Category: Birthdays

Cake & Craft Bas Mitzvah

I always say it’s so ironic that I named my blog Busy in Brooklyn because when I actually started blogging, I wasn’t nearly as busy as I am these days. I am truly living up to my name! Thankfully things have quieted down a bit since the whirlwind post-book-release. Just a few days after wrapping the book release party, I began planning my daughter’s Bas Mitzvah amid the hustle bustle of book signings and demos. As we celebrate my daughter’s actual birthday this week, I thought it would the perfect time to recap her special day.First things first, you can’t plan a party without a theme. We went back and forth a lot about ideas – we thought about having a party on a horse ranch (too much liability), ditching it altogether and heading to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal, Orlando (she’s a fan of the series) or planning a family trip to Israel (we decided to save that one for the Bar Mitzvah in a few years!). My daughter decided that she really wanted the opportunity to celebrate with her friends, so it was back to the drawing board! Because Chuma had Bas Mitzvah’s almost every night towards the end of the year, we didn’t want to do yet another catered party, so we came up with the concept of Cake & Craft – a simple and unique party with an eleborate dessert bar, special treats and fun crafts. She couldn’t be more excited!

I met with Jenny Platzman of Artscroll Print @artscrollprint to design the invitation, and they just took the idea and ran with it! Their team of designers came up with this unique graphic which we printed on one side of the square invitation, with event details, along with paint splatter on the other side. There were painted coloring book drawings on the envelope lining as well – the whole thing was just so unique, creative, and just US. Jenny was so incredible to work with. She took initiative and sent gentle reminders to me throughout the process which really got me moving amid my crazy schedule. I keep reminding her that I would have never been able to pull it all off without her help, she just went way beyond the call of duty and was helpful in so many ways.

So we had a theme and an invite, but I was too busy to arrange the party details, so I hired Shani and Dusha Davidowitz, two sister in laws from Partee Perfection @partee_perfection to help me put the event together.  I took some pre-bat mitzvah photos to use in the decor (like the Harry Potter one above), painted up a fun guest sign-in board, and took care of the family wardrobe, but I left most of design details up to them because even though I love this sort of stuff,  I was way too busy for the nitty gritty.

Needless to say, they pulled through with flying COLORS – pun intended.  They took the concept of the black and white sketches with the colorful paint and translated it to the tablescape – with striped tablecloths from @DSquared5t and flowers by @boutiqueliliane. Custom ladders, paintbuckets, brushes and photos rounded out the design.

Of course the finishing touches are everything, with custom napkin holders, napkins, and water bottles by @Napkings, papergoods by @yomtovsettings, lucite chairs by @ace_party_rental and event lighting by @davidjacobproductions.

Since the Bas Mitzvah was dessert–themed, we had to up the ante on after dinner treats, so Partee Perfection brought in the head honcho of party stations, @partystem to set up noshing stations around the room! We had fresh popped popcorn, a donut wall, chocolate fountain, smore’s bar and ice cream bar – basically every 12 year old’s dream party! I’m amazed at all the options available these days!

Of course the dessert table was overflowing with adorable custom made cookies and cakes with a crafting theme, and the most delectable dairy bites from @bergers_to_impress. I’m still dreaming about her sour cream cinnamon twists, they were THAT good. And never forget to put out customized bags for the kiddies to take home a goodie bag, also by @Napkings.

Now enough about CAKE – time for CRAFT! We set up a scrapbooking station for the girls to design pages for a keepsake scrapbook. And I brought in the most talented crafter I know – @abbeywolin – to do a paint splatter craft with the girls. They each designed their own baseball cap for the summer and they also went home with Abbey’s inspiring adult coloring book, Faith in Form. For each coloring book that was given out, we donated a matching one to our local Friendship Circle.

Now if you’re planning a Bas Mitvah, here’s what I learned: You can obsess over the theme, the details, the color of your outifts – but only a few things really matter in the end.

  1. The bas mitzvah girl’s dress is everything. You can make the prettiest party in the world, but her dress is what will really make her feel like a princess. I had a custom one made by @tunzatulle and it was everything she ever dreamed of and more.
  2. Make a killer dessert table. That’s all the kids really care about.
  3. Make a video montage. The kids can’t get enough.
  4. If nothing else, get a party motivator. I hired Sara Younger from @playlandparties and she literally MADE the night. From the fun dances, to the adorable games, her little group of motivators and exciting prizes she threw around the room – it kept the kids going for hours and they had a complete and total BLAST.

