It's always nice to come to the aid of a friend and co-worker, the one who two weeks ago lamented: "Have any ideas on what to make for a baby shower?"
As a excellent home baker, she was hoping for something with a little wow value to it.
It got me thinking and searching cookbooks and websites. The results are a hodgepodge of the insanely complicated -- make the Baby Block Cake on Page C5, if you're up to it -- to the divinely simple: Rattle Cupcakes made with a sucker stick, Lifesaver and ribbon. (See bottom of page.) In other words, recipes that can suit any ability.
In between is the clever watermelon stroller (two versions) that I think would take more time and mess than talent to create. Grab a melon baller, that's my kind of recipe!
Once you get past the gonzo centerpiece ideas, baby showers can be a mixed bag when it comes to what to serve. A lot of hostesses stick to cake and punch. Others opt for a light lunch. And, I'm not even going to try and accommodate those who do the showers in which the guys are invited, too. My suggestion: Throw a barbecue.
Here's some advice to help you along:
Q. Is it acceptable to serve cake and punch instead of a meal at a baby shower?
A. Cake and punch is very appropriate and makes for a shorter shower. Serving any meal is strictly up to the hostess.
If food is served, plan on buffet-style and remember to provide either real dishes or sturdy papergoods because food does get heavy.
If it is not a sit-down meal (restaurant or hall), remember that guests have to balance their plate, beverage and napkin on their lap.
Quick shower ideas
* Muffin or cupcake tin liners can accommodate more than just sweet treats! Fill them with fruit for a healthy, party-friendly snack or whip up a savory concoction.
* Everything's better on a stick: Put your toothpicks to the test and see how many appetizers, salads and sweets you can turn into finger food. Think about tiny cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and a sprig of basil.
* She's about to pop: A popcorn bar makes for fun grab-and-go party food.
Baby Rattle Cupcakes
1. Prepare a batch or regular-size cupcakes in whatever flavor you desire. Frost and decorate in pink, blue or any pastel.
2. Buy a bag of suckers. You can choose Tootsie Pops or any other brand that has an end that would resemble a rattle.
3. Poke stick-end into lower half of outside of cupcake wrapper and into cupcake.
4. Tie a pink or blue ribbon around the stick, up towards where it meets the cupcake.
Option: Instead of attaching a sucker to make the rattle, make a batch of mini cupcakes and poke the other end of the stick through the wrapper and into the smaller cupcake.
This centerpiece idea came from Pinterest. The result can either be a bassinet or a stroller, with wheels made out of orange slices with leftover watermelon cut to look like a stroller handle. Make it as simple or elaborate as you wish.
fruit salad baby bassinet/stroller
Large pan or serving tray
Mixed fruit (grapes, strawberries)
Box of toothpicks
Orange or grapefruit
1. Carve out the watermelon. About 3/4th of the watermelon shell should be intact to form the bassinet.
2. Cut and round the cantaloupe to form the baby's head
3. Toothpick 2 grapes to the baby's head to create the eyes.
4. Cut a little hole and insert the pacifier as the mouth.
5. Attach the head to the inside of the watermelon.
6. Fill the remaining bassinet with the mixed fruit.
Aloha Paradise Bars
1 pouch (1 pound 1.5 ounces) sugar cookie mix
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 cups white vanilla baking chips
1 cup coarsely chopped dried pineapple
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped macadamia nuts
1 can (14-ounce) sweetened condensed milk
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray bottom only of 13-by-9-inch pan with cooking spray.
2. In large bowl, stir cookie mix, butter and egg until soft dough forms. Press dough in bottom of pan.
3. Bake 15 minutes.
4. Sprinkle with baking chips, pineapple, coconut and nuts.
5. Drizzle evenly with sweetened condensed milk.
6. Bake 30 to 35 minutes longer, or until light golden brown. Cool completely.
For bars, cut into 9 rows by 4 rows. Store covered in refrigerator.
Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps
1 can (12.5 ounces) white chunk chicken breast in water, drained
2 medium carrots, shredded (about 1 cup)
3/4 cup diced red pepper
4 green onions, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup reduced-fat, Asian-style sesame salad dressing
6 large Bibb or iceberg lettuce leaves
Stir the chicken, carrots, pepper, onions and dressing in a medium bowl.
Divide the chicken mixture among the lettuce leaves. Fold the lettuce leaves around the filling and serve immediately.
Serves 6, each with 91 calories, 2 grams fat, 26 mg cholesterol, 389 mg sodium, 7 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 10 grams protein.
Easy strawberries are cut to resemble flowers and filled with a sweetened cream cheese mixture.
30 medium to large perfect strawberries
11 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons finely grated semisweet or milk chocolate
Cut a thin slice from the stem end of each strawberry, so the berry will stand upright without wobbling. Place the berries, cut side down, on a serving platter. Cut each berry, without cutting through, into 4 wedges. Cut almost to the bottom, but do not cut completely through. Fan wedges slightly apart, taking care not to break; set aside.
Combine cream cheese, sugar, and almond extract in a mixing bowl. Using a hand-held electric mixer at medium speed, beat until light and fluffy. Fold in the grated chocolate. Spoon mixture into a decorating bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe cream cheese mixture into center of each berry. Chill until ready to serve.
Makes about 30 filled strawberries.
Crisp and sweet, these delicate, honey-flavored cookies are perfect for dunking in tea or devouring with a cup of coffee at any time of day. From Martha Stewart Living.
