Tuesday, March 3, 2015

How to Make Rainbow Cupcakes: A DIY Tutorial

I can't believe that I had never thought of this before.  Dyeing cake batter!  So simple!  Ever since seeing a recipe in Family Fun magazine, I've used it for so many more recipes (scroll below).  But for now, let me show you how to make Rainbow Cupcakes!!

What You'll Need:

-white cake mix (white works best- if you use yellow your colors might change)
-vanilla frosting
-food coloring
-cupcake liners (I prefer foil or white)

You can use any cake mix recipe you like for this, but white cake works best so that you get true colors.  If you use a yellow cake mix, then your cupcake colors are going to be a little, well, yellowy.  I usually use a basic white cake mix like Pillsbury or Betty Crocker.  You'll also need food coloring and some type of white frosting (again, I just use Pillsbury), and my food coloring was basic food coloring from the supermarket.

It's so much fun to eat a rainbow!

What You Need To Know

If you're a perfectionist, you might want to make these without the kids' help, and just present them as a surprise.  If you seek their help in the process, just know that the colors might get mixed together and the cups might overflow.  If you don't care about any of that, then dive in with the little ones! They can be time consuming to make, but to me, the end result is always worth the effort.  I mean, how cool is this?

These rainbow cupcakes always seem to be worth the effort!

The Process

After you make your cake mix, divide the batter evenly into 6 bowls, one for each color.  Dye each batter bowl according to this chart:

Purple:  9 red and 6 blue drops
Blue :  12 drops
Green:  12 drops
Yellow:  12 drops
Orange: 12 yellow and 4 red drops
Red: 18 drops

This will give you the brightest colors.  When you're done it will look something like this:

That cool baking mat is from IKEA.


-Line 16 muffin pan wells with wrappers.

-Fill each baking cup with a little bit of purple batter to start (roughly a tablespoon or so), filling each cup evenly. Then blue, then green, and so on, until you've worked your way backwards up the rainbow, ending with red.  You're working with small spoonfuls of batter each time.

-As you go, try to spread each color evenly over the other with the back of a spoon (this is the time consuming part).  If you don't totally cover each color with the next, then when the cupcake bakes, the color will bake upwards and you'll get more of a "u" shape of color inside the cupcake instead of colored flat layers.  The colors might also mix together - you can kind of see that in the photo below.  See how the blue color half crept up the sides of the cupcake?  That's because I didn't spread the color evenly to the edges; (the green dye didn't completely cover the blue).  Some people don't care about that (it still looks cool either way), but if you're a perfectionist and want straight layers, do your spreading!

Although this still looks cool, the spreading of colors happened because I didn't completely spread each color over the last before baking,

Bake according to your cake recipe or your package directions.  Top with vanilla frosting if desired.


Last year I just didn't have it in me to do all of that spreading and dividing of batter!  So I made a rainbow bundt cake instead.  I just kind of spread the colors in the pan but didn't worry about spreading them evenly or covering each color with the last.  It was significantly faster and looked just as cute:

An easier version:  a rainbow bundt cake for St. Patrick's Day
Without much effort, it still looked like a rainbow inside!

Those cute little leprechaun plastic rings are from Candyland Crafts in Somerville.  They have everything you could ever want for baking and cake decorating!

I've also used the rainbow batter method for Easter.  This time I dyed a bundt cake batter using only three colors:  yellow, purple and pink, to get somewhat of an Easter egg effect:

Sprinkled with powdered sugar, this cake was easier than it looked to make!

And finally, I made Angry Bird cupcakes for The Jersey Momma's Boy's fourth birthday party, which had an Angry Birds theme.  I dyed the cupcakes red, yellow and blue to match the colors of the birds.  I used my cupcake decorating gun to make the frosting look so nice:

The toppers for these cupcakes were Angry Birds plastic rings that I found on Amazon.

Other Tips:

  -I have had friends tell me that if you use a thicker cake batter (one using yogurt or sour cream), then it is a little easier to spread the colors before baking.  But I have not tried this myself so I can't attest to it.

- If you use a white cupcake wrapper you will see the colored layers through the wrapper after baking.  If you don't want this to happen, try doubling up on the wrappers or using foil wrappers instead.

Although time consuming, this is a recipe that's worth trying at least once because they turn out so amazing looking.  My son is always so excited to eat them and share them with friends!  Happy St. Patrick's Day!! 

