Inviting a group of rambunctious children to an afternoon party at home is actually a pleasure— yes a pleasure. I survive by keeping the party outside in the garden and by the pool. There is nothing like lots of physical activities to keep everyone exhausted and happy.
Indicate on the invitation that parents are to stay for the duration. Unless you have organized lots of extra help, it is not fair to yourself to have to oversee other people’s children, take photos of the blowing of candles and worry about stray chocolate crumbs on the carpet, all at the same time. It’s about being a hostess, not a superwoman.
You would be surprised how willing parents are to suffer the chaos of a child’s party when they know hors d’oeuvres and a glass of white wine are in the offing (lacing the pink lemonade for adults with a little vodka isn’t a bad idea, either!). Plan to offer something a little more sophisticated than peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. In truth, I never serve PB&Js anyway, since nut allergies have become all too common among children.
While on the food subject, don’t think that children will appreciate a three-layer mille-feuille-double-caramel petit four. Make foods they recognize, just better. In addition to some savory and sweet dishes, offer a fruit platter stocked with grapes, strawberries and melon and incorporate some color by slipping a few green leaves here and there, specially into sandwiches.
Unless you are the ultimate baker, rely on professionals to make cakes. A triple-chocolate four-tier birthday cake might impress the captive parents, but it will mean nothing to your child that you slaved in the kitchen for days to make it. All they will remember is the figurine that decorates the cake. Trust me.
Be inclusive with your guest list and invite if possible your child’s whole class to avoid hurt feelings and misunderstandings; siblings should always be welcome. Keep the party short and sweet; two hours of planned activities is perfect. It’s fine if your good friends want to linger, but do state on the invitation the beginning and end of the party. Especially the end!
Include your children in making, writing and mailing invitations. Ask their input in planning the menu and let them choose their birthday cake. They can also help decorate the garden with balloons and put together a treasure hunt if so inclined. And yes, they should also help with writing thank-you notes. All these events are great teaching tools, with the enticement of the present, comes the responsibility of the thank you note.
Remember that this is supposed to be fun so take lots of photos and keep it short; these are the memories your children will cherish forever.
This incredibly easy to make cake is one of my favorites. Delicious warm or cold, it is a sensational gilt-free dessert. Use very good quality chocolate like Lindt. I love it as is but my children take it with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.
2 cups chocolate
5 extra large eggs separated
1 cup powder sugar
1 cup ground almonds
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a spring form pan. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler until smooth. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar until pale in color and double in size. Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Using a spatula, mix together the egg and sugar mixture with the ground almonds, add the chocolate and fold in the egg whites. Pour into the prepared pan and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the edges begin to separate from the pan and the center is just set. Cool, remove from the pan, transfer to a decorative plate and sprinkle with powder sugar. ■