host extravagant parties or spending lots of money to celebrate birthdays. I make a big fuss over my girls’ birthdays, but we do it in simple ways – letting them choose what to eat for the day, bringing them breakfast in bed, tucking a card beneath their pillow, telling them about the day they were born, making them feel extra special – those sorts of things. No dog and pony show required. This cake seemed a wee bit excessive to my husband, but it ended up being really simple.
I used the Family Fun treasure chest cake directions, but I doubted that a moist cake would be able to be propped up like that. I envisioned the cake collapsing just as Madeline was ready to blow out the big six candle. So I took a wise, baking genius friend’s advice and used a huge Rice Krispies treat for the top and also for the wedges to prop the top up.
For the bottom layer of the cake, I used this recipe from a friend (you’ll have to print it out to see it right side up; sorry!), but I only added 1/2 cup of milk to the batter because I wanted the cake to be firmer to withstand the booty inside (chocolate covered coins and candy necklaces). The cake came out tasting like pound cake – delicious!
I got lazy with frosting and just bought chocolate frosting in a can. I used Fruit by the Foot for the “leather” straps and Sixlets for the nails in the chest. I then used crushed graham cracker crumbs for the “sand.” Madeline loved her cake, which was the most important thing. I surprised her with it the morning of her party and she said, “You did it, Mommy!” (I’d warned her that there was a slim chance that a treasure chest cake would not be happening.)
The rest of the party was a breeze. When the kids arrived, I had these cardboard treasure chests for them to decorate with ribbons and plastic gem stones. We used glue dots to embellish the chests. We tried glue sticks at first, but they weren’t working and I thankfully had a box of trusty glue dots on hand. (You have tried these nifty things for crafting, haven’t you?)
Besides cake, I was inspired by Oh Amanda to serve oranges to prevent scurvy. Madeline always requests that I make these divine truffles (I substitute dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate), which we called cannonballs like Amanda. We also had hummus and ranch dip served in plastic toy boats with veggies. (Find the paper treasure map placemats pictured above here.)
For games we played pin the parrot on the pirate (my talented older brother drew the pirate for us on posterboard, and I then printed out these parrots off of my computer).
We also set up a balance beam in the backyard for a “walk the plank” game (HT: Oh Amanda again). I cut out shark fins out of grey foam and stuck in the ground using bamboo skewers and put a sign up that read: “Ye Must Walk the Plank Over Shark-Infested Waters to Get Ye Prize.” Each child received this super cool sticker treasure map as their prize for bravely walking the plank. (My girls love these sticker scene activities. They’re a great, quiet pre-dinner activity. My preschooler just sometimes needs help pulling off the stickers without ripping them.)
Madeline had a pinata at last year’s bash and asked for one again this year, but I told her we’d never find a pirate pinata. Ha. Never say never, Mom, because we walked into Target one day and there was a pirate pinata complete with a patch over his eye. So the kids took a swing at the pinata (and so did I). It was filled chocolate gold coins, packages of gummy sharks, and leftover Halloween candy.
|My brother (pictured left) looks a little nervous about the power of his sister slugger.|
We enjoyed a Mad Lib as well called “How to Talk Like a Pirate.” My kids were hysterically laughing when I read it; the rest of the partygoers were more subdued. We like Mad Libs around here. (I had to remind my oldest to not pick butt for a noun before the party.)
Finally, we had the treasure hunt. I simply hid clues (except for the first one). Here are the clues I used:
Clue # 1
Ahoy, matey. It’s time for some treasure hunt fun.
So off together you will search and run.
Here’s the very first clue for you.
Old papers are stashed in this bin so blue.
[Clue was hidden in our blue recyling bin.]
Ye pirates are hungry for gold, I see.
But this clue will be a bit more tricky.
You’ll need to search beyond the sea of green
And look in the shore of mulch
for a clue that’s not so easily seen.
(Hint: Look starboard, or to the side of
the ship that lies to the right when
you’re in the ship facing forward.)
[Clue was buried in mulch located starboard in our backyard.]
You’re getting close to your hidden treasure.
Where you’ll find treats to eat for your pleasure.
Now it’s time to look beneath a grave.
Where Captain Madeline buried a fish so brave.
[Clue was placed beneath a stepping stone where we had buried our beloved Izzy.]
You’ve arrived to the last and final clue.
Go me pirates, be off with you.
Open a door wide, and you may find more than gold.
A treasure to celebrate our Captain of 6-years-old.
[Their treasure – goody bags filled with a few chocolate and gum coins, a mini telescope (they really work!), and pirate rubber duckies – was hidden in our garage in a black footlocker with a big X on it.]
The kids seemed to have a lot fun at the party, and the birthday girl was very pleased with everything. Madeline has already started planning for next year. She wants a Pippi Longstocking party! We’ll see if she changes her mind. For now I’m enjoying the memories of her special sixth birthday.
Have a good weekend!