My daughter celebrated her birthday with her friends almost a month early this year.
Not because she happens to be born on the day of the Mayan prophecy (although, hey, we might as well party while we can just in case they were right!).
She and a friend decided a year ago they wanted to celebrate together this year. It so went, that once we got our act together, the only week end available between their two birthdays (which are a month apart) was last Sunday, and this thanks to a last minute cancellation (note to self: work harder on becoming a psycho mom and book the next party a year ahead).
It was rushed and a little earlier than I had planned but it meant I was keeping the promise I made to myself when my daughter was born, that her birthday and Christmas would always be two completely separate affairs and that I would never make her feel like she missed out. I will not pretend this promise hasn't made Christmas a tad more stressful than it already is for most parents; the question why we decided to abolish contraception that April of many years ago instead of the following month may or may not, in my worst moments, have crossed my mind.
Juggling Christmas cards, school vacation, shopping craziness, tree decorating, Advent, St. Nicholas, Christmas parties and recitals x2 and birthday cakes, presents and party paraphernalia is enough to make the sanest person go out of their mind. So to be honest, why not do it a month early?
I do not believe in huge, fancy affairs for kids' parties. Having one in our apartment is out of the question, but we still try to keep it simple. We usually rent out a large, not necessarily pretty, but affrodable space and bring our own food and decoration. Family, family friends, parents, older and younger siblings are all welcome. We hire a person to entertain the kids for a few hours but that is where it usually ends. It is a however a loud, crowded, sweaty, crazy affair and takes a lot of time to organize and to recover from.
Nonetheless, before the party this year I was doubtful; it was an organized affair with pretty strict times. It was interesting (Museum of Natural History) and reasonable in price (especially sharing costs) and well-structured, but we were only alloted 1/2 hour to serve cake and drinks (no pop corn! no potato chips! no balloons!), could invite max 25 kids, no parents.
So yes, I was doubtful and sorry I couldn't invite family friends and lots of kids. I was sorry us grown ups couldn't mingle while the kids wreaked havoc, drinking bubbly and eating panettone and make a little Christmas party out of it; I was sad we weren't allowed to make a drab, badly sound-proofed room look nicer with lots of tacky pink decoration. But I reminded myself the party wasn't about us grown ups, or about my inner Martha Stewart. It was about my daughter and her school friends (without a ton of children of our friends and baby sisters and brothers tagging along). Still I was a little sorry.
Then the day came. We served cake, we poured drinks, we soothed crying children, put cold water on bumps, we broke up piles of little bodies, we smiled at complaints and mopped up sticky messes. I never knew a half hour could last so long. Once that mass of energy moved into the other room to begin the planned activities leaving destruction, cake crumbs and frosting prints in its wake, I wasn't so sorry after all.
Since all I had to do this year was provide the cake, I decided I would make one. I have not made many layered cakes yet and most of them turned out to be pretty sorry sites (although tasty) because Mr. Frosting and I have seem to have some issues. In the pictures above, you see what was left after decorating in a hot kitchen so the frosting is looking a little deflated but it was absolutely perfect to decorate with.
My daughter asked for chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. I got the recipe over at Joy the Baker and it worked perfectly paired with this cake. There was not a slice left to take home and not much left on the plates at the party either, a success according to the messy, full plates I usually throw out after birthday parties.
1 1/2 cup (3 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup cocoa powder (sifted)
3/4 tsp salt
4 cups powdered sugar (sifted)
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup Ovomaltine (or Ovaltine depending on where you buy it)
Cream butter, sifted cocoa powder and salt. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as the mixture will be very thick and add powdered sugar. Mix in sifted powdered sugar on low speed while adding milk and vanilla extract. Start increasing speed as the sugar incorporates and beat the frosting until smooth. In a separate bowl or cup, stir together heavy cream and Ovomaltine. Turn mixer speed to medium and slowly pour cream mixture into frosting until you reach your desired consistency. I did not use all of it. Also, I had left over frosting that I used on cupcakes, in case you are planning on making a large or three layer cake.