It’s my eldest daughter’s birthday today. Unfortunately, she cannot be with us today, as she is travelling round Australia and having some wonderful adventures (to read about her travels, see : exploreadventurediscover.wordpress.com), so I thought I would do a special birthday party post to celebrate, with a few delicious birthday recipes thrown in for good measure!!! Happy Birthday Darling!!!During their childhood, my kids had many wonderful birthday parties at home in an era of MacDonalds-hosted parties! Their friends used to love our parties! Admittedly, they were a lot of work and often it was so tempting to wriggle out of them as the party day approached, but once all the preparation was done, we really enjoyed them!The birthday table would be set with lots of colourful tasty dishes including :
• Meringue mice with black licorice tails and eyes and pink musk stick noses and ears
• Jelly boats in orange quarters with jelly made from orange juice and gelatine, toothpick masts and sails of tissue paper
• Banana muffins decorated with viola flowers
• Bowls of smarties
• Melting moments
• Freckle sandwiches and
• Fruit Salad in a bowl or a carved watermelon – see The Sweet Spot : https://candeloblooms.com/2015/10/01/the-sweet-spot/.
One year, I made a beautiful jigsaw puzzle ginger cake, whose recipe I found in ‘Entertaining at Home’ by Sheridan Rogers. See : http://www.sheridanrogers.com.au/about/books/entertaining-at-home/. Unfortunately, this lovely book is now out-of-print, but it would be worth trying to find a copy. I have included this particular recipe later in the post.For drinks, we’d make a delicious fruit punch from a large tin of pineapple juice, 2 large bottles of orange juice and apple juice and pieces of pineapple and chopped kiwi fruit, passionfruit, mint and ice blocks- so much nicer and healthier than fizzy drinks with red food colouring! I’m sure the parents appreciated it!!!The birthday cake is always special! I love that moment when the birthday cake, aglow with candles, emerges out of the dark! It’s so magical!
For many years, we used my Mum’s old Chocolate Birthday Cake recipe- see later- decorated with strawberries.Ross’s favourite birthday cake is a layered sponge cake with cream and strawberry jam- see recipe later. His birthday is in the Spring, so one year, we decorated the top of the cake with dusted icing sugar, pink striped candles and apple blossom.I loved it when the kids were finally old enough to cook my birthday cake!We have also made very rich chocolate mud cakes, carrot cakes and even pavlovas for birthday cakes.As you can see from the photos, we always have a lot of fun decorating the birthday cake! Flowers are essential! Often, I will ice the cake and mark out the birthdayee’s name or age in silver cachous balls or fruit, but sometimes, I just dust the top with icing sugar. I have some wonderful plastic cake stencils, which I use to create beautiful patterns. Candles vary from metallic silver or gold to coloured stripes and dots; singing candles and frustrating candles, which won’t blow out; long skinny tapers and even sparklers, which are very dramatic! We always tie a bow around the cake knife. Once the candles are blown out, the birthdayee cuts the first slice and makes a wish!
We’d play lots of old-fashioned games including :
• Pin the Tail on the Donkey
• Musical Chairs
• Pass the Parcel- with a little gift for everyone
• Treasure Hunt
• The Chocolate Game
The last game was a particular favourite. The game was timed, so at the start of the session, you had to don woollen cap, scarf and gloves, then use a fork and knife to eat as much chocolate as you could before the time was up! We always made sure every child had a prize and a party bag of sweets and a slice of birthday cake to take home.
As the kids got older, the parties became fewer, though just as memorable, and the kids were able to have much more input. Caroline’s 18th birthday party was a surprise party, organized by her friends and hosted at home.Jen had a wonderful Middle eastern party for her 19th birthday just before she left to start her university studies. All the guests came dressed as Arabian sheiks, harem girls and belly dancers. One clever fellow came as a camel in a coat. He bought 2 matching tweed coats from the op-shop and cut one up to cover a polystyrene foam boulster hump.
We transformed the lounge into a Bedouin tent with multi-coloured sheets draping the ceiling and sat on floor cushions to partake of our Middle Eastern feast! Some of the food included:
• Pomegranate dip
• Freshly-made flat breads
• Fruit salad in a watermelon with a carved camel
• Layered pavlova with cream, strawberries, blueberries and rose water
• Camel birthday cake
It certainly was a night to remember!
And now for some special birthday recipes !!!
Mum’s Chocolate Birthday Cake
- Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
- Cream 125g butter and 250g sugar. Add 3 eggs singly.
- Sift 250g self-raising flour, 1 tsp cream of tartar, 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda and 1 tsp salt at least 3 times.
- Add to the butter mixture alternately with 1 tsp vanilla in 1/2 cup milk.
- Add 1/2 cup cocoa, dissolved in 1/2 cup hot water.
- Spoon mixture into 2 cake tins (18 cm diameter), lined with Gladbake.
- Place on middle shelf of the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes.
- Turn out onto cooling racks.
- When cool, ice one of the cakes with chocolate icing made from : icing sugar, cocoa and 1 tbsp melted butter. Decorate the top with silver cachous balls or berries and candles.