I don’t know how Sara has the stamina to go for hours, it’s like Zumba on steroids! She brought such amazing energy to the party and girls did not stop thanking her and saying how it was the most fun they ever had! I have to agree and I’m 12 a few times over already ;)

Lets talk about the important stuff – speeches! My daughter was nervous for months about her big day because it meant standing up in front of a crowd and giving a speech. We told her to imagine cabbage heads, people in pajamas, anything! My husband shared with her about how he overcame his fear of public speaking (it’s hard to imagine he ever had one, he’s become so confident!), but when the big day came she literally blew it out of the park.

Here’s a small excerpt: “This week’s Parsha, Parshas Chukas, mentions that Miriam passed away. The well water that the yidden were drinking for 40 years dried up at the same time. We learn from this that the water that the yidden had in the midbar was in Miriam’s merit. Miriam showed a lot of gratitude to Hashem when her brother Moshe was saved in the Nile. She also sang shira when the yidden were saved after the splitting of the sea. Since she was so grateful for a miracle that happened with water, Hashem rewarded her with water.

Miriam represents all Jewish women. She also represents how Jewish women must be leaders. Water represents Torah. Women are responsible to teach young children Torah. It was in the merit of the Jewish children that we received the Torah on Har Sinai. When a girl turns Bas Mitzvah she is transforming from a girl to a women. I am now responsible for the Mitzvos of Hashem. I now can choose to make my own decisions and to commit to giving my parents and Hashem nachas by being the best leader that I can be.”

Communities tend to have different customs when it comes to Bas Mitzvahs. For mine, my mom made a nice dinner party in my house and invited my classmates. I remember her serving some kind of fruit smoothie in a plastic champagne glass and I thought it was the fanciest! Things have changed a lot since then and parties range from simple family get togethers to red-carpet affairs (literally), but I like to keep things somewhere in the middle. What matters most at the end of it all is that the Bas Mitzvah girl feels celebrated among her closest family and friends and judging by her smiles that night (and many nights after), I’d call our CAKE & CRAFT venture a huge success, thanks to all the parties involved. May we merit to share many more happy occassions together in the future!

Photos by @benamsphoto
Hair by @hairbychavee
Makeup by @glamourdame
Outfits: @kiddichicusa @tunzatulle

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Ice Cream Sandwich Birthday Cake

A couple of weeks ago, we celebrated my son’s 4th birthday. He suffers from life threatening food allergies, and most of his life he’s been told what he CAN’T have. At every birthday party, family get-together and holiday, you’ll find him sitting at a separate table, with a small plate of allergy-free food that we’ve managed to salvage for him. And he never complains. He’s such a champ, always so understanding and mature about it.

Ice cream is one of his favorite things and each day on his way home from school, he asks me to take him to the ice cream store. I really wanted to get him an ice cream cake for his birthday, but it’s impossible to find an allergy-free one, so I decided to make it. This cake was super easy to put together, but you’d never know from looking at it. Needless to say, he was so ecstatic, and a few minutes into devouring his slice, he unassumingly leaned over and gave me a hug. It was everything.

Related Recipes:

funfetti birthday cake
funfetti rose cake smash
ice cream sundae cookies
3-layer rainbow cookie cake

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Funfetti Rose Cake Smash!

I can’t believe it’s been a year since my baby girl was born, it went by so fast, how do we stop the clock?! It’s baby #5 for us, so it hasn’t been the easiest transition, but I was surprised and excited to still have those “first baby” feelings, even though I’ve been through this stage so many times. Maybe it’s because she came after two boys, but I couldn’t wait to put all the headbands and frilly things on her, and I still relish dressing her up each and every morning.

I’ve been dreaming about her cake smash for months, pinning for inspiration and changing my mind a million times about the style and theme of the shoot. I knew I wanted to do it all on my own, especially the cake – even though I dread making layered cakes ‘cuz I suck at it! Most of the cake smash shoots I found had a clear color scheme and were done indoors, but I wanted something unique and whimsical, so I went outdoors.

