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A Very Hungry Caterpillar Birthday Party

 A very hungry caterpillar dessert table

When you’re a kid the day of your birthday party is pretty much the most important day of the year (ok, maybe aside from Christmas, and Halloween).  There’s always such a build up of anticipation leading up to the big day.   What presents will you get?  What will your birthday cake look like?  And worst of all, what if you’re friends forget to come?

My favourite thing to do in the days leading up to my birthday party was going to the cake decorating store with my mom to pick out a Wilton character cake pan.  There were dozens of pans to choose from, and they lined the walls of the shop.  I’d stare at the walls for ages choosing my pan, carefully studying the designs over and over.  I’d choose a different pan each year, and over the course of my childhood I had cakes that ranged from disney characters, to dinosaurs, to a big orange Garfield.  
 
The pans would come with a full sized colour decorating guide that my mom would carefully follow, ensuring that the final cake looked equally as perfect as the one in the guide.  When it came time to make the icing I’d sit in the kitchen while she’d whip up a big batch of buttercream.  Mom would hand me a beater to lick while she divided the icing into tupperware bowls so she could mix up all of the individual colours that were required for the cake. 
 
The decorating technique for these cakes was simple but effective, and consisted of piping hundreds of little stars in various colours all over the cake.  Thinking about it now, this technique is actually quite similar to following a cross stitch pattern. Nothing could beat the taste of those birthday cakes, with their crusted buttercream icing and a scoop of ice cream on the side.
 
Even after all the years that have past since my childhood birthday parties a level of excitement still remains whenever a birthday cake is brought out and presented to everyone at a party – no matter what their age.    

A very hungry caterpillar cake

And it’s that level of excitement that I love to re-create when I decorate cakes for other people – especially my little boy.  He turned two this year, and although he’s not quite old enough to choose the design for his cake, I was pretty sure a Very Hungry Caterpillar cake would make him a very happy boy indeed.  And a Very Hungry Caterpillar themed dessert table would make me even happier!  Instead of only featuring a variety of shades of green, I also opted for a rainbow theme to tie all my desserts  together.  

A very hungry caterpillar birthday party
The decorations were just as fun to put together as the desserts were.  I made good use of my elementary school craft skills by making an ombre green tissue paper “2”, and accordion fan circles which I turned into a Very Hungry Caterpillar.  I also made some little menu cards to label all of the yummy desserts which included:

– Rainbow Birthday Cake with a Very Hungry Caterpillar on top
– Chocolate Cupcakes with matching fruit and leaves from the book
– Vanilla Cupcakes
– Rainbow Jello
– “Caterpillar Food” aka mixed fruit candy
– Lemonade 

A very hungry caterpillar birthday party

One of my favourite little details were something I didn’t even make!  The folks over at DotComGiftShop were nice enough to send me some red and white paper straws, and some adorable little vintage style 1/2 pint milk bottles to display my drinks in.  The bottles were the perfect size for little hands to hold.

In the coming days I’ll be posting the recipes and tutorials for some of the desserts I made, but for now I’ll leave you with a few more pictures of the party. Enjoy! 

 12142797583_8c4f4bf605_c
 cake dessert table
A very hungry caterpillar birthday party
A very hungry caterpillar birthday party
 A very hungry caterpillar birthday party
A very hungry caterpillar birthday party
A very hungry caterpillar dessert table
 A very hungry caterpillar dessert table
A very hungry caterpillar dessert table
That’s the end of the party.  Time to clean up!
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Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundaes and a Giveaway!

Yesterday was my 3rd wedding anniversary, and to celebrate I made an extra special dessert that my husband and I fell in love with while on honeymoon at Disneyland.  During our time there we took a break to explore the other areas in Disneyland and went off in search of some food.  We ended up at an ESPN Zone sports cafe (we’d never been in one, as they don’t have them in Canada).  I can’t remember what we got for lunch, but I sure do remember what we had for dessert.  In fact, I haven’t stopped thinking about that dessert for the past 3 years, so finally decided the buy the necessary equipment to make my own mini versions of it.
The dessert I’m talking about is simply called the Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundae.  It’s actually a warm and gooey chocolate chip cookie that’s been freshly baked in a cast iron skillet.  Just after it’s taken out of the oven, and while it’s still piping hot, a few scoops of ice cream are added on top along with whipped cream and chocolate sauce to create the ultimate sundae.  
 ESPN’s version
The combination of a warm chocolate chip cookie along with the slightly melted ice cream and chocolate sauce makes this sundae one of the most delicious and decadent things I’ve ever had.  So when I came across these mini cast iron pans at TK Maxx, I just had to get them as I knew they’d be the perfect size to replicate a single serving of ESPN’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundae.  Plus they’re just so darn cute!  I’m also slightly obsessed with anything mini, so I just couldn’t resist.


To make these yummy little sundaes you can either use mini cast iron skillets like I did, or use a slightly larger one (like the size you’d use for a fried egg) and share it with someone else – or if you’re feeling particularly sinful – just eat it all yourself!  I promise I won’t tell!

