Friday, May 14, 2010

A Birthday Celebration - and a Cake Challenge!

Last week we celebrated a significant birthday for hubby Jan in a local hotel, Ballyrafter House Hotel in Lismore, which is the perfect venue for a family and friends gathering such as this. We had planned it for some months and it wasn't a surprise as all his family from Holland were coming to Ireland for a holiday the week of the birthday to celebrate it. As they were going back on a Saturday, we decided to have the party on the Thursday night. Not the best night for a party, but it was the best option, as we had our trip to the Ring of Kerry (which I already wrote about here) on the Tuesday, and they had other local sightseeing trips in the Cork/Waterford area on the other days, as well as spending time hanging out at our place for the odd barbecue.

The party was lovely, and attended by our good friends from the area as well as the family. We had lovely buffet food, sandwiches and finger food - vol-au-vents and stuffed mushrooms, prawns in filo pastry, sausages, chicken and wedges - which was served around 10.30pm, and then we had the cake and Jan blew out his candles - to spare his lungs we got numbered candles rather than a large number of individual ones - we could have had problems lighting so many besides! The cake was my only contribution to the catering, and I was justifiably proud of it as I hadn't made a huge cake like this before, or even a large birthday cake since the days of the kids' parties, when style over substance was the golden rule. I relied heavily on a wonderful book, my Party Cakes bible by Jane Asher (the Yummy Mummy of the 1980s turned actress - or vice versa, not sure - and still going strong if I see her website!) and her decorated marvels graced many a party table in Tanzania and Laos and Ireland throughout the past 27 years. Now it was a chance to get creative in a slightly more restrained and tasteful fashion with a proper grown-up cake. I kept it simple - a golden rule when doing something a bit unfamiliar in the kitchen - and it worked a treat. Understated and tasteful - as well as tasty - and everyone concurred and loved it, which was endorsement enough for me! The proprietor asked me "Did you make that cake yourself?" which I could take as a compliment or otherwise - if she was surprised should I be offended? Anyway I took it as a compliment - albeit slightly backhanded - is it such a surprise that I could make something impressive?

We had a great night, with music by Billy and Liam, a duo guitar-keyboard combo from Lismore who play a wide range of music and get people out on the floor - teenagers excepted who were too cool for school to dance. They played a mix of country, pop, rock, trad, and even rolled out some Dubliners for the Dutch visitors. One of our friends, Noreen, did a Hornpipe Irish dance for the guests, and she wowed them with her energy and perfect foot-tapping - true Riverdance style, ramrod stiff arms-at-side style. So it was a good night with craic and camaraderie, and it was lovely to see our friends and family all enjoying the evening. Jan made a short thank you speech in Schouwse, his Dutch dialect from the island Schouwen-Duiveland in Zeeland, which is quite different from Dutch and which I think I can follow pretty well though I balk at talking it. Dutch is challenge enough for me!

We were home by about 2a.m. which was not a late night but as the next day was a work day for a lot of the guests we didn't expect it to be a late night. Jan opened his pressies when we got home, and he got some lovely things, and some hilarious cards - all about the mind over matter of being 60! I think you're as young as you feel (or as the woman you feel, depending on the card you read and your point of view!) and he's a very young 60-year old - anyone who can cycle 100km on a Sunday afternoon can't be too over the hill - and he's already signed up for this year's Seán Kelly Tour.

Here are some of the photos - I will post the cake recipe separately if anyone is interested, as it is all proportion and cutting to shape - and is very manageable but you would need to work on if over two days.


FoodFunFarmLife said...

Your cake looked lovely, and very professional too, I might add ! How nice that you could contribute that to your hubby's special day and party. Was it chocolate inside and what flavour was the icing ? Sounds like a wonderful time was had by all ...

Peggy said...

Happy Birthday to Jan on reaching the big 60 and it is a case of mind over matter its just another number.The cake looks scrumptious and well done to you,I dont think I would try a big occasion cake as murphy's law would surely comeinto force.

Lily said...

Belated happy birthday Jan. Looks like great time was had by all. I certainly agree with you on really celebrating happy times. Well done Catherine on all your work preparing for a week-long party. The cake does look lovely.

Colleen - the AmAzINg Mrs. B said...

Hello! Thanks for stopping by ..the party looked amazing :-) And the cake? had me at "cake"!

I am second generation American, but both lines are from Ireland..Stroketown for the Hanleys/SullivnSullivans and we're not certain about the Rice/Keane/Sullivans on the other Dad's name was Sullivan and my Mother's maiden name was Sullivan! Kinda hard to trace family lines with traditional genealogy 'cos of the names (both sides have Patricks, and Margarets, and Michaels!) And it doesn't help to be so far away, although Utah is said to have some of the best gelealogists anywhere :-)

I'll definately be back to seem to have similar tastes in movies, music, and let's not forget ..cakes!

Catherine said...

Thanks for the nice comments - much appreciated.

LYNDA - I feel I'm in the ha'penny place as far as baking goes when I see your great results - I will post the recipe this week and it was plain old vanilla Victoria Sponge mix - I decided against chocolate in the end as there were some who don't like choc cake (incredible as it seems!) and I kept it simple. Butter icing. With organic cocoa for the choc.icing and writing.We'd a lovely time and I felt glad to be able to contribute - as a control freak at parties I found it hard to relinquish the catering!
All the best, Catherine.

Catherine said...

PEGGY - I'm sure Murphy's Law wouldn't thwart your efforts if you are half as capable in the kitchen as in the allotment! Sorry I've been an unreliable visitor/commenter to your blog lately, will try to rectify it this week. I have been very busy as you can see! We had a great night and I enjoyed the week a lot.Hope you are all well in Cork - the Dutch visitors went to Blarney and kissed the stone!
All the best, Catherine.

Catherine said...

LILY - thanks for visiting - I am never sure if my comment replies get back to their intended recipient - but thanks for the compliment on the party - it was fun and I tried to stay relaxed and the hotel were great -they are always very professional and family run so they know what makes a good night - we use the place a lot for community events like table quizzes and the festival that's coming in June (Immrama Travel Writing Festival - check it out on my posts or at the website -some great speakers again.)
Hope you're enjoying this months bloggers bookclub choice!
Talk soon on books etc,

Catherine said...

COLEEN - thanks for following my blog and nice to meet you in cyberspace - hubby is interested in genealogy too and has traced his Dutch roots back to about 600AD, it gets a bit fuzzy before that - he even found a bunch of Mormon relatives in Utah that had emigrated ages ago and converted from Dutch Reformed! You are right, Utah and the Mormons are the best at the ancestry tracing, and it is frustrating to try to follow your tree in IReland with so many of the same name - your parents don't help with both having the same surname! Strokestown is in Co. Roscommon. Are both your parents from there? Records here are not too easy to track as they are costly and the church keeps a tight hold on them too. Really nice to see you over here - we both have eclectic tastes! I will link over to your blog to tell you I've responded in case you didn't click for notification of follow up.
All the best, Catherine.