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How to Throw the Perfect Graduation Party

They're sparkling with enthusiasm, brimming with accomplishment, and full of confidence for the future. Give your graduate a party with a little pomp and circumstance.

Let the Party Begin!

Graduation Day. It happens so quickly. The wide-eyed child you walked to the kindergarten door is now a high school senior walking down the aisle in a cap and gown. It's a day full of emotion, pride, endings, and beginnings. So how will you get it all together for a knockout party? Simply follow the program of winning students: Create a syllabus for planning details, complete your assignments on time, and recruit teammates to help with extracurricular activities. First order of business? Hold a brainstorming session with the guest of honor to glean his or her ideas about the party. Invitations need to go out about five weeks before the big day. It's likely there will be more than one graduation party to attend; you don't want your invitation to get lost in the shuffle. Take advantage of the convenient, easy technology available today and give the invites a modern tone. Purchase empty plastic CD jewel cases to house the invitation. Then, use simple invitation design software to create the inside paper cover. This is where you'll put all the who, what, where, and when information. Include a map for out-of-towners. To complete the package, purchase blank CDs and download photos of the grad to them, especially school pictures. Hand off creating the invitation if your grad is adept at design with computers. Next, pick a spring-fresh palette for the party -- or let school colors inspire one. Take a few trips to the local discount store, office supply store, and crafts shop. You'll find a treasure trove of inexpensive, contemporary-styled items that can be employed in ways other than they were intended. For instance: Think of white plastic in-boxes for serving food. Use plastic catch-all trays for stylish plates. Try glass hurricanes or vases for serving bowls. Coordinate with inexpensive plastic and stainless flatware and colorful paper napkins.Think of white plastic in-boxes for serving food. Use plastic catch-all trays for stylish plates. Try glass hurricanes or vases for serving bowls. Coordinate with inexpensive plastic and stainless flatware and colorful paper napkins.

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Planning the Menu

When you plan the menu, consider older and younger tastes and appetites. Teens can be adventurous -- they may be just as likely to hit the sushi bar as the burger stand -- and lots will gravitate to simple, fresh, and healthy foods. But, being teens, an overstuffed sandwich and an interesting snack mix also rate high on their scorecard. This collection of recipes will strike the right balance -- there's a nice yin-yang between popular Asian-Pacific flavors and familiar American territory. For convenience, recipes that can be made ahead and will hold a day or so are a necessity. When refrigerator space becomes premium, don't be afraid to ask a neighbor for help. Welcome everyone with a glass of Chai Punch. Add cinnamon sticks, basil, and citrus fruits to chai concentrate for bigger flavor, and it takes just 10 minutes to prepare. Wasabi Party Mix blends rice crackers, sesame sticks, shredded coconut, and hot wasabi-coated peas. For salads, start with Melon-Radish Salad with creamy watercress-honey dressing. Tone-on-tone Seven-Layer Noodle Salad crowned with a peanut-sour cream dressing provides a bright, fresh note. Spiky Cucumber Salad lives up to its name by hitting the cool cukes with a blast of red pepper. Consider making two sandwiches -- a Smoked Roast Beef stuffed with roasted peppers and onion jam, and a Ham and Mango with olive-mustard spread. Four-ingredient Cold Roasted Salmon is an elegant counterpoint with its topping of crumbled bacon and goat cheese. For dessert, smoky-sweet Grilled Apricots and Pineapple wear a drizzle of make-ahead Mint Syrup. And of course, there's cake. But make it easy on yourself. Cover store-bought or bakery cakes in various sizes with purchased white rolled fondant. Decorate with additional rolled fondant cut-outs and trim, and top with fresh berries. Then, relax. The hard work is done. Now it's only tuition and four more years until your young adult's next rite of passage.

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Ideas for Success

Set up a table for gifts and cards. Potted plants provide a welcoming decor for party guests and serve as departure gifts as well. For risers, purchase metal tins in various diameters and heights from the container department at a discount store. Let everyone know the grad's future plans by slipping computer-generated mailing labels into keepsake plastic luggage tags. Keep things tidy by using waxed paper to line the plastic trays used as plates. Make school pennants from vellum stenciled with the date, and glued to dowels from the crafts store. For the holder, place a foam cylinder inside a glass vase and fill with jelly beans in school colors. A memory timeline celebrates achievement with the grad's favorite photos from grade school through high school. Include other memorabilia: report cards, awards, school play programs, and athletic letters. Ask a party guest to handle the photography responsibilities and provide a camera. Scatter disposable cameras around the party to inspire spontaneous picture-taking. Burn a special CD to accompany the invitation, or print out copies of one photo cut to size to fit in the CD jewel case. Show the way to the party with a lawn sign. Using magic markers, stencil letters onto paper plates and attach them to dowel rods. Make them double-sided in case they spin in the breeze. Provide a memory journal for guests to sign. Ask each guest to sign his or her own page. Leave a blank page between each for the grad to add photos or his or her own remembrances.