Friday, February 27, 2015

How to Make Salt Dough Memory Stones

My mom, The Jersey Grandma, has a birthday coming up, and we wanted to make her a beautiful personalized stepping stone for her garden.  But Michael's did not have the kit I wanted, so I wound up buying the cheaper version, which was all they had. That resulted in, not one, but two failed garden stones. What a waste of time and money!  After that fiasco I thought, let's try to make our own memory stones. Obviously, these can't go outside in the garden, but here's what we came up with:

You Will Need:

- 3 cups flour
-1 cup salt
-1 1/4 cup water
-glass mosaic pieces, seashells, etc. for decorating
-parchment paper

Step 1.  There aren't too many steps to this so I will just lump it all together for you.  Stir all ingredients and then knead with hands after a soft dough forms (as I mixed it I thought, 'this isn't going to work!' But the dough stiffened up, so I was wrong about that).

Form your dough into two small balls, and then flatten into two 6" circles on parchment paper. My one big mistake was putting it on foil.  Do NOT put it on foil for baking.  Mine stuck to the foil!  Ack!

Be sure to roll your circle on parchment paper.  Do not bake it on foil (like I did) as it can stick to the foil after baking.  Not cool!
We put our mosaic pieces in tinfoil trays.
Step 2.  Decorate your memory stone with glass mosaic pieces or oven safe items.  We also added a hand print to one of our stones.

The dough does not harden quickly so you don't have to rush!
Remember not to use foil like we did.  Be sure to do your decorating on parchment paper or even right on the cookie sheet.  Foil will result in sticking.  Learned that the hard way!!!
When you're ready for baking, do not bake on foil.
Remember, don't bake on foil.  Did I make that clear enough?

Step 3.  When your designs are complete, place them in the oven for 2 hours at 275 degrees.  I recommend flipping them over at some point so you can be sure they bake on both sides.  Ours baked beautifully on top but wound up sticking on the bottom (to the foil).  If you're baking on parchment paper or a cookie sheet, this probably won't happen to you.  Flipping the stones over at some point may help, or baking them directly on the oven rack.  I also heard you can spray the cookie sheet, but I fear that might make the dough greasy on the bottom.

They smell delicious when baking, almost like pizza!  They also shouldn't spread or change too much when baking.  They pretty much come out looking the same way as they went in, maybe a tad bit puffier.

Step 4.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Hopefully, you'll have a beautiful finished product!  I don't recommend putting them outside.  They are really meant to be display pieces.  We put ours on little plate stands and gave them to Grammy as gifts.  She loved them!  And many thanks to my friend Lynn S, who helped point us in the right direction with this project.

So pretty!
The hand print makes this salt dough such a special keepsake!
Be sure to add the date and a signature to the back of your salt dough memory stones!

Jersey Momma Tips:

If your stones stick or don't cook evenly on the bottoms, don't fret.  We put ours back in the oven to firm them up a bit more.  Since they were not very pretty on the bottom (they looked kind of like the crunched up back of a cookie), we decided to hot glue gun a cardboard backing on it.  Not very classy, but it kept the stone from crumbling!

We sealed the back of this stone with a hot glue gun and cardboard.  Classy, eh?

Salt dough creations make great gifts.  You can make them all different sizes or even make them into ornaments (put a hole in them before baking).  If you add a touch of food coloring to them, you can change the color of the dough.  The possibilities are endless!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

How to Make Rainbow Rice Sensory Bins

St. Patrick's Day is right around the corner, and one of our FAVORITE things to do in honor of the occasion is play with Rainbow Rice.  Don't worry, it's not as difficult as it sounds (if you haven't figured it out, I'm all about ease).  There are some amazing ideas for sensory tables/bins all over Pinterest, and when the Jersey Momma's boy was about 2 or 3, I would change up the sensory bins every few weeks for him.  He's a little too old for them now, but he still enjoys playing with the rainbow rice.  Because, well, let's face it, it's cool.

What You'll Need:

-Uncooked, dry white rice (you can buy as much or as little as you like)
-Rubbing Alcohol
-Food Coloring (I used the plain old kind you find in the baking aisle)
-Ziploc bags
-A bin to put your rice in (I used a clear rubbermaid container)

How To Make It

Step 1. Divide the rice into separate ziploc bags (six of them, to be exact, one for each color.  I  used about 3/4 cup of rice in each bag).

