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(Roy G Biv) Rainbow Birthday Party: Portrait Project

25 Jul

I would love to say that every portrait I took as part of my Rainbow Party group panorama was stunning and amazing. A few were, but for some reason I completely lost the ability to focus any time someone in red in posed for me. Seriously, every single red portrait was underexposed or a partial blur.

My apologies to all my beautiful, red-wearing guests. I did not do you justice.

Here is the entire portrait in it’s rainbow entirety (none of our orange guests were able to make it, and we sadly wound up with only one blue and one yellow. So, it’s a girly rainbow—heavy on the pink and purple (click to view larger):

And here are a few of my most-successful portraits of the day:

A few more are on flickr. You can see the misses by scrolling through the panorama.

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(Roy G Biv) Rainbow Birthday Party: The Sweets

24 Jul

While the rainbow salad and fruit bars provided some generally healthy party fair, I made sure to balance those out with a healthy dose sugary goodness. Although I would have loved to do a full-blown, color-coordinated dessert bar, Amy Atlas style, sometimes it’s best to know when to simplify. So rainbow-colored candy in simple abundance is where I decided to go.

By now you know that we didn’t get a picture of anything, including the vibrant and yummy rainbow popcorn. So, the images below are borrowed from the web and credited to the original source. All of the candy was loaded in large, glass vases (PÅLITLIG from Ikea) and apothecary jars that I borrowed from a friend.

Swirl Lollipops from Oriental Trading

These were prettier than they were tasty, but fine for the price.

Sucker Assortment from Oriental Trading

We still have a lot of these. They have vibrant colors and a yummy fruity taste. They were a big hit with the birthday girl.

Machine size gumballs

We placed these in mason jars and then stuffed in handmade paper flowers in an assortment of colors (tutorial coming soon).

Rainbow Popcorn

This is messy, but surprisingly easy. you need a lot of bowls and willingness to clean up a bunch of colored sugar when you’re done. The popcorn can be made multi-color or single color, depending on your event. Less colors, means less bowls, and less clean up. Here are the steps (adapted from this recipe and inspired by this party on The City Cradle)

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup unpopped popcorn kernels
  • 1 medium-size bowl for every color of popcorn you wish to make (I used 5 bowls plus the pot)
  • 2 quart heavy bottom saucepan
  • 2 cups of granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup of butter
  • food coloring (I used Wilton’s gel colors)

Directions

1.  Line a cookie sheet with heavy duty aluminum foil. Butter gently, or coat with non-stick spray.

2.  Make popcorn (un-greased is best). You can use an air popper or Alton Brown’s paper bag popcorn method. I use this microwave popcorn popper whenever I am making large quantities of popcorn for caramel corn. Let your popped corn cool and shake the bowl several times to make all unpopped kernels fall to the bottom of the bowl.

3.  Place an equal amount of gel coloring in the bottom of each bowl. For rainbow popcorn you will place a dollop of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple each in separate bowls. Set aside.

4.  Place your saucepan on the stove over medium-high heat. Add water, butter and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring regularly. The boiling mixture will resemble light corn syrup.

5. Remove the sugar mixture from the heat and distribute evenly amongst the food-coloring bowls. Be careful, as melted sugar is VERY hot.

6. Stir the colored sugar mixture in each bowl, using a separate spoon for each. The colored sugar should be glossy and even.

7. Distribute the popcorn evenly amongst the bowls. Lifting the kernels out by hand and avoiding all unpopped kernels behind.

8. Working quickly, stir the contents of each bowl until the popcorn is well-coated and colorful.

9. Pour the colored popcorn onto a cookie sheet to dry and harden. Leave extra syrup in the bowl, if any.

10. When popcorn is cool and hardened, break up large clumps with your fingers and enjoy. If popcorn remains sticky to the touch after it has cooled, or there are large pools of syrup on the sheet, place the entire sheet into a 250-degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes and allow to cool.

(Roy G Biv) Rainbow Birthday Party: The Cake

23 Jul

The cake. The cake was a scary project to take on. And at the last-minute, it almost didn’t happen.

A portion of the guests had arrived. My mother, father, mother-in-law, and husband worked their tails off to help me get all of the sliced and diced food out of their prep containers and ready for people to eat. But off to the side sat something crucial, and only half-done: The Birthday Cake….

