Saturday, August 20, 2011
My son's airplane-themed second birthday
I get nervous whenever I am hosting more than two people at my house. It's not that I don't like to entertain. I just want it to be perfect, and expectations are always high - especially when it comes to the dessert. People always ask me, where do you find the time? I start planning months in advance (for something like this), and create a schedule for myself that sets out my tasks for up to two weeks beforehand. I don't have the time to procrastinate.
This time, I decided not to get so hung up on the sweet table that I'd be stressed the entire time, especially for an important occasion like my son's second birthday. Last year, the theme was Elmo, this year I decided to make it an aviation theme for my airplane-obsessed toddler.
We kept the party small, close family only, I think he's still at the age he won't really understand what's going on. But I wanted him to get excited, so I ordered an ice cream cake topped with an airplane motif my sister created, bought him a pilot costume (which he refused to wear), bought some airplane-themed balloons, and tried to carry the theme through with the dessert.
The best part was that I was able to make nearly all of these desserts in advance -- except for the cupcake frosting which I made on the morning of the party -- leaving me free to enjoy my son and our guests.
White-chocolate cloud lollipops
The first thing I made was these white-chocolate cloud lollipops. Aren't they gorgeous and whimsical? I'll admit they mainly went untouched, and I thought they'd go completely untouched until my son saw them, and he absolutely loved them.
You can make these well in advance and just keep them in an airtight container in a dry, cool area of your house. Purchasing the orange and blue melts saved me oodles of time. But you can easily get the same effect by tinting the white chocolate melts with food colouring of course.
I got the idea from this amazing blog. If you follow the instructions, it's pretty difficult to mess up. Just give yourself some quiet time to get the piping right. I will be making these again for sure. Imagine them with pink polka dots and blue script or purple with pink - really you can do whatever you want with them.
Chocolate-fudge cupcakes with peanut butter frosting
I made the cupcakes from a mix (I told you I had to save time) but I substituted applesauce for the oil so that it wouldn't affect my diet too much (I'm down 22 pounds so far, yippee!).
I decided to top them with peanut butter frosting because my son is a peanut butter fiend. It turned out to be the perfect pairing: The kids compared it to a peanut butter cup while the adults loved it because the frosting wasn't too sweet.
The frosting recipe was from Martha Stewart, and a real winner (I did add more icing sugar after tasting the finished product, however, about another 1/4 cup). The toppers are courtesy of my talented sister Ani, with whom I started a cupcake topper shop called Frost and Fete (you can like it on Facebook here.
I knew that shortbread would keep its shape the best for the airplane cookie cutter I had purchased.
But I find plain shortbread boring sometimes, so I decided to use a lemon shortbread recipe. I'm not going to post the recipe here because it was just OK, in my opinion and I'd like to experiment with more shortbread recipes before giving my seal of approval.
When I starting googling "airplane cookies" I realized I would need to ice them to make them more authentic. Not just ice them, flood them with royal icing. This sounds complicated right? Well it is. So I did a lot of reading beforehand, and I think my first-time try was not too bad, considering I'm not an artist. This was one of the blog posts that was helpful, but reading isn't enough. You really need to get your hands dirty to get the hang of it.
I used this Martha Stewart recipe for royal icing, but I had to add much more water than recommended to be able to flood the cookies.
Fortunately, the end result was not bad. The layer of royal icing helped kick the cookie up a notch and the platter emptied. (To my surprise!). Lesson learned: An overflowing tray of colourful shortbread cookies look a lot more impressive than just a few. Sometimes quantity gives the illusion of quality.
You may be wondering how my son liked the airplane theme. I don't think he really noticed although he had a blast. But maybe he'll appreciate all the hard work we put into his barbecue when he is older and looks through the photos!