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Let’s talk about food, baby!!  Food, food, food!!!  Food is such an important part of any party or get together, isn’t it? I mean, come on!  We all love food!  But, there are a lot of things to consider. How many people are coming?  What time is the party? A meal or just hors d’oeuvres? Any vegetarians or people with food allergies or concerns?  And, there must be a balance of sweet and savory!  So, food for Madeline’s 13th birthday Mad Hatter tea party? First things first!  Make a plan.  A menu.  A shopping list.  A timeline.

The Menu for a Mad Hatter Party

A tea party…pretty easy to plan a menu.  What tea party would be complete without petit fours and finger sandwiches?  (You must have them! Fairly certain that it’s some sort of British law.)  I added some raspberries, because they are pretty, delicate and healthy. (I try to think of that!) My daughter Maizy, made some super cute “mushrooms”.  These were made by cutting the top off a cherry tomato and placing it on top of a cheese stick that has been cut into thirds. You’ll see from the pictures!  It was a cute addition with a little salute to Alice in Wonderland.

Like I’ve said before, I’m always happy to have a little help from my creative kids! And, last but not least, I made Little Smokies in barbecue sauce.  “Merica! ”  No, they aren’t super tea party-ish but they are  a favorite of Madeline’s.  It’s her party, she can have Little Smokies if she wants to!

Dainty and delicious!

A petit four is, by definition: a small cake cut from pound or sponge cake and frosted.  I looked at a bunch of different recipes on Pinterest.  I do like to bake but, like I’ve said before, I’m not a professional, so my search is usually for recipes that are within my skill level.  My initial thought, since I had made the big cake and had other food to make, was that I would just buy the pound cake.  When I went to the store and saw how small but expensive the pound cakes were, I quickly looked up a recipe so I could make my own.

I used a recipe I found from Martha Stewart. Check it out here.  Then I made the batter but, used the baking instructions I found at Rosebakes.com. It detailed how to bake the pound cake in a 13″ X 18″ pan specifically for petit fours.  The instructions on this sight said to cut the cake lengthwise, but my cake didn’t rise that much.  Sooo…. I skipped that step. (Maybe I had too little batter since I used a different recipe?  Personally, I think it’s sometimes okay to skip a step. That’s real life, right?)

What filling to use??!!

You can use any filling.  Lots of recipes called for a raspberry jam or a lemon curd.  I used a simple buttercream AND Nutella….!!  Two types of frosting!!!  YES!!  That is the beauty of making it yourself!  You can do whatever you want!  Rosebakes has a great recipe for the frosting that covers the cakes.  I tried dipping the little squares and then pouring and trying to frost the sides.  I couldn’t quite get the frosting to completely cover the sides, so I ended up just pouring it over.  Not every bit of cake was covered, but they looked great and I saved a little bit of sanity!  I put a raspberry on top and they were beautiful!  These are definitely one of the best desserts I have ever made.  Maybe one of the best I’ve ever tasted, period!  Decadent and pretty!

A cucumber sandwich for me, please!

For the tea sandwiches, I think do what you like. There are so many variations you could use.  Since the sandwiches were for a kid’s party (13 still counts as a kid, right?), I chose turkey and Cheddar cheese with a little mayonnaise.  Classic and delicious.  Maybe for a grown up party I would’ve done something more gourmet.  Tons of recipes on Pinterest!  We are definitely wheat bread people normally but for these I went with a Pepperidge Farms white bread.  It was a great base for the sandwiches.  It held up well and didn’t fall apart when we cut the crusts off.

Madeline helped me make these and also some cucumber sandwiches.  For those I used very thinly sliced cucumbers and Laughing Cow cheese.  I think any flavored cream cheese would be delicious.  If I had thought of it I probably would have bought English cucumbers.  They have smaller seeds and thinner skin so I like to use them for some recipes.  However, they are usually more expensive and the regular ones were really fine.  We cut the sandwiches in different shapes, triangle and rectangle. The different shapes were really pretty for plating!

Pinky fingers up!

I used to do Capri Sun type drinks but I would find lots of half full drinks around and the wastefulness of that bugged me!  Plus, those little straw wrappers all over were driving me to insanity!  So, I went with water and lemonade.  Economical and kid friendly!  I used my two glass drink servers.  (Weston made the sign for the lemonade.  Not the way I would’ve done it but he’s cute so I’ll let him make signs!  Really, I was happy he was getting involved and was surprised Madeline was okay with the sign.  I was expecting a fight.)

We made a chai tea for the tea pot.  I used my big pasta pot to boil the water and kept it warm for easy teapot refills.  A little creamer and sugar (I did look for old school sugar cubes but no luck! Bummer!) on the table and we were tea party ready!!

For The Gourmet Cheesecake Lollipops by Chef David Burke

A few other food/ planning/ plating tips

-Buy white dishes.  There is a reason restaurants use white dishes.  Food looks beautiful on white. It’s like a blank canvas.  Anytime I see white serving dishes on sale, I buy them. You never seem to have enough serving dishes and white goes with anything!!  Therefore, you’ll always have perfect serving dishes for any occasion!

– Plan ahead!  Because anyone that has ever thrown a party knows that you never have quite enough time!  Prep any food early and put it in the refrigerator.  Bake the day before. Or two days before if you can. Also, cut vegetables ahead of time so they can be plated quickly before the party.

– Plan what food will go on what serving dish.  If you think about it ahead of time you’ll know if you need more serving dishes or a different size dish.  It seems silly but thinking of this ahead of time will help you when it’s almost party time and you’re putting the food out and taking care of all the other last minute details….and trying to get dressed…and put on makeup…and…..

– It’s okay to use disposable plates, cups and silverware.  Maybe not if it is a really formal affair, but for the events that we normal people have, I think it’s fine. When you’re cleaning after a party, the convenience of throwing away plates and cups is worth it’s weight in gold.  Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of other dishes to do!

– Presentation matters! It is an easy thing to do but, goes along way! Make things look pretty on the plate. A garnish here, a cool shape there (like the different sandwich shapes, for example).  Add a dish with height.  These simple things come together to make your spread look professional.

Have Fun!

Since it was a tea party, my daughter did have certain expectations about the food.  She wanted it to look pretty and so did I.  But, you can’t forget it has to taste good to the people that will be eating it.  In this case, kids!  It’s okay to veer off theme (like the Little Smokies) because a party should be what you want and like!  Don’t box yourself in!  Because it really is all about having fun!! Party on!

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