Last week my little girl turned three and I’m caught up in plenty of “how did that happen so fast?” musings while also reminiscing about long nights, sometimes longer days and enjoying so much the stage that we’re at with a little girl who is so considerate, full of laughs and so much joy.
We had a little house party for her birthday with friends from the ‘hood in the 5 and under demographic. I think because her party last year was cancelled, and because I happened to get a bunch of particularly awesome cookbooks for Christmas that I haven’t yet tried out, I went a little overboard with my food ambitions. As a result, I made (or nearly made) three cakes within the space of 24 hours for one party. (Not intentionally). I hope to not repeat that with four next year.
So what happened? Well I committed a tried and true party planning mistake and decided to make a bunch of recipes I had never before tried, out of cookbooks I had yet to road test. Silly me. Each of the recipes was excellent in the end, but each came with a bit of a surprise twist that I hadn’t accounted for in the limited time that running a business and parenting a three year old affords. As a result, there were some last minute panics, two batches of flubbed cake batter taken out to the trash and a few minutes of total panic at 9am the morning of the party as I faced the three not entirely baked and definitely not quite right cakes before me.
In the end, the cake ended up being the sheet cake from the new Smitten Kitchen cookbook and I can safely say it was tasty as all get out, and well received by kids and adults alike. It’s a basic sheet cake recipe that’s not too high in sugar (seriously when you search sheet cake recipes there are some that have cups and cups of sugar in them) and the icing was phenomenally delicious. My only complaint is that I don’t think the icing recipe makes enough, at least not if you want to ice it as she’s suggested in a lovely chevron pattern. The recipe suggests colouring the icing with berries — blueberries, raspberries and blackberries specifically — which is brilliant, simple and tasty as all heck. The raspberry is the most successful and makes a wonderful pink buttercream that has the tang of fresh raspberries cutting the typical cloying sugar. The blueberry, as she notes, is a bit of a sludgy colour and the blackberry not much different. But if you are going to pipe the icing you’ll always end up needing a bit more to account for icing left in the bag etc. and the recipe really just makes *exactly* enough to cover the cake in a reasonably small layer of icing. I ended up having to mix all the colours together at the last minute to create a kind of mauve-y purple and just icing it straight and decorating with raspberries. It was lovely, but if I were to do it again, I would have just done the raspberry and iced the cake straight, or done at least 1.5x the recipe to do the piping.
I also made a wild mushroom tart from the Tartine cookbook, which was super tasty (I added a small bit of fresh rosemary to the thyme because I love rosemary with mushrooms). The Tartine pastry is one of the nicest I have ever made and worked with. Easy as pie (forgive the pun) to work with and more like a puff pastry when baked, my only complaint there would be that it shrunk more than any pastry I’ve ever made (and I make a lot of pastry), so I’ll need to see what was up with that next time I try it.
Finally I decided to try these mac & cheese bites for the kids, which was a fail on two levels. One, they really didn’t hold together for me at all. Two kids that age don’t really eat at birthday parties. Some crackers, cheese, fruit and maybe a few veggies cut up are the most you’re going to get into them, no point in bothering with anything else, no matter how cute it is.
Despite the kitchen antics — and I won’t even go into the ugly details of the three cakes — the party was wonderful. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, it was great to gather our friends and neighbours and to celebrate my darling girl, who enjoyed herself thoroughly. And so far, with some tears along the way (only a few of them mine) three is proving to be tonnes of fun.