A Ballerina 3 Year Old Birthday: A Homemade Ballerina Birthday Cake

Our 3 year old girl loves to twirl. I think she spends a quarter of her day spinning.

So, when she saw one video of a ballerina, she was hooked. This made it no surprise that she wanted a ballerina birthday cake.

Order one, right? Wrong. We have food allergies in our family and have trouble finding a bakery that guarantees a peanut and tree nut free cake.

This ballerina cake needed to be homemade – a tall order.

Baking is not my strong suit. But I’ve been making an effort to learn and develop the skill because baking safe birthday cakes will be my job for years to come.

After much research, I decided to make this chocolate cheesecake layer cake from Recipe Girl. The recipe was well written, easy to follow, and the cake is delicious!

The recipe was modified to fit our needs as follows:

  • Line the pan with Parchment Paper: After reading reviews of how to ensure each layer of cake releases easily from the pan, each pan was lined with parchment paper. Not only did it work well, it was less messy than greasing and flouring the pans.
    • To line with parchment paper, spray the pan with cooking spray (I used PAM), then trace and cut out a circle of parchment paper to place in the pan. Finally, spray the top of the paper with cooking spray.
  • Freeze all layers: Due to time constraints, all cake and cheesecake layers were baked 3 days in advance and frozen.
    • Once cool, wrap each layer individually in a double layer of plastic wrap followed by one layer of tin foil. Place them in a freezer bag and store in the freezer until ready to assemble the cake. NOTE: To avoid freezer burn, don’t freeze in a frost-free freezer (that heats and cools to remove frost). I used our chest freezer.
  • Use a decorator cream cheese frosting: Instead of the recipe’s chocolate sour cream frosting, this cake was decorated with this fantastic crusting cream cheese, butter cream frosting. With so much chocolate, the cake is plenty rich so skipping the chocolate was ok. Plus, decorating with sour cream frosting won’t work – the designs will just melt away. This cream cheese frosting is great for decorating a ‘girlie’ cake.
    • FYI – my hand mixer started smoking and died while mixing the frosting – it gets thick before it is thinned out! My off-brand mixer wasn’t a very good one. I sprung for the Kitchen Aid hand mixer because it happened to be 20% off and similar in price to the one I had before. I was amazed by how much better it worked. If you feel like YOU are doing all the work when mixing this stuff, I recommend borrowing or buying a better hand mixer (or use a stand mixer). Your arms will thank you and it will cut the prep time in half.
  • Assemble with frozen layers: Handling frozen layers is a cinch – they stack easily without crumbling, frosting is easy to spread, and the cake turns out super moist.
  • Decorate with rosettes: After watching this Cake Trend video, I was able to decorate the cake with rosettes. The process was really forgiving! When things don’t look perfect, you can cover the edges with the next rosette. And because this cake used only one color, it was easy to blend and fill any gaps after finishing.
    • This cake was assembled and decorated one day before the party and stored in an airtight container overnight in the fridge.

Rosette cake

Now, didn’t I say she asked for a ballerina cake? Well, drawing a ballerina with frosting is simply beyond my skill level, so I needed something to stick in the cake.

I bought two sheets of glittery cardstock from JoAnn Fabrics (one gold, one pink). Then I traced and cut out ballerina figures. Each figure was taped to a wood skewer and stuck in the cake the day of the party.


I think she liked it and it was delicious!

Trust me, if I can make it, so can you!



He is Risen! – But We Must Have Faith To Claim Victory In Our Everyday Lives

He is Risen! Happy Easter!

this grateful mama

John 1633

This Easter, the best way to celebrate the gift of Jesus is to share what God has been doing in my life this past year. Last year, Easter exposed a void in my faith that I ddin’t even know was there. Deeply painful at the time and very personal even today, I wasn’t sure I would ever share this here – but the work of God and His victories in our lives is always worth sharing, even when it is beyond our comfort level. Sorry, this is going to be a long one…Here goes…

Last spring, the women’s bible study studied the book ‘Fearless” by Max Lucado. After the first session, I arrogantly (and ignorantly) told my husband, “The book seems good, but I really don’t struggle with fear”.

Somehow, I thought that learning what God’s word has to say about fear didn’t apply to me –  a grievous mistake…

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12 Tips for Parents and Kids to Have a Great Daylight Savings Week

12 Tips for Parents and Kids to Have a Great Daylight Savings Week | thisgratefulmama.com

Daylight savings.

It. Is. Coming.

Changing clocks to maximize daylight hours seems like a good idea.

Before kids, moving the clock wasn’t a big deal. Go to bed earlier, and sleep a little later…in a few days we forgot it ever happened.

