tableofcolors

Simple pleasures

Tag: birthday party

End of the birthday season

by tableofcolors

table setting

This month my kitchen has been filled with happy little people all wanting to help and participate in preparation for a birthday party. Cook books have been poured over and together we shopped for the correct color napkins. Our birthday season is coming to a close.

I truly do enjoy organizing birthday parties for my kids and seeing the anticipation and their eyes shining with excitement makes it all worth it. I do have to admit that I sometimes secretly roll my eyes when a very excited birthday girl or boy comes and explains their plans for party games for the forty-fifth time at 10.32 pm. And I do try remain the adult and remember to say encouraging things like, “Yes honey, I know you are excited but now it is time for bed…let’s continue this discussion tomorrow!” I don’t always succeed in this grown-up effort. Our birthday season starts in March and for six months we have a birthday every month and in June there are two. The easy part about have many parties in consecutive months is that they usually want many of the same things on the menu as the others, making for fairly easy planning. This year the pinãta has been a big hit.

friends collageWe made one little mistake with one of the pinãtas. We started removing the balloon before it was completely dry since our schedule was getting to be a little tight. Simply said, the pinãta became a bowl for serving chips. Fortunately we still had one pinãta left to be filled with candy.

table setting closeupThe birthday girl had requested an ice cream cake to which I gladly agreed. All summer she had been asking me when I would bake brownies. Now was the perfect time to combine the two requests. For the bottome crust I baked a brownie, doubling the recipe from one of my favorite cook books, Elävä valo (orginally published in Norwegian, Levende lys).  The authors, Nina Dreyer Hensley, Jim Hensley and Paul Lowe are Norwegian and have captured the spirit of the Nordic winter light in their photography and recipes so wonderfully. Below is a little sample of their book and also the picture of the brownie crust I made for the birthday cake.

elävä valo collageIce cream is a little bit of a tricky medium as it melts quite quickly. I returned the cake back into the freezer between stages. To make things a bit easier with the ice cream cake, I used a fondant band around the sides to help control the drips and to keep the cake looking intact.

ice cream cakeIf your schedule is a little tight, the naked version of the cake could work just as well as a dessert and the homemade brownies and cookies could be substituted with something picked up from a bakery or grocery store.

 

Lilja’s Ice Cream Cake

The recipe for the brownie is for a round 25 cm/9-10 inch pan. I doubled the recipe and baked it on a oven sheet pan with small edges and cut out the desired size and froze the extra brownies for future use. The assembly of the cake went as follows. Add a liter/ 2 pints of toffee/caramel icecream on the brownie. Roughly chop up about fifteen  Omar Triangle cookies.  Using two liters /four pints of vanilla ice cream, scoop the ice cream on top of the chopped cookies so that they are covered. Return to the freezer at this point. Whip 1/2 liter/2 cups of heavy cream and ice the top and sides of the cake. Use a band of fondant to help hold the possible drips. Decorate as desired.

 

Brownie crust

3 dl/1.3 c sugar
1.5 dl/generous 1/2 c flour
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp dark cocoa powder
150 g/5.3 oz butter, melted
2 eggs
roughly chopped walnuts (optional)

Melt the butter and set aside. Mix all the dry ingredients and then add the melted butter and lightly whisked eggs. Bake the brownie for about 20 minutes at 200 C/390 F. Do not overbake!
Allow the brownied to completely cool.

Also needed:

15 Omar Toffee Triangles
1 liter of toffee/caramel ice cream
2 liters of vanilla ice cream
0.5 l/2 c heavy whipping cream
band of rolled fondant

birthday cakeLilja had one request for Dad. She wanted a precision shooting contest with the air rifle. And so the party guests all lined up to try aim at the plastic soda bottles against the garage door.

air riflefriends

little helper

little helper

This post is part of Celia’s In My Kitchen September edition. Visit her blog for a list of bloggers around the world that have opened up their kitchens for visitors to see.

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A Perfect Ten

by tableofcolors

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

Filling

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?

