Julius started having those toddler temper tantrums a few weeks ago. He throws himself on the ground, wailing, and flops around like a fish. It is really, really annoying. I naively hoped that Julius would just avoid the temper tantrum stage. I mean, he’s such a cheerful little guy. It is frustrating for everyone to see him go from happy to manically mad at the shake of the head.
On the cuter side, Julius has been extra nice to Dany all weekend. Earlier this weekend he gave her a kiss on the head. He did it all by himself without our asking. My sister and her girlfriend were visiting this weekend. Mandy was lying on the floor watching t.v. and in another stroke of cuteness, Julius toddled over to her, stared at her for a minute and then lied down next to her. He was in his jammies waiting for his bottle to heat up before bed. What a little snuggle bug.
A couple weeks ago I had another ladies’ night while the little snuggle bug was sleeping. The ladies wanted to do a food based night again so I decided to do a cake decorating night. I made 24 5″ mini-cakes and 4 batches of Italian meringue buttercream frosting for 12 ladies to decorate cakes. I think the results were quite good. I only had 3 turntables, but a few days before the event I sent everyone a link to these inexpensive turntables from Michael’s that were only $6 at the time!* Several people took up my suggestion to get one so only a couple people had to share turntables. Mary made some delicious chocolate, lemon and strawberry fillings and Ka brought her fabulous collection of sprinkles and decorations so the cakes were really spectacular in the end. Despite a minor mishap involving chocolate, the ceiling and a friend’s sweater I think everyone had a great time!
We have a couple gluten free guests and several vegetarian guests so I decided to make everything gluten free and vegetarian so I didn’t have to make multiple dishes this time around. I chose a simple dinner of salad and vegetable fritatta (though technically I didn’t fry everything, and prepared the entire dish in the oven). As a bonus I was able to use up all the egg yolks that I didn’t use in the buttercream. I roasted all the veggies for the frittata the night before the event and then put them in Pyrex containers in the fridge until the party. I then assembled the salad and frittatas before guests arrived.
The salad I served was our go-to winter salad of baby spinach, onions, pecans and apples. We call this the “Will salad” because as far as I am concerned Will invented it. You can substitute the pecans and apples with any nut and fruit combo of your choice ex: walnuts & dried cranberries; almonds and clementines. I find the best dressing with this salad is slightly sweet and acidic. My personal favorite is Ken’s Steak House lite Asian sesame. Note this dressing is apparently NOT gluten free. I also served cheese and crackers because I thought we were going to have someone on a vegetarian keto diet (and I don’t understand keto enough to feel comfortable catering for it).
If you are insane like me you’ll make the buttercream and 24 cakes over just 2 days, staying up way too late. If you are more sane (highly recommended), you’ll make the cakes in the weeks preceding the event, let them cool completely, wrap thoroughly in saran wrap, place in freezer bags and then stick in the freezer until the night before the party. The night before the party remove the the cakes from the freezer and set on the counter to thaw (make sure the cakes are not stacked). You can also prepare the buttercream frosting up to 2 weeks in advance and store in an airtight container in the fridge. Right before the party (or during in my case) you can microwave the frosting (I did around 30 seconds per batch), stir and then re-whip with your mixer. If you follow my instructions below you’ll be throwing cake parties with ease!
What you’ll need (dinner for 18, cake decorating for 12):
For cake decorating (for 12)
- 4 5″ cake pans
- Ingredients for 4 batches of 24 5″ cakes
- Ingredients for 4 batches of Italian meringue buttercream
- 12 6″ cake circles
- 12 6″x6″ bakery boxes
- assorted toppings
- offset spatulas and kitchen scrapers
- cake turntables
- pastry bags and tips
For Dinner (for 18)
- egg yolks (reserved from cake creation above)
- 36 eggs
- 4 lbs of green beans, trimmed and cut in 1″ pieces
- 4 lbs of brocolli, cut in bite size pieces
- 6 onions cut in half
- 2 cups sour cream
- 2 cups shredded parmesan cheese
- 4 lbs of baby spinach
- 1.5 cups of pecans
- 1 vidalia onion, halved and sliced
- 4 apples, cubed and set in a container with water and lemon juice until ready to serve
- Asian balsamic dressing of your choice
- Utensils, plates and drinks for 18 people
- Prepare the cakes first, up to 3 months in advance. I used this gluten free recipe to make all my cakes, but this is the equivalent recipe that uses regular flour. Each 5″ cake requires a scant 1 cup of batter (or 1 full cup if not using gluten free) and 20-25 min of baking time. For best results (to prevent cakes from sticking) place a parchment paper circle in the bottom of each cake pan after preparing pan. Each recipe of cake mix will make 6 5″ mini cakes. I prepared 2 batches of mix at a time in the mixer. If you are making the cakes more than 2 days before serving, let them cool completely, wrap thoroughly in saran wrap, place in freezer bags and then stick in the freezer until the night before the party. Otherwise, let cool completely and store in air tight containers until the party.
- Prepare the buttercream, up to 2 weeks in advance. This recipe is fabulous but it is a bit tricky the first time since it requires the use of a candy thermometer. If you fail to follow the crucial instruction to let the bowl cool to room temperature your butter will melt and the recipe will not work. In my experience (in winter in New England) this has been a solid 30 minutes of cool-down. I made 4 batches of buttercream which was exactly right to frost 24 cakes, though I strongly recommend making a 5th batch if you want to do any elaborate piping. Store each container of frosting in air tight Pyrex containers in the fridge until the party.
- Prepare the vegetables the day before the party. The night before the party, drizzle the broccoli florets, green beans and onions with olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss. Roast vegetables at 425 degrees F until tender and browned, about 20-30 minutes, turning halfway through. Chop onions into bit size pieces when cool and then store vegetables in airtight containers in the fridge (far away from the buttercream).
- The day of the party, set up a cake decorating area with spatulas, piping bags, turntables, cakes, cake rounds, boxes and decorations.
- An hour before the party, microwave each batch of frosting until softened in 15 second increments (this took 30-45 seconds total for each batch for me). Whip each batch with your mixer until frosting is smooth and easy to use.
- 30 minutes before the party, assemble the fritattas and salad. Layer broccoli, green beans and onions in two 3 qt baking dishes, dividing evenly. Scatter 1 cup of parmesan cheese over each dish. Scramble eggs and egg yolks, then add sour cream and whip until thoroughly combined. Add salt and pepper as desired then pour half of the mixture over the vegetables and cheese in each baking dish, covering the whole dish evenly. Bake in 400 degree oven until frittata is puffed and cooked through (about 30 minutes each). Prepare salad – toss spinach, onions, pecans and apples (drained) until combined.
- As guests arrive – serve wine. When quorum has arrived serve dinner.
- After dinner, give a brief tutorial on how to decorate a cake. Start with trimming cakes to make them flat, centering cake circle on turntable, centering cake on cake circle, adding frosting/fillings and then topping with second layer of trimmed cake. Show how to frost entire cake, top then sides, and finally how to pipe frosting. Let guests decorate with decorations as they choose and then box up their creations to take home.