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Ideas for Success

Set up a table for gifts and cards. Potted plants provide a welcoming decor for party guests and serve as departure gifts as well. For risers, purchase metal tins in various diameters and heights from the container department at a discount store. Let everyone know the grad's future plans by slipping computer-generated mailing labels into keepsake plastic luggage tags. Keep things tidy by using waxed paper to line the plastic trays used as plates. Make school pennants from vellum stenciled with the date, and glued to dowels from the crafts store. For the holder, place a foam cylinder inside a glass vase and fill with jelly beans in school colors. A memory timeline celebrates achievement with the grad's favorite photos from grade school through high school. Include other memorabilia: report cards, awards, school play programs, and athletic letters. Ask a party guest to handle the photography responsibilities and provide a camera. Scatter disposable cameras around the party to inspire spontaneous picture-taking. Burn a special CD to accompany the invitation, or print out copies of one photo cut to size to fit in the CD jewel case. Show the way to the party with a lawn sign. Using magic markers, stencil letters onto paper plates and attach them to dowel rods. Make them double-sided in case they spin in the breeze. Provide a memory journal for guests to sign. Ask each guest to sign his or her own page. Leave a blank page between each for the grad to add photos or his or her own remembrances.

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Wasabi Party Mix

To make your own wasabi-flavored peas, place 5 cups of dried peas in a bowl. Lightly coat peas with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle with 2 to 3 teaspoons wasabi powder; toss to coat.

Prep: 15 Minutes

5 cups purchased wasabi-flavored dehydrated peas

4 cups bite-size toasted rice cracker mix

4 cups sesame sticks

4 cups honey-roasted peanuts

2 cups shredded coconutIn a bowl combine all ingredients.

Store in an airtight container until ready to serve. Mixture can be made ahead and stored at room temperature up to 2 weeks or in the freezer up to 4 months. Makes 20 cups (eighty 1/4-cup servings).

NOTE: Wasabi peas can be found at grocery stores or at www.vinetreeorchards.com. Dried peas can be found at grocery stores or www.justtomatoes.com.

Each Serving (1/4 Cup): 99 cal., 6g total fat (2g sat. fat), 0mg chol., 134mg sodium, 9g carbo., 1g fiber, 3g pro. Daily Values: 2% vit. A, 8% vit. C, 1% calcium, 2% iron.

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Chai Punch

Chai is a blend of tea, milk, and spices. Chai concentrate can be found in the tea section of the grocery store.

Prep: 10 Minutes

Chill: 4 Hours

1 32-oz. container chai tea concentrate (black tea)

1/2 cup sugar

8 inches stick cinnamon or equivalent stick cinnamon

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn

1 medium lime or lemon, sliced

1 medium orange, sliced

1 32-oz. bottle club soda, chilled

Ice cubes

Cinnamon sticks (optional)

Sliced orange, lime, and/or key limes (optional)

Whole basil leaves (optional)

Pour chai tea concentrate into a large container or pitcher. Stir in sugar. Add 8 inches stick cinnamon, torn basil, sliced lime, and sliced orange. Cover and chill 4 to 24 hours. Strain mixture, discarding solids. Just before serving, slowly add club soda to chai mixture. Serve over ice cubes. Garnish with additional cinnamon sticks, citrus slices, and whole basil leaves. Makes ten 6-ounce servings.

Each Serving: 100 cal., 0g total fat (0g sat. fat), 0mg chol., 26mg sodium, 25g carbo., 0g fiber, 0g pro

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Spiky Cucumber Salad

This salad is sure to become a standard in your repertoire because of its easy preparation and sharp flavors.

Prep: 20 Minutes

Chill: 2 Hours

1/2 cup rice vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tbsp. finely shredded lemon peel

2 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger

1 tbsp. sugar

1 1/2 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper

1 tsp. toasted sesame oil

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper

8 medium cucumbers

In a screw-top jar combine vinegar, olive oil, lemon peel and juice, ginger, sugar, black pepper, sesame oil, salt, and crushed red pepper. Close jar; shake well to combine. Set aside. Cut unpeeled cucumbers into bite-size strips or sticks. Place cucumbers in a very large bowl. Drizzle dressing over cucumbers; toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 12 hours, tossing occasionally. Drain to serve. Makes 24 to 26 servings.

