Tag Archives: party food

Laugh or Cry: Overcoming Birthday Caketastrophes!

Tomorrow, is our son’s 11th Birthday and of course, it’s going to be bigger than Ben Hur.

Surprise! Surprise! I decided to bake a Chocolate Cake and I’m jazzing it up with a caramel and whipped cream filling and smothering the lot with lashings of Milk Chocolate Ganache and a sprinkling of M & Ms. I know that sounds really indulgent,even decadent, but you only have a birthday once a year!

Chocolate cake…You can’t go wrong with chocolate cake.

The meaning of life can be found in Mummy's bowl.

The meaning of life can be found in Mummy’s bowl.

However, you obviously haven’t heard about my luck with making birthday cakes. It’s so bad that I’ve dubbed it: “The Great Birthday Cake Curse”!! For some strange reason, every single birthday cake I’ve ever made has been cursed, doomed, even double-doomed, as all sorts of dreadful complications set in.

Yet, with the precision of a surgeon, I painstakingly restore the cake and save the day.

Hey, who am I kidding?

There’s nothing precise about me in the kitchen. Rather, I’m very “slap dash”, whacking on the icing to camouflage near-fatal, structural craters, which are so deep that you could hide a semi-trailer inside…even an entire road train!!

Yet, despite these devastating catastrophes, I overcame the hurdles and had that cake out on the plate, candles alight with everybody singing “Happy Birthday”.

My husband’s uncle, who was a builder, always used to say that the difference between an amateur and a professional is being able to cover up their mistakes. Looking at how I’ve patched up my cakes, I can’t help wondering how many houses down in NE Tasmania are being held together by lumps of icing? It’s one of the world’s greatest gap fillers!!

Despite my birthday caketastrophes, I’m renowned for my scrumptious pavlovas and choc-chip cookies. Indeed,  when I took my choc chip cookies to scouts recently, I was quite the pied piper attracting throngs of little admirers. Indeed, after seeing the cookies in action, I decided to throw out my copy of How To Win Friends & Influence People and simply hand out cookies instead.

This only compounds my confusion. What’s the deal with the birthday cakes? Why do I have so much trouble? Who knows? It remains one of life’s great mysteries!

No doubt being more practical than yours truly, I can hear you wondering why I don’t just buy a cake instead? Why do I keep torturing myself birthday cake after agonising birthday cake? Talk about a masochist!

Well, if you have ever made a birthday cake for someone you love, you’ll know precisely why I have to make these @#$% birthday cakes myself. That’s right. I add that magic ingredient…my love. You can’t buy, manufacture or even fake that and it’s not something you can buy off the supermarket shelf!

So here I am the night before Mister’s big 11th birthday expecting a tribe of friends at his party. The cakes have been baked without incident.  Everything is proceeding exceptionally well.

That was until it came to whipping the cream . A relatively simple task but that’s what turned the tide. Actually, make that whipping the low-fat lactose-free cream. Mister and other family members are lactose intolerant. I was concerned that being low-fat might be a problem but I’m ever the optimist.

I’d been beating the absolute crap out of the cream and it was still sploshing around like milk in the bowl when it should have been resembling butter, if not cheese. It had also splattered  absolutely all over the bench, anything parked on it and all down my shirt. That was when I dug out my magnifying glass and had a closer look at the label. My eyesight isn’t what it used to be.  Oh my goodness! There it was. “Not suitable for whipping”. The cake was doomed. The party was doomed.Disaster!!!

It was 11.00PM. The shops were shut and I had two cakes which desperately needed to be sandwiched together. In my desperation, I thought the caramel might just be enough. Being my usual Einstein self, I thought that if I scooped the thicker layer of cream off the “milk” and mixed it with the caramel, to put it good old colloquial Australian lingo: “she’ll be right, mate”.

However…

Instead of bulking up the caramel, the cream almost turned it liquid.  My only hope was that it would fill up the bubbles in the cake before it ran off the edge and onto the plate. Taking a chance, I hoisted up the second layer of cake and prayed it would stay put, despite slipping and sliding around on roller skates. My only hope now was that the chocolate ganache would hold the cake together against all odds.

Not to be deterred by my humble prayers, catastrophe followed catastrophe and if I hadn’t developed resilience from all my previous birthday cake disasters, there would have been tears, loud wailing and unceasing sobs  as I cried and cried and cried….the world’s biggest loser of a Mum!

