Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Birthday Party

I haven't posted about this yet because it's taken me three days to recover from it.

Also, I didn't take enough photos. I let a friend convince me to let her take photos during the party so that I could actually be in the pictures for once, but apparently in my post-party-prep stupor I didn't do a good enough job of showing her how to focus my camera, so . . .

Anyway, this was the cake I made for the party:

As you can see, it was actually two cakes. The top cake was a butter yellow cake, coated with a clear powdered-sugar-and-egg-white glaze (made with pasteurized egg whites, of course-- let's not poison the kiddies, here). I applied the glaze with a pastry brush, then added the rainbow sprinkles while the glaze was still wet so that they would stick when it dried. My European blogfriend Peter Nacken will be pleased to note that the cake was cooked, in true Extravagant American Child's Birthday Party fashion, in a $30 Nordic Ware Castle Bundt pan.

The bottom cake was a chocolate cake. The frosting was homemade vanilla-mint buttercream, made with all butter and no shortening, because I don't like shortening.

If you've never made frosting from scratch at home before, I sincerely recommend you try it. It's really not that difficult, and once you've tasted homemade buttercream frosting, you will never, ever want to go back to the kind you get in a can. Seriously. My recipe follows:

1 lb (4 sticks) unsalted butter
2 lbs (one standard package) powdered sugar
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
other flavor extracts, food coloring or cocoa optional

Let butter soften to room temperature. Put butter in a large, heavy mixing bowl, and chop it into chunks with a knife or mash it up with a spoon to make it easier to beat. Add milk and vanilla. Gradually add sugar, beating with a handheld electric beater, until sugar is fully incorporated and mixture is fluffy. Unplug beater and then hold a household auction for the privilege of licking it clean.

(Yes, folks, that was ONE POUND of butter and TWO POUNDS of sugar sitting on top of that chocolate cake. And it was worth every single calorie).

In addition to the castle cake, I also mixed, rolled, cut, baked and decorated cookies by hand in the shape of cars and train engines:

I had to make these cookies twice, actually, because half of the first batch got burned when my husband forgot to take them out of the oven for me while I put Isaac to bed. This will henceforth be known as "The Great Birthday Cookie Burning Incident."

I also made some trains and cars without icing so that Isaac would actually eat them.

I also made cookies in the shape of letters that spelled out "Happy Birthday Isaac," with the idea that I would make more train cookies and put the letters on top of the train cookies and have an edible "Happy Birthday Isaac" train going around the table. Then I realized that idea was INSANE, so I wound up laying the "Happy Birthday Isaac" cookies in a circle around the cake, but unfortunately I didn't take a photo of it.

I put up crepe paper decorations all around the dining/living room:

And arranged a cracker tray, a deli meat tray, a deli cheese tray, and a vegetable and dip tray, all by hand.

My husband was strangely absent for most of these preparations. I believe his disappearance may have had something to do with a mysterious Dell box that came for him in the mail Friday afternoon . . .

However, he managed to tear himself away from his new electric lover in time to put a folding gazebo tent, a folding table, and some folding chairs outside, so that we would have extra seating space for the party, because we live in a 900 sq ft apartment, and the TV weatherfolks had predicted that the showers the sky was threatening would hold off until the late afternoon.

Ten minutes later, it started to rain.

But it turned out okay, anyway, because half of my husband's family who'd said they were coming-- you know, some of the family I spent a week talking to on the phone trying to schedule the party with? Them? Didn't show up.* So we had lots of room.

And cake.

Speaking of cake, I made the mistake of letting my well-intentioned mother-in-law convince me to do the presents before the cake. You know, like you'd normally do at a birthday party, instead of my weird unconventional plan to do the cake before the presents.

(Do you see me there? Sullenly regarding the proceedings? Don't I look like someone who's been up since 6 a.m. decorating after baking until 2 a.m. the night before? Yeah, thought so.)