It’s funny how the cake really brought the whimsy I was looking for – because it kinda happened by mistake. I mean, I basically screwed up the whole first layer of marzipan, and I needed to cover it up with something, so I decided to make a skirt. I had originally wanted to do a smooth layer of marzipan and spread the roses around the cake, but I’m so in love with this accidental design because it’s everything I never knew I even wanted!

I knew I wanted funfetti inside, ‘cuz baby cake just needs sprinkles, so I went with my easy no-fail, no-mixture recipe, ‘cuz that how I do cake. Or should I say, how I don’t do cake? Layered cakes literally give me nightmares – and for good reason. I won’t even try to explain the mess of me trimming the layers down, but let me just say – THANK GOD FOR MARZIPAN. And thank you Molly Yeh for teaching me that you can use the most delicious paste instead of bland fondant to decorate cake. It’s basically like working with playdough, and it can do miracles to destroyed crumbly layers. Especially when those crumbly layers are doomed to be smashed by little hands.

Let me just say that I know these photos make it look easy, but here’s the thing – photographers can’t photograph their own kids. It’s just too stressful. Thank G-d I brought my 11 year old with me to the shoot  – her help was indispensible, especially when she jumped up and down, making funny faces so my daughter would stop crying and actually smile. There were a lot more tears than smiles at that shoot (and I’m not talking about the baby…just kidding…I didn’t actually CRY!).

I don’t know who invented cake smashes, or how long they’ve been around, but I don’t remember it being a thing with my older kids. I love that I have these beautiful momentos of my daughter’s first birthday, and that I had an excuse to play around with marzipan. I’d never go back to boring fondant again, and I look forward to getting over my fear of layered cakes and making some more intentional designs!

If you’ve got a baby birthday coming up, I hope my cake smash inspired you to think outside the box and create your own!

Cake Smash Deets:

Wreath: Amazon
Outfit: Etsy
Shoes: Century21
Carpet: Homegoods
Stool: Homegoods
Balloons: Family Dollar
Lanterns: Michael’s
Cake Banner: Homemade (craft paper, bakery twine and skewers)
Location: Liberty Municipal Park

3 layer rainbow cookie cake

blogoversary funfetti cake
it’s a girl!

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3-Layer Rainbow Cookie Cake

I came to the realization today that I’ve been posting quite a number of cakes for someone who calls themselves a non-baker. Am I right? As much as I don’t like to bake, it seems YOU all like when I do. Remember when my funfetti bundt cake went viral? And judging by the amount of  parsnip honey cake pictures that flooded my inbox, I’d say it was a huge hit!

With Parshas Noach this week, I thought it was just the right time to finally post THIS cake. I made it last November for my husband’s birthday, and I never quite found the right time to post it. I was thinking about what kind of rainbow recipe I could do in honor of the Torah portion in which a rainbow appeared as a symbol of G-d’s promise never to destroy the world again with a flood. I started looking through some old photos and I remembered this amazing 3-layer marzipan birthday cake, and it was just the thing!

3-layer rainbow cookies are my husband’s all time favorite, so I set out to make a birthday cake version for his surprise party. I’m not one for layered cakes, and each time I make them, I’m reminded just why I hate making them so much. But the end result is always worth it! Especially in this case.

If you’ve ever tried 3-layer rainbow cookies, you know what they taste like – marzipan. They’re cakey and chocolatey with a bit of jam in between the layers. But one thing they are not is FRESH. Once you make this stuff from scratch you can really taste the difference. Preservative-free cake is the way to go, and making it in a stacked layer cake is just SO. MUCH. FUN.

My husband is the founder and CEO the boutique marketing firm AjaxUnion.  I call him Yossi, but in the workforce, he’s just “Joe”. In fact, is his GrowTime YouTube series, he teaches entrepreneurs “How to go from average Joe, to CEO”! Can you tell I’m just a wee bit proud of my hubby?

So back to the cake, I thought it would be fun to put a little Joe banner up in the same rainbow colors as the cake, and I just love how cutesy and Etsy-esque it is! What do y’all think?

My husband was gaga over the cake, but so were my kids. They’re big fans of 3-layer rainbow cookies, so it was a no-brainer. They keep asking me to make it again, so I’m thinking of going the old fashioned route and doing it sheet-style. It should be easier. Or maybe harder. Uh oh. I hate caking. I mean baking.

