The concept of kids parties seems to have changed considerably since I was a kid, to the degree now where they are often about one kids party upping the ante on another kids. I know of instances where the amount of money spent on entertaining kids was ridiculous to the extreme, with jumping castles and clowns etc, on top of a lavish menu that I’m sure the kids couldn’t have given a damn about. Even the concept of gifts seems to have gone overboard, and I’m sure as hell glad that I’m not in the situation that some parent friends of ours are in, where every kid in the class has a party for their birthday, and all the class is expected to attend. I know my friends dread it, as it is not only expensive for them to be constantly forking out for gifts, but they have to waste a lot of their own time dropping-off and picking-up the kids from the parties. There are instances where this goes on for weekends in a row.
I still claim that kids are simple enough in their views, and creative enough with their imaginations to not have every thing supplied to them on an extravagant scale. I reckon chocolate crackles, fairy bread, cupcakes, lamingtons, jelly cups, mashed potato rolled in devon and mini pies and sausage rolls would be as popular now as they were when I was a kid. I’m equally sure that kids would love the challenges of playing dress up with a box of old cloths or the laughs of charades (I must admit that even I found hide-and-go-seek and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey a bit boring, and much preferred to throw on one of my mothers old frocks and prance around. Must have been a sign of things to come).
Still, keeping things basic doesn’t necessarily mean plain and boring, and so I will try to give you some inspiration in the recipes below, that cover some of the old-fashioned favourites, with a few twists on them as well.
For my partners nephews birthday, I have for about the last 4-5 years been making his birthday cakes. They have ranged from small butter cake train carriages decorated with marshmallows, and licorice, and filled with popular sweets to Spider Man – quite a triumph even for me – to a big ‘7’ in the shape of a coconut tree complete with monkeys, to last years ‘8’ in the shape of a race track with chocolate race cars. All these have been simple to make – except Spider man – and the kids have loved them, so you don’t need to spend a fortune on a cake with the expectation that the kids will love it any more than one you have made yourself.
My mother made a large batch of Cornflake biscuits – still one of my favourites – for one of my birthdays, and found the plate still full at the end of the party. I remember how furious she was until she tried one herself – she had mixed up the canisters in the kitchen and used salt in them instead of sugar. One very apologetic mother.
I hope you enjoy these recipes, and use them to give your kids not just a good time, but create something very personal for them that will possibly be remembered long past the more commercial or McDonalds parties.
Makes about 323 triangles
2 loaves thick-sliced white bread
125g unsalted butter, softened
Strawberry jam, to spread
Nutella, to spread
1 cup 100s & 1000s
1 cup chocolate sprinkles
Butter 1 loaf of bread. Spread half the slices with strawberry jam, then top each slice with remaining slices to make sandwiches.
Butter the remaining loaf, spread half the slices with Nutella, then top with remaining slices.
Remove the crusts (they have absolutely nothing to do with you having or not having curly hair) from all the sandwiches, then cut each into 4 triangles. Lay the sandwiches on two separate platters long-edge down to form two long pyramids.
Spread the remaining butter along one side of each pyramid. Sprinkle the long side of the strawberry sandwiches with the 100s and 1000s and the Nutella sandwiches with the chocolate sprinkles.
Sea Shark Jelly
3 packets lemon-flavoured jelly (or a flavour of your choice)
Sweets in the shape of fish or sharks, to garnish
375ml can evaporated milk
Lightly oil a 1-litre terrine or loaf pan.
Place the jelly crystals in a bowl or jug, add 2 cups (500ml) boiling water and stir to dissolve the crystals. Add 100ml cold water, then pour 300ml of this mixture into the base of the prepared tin. Sit the fish or sharks in the jelly and place in the freezer for 15 minutes or until the jelly has just set.
Whisk the evaporated milk into the remaining jelly, then pour the mixture over the completely set jelly layer.
Refrigerate overnight to set completely.
When ready to serve, run a knife around the edge of the tin to loosen, then invert onto a serving platter. Rub the base of the tin with a hot cloth for a few seconds, then give the whole tin a good shake to get the jelly out of the mould.