Step 2.   Mix 4-5 drops of food coloring in each bag (the number of food coloring drops depends on how bright you want the color), along with 1 teaspoon of rubbing alcohol.  Seal up the bags and give them a good shake to mix the colors.  That's it!  And you can solicit the help of your little ones to actually make the rice, if you so desire.  I actually had my dad help.  Yes, Poppy (a.k.a. The Jersey Grandpa) loves doing that kind of stuff!  

Step 3.  I recommend dumping out the rice on trays or paper plates to let it dry, because it does have a bit of an "alcoholish" smell when you're finished.  This smell fades over time, so no worries.

The Rainbow Rice Sensory bin is ready for action!

Step 4.  When your rice is all dry and ready, dump it into your container.  As you can see, I lined mine up in perfect color formation, because it's that much more enticing to mix up!  I added some little plastic gold coins and leprechaun heads, oh, and scoopers, of course!

The Jersey Momma's boy has always liked to do things in his pajamas (have you noticed?), and our beloved late dog Milo was always there to play with us, too.
So much fun to swirl up the rainbow rice!


When we were tired of the rainbow rice box, I scooped up all of the rice and stored it in large ziploc bags.  I pull it out every now and then when we're bored, and even used it for an "Art" themed birthday party that we had (you can read all about that here).

We used an old water table for the rainbow rice at our Art Party

The rice has kept so well over the years (yes, I think we've had it about 2 years now).  So the few minutes it takes to make this stuff is totally worth it.  Enjoy!

For an even more detailed description of rainbow rice boxes, check out PinkandGreenMama or TheForesterClan Blog.  Both offer some neat alternatives on boxes and have some pretty bright color schemes!  The Forester Clan Blog makes their rice with liquid water colors and neon food coloring, too.  The color is AMAZING.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Dr. Seuss Day Games for Read Across America: Yertle the Turtle Stacking Game

I was looking for some unique Dr. Seuss games and crafts to play at The Jersey Momma's Boy's Read Across America celebration, and I kept finding the same things: pin the hat on the cat, fishing for One Fish Two Fish - not that there's anything wrong with those games, it's just that we did something similar for the last two class parties!  So I was happy when I came across this Yertle the Turtle Stacking Game from TheresJustOneMommy.  I thought, let's give it a shot!

Yertle the Turtle Stacking Game is great for Read Across America Day or Dr. Seuss parties!

Yertle the Turtle is one of my favorite Dr. Seuss stories.  Photo from Amazon.com

How To Play:

Children take turns rolling a die and stacking the number of turtles that they roll (i.e. if they roll a 4, they stack 4 turtles on top of each other).  Children take turns rolling and stacking (in one tall stack) to see how high they can pile the turtles without them falling over.  You can also do a variation of this where children just take turns placing one turtle on top of another to see how high they can pile up the turtles.  We had fun doing this at home, just seeing how high we could stack the turtles.

This is just an added bonus, but I used to show this video to my students when I was teaching.  It is hands-down the best rendition of the Yertle the Turtle story, a rap/gospel version featuring Kathy Najimy and Andrae Crouch.  The song is so catchy.  I dare you not to dance!  You can find it in the movie, In Search of Dr. Seuss.  I own no rights to this video, it is from YouTube.

Now that I got you dancing, on to the Yertle the Turtle Game!

You Will Need:

-empty egg carton (I had a giant recyclable one from Costco)
-green and yellow paints (I used tempera, as I thought acrylic might dry and crack)
-black Sharpie marker

Step 1.  Make sure your egg carton is clean and dry and cut it out into separate pieces that resemble turtles.  I used a giant egg tray from Costco that held 32 eggs or something like that.  It was made of recyclable material that was good for painting, but a little hard to cut.

We really like eggs in this house!  Here's my super size egg tray.
My egg carton, cut into 'turtles.'  Although they could also be little rocks!  Or meatballs?

Step 2.  Line your eggs up on a tray or newspaper so you can paint them.  This was not my favorite part.  I'm not a fan of painting, believe it or not, and I realized last minute that we were out of green paint, so I had to mix some of my own!  Bah!

