Mum's Birthday Party: Food Preparations on the Day

7/15/2008 11:00:00 PM

The table at 6:25pm.

As y'all know, I woke up on Sunday at around 9:30am feeling sick and totally worse for wear. But there was no stopping! Guests were due to arrive at 6:30pm and we had to get the house into shape!

I started the day by chucking last night's pumpkin into the oven. Then we all ate yummy birthday noodles, and got straight into the preparation.


I got to work on 2 batches of crème pâtissière. While this was going on, I put my brother and his girlfriend Su on canapé-assembling duty.

Mum sewed the table runner (as you can see in the first photo), and answered the dozens of phone calls from well-wishers.

Culinary disaster struck at around 2pm, when BOTH my batches of crème turned out too runny. Maybe I was being too cautious while cooking the crèmes, maybe I didn't whip the cream enough, maybe I was just fluey and totally out of it. Whatever the reason, after I folded the cream through the crème pâtissière, I ended up with 2 big bowls of runny custard mess.

The annoying thing about this (apart from the 8 wasted eggs), was that the crèmes still tasted so damn good! They just weren't suitable for ball-stuffing. Still, following in the footsteps of my party-planning-role-model Colin Cowie, I tried to keep my cool and when my bro went out to pick up the oysters and the 50 dinner rolls, I asked him to get more eggs, more cream and more milk.

Aah... my toastie. Dan brought back a sandwich for me with the bread rolls and oysters. I shared the sandwich with my mum, and it was pretty much the only substantial food I could stomach all day.

Aah.. that's the way the crème is supposed to look! Thick and gloopy. It goes to the exact right texture when you've folded the whipped cream in. (N.B. blue silicon whisk from Aldi Prahran, only $3!!) I was getting progressively more tense as time went on. You see, the crème takes some time to make, as it has to cool to room temperature before you can add the cream. All you can do is wait!

Well, with that stress out of the way, it was time to fill the balls.
New icing syringe from Cake Deco. If you're interested, the amount of crème that went in the syringe filled about 7 balls at one time.

With balls filled, I melted some plain dark chocolate, and made the caramel for dipping. (Unlike last time, I used plain melted chocolate instead of a ganache, to add extra contrasting crunch). The chocolate takes longer to set than the caramel, so I coated the chocolate balls first.
It was surprisingly speedy coating the balls in caramel. Must have been from all that practise and adrenaline. It was about 4:30pm by this stage, and pressure was mounting.
Luckily the caramel only takes about a nanosecond to harden.

Assembly time! 4:45pm... a lot later than I intended for it to be. As you can see, the supposed spirals weren't perfect, and there were quite a few little gaps, but I filled them with decorations. You'll be able to see them and the finished 'bouche in the next post!

Decorations and Setting Up

While I was covered in hot caramel, my family did an awesome job of setting up everything.

The bathroom, all daily items removed, clean, and adorned with candles and a few flowers from our garden. A very Colin touch, expertly done by my dad!

A beautiful bunch of tulips, a bowl of nuts, and a little plate of candles in the lounge room.

I ordered the tulips online from Roses Only as a birthday gift for mum. I love this company! I was lucky enough to receive a bunch of Roses Only roses for my birthday this year, and they were absolutely stunning - delivered to my front door, beautifully presented in a box with a little bottle of rose oil and some Lindor Chocolates, and some water-treatment to keep them fresh. They were perfect and lasted for over a week. Mum also loved the roses, so I thought she'd like her very own tulips for her birthday! (She does!)

I only finished assembling the entire 'bouche at 5:45 (cutting it very fine, seeing as guests were due to arrive at 6:30), and ran into the shower. On the way in I yelled out, "Can someone put the table runner on the bench????" And when I came out of the bathroom, the bench was cleaned of the day's debris and dramas, and covered in the very festive red table runner. As Colin would say, an instant drab to fab makeover!

A glass bowl, with floating tea-lights in Moroccan teacups and some potpourri petals floating about.

More coming up soon...

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  1. I admire how calm you stayed. I'm pretty sure I would have ended up crying and flinging runny creme patissiere everywhere...though it's amazing what you can do under pressure. Ooh and I love the silicon whisk, have a red one myself.

  2. Anonymous8:49 AM

    Hi Sarah, love your blog, I've been reading for a while but just had to comment and say how fabulous this all looks, even at the preparation stage! I'm so impressed that you managed to take photos in the midst of all that stress. Glad all the hard work was worth it.

  3. Woooo, so pretty! I love all the candles and flowers and pretty touches! Nice job on the balls, too!
    Your dad gets extra points from Colin and your bro gets extra points for bringing you that sandwich.

  4. You managed to pull off all the food, I'm impressed. The croquembouche looked great. I'm going to have to do profiteroles again. Your ones are all fluffy and high, while mine were all flat last time.

  5. Hi guys!


    Laura - Haha I nearly cracked a hissy fit, but knowing that people were arriving in a few hours kept my eyes on the prize! When in a stressful party-planning situation, ask yourself, "What would Colin do?" Hehehehe.

    Elaine - Thank-you! I love receiving comments. :)

    Lisa - Thank-you, my inspirational croquembouchiere!

    Thanh - A few of my balls (hehe) deflated too; I think it's something to do with the oven - maybe banging the door by mistake or taking them out slightly too early?? Practice makes perfect.

    xox Sarah



My email address is sarahcooks [at] hotmail [dot] com.