Birthday Party Planning doesn’t have to be stressful, mama! From food to decor, here’s how to keep things simple … and delicious!
It’s that special (aka dreaded) time of year that your little one has been squealing about for the past 364 days…and whether it’s a Peppa, Avengers or Harry Potter theme, everything has to be perfect for that little demanding yet precious piece of your heart’s birthday party. There are the moms who will host each and every birthday party, they will plan ahead and make things, bake things, they possess Pinterest-like crafting skills and will do everything meticulously and from scratch.
Then there are moms (like me) who prefer to keep things as simple and manageable as possible which means occasional hosting (with some outsourcing) or full outsourcing which means hosting the party at a one stop shop entertainment venue; from trampoline parks to indoor playgrounds and clubs…there are certainly no shortage of options in Singapore.
If you are hosting your child’s birthday party at home…good luck! Okay, okay on a more helpful note keep in mind the key components to success—décor (order online, trust me and thank you Mtrade for supporting all the themes my 4 year old could ever desire!) cake, food, entertainment and favours.
Today we will focus on the cake and food. Here are 3 ideas to up the fun factor while also keeping your sanity mama!
Sure, lots of mums like to bake, and often use their children as guinea pigs for what looks like Pinterest projects gone wrong (I have a lovely friend of a friend whose child’s birthday cake looked strangely similar to a man’s private bits).
Prior to a cake project, consider doing some introspecting — are you good at this? Can you handle an icing cone bag and do you possess dexterity? Only if the answers to all these questions are a resounding ‘yes!’ proceed to the next step, otherwise, do yourself a favour and order a cake from an expert…you will be supporting someone’s small business and saving yourself a bunch of time and tears.
If, like me, you have limited and questionable fine motor skills but are a pretty decent cook, attempt to go simple. With my son’s food sensitivities, I usually bake a small gluten free cake at home with some simple icing sugar sprinkled over the top or an intentionally messy smearing of icing (thank you Betty Crocker for your ready-to-use icing tub, which while highly processed, is an item I will highly regard and revere this one time of the year) and so I personally try to do a combination of a small cake and cupcakes that little ones (and even big ones, you know who you are) really enjoy.
READ MORE: The Best Birthday Cake Bakeries in Singapore
Cupcakes are a genius invention, really, and who doesn’t love having their own piece of iced heaven to dig into? Cutting a giant cake is messy business and kids are always fighting over which piece they want, because why would you want a piece with just icing when you can have a globby fondant animal on it!? Cupcakes allow us to skip this chaos, and if you have bubs below the age of 4, mini cupcakes are even better. Items like cake toppers, cupcake rings and fancy sparkly candles MUST feature in your shopping list, and will make any cake or cupcake appear amazing at once, forgiving all icing errors instantly.
Make It Mini
It’s a great idea to use a toothpick or mini prong for finger foods such as mini sausage rolls (pigs in a blanket) or even meatballs, cheese and fruit combos and mini burgers. The ideal home party menu should be an assortment of bite-sized food that looks appealing, is easy to handle and eat..
Mini food requires some patience to whip up and serve, but think about the food you want to serve and then how you can miniaturize it. For example, ideally you want at least 5-6 savoury items and since we have cake and cupcakes we usually only do fruit as the other sweet item. The fruit can be skewered and you can add a sticker at the end or a grape even, so kids can pick up the skewers safely. Lets say you’ve decided to serve the usual kid-friendly pizza, pasta, burgers, and so on, consider mini versions of the same.
We made mini burgers (aka sliders) for my son’s 4th birthday party and then used stickers around one end of a toothpick which we inserted into each burger…cute! Plus this held the burger together! Pasta can be served in sweet little muffin cups (check out Phoon Huat stores islandwide) and this not only keeps serving sizes kid-friendly but also makes for a much prettier table presentation rather than a giant unsightly bowl of pasta plus you skip the messy serving part. My son’s recent party was a Finding Nemo & Dory Party so we even popped different flavoured fish-shaped crackers into wee little cups (all from Phoon Huat) that the kids just gobbled up.
Plan, Prep & Beautify
Check with your guests on dietary restrictions and allergies before planning your menu. List out your menu and everything you will need to prepare, cook and serve each dish. Items like mini burger buns can often be tricky to find, so make sure you do a recce trip for your ingredients and know where you are buying things from… plus don’t forget to order in advance items that may not always readily be available (i.e. lamb mince). I always do a big online grocery order a few days ahead for drinks, paper towels, foil, candles and other things I might have forgotten. Plan your serving dishes and serving spoons.