Cousins

by tableofcolors

When I was a kid, the cousins and aunts and uncles and of course the grandparents would get together at Thanksgiving and Christmas and sometimes on Mother’s day and Easter. I think we all have special memories from those times at Gramma’s house. We would always eat well, create music and have old-fashioned quality time together without mobiles phones, iPads or even the internet. I’m not necessarily criticizing todays instagram world since I admit that I am an avid user of social media. In fact, today “the cousins” are spread around in different parts of the globe and facebook, whatsapp and instagram offer the best way to keep up with their lives and their interests. Last Sunday had a some of the same feel as we got together at my sister’s house to celebrate our nephew’s birthday. We had a total of ten cousins together.

pinata2They live in the Puu-Käpylä area of Helsinki which is a fairly quiet and quaint neighborhood tucked in amongst busy roads. The houses have been built in 1920-1925 and are designed by Martti Välikangas. I love the cozy neighborhood with its red orche houses and small gardens. Originally they were built for the working class but today all types of people live there. But more important than the houses are the special people inside. Happy birthday to our Godson!

birthday boyWe were treated to a delicious lunch with homemade potato salad, vegetable sticks and dip and hot dogs. Perhaps my sister will share the recipe to her salad. Her cupcakes were decorated with a marzipan hockey stick and candy puck. The buttercream on the cupcakes had less sugar than normally and it had a rich flavor that both children and adults liked. It was a good way to start the day. The temperatures had warmed up and outside there were puddles and wet snow, but a five minutes walk away was the Käpylä rink with synthetic ice. It was the perfect outing for the cousins…and aunts and uncles after all of the treats.

hockey player Collagekids on the iceThe breeze did not have a sting since it was quite balmy for our circumstances (+2 C). Really where ever you might reside, there usually are those little hidden gems and treasures to be found nearby that make everyday life that much more enjoyable. We had an ice rink just down the block when I was a kid. It was one of the hidden gems of my childhood neighborhood in Golden Valley.

mexican lasagne2This recipe is for the balmy winter days. It has has enough heat in it to remind of warmer temperatures. The name, Tortilla or Mexican lasagne, might cause shudders in true Italian or Mexican connoisseurs. In reality it is a Tex-Mex style dish that has taken a bit of inspiration from the layered form of lasagne. It was quite tasty and tasted even better the next day. So even if it is not a genuine original of any cuisine I give it my recommendation.

Mexican Lasagne

400 g/14 oz ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
2-3 stalks of celery
1/4 leek, chopped
2 large handfuls of spinach, chopped (I used frozen spinach, from last summers bounty)
1 paprika, chopped
1 can crushed tomatoes (I used the last of my tomatoes from last summer, blanched, peeled and frozen)
400 g/14 oz refried beans
1/2 dl/1/4 c salsa
200 g mozzarella
3 large whole wheat tortillas
sea salt
black pepper
cumin
smoked paprika powder
oregano

Brown the ground beef and add vegetables except for the spinach and crushed tomatoes. Cook until the onion is opaque. Add the refried beans and stir until combined. Next add the tomatoes and spinach and seasonings. Allow to simmer so that the excess moisture evaporates. Take a tart pan the size of the tortillas and lightly spray with oil. Lay the first tortilla on the bottom and spoon one third of the filling on top and sprinkle with one third of the cheese. Continue alternating with the rest of the tortillas, filling and cheese. Bake in the oven at 200 C/390 F for about 15 minutes or so that the cheese has some color. Serve with a spicy chipotle salsa.

mexican lasagne

It was a party

by tableofcolors

We had a houseful. Twenty little ones, eight big ones, fireworks, one birthday party and the New Year at midnight. If new year’s eve foretold the future, 2014 might be a year on the fast track. It looked like everyone had  a good time. The kids all found friends and at times, nearly everyone went outside and so for a moment there was a calm inside the house. Outside there was a cacophony of bursts, explosions, snaps and pops as the fireworks went off all around us in the neighborhood. Happy New Year to you all!

