ANYONE reading this with kids at nursery or at school will be familiar with weekends packed with children’s birthday parties.
There seem to be birthday parties all the time, which means not just taxi-ing but also a lot of planning to fit the weekend around the usual activities. Some weekends we just couldn’t do without the help of our friends or family.
It was our eldest boy Kasper’s sixth birthday last month, which of course was the highlight of the year for him. For several weeks beforehand, he was talking about it and planning it and I obviously got excited listening to his thoughts on the food. He wanted to have a birthday breakfast for his friends – probably because he loves hanging out in his onesie or pyjamas as much as he can.
The idea of a birthday breakfast really worked for us and Kasper and I had a lot of fun planning the food.
Our kids love soldiers and boiled eggs for breakfast. This is possibly one of the easiest breakfasts to make and you can usually whip it up in no time at all. I usually make my own homemade tomato chutney, instead of serving tomato ketchup. I really prefer the flavour so much more than the bottled tomato version and I can’t help thinking it’s so much healthier for the children and much tastier too.
The kids at our party seemed to love it and got stuck into crispy bacon butties, sausages and drop scones lathered with my homemade chutney. I usually make a big batch of chutney and then keep it in fridge to use throughout the week.
Another big hit with our kids is a chocolate birthday cake, this year with a football theme. This is a perennial favourite which you can be sure will score a result with all of your party guests, young and old.
Boiled eggs and toast with homemade tomato chutney
Free-range eggs as required
For the tomato chutney
(makes around 1kg)
1kg of chopped tomatoes
1 tsp tomato purée
2 cloves of garlic – sliced
1 onion – chopped
1 tsp sugar
500ml red wine vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
Heat a heavy-bottomed pan. Add a splash of olive oil, then add the onion and garlic and sweat gently for 2-3 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and a teaspoon of tomato purée, then cook it out. Add the red wine vinegar, bay leaf, sprig of thyme, clove and the sugar. As they start to cook, a lot of liquid will start to come out of the tomatoes. Cook slowly for 20-25 minutes, then taste and season. Leave to cool before blending in a food processor. Pass through a sieve and keep in small kilner jars sealed in the fridge (you can keep them for around 2-3 weeks).
For the eggs
Fill a saucepan with enough water to cover the eggs by about 1cm. Bring it to the boil and when large bubbles are breaking on the surface lower the eggs (from room temperature) into the water. Simmer the eggs for exactly one minute. Remove the pan from the heat, put a lid on it and set the timer to either 6 minutes for a soft, fairly liquid yolk and a white that is just set, or 7 minutes to get a firmer, more creamy yolk with a white that is completely set. Serve with buttered toast soldiers.
For the cake
100g unsalted butter
250g caster or brown sugar
50ml sunflower oil
25g cocoa powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 medium free-range eggs
100ml double cream
300g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
For the filling
125ml whipped cream, or to taste jam
For the icing
buttercream (to coat cake before icing)
– 150g unsalted butter
– 300g icing sugar, sieved
– 3 tbsp cocoa powder
500g ready to roll white icing
100g ready to roll black icing
50g ready to roll red icing
football cake mould
a number cookie cutter
To make the chocolate cake
For the cake, line the base of the football cake tin mould with non-stick paper and preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4. Melt the butter over a low heat in a small pan, pour it into a bowl with the sugar, oil, cocoa powder and vanilla. Beat well until smooth, then whisk in the eggs followed by the milk and cream. Sift the flour and baking powder into the butter mixture and beat until smooth, then spoon into the prepared tin and cover the top of the tin with aluminium foil. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for a further 20 minutes, or until the top is springy and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and set aside to cool completely. Meanwhile, to make the cocoa buttercream, mix the cocoa powder and icing sugar in a bowl. Melt the butter for a few seconds in a microwave, or in a small pan over a low heat. Mix the melted butter into the sugar and cocoa and stir until smooth.
To assemble the cake, remove the cake from the tin, trim the bottom to make it flat, then cut it in half horizontally. Put the bottom half of the cake on to a serving plate and spread with whipped cream. Top with jam. Place the top half on top and spread all over with the cocoa buttercream.
To decorate the cake
Roll out the white icing and then place over the cake. Gently smooth it out over the cake with a spatula and then trim the edges carefully with a knife or icing cutter. Take your football shape mould and press gently over the cake so you create a hexagonal pattern.
You can then use your mould to create the black hexagons. Roll out your black icing. Press it gently over the top of the mould so you get the impression of one of the hexagons. Take a cutter or small knife and gently and carefully cut round the hexagon shape. Repeat six times so you get enough black hexagons. Smooth the edges and then line up with the markings on the iced cake. Finally, go over the lines you have indented with your small knife or icing cutter to sharpen up the markings.
Roll out your red icing, and then cut out the number with your number cookie cutter. Smooth the edges then place in the middle of the cake.