A Perfect Ten

party treats3We 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. pinata collage 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!

pony cake collage 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.

Pony 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.

bella jumpingI 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.

pinatacorkscrew cookies collageSince 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.

Corkscrew cookies

250 g/8.8 oz softened butter
1.5 dl/0.6 c sugar
1 egg
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.

pussy willowsDo you remember when you turned ten?


  1. A very Happy Birthday to Marian, 10 is a big deal for sure and what a wonderful party and beautiful cake. I love that everyone sings and give gifts to the birthday child in the morning, what a sweet gesture.

    1. Our family is really quite normal with all the ups and downs that come with life. We try our best and the children will be the ultimate judge of our success sometime in the future. 🙂

    1. Thank you Heather! Probably like most parents, you want to offer your children some memorable moments…hope this might be one of them. Judging by the noise level…it sounded like they had fun. 😀

    1. Thank you Patty…I’m not really sure how to respond, we try our best as parents and certainly have our good moments and sometimes the bad ones as well. 🙂

  2. Happy Birthday to your sweet little 10 year old. You are a very brave mom for having 17 little 10 year old girls at your home… Beautiful horse cake mom and those chocolate braids look like the perfect handy snack to enjoy during a party. I forgot all about papermachet until I seen your pictures. You made me feel like I am 10 all over again. Fun post!

    1. Thank you Bam! I need to admit that I am usually a little nervous before hand…but it went really well. At one point when the energy levels were sky rocketing they all went outside to play a game for about 10-15 minutes and when they came back in, it was time for cake. It was fun to look out the window and see the smiling faces running around the house as I put the finishing touches on the goodies at the table.

  3. How wonderful to make the birthday celebration so special. Makes me rather guilty that I forgot my husband’s birthday last year until he reminded me (at lunch time) and my daughter is still convinced that I didn’t buy her a birthday present one year.

  4. I don’t remember anything about when I turned ten but I know each of your children will have vivid memories of their special day. I love the way you and your family enjoy and make the most out of life.

    1. Perhaps you remember a different birthday. I remember my twelth birthday quite vividly. I had friends over for a party and I even have one photo of it taken in front of our house.

  5. Hallo to you….Your blog is so beautiful with a calmness about it. I think it is the uncluttered ness of your Finnish household. Seeing one of the girls sit on a backless chair -we called it a Hocker in Germany, took my mind back to childhood days as all our chairs were like that. It made for sitting up straight for sure:)
    I love family birthday catch ups as it is a time to get together and reconnect. Precious.
    Alexa from Sydney, Australia blogging at

    1. Hi Alexa, thank you so much for your beautiful comment…it made my day! The chair in the picture is actually designed and made by my sister. She is starting her own line of furniture and I just love her style and it is extra special.

  6. A belated happy birthday to Marian! By the looks of things, she sure did have a great time. The piñatas were clever and that cake looked great! Way to go, Mom!!!

    1. Thank you John! Before the party the kids are nervous with anticipation and…so is the Mom as she would like everything to go just so and see the smiles on everyone’s faces. This time it really went seamlessly and the Dad was a priceless entertainer when it was time for the piñatas. 🙂

  7. Happy birthday to your now ten year old! 😀 And can I just say that your photography and your food are stunning!

  8. Happy Birthday to your sweet girl. I do remember turning ten – I got to have my ears pierced, and at the time that seemed like the best it gets. This though, with the horse cake and cookie twists and all the love you put into the celebration – this is sublime. I’m sure your girl will remember it fondly for years to come.

    1. Thank you! It is interesting the things we remember from childhood. Children often notice the details. I remember flying over the Atlantic once when I was five. As we started to land, we flew through the cloud coverage and it seemed magical to be in the midst of the white fluff.

  9. What a lively birthday cake. Right now I’m in the middle of making a friend of mine a birthday cake shaped as a person, a “Kagemand”. It’s a Danish tradition, and when you cut the throat of the cake, the birthday child has to scream:)

  10. I don’t remember turning 10, although I remember many other birthdays before and after. Many sad things happened shortly before my birthday that year, so perhaps my birthday was overshadowed by them?

    I do, however, remember my parent’s 10th wedding anniversary. I thought I was giving them the most clever, most perfect present ever to celebrate the importance of 10.

    I gave them a carefully wrapped stack of 10 dimes (which I had collected all on my own).

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