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The theme for my 10 yr-old’s party was science. I got white shirts from second hand shops to wear as lab coats and we did lots of science experiments. Most of them were from the Funology website. To eat we had:

Test tubes – frankfurters cut in half


Cells – individual pizzas made from muffins with slices of salami for the nucleus and slices of bierstick for the mitochondria and ribosomes



Beakers and stirring rods – mini quiches with straight pretzels


Atoms and Molecules Fruit Salad – grapes, cherries, watermelon balls, rockmelon balls


Then we made some Ziplock bag Ice cream. Instead of 1/2 cup milk we used 1/4 cup milk and 1/4 cup cream. We put the mixture in a sandwich-sized ziploc and then put it in an A4-sized ziplock with the salt and ice. Lastly we had a treasure hunt. With each clue they also found an item for cake decorating – icing, sprinkles, chocolate hail, white chocolate raisins, chachous. At the final station they found some cupcakes and their challenge was to use the things they had found to construct a 2D model of the solar system.


Finally we had a Neon Atom cake with candles that refused to stay out .

Despite son 2 and son 4 having birthdays exactly a month apart, their birthday parties ended up being only 6 days apart.  Nic’s was first and as he was turning 21 something special was called for. I did a bit of googling and found two cakes I quite liked and decided to make one that was a combination of the 2 ideas. I planned to make a round chocolate cake (usual recipe) with white chocolate ganache, assorted chocolates on top, chocolate wafers round the side and white and dark chocolate stars on wires coming out of the cake. I have had trouble in the past with melting white chocolate so decided to pay a visit to the cake decorating shop to pick up some of their white chocolate along with some wires for the stars. However when I arrived there I found the shop had gone. Another shop that has some cake decorating supplies didn’t have what I wanted so I ended up getting white chocolate buttons from Binn Inn. The wires came from a gift shop that was having a closing down sale and originally had plastic ‘crystels’ on one end. The supermarket didn’t have wafers so I got chocolate finger biscuits.
I tried melting the white chocolate in a waterbath only to have it seize. That chocolate was relegated to the ganache and a phone call placed to my husband to bring some more home. With the next lot I tried the microwave and had success. Cutting out the stars was relatively easy although some of the smaller ones broke when I was trying to get them out of the cutter. I thought the dark chocolate stars would be a breeze as I had some good quality chocolate but it took ages to get firm enough to cut (it was a very hot day) so i ended up putting it in the freezer. Then it got too hard and I had problems with the stars breaking when I was getting them out of the cutter. I ended up settling for 2 dark chocolate stars rather than 3. The seized chocolate seemed to work OK in the ganache but the recipe I used was too runny so I ended up adding more chocolate.
The next cake was much more straight forward. Tim wanted a science party and, when I couldn’t think what sort of cake to make, he suggested an atom. Since he was 10 I decided on a neon atom (atomic weight of 10). I used the same cake recipe in the same pan and eked out the left-over ganache with some icing sugar and water. I traced 2 circles on the top of the cake and added 10 green skittles for the electrons, 10 blue ones for the protons and 10 red ones for the neutrons.
A atom of Neon

A atom of Neon



I have 4 sons ranging in age from 10 to 24, so have had lots of practise making birthday cakes! It has taken me quite some time to come up with the winning formula. In the beginning I tried lots of different cake recipes but they almost invariably peaked in the middle. This meant that, once I had cut it level, I had quite a thin cake to work with. Once, in desperation, I even tried a bought packet cake mix but I still had the same problem. Finally I found this recipe on the internet. Success at last! A lovely big, moist, chocolatey cake that came out almost flat – only a little trimming required. A couple of years after finding the recipe I came across a hint to prevent peaking. It was to put a damp towel round the tin while the cake is cooking. This prevents the outside of the cake from cooking before it has completely risen. Since then I have used this trick in combination with the Dark Chocolate Cake recipe and the end result is invariably a lovely flat top. I quite often cook the whole mixture in a 25cm square tin -this takes about an hour to cook. Other times I will divide the batter between several pans to make particular novelty cakes – here are some I have made over the years.

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