Annabel Langbein: Kids' birthday parties
We were reminiscing about kids’ birthday parties the other day and my daughter Rose, who is now 24, reminded me of the time I hired a magician for her birthday party when she was 3 or 4. She was so terrified of this skinny, pale man with a black gown and a funny hat, that she hid behind me, clutching my skirt and sobbing for the entire party. Another time we had a Harry Potterthemed party for her brother. I got in all this dry ice, and Rose walked on it and burnt her foot quite badly.
The thing is, kids’ birthday parties aren’t all plain sailing. There will be tantrums and feuds, bad behaviour, slights and grievances, possibly biting. Someone will feel left out and definitely someone will need to announce their feelings that, ‘It’s not fair!”
If you don’t have children, you‘re probably not aware of all the palaver that constitutes a children’s birthday party. Just working out who is invited is fraught, with the potential for major fall-outs. Do you remember that scene in the TV series Big Little Lies, when Madeline, one of the rich mothers, on finding out that one of the other high-powered mums has invited everyone but Ziggy to Amabella’s birthday party, decides to go to war. She gets tickets to a very expensive Disney show for the same day as the party and gives them out to every child in the kindergarten. Hell knoweth no fury like a parent wronged.
There are games, themes, transportation and adventures to organise. Money flying out of your pocket like water through a sieve. And then there is the food. You know you will be judged by the food. The children will think you are miserable if you fail to put out junk food, and other parents will think you are irresponsible if you do. I say cover all bases. Put out the bowls of chippies and cheerios and sweet treats, but include raw vege sticks and fruit skewers as well.
The cake is another hurdle. We had Barbie coming out of a cake one year, a few years of cake trains decorated with thousands of M&Ms, fairy cakes, caterpillars — you name it, I made it.
One year, I was so busy and exhausted that I went and ordered a cake. The thing cost as much as a fancy dinner out for two people, but it was indeed glorious, and Rose can still remember it, a huge blue dolphin with about 3cm of moulded plastery icing. Oh my, the stakes went up that year.
But the reality is that the kids won’t even notice what kind of cake it is or how long it took you to make it. They just want cake and candles and the more lollies on it the better.
I hope this week’s recipes help take some of the stress out of your next celebration.
This easy chocolate caramel sauce is also wonderful served over icecream. You can make it in bulk and store it in the fridge. It can be reheated to soften multiple times. Get the recipe.
Easy homemade and delicious, these nibbles tick all the boxes for kids’ party food. I prefer to use chicken thighs as they stay juicy when cooked, but you can use breast meat if you prefer. They freeze well — just put them on a tray and free-flow into bags when frozen. Thaw before cooking. Get the recipe.
I like to brew up my own tomato sauce so I can make sure it’s free from additives and colourings and contains as little sugar as possible. In summer and autumn I use fresh tomatoes and plums, but in winter canned tomatoes and plums work just as well. Get the recipe.
Essential Volume Two, Sweet Treats for Every Occasion (Annabel Langbein Media, $65) is a beautiful compendium of Annabel’s best-ever sweet recipes and cooking tips. It makes a wonderful gift or treat for yourself, and it’s on sale now at Paper Plus, Whitcoulls, The Warehouse and all good bookstores. Find out more at annabellangbein.com or follow Annabel on Facebook or Instagram.