For mini sized food, having cute little trays on hand (I love the YAY tray and also IKEA and Marimekko do awesome trays) helps bring the items from the kitchen to the table and these trays can be directly placed on the table as a nice way to group and present the dish.
As with my cake strategy, I recommend a mix of cooking at home and outsourcing to keep things manageable while offering an impressive variety (birthday party wow factor = variety) but whatever items you do choose to cook, start prepping a day or two in advance.
Pasta sauces and condiments can be made ahead, fruit and veg should be cut the same day. Your table should not be an afterthought—presentation is a big deal. Channel your inner Instagrammer and get creative! Setting the table should be done the morning of the party — think layers, a fun table cover (feel free to use a plastic ‘in-theme’ tablecloth from the décor online store—we won’t judge, there are kids involved and your lovely table MUST be protected), but then go ahead and splurge on some lovely flowers placed into cute vases, theme-centric table toppers (I placed a bunch of my son’s superhero toys on the table for his superhero party), confetti and even fancy placemats. Then plan where each dish or tray of mini food is going to go; place dishes in the outer circumference of the table for easy access and remove all dining chairs.
The cake table should be separate from your main dining table where you’ll serve the food. Don’t be that mom who scrambles for candles, a lighter and cake server at the last second (yes, I’ve been there many times) and keep everything prepped and ready.
Regarding tableware, for my son’s party, we rented kid-sized tables and chairs from Bouncy Castles for the kids and they supply colorful table covers as well.
Recipe: Spiced Up Sausage Rolls
12 ounces (340 g) sausages (preferably English “bangers” or other flavored sausages, and if you don’t eat pork, you can substitute with flavored chicken or lamb sausages)
2 tablespoons (25 ml) water
Pinch of salt
¼ teaspoon red chili powder
¼ teaspoon coriander powder
¼ teaspoon garam masala
A splash of milk
1 frozen puff pastry sheet (available at all supermarkets), about 9 by 10 inches (23 by 25 cm)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Use a knife to slit open the sausage casing; push the meat out into a glass or metal bowl. Add the water, salt, chili powder, coriander, and garam masala. Mix well (don’t be shy, get in there with your hands!).
- In a separate small bowl, whisk the egg and milk to make a wash for the pastry.
- Take the frozen puff pastry sheet from the freezer; I like to use the pre-rolled ones because I enjoy time-saving when I can. (In case your pastry isn’t pre-rolled, roll it out on a lightly floured surface to about the thickness of a coin, in a rectangle or square shape.) Remember to work with the pastry while it’s cold—otherwise, it starts getting sticky and messy.
- Place the pastry on a well-greased baking sheet, or use parchment paper to line the sheet. It’s easiest to create the rolls on the baking tray so that you don’t have to handle them later. Cut the pastry lengthwise into two big pieces so that you are looking at two vertical rectangles.
- Then divide the sausage mixture in half. Use your hands to roll each portion into a long sausage shape. Place the sausage meat down in the center of each pastry rectangle.
- Using your fingers or a pastry brush, rub the egg wash all along the pastry on either side of the meat. (The wash will act as a glue when you roll the pastry over.) Lift the pastry on one of the long sides, and place it over the meat; then keep rolling to form a neat, tight sausage roll. Cover the entire surface of the sausage rolls with the remaining wash; this will ensure they bake to a nice golden brown.
- Before baking, cut the rolls into any size portions you like. I prefer mini-rolls because they are easy to munch on and great to serve as finger food. After cutting, separate the pieces a little so that they bake evenly.
- Bake for about 25 minutes. Every oven is different, so keep an eye on these puppies. Once golden brown and puffy, the rolls can be served warm and fresh out of the oven.
In the end, no matter what, home parties are always a bit chaotic and maddening but tons of fun and super memorable for the whole family…especially your little one! As you sit with your feet up and sip on your Prosecco long after the kids have worked off their sugar high and gone to bed, you will feel a sense of joy, achievement and fulfillment while silently vowing to never host another kiddy birthday party at home again!
Pssst! If you’d like to learn more kid-pleasing recipes, I’ll be teaching a kids’ cooking classes (for children aged 5-10) on 16 September at the new Providore Cooking Studio in the CBD. Click here for all the deets, mama!