Making these chocolate chip cookie sundaes couldn’t be easier.  All you’ll need is some chocolate chip cookie dough – I used the same Jacques Torres cookie dough I used for the cookies I made here.  Take enough cookie dough for a single cookie (or double if you’re using a larger skillet), place it in the center of your cast iron skillet and cook it at 350ºF (175ºC) for about 8-10 mins (or 13-15 mins if using a larger skillet).  


When the cookie is done baking the edges should be golden brown, but the center should still be nice and gooey.  Let the cookie cool slightly – only a minute or two so your ice cream doesn’t totally melt into a liquid pool.  After the minute or so, simply drop a scoop of ice cream on top of the warm cookie, and top with chocolate sauce and/or whipped cream, caramel sauce, sprinkles, nuts etc.  It’s up to you, just use whatever you like. 


That’s really all there is to it!  Make sure you place the pan on a heat prof surface like a pot holder, wooden cutting board or plate so you don’t burn yourself, and eat immediately.  I found that baking the cookies in the cast iron skillets resulted in them having a delicious chewy caramelized edges. SO GOOD!!! Sooo good!!


Now, I understand that eating something like a warm and gooey freshly baked cookie fully loaded with chocolate, and covered with melting ice cream & chocolate sauce may get a little messy, so I’ve got the perfect solution for you.


The lovely ladies from Cooking Gorgeous have kindly offered to giveaway one of their beautiful aprons to one of my lucky readers.  

The entire range of aprons from Cooking Gorgeous are made in the UK, and they’re also expertly designed. 
Their apron waist ties are longer than average (to tie in front or behind), the women’s aprons are adjustable (to suit any décollotage) and the men’s pockets are tapered (a must for manly hands).  They select high quality natural fabrics with a softness that belies their strength and retains the characteristics of natural fibers.  They don’t compromise on quality or design – everything needs to be up to the job and, naturally, cooking gorgeous. 


The apron up for grabs is from The Bottom Line range, and is valued at £31.99.  It comes in two different accent colours – pink or teal.  I think you all know which one I’d choose!  And don’t you just love the cute little bow?  They really are gorgeous!  


If for some reason you’d prefer to have a different apron style other than The Bottom Line, you may choose whichever one you want provided that it is of equal or lesser value.  If you prefer an apron of a higher value you may pay the difference and choose whichever one you’d like.
To enter leave a comment below telling me what Cooking Gorgeous apron you would choose.  Additional entries can be earned by doing the following:
  • Become a follower of Made With Pink using Google Friend Connect
  • Become a fan of Made With Pink on Facebook 
  • Follow Made With Pink on Twitter and tweet the following message: I’ve just entered to win a #CookingGorgeous apron from @Made_With_Pink and you can too. Enter here: http://tiny.cc/5vfgf
Links to all of the above are in the right hand column.  Maximum of 4 entries per person.  The winning comment will be chosen at random.
Open to Mainland UK residents only.  Contest closes at 11:59pm Friday July 22nd.  Winner will be announced shortly after.  

*** Please note that you MUST leave a comment below in order to be entered into the prize draw, otherwise I have no way of keeping track of who tweeted, followed etc.  If you make a comment anonymously then please leave an email address so I can contact you if you win. You should leave a separate comment for each of the 3 things listed above if you want to be entered more than once.  I will be using random.org to choose a number from all of the comments listed below in order to determine the winner. *** 

Good Luck!

Sugar & Spice & Everything Nice!

I’m sure we all have a favourite snack or dessert that we’ve had at a restaurant or while on holiday.  It’s usually something that you never thought you’d be able to recreate again at home, which usually makes it even more special.  I wouldn’t necessarily call the Churro my favourite dessert or anything, but it’s definitely up there on my list of yummy things I didn’t think I could make at home – until now!

Back in Canada every once in a while we’d find a place that sold Churros.  It was usually at a ball park concession stand, or at a fair.  For those of you who’ve been to Disneyland, I’m sure you’ll have seen (and / or tasted) a Churro before.  They’re usually about a foot long in length, rigid in shape and coated in cinnamon and sugar.  They look a bit like a loofah.  They’ve got the most amazingly sweet and unavoidable smell, that beckons you from miles (ok maybe not miles, but definitely yards)  away. There’s just something about the combination of cinnamon and sugar that can make pretty much anything taste amazing.

So when I got the new Nigella Lawson “Kitchen” Cookbook this past Christmas I had a quick flip through it to see what caught my eye.  Two things jumped out at me – Grasshopper Pie and Churros.  I haven’t had either of them in years.  For those unaware, Grasshopper Pie is a chocolaty minty pie that’s coloured green.  It’s not only delicious, but great fun to eat – especially considering the name initially sounds so off putting.  And Churros – we’ll I’ve already told you about those!  

My friend Sarah over at Maison Cupcake is a huge fan of Nigella.  So much so, that she’s created a fun little challenge encouraging her readers to make something from a Nigella cookbook each month based on a theme she chooses.  This months “Forever Nigella” theme was “Seduced by Chocolate”.  Anyone who knows me knows I’m usually up for a challenge, and how could I say no to one with Chocolate??  I was short on a few of the ingredients needed to make the Grasshopper Pie, so I opted to make the Churros with Chocolate Dipping sauce and I’m glad I did.  They were so easy to make!  Plus they tasted amazing.  I had a look online at several other Churro recipes and they were all very similar to the one in my Nigella book.  A good sign when your making something new, as it means (well to me at least) that the recipe will a) turn out well, and b) generally taste authentic.