It might not be my party, but I’ll cry if I want to!! You would cry too if this had happened to you!

I'm not the only one who gets stressed out by birthday parties!

I’m not the only one who gets stressed out by birthday parties!

It’s My Party: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCPqaG8sVDE

 

Then and I guess you can see it coming, the @#$% cream stuffed up the ganache, which was sploshing like a chocolate milkshake. Desperate, I added cup after cup of icing sugar, trying to thicken it up. I’d poured in half the bag and it was still looking sloppy but at least, it was holding some shape. I poured the “ganache” over the cake and I looking like a human pretzel, I crossed everything I had to boost my luck.

But no! The ganache flowed over the top of the cake and kept going creating a moat around the poor, drowning cake. The river was so deep, you could literally kayak through it. Definitely not the look I was looking for so I started bailing the ganache out with a ladle and not unsurprisingly, it sploshed all over the bench and that’s when I found the dog not unsurprisingly underfoot.

This is where the birthday cake curse worked in my favour. Not being my first salvage operation, I had a few  tricks up my sleeve. In this instance, the answer had to be M & Ms. They cover up a multitude of sin. Although thanks to that wretched low fat lactose free “cream”, even they mucked up and were sliding down the cake. @#$%!!!

However, just when you think you’ve hit rock bottom, there’s salvation.

All's well that ends well.

All’s well that ends well.

I could have hugged one of my son’s friends. As he takes his first mouthful, he speaks up like a true Masterchef:

“I know what this is. It’s chocolate mouse!”

I’ve never been so thrilled. The chocolate ganache monster had a name and it was good.

Guess, it goes to show that you can’t go wrong with a chocolate cake after all!

By the way, here’s a past post about Birthday Cakes: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=5947&action=edit&message=6&postpost=v2

Do you have any funny birthday stories to share? I’d love to hear them!!

xx Rowena

Mars Bar Slice…It’s Out of This World!

If you are out to impress this Christmas but have no idea how to cook, Mars Bar Slice is just the thing for you. The Mars Bar Slice knows how to win friends and influence people better than Dale Carnegie. It knows how to draw you in with its good looking charm better than Hugh Jackman. It just stares up at you with sensuous adoration and says: “Take me I’m yours.’’ Now, Hugh Jackman has never said that to me, so who am I to resist?!!

Hugh Jackson makes a pretty good Santa. Photo: Geekphotos.

Hugh Jackman makes a pretty good Santa. Photo: Geeks Shot Photos.

However, somehow like so many love affairs, particularly the type which burn with such a passionate flame, the road to true love is often rocky. Moreover, even if you manage to reach your destination, your affair is usually agonisingly short-lived, ending in heartbreak.
Well, that’s what happened during my affair with Mars Bar Slice. Instead of making it for us and the family and keeping all that gooey, caramelly chocolate all to ourselves, the kids dobbed me into their respective classes and this entire batch of Mars Bar Slice was heading off to school for their end of year Christmas parties. After sharing that unquenchable fire, the Mars Bar Slice was deserting me without so much as a parting glance over the shoulder. Not even a text! The scoundrel!! What a cad!!!
I’m sure you’ll agree with my angst: “Why couldn’t my kids be the ones who take the potato chips?”

Melting the mars bars, golden syrup and butter. Safety note: our front hotplate doesn't work.

Melting the mars bars, golden syrup and butter. Safety note: our front hotplate doesn’t work.

