Cupcakery Abounds


This weekend I had the pleasure of attending my first Meet-Up with the All About Food in Tallahassee group. Having found out about the group from a TNG (Tallahassee Nerds & Geeks) member, that makes 2 for 2 meeting fabulous folks.

As you might have guessed, the theme, flavor and activity of choice for the meetup was cupcakes.

Coffee table filled with finished cupcakes and cookies, at least 60

We had at least 60 decorated cupcakes by day's end.

Our hostess is quite the cake decorator, herself, and I was a happy helper monkey busting out my old supplies and my somewhat-rusty piping skills to make my own creations as well as help others get the hang of things with theirs.

It almost makes me want to teach for Wilton again.

Except for the whole time thing. Or, rather, the lack thereof.

But for a day’s outing, it was a nice return to my old creative stomping grounds.

To host your own cupcake afternoon, here’s the skinny on how our hostess made it so very enjoyable.

1. Start with your supplies.

Steff had plenty of decorating tools for folks to use and the ones I brought made a good back-up when the frosting started flying.

Tables are required since the cakes have to sit somewhere; she put a cover on her pool table as a second table to allow plenty of table-space for everyone.

The table laden with supplies and inspiration.

The table laden with supplies and inspiration, just waiting for us to start.

2. Gather the troops and get them to bring things.

Several people brought un-iced cupcakes and a few people brought cookies. Others brought candies and toppings to be used in decorating.

Of course, meetups can’t live by sugar alone! There was also plenty of savory snacking to be had to fend off the sugar coma pure icing would have otherwise caused.

Savory foods laid out for snacking

Savory foods laid out for snacking

This meant that we didn’t actually start decorating for a while, instead we had the usual nosh and nose-around-people’s-lives until the last folks had arrived.

3. Give ’em their marching orders and let the wild cupcaking begin!

A few words of guidance from Steff and it was pretty much catch-as-catch can. The cupcakes were moved around to make room for people to work, tools were grabbed and the icing started to flow.

Scraps piping fishnet stockings onto a cookie

Piping fishnet stockings onto a cookie.

One enterprising attendee made peanut butter cookie people (and his own cutter/mold, too) and decided to make both the girls and the boys. Alas, when presented with such a start, there was nothing else to do but dress the boobalicious peanut butter girl in some fishnets and lingerie.

Then someone wanted some guidance building a cupcake pooch from one of the books available for inspiration. She did such an amazing job–I was so proud.

An excellent student and her creation

An excellent student and her creation

4. After about 4 hours, send everyone home with as many cupcakes as they can carry!

Oh, there were so many cupcakes. In addition to the 60 or so that were decorated, there were easily 3 dozen that left as naked as they arrived. They were divvied up and everyone who wanted had a little something extra to bring home.

Tip: Disposable carry-out containers are available at most warehouse and restaurant supply stores. Having some extras on hand for these sorts of things never hurts.

An afternoon spent cupcaking, cooking, or crafting with friends is a fantastic way to pass a day. And if you don’t have a group of like-minded individuals to do that with, already, check out and find some new ones.

To see the rest of my photos from the day, check out my Google+ album.

Tales of a Party: Fairy Fest 2011


Have you ever had a party with low attendance because everyone else had the same party date? Happens all the time with all the big holidays and some of the smaller ones, too.

Next time, be the happy guest at your friend’s party and let open your own home for a lesser-known holiday on another weekend.

One suggestion? Late June gives us the longest day of the year (well, at least the one with the longest amount of daylight) on the Summer Solstice, a holiday also known as Midsummer (or Letha) in some circles.

This year was our 2nd Midsummer Fairy Fest and Frolic, with an evening start time (to take advantage of the late-day sun while escaping some of the late-June heat), plenty of lighting for when the sun did go down and a small bonfire (we’re under a burn ban due to drought, so the fire pit had to do instead of the larger one we’d hoped to have). Music played from a well-concealed iPod and fairies frolicked around the yard. (Why fairy fest? Lore has it that fairies are more easily seen at the Solstice, if you know where to look!)

Photo collage of Fairy Fest decorations

Guests were encouraged to come in costume if they felt so inclined, and there was plenty of sun and fairy-focused foods to nosh on while enjoying each other’s company.

Photo collage of food pictures from Fairy Fest 2011

(click for a better--larger--view)

Since it does tend to be infernally hot, even in June these days, I wanted to keep the menu light but tasty. Some guests were a bit put out that my usual bacon and potato-laden goodies didn’t make it onto this party menu, but that was before they tasted what new dishes we served up!

The Menu

  • Sliced ham, sliced roast beef and Fruited Chicken Salad served with a variety of breads (Parker House Rolls, Potato Rolls, Mini Corn Muffins and Marigold Buns*) as well as mayonnaise, whole-grain mustard and creamy horseradish as a make-your-own sandwich bar.
  • Vegetables were represented by Carrot Fritters*, Mushroom & Minted-Pea Beggars Purses*, Roasted Red Pepper and Garlic Hummus with Pita Crisps, Floral Cheese Tartlets* and Spinach Puffs.
  • Desserts were kept light and simple with a variety of melons, Fairy Cakes*, Cornish Saffron Cakes* and S’mores fixings.
  • In addition to several beers and lambics, we also had homemade Limoncello, Lemonade and Sun-Worshipper Punch to keep everyone nice and hydrated.

