It was a bit last minute as we weren’t going to have a party for Lola’s 3rd birthday due to kitchen renovations taking over our house and lives at the moment. However I had mother guilt at 4 in the morning just before her birthday so I hastily invited the extended family over for cake and bubbles in the afternoon of the Monday public holiday.
As it turned out it was a gorgeous spring day which meant we could be outside and it was not too stressful in the preparation (other than the usual ‘getting-the-house-and-garden-looking-nice-because-people-are-coming’ routine). I borrowed my good friend’s kitchen the night before (as she is overseas at the moment) to make the cake and some palmiers, bought a stack of nibbles from Jagger Fine Food in the Central Market (thank you Lucy, you saved my bacon) and did a little bit of grilling on the BBQ. Here’s the birthday girl about to open presents.
The asparagus wrapped in prosciutto and grilled on the BBQ were a huge hit. I don’t know if you can really call it cooking as that was literally all there was to it but it sounded like everyone who came to the party will be doing these numbers all through their summer entertaining. Taste and texture sensation! Elvin, the BBQ master in our household tells me that you need to make sure you don’t have the BBQ too hot and cook them long enough for the asparagus to cook sufficiently as there is no blanching before-hand.
The palmiers were also gone very quickly. No recipe but essentially you just get puff pastry sheets and spread them with anything you like (I used grated pecorino cheese, smoked paprika and thyme but I think an olive tapenade or home made pesto would be a great addition – I also saw an old post on Ooh Look Bel where she went to town and rolled up ham and loads of cheese and spread the pastry with mustard). They are very pretty and look quite professional the way they are rolled up and make a great finger food with bubbly.
I was rather proud of my first effort in making a children’s cake. I went for easy and made a number 3. I might even venture into making an animal next year. I used the simple chocolate pound cake recipe from the Marie Claire Flavours cook book and then found instructions on the net about cutting out the shape. It was very chocolatey and dense and rich. It really was simple – only 6 ingredients – but somehow I managed to mess up the instructions! I added all the dry ingredients to the beaten butter before I added any of the eggs. I added an extra tsp of baking powder and hoped for the best. As it turned out it was fine – a bit undercooked in the middle, but this was OK as I was supposed to cut a circle out of the middle anyway to make the 3 (this slightly undercooked bit tasted great and I quite liked the fudgey texture).
I researched the frosting to see if I could make one that wasn’t too sweet but it seems that if you want the frosting to be firmish you need to use a lot of icing sugar. I tried to cut through some of this with loads of orange zest and used orange juice instead of milk in the icing itself. It was pretty good (I had a lot left over and I do confess I ate a fair bit on the spoon the next day). Lola helped me decorate it (she ate about a dozen chocolate bits to every 1 she put on the cake). It was all gone by the end of the party (we can’t blame the kids – there were only two of them).
Lola has one little cousin who is 2 years older than her and so I did a little treasure hunt for stuff to make craft things. Here they are finding treasures in the garden…
…and eating their names made in fairy bread.
Lots of bubbly went down (I think I had more than my fair share but hey, I wasn’t driving) on this warm, sunny day which no doubt assisted the relaxed mood of the afternoon. I think I’ll do last minute parties every year!
Simple Chocolate Pound Cake (Marie Claire, Flavours)
250g unsalted butter
1 cup caster sugar
6 large eggs
1&1/2 cups of plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup cocoa (I used dutched)
Preheat oven to 180C. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until light and creamy (I did this with a hand held mixer and it worked fine). Add the eggs one at a time and beat well (!). Sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa over the butter mixture and stir to combine.
Pour the mixture into a 20cm non-stick square cake tin that has been lined with baking paper (I used two shallow round ones as I needed to make the 3 out of them). Bake for 40 mins or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
Orange Frosting (this makes quite a lot but I was warned that if you want to frost a cake all over and it’s got lots of edges then you need twice as much as usual)
400g of icing sugar mixture (or as much as you like to make the frosting the texture you want)
2-3 Tbl of orange juice
zest of two giant oranges (or 3 average ones)
Beat butter with an electric mixer until soft and fluffy. Add about 200g of icing mixture and beat in. Add 2 Tbl orange juice and zest, beat again. Check consistency and keep adding icing mixture until you are happy with the texture. Refrigerate until needed.
This frosting will set fairly hard in the fridge (it’s mostly butter) so remember to take it out well ahead of frosting the cake (or zap very briefly in the microwave).