There’s only one reason for my venturing into cake territory and it’s all Molly Yeh’s fault. She just inspires me so much with her whimsical creations and I want to be her. Her rainbow mini cakes were the inspiration for this rainbow cookie birthday cake, and her funfetti cake was what got me to make this viral recipe. She also loves tahini everything, I even sent her halva from the shuk for her wedding present! So Yeh (pun intended), thanks Molly for making me fat.

Next up on my baking list? I’m thinking a pecan pie for Thanksgiving featuring one of my favorite spice blends. Stay tuned. It’s gonna be epic!

Happy Rainbowing!

Other Rainbow Recipes:

rainbow slaw with poppyseed dressing
rainbow cobb salad
rainbow pommes anna
rainbow cupcakes

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Blogoversary Funfetti Cake

The past few months have been a whirlwind! Case in point: I actually made this funfetti cake for my son’s first birthday back in November, but I didn’t have a chance to blog about it until now. I’m sure he won’t mind if I share it with you all in honor of my FOUR YEAR BLOGOVERSARY. Yippee!

It almost makes me tear up a little to think about it, but I can’t believe I’ve actually been blogging consistently for four. whole. years. That’s one thousand, four hundred and sixty days of thinking, dreaming and writing about my food memories and adventures in the kitchen.

Four years in, I can honestly say, I have never been so proud of what I’ve accomplished. Just sticking with something, and not getting bored of it is a testament to having found my niche in life. And you guys – my awesome, amazing fans, who have constantly encouraged me with your emails, comments and feedback – you keep me on my toes, always pushing me to dream up something bigger and better!

And I could never have dreamed up what this year would bring! Writing an ebook (and selling hundreds of copies!), a video series with TorahCafe, Joining the Blogher and Culinary Content Network, Features on The Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Cosmo and The Daily Meal, friendships with food bloggers, The front page of The Wall Street Journal, a spot on The Meredith Vierra Show, my own magazine column (info coming soon), a social media campaign with a huge brand (info coming soon) and relationships with kosher food brands that I’m honored to represent.

It was such a thrill watching some of my recipes go viral this year. My drunken hasselback salami was by far the hit of the year, with poutine latkes and cauliflower nachos coming in at a close second.

What shocks me more than anything is how much I have been recognized this year. I get stopped in restaurants and groceries in all different communities, by people from all walks of life. It’s weird to be perceived as somewhat of a celebrity, but also so humbling. I love when people come up to me and tell me how much they love following my instagram, or how it’s not Shabbos without my hasselback salami. It truly makes my day. And my week. And my year.

Over the last few months, I’ve been working hard on living a healthier lifestyle by adopting a mostly Paleo diet. I completed (almost) 3 rounds of the Whole30 cleanse and I’m about to embark on my first half-Marathon! I’m walking to support the work of The Friendship Circle, an amazing organization that does so much to help children with special needs. When I started training 2 months ago, I could barely walk a mile, and now I feel strong and ready to tackle a 13-mile walk/run. I would love if you could support my efforts by donating towards my run and the work of The Friendship Circle, here.

In the past year, I’ve also watched my youngest grow from a baby to an infant (who’s 1st birthday cake we are celebrating here) and I learned to deal with difficult food allergies for the first time. I cut the adorable JewFro off my older son at his upshernish, and I watched my two beautiful daughters continue to grow into the young girls they are becoming.

It’s not easy juggling work and family, but one of the realizations I came to this year was that I CAN’T DO IT ALL. I am learning to let go and realize that it’s ok if my house isn’t always picture-perfect, and no-one will starve if I order take-out every once in a while, and most importantly, it’s ok to ask for help.

As I enter into my fifth year of blogging, I’m filled with excitement for the many new opportunities my blog has opened for me. I’m looking forward to continuing my journey of creative expression and Jewish pride with many more healthy, kosher and inspired recipes that will nourish my family, and especially, my fans.

Now, a little bit about this cake! Y’all know I’m not much of a baker, so I love any easy recipe that looks adorable and comes together in no time. That’s where this no-mixer, super-easy yellow cake comes into play. It’s my go-to for quick party cupcakes, an iced sheet cake, or my favorite, a bundt cake, spruced up with sprinkles. Molly Yeh’s sprinkle experiment is what inspired this funfetti version, and it makes the perfect quick party cake for a baby birthday, kids party or apparently, a 4 year blogoversary ;)

What were some of your favorite recipes on Busy In Brooklyn this year? Share them with me in the comments below!