fireworks

blowing candlesBefore the guests arrived we had a baking project with two of our girls. One had received a cake pops set and the other a tiered mini cake mold for Christmas. With only a little help, they baked for the party. I suppose that for now they will still need help, but it won’t be long and they will be working independently in the kitchen. So quickly they grow up. Whenever there is a birthday, I always think back to the day the child was born and their personality that has unfolded so far. Each one has their own unique character. Our birthday boy is so passionate about the things that are important to him. I’m not sure if he gets that from his Dad or Mom or maybe both. And he is a visualist. We once walked into a sea museum. You could describe the building as contemporary, with lots of light colored wood and curved shapes. He walked in and his eyes became large as plates as he looked around and climbed the stairs that are in the entryway and exclaimed, “This is an art building!” He was four at the time.

grasshopper pie

Grasshopper Pie for a Celebration

This Grasshopper pie is very loosely based on the recipe by Nigella Lawson. I usually do not use food coloring when cooking and baking as I like to go the more natural way, but I do make an exception when there are birthday parties and especially ones for children. I figure that it can’t hurt to have one day a year, in addition to Christmas, that is a “dream-come-true” type of day.

26 cookies (Oreo, Domino etc.)
60 g/2 oz good quality dark chocolate (70%), roughly chopped
85 g/3 tbsp butter, melted

150 g/5 oz mini marshmallows or large ones cut up into small pieces
1 dl/1/2 c milk
1/2 tsp peppermint flavoring
2 candy canes, crushed
a few drops of green food coloring
3.3 dl/1.4 heavy whipping cream

domino cookies

For the cookie crumb crust, line the bottom of a 20 cm/8 inch springform pan with parchment paper. Remove the white filling from the cookies and discard. Crush the cookies and melt the butter. I use a onion chopper (that is not used for onions) as my cookie crusher. It is a neat and effecient way to crush cookies for cookie crumb crusts. In a bowl mix the crushed cookies, melted butter and chopped dark chocolate. Pour into the lined springform pan and press evenly to form the crust. Place in the refrigerator to chill.

marshmallows

For the filling, place the milk and marshmallows (cut into four, if using large ones) into a medium saucepan. Heat until the milk is foaming but not boiling and remove from the heat. Stir constantly so that the marshmallows melt and forms a smooth mixture. Allow to cool. After the marshmallow mixture is cooled, whip the cream and fold into the marshmallow mixture. Fold in the peppermint flavoring, green food coloring and crushed candy cane. Pour into the springform pan and allow to set in the refrigerator for at least four hours or until overnight. Using a vegetable peeler, make dark chocolate curls to garnish.

If marshmallows are not on hand, this pie could be made using gelatin leaves and sugar to taste instead of marshmallows and milk. The marshmallows contain gelatin and glucose syrup, giving it a soft texture. This is definitely not a health food, but sometimes a little treat perhaps helps our mental health.

grasshopper pie 2

Seven is a lucky number

by tableofcolors

Children start first grade here when they are seven. And it might be even a little more exciting if you happen to have a birthday in the same month. Most people have returned from their summer vacations and there is the anticipation of the new school year, new friends, riding your bike to and from school. I remember the feeling so clearly. It was like starting a new adventure.
cake decorator
Last week we celebrated with a house full of little ladies. Birthdays have a certain “routine” at our house. The older children are able to invite a friend or two to help with the games. With the count being at twenty including guests, our kids and helpers it helps to have a set plan. Dad helps supervise the games and makes sure it all goes smoothly. This frees me up a bit to run around with the camera to capture the moment.

A little over a month ago I visited Lahti and one of my favorite little shops there, Millan Putiikki, and found the cutest muffin tins and straws. I thought that they would be perfect for a party where the birthday girl is turning seven. I didn’t make cupcakes this time but they worked as place cards and had few sweets in them.
candy cups
bella and table
The birthday girl had a hard time deciding the flavor of the cake so we decided on alternating a Victoria Sponge and an easy but moist chocolate cake.

