Monday, April 8, 2013

Baseball Party

A friend of ours oldest son wanted a baseball themed birthday party. He much enjoyed the opportunity to be able to articulate his desires, and have adults listen and take notes. I think it's something that doesn't happen enough for most kids.

We sat down with him and his parents. We asked leading questions, but sincerely listened to the answers. He wanted a cake with a baseball diamond and someone hitting a home run. He wanted vanilla cake with creamy cherry filling. He wanted ball park food; hot dogs, cracker jacks, peanuts. Carrots and grapes OK, but no vegetables.

He and the spouse also worked out what kind of games and activities he wanted to do.

The hot dogs were easy. We have a propane powered slow cooker. It worked perfectly to steam the hot dogs in the park.

I made my version of Cracker Jacks. I modified the recipe I used for bacon flavored caramel corn. I used dark corn syrup instead of the bacon flavored syrup.  I oven roasted some raw, unsalted Spanish peanuts, then tossed them with the popcorn and caramel. The spouse packaged up the snack with it's own prize, a set of temporary tattoos.

I like caramel in just about any form. Cracker Jack was certainly a favorite as a kid. The prizes have gotten lame, however.

The cake was a collaborative affair. It was a half sheet cake. I baked the cake, scaling it up from the yellow cake recipe I used for the chocolate marble cake at the Princess tea we did recently.

I really like this cake recipe. It finds a nice balance between robust enough to work with, yet with a moist and tender crumb.

The filling was a cooperative effort between the spouse and myself.  It consists of whipped topping, cherry pie filling, and a little salt. We whipped together the topping and the pie filling. We used whipped topping instead of whipped cream, because we knew it would be unrefrigerated at the park for some time.

I think cherry was a great choice. The bit of tang of the sour cherry helped counter the sweetness a bit.

The decoration is all the spouse's work. She used a special tip to make the grass, and the base path is covered in graham cracker crumbs.

I think she did a great job on the decorations. She's immensely creative and imaginative. By all accounts, the birthday boy was thrilled with the cake.


Homemade Cracker Jacks

1/2 lb. raw, unsalted Spanish peanuts
8 quarts popcorn
1 cup butter
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1 tsp. baking soda
Spread peanuts on a baking sheet. Bake in a 300 F oven for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees
Place popcorn and peanuts in a large roasting pan.

In a three quart sauce pan over medium heat, combine butter, sugar, salt, and syrup. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer. Let boil for five minutes. Remove from heat, add baking soda. Caramel will foam up. Pour caramel over popcorn. Stir thoroughly. Bake for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Spread out on wax paper to cool. Store in air tight container. If caramel corn softens, re-heat in 200 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Yellow Cake

2 cups butter


Pre-heat oven to 350 F.

Grease and flour a 1/2 sheet size rectangular cake pan. line bottom with wax paper.

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