Chic Party Food Ideas 2 (June 01, 2011)
I love throwing parties. One of the things I enjoy most is the challenge of working around a theme or colour. For an occasion recently, I decided to work with the colour theme of fuschia pink (which was the birthday girl's favourite colour), together with black and silver as a contrast; the theme being a vintage/retro tea-party look.
After many hours researching the theme on the internet, it became evident that to achieve 'the look' I needed suitable props. Due to lack of space, they also had to double as display/serving pieces. One of the main features of vintage tea parties is glass cake stands. Compared to the cost of new ones on the high street, they can be found at astonshingly low prices on the internet, and have significantly more character. Cake stands are also available in porcelain and acryclic, from all major high-street retailers and baking shops. Cake domes, doilies and ribbons feature fairly often and help to achieve the look.
Raspberry pink cake dome; part of an exceptional picnic range currently available from BHS
Other items to lend themselves to this theme are vintage sweet jars (some stunning examples are available from Next at the moment) filled with pastel coloured candies and merangue, fabric bunting, retro looking cake storage tins (think shabby-chic) and vintage, mis-matched crockery - commonly used to serve cupcakes.
Any tea-party must have an extravagant range of baked sweets. I baked a range of decorated cupcakes: vanilla; lemon and poppyseed, with a lemon curd centre; and rich chocolate. I baked an assortment of muffins, the first variety were chocolate chip and the second double chocolate muffins. I also made a two-tiered sponge cake, decorated with pink rice-paper butterflies, which also doubled as the birthday cake.
I also played with the baked concept by cooking savoury muffins flavoured with Welsh cheddar and chives.
A wide range of quality sandwiches (or rolls in our case) were also needed, an essential for any tea party. We made richly flavoured egg, mayonnaise and cress seeded rolls (we bought mini-rolls from M&S which are very cute), and roasted onion and cheddar cheese options.
Mini vegetarian hot-dogs, with dijon-mustard crème freche and roasted onion and balsemic vinegar chutney, were a less traditional addition to the tea party and an interesting vegetarian alternative for my partner. The mini vegetarian cocktail sausages are produced by Tivall, and are available at Holland and Barratt.
These parcels of chocolate are great. Take your favourite chocolates or candies and, by using chocolatier foils in your chosen colour, you can tie the chocolates into your party theme. For these particular parcels I used Lindt milk-chocolate truffles (as these seem popular with most people) together with some liquer orange chocolates for the adults, and bought the fuchsia foils from eBay. I have since discovered that the foils can also be sourced from home baking stores. It is really important to buy the correct size foils. If they are too small, or only just sufficient in size, you will handle the truffle/chocolate so much that they'll probably start to melt and the finish on the outside will spoil – luxury chocolates covered in finger prints tend to lose their attraction! Foils are available in a wide range of colours and sizes. The clear boxes are usually used as wedding favour boxes, but they are perfect for this type of project as you can clearly see the chocolates inside; and after all the trouble you went to it would be a shame to hide them. A length of co-ordinating ribbon with a bow, a marabou feather or a vintage brooch on top, is a nice finishing touch.
Another idea is to use these parcels as place settings, individually addressed to a guest – if you were holding a sit-down party/dinner party.
The beauty of these gifts is that they can be made well in advance, wrapped in ribbon (or your chosen decoration) and stored in boxes ready for use. Then, on the day of your party, take them out of storage and display as you wish.
These are a really simple idea, but really transform small gifts for relatively little cost.
I bought two differently sized, fuchsia organza bags from eBay, and placed individual gifts in them (ideal for small but precious items, such as jewellery). Commonly, the bags have a draw-string to the top, which means that the gifts inside are securely stored. Once the gift is removed, they make lovely little bags in which to store treasured items or are commonly used to store fragrant, dried herbs such as lavender and hung in wardrobes to keep clothes fresh and free from moths, for example.
These bags may also be filled with chocolates or candies, and given as gifts to guests. Or include them in 'goodie bags' for guests when they leave, as a lovely reminder of your event.
