Parties: Here Comes the Circus!

Friday, 16 October 2009

For Riley's second birthday back in 2005, I was gagging to have a retro circus theme complete with sideshow games and lots of carnival food.

For the invitations, I printed details out onto white paper, cut it out with decorative scissors and glued it to red card stock. I then used a circus ring master from a Martha Stewart Kids magazine, printed onto cardstock and cut out. He was secured to the main invitation with a split pin, so he could spin around, and the whole thing was slipped into a yellow envelope.


Being February and hot enough to fry an egg on the car bonnet, we opted for an outdoor fiesta in our large backyard. Helium balloons in a rainbow of colours are a must for any circus party, and I sewed triangles of felt together to make bright banners.

Pilfered from Martha Stewart kids, I printed off circus performers and pasted them to card, then decorated the walls on the verandah. Against the verandah lattice, I hooked up big top glitter hats, animal masks and other sideshow winnings just like a real circus carnival. When kids won tickets at sideshow games, they could bring the tickets to the wall and redeem a prize of their choice.

Riley's red flyer wagon was used as a base for his birthday cake and bright fabric covered the table. A small table covered in star-spangled fabric served as a face painting and tattoo station.

Confetti was a must and the kids got to throw it everywhere. You could also put it inside a piƱata.


Of course - carnival food is a must - hotdogs, popcorn, classic Arnott's arrowroot clown cookies (remember those, Women's Weekly readers?). These adorable cookies are simply Milk Arrowroot biscuits smeared with white runny icing and studded with popcorn hair, Smartie eyes, jelly bean mouths, etc.

I also served fairy bread, ham and cheese sandwiches studded with clown skewers, cut fruit and cupcakes with a swirl of cream and red clown nose jaffa on top. To make jelly stars, make jelly double strength (two packs to regular amount of liquid) and allow to set in a shallow deep sided dish. Cut out with a star cutter dipped in hot water.

A sensational ice cream bar was served with the birthday cake - kids could add sprinkles and jimmies and silver baubles and all other scrumptious knickknacks to their ice cream cones.


This was the funnest part! I set up several carnival game stations where kids could challenge themselves to win tickets to 'buy' treats. Games included Ball Toss (I painted poster card with a bullseye and hole in the centre), Pin the Nose on the Clown and Ring Toss.

Walk the Tightrope was a long piece of rope on the grass, pulled taught by hooking around stakes in the grass. Kids had to walk along the rope holding an umbrella above their heads.

The Fishing Pond was a sandpit clamshell filled with shredded blue cellophane and paper fish with paperclips on their mouths. Kids used a magnet on a stick like a fishing line to hook their catch.

There was also the classic Knock 'Em Down Can lineup and of course, Pass the Parcel was a must.


I loved this cake. I baked a deep chocolate cake with straight edges then cut and scooped out some cake from the top, leaving solid edges. I filled this with cream and studded it with red jaffas. I then wrapped the cake in white fondant icing, and carefully painted on fat red stripes with food colouring.

The top of the cake was also fondant icing, rolled out into a circle and sliced from the centre to the edge so the sliced edge can overlap and cover the cone I made from white cardboard. You need to first measure and create this cardboard cone and make sure it fits over the top of the cake and hangs over the sides slightly.

Carefully lay the rolled fondant on top of the cone and smooth the sliced opening closed. You may need to trim it a little so it doesn't overlap too much. Paint on the red stripes. You can use a sheet of paper to create a nice sharp line when you paint. I made animals out of fondant icing, too, tinting the fondant and rolling out balls to make little bodies, heads and legs.

To make the lion's mane, just add a flat semi-circular piece to the top of the lion's head then snip with scissors. To make simple eyes, dip the pointed end of a skewer in black food colouring and insert into head to make a teensy black hole. Beware... fondant icing starts to melt on hot days!

What a carnival atmosphere! Riley slept well that night and so did Mum...


Swish and Swanky said...

You definitely are the hostess with the mostess. I would have loved a party like this when I was younger. Just amazing!

We're in the throws of planning an Alice in Wonderland party. Perhaps you might have some ideas for me?

Have a lovely weekend!
x Amanda

Tiny Concept said...

Love this party - I am wanting to do a circus them for Mav's 2nd birthday so you have given me something aim towards. I just love that cake, amazing!

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