A lot of the menu items (everything marked with an asterisk–though the beggars purses were a blend of 2 recipes) came from a book I picked up some time ago: Celtic Folklore Cooking by Joanne Asala. What’s fun about this book is that in addition to some out-of-the-ordinary recipes, stories and lore, each recipe notes which holiday (of those in the Celtic wheel of the year) it is appropriate for–making planning a party like this much easier!

The surprise favorites were the Carrot Fritter and the Floral Cheese Tartlets–my baby brother happily ate flowers!  Of course, not everything was a hit. The Cornish Saffron Cakes were more like dense biscuits and were less than favored. Oh, well, for trying so many new recipes for the party, having only one dud is still pretty good odds.

What out of the ordinary holidays do you like to celebrate?

This coverage of Fairy Fest 2011 is being linked up with the CSI Project: Parties and Picnics Challenge!


Supper Clubs Made Simple


Last week we talked about dining out and splitting the check, but what about that alternative–staying in? If you’ve got a group of like-minded individuals and want to get more bang for your entertainment buck, a supper club scenario may be just the thing!

At it’s heart, a supper club is like a book club only your sharing food instead of literary opinions–okay, you can certainly do both (after all, you’ve got to have something to talk about between bites). Each person takes a turn at hosting, but from there you can choose between a couple of approaches.

  • One person supplies the entire meal. This boils down to taking turns throwing a dinner party. It can be for club members only or include significant others, depending on space constraints and the wishes of the participants.
  • Each person brings a part of the meal. Sounds like a pot-luck but there’s usually a theme, rhyme or reason behind the offerings. The hostess could either assign a dish–sharing a specific recipe–or ask for something with a key ingredient or component, but acting as coordinator ensures a balanced meal. Each meal the participants rotate roles, that way no one always gets stuck with the main dish. This also works well if not everyone has company-ready homes (small apartments can either make for difficult arrangements or creative solutions).
  • A progressive supper. Great for larger groups–items can be served cocktail or buffet-style–in a particular neighborhood or geographical area. Each home takes a course and folks travel between places for each. If alcohol is served, a designated driver with a van might be a good idea if the homes are not within walking distance of each other.

How the meals are organized, beyond the hostess, can get pretty creative, too. A particular cookbook could be the source for the group for a single meal or several, the better to vet a new book by a favorite author. Themes could be arranged (or chosen from a hat) for each. Less experienced cooks could pair up with those with more–like my Kitchen Day–and joint meals presented. Or, like a group I once participated in, a single ingredient can be chose for each meeting and each person brings something (not necessarily a full course) that best uses the ingredient with information to share.

Most important, of course, is to have fun. It’s not, after all, about the size of your dining room (have an indoor picnic in the living room if that’s where you’ve got the most space!) or getting out the fine china (though, by all means, use it if you’ve got it!) but hanging out with good food and good friends, or those on their way to becoming them.

The Naughty & Nice Party


Also known as a Heaven & Hell or Angel & Devil Party, this style of Valentine’s Party is a good way to bring both couples and singles together in a fun, low-pressure environment and have a little fun.

Invitations will ask the guests to come as either angels or devils. Now, depending on your friends this could mean anything from a halo or a pair of horns to fabulous costumes or even just wearing white and pink versus black and red. As long as they get into the spirit, it can be fun. Having some spare halos and horns (both very easy to construct if the party store isn’t helpful) is a good idea, though, for those who “forget” to embrace the theme.

Party rooms are to be divided in half–one side for Heaven, one side Hell, the former decorated in pastels and white and the latter decorated in bold shades of red and black. Colorful masking or painters tape is good for creating the dividing lines to keep it simple or you can go all out with spliced tablecloths , rug covers and sofa throws. Don’t restrict the decorations to the living room, either, feel free to divide any room your guests might wander into.

Potential foods for the angelic side of the table would be anything white, fluffy or sweet. Angel food cake, marshmallows, finger sandwiches , hummus & pita chips would all work well along with steamed dumplings, beggar’s purses and chicken salad puffs; all served on doilies or course. For the other side of the table, everything dark and spicy and decadent should be piled high on industrial looking serving-ware. Dark chocolates, devil’s food and red velvet cupcakes, deviled eggs (consider adding some onion skins to the boiling water and cracking the shells around before draining them to get a wicked-looking marbled effect), spicy shrimp on sugar cane skewers, meatballs in chili sauce… you get the picture.

One other idea, and I’ll leave the rest to your imagination: the party I attended of this sort had 2 colors of plastic cups and the instructions were given that single folks were to use the blue cups and those in a relationship or otherwise unavailable to use the red ones. What a great idea for eliminating the guessing in such a charged situation! Granted, if you didn’t want to use plastic cups at your party, wine glass charms in 2 distinct designs would work just as well.

This sort of shindig doesn’t have to be limited to Valentine’s Day, but it is as good an excuse as any!