One of the downsides of hosting a party is all the clear-up afterwards, but I have been unwilling to use disposable cutlery in the past because I thought its quality questionable. Hhowever, during a recent trip to Poundland I discovered these wonderful silver disposable cutlery sets, and at £1.00 each they are a fabulous bargain. The finish to them is superb, and what's so wonderful is that you get a really chic feel to your party, but without all that washing up afterwards.
Disposable plates (side and main):
Another issue with hosting parties is the number of plates used. When using crockery I am often concerned about the weight of items being placed on the main serving table. Whilst getting the disposable cutlery from Poundland I also noticed these wonderfully decedent silver disposable plates, and have to admit that they make a chic alternative to the crockery I would normally use. The beauty of these plates is that once finished with, you simply throw them away. Or, as we are all environmentally responsible now, clean off and then recycle.
Looking for co-ordinating dishes in which to serve items such as crisps and p âtés, I came across these lovely picnicware ranges from both Next (lighter pink items) and BHS (raspberry pink items). The beauty of using these plastic serving dishes and storage/display items is that they weigh very little (so adding undue weight to the serving table is no longer an issue) and they can also be washed (normally in tepid water by hand, rather than in the dishwasher) and used for other occassions when carrying-weight is an issue – such as eating in the garden or on picnics. Also, they cost relatively little, but I think you will agree that the finish to them is wonderful and, from a distance, they would easily pass for glass.
In keeping with the vintage tea party theme, I found a pack of these paper doilies (also at Poundland). Whilst quit twee, I think they add to the vintage feel of the party. And, at £1.00 for a generous set (dinner plate sized), I thought they were excellent value, especially when comparing the price of similar items on the internet and in cake decorating stores.
As an aside, doilies have an interesting history; originally, they were crocheted from a fabric made by Doiley, an 18th century London drapers, from whom its name is derived.
Cupcakes have become something of a obsession within the baking fraternity (and featured in a previous article in Cymru Culture) and have survived the strong attacks of the 'whopie pie' and 'cake pops'. Enter any specialised baking shop such as Lakeland and you'll be greeted by isles of dedicated, specialised equipment, nozzles, parchment paper and cake stands to indulge your inner home-baker.
You can easily tie cupcakes into the colour theme of your party, by adding complimentary coloured items such as 100s and 1000s, cupcakes cases and coloured butter cream frosting. Other options are rice paper butteflies (such as the ones we used to decorate the birthday cake), which come in designs that include flowers and dragonfles, to name but a few. You can also source flowers made out of something called sugar-paste (which is edible). Either purchase these on the internet or from cake baking shops, or buy cutters and sugar paste and have a go at making them yourself!
When decorating cupcakes, the key is let your imagination run wild with the decoration, we used a selection of Lindt truffles, white chocolate buttons, white chocolate Maltesters, and large Cadbury buttons sprinkled with edible glitter – the choice really is yours.
The trick, I think, is to do lots of differently styled cupcakes, in batches of say 6's or 8's, all in complimentary colours and finishes. This approach, which I acknowledg is more involved than making a large batch, looks a lot more considered and sophisticated than doing loads of the same design.
One of my favourite designs is the flower cupcake, which is made using mini-marshmallows. Marshmallows are available in all major supermarkets and can come in a range of colours (and sizes), mine are white and are of the smaller variety; from M&S. First, once a cupcake has completely cooled, tpo it with a generous amount of buttercream (in your chosen colour) in a domed shape, making sure it is slightly higher at the centre. Then cut some mini-marshmallows in half, on the diagonal. Take hold of the cut marshmallow and place the cut side into some coloured sugar, edible glitter or edible gold/silver lustre powder (we used edible glitter) and then place the cut and decorated marshmallow's on the top of the cupcake. To achieve the flower design, place the cut and decorated marshmallows in ever-decreasing circles until they reach the top of the cupcake (I always find it best if you start from the outside of the cupcake and work inwards). These cupcakes made a spectacular addition to our vintage tea party – and being so easy to decorate, made them very satisfying to create.
I came across this recipe whilst flicking through some magazines. It is a clever play on the baked goods aspect of tea parties, but giving the guests something savoury rather than sweet.
I made two varieties: brie and cranberry; and Welsh cheddar and chive. Both were delicious. It is really important to label these muffins though. Guests can get something of a shock if they are expecting something sweet!
Now, get baking, and have fun!
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