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Volume 41 Issue 8 • June 30-July 6, 2011
now in our 41th season

Birthday Bash

by Jenn Farmer - Chef and Food Fancier

The last month and a half, several of my favorite people have birthdays.    In fact my son just turned four.  Apparently, this was a real big deal to a three-year-old.  Now that he goes to preschool and he is a “big boy,” I have to start living up to being a “good mommy,” otherwise guilt is involved.  I am typically a bit anti-establishment, often saying “who cares what THEY are doing, worry about what YOU are doing,” and “Well, I am not Tommy’s mom” (names have been changed to protect all parties involved).   I had no Idea this keeping up with the Joneses mentality started at such a young age.  I thought I had at least a couple more years of freedom from all the hype and drama, but I was very wrong.

Unfortunately, he is old enough to remember how great his birthday last year was, and now I had to top it.  This year my income is a lot lower, and I no longer live in a house that is suitable for a large party.  Adding insult to injury, he informed me that his pre-school reputation was in jeopardy.  Boy this was going to be a little tricky on a shoestring budget.

So when I asked my son what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday, and fully expecting “chocolate” to be the answer — he said he wanted “a remote controlled mega mini cooper monster truck with super hero shocks and rock star music.”   I then tried to gently remind him I was speaking of a cake.  I also tried not to tease him; explaining the contradiction of mega-mini and monster.  He then said, “Ok, just a monster truck cake, with red and blue.”  Well now I am getting somewhere, I said, but then I asked the flavor he wanted, and he said “rainbow,” as if everyone knew what rainbows tasted of, I asked if he meant confetti cake, he said no.  So I have decided to wing this one. 

Although (here comes the guilt …) I made a chocolate cake and some cupcakes, not a monster truck cake, but they were great and fun.  We kept the party excruciatingly small, and could not invite everyone we wanted to, but it was still very nice.  I also baked a ton of cupcakes for his school treat.   I usually bring healthy treats... yeah, I am the mom that brings cheese crackers and raisins or fresh fruit for the kids.  This time was different; his school treat was chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream. 

Rainbow Flavored Cupcakes

  • 1 and one half cups all-purpose flour
  • One half teaspoon baking powder
  • One quarter teaspoon kosher salt
  • One half cup softened butter
  • Three quarters of a cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • Two thirds cup milk
  • Your favorite food color

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line cupcake tin with paper liners.  In a bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt, set aside.  In a mixing bowl beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the egg, and blend together well, add vanilla.  Alternate the flour mixture and the milk, mix thoroughly.  Pour a little of the batter out into two separate bowl (you should have 3 bowls total).  One bowl of batter should remain white.  To the others add some food color, so all three are different shades. Choose your beginning color (I used blue), and put one spoonful in each cupcake cup.  Then put a spoonful of your second color (we used green) in each cup.  Fill the rest two-thirds full with the white batter. Take care not to stir them together.  They will bake with the pretty colors hidden in the center. 

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or when pressed the cake springs back.  If you don’t trust the spring touch method, insert a toothpick, when it comes out clean, it is done baking.  Cool completely on a rack before frosting.  Makes 12 cupcakes

Unique Butter Frosting

  • 1 and a half Tablespoons flour
  • One half cup milk
  • One half cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla
  • One pinch of salt
  • One half cup butter (only butter works well)

Mix together milk and flour in a small saucepan.  Cook until very thick, stirring to avoid lumps or scorching. Cool completely.  Cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla until very light and fluffy.  Beat together with the cooked milk and flour mixture and add the salt.  Whip on high until the icing is very light and looks and tastes like whipped cream.   Frost your cupcakes and enjoy.  Color can be added to the icing if you want. Yields enough icing for 12 cupcakes or a small single layer cake.

Child birthday parties were not the only ones we attended this month.  The ones for my adult friends were a great deal of fun.  One of my friends wanted me to bring something a bit different, but also loves party mix, so I made it with a twist.  We also had alcoholic and non–alcoholic Bloody Marys.  Along with the bacon party mix it was like we were having very special BLT’s.  Yum, my favorite!  

Bacon Party Mix

  • 2 cups corn cereal squares
  • 2 cups rice cereal squares
  • 2 cups wheat cereal squares
  • One cup roasted mixed nuts
  • 1 half cup small pretzels
  • 1 half cup bagel chips
  • 6-8 strips of bacon (thick sliced, cooked crispy)
  • 5 Tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
  • One half teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • One half teaspoon garlic powder
  • One half teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Chop the bacon up and set aside.  Melt the butter and add the seasonings, syrup and Worcestershire.  Mix all the ingredients except the bacon together in a bowl.  Heat the oven to 250 degrees.  Spread out mix onto oven sheets, and bake for one hour, stirring every fifteen minutes. Let it cool then add the bacon, and enjoy.  Makes around 8 cups of mix.

Virgin Bloody Marys

  • 3 oz. tomato juice or tomato juice blend (like V-8)
  • One half ounce lemon juice
  • One dash Worcestershire sauce
  • Celery salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Dash of hot sauce
  • One quarter teaspoon horseradish
  • Celery, pickle, pickled green tomato, or olive (garnishes)
  • Lemon wedge(also garnish)

Pour all the ingredients except garnishes over a shaker full of ice. Shake or mix well, and serve in a highball glass.  Serve with any or all of your favorite garnishes.  Some people enjoy rimming their glass with a little seasoned salt too. For an alcoholic version, add one ounce vodka, or tequila (making it a Bloody Maria, which is great when lime is substituted in above recipe).  Makes one drink


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