- Place the other cake upside-down on serving plate, spread with strawberry jam then a layer of whipped cream (with 1 tsp sugar and a few drops of vanilla in it), then top with the iced cake. Make sure the serving knife is tied with a bow, then light the candles! Happy Birthday!!!
Jigsaw Puzzle Cake (Credits : ‘Entertaining at Home’ by Sheridan Rogers)
- Cream 250g softened butter and 185g brown sugar. Beat in 2 eggs, one at a time, then add 300g honey.
- Sift together 750g plain flour, a pinch of salt, 3 tsp ground ginger, 2 tsp cinammon and 1/2 tsp allspice.
- Add to butter mixture alternately with 3 tsp bicarbonate of soda, dissolved in 125 ml boiling water. If the dough feels too soft, add more flour. Shape dough into a ball, wrap in Gladwrap or greasedproof paper and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
- Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Line a baking tray (40cm by 33cm) with Gladbake.
- Roll dough directly onto this tray to a depth of 5mm with a well-floured rolling pin.
- Trim edges, leaving 1 cm round the sides to allow for spread.
- Cook for 15 minutes, then remove. Cut into large jigsaw shapes with a sharp knife.
- Return to oven, reduce heat to 150 degrees Celsius and cook for a further 25-30 minutes.
- Remove from oven and separate the jigsaw pieces slightly. Cool on wire rack, keeping the puzzle in shape.
- Brush crumbs off each piece and coat with royal icing smoothly with a spatula. Leave to set for 2-3 hours or overnight.
- When dry, paint a picture on the surface with small clean paint brushes and food dyes, diluted in water or mixed to produce different shades. Have fun !!!
Whisk 2 egg whites until stiff. Gradually, beat in 500g sifted icing sugar and the juice of a small lemon. Beat till smooth. Keep icing covered with Gladwrap to prevent it from drying out.
Sponge Cake (Credits : The Essential Baking Cookbook Murdoch Books, 2000)
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line 2 cake tins (22cm diameter) with Gladbake.
- Beat 6 eggs in a large bowl with an electric beater for 7 minutes. Gradually, add 220g caster sugar, beating well after each addition.
- Sift 150g self-raising flour and 75g plain flour 3 times and using a metal spoon, quickly and gently fold in sifted flours and 2 tbsp boiling water. Do not beat.
- Spread mixture evenly into the 2 tins and bake for 25 minutes till lightly golden. The sides of the sponge should have shrunk slightly away from the sides of the tins.
- Cool in tins for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
- When cold, spread 1/2 cup strawberry jam over one of the sponges. Beat 1 cup cream, then spread on top of the jam and top with the other cake.
- Dust with icing sugar and decorate the top with flowers and candles.
Melting Moments (Credits : The Essential Baking Cookbook Murdoch Books, 2000)
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line 2 baking trays with Gladbake.
- Cream 250g softened unsalted butter and 40g icing sugar in a bowl with electric beaters until light and fluffy. Beat in 1 tsp vanilla essence.
- Sift 185g self-raising flour and 60g custard powder and mix into the butter mixture with a knife, using a cutting motion, to form a soft dough.
- Roll level tablespoons into 28 balls and place on trays. Flatten slightly with a floured fork.
- Bake for 20 minutes till lightly golden. Cool slightly on trays, before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.
- Make Passionfruit Filling : Beat 60g unsalted butter and 60g icing sugar in a bowl, then beat in 1.5 tbsp passionfruit pulp. Use to sandwich the biscuits together. Leave to firm before serving.
Meringue Kisses : An instant sugar hit!!!
- Preheat oven to 110 degrees Celsius.
- Beat 6 egg whites until stiff.
- Add a pinch of salt, ¼ tsp cream of tartar and 1 tsp vanilla.
- Add 1.5 cups caster sugar 1 tsp at a time and beat well. When all the sugar added, beat for a further 6 minutes.
- Spoon mixture into a piping bag with a 1cm star tip and pipe kisses onto a tray lined with Gladbake.
- Reduce oven to 100 degrees Celsius and bake for 1.5-2 hours till dry to touch.
- Note : You can use the same recipe for Meringue Mice. Pipe the mixture into a long body; cut tails out of licorice sticks, with tiny bits for eyes, and ears and noses out of finely chopped pink musk sticks. For Meringue Hedgehogs, pipe as for meringue kisses, then use slivered almonds to create the quills and tiny licorice bits for eyes. You can also sandwich them together with a coffee cream filling made from 1 cup icing sugar, 3 tbsp unsalted softened butter, 1 tsp vanilla and 2 tsp coffee dissolved in 2 tsp hot water OR 5o g unsalted butter, 1/4 cup (45 g) icing sugar and 1 tbsp Kahlua or another coffee-flavoured liqueur.
Sending lots of meringue kisses your way, darling Jen! Happy Birthday once again and may your year continue to be filled with lots of wonderful adventures, laughter, love and happiness! xxx
PPS. We have been checking out the planets at 4 am each morning in the first week of February. See : http://theconversation.com/all-five-bright-planets-come-together-in-the-morning-sky-53226. The night sky is so beautiful! If you have missed out this month, all five planets will be lined up again in the evening sky in August. I just had to include this dodgy photo of Venus for Jen’s birthday : it really is the Planet of Love!!!