This could be one of the downsides to my “teach the kids how to cook project”. My expertise as a cook has significantly improved and they’re now used to gourmet. They don’t always like it but they’re having a rough time eating plain ordinary sandwiches these days. Well, they’ve never really eaten their school lunches but they’re now asking lots of questions about our meals, the ingredients and are becoming quite discerning.
My daughter had actually put me down for Caramel Slice. It might be her favourite but it’s relatively expensive to make and has three layers and is what you would describe as an effort. It lasts our family a week and I just couldn’t cope with the thought of all those kids devouring my precious caramel slice in seconds without any appreciation whatsoever. Caramel Slice needs to be savoured…especially a good, home-made version.
I couldn’t part with Caramel Slice yet at the same time I was having trouble resisting the Mars Bars themselves. There we were… the kids and I… chopping up 6 entire Mars Bars into tiny, little pieces without sneaking even the teeniest crumb. You could just imagine the temptation… our frustration!!!! The frustration continued, however, as we tipped those scrummy little bits of Mars Bar into a hot saucepan and melted them down like chocolate gold. AHHHHH!!! If Mars Bar Slice wasn’t so good, it would have been a crime! After all, Mars Bars are made to be eaten. Eaten right now, without any of that delayed gratification crap.
What was I thinking? Surely, we could have sneaked just a few little bits? Was I crazy? There are no laws against sampling the merchandise. Surely, the alchemy which is baking could spare a few little bits of Mars Bar without ruining the chemistry? That’s probably true but there were three of us cooking and surely we all couldn’t take a bit…and a bit…and a bit more? After all, once we’d had a bite, there was no way we could stop. Call us weak-willed but Mars Bars are made to be eaten. All this “tasting” would have left nothing but plain rice bubbles in the finished product.

Our daughter doing some mixing.

Our daughter doing some mixing.

So here I am being incredibly self-disciplined and making the ultimate sacrifice. Well, I’m not dying for my kids so once again I exaggerate. Use a bit too much hyperbole but if you knew me well, you’d know that I just don’t part with chocolate. I eat it.
But the good thing about the Mars Bar Slice is that it’s fairly quick and simple to make. Moreover, as the kids helped me make it, it became a team effort and I detected such a sense of pride. They were really looking forward to sharing the Mars Bar Slice with their friends. It was our special creation. We’d made it ourselves. You can’t beat that…especially with a packet of chips!

Mister spreading the melted chocolate topping over the base.

Mister spreading the melted chocolate topping over the base.

It was hard slicing up the Mars Bar Slice and packaging it up for school but hey a few pieces couldn’t fit in the box and I did trim off the edges “for presentation”. Strange how these “scraps” somehow made it down the hatch with my cup of tea. Yum!
I thoroughly recommend Mars Bar Slice. It would make a scrumptious addition to your Christmas menu and a delectable morsel to go with a cup of tea later in the afternoon once lunch is wearing off. Far more delicious than Aunt Mary’s fruit cake!
Enjoy!
xx Rowena
PS If you’re looking for love this Christmas, a little Mars Bar Slice will go along way. Better than after shave or that little black dress! You won’t even need mistletoe!

XX Rowena
Mars Bar Slice…The Recipe.
Ingredients

75g Butter
1.5 tablespoons golden syrup
6 x 53g Mars Bars
4.5 cups (90g) rice bubbles
400g cooking milk chocolate
40g copha

Directions
1. Grease and line the base and side of a 33cm x 23 cm slice pan with baking paper, allowing the sides to overhang.
2. Combine the butter, golden syrup and three-quarters of the mars bars in a medium saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 5 minutes or until mars bars and butter melt and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat. Do not leave unattended as it could burn easily.

Miss adds the melted Mars Bar mix to the rice bubbles.

Miss adds the melted Mars Bar mix to the rice bubbles.

3. Place the rice bubbles and remaining mars bar in a large bowl. Add the mars bar mixture and stir until well combined.
4. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and use the back of a spoon or a spatula to smooth the surface.

5. Set aside for 1 hour to cool completely.
6. Place the chocolate and copha in a heatproof bowl and melt in the microwave for 1 minute and then blasts for 10 seconds until melted.
7. Pour chocolate over the top of the slice and spread evenly using a spatula. Set aside for 30 minutes to set. Cut into squares to serve.

Enjoy!!

The finished product before slicing.

The finished product before slicing.

PS: You wouldn’t believe it. My daughter arrived home with half  her stash of Mars Bar Slice leftover from the class party. That has to count as a real answer to prayer. Funny, I would’ve thought God would have been too busy getting things ready for Jesus’s birthday to be reading my blog draft today. He’d have to be an almighty multi-tasker!

PPS: IN case you’re wondering what the big deal is about Hugh Jackman, before he made it in Hollywood he used to be our local “it” guy. I never met him but a friend of mine used to catch the school bus with him and one of my friends used to travel down the local train line going “Hugh Spotting”. We were all going to single sex schools and were a bit deranged. Yes, he was definitely a local legend before he even hit Hollywood.