1 1/3 cups self-raising flour
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
250g caster sugar
200g unsalted butter
1 cup cola
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
gold chocolate coins, to fill
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Lightly grease a 12-hole square muffin or friend pan (friend pans have oval-shaped moulds).
Sift the flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda together, then stir in the sugar.
Place the butter and cola in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until the butter has melted, then add to the dry ingredients with the milk, eggs and vanilla extract. Divide the mixture between the pan moulds and bake for 18-20 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
When ready to serve, carefully slice the top off each cake and set aside. Scoop out a little of the center, then fill each hole with some chocolate coins and replace the lids.
175g self-raising flour
110g unsalted butter
½ cup caster sugar
Grated rind 1 lemon
1 tablespoon milk
½ cup thick cream, whipped
½ cup lemon curd (lemon butter)
Icing sugar, to dust
Preheat oven to 190°C. Place flour, butter, caster sugar, eggs, rind and milk in a bowl and beat with an electric beater until smooth. Place 12 paper patty cases in a patty pan and divide mixture between them.
Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown, then cool. Cut a small slice off the top of each cake and cut slice in half.
Place a dollop of cream and lemon curd on top of each cake and sit the two halves in the curd like butterfly wings. Dust with icing sugar.
Even boys like these.
Makes about 25 small
1 cup self-raising flour
1 tablespoon caster sugar
¾ cup milk
Melted butter to brush, plus extra knobs to serve
Sift flour and sugar together into a bowl with a pinch of salt. Whisk milk and egg together, then add to dry ingredients, whisking until smooth.
Heat a non-stick frypan over medium heat and brush with a little melted butter. Drop level tablespoons of the mixture into the pan and cook for half-a-minute or until bubbles appear on the surface. Turn over and cook other side for 1 minute until golden.
Allow to cool and serve with butter
Peanut Butter Biscuits
Makes about 20
1 cup smooth peanut butter
125g unsalted butter
4 tablespoons honey
½ cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cups plain flour
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 cup honey-roasted peanuts, chopped, plus extra peanuts to garnish
Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Place peanut butter, butter, honey and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for about 2 minutes until pale and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Beat in the sifted flour and soda, then add the chopped peanuts and stir through.
Flour your hands and roll the mixture into 2.5cm balls. Place on the baking tray, allowing room to spread, and flatten slightly. Place a whole peanut into the center of each biscuit and bake for 8 minutes until cooked and lightly golden. Turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
4 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
250g mascarpone cheese, softened
125ml cream, whipped lightly
200g Nestles Plaistowe cooking chcolate, chopped finely
125ml cream, extra, whipped lightly
Lightly grease a 23cm x 8cm log tin and line with baking paper
In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks, half the sugar and a pinch of salt until mixture is pale and thick.
In another bowl, whip eggwhites until soft peaks form, then gradually add remaining sugar and beat until thick and glossy.
Add mascarpone to egg yolk mixture and combine until smooth. Fold in cream and egg whites alternatively. Add 125g chopped chocolate and mix carefully.
Pour mixture into lined tin. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze overnight.
For the chocolate sauce, combine 75g chocolate and extra cream in a small saucepan and bring to the boil to melt chocolate.
Serve terrine with sweet biscuits and chocolate sauce.
Fruit with Yoghurt Dip
! wedge seedless watermelon, sliced
½ rockmelon, seeded, cut into wedges
4 kiwi fruit, quartered
3 bananas, peeled and sliced
1 punnet strawberries
2 x 200g tubs flavoured yoghurt or fruche
Arrange fruit on a platter with yoghurt for dipping. Refrigerate until required.
300g packet cheese corn chips
1 cup grated tasty cheese
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
½ cup sour cream
Arrange corn chips in an overproof dish. Sprinkle with cheese and parsley.
Bake in a Hot 200°C oven for 10 minutes until cheese is melted and golden. Dollop sour cream over chips. Serve immediately.