So of course, Isaac started crying piteously the moment he realized we all expected him to put his brand new toys away and let us SING to him while we stood in a circle around a BIG PILE of STICKY FOOD that happened to be ON FIRE.

He started screaming in terror midway through the second line of "Happy Birthday," which caused people to stumble to a halt mid-song, until I forced a laugh and said, "Why don't we try singing 'Sad Birthday to You' instead?" after which everyone finished the song, and my husband hurriedly blew out the candle.

Then Isaac refused any cake (I thought at least he might try the kind without frosting, but I guess the group singing bit was too traumatic), and ran off to play with his new Thomas the Tank Engine Duplos.

After the party, he promptly fell asleep, without having eaten more than two bites of food all day, and then when he woke up two hours later he screamed for two hours straight.

All in all, I would say this party went over quite a bit better with him than last year's.

*This wasn't their fault, though. Apparently there was some last minute work interference. Silly work.


Peter said...

again .. happy birthday Isaac .. you present should have arrived in NY by now .. and depending on Ritsu's schedule it will be mailed your way speedy fast soon ..

and what to wish the SAHM .. WAHM .. gotta love those acronyms .. espcially when you don;t know how to spell acronym ... but I am feeling heavy pressure now .. for Julius b'day #2 ... what you have done is fantastic .. and i have no idea how that is possible with a kid that age around .. i imagine in one or 2 years they are more cooperative .. but for now .. the terrible twos ..

you did a fantastic job on this (those) cake(s)

JessiTRON said...

That castle cake is amazing!

Debbie said...

Jae, you are mind-bogglingly, maniacally multi-faceted in the talents dept. And I can't believe how lucky Isaac is to have such an awesome mom.

Also, you're adorable, which doesn't hurt the awesomeness any.

I think you rule.

p.s. thanks for the recipe - I can't wait to make it and then eat it out of the bowl with a soup spoon. no, make that a spatula.

Jaelithe said...

Ladies and gentlemen, I am not cake-decorating-talented. Andrea is cake-decorating-talented.

Andrea said...

Jaelithe, you give me too much credit. Seriously, what I did was WAY easier than what you did. Mine was basically like frost by numbers and I had a ton of help. You did it ALL, and your "help" disappeared on you. I mean, COOKIES TOO??? And cookies spelling Happy Birthday Isaac! Give yourself a pat on the back, woman! That's a pretty darn good birthday party success you've had there.

And Happy Birthday Isaac. I promise I won't sing it to you in a large group.

Jaelithe said...

Well, my "help" didn't entirely disappear. He helped me shop in the days before the party, and he helped out with icing a couple of the cookies, and he also steam cleaned the carpets the night before the party. All in all I would say he made a fairly valiant effort in the face of extreme temptation. Lesser men might have taken the new laptop off to a hotel ;)

Lisa said...

The cake is so cool. YOu are so talented. I can't do that sort of thing. Thankfully there's a Dierberg's that understands.... heehee

Jaelithe said...

I did let Dierberg's make my potato salad! (Shhhhhhhhh).

Kristin said...

Happy Birthday to Isaac! Long time no internet. You are a domestic goddess. I'll be lucky if I remember to put on pants when Josh turns 3.

Andrea said...

Well, that you don't have a hotel bill on top of the party costs shows you have a good man.

Debbie said...

Jae, seriously, I love you, man. That comment on Dawn's post about Vlad; you slay me.


Also, could at least one of those sappy movies pretty please be Breakfast at Tiffany's? Also, Big? And also, Groundhog Day? I am a sucker for the sap. (Although I draw the line at any/all Kate Hudson features; because, well, yuck.)

Raquita said...

congrats on the birthday party!!! Glad it all went well. My butter cream hasn't worked out well yet.. I'm still workin on it...

Willie Baronet said...

I'm convinced bday parties for kids are a form of torture. :-)

Cristina said...

Happy belated birthday to your little guy!

My son turns two at the end of this month so we are currently in party planning mode ourselves.

I love the cake and cookies you made. Very cute!