Menu
Chocolate and vanilla cake filled with alternating layers of chocolate whipped cream and raspberries and cream
Chocolate chip cookies
Mini hot dogs
Lucky hedgehog (grapes, cucumbers and cheese on cocktail sticks stuck into a half cabbage)
chips
candy
Jaffa and juice

hedgehog
happy birthdayBirthday cake

I baked the Victoria sponge cake that can be found here and alternated it with a chocolate cake recipe that I found from the BBC food website.

Moist Chocolate Cake

225 g/8 oz flour

350 g/12 and 1/2 oz sugar

85 g/30 oz dark cocoa powder

1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 and 1/2 tsp soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 eggs

250 ml/ 9 fl oz milk

125 ml/ 4 and 1/2 fl oz vegetable oil

2 tsp vanilla extract

250 ml/9 fl oz boiling water

Mix everything else except for the boiling water. Add the boiling water little at a time. The texture of the batter is quite liquid. Divide the batter between two tins that have been greased and floured or lined with parchment paper. Bake at 180 C/ 350 F for about 25-35 minutes or until a test skewer comes out clean.

Filling:

Whip 5 dl/ generous 2 cups of whipping cream and divide into two bowls. Melt 30 grams/1 ounce of dark chocolate and allow to slightly cool. Mix the melted chocolate with one half of the whipped cream.For the other filling mix 1 dl/ 1/2 cup of good quality raspberry preserve with 1 dl/ 1/2 cup of raspberries. Fill the cake by alternating the chocolate whipped cream and by spreading the raspberries and a layer of cream.

cut cakeI used a buttercream to frost the cake. Buttercream is versatile and works great at kids’ birthday parties. It is an easier medium to use when decorating the cake since it holds shape quite well. My favorite buttercream recipe can be found in my “Gone Fishing” post.

presentsInspiration for this post was found from a blog called “Liemessä”.

Previous posts on birthday parties: Birthdays are only once a year, A Cupcake birthday party, Gone Fishing and Congratulations and Celebrations

Grampa’s Banana Cream Pie and a Gluten-free version

by tableofcolors

During one of their trips to Finland, Grampa taught me how to make Banana Cream Pie. It is one of those recipes that I know by heart. I’m not sure if I have the actual written version anymore. It has been a well-loved recipe that has been made many, many times. This past weekend we finally celebrated the birthday of our two year-old Isabella whose actual birthday was in April and since my husband has a birthday in May this treat doubled up for both of them. It has been my husband’s favorite for years.
two years old
Since I am usually baking or cooking for a crowd, I made a double batch and made the pie crust in a 9×13” or 22×33 cm pan. I then slipped the crust out of the pan and placed it on a larger sheet for serving. Due to the straight sides of the pan, the sides did not stay up and folded over making the edges a bit thick. Since it does not have the traditional sides of a pie, the filling tended to spill over a bit. The most important thing was that the flavor was just as great as with a standard round pie. The recipe below is for a standard round pie.

Banana Cream Pie

Crust
3 dl/1.3 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
115 g/4 oz cold butter cut into cubes
1 1/2 tbsp cold lemon juice
2-3 tbsp ice cold water

I usually use my Kitchen aid and the flat beater for making the crust. You can definitely make it by hand as well. I mix the butter, salt and flour together so that it forms a crumbly mixture and then add in the lemon juice and water and mix just enough so that it can form a ball. After rolling out the dough and placing it in the pie tin, prick the bottom with a fork and refrigerate it for about 20-30 minutes. This minimizes the shrinkage of the crust during baking. Bake the crust at 225 C/435 F for about 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool.

Custard filling

The custard should be made well in advance so that it has a chance to chill properly. Make it the morning of or even the day before and refrigerate.

