A Perfect Ten
We have a tradition that the morning of your birthday starts with a song and gifts. Everyone else is woken up and we quietly make our way to bring the well-wishes for the coming year to the lucky birthday kid. A few weeks back when Marian turned ten our Erik had told me that he had a special congratulation to make, “On hienoa olla täysi kymppi!” or “It’s great to be a perfect ten!” A perfect ten has other implications in the Finnish language and culture. It means a perfect score. In school the grading scale goes from four to ten with the ten being the best grade. Turning ten in our house is little bit of a bigger deal than turning nine. It is the last year that they get to have a large children’s birthday. Of course they may celebrate their birthdays in succeeding years but they are a bit smaller in proportion; perhaps a few friends over for a sleepover or a picnic at the beach. The kids often spend all year planning theiry birthdays. They think of the cake that they would like to have or the games they might like to play. The plans and flavors change quite a few times before the year is up. But I think that dreaming about their party is almost as important as the actual party. Whenever they say that they can’t sleep or have a bad dream I tell them to think of their birthday and what kind of party they might want to have. They then drift off to sleep dreaming of friends, the cake, piñatas and games. The newest introduction into our party traditions is the piñata. After visiting their cousin’s birthday party, they have all put it on their wish list. I started by making one, but having a houseful of helpful hands we soon were making three and in each stage there was someone participating. It was the perfect group project as it involved nearly everyone. And I think we will be making a record amount of piñatas this year! Afterall this was only our first birthday for the year and there are five more to go and while we are at it, I’ll have to ask if my husband would like one too!
This year the birthday girl wanted a pony cake that she had found from the book Deanna F. Cook’s Family Fun Birthday Cakes or Lasten omat synttärikakut. So with the idea in mind we made our own version. I used a double batch of Jamie Oliver’s Simple Sponge as the cake.
3.3 dl/1.4 c heavy whipping cream
100 g dark chocolate
Make the two sponge cakes and set aside to cool, preferably overnight. Split the two cakes and cut the second cakes as shown the picture above. Melt the dark chocolate in the microwave at twenty second intervals, stirring between each time. Be careful to not overheat the chocolate. Set aside while the cream is being whipped. Combine a couple of large spoonfuls of the whipped cream with the melted chocolate and then pour the chocolate mixture with the whipped cream. This allows for a smoother chocolate cream. Mix until evenly combined and a spread onto the first layer.
Place the second layer on the chocolate filling and prepare a buttercream frosting. You may color it as you wish, I used two tablespoons of dark cocoa powder this time. Frost with buttercream and use candies to decorate. I used black marzipan for the nostrils, mouth and eyelashes, but liquorice cut into thin strips would have worked just as well. Use your imagination with what your local grocery has available.
I must say that at times the house was nearly quiet even if we did have seventeen children. They were playing charades. At other times our house sounded like a football stadium. The piñatas offered the most entertainment. They were cheering each other on and even jumping up and down at times. For the first turn they were blindfolded but then we decided to make the task a bit easier as a couple of the parents had already arrived to pick up their children. The piñatas were of a sturdy nature as we had used the classic newspaper and wallpaper glue. Each child had numerous turns (multiply that by seventeen) before we had all three down. With all of the glee, I really couldn’t help myself but to join in with their spontaneous laughter.
Since this was a children’s party, they also helped decide on the menu. The recipe for these Corkscrew cookies is from our all-time favorite children’s baking book, Suomen Lasten Leivontakirja by Ulla Svensk.
250 g/8.8 oz softened butter
1.5 dl/0.6 c sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
5.5 dl/2.3 c flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
Mix all of the ingredients except the cocoa powder together. Divide the dough into two parts and add the cocoa powder into one part. Wrap the dough in cling film and place into the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes. If the dough is in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight allow it to soften just slightly. If it is too hard or too soft it may be tricky to handle.
After removing the dough from the refrigerator, roll into long bars and cut into 32 pieces. Roll the pieces until they are about 1 cm thick. Take a rolled piece of dough of each color and pinch them at one each and twist them around each other. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in the oven for about 8-10 minutes at 200 C/390 F. After removing from the oven allow to cool a bit before placing on a cooling rack to cool completely.