Each Serving: 27 cal., 1g total fat (0g sat. fat), 0mg chol., 51mg sodium, 3g carbo., 1g fiber, 1g pro. Daily Values: 4% vit. A, 10% vit. C, 2% calcium, 2% iron.

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Seven-Layer Noodle Salad

To make this into a main dish salad, add a layer of cooked shrimp or chicken. Daikon is a Japanese radish that has a celery-like flavor. You'll find it in the produce department.

Prep: 50 Minutes

Chill: Up to 8 Hours

2 8-oz. cartons dairy sour cream

1 cup bottled Thai peanut sauce

1/4 tsp. ground red pepper (optional)

1 6- to 7-oz. pkg. rice sticks, broken

2 cups fresh snow pea pods, trimmed

8 cups shredded napa cabbage or cabbage

1/2 of a medium daikon, cut into thin bite-size strips (1 cup)

4 cups packaged shredded broccoli (broccoli slaw mix)

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves

1/2 cup coarsely chopped peanuts

In a medium bowl combine the sour cream, peanut sauce, and ground red pepper; set aside. Prepare rice sticks according to package directions. Drain. Rinse with cold water; drain well. Set aside. Cook pea pods, covered, in a small amount of boiling salted water for 2 minutes until crisp-tender. Drain. Rinse with cold water; drain well. Set aside. In a 4 1/2- to 6-quart clear glass bowl or two 3-quart rectangular baking dishes layer the napa cabbage, rice sticks, pea pods, daikon, shredded broccoli, and cilantro. Carefully spread the sour cream mixture over the cilantro. Sprinkle the peanuts over the sour cream mixture. Cover and chill until ready to serve or up to 8 hours. If serving in a large straight-sided bowl, toss salad before serving. If serving in baking dishes, use knife to cut through mixture into serving-size portions. Makes 12 to 16 servings.

Each Serving: 246 cal., 14g total fat (6g sat. fat), 17mg chol., 365mg sodium, 26g carbo., 5g fiber, 6g pro. Daily Values: 36% vit. A, 94% vit. C, 12% calcium, 6% iron.

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Grilled Apricots and Pineapple with Mint Syrup

Prep: 25 Minutes

Cook: 15 Minutes

Grill: 5 Minutes

Cool: 1 Hour

1 recipe Mint Syrup

12 ripe medium apricots, halved and pitted (or two 15 1/4-oz. cans apricot halves, drained)

1 large pineapple, peeled, cored, and sliced into

12 rings Freshly grated nutmeg

Fresh mint leaves

Prepare Mint Syrup; set aside to cool. Place a grill wok or grill basket on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals and heat for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, toss apricots with 2 tablespoons of the mint syrup. Brush pineapple rings with 2 tablespoons of the mint syrup. Sprinkle apricots and pineapple with nutmeg. Place apricots in the preheated grill wok or basket. Place pineapple directly on the grill rack. Grill for 5 to 8 minutes or until heated through, turning gently halfway through cooking time. (For gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place grill wok or grill basket on grill rack over heat for 5 minutes. Cover; grill as above.) Remove fruit from grill; cool slightly. To serve, quarter the pineapple slices. In a large straight-sided serving bowl toss together the apricots, pineapple, and remaining Mint Syrup. Sprinkle with additional freshly grated nutmeg and garnish with fresh mint. (Fruit mixture can be held at room temperature up to 2 hours.) Makes 12 servings.

Mint Syrup: In a medium saucepan combine 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, 1 medium bunch (about 12 sprigs or 3/4 ounce) mint, and one 3-inch strip lemon peel. Gently crush the mint with the bowl of a ladle or a wooden spoon. Bring to boiling, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Let mixture cool for 1 hour. Strain, discarding mint and lemon peel. Transfer to a glass jar; cover and refrigerate up to 1 week. Makes 1 to 1 1/4 cups syrup.

Each Serving: 104 cal., 0g total fat (0g sat. fat), 0mg chol., 3mg sodium, 26g carbo., 1g fiber, 1g pro. Daily Values: 18% vit. A, 20% vit. C, 1% calcium, 5% iron.

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Smoked Roast Beef Sandwiches

This recipe offers a great make-ahead option -- you can prepare it up to one week ahead.

