Posted June 13, 2012 - 9:22pm by Kate Kinne
My son’s birthday was a last week. Since I like to bake, I set out to make some fun birthday treats. First up, fruit cookie “pizzas” for a playdate: I made the cookies and frosting, then had cut up fruit available for the kids to top themselves in whatever design they wanted. Result: I over-baked the cookies, hard as a rock! The kids did like the concept though.
Next, homemade cupcakes and frosting for birthday dinner: I purchased vegetable-based (chemical-free) food coloring, rather than using typical food dye. Result: pink and purple spiderman cupcakes, instead of red and blue.
Lastly, homemade (sort of) pizza for dinner. I bought white whole wheat pizza dough from the grocery store, rolled it out and topped our own pizza. In my head, the pizza was going to look just like Captain America’s shield. I used turkey pepperoni to make the two red rings, and then blue-dyed cheese (using above vegetable dyes) for the blue center. Result: Meh. If I wouldn’t have told you what it was, you wouldn’t have known.
Basically, I spent a lot of effort but was disappointed with the less-than-stellar results. I love the idea of being able to make my own treats and snacks, so that I know what ingredients my family is eating, and most times I’m able to make them healthier than store bought versions. Usually I can make them cheaper as well. But, it’s frustrating when things don’t work as beautifully as you envision in your mind, and it’s easy to throw in the towel and give in to let someone else do the work for you. My recommendation is don’t give up! I love to encourage people to do more of their own cooking and baking at home, so I thought I’d share my lessons learned…
Plan test runs. If you are going to be serving a group of people a fantastic new recipe, do a test run to work out the kinks in the recipe first. If it works, freeze it, use it later for the main event! For example, my cookies that I cooked into hockey pucks were derived from a recipe I had not previously tried. Frankly, I have never actually successfully made sugar cookies. Had I tested the recipe, I would have known how long to bake them in my oven. If they had turned out, I could have frozen them and saved them for the playdate. Or, more likely, had time to scratch that batch and make a new one. I waited until the last minute and was forced to therefore serve them and watch the kids gnaw on the cookies that they so wanted to enjoy. The test run would have helped with the food coloring issues on the cupcakes too.
Be realistic about your skills. Because I have never been an artistic or crafty person, I knew making the Spiderman cake that my son had his heart set on was not really feasible. So, I went online and bought plastic Spiderman rings and planned to make cupcakes, color them red and blue, draw a black web, and then put the Spidey rings on top of each one. This actually worked well. Even though the frosting/webs were pink and purple instead of red and blue, with the cool ring on top, I don’t think he even noticed! He is only four though. My husband told me I would have not gotten away with pink and purple if he’d been a few years older. Phew.
Have fun. I know many don’t enjoy cooking or baking as much as I do. All of these ideas did actually sound fun to me. If it doesn’t appeal to you at all, don’t do it. Come up with something else.
Know your limits. For me to say this is just like the pot calling the kettle black, but…try not to bite off more than you can chew. Leave yourself enough time. If you run out of time, simplify things. For example, my son wanted pizza for his birthday. He would have never thought to ask for a Captain America pizza. Don’t go there if you don’t need to or don’t have the time.
Even if it isn’t perfect, it’s ok. My son had a fantastic birthday, and I enjoyed it very much too. I just have to not take myself too seriously!