6 dl/2.5 c milk
1 1/2 dl/0.6 c sugar
1 vanilla bean
3 egg yolks
4 tbsp corn starch
1-2 tbsp water
30 g/1 oz butter
dash of salt
custard
Place the milk, sugar and one slitted vanilla bean in a heavy bottomed saucepan and allow to come to a boil. The sugar insures that the milk will not burn to the bottom. Allow to boil for a few minutes so that it has slightly condensed. Remove the vanilla bean. In a separate bowl whisk the egg yolks, cornstarch and water so that it forms a smooth paste. With a heat resistant cup take about 2.5 dl/1 cup of the boiling milk and mix it with the egg yolk mixture. Turn the heat on the boiling milk to low. Whisk half of the egg yolk-milk mixture with the boiling milk. Whisk constantly. After it has been incorporated, add the second half. This step insures that a smooth custard is formed that does not stick to the bottom of the pot.
Allow for the custard to boil for a minute or two so that it thickens, whisking constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in the butter and salt.
After is has cooled somewhat, place cling film directly on the custard. This prevents a skin from forming on the custard while it cools. After it has cooled to lukewarm, chill in the refrigerator.

Slice 2-3 ripe bananas on the pie crust and whip 2 dl/0.8 cups of heavy cream.
sliced bananas
Next spoon the chilled custard on the sliced bananas. Spoon the whipped cream on the custard and garnish with coconut or a dash of cinnamon.
banana cream pie
For a gluten-free version, omit the crust and spoon the custard into a glass single-serving bowl. Slice a half of a banana on the custard and garnish with whipped cream and a dash of cinnamon.
gluten free

bella

Taste tester

Taste tester

Links to Grampa’s previous recipes: Almond Braid, Fresh Fruit Tart, Cranberry Cake and Cranberry Walnut Scones

Rocky Road Party Treats

by tableofcolors

These Rocky Road treats have become a regular at our birthday parties. The first reason is that they taste good, the second reason is that they are so simple to make and the third reason is that they store well up to week so they can made a few days in advance if preferred. I’m always on the look-out for great ideas and recipes that are not too complicated to make. It’s a way to cut down on everyday stress.
rocky road 2

This recipe is from a Finnish women’s magazine, Kotivinkki. Click here for the orginal recipe in Finnish.

200 g/7 oz milk chocolate, broken into chunks
250 g/8.8 oz dark chocolate, broken into chunks
1 can (400g/14 oz) of condensed milk
50 g/1.7 oz butter
200g g/7 oz soft black liquorice cut into small bits
100g/3.5 oz mini marshmallows or large ones cut into four
3 dl/1.3 c salted peanuts
bits
Melt the chopped chocolate, condensed milk and butter in heavy bottomed saucepan at medium heat. Stir constantly.

Cut the the liquorice into smaller bits and marshmallows as well if using large ones.

Mix the liquorice, marshmallows and peanuts into the melted chocolate mixture and pour into a parchment paper lined lasagna pan (23x33cm or 9×13”). Place in the fridge and allow the Rocky Road toffee to harden for 4-6 hours.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to week or in the summer I have stored it in the refrigerator.
rocky roadThese would make the perfect little gift to bring along to a party wrapped up pretty in some cellophane and a bow.

Birthdays are only once a year

by tableofcolors

Fortunately we have a large family. We get to celebrate seven birthdays every year. And each birthday happens to be in a different month.
It’s a day that the kids wait for all year long. I let them choose a theme for the cake and then try my best to fulfill the wish. They plan their cakes for months, and the theme changes daily. It is somewhat like making a wish list for Christmas. I always tell them, you can wish and dream for as many things as you want but Santa can only bring a few of those things. I actually think that is a good excercise for the imagination.

I remember wishing for an American Girl doll, all of the neat outfits for them, reading the books about them and letting my imagination go to a time in history that was different than my own. At one point I tried to save the amount needed for the doll, but by the time I had saved the necessary one hundred dollars I was already a teen and the doll was not my top prioirity. I never really felt any true disappointment that I did not have the doll. I certainly did receive other gifts and was perfectly satisfied with them. Looking back, the memories of my imaginary adventures with the characters of the American Doll series maybe gave me more than actually owning the doll.

That is what I hope my children learn to do. To let their imagination run wild, wish for things, work for things and then to be satisfied even if every wish does not come true.

