How to organize a monster truck birthday party

It’s no secret that my five-year-old boy, Will, is obsessed with monster trucks. So it only made sense that we theme his fifth birthday party accordingly. Good friends and family gathered in our back yard for a monster of a party. While I’m hardly a master with the camera, I snapped away with abandon, hoping to be able to share the secrets of this absolute scream of a party with all of you here on this blog.

So, without further ado, here are all the details! Hope you enjoy reading about it as much as I enjoyed putting it all together.

The invitation

I leaned on Hollie, our fabulous graphic designer here at for some help with the invitation. Thank heavens I had a photo of Will behind the wheel of a car that she could cut out and use!

Game #1: Pin the Plate on the Monster Truck

The first game we played (about 15 minutes after the start of the party) was a twist on the old birthday party classic pin the tail on the donkey.

We designed a personalized New York license plate for each attendee and printed them out on regular paper using our Epson ink jet printer. I cut them out and then put some double stick tape on the back of each one. Lacking a proper bandana or blindfold, I used a pink pashmina from my closet. Somewhere the Monster Truck Gods shuddered. But the kids didn’t care. We tied it around their heads so they couldn’t see, spun them around once or twice, and off they went to pin tape their license plate on the poster.

I am telling you, they had SO much fun with this game! It’s perfect for 5-6 year-olds. The winner got a high-five and lots of accolades from the parents & kids assembled.

Game #2: Monster Truck (Spoon) Race

After the thrill of pin the plate on the monster truck, we switched gears with a twist on the old egg race favorite. Rather than a relay race in which two teams compete to see who can complete the race fastest with a fragile egg balanced on a spoon, we had them race with a monster truck on their spoons instead!

We created two “lanes” in the yard using croquet hooks and string. The kids counted off in “1s” and “2s” and were assigned teams accordingly. Mom sent the racers off with a blast from an air horn – and – well…they sort of got it.

It was a pretty close race. So close, in fact, that we all decided it was a tie. (Note: this game might be a tad advanced for this age group, but little twists made it fun. They insisted I blow the horn every time someone finished their leg of the race. It was a hoot, although I’m not sure the neighbors were too appreciative!)

The Cake

I made the monster truck birthday cake myself after trolling the internet (thanks Pinterest!) for ideas. It was incredibly easy to do.

First I baked two, 6″ round chocolate cakes for the wheels (I actually made a spare just in case something went horribly wrong with one of them). I used this road-tested recipe passed down to me from my mom:

1 1/2 cups water
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/3 cup cocoa powder (I use Ghiradelli – it makes a big, big difference in terms of taste)
1 cup butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Heat the oven to 350º. Grease and flour two 9-inch round pans and set them aside. In a microwave-safe liquid measuring cup, measure 1 1/2 cups water. Add the unsweetened chocolate squares to the water. Microwave for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring after 1 1/2 minutes or until the chocolate has melted. Stir in the cocoa and set the mixture aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter for 1 minute; add the granulated and brown sugars and cream for another 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add the eggs individually, beating well after each one. Beat in the vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Beginning with about a third of the flour, add the flour mixture and chocolate mixture alternately to the butter and sugar, stirring well after each addition.

Divide the cake batter evenly between the two pans, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula. Place the pans on the middle oven rack and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out clean.

Let the cakes cool in the pans for about 10 minutes. Then place a cooling rack atop each pan and, holding the edges to the pan, flip the cake onto the rack. Cool completely before frosting.

The finished wheel cakes cooled while I made the yellow cake for the car body.

To do that, I used this delicious birthday cake recipe from Smitten Kitchen to bake one 13″ x 9″ rectangular cake. I cut out the wheel wells and the front windshield by eye. Then I used food coloring gel to outline the various shapes for the monster truck, including the big “5” for the door. Next up, the icing. I kept it pretty basic:

Recipe for the frosting
Cream 3-1/2 cups of confectioners’ sugar with 1/2 cup of butter (at room temperature). Add up to 5 tablespoons of milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Stop when you reach the consistency you desire. Beat in 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.

Once the icing was done, I applied the white to the back and windows. Then I separated out the remaining icing into three different bowls, added some food coloring…and voila, I was ready to decorate.

The result was better than anything I could have hoped for, considering that I have never decorated a cake before in my life. The look on Will’s face when we brought it out was priceless. The kids all clamored for a piece and devoured every bite.

On an existential note, it made me seriously reconsider my dependence on “convenient” solutions. If I can bake a birthday cake like this, perhaps we all have it in us to create more than we give ourselves credit for…

Game #3: The Car Wash Sprinkler

Finally, after everyone’s tummies were filled with pizza and cake, it was time for some sprinkler fun. My DH followed the instructions to a deluxe kid car wash made out of PVC pipe that one of our Facebook fans recommended I check out on Family Fun. He put it together in the garage the night before – it took about an hour to assemble the parts (and 2 beers). Once he was done with the basic structure, we both decorated it with colorful pool noodles and sponges I had gotten on sale at Walmart.

Our tip: skip the swinging arm entrance. But otherwise, it’s a pretty perfect design plan.

The result – well – I’m sure the squeals of delight could be heard all the way down the Eastern Seaboard! We’ve trotted it out pretty much every week since the party for backyard summer fun.

It was certainly a day to remember. I am so happy that I took the time to really plan a great, homemade party. I don’t know if I’ll do that kind of thing every year, but it filled me with joy to do – so I might just keep up the madness.

How about you? Have you ever surprised yourself by pulling off an amazing party without much background in crafting? What was the best party you threw? What did you do?

If you’re interested in getting either the invite or pin the tail on the monster truck poster & license plates customized for your truck fiend, send an email to Sarah at getbuttonedup dot com.