There has been no birthday cake this year but there has been plenty of birthday pudding. Or maybe just plenty of pudding.
For my birthday this year, (I reached the lofty age of 26 and am now having to radically rethink my life plan because unless several not insignificant miracles take place between now and next year, I am woefully off course), in a blatant show of disregard for anyone’s New Year diets, I decided to throw a pudding party. And yes, it was glorious. It was also about 3 weeks in the planning but as I’ve said before, it is all in the planning. Invitations for the illustrious gathering were sent out on the 1st January, get the early, that’s my first tip. Then once sent, for a bit you get to simply sit back, relax and watch the acceptances come rolling in.
I can tell that you are wondering where my inspiration came from and I can confirm that it came from my parents, (I presume predominantly my mother), who once hosted a Pimms and Puddings Party which I seem to remember was a roaring success. As my birthday falls in the dead of winter however, I felt that Pimms was not really the appropriate drink and settled for copious amounts of wine along with a few beers and ales for those who prefer.
In an unusual departure from my usual insistence on doing every single thing myself, I did ask some of my guests to assist by bringing a dessert so that I did not have to attempt to create a million puddings. I didn’t tell people what to make, I just asked them to bring something. I also decided that I would play fair and not make any puddings that fell into the ‘easily transportable’ category as I thought that would be a little unfair.
I planned all my tasks for the party over the proceeding week to make sure that everything happened in time. I was actually very fortunate in a way as I was extremely busy for the first four days of the week putting together a pitch at work meaning that I had the Friday off and plenty of time to get ahead. I made all of my puddings, decorated and cleaned the house on the Friday, (I also made pasta), leaving only additional setting up, getting ready and candle lighting to happen on Saturday. Oh, and taking Oscar for his inaugural trip to the vets which was thankful uneventful.
We ended up with a delightful array of puddings and not a single duplication which I still think is somewhat remarkable. Harriet made a delicious chocolate roulade, Becky a chocolate torte, Ashley a gluten free Black Forest gateau inspired cake, Dave and Lucy a treacle tart with my initials on it (I’ve never had a tart with my initials on it before), Harriet bought some miniature eclairs, and my brother Anthony contributed a lemon tart with a caraway pastry (the clear winner), and a pear tarte tatin. It wasn’t the first lemon tart that he made – there was a bit of a pastry casualty when we got a tad over-excited making pasta with the use of my KitchenAid pasta maker the night before.
I myself contributed the following: shots of white chocolate basil creams, mini, petit-four sized sticky toffee puddings with sticky toffee sauce, and a berry semi-freddo with hot chocolate sauce. I also made a number of jellies, although they were eaten I had made them primarily as decoration and I didn’t make my own jelly, just added hot water to a packet of jelly.
The pudding or dessert station looked amazing. I hung white tissue paper pompoms from the ceiling above the island in my kitchen and white paper bunting all the way around it. Then, and this is the bit I’m really proud of, I covered the top of the island in brown paper that I then traced images of different puddings on to so that it was covered with pictures. It
looked amazing although the tracing didn’t work particularly well so I ended up drawing the majority semi-freehand with a Sharpie. It solved a dual purpose – mostly it looked fabulous but it also meant that when the night was over cleaning up was made just that little bit quicker as I was able to simply remove the brown paper and put it in the recycling. I won’t lie though, I was rather upset to have to throw it away but I couldn’t possibly have kept it. (Oh and don’t worry, there was also a large quantity of fairy lights in the kitchen).
In the front room, which was largely unused, (everyone knows that the action at a party is in the kitchen. On this occasion it was also where all of the food and the alcohol was so…), I hung white paper lanterns and more fairy lights in the window and had lots of candles around.
I also filled the house with tulips in a variety of vases, jars and glass bottles – I had them in the front room on a line along the mantlepiece and then dotted around on the dessert station as well as with the drinks.
Despite my meticulous planning, the one thing that I couldn’t control was the weather and this was definitely against me to a large extent on the day of my party (19th January). In fairness, it was probably more against me in the days leading up to it and actually there was no additional snowfall on the Saturday which meant that nearly everyone was still able to come.
It really was a most splendid affair and I hope that all my guests are in agreement.