This past Saturday we celebrated Lilja’s birthday. I asked her what she would like for lunch since her Godparents were coming over. I suggested a puréed vegetable soup since it would be easy to do and suits everyone. Well our little foodie had different thoughts. She (very politely) requested focaccia with fondue. It has become a favorite food for our kids. Even the herbs go down with no complaints when they get to use the little spears to dip the bread in the sauce. Since it was her birthday I agreed to the request.

Lilja is an eager helper and that is what made the whole party so much fun. The menu was planned so that little hands can easily participate. A few days before the party we started with peanut butter blossoms.
This recipe I found on the Land O’Lakes website.

Peanut Butter Blossoms

60 g/ 1.18 dl/ 1/2 c butter/margarine (room temperature)
77 g/ 1.18 dl/ 1/2 c peanut butter
90g/ 1.18 dl/ 1/2 c sugar
81 g/ 1.18 dl/ 1/2 c brown sugar
Cream the butter, peanut butter and sugars.
Add in one egg and one teaspoon of vanilla.
200 g /4.1 dl/ 1 3/4 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp/ 5 g baking soda
Mix the flour, salt and baking soda in a separate bowl and fold into the cookie batter.

Refrigerate dough for 30-60 minutes and roll into 1-inch balls. If desired roll the balls in a bowl of sugar. Bake on a lined baking sheet for 8 minutes at 175C/350F. While baking, unwrap one Hershey’s Chocolate Kiss candy for each cookie. Remove cookies from the oven and press one Kiss on each cookie and bake for another 2 minutes. (In Finland I found Hershey’s Kisses at Stockmanns).

Peanut butter cookie dough balls

Unwrapping the chocolates

Peanut butter blossoms, platter courtesy of Millan Putiikki, Lahti

This year Lilja decided on a lamb cake. The design was inspired by dream.blogit.fi and was not too difficult to do.

Decorating the cake

To make the lamb cake, stack layers of cake with filling on top of each other. The top layer needs to be smaller for the “head”. Frost with buttercream, making sure the sides have a thick enough layer so that the marshmallows will stick. Roll out a black fondant or marzipan to cover the head. Use buttercream and little balls of black fondant/marzipan for the eyes. Form legs and ears using the black fondant/marzipan. Make small indentations for the nose.

We had quite the party. Lilja invited her friends and our oldest girl invited a few friends to help her with party games and a candy kiosk. The candy kiosk has become our party favorite. The older kids set up a candy kiosk behind a desk with an assortment of glass jars filled with different kinds of candy. They play spin the bottle to see who gets to “shop” first with play money. Each guest gets a little bag of candy which functions as a party favor. I think everyone had a good time. 🙂

Blowing out the candles

Since we had so many of us and even a few adults in the mix, I decided make a no-bake lemon cheesecake with raspberries to complement the lamb cake (a chocolate cake).

No-Bake Lemon Cheesecake with Raspberries

180 g/6.3 oz digestive cookies or graham crackers
50 g/1.7 oz butter melted
2 tbsp sugar

Crumble the cookies or crackers and mix in the melted butter and sugar. Pat firmly into a lined spring-pan form (23 cm/9″).

Cookie crumb crust

Place four gelatin leaves in cold water for about 10 minutes. Many recipes call for more gelatin, but I prefer a softer texture.

Gelatin leaves after being soaked in cold water

While the gelatin leaves are soaking make the filling. Whip 4 dl/1.7 c heavy whipping cream. Fold in 400 g/14 oz of plain cream cheese (fat content 13%) and blend until smooth.

Filling

Squeeze the water out of the gelatin leaves and pour about 3-4 tablespoons of boiling water over the soaked gelatin leaves and mix until dissolved. (If the gelatin mixture is goopy, add a little more boiling water) Pour the gelatin into the filling in a constant stream, mixing at the same time. Add 160 g/5.6 oz of lemon curd to the filling. Do not mix completely so that the lemon curd forms a “marble” pattern.

Lemon marble

Lemon Cheesecake with raspberries, cake stand courtesy of Millan Putiikki, Lahti

Let the cake set in the refrigerator over night. Garnish with raspberries and powdered sugar.