Yummy Memories

How to host delicious parties.

It's fun to be frivolous. And what better excuse could there be for acting frivolous than a birthday? Here are some ideas for enhancing your children's parties, and other special occasions, with whimsical themes and edible delights.

If your child's sense of exploration and adventure is immeasurable, and no ordinary slumber party will do, an Eloise Plaza Party could be in order. Like Eloise, the mischievous child storybook character created by Kay Thompson, I think it would be awfully nice to live at the Plaza. But as the Manhattan hotel has been turned into luxury apartments, you must find another place for kids to crash on a special birthday night.

Because nearly everyone appreciates the convenience of hotel living, for an intimate party, book a room or a suite at your favorite local hotel. Invite four or five of your child's friends, with an extra parent or two for additional supervision, to come in their pajamas for a slumber party. Bring lots of drinks and food for guests to enjoy while children watch movies, have pillow fights and play games. You can also organize a themed scavenger hunt, encouraging kids to scour the hotel for clues and prizes. Eloise is a perfect inspiration for this kind of scavenger hunt.

To save money, order pizza from a local pizzeria instead of room service. Or prepare your own Eloise menu with Teeny Weenies (tiny hot dogs), Mini-Meatloaf "Cupcakes" (recipe follows), Skipperdee Sandwiches (peanut butter and jelly), Kiddie Kar Kocktails (ginger ale), and Supersonic Sherbet (rainbow sherbet). Even better, start the party at home before the hotel soiree and recruit your kids to help in the kitchen.

Mini Meatloaf "Cupcakes"

Ingredients:

FOR THE MEATLOAF

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • ½ cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
  • 3 Tbsp. ketchup
  • 1 egg
  • ½ tsp. celery salt
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper

FOR THE POTATO "FROSTING"

  • 3 cups mashed potatoes
  • Blue, yellow and pink food coloring

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin tins with 12 foil liners. In a large bowl, gently mix the ground beef, bread crumbs, cheese, ketchup, egg, celery salt and pepper until well-combined. Divide the mixture evenly among the lined cups, filling each about three-quarters full.

Place the muffin tins on cookie sheets and bake the cupcakes for about 15 minutes, or until the meat is no longer pink.

To make the potato "frosting," divide the mashed potatoes among three small bowls. Add a few drops of blue, yellow or pink food coloring to each bowl and blend to create pastel frostings. Spread a generous dollop of colored topping on each cupcake.

Makes 12 "cupcakes"

Does your teenage daughter think she is a queen who deserves to be pampered? Perhaps indulge her by throwing a sweet 16 chocolate spa party.

It's a cinch to set up a chocolate spa in your home. Along with filling tubs of warm water for foot baths, make chocolate bubble bath by combining three ounces of unsweetened cocoa powder and one-third cup of milk. Under running bath water, add the cocoa-milk mixture plus one cup of unscented bubble bath, and ask party-goers to soak their feet in a chocolate sea.

Arrange trays with everything necessary for manicures, and designate a makeup mirror, where you place eye shadows, lipsticks and other cosmetics that are easy to apply and remove.

If the budget permits, hire a professional masseuse or manicurist to enhance the pampering party. For guests who are waiting for a spa treatment, create a cocoa bar, featuring chocolate spice tea, hot chocolate and Frrrozen Hot Chocolate. For a sweet party favor, consider a box of chocolates, cocoa lip balm or perfume.

For guests who prefer sumptuous desserts to savor before parting the party, Star-for-a-Day Chocolate Cakes with White Chocolate Sour-Cream Frosting (recipe follows) is an ideal final dish to serve.

Star-for-a-Day Chocolate Cakes

Ingredients:

  • 8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 pound dark brown sugar
  • 4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1¼ cups sifted cake flour
  • pinch of salt
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup boiling water

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two tins that each have six star shapes (with ½-cup capacity) with parchment paper. To cut the parchment paper to the correct size, turn over the pan to trace the outline of one star onto parchment paper. Once one is cut out, use that as a template to cut out the rest.

Lightly grease each pan with nonstick baking spray or melted butter using a pastry brush. Dust each pan with flour, knocking out any excess flour.

Place the parchment cutouts into the bottom of each pan, lightly spraying or greasing the parchment with melted butter, and then dusting with flour. (To make removing the cakes as easy as possible, use silicone pans if available.)

Using the paddle attachment in a large bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar at medium speed until the mixture is very light in color, about five minutes. With the mixer turned off, add the chocolate and resume mixing, using a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla, mixing well after each addition. Combine the flour with the salt in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, baking soda and boiling water until smooth.

Alternating between the sour cream mixture and the flour and salt mixture, add half of each to the chocolate and butter mixture and mix at medium speed until just combined. Pour the batter into the cake pans so they are no more than half filled. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove the pans to a cooling rack and frost the cakes once they have reached room temperature.

Makes 12 small cakes

White Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting is a fabulous topping for these decadent chocolate cakes.

White Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz. white chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup sour cream

Directions:

Melt the white chocolate in the top of a double boiler or in a microwave for ten seconds at a time, until just melted. Stir in the sour cream and mix until just combined. Use the frosting immediately. If the frosting becomes too stiff, return it to the double boiler or microwave for a few seconds to soften.

Makes about two cups.