We’re always on the lookout for fun party ideas here at StyleBlueprint, especially those offering a creative approach to celebrating repeat events in new, fresh ways. Birthdays, for example. Now by this chapter of the book, most of us have run the gamut in terms of planning and participating in birthday celebrations. Whether it’s for our family members or friends, we’ve pretty much seen it all. Jello shooters (hypothetically speaking, of course) at your fave college bar when you turned 21? Check. Pony rides, princess Barbie and paint ball parties for the kids? Done. Surprise birthday-ending-with-an-“0” for your spouse? Crossing it off the list. It’s all great!
Recently, though, I had the chance to attend the funnest (not grammatical, I know) party ever, and wanted to share it with everyone, as it gets right to the point of why we write at SB in the first place…connecting with our girlfriends. We race here and there, balancing many responsibilities everyday, yet lots of women I talk to wax nostalgic about wanting to carve a little more time out for themselves and their near-n-dears. “Remember when the kids were small and we would arrange play dates to spill over into tea time, then cocktail hour, and possible dinner? <sigh> Those were the days. Now it’s all homework this and sports that…” GNO is an antidote, yes, but given the family and work-related commitments that fill up our calendars, it’s not always easy to secure a hall pass for an evening out with friends. So, here’s a solution that not only puts a clever spin on the birthday celebration ritual, but opens up a whole new realm of opportunity for girl time – a breakfast party! Check it out…
A few weeks back, I had a voice message from a friend inviting me to “come as you are” on a Thursday for breakfast to help celebrate another friend’s birthday. “Bring yourself in your workout clothes or your go-to-meeting clothes, but show up at 8:30 for ‘no gift’ birthday breakfast and we’ll have a fun visit,” she said. An opportunity to close my laptop, get out of my regular work routine a chat it up with some favorite friends? How could I refuse? So with the kids securely at school, and work on hold for a bit, I took her at her word literally, and on the appointed day ran from my house to hers for the party. I arrived, albeit a little sweaty, on this perfectly clear fall morning, and the hostess greeted me (and a handful of more stylishly attired friends) with a big smile and a steaming cup of coffee. Ahhh. Perfect! Makes me smile now to think back on this as I write…
As the party wound down and people began to depart, it was clear there was consensus about this gathering. All the accolades extended to the hostesses confirmed that the breakfast birthday party was a perfect way for busy women to connect and honor a friend on her special day. Bravo!
Now, onto that cake…
Apple-Spice Layer Cake with Caramel Swirl Icing
- 1 1/2 cups 3 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
- 3 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons light molasses
- 6 large eggs
- 3 cups cake flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground allspice
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 cup sour cream
- 3 Granny Smith apples peeled and shredded (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger optional
- One 14-ounce bag caramels
- 4 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 cups 3 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 cup 8 ounces mascarpone (Italian cream cheese, available at most grocery stores)
- 2 cups pecan pieces toasted (optional)
- Place one oven rack in the bottom third of the oven and a second rack in the top third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease three 9-inch cake pans with butter or cooking spray, then line each with a parchment paper round and grease the rounds. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Beat in the molasses. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, and ground spices to blend. Add the flour mixture and sour cream alternately to the batter. (Start and end with the flour mixture, adding the flour mixture in 3 increments and the sour cream in 2 increments.) After each addition, mix on low speed just to combine the ingredients. Stir in the shredded apples, vanilla, and ginger.
- Spoon the batter (it will be thick) evenly into the prepared pans. Place two cake pans side by side on one rack and the third on the other. Stagger the cake layers on the oven racks so that no layer is directly over another. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until firm to the touch. Monitor the layers carefully for doneness; each one may be done at a different time. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pans and unmold the cakes onto wire racks to cool completely, 15 to 30 minutes, before frosting. The cakes can be kept frozen, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 3 weeks. Defrost them at room temperature before unwrapping. Frost immediately.
- To make the icing: In a medium stainless-steel bowl, combine the unwrapped caramels, 2 tablespoons of the cream, and the 2 tablespoons butter. Place over a saucepan filled with 2 inches of simmering water. Stir the caramel mixture until smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat. Let cool, stirring the mixture every few minutes until cool to the touch, about 20 minutes. (If the mixture is too warm, it will melt the buttercream frosting when it is stirred in later.)
- While the caramel is cooling, make the butter cream: Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the 1 1/2 cups butter on medium-high speed for about 1 minute, until pale in color. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons cream and the vanilla and powdered sugar, and beat for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the mascarpone and beat on medium-low speed until incorporated. Do not overbeat the mascarpone, or it may separate. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooled caramel mixture to drizzle over the cake once it is frosted. Stir the remainder of the caramel into the frosting, using large strokes to create caramel swirls throughout. Don't stir it too much or the ribbons of caramel will disappear.
- Place one cake layer on a serving plate and spread a thick blanket of frosting on top. Add the second layer and spread thickly with frosting. Add the third layer and cover the top and sides of the cake with an even layer of frosting. Use a small spoon to drizzle the reserved 1/4 cup of caramel over the top of the cake. Pat on the toasted pecan pieces to cover the sides of the cake. Tip: Using the proper tools for cutting frosted layer cakes ensures that individual servings look as good as they taste. I use a large serrated knife dipped in hot water for cutting. I wipe the knife off with a clean dishcloth after each piece, which ensures that every cut is as clean as the first.
If you have any ideas for a fun party, we are all ears. Can’t wait to hear them!