Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Pool Party!

Every year, the clever girl and one of her friends have their birthday parties together.  I am so lucky in that one of my good friends happened to have her first child less than 2 weeks after I had mine!  We have done joint birthday parties for the past 4 years!  Being June, in Texas, the only logical sort of birthday party to have is one that involves water, and my friend happens to have a pool!  Thank goodness!  We have done a princess/pirate party, an under the sea party, a beach party, and now a pool party.  (We have run out of theme ideas!)  Regardless, the main attraction is the pool!

This year, my wonderful friend did almost all of the preparations, since I had just had a baby and was in the midst of moving.  THANK YOU, FRIEND!!  My sole responsibility was the cake.  So I created a pool at the beach cake.  The cake itself is a vanilla buttermilk cake with classic buttercream frosting. 

Here is a list of the other fun cake components:
Sand:  ground graham crackers mixed with white/clear large grain decorating sugar for extra sparkle
Water:  frosting with some blue coloring gel
Beachball:  a peppermint ball
Characters:  honey Teddy Grahams floating in peach gummy rings or laying on  towels made of organic fruit strips cut into tiny rectangles
Cocktail umbrella for the beach umbrella
Toy palm trees from the party supply store

Originally, I was only going to make the cake, but I saw my friend the night before the party and she mentioned that over 30 people had RSVP'd so I freaked out a bit and made a last minute batch of cupcakes!  And I am glad I did - the kids loved the cupcakes and they sure look cute, don't they?

Besides cake, we also had:

 Nutter-Butter flip-flops

Rainbow fruit skewers
This was my friend's idea - brilliant, isn't it?  Colorful and fun!

 Mini-caprese salads (cherry tomato, basil, and mozzarella ball drizzled in balsamic vinegar)

Pasta salad with veggie pasta, veggie cups with ranch dressing at the bottom, jello jigglers (always a huge hit) and Sangria (for the parents, of course!)

Another home run birthday party!  I say, my friend and I have this down to a science now.  What will we ever do if our kids decide they want to have separate birthday parties? 

Vanilla Buttermilk Cake
adapted from Sweetapolita

4 whole eggs, at room temperature
2 egg yolks, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups cake flour, sifted
2 cups sugar
1 TB plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Butter the bottoms and sides of 3 8-inch round cake pans, like bottoms with parchment, and butter the parchment rounds.  Dust pans with flour.  (Note:  If you do not have 3 pans and need to reuse one to bake the rest of the cake, make sure you rinse the pan in cold water before re-buttering/flouring.  You don't want to put the batter in a hot pan!)

Whisk the eggs, yolks, 1/4 cup of the buttermilk, and vanilla together in a medium bowl.

Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixer bowl.  Add the butter and remaining 1 cup of buttermilk and blend with the mixer on low speed.  Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  

Add the egg mixture in 3 additions.  Scrape the sides and bottom of the mixer bowl and mix only until incorporated.

Divide the batter evenly among the 3 prepared pans, using a kitchen scale to achieve 3 even layers.  If you have never done this, you need to make sure you know the weight of your EMPTY mixer bowl first.  Then see what the bowl weighs with all of the batter inside.  Subtract the empty bowl weight from the full bowl weight and you have the weight of the batter.  Divide that by 3 - this is how much batter goes into each cake pan- we'll call this "one layer weight".  Subtract the one layer weight from the full bowl weight.  This is how much your mixing bowl should weigh after you fill the first cake pan.  Subtract the one layer weight again, and this is how much your mixer bowl will weigh after you fill the second cake pan.  If you did your math right, what you have left should be the amount of the empty bowl plus one layer weight!  
For visual learners:
FULL BOWL WEIGHT - ONE LAYER WEIGHT = amount in bowl after first cake pan is filled
FULL BOWL WEIGHT - ONE LAYER WEIGHT - ONE LAYER WEIGHT = amount in bowl after second cake pan is filled, which should be equal to 

Bake the cake layers for 28-32 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean and the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.  Let the layers cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

Classic Buttercream Frosting
adapted from Sweetapolita

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
6 cups powdered (confectioners) sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 TB vanilla extract
1 TB water
pinch of salt

Beat the butter and sugar on low speed in an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until just combined.  Increase the speed to medium and beat until all of the sugar is incorporated into the butter, about 3 minutes.

Add the whipping cream, vanilla extract, water and salt, and whip on medium-high until fluffy and smooth, about 3 more minutes.  If the consistency is too thick, add more water 1 teaspoon at a time and then whip again.  If the consistency is too thin, add more powdered sugar a few tablespoons at a time, until you achieve your desired consistency. 

This recipe makes a classic vanilla (white) cake.  It is moist and flavorful and perfect for any birthday (or other celebration) cake, pool party or not!

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