But then we had kids.

Changing the clock creates a BIG problem for the little people in my life. And, in turn, their parents.

It takes seconds to set the time on the clock. Unfortunately, it does NOT happen so quickly for our children’s internal clock.

A one hour time change isn’t welcomed by their bodies. They are tired when we need to get up. They are not tired at naptime or at bedtime. They are hungry when it isn’t meal time – and not hungry when it is.

In our experience, a child’s natural clock takes a minimum of one week to shift an hour. And in many cases, it will take even MORE time.

Last year, we naively sprung the time change on our kids. Sure, we expected a day or two of tired children, but a full week? More?

Sigh. The unwanted effects of the week following daylight savings are undesirable, at best.

How parents approach the inevitable time change can make a big difference. We can accept it and face it head on, or we can dread it and complain our way through it (the latter did not work well for any of us last year).

So, how do we face it head on?  Here are some strategies for surviving and thriving in the aftermath of daylight savings.

12 Tips for Parents and Kids to Have a Great Daylight Savings Week | thisgratefulmama.com

12 Tips for Parents and Kids to Have a Great Daylight Savings Week

1. Plan Ahead: A week before changing the clock, start gradually moving bedtime up. Start with 5-10 minutes earlier, and add 5-10 minutes per night until the big day. It might not work well every night, but hopefully their little bodies won’t go into complete shock by trying to change it all at once.

2. Be Flexible: Keep your family schedule loose the week after daylight savings. Be willing to let some things go if the kids (or you) are just too tired to do it all. With small children, decide it is alright if they do not nap. They may have trouble falling asleep at the new time, and falling asleep late may affect night time sleep. Be OK with whatever happens.

3. Take Care of Yourself: It isn’t just your kids who are adjusting to a new schedule. As you help them, help yourself by continuing to work out and eat well. Even if you’re tired and wanting to take shortcuts. This will help you ensure good habits survive the change.  Oh, and don’t forget the coffee. You will need lots of coffee.

4. Spend Time With God: No matter how tired YOU are, don’t sleep in at the expense of taking time with the Lord. You need to be filled and refreshed to face this challenge! Spending time with Him will equip you to extend grace, patience, and gentleness when your kids need it the most. This  will be an investment that blesses YOU and your kids.

5. Be Grateful For Evening Daylight: Focus on the fact that daylight savings means SPRING. Spring means warmth. Sun. And Summer. This change is a promise of lovely weather and days to come. Embrace those evening hours and use them to get yourself and the kids outside for a walk, or to do something productive around the house when you’d usually feel like hibernating.

6. Have Reasonable Expectations: Know that each child is going to experience some kind of struggle the week after daylight savings. Expect that they follow non-negotiable family rules, but expect that they may struggle with emotions and behavior. Recognize when they are doing the best they can. Practice patience. Extend grace. Forgive quickly and move on.

7. Avoid Comparison: It is also not fair to expect each child to adjust quickly, or at the same rate. Comparing will not help anyone. It may take different strategies to help each child – adjust as needed to meet them where they’re at.

8. Have A Backup Plan: Stock up on quiet activities to distract and help kids wind down. Invest in some inexpensive new activities – new library books, a new puzzle, new bath toys or new coloring books to keep kids interested in quiet and calm activities. Pull them out when they’re having a rough evening (or day).

9. Be Consistent: Don’t forgo the bedtime routine. And avoid adding or neglecting anything that you don’t want to continue in perpetuity or  to have to battle over later. For example, extra books at bedtime may sound like a good idea when they aren’t tired on those first few nights, but then the kids will EXPECT them going forward – instead of reading extra books IN the bedtime routine, read them downstairs as a seperate activity and THEN continue with the normal bedtime routine.

10. Don’t Forget About Food: If your child is struggling, try to determine if they are just tired, or if hunger may be contributing.  It isn’t just sleep that can cause problems after daylight savings – our stomachs do too! Consider moving meal times up slowly the week before, or providing small snacks to get kids through hunger pangs before or after mealtime. Better to allow a snack than to deal with a hangry child.

11. Increase Quality Time: Sometimes when kids struggle the most is when they need us the most. Play barbies, LEGOS, or whatever interests them most. Read more books and soak up snuggles. Keep them engaged with a family game of hide-and-seek or a board game. Let them help you cook dinner, even if it is slow and messy. As they soak up the attention, you may see their attitude and ability to cope with how they’re feeling improve.

12. Keep It In Perspective: It will not last forever. These tired, hungry, cranky children will return to their normal sweet selves. This too shall pass, even if it takes longer than we’d like.

Here’s hoping sleep returns to all of us quickly.