1 Birthday girl, 2 days feasts, 3 desserts
What difference 12 months make. May last year saw us making landfall in one of the most remote parts of the world, the Marquesas Islands, after spending over 3 weeks at sea. A time of sheer solitude and peace for us adults, it was lived as a challenge for the kids. Hot and bothered, no friends, seasickness…all Anne could think of was the prospect of her upcoming birthday, for which she begged her father to arrive on time so that she could have a party with friends. Luckily the gods of the sea cooperated and indeed, we caught up with cruising buddies in the islands in time for Anne’s big day. It was a great day, spent in a typical “cruising” style: tube riding in Taiohae Bay, lunch and play at the local snackbar, cakes and drinks on the boat…just the memory of it reminds me of what is great about cruising life. Expectations, if any, are very simple.
Take throwing a party for example. In a remote anchorage, with a dozen boats around: invitations are made casually “doing the dinghy round”, dress code is “tropical casual” (meaning everything goes, from bikini and a sarong to cocktail dress, as long as it will survive a dinghy trip!), everyone is asked to bring a dish to share (very much like an American potluck dinner) and BYO drinks. The latter is most important, since most yachties have a limited supply of drinks on board, and while it is expected that the bigger the boat the bigger the cellar, it is just good form to bring your own drinks. The fun element is provided by the various guests happy to tell their sailing stories while the kids spend hours jumping off the boat. We have followed this entertaining format for years on VOAHANGY and I am still to recall anyone who didn’t enjoy themselves (though I do remember a European guy once, expressing surprise at the BYO concept).
Trying to stick to the formula this year was a challenge. It started with Anne initially wanting a “Lasertag” party for her birthday: 10 pre-teens running around a dark room shooting laser at each other for 1 hour, fed a slice of pizza, a soft drink and some birthday cake. Hummmm…not so sure. After years of hosting parties on the boat, I suggested a house party instead, and I got more than I bargained for when she asked for a pool party. May in Sydney is notorious for impredictable weather: cold and rainy one day, balmy and sunny the next. I crossed my fingers, and instructed Terry to ensure the spa heater was working. In the meantime, the one and only birthday party had kittens, when Anne asked to have not one but TWO family dinners ( making up for these who could not attend on the day, Mother’s Day,…don’t ask, too complicated!) So here I was, spending most of the week planning a pool party for 16 kids, one dinner menu for 14, another for 7…It was frantic: kids being dropped off and picked up, thankfully one mum stayed to help watch and keep me company, and luckily the potluck and BYO concept is well embedded in our family, so there wasn’t too much slaving in the kitchen. Just a lot of washing up!
Here is how the weekend unfolded…
Anne’s Pool party ( for 16 )
Fruit platter, chips and popcorn
10 Pizzas catered by Pizza Hut (I know, I know…)
Ice cream sundae bar*
Birthday cake (vanilla sponge)
Family dinner # 1
Guacamole and corn chips, pork sausage rolls, chicken triangles in filo pastry ( generously prepared by our guests)
Beef Burgundy served with elbow pasta
Birthday cake (chocolate fondant*)
Family dinner #2
Witlof and calamari salad
Baked whole salmon
Bacon and green beans parcels
Birthday cake (vanilla cupcakes with marshmallow icing*)
Ice cream sundae bar
This is more a concept than a recipe. The idea came from Anne, as a fun alternative to a birthday cake ( though in the end, she had both, since you can’t put candles on ice cream after all!): choice of 2 ice cream flavours (chocolate and vanilla), choice of 6 toppings (sprinkles, toasted coconut, gummy bears, smashed oreos, M&Ms, sour patch), chocolate sauce, mango sauce. Scoop out the ice cream in individual cups (or cones), present the toppings in attractive dishes and let the kids create their own sweet masterpiece!
Every one has a favourite recipe for chocolate fondant, this is ours. It was given to me many years ago by a French friend, Fabienne, another cruising mum whose family we travelled with for over 6 months, from the Canary islands to Brasil. I have tried a few others but as the kids say, “Fabienne’s cake is the best”.
200g (1 packet) dark chocolate
100g (1/2 cup) sugar
70g (1/2 cup) plain flour
120g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
3 tbsp full cream milk
1 tsp cinnamon
A pinch of salt
- Preheat oven to 180 deg C
- Melt chocolate, milk and butter in a medium saucepan over a pan of simmering water.
- In a large separate bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until thick and pale. Add the sifted flour, cinnamon, salt and chocolate mixture. Fold the lot until combined.
- Pour into a 25cm cake tin, lined with baking paper.
- Bake for 20 minutes. The cake should be dry on the outside while still soft to the touch and gooey on the inside. Cool and Keep at room temperature, it actually tastes better the next day.
- Serve dusted with icing sugar. Enjoy!
Vanilla Cupcakes with marshmallow topping
These cupcakes are pretty basic. However the topping is what makes them sooooo nice. It makes use of marshmallows, which I would never have thought of unless I read about it in one of Anne’s Cupcakes cookbooks! Add cream and coconut and you’re in heaven…
For the cupcakes
120g (1/2 cup) butter, softened
110g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
125g (1 cup) self-raising flour
1 tbsp milk
- Preheat the oven to 180 deg C. Put 12 paper liners in a shallow muffin pan
- In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Beat in the vanilla extract. Sift the flour into the bowl. With a metal spoon, fold the flour into the batter until well incorporated. Be gentle with it, otherwise the mixture will become heavy. Add the milk and gently fold into the batter. It should have a smooth consistency and drop easily from the spoon when tapped on the side of the bowl.
- Spoon the batter into the paper liners. Do not overfill or they will rise and form little mountains (as mine did!)
- Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cupcakes are risen and golden, just firm to the touch.
- let cool in the pan for approx. 10 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack and let cool completely.
For the topping
12 white marshmallows
2 ½ tbsp milk
1 cup heavy cream
40g (1/2 cup) unsweetened dried shredded coconut
- place the marshmallows and milk in a heatproof bowl, set over a pan of simmering water. Heat until the marshmallows have melted, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool.
- In the meantime, whip the cream until firm peaks form. Fold into the marshmallow mixture with ½ of the coconut. Cover and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Spread the topping on top of the cupcakes and sprinkle over the remaining coconut. Alternatively, sprinkle baby marshmallows! Enjoy!!