Like I said before, these Churros were one of the easiest things I’ve made in a while.  A hell of a lot easier than my Biscuit Joconde Sponge that’s for sure!  

To make these Churros you’ll need a few things:

Small Pot (like the type you’d make soup in)
A Piping Bag with large Star tipped nozzle
Scissors
Tongs
Long Wooden Skewers*
Candy / Frying Thermometer*
Small lunch sized paper bag*  

* Optional, but I found these very useful  

Chocolate Dipping Sauce:  

100g Dark Chocolate
25g Milk Chocolate
1 Tbsp Corn Syrup or Golden Syrup
150ml Whipping Cream or Double Cream  

1. Put everything together in a small sauce pot (or glass measuring cup that has been placed in a pot of hot water to create a double boiler).  Once the chocolate has started to melt, stir the chocolate & cream mixture until everything is well incorporated.  Set aside in a warm place. 

Churros:  (Slightly amended)

1/4 Cup (50g) Sugar
2 tsp Cinnamon  

1 Cup (125g) Flour
1 Tbsp Sugar  
1 tsp Baking Powder
Pinch of Salt
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Cup (250ml) Boiling Water  

Vegetable Oil for frying  (approx 500 ml

1. Combine the cinnamon and 1/4 Cup (50g) of sugar in a shallow bowl, or a lunch sized paper bag and set aside.  Dump the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl, and then add in the olive oil and boiling water.  Beat on medium speed until a sticky wet dough is formed.

2. Leave your dough in the mixing bowl to rest while you heat up your oil over medium heat.  Nigella recommended heating the oil to about 340ºF (170ºC), but I found that too cool so I stuck with 355ºF (180ºC) which worked much better.  If you’ve got a candy/frying thermometer it will be easy to tell if your oil is ready.  If not, then Nigella recommends that you toss in a piece of bread when you think the oil is hot enough.  If it sizzles and goes a golden brown colour  in about 30 seconds then your oil is ready.  

3. Once your oil is hot enough you’ll need to transfer your dough into your piping bag.  The easiest way to do this is if you put your piping bag in a tall glass and wrap the fabric over top of the cup. This allows you to have both hands free to fill the bag.  Once your bag is filled bring it over to the pot of oil and begin to squeeze your dough out until it’s about 2 inches long before using your scissors to snip the dough off so it falls into the oil.  You can easily cook 4-5 pieces at a time, but I wouldn’t recommend doing anymore as to pot gets a bit crowded.  Also, the more pieces of dough you put in the more the oil cools off.   At 340ºF (170ºC) my oil was too cool so my pieces of dough sunk to the bottom.  I needed to use the wooden skewer to loosen them off the bottom of the pot, but it also came in very handy for flipping the Churro bites in the oil, as well as to push them around the pot to ensure the fresh dough didn’t stick to the nearly cooked pieces.  After about 3-4 minutes your Churro bites should be a nice golden brown colour with a crispy outside and a fluffy middle.  They should hold their shape when you take them out of the oil using a pair of tongs.  If they squish down, chances are they aren’t fully cooked – try leaving them in longer, or increasing your oil temperature.  Place the Churro bites on some paper towels to help absorb any excess oil. Repeat these steps with the remainder of the dough.  

4.  Once your Churro pieces have had a rest on the paper towels (for about 5 minutes) it’s time to toss them in the cinnamon and sugar.  I put my cinnamon and sugar into a paper bag so all I had to do was drop a few Churros into it and give it a shake.  If your using a bowl you can use your wooden skewers to move the Churro bites around so you don’t end up with cinnamon sugar coated fingers.  But really – is that a bad thing?  

5.  Once all your pieces are coated in the cinnamon and sugar place them on a serving dish, and pour your warm chocolate sauce into a little ramekin.  There you have it!  Deliciously authentic Mexican / Spanish Churros all ready for you to dip, dunk & dab in the delicious chocolate sauce!

See… / Nice and fluffy inside!

Girls Weekend Away

When a good friend of mine asked if I could make her some themed cupcakes for a friends stagette weekend, or “hen-do” as they call it here in the UK, I knew that this project was going to be fun.  The girls were travelling on the Eurostar from London to Disneyland Paris, and needed a sweet treat to eat while on the train. I pretty much got free reign of what the cupcakes were going to look like. The only prerequisites were that one set had to have a Mickey or Minnie Mouse theme, and the other set had to be in lilac and dark purple – the bride to be’s wedding colors.  I made the Minnie Mouse decorations and flowers out of gum paste, and the sparkly purple balls out of MMF (marshmallow fondant).  It was my first time using the edible glitter, and I loved the look of it.  There’s just something really fun about eating something that is so sparkly and pretty.  Overall, I was really pleased with the way they turned out, and the girls absolutely LOVED them!