Soak: 1 Hour

Prep: 30 Minutes

Smoke: 1 1/2 Hours

Stand: 15 Minutes

Chill: Up to 24 Hours

2 cups mesquite wood chips

1 3- to 4-lb. boneless beef sirloin roast

2 tsp. chipotle chili powder or chili powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

2/3 cup purchased onion jam or onion relish

2 tbsp. prepared horseradish

12 sourdough and/or whole wheat mini rolls, split and toasted, if desired

1 cup purchased roasted red sweet peppers, cut into strips

2 cups arugula leaves, rinsed and dried

At least 1 hour before cooking, soak wood chips in enough water to cover. Trim fat from sirloin roast. For rub, in a small bowl combine the chipotle chili powder, salt, black pepper, and cumin. Sprinkle rub evenly over meat; rub in with your fingers. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat. Drain wood chips. For a charcoal grill, arrange medium-hot coals around a drip pan. Test for medium heat above the pan. Sprinkle wood chips over coals. Place beef roast on grill rack above the drip pan. Cover; smoke for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until desired doneness (meat thermometer registers 140 degrees F for medium-rare or 155 degrees F for medium). Cover beef roast with foil. Let stand 15 minutes before carving. (The meat's temperature will rise 5 degrees during standing.) Thinly slice the beef. Place slices in a covered container; chill up to 24 hours. In a small bowl combine the onion jam and horseradish. Spread the cut roll tops with onion jam mixture. Place sliced roast beef on roll bottoms. Top roast beef with roasted red pepper strips and arugula; add prepared roll tops. Cover and chill any remaining beef up to 2 days. Makes 12 sandwiches (2 ounces cooked meat per sandwich).

Make-Ahead Tip: Sirloin roast may be smoked ahead and frozen whole or refrigerated up to one week prior to serving. Beef will slice more easily when it is cold.

Each Sandwich: 453 cal., 6g total fat (2g sat. fat), 54mg chol., 682mg sodium, 63g carbo., 1g fiber, 35g pro. Daily Values: 5% vit. A, 62% vit. C, 2% calcium, 27% iron.

Ham and Mango Sandwiches

For convenience, have the deli slice the ham for you.

Prep: 35 Minutes

Chill: Up to 24 Hours

2/3 cup coarse-grain Dijon-style mustard

1/4 cup sliced, pitted kalamata olives or other black olives

1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley

12 sourdough and/or whole wheat mini rolls, split and toasted, if desired

1 1/2 lbs. cooked smoked ham, thinly sliced

2 cups refrigerated sliced mango (9 oz.)

In a bowl combine mustard, olives, and parsley. Spread the cut sides of roll tops with olive spread. Place ham on the roll bottoms. Top ham with mango slices (cut slices to fit, if necessary). Replace roll tops over mango. Makes 12 sandwiches (using 2 ounces ham per sandwich).

Each Sandwich: 371 cal., 4g total fat (1g sat. fat), 31mg chol., 1,600mg sodium, 56g carbo., 0g fiber, 23g pro. Daily Values: 6% vit. A, 23% vit. C, 1% calcium, 16% iron.

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Cold Roasted Salmon

Make sure to use the center cut for uniform size servings.

Prep: 30 Minutes

Bake: 15 Minutes

Chill: 4 to 24 Hours

Olive oil

6 8-oz. center-cut salmon fillets, skinned

3 to 4 tbsp. peppercorn or tarragon mustard

Chives (optional)

6 slices bacon, crisp-cooked, drained, and coarsely crumbled

3 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Lightly oil a 15x10x1-inch baking pan with olive oil. Arrange salmon fillets in prepared pan. Turn under any thin portions of salmon to make uniform thickness. Spread tops of salmon fillets with mustard. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until salmon flakes easily when tested with a fork. Transfer to platter. Cover; chill at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours until ready to serve. To serve, cut salmon fillets in half lengthwise to make 12 portions. Line serving platters with chives and arrange salmon on top of chives. Sprinkle salmon with crumbled bacon and goat cheese. Makes 12 servings. (For 24 servings, cut salmon portions in half crosswise again.)

Each Serving: 236 cal., 12g total fat (5g sat. fat), 72mg chol., 259mg sodium, 1g carbo., 0g fiber, 26g pro. Daily Values: 4% vit. A, 4% calcium, 7% iron.

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Melon-Radish Salad

French breakfast radishes feature a long and slim shape, a mild flavor, and a tender texture.

