Saturday, February 26, 2011

Mad Tea Party/Unbirthday Party

I love to throw parties - especially theme parties. So for my recent birthday party, I decided to go with a Mad Tea Party theme. Since the party wasn't on my actual birthday, it was also an Unbirthday Party. Unfortunately I have a small apartment and a limited budget so hosting events in the style I would like is often difficult. It takes a little creativity (and some favors from friends) but it can be done.

I'm a big fan of Evite. Online invitations are fast, free and environmentally friendly. They allow you to poll your guests and send them updates should details change. There is another great site called Paperless Post. This site isn't free but the invitations are made to look like expensive engraved invitations. The cost is pretty low (ranges from $.13 - $.05 per invite sent) so for events you wish to convey a more upscale feel this is a great alternative. They also offer notecards, save-the-dates, and baby announcements among other options.

I was very fortunate that one of my business contacts gave me a wonderful deal on a private space at the O Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. We were able to use most of the Mezzanine level which provided space for mingling and lounging. The venue provided votive candles which was great as candles without a protected wick were not permitted (pretty standard at most venues). The space was already quite interesting so I didn't want to distract from it. I purchased tea cups and saucers from a local thrift store to make my flower arrangements. I mixed and matched the cups and saucers for a more "mad" look and filled them with water. I purchased some type of flower (don't remember the name but if anyone recognizes the type from the photo, let me know!) from the local market and was able to make 10 arrangements from one bouquet. Very affordable and festive! Of course if you already have tea cups, that is one less step. Since I wasn't hosting this at my home, I didn't want to worry about transporting my good tea cups back and forth so it was key that I used something I could leave behind. Another friend of mine hosted an Alice in Wonderland themed birthday party earlier in the day and had purchased some funky hats from Oriental Trading Company so those were also added to the decor and were available for those that wanted to add something to their look.

Mini Cupcakes - 1 Box, 4 Flavors
What's a tea party without a little something sweet to munch on? Mini cupcakes are so much more fun that full sized cupcakes and people feel less guilty about eating them since they are so tiny. Thankfully this is where another friend helped me out by loaning me both her mini cupcake tin and some carrying cases. Finding mini cupcake wrappers proved to be a bit of a challenge but I'm happy to share that plain white can be found at Bed, Bath & Beyond and seasonal at Crate & Barrel. As you know from previous entries, I'm a bit of a mad scientist. So what better way to let my creative juices flow than to experiment with a box of cupcake mix!

1 Box White Cake Mix
Eggs & Oil (See Cake Mix for Details)
2 Classic White Frosting Containers
Cocoa Powder
Lingonberry Jam (Available via Amazon, at Ikea and Scandinavian markets)
2 cubes Dorot Basil (Available at Trader Joe's and Ralphs) or Fresh Basil
Garnishes - M&Ms, Jelly Belly Beans, Lingonberries (optional)

1. Make cupcake batter according to mix.
2. Divide into four portions, each in a separate bowl.

3. Add additional ingredients to batter. See below for details.

4. Pour batter into paper lined mini muffin/cupcake tin.
5. Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees and then check cupcakes to see if they are done. Stick a toothpick in the center and if it comes out clean the cupcakes are done.
6. Bake an additional few minutes and continue to check for doneness. Baking time is not an exact science as the additional ingredients may require varying degrees of baking time. It is not recommended to bake more than one type at a time and/or in the same baking tin.
7. Allow cupcakes to cool.

8. Fill a pastry bag or regular plastic bag with frosting. If using a plastic bag, cut a small hole in one of the lower corners of the bag. The smaller the opening, the less frosting will come out at a time.
9. Pipe your frosting onto each of your cupcakes.
10. Garnish as desired or with suggestions below.
11. Try not to eat the remaining frosting.

Bowl 1 - Sprinkles
1. Mix in sprinkles of your choice to dress up the classic white batter.
Note: When stirring, the colored sprinkles will bleed and create a swirled effect.
2. Follow remaining instructions above.

Bowl 2 - Chocolate
1. Mix in cocoa powder to taste.
Note: I had originally intended these to be purple velvet cupcakes but messed up the proportions on the food coloring and cocoa powder.
2. Follow remaining instructions above.
3. Garnish with an M&M. (I used only purple for my party.)

Bowl 3 - Lingonberry
1. Mix in Lingonberry jam to taste.
Note: The jam adds moisture which will increase the cooking time. Also, the consistency will be a bit more like a muffin in the level of moistness.
2. Follow remaining instructions above.
3. Garnish with a single Lingonberry from the jam.

Bowl 4 - Basil Lime
1. Thaw two cubes of Dorot Basil or finely chop (by hand or in the food processor) fresh basil
2. Mix basil into batter.
3. Zest one lime into batter (I recommend tasting as you go to make sure you are happy with the proportions.)
4. Squeeze a bit of lime juice into batter if desired for moisture and flavor.
5. Follow remaining instructions above.
6. Garnish with a lime flavored Jelly Belly.

Note: Some cupcakes got a bit banged around during transport and others are missing because they were delicious.

The cakestands were also created for this event as disposable items. I purchased plates from the 99cent store and used a votive candle to separate the levels. Due to the clear plates, I was only able to glue the candle to the bottom plate as he glue would have been visible through the top plate. This lead to a bit of instability but for this party it worked. I would recommend securing both ends if you expect to use more than once and/or if you anticipate children or clumsy adults.

Specialty Drink
Offering a specialty drink is always a fun addition to any party. The O Hotel has an amazing mixologist and he actually created three different "tea" inspired cocktails for my party. Each used a different type of tea or tea infused liquor as one of the elements. Unfortunately, I walked out without picking up one of the little menus. If I'm able to get my hands on one, I'll update this post with the details. If you are hosting a similar event in your home, you can always keep it simple with one of the tea flavored vodkas or get crazy and create your own flavor combination using tea and your favorite spirit.

It's not much of a theme party if there aren't costumes involved! This is probably my favorite aspect of theme parties. For this party I wanted to keep it simple and easy but still "mad". Guests were encouraged to come in whatever they wanted - as long as it was a bit mad. Their instructions were tea party meets cocktail party and turned on it's head. There were a lot of great outfits and everyone seemed to have a lot of fun with it.

Hopefully this party has inspired you to think outside the box for your next party as well as in the kitchen. Look for details on my Oscar party soon!

1 comment:

  1. I like the Scandi shout out!
    Mathilde :)