Now, it should be said that I have never successfully made a cake from scratch. It’s not that I haven’t attempted, but every scratch cake I have made in the past had a somewhat dense texture: great on flavor, but off to the tooth. So, I have generally used my mom’s secret technique for doctoring box cakes and topping them with homemade icing.

But making a respectable scratch cake is something I aspired to. It’s something I felt I should be able to do; but, for whatever reason, past recipes (or past technique) had let me down. I knew that if I wanted to pull off a multi-layer, multi-colored cake like the amazing creation that inspired me on Whisk Kid, I needed something with a little more structure than an airy box cake. So, I sought out a lot of advice (that I’ve listed below) and eventually found the perfect recipe sitting right under my nose.

The Perfect Party Cake

Because I trust her wholeheartedly, I decided to use a cake recipe from Deb at Smitten Kitchen as the base for my rainbow cake. Deb had used the recipe to make a multi-layered wedding cake, and the base recipe came from a recipe book she’s referred to often on her site, Sky High Irresistable Triple-Layer Cakes. In fact, the recipe used for the rainbow cake on the Whisk Kid site, is a variation of another Sky High recipe.

But a few seconds before I got ready to crack the first egg, I got apprehensive. You see, the recipe I had settled on was for a yellow cake, and Kaitlin (of the Whisk Kid) specified the importance of using a white cake in this video. Would my yellow cake base make all of my colors appear off? If the cake was about color, why was I taking the risk of using a non-white cake base?

So, I grabbed my copy of Dorie Greenspan’s Baking and quickly found the answer staring back at me on page 250:

Stick a bright-colored Post-it to this page, so you’ll always know where to turn for a just-right cake for any celebration…The cake is snow white with an excellent crumb and an easy going nature: it always bakes up perfectly; it is delicate on the tongue but sturdy in the kitchen—no fussing when it comes to slicing the layers in half or cutting tall, beautiful wedges for serving; and, it tastes just as you’d want a party cake to taste—special.

And let me tell you, Ms. Greenspan is 100-percent right. I made two batches of the cake, dividing each into three portions, which were colored and baked for about 22 minutes a piece in a 9-inch round cake pan. The cooled cakes were attached to cake boards and double wrapped in plastic wrap, followed by heavy duty aluminum foil. The layers could easily have been frozen for up to a month, in my case they were baked a week ahead and defrosted just a few hours before the party.

Technicolor Cake Batter Photos

Of course I have only a couple of photos of the cake as it was being sliced. And many more of the batter-making, layer baking process. There are none of the frosting-making or cake frosting process; but the video under Resources and Tips should help you with that.

Resources and Tips

1. Video of Kaitlin Flannery (aka The Whisk Kid) creating her rainbow cake on The Martha Stewart Show. I found the video more helpful than her blog post, but if you’d like to use her recipe see number 2.

2. Rainbow Cake as seen on the Whisk Kid (recipe is at the bottom). Her photos are beautiful.

3. Recipe for Dorie Greenspan’s Perfect Party Cake (I did not use coconut or jam between the layers, because I was making a rainbow variation). This web version is accurate, but if you have any desire to be a good home baker, I cannot recommend buying Baking, enough.

4. Swiss Meringue Buttercream: You’ll notice that Dorie’s technique for making Swiss Meringue Buttercream is different from Kaitlin’s, namely in the way the sugar-egg mixture is heated. I used Dorie’s technique. It was my first time and my results were great. My only tip would be to make a double batch or at least increase by 50%. Mines was bit skimpier than I would have preferred.

5. A set of straight-forward scratch cake baking tips from Deb at Smitten Kitchen. I printed these and read them several times before I began making my cake.

6. Tips from Dorie Greenspan that are specific to the Perfect Party Cake (I just discovered these).

7. Don’t let anxiety keep you from frosting your cake until the last possible minute, because it’s easier to do other things than tackle frosting and stacking a cake. You will only feel more anxious when the guests arrive and the cake is still unfinished.

8. If your cake is not getting covered and you’re about to cry, leave the kitchen and let your mom finish it. She’s been frosting cakes for years and she wants yours to be a success.