What’s not to love about spring? We’re in that tantalizingly-short cool window before summer’s oppressive heat sends us scurrying indoors. Within that window fall several entertaining opportunities. Whether it's a bridal shower in preparation for a June wedding, end of school celebration, high school or college graduation party, or Mother’s Day lunch, spring is full of life's big events. Despite the calendar’s warning, it wasn’t until I began reading about two of the biggest cake trends that I was bitten by the spring entertaining.
Since one is all the rage at children’s parties, I’ll start with the other, which may appeal to a more diverse crowd. The rainbow cake, a delightful towering creation of blue, red, green, yellow, orange, yellow, and purple-colored cake layers, is guaranteed to evoke gasps of excitement from anyone who’s fortunate enough to be in line for a slice.
It’s simple to make, really; all that’s needed is a double recipe of yellow or white cake mix and a variety of food coloring or gels. If you’d like the complete recipe for a perfect spring celebration or just a treat for family and friends, just drop me an email at email@example.com.
The unicorn cake, all the rage on the children’s party circuit, might not translate as well at an adult gathering. The multi-colored layers are similar to the rainbow cake, so no problems there. However, the mane made from a cascade of pastel sugar roses and the ice cream cone horn surrounded by pink fondant ears might be portrayed as, well, a tad young for a college graduation party.
But, if a sick friend needs a pick-me-up or the weekly card game has gone stale, I can’t think of anything better to change the dynamic than a festive unicorn cake. For details on how to make the amazing cake that’s breaking the internet, send an email my way. Either way, do a little research on these new cake trends. The photos alone with bring a smile to your face. They're that cute.
But back to celebrating spring milestones, special days, or just the end of winter. So many of life’s great moments go unheralded, passed by, and forgotten because someone is afraid their home, budget, or cooking skills may not living up to others’ expectations.
What I’ve tried to remember in my own life and to pass on to others is that friends or family truly don’t care about being served elaborate food on expensive china. They simply want to be invited into your home to enjoy food and fellowship. In fact, they often won’t remember the food you served, but will never forget the time they spent in your home as the honoree or invited guest.
A tip I’ve picked up from years of interviewing caterers, party planners, and hostess extraordinaires is to keep it light. This rule of thumb applies to the main entrée, sides, dessert, and, most of all, your plans. At this time of year, guests are not looking for the heavy dishes served in colder months. Just following this tip simplifies the process, cuts expenses, and makes entertaining doable for anyone.
A number of light dishes exist that can be easily doubled or tripled, depending on the size of your crowd. A large dish of chicken spaghetti, always a crowd pleaser, can feed the multitudes and doesn’t require more than a green salad and slices of garlic bread or garlic-cheese biscuits to satisfy the heartiest of appetites.
For a ladies-only gathering, throw together a bowl of chicken, shrimp or pasta salad. With plenty of crackers, sliced bread and cheeses and a variety of condiments on the side, it’s a meal fit for the queens in your life.
When it comes to the table décor, unique serving dishes and festive linens can cover a host of party sins, including passing off store-bought entrees and desserts as your own. Guests will be so busy admiring your creative floral arrangement or cute place cards that they won't notice that dessert came from the supermarket bakery.
One of my favorite crowd-pleasing ingredients is hash browns. I know, the basic, no-frills shredded potato isn’t most people’s idea of a party food. But dressed with four different chopped meats, sour cream, and cheese, my Deluxe Potato Bake makes a delicious brunch or lunch entrée. I'll share the recipe if you'd like. You'll thank me for years to come.
Recently, I discovered a new way to turn hash browns into a main dish. With a light spring salad, hot rolls, and a light dessert, it’ll be the star of my next spring party. At the very least, it’ll be the perfect dinner for an ordinary Wednesday night.
Spring Ham and Potato Bake
1 bag (32 ounces) Southern-style hash brown potatoes
2 ham steaks, chopped into small pieces
1 cup chopped onion
10 ounces shredded Swiss cheese, divided
1 jar (4.5 ounces) sliced mushrooms, drained
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 3-quart baking dish with cooking spray. In a large skillet, brown ham on each side until heated through and no longer pink, or cook in the oven until done. When ham is cool, chop into small pieces.
In a large bowl, combine potatoes, chopped ham, onion, half the Swiss cheese, the mushrooms, salt and pepper, stirring until combined.
In a medium bowl, whisk together soup, milk, and melted butter.
Add soup mixture to potato mixture, stirring to combine.
Pour into baking dish and top with remaining Swiss cheese.
Bake for 35 minutes. Increase for 5 minutes longer, or until cheese is lightly browned. Serve hot.