My love for baking is definitely not beneficial to the waistline. That is why I recruit my friends and family to consume my creations. My big mouth sometimes gets me into situations that are over my head, but I’m always up for a challenge. Zach’s law firm holds an annual pig roast for the Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce and since last year’s dessert was a big disappointment (too few bites and expensive), I begged to be the provider of a full dessert buffet for this year. I had no idea what I was getting into, even after figuring out that 4 different kinds of bite-sized desserts at 150 pieces each multiplied out to 600 individual pieces that I’d have to hand make. Why not try though, right?
I started planning the menu and figuring out an operation schedule right away, even though the party was still 2 months out. I was excited, my eyes shined bright and wide when I talked about it. There were nights where I couldn’t sleep because I had so much anticipation and anxiousness to start baking. There were requests for some favorites of mine, including the Butterbeer/Butterscotch Cupcake and a Rockyroad Brownie. I had been obsessed with whoopie pies, so I just decided to fill my obsession and make 150 whoopie pies, including 3 different flavors (traditional chocolate with butter cream, banana whoopie with Nutella butter cream, and chocolate with strawberry butter cream). Another hit of mine during the summer is the Red White and Blueberry trifle. How cute does 150 individual mini cups of berry trifle sound? Thus the menu took shape.
A few weeks went by, I forced myself to stop thinking about the party, and then we left for a week’s vacation to Hawaii. I came back refreshed and ready to tackle the challenge, but needed to recruit some skilled hands first. Thank goodness my bestie Claire was available and willing to bake into the wee hours of the night with me. Her mad skill and the way we move together harmoniously around the kitchen was a winning partnership.
The weekend before the party came and we went shopping for ingredients. When we calculated and wrote the list out, there were giggles and chuckles all over the place. I mean, 13 lbs of flour, 14 lbs of butter, 14 lbs of sugar, 48 eggs is just insane! Thank goodness for Costco, or we really would have really looked looney. Standing next to people with 150 rolls of toilet paper and 20 lbs meat at the check out was reassuring. I did feel my heart stop when we put the butter in our shopping cart though.
2 full days of baking and 2 nights of assembling and packing, filled with lots of bestie bonding, and sore backs and feet made the challenge fun. We did run into some hick-ups though, like a full blast Chicago summer, spiking temps to the 90’s and above. A hot day does not make having the oven going all day a pleasant environment, even if the air conditioning was on full blast. It also wasn’t the best temperature to make Swiss meringue butter cream, where you have to whip a hot cooked mixture of egg whites and sugar until it is cooled to room temperature before whipping in the butter. It took us over an hour and frozen pie dough wrapped around the bowl with a dishtowel to get the meringue cooled, and still the texture wasn’t the smooth silky goodness that the butter cream is supposed to be. Thank goodness that this icing is extremely forgivable and just needed to be cooled down a bit more in the fridge and whipped up again the next day. If this butter cream worked with the craziness that went on in the kitchen that day, it can also work for you! Also, it holds up pretty well outside on a sunny 95 F degree-day on top of mini cupcakes (or anything else for that matter).
Since the weather was our biggest challenge (along with I guess the whole part of being inexperienced in making a large quantity of food to serve to strangers), we decided that the berry trifle would have been disastrous and potentially harmful to serve outside on a hot sunny humid day. Cream and heat do not mix and should not be mixed when consumed by living beings. Plus the cups that I bought for the individual servings just seemed too big of a portion. So instead of the trifle, I went with another summery dessert, berry pies in mini form, perfect for a portable bite. Claire’s staple piecrust recipe was a savior and delicious last minute swap-o-roo saving the day. Even Zach pitched in late Monday night egg washing each 4-inch pie before baking.
Even with challenging weather, a last minute swap-out, and complete in-experience, we were a complete success! Everyone loved the variety, tastiness, and cute portion sizes. I even got quiet a few questions asking about my “business” and if I was available to cater a few other events! May be one day soon, but for now, it’s just me, this blog, the kitchen, and lots of friends! Thank you Andrew Szocka P.C. for giving me this opportunity and believing in me. Special thank you to Claire and Zach for their hard labor and calming words. Till the next challenge!!
Here are the recipes:
Butterbeer / Butterscotch Cupcake Cakes – Amy Bites
Banana Whoopie Pies (filled with Swiss Meringue Butter Cream flavored with Nutella) – One Girl Cookies
Chocolate Whoopie Pies (filled with Swiss Meringue Butter Cream) – One Girl Cookies
Rocky Road Brownies (I doubled the batter recipe for a half sheet pan) – Carla Hall The Chew
Swiss Meringue Butter Cream – Sweetapolita
Claire’s Pie Crust – Cottage Revolution