Prep: 30 Minutes

Chill: Up to 2 Hours

1 small honeydew melon, seeded, peeled, and cut into bite-size pieces (4 cups)

1 small cantaloupe, seeded, peeled, and cut into bite-size pieces (4 cups)

15 to 20 red radishes

and/or

French breakfast radishes, thinly sliced (1 3/4 to 2 1/4 cups)

1/2 cup fresh watercress leaves

2 tablespoons honey

1 8-oz. carton dairy sour cream

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

In a bowl combine melon, cantaloupe, and radishes; set aside. In a blender or mini food processor combine watercress and honey. Cover and process or blend until smooth. In a small bowl stir together watercress mixture, sour cream, salt, and pepper until well combined. Chill until ready to serve. To serve, place melon salad in large serving bowl and serve dressing on the side. Or pour dressing over salad and toss to coat; cover and chill up to 2 hours. Makes 9 cups.

Make-Ahead Tip: Cover and chill the cut melon up to 2 days ahead. Prepare the dressing as directed. Cover; chill up to 24 hours.

Each Serving: 92 cal., 4g total fat (3g sat. fat), 8mg chol., 71mg sodium, 14g carbo., 1g fiber, 1g pro. Daily Values: 39% vit. A, 65% vit. C, 3% calcium, 1% iron.

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Graduation Cake

Yields: 10 servings "This is the cake that I am going to make for my children when they graduate from high school. Great for college too."

INGREDIENTS:

5 1/2 cups sifted cake flour

2 tablespoons baking powder

2 teaspoons salt

10 egg whites

1 cup white sugar

1 1/3 cups shortening

2 1/2 cups white sugar

1 3/4 cups milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup butter

8 cups sifted confectioners' sugar

4 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

DIRECTIONS:

1.Measure sifted flour, add baking powder and 2 teaspoons salt, and sift together three times. Beat egg whites until foamy, add 1 cup white sugar gradually, and continue beating only until mixture will stand in soft peaks. Cream shortening, add 2 1/2 cups white sugar gradually, and cream together until light and fluffy. Add flour, alternately with milk, a small amount at a time, beating after each addition until smooth. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla and egg whites and beat thoroughly into batter.

2.Turn batter into one round 10 inch pan and one round 8 inch pan, 3 inches deep, each lined on bottom with paper, filling each pan about half full of batter. Bake in moderate oven 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), placing the smaller layer towards front of oven for quicker and easier removal when done. Bake the 8 inch cake 1 hour, or until done; bake the 10 inch cake about 10 minutes longer.

3.Cool cakes in pans on racks 15 minutes. Then loosen from sides of pans with spatula, turn out, remove paper, and turn right side up on racks to cool. When thoroughly cooled, at least 2 hours, brush cakes to remove any loose crumbs. Prepare Creamy Butter Frosting and set aside about 2 cups of frosting for decorating. Spread with frosting. You can tint the frosting the color or colors you want and be able to write on top of cake.

4.To Make Creamy Butter Frosting: Cream 1 cup butter or margarine; add part of the confectioners' sugar gradually, blending after each addition. Mix in 4 teaspoons vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Then add remaining sugar alternately with milk, until of right consistency to spread. Beat after each addition until smooth. Makes about 5 cups. (While frosting cake, keep bowl of frosting covered with a damp cloth to prevent drying.)

Make this dsign using wafer paper or frosting sheet. Airbrush a plaid design over the top. Add the pattern.
Pipe borders and add grad hat picks around edge.

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GRADUATION SCROLL CAKE

Do it 'their way' or simply use a box of cake mix. But for testing for doneness, press your finger lightly in the center. If the cake barely springs back up, it is done. Remove immediately. Follow directions below for the rest.


MATERIALS
• 2 eggs plus 1 egg white
• 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
• 1 cup sugar
• 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 tsp. baking powder
• 1/4 tsp. salt
• Jelly
• 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
• 3 tbsp. butter,softened
• 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
• Decorator's gel
• Fruit leather

Step 1:
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a 15- x 10-inch jellyroll pan with waxed paper and grease the paper well.

Step 2:
In a bowl, beat the eggs and egg white with an electric mixer on high speed for 5 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of the vanilla extract, then gradually beat in the sugar at
low speed. Stir in the dry ingredients until well mixed.

Step 3:
Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 12 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Step 4:
Invert the hot cake onto a clean towel sprinkled with confectioners' sugar; remove the waxed paper. Trim the cake edges with a sharp knife (adults only) and roll up the hot cake and towel from a narrow end. Let it cool on a wire rack.

Step 5:
Unroll the cooled cake, remove the towel, and spread on jelly, leaving a 2-inch strip at one end plain. Reroll the jelly-covered portion of the cake.

Step 6:
In a bowl, beat together the cream cheese, butter, confectioners' sugar, and the last 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract and use to frost the cake.

Step 7:
Use decorator's gel to pipe "roll lines" on the cake ends and the class year or your child's name onto the unrolled portion. Finally, add a fruit leather bow.