I wound up finding some green paint after all, so the top turtles were made with the mixed paint and the bottom is the real green.  They look like turtle meatballs!
Step 3.  Let your turtles dry.  I am a bit of a perfectionist and I wasn't happy with the way they looked.  They weren't turtley enough for me.  So here's where the project got a little time consuming.  I went back and added yellow spots to make them look more like turtles.

Okay so now they look a little more like turtles...

Step 4.  If you like you can paint heads and legs/arms on them, too. I told you I'm a bit of a perfectionist so I kept adding things to the turtles, which made it very time consuming.

Now they REALLY look like turtles!
Step 5.  If you opted to paint heads on them, then be sure to add little eyes and a smile with a black Sharpie, just for some added cuteness.

The end result is worth the effort.  So cute!

Hello little turtle!  Are you Mack?
Step 6.  Now you're ready to play your game!  Choose one turtle to be Mack (the bottom turtle).  Players take turns rolling a die and stacking that many turtles.  See how high you can make the stack without it falling over!  Another variation is to just take turns stacking one turtle at a time to see how high you can make your turtle stack.

Jersey Momma Tips

- This project took way longer than I thought it would.  The Jersey Momma's Boy was too busy playing Minecraft to help paint.  Sad, but true.  So if you have a helper, the painting should go much faster.

-I had a huge egg tray.  You don't have to use one this big.  You can use a regular dozen egg carton.  Styrofoam cartons would probably work, too, but they might be harder to stack because they are so lightweight

-If your egg carton happens to be green you might not even have to paint them at all.

-If I did this again I might opt to spray paint the whole tray first so I wouldn't have to paint each one individually.  I don't know if it would work, but dealing with a large tray like that, it might have been faster.

-These turtles don't have to be used just for Dr. Seuss Day.  They would be great accents for a classroom reptile unit, or just for fun as a crafty project to make in the springtime.  You can paint them all different colors, too!  Rainbow turtles!

-Save these turtles in a ziploc bag and you've got a game for another year!  This is especially helpful in a classroom.

-And don't forget to read Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss so your players know the tale of Mack the Turtle and the great King Yertle!!

You can find Yertle the Turtle at Amazon.com or at one of your local booksellers.  

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Easy St. Patrick's Day Rainbow Paper Plate Craft for Kids

Here's a St. Patrick's Day craft you can make in a flash.  There's not much to it, and chances are you already have all of the supplies on hand!  We also used this craft as an easy center table at The Jersey Momma's Boy's 5th birthday party, which was an Art Party.  You can read all about that here.

We added google eyes as an after-thought.  You can see our hand drawn eyes underneath!

You Will Need

-a paper plate
-markers, crayons, or colored pencils (or paint if you're adventurous)
-cotton balls
-Elmer's glue
-a ribbon or string to hang your creation

Step 1.  Cut a paper plate in half and then cut away the center semi-circle to make your plate into an arch.

You can already see the rainbow!
Follow the lines of the paper plate to help you cut a semi-circle.

Step 2.  If you're working with little ones you might want to lightly draw lines on the plate for them to show them where to color on the rainbow (otherwise it's hard to judge how much of each color to use).

Adding lines helps with coloring!

Step 3.  Color in your rainbow using crayons, markers or colored pencils (or paint, if that's your thing).

Mr. Sketch markers!  Yahhh!!!
Did you know the yellow Mr. Sketch marker now smells like banana and not lemon?

Step 4.  Using a tiny bit of Elmer's drippy glue, add some cotton balls onto each end of the rainbow.

Let the cotton balls dry before you try to add the ribbon or string!

Step 5.  Poke a hole at the top of the rainbow and tie a ribbon or string through it to hang your rainbow.  You can even get more creative with these by gluing Froot Loops over each color of the rainbow, adding faces with google eyes or markers, or even making your own pot of gold to hang beneath it.  We made this pot with the extra pieces of the paper plate.  Oh, and, those fabulous chocolate golden coins?  They came from the one and only Fudge Shoppe in Flemington, NJ.  If you have never been there, you need to get going right away!  Tell them The Jersey Momma sent you.

You can glue the pot to the rainbow if you want, too, and keep it as a little pocket to store goodies in.
For additional fun, you can read some of my favorite rainbow books together! Have fun!

The Rainbow Goblins by Ul De Rico, photo from Amazon.com
A Rainbow of My Own by Don Freeman, photo from Amazon.com