Honey Lace Cookies
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons light-brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with Silpats (French baking mats) or parchment paper. Set aside.
2. In a small saucepan, melt butter, sugar and honey. Transfer to a bowl.
3. Whisk in flour and salt until smooth.
4. Working quickly, drop 1/2 teaspoons of batter onto prepared baking sheets, at least 3 inches apart. Bake until cookies spread and turn golden brown, about 6 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack; let cool completely. With your fingers, carefully remove cookies from pan. Makes 28.
Linda Cicero of the Miami Herald, was quite taken by the easy recipe here for making individual cheesecakes for spring celebrations from the Kraft kitchens. You can make a pretty presentation without a lot of effort, perfect for a spring brunch, bridal showers or graduation parties. Chef Carrie Conway offers these tips to be sure your cheesecakes bake the way they should:
Set out ingredients about 10 minutes before using so you can work with them at room temperature.
Allow your oven to heat while preparing your filling.
Do not over-beat. Over-stirring can add too much air to the batter, which can cause the cheesecakes to crack. Beat in eggs, one at time, on low speed until just blended.
Don't peek! Opening the oven door while cheesecake is baking causes drafts that may lead to cracking.
Another way to prevent cracking is to immediately run a knife around the edge of the finished cheesecake to loosen it from the sides of the pan.
Instead of graham crackers, you could use cookie crumbs or ground nuts for the crust. Feel free to substitute other seasonal fruit for the blueberries. Or spread the cooled cheesecakes with strawberry jam and garnish with fresh strawberry halves and mint sprigs.
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons sugar plus 3/4 cup, divided
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup whipping or heavy cream
2 cups blueberries, raspberries or sliced strawberries
1 tablespoon lemon zest
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix graham crumbs with 2 tablespoons sugar and butter. Press onto bottoms of 18 paper-lined muffin pan cups.
Beat cream cheese, remaining sugar and vanilla with electric mixer until blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Pour over crusts.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until centers are almost set. Set aside on a rack to cool completely. Refrigerate 2 hours.
Beat whipping cream with mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form; spread onto cheesecakes. Top with blueberries and zest.
Makes 18 servings, each with 273 calories, 21 grams fat, 96 mg cholesterol, 4 grams protein, 18 grams carbohydrates, 197 mg sodium.
This cake "recipe" is from Martha Stewart Living. It is meant to be created by someone who not only has the expertise, but the time to create the individual blocks, frost them, wrap them fondant and then decorate them. The results are terrific, but please don't make this your first attempt at cake decorating! I put the word "recipe" in parentheses because it's more of a list of instructions. It is expected that you will already have made the sheet cake, buttercream frosting and Royal Icing before you begin. If you need recipes for these, any classic cookbook or online baking sight can provide them.
Baby Block Cake
1 white sheet cake
1 recipe buttercream frosting
2 pounds rolled fondant divided in thirds and tinted green, yellow, and white (available at cake decorating supply stores)
One recipe Royal Icing divided in fourths and tinted blue, green, yellow, and pink
Cornstarch for work surface for rolling out fondant
Tools and Materials
Serrated knife: To slice uneven cake layers with precision.
Offset spatula: Its flat, slightly flexible metal blade makes this the best tool for spreading icing.
Piping bag: A soft, conical sack with the tip lopped off, made of coated fabric or plastic. Put each color of icing in its own bag, so you don't have to wash bags in the middle of the project.
Piping tips: A round hole creates a line or dot; a star-shape hole makes a ridged line or flower.
Plastic coupler: Allows you to change piping tips to make various shapes in the same color.
Drinking glass: Place a damp paper towel at bottom, and set piping bags in it when not in use.
Cake turntable: Lets you spin the cake with one hand while holding bag or spatula steady with the other (a useful extra).
Baby Block Cake How-To
1. Place sheet cake on clean work surface, top side up. Trim top to make level. Cut cake in half horizontally. Sandwich layer of buttercream between the layers. Trim sides of cake to be square.
Cut cake into 12 (2 1/2-inch) squares. Place each on its own piece of parchment or waxed paper. Ice each with a thin layer of buttercream to help fondant stick to cake. Chill blocks to set the buttercream.
2. Lightly brush cornstarch onto a clean work surface. You'll cover just one block at a time. Remove a 2-inch ball of fondant from one of the larger, tinted pieces (tightly wrap remaining fondant to keep it from hardening). Using a rolling pin, roll it out into a thin circle about 1/8 inch thick and roughly 7 inches in diameter. Don't refrigerate the blocks after you cover them; the fondant will get sticky.
3. Remove cake squares from refrigerator. Center the rolled fondant circle over a block of cake, and place it gently on the cake. Carefully press the fondant against the sides of the block, working on two opposite sides at the same time and smoothing up from the bottom. Repeat for the other pair of sides. Gently pinch the fondant together at the corners, creating four flaps. Working quickly, so fondant doesn't dry out, fold two flaps toward center of one side, as if wrapping a gift box; repeat for opposite side. Use a dab of water to help the flaps adhere, if necessary. Trim excess fondant from base of block with a sharp knife.
4. Repeat process for each block, using different-colored fondants, as desired. (If trimmed scraps are free of crumbs, knead together and reuse.)
5. All the designs shown in the photo were piped with a No. 3 plain tip using royal icing, which dries hard in about 10 minutes. Turn the side of the block you're decorating face up before piping. Wait for the finished design to dry, and then you can lay it face down to do the opposite side.