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My daughter recently turned eight, the minimum age recommended for American Girl dolls. It’s amazing, really, since before this age, my daughter wouldn’t give these dolls the time of day, and since these dolls are about $90 a pop, I wasn’t about to push it.  Just as she approached her birthday, however, her interest increased exponentially with every over-sized catalog that appeared with alarming regularity in our mailbox.   Somehow she ended up with three new dolls between Christmas and her birthday, much to her delight, and I’ll be totally honest, mine as well.  Helping her brush and curl her dolls’ hair and changing those dolls into adorable tiny outfits are more than a little nostalgic and speaks to the eight year old doll lover in me.

So when it came to making a decision about how to celebrate her birthday, we initially thought to bring a couple of her friends with us into the New York City American Girl Place and have lunch and perhaps take in one of the shows they have there.  After it proved too difficult for my daughter to narrow it down to just two friends, I decided to bring the American Girl Café to our house.

The English certainly have elevated this afternoon ritual to a fine art, and I have been refining my teas parties over the course of the past decade, first for bridal showers, then baby showers, and now, little girl tea parties.  I found the menu for afternoon tea at the American Girl Café on their website, and followed it fairly closely.  This is what we decided on for the menu, with only minor changes:

 

Warm Welcome

Cinnamon Buns

 Savory Treats

Kristen’s Wild Blueberry-Lemon Scones
served with fruit preserves and Devonshire cream

Banana Macadamian Nut Muffins

Irish Soda Bread

Kit’s Garden-Party Sandwiches
 with vegetable cream cheese and cucumber

Kaya’s Egg-Salad Tea Sandwiches

Felicity’s Patriotic Roasted Turkey Sandwiches
with cranberry mayonnaise

    

Sweet Surprises

Birthday Cupcake

Addy’s Linzer “Love” Cookie

Molly’s Victory-Garden Chocolate Ice Cream Flowerpot

 

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The table settings with menu.  The pink lemonade was from a mix, as I often find refrigerated pink lemonade is somewhat orangey.

 

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Every seat had a place setting for a doll, complete with a mini menu.

 

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These sticky cinnamon buns were a huge hit with the girls.  This is one thing on the menu you do not want to skip.

 

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Blueberry lemon scones – delicious plain, but heavenly with a dot of clotted cream.  If you cannot find it or want to save $7.50, just serve with butter.

 

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Banana macadamian nut mini muffins – moist and delicious!   The Irish Soda bread is lighter than my usual recipe and perfect with a little butter and a cup of tea.

 

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 These three kinds of tea sandwiches are pretty basic.  I used Pepperidge Farm thin slice bread, both white and wheat. 

  • Kit’s Garden-Party Sandwiches with vegetable cream cheese and cucumber:  I used Philadelphia Brand vegetable cream cheese, seedless cucumber thinly sliced on a mandolin, and a grape tomato on top. 

  • Kaya’s Egg-Salad Tea Sandwiches:  I make my egg salad with curry powder and dry mustard.  I also put alfalfa sprouts on top the egg salad for added freshness.

  • Felicity’s Patriotic Roasted Turkey Sandwiches with cranberry mayonnaise:  I boiled 1/2 C. of frozen whole cranberries in 1/2 C. of water and 4 Tbs. of sugar until the cranberries cracked and thickened.  After chopping, I threw these into a cup of mayonnaise and served with smoked turkey breast.  I cut small butterflies from cheddar cheese and placed these on top of each turkey sandwich.  Another variation would be to cut out stars and use flag toothpicks to skewer them together.

 

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 Iced sugar cookies in heart and star shapes.  One activity during the party was cookie decorating with plain sugar cookies and a variety of colored royal icing in small ziplock baggies with an end snipped off and various sprinkles.  Just be prepared to be sweeping up sprinkles for the next week.

 

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 Basic vanilla cupcakes with buttercream icing.

 

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Molly’s Victory-Garden Chocolate Ice Cream Flowerpot – This is a modification from the version served at the American Girl cafe.  I took the idea from the Pioneer Woman Cooks blog, substituting ice cream from chocolate mousse and a real flower instead of artificial.  One word of caution – do not place ice cream straight into the clay pot as it is not meant for food service.  I found small aluminum muffin tins that fit the pot like a glove.  This is a great make ahead part of the tea, and you simply take out the ice cream tins just before serving and place flower in the straw.  Let ice cream thaw a bit, otherwise you will have impenetrable ice cream and ground oreo dirt everywhere.

So now you too can throw an American Girl tea party that even the adults will love.    Be sure to have a pot of real tea on hand.

 

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It’s one of those philosophical questions that all bakers and cooks must face at some point:  when is a cake worth saving?   You’ve baked an amazing dessert for a function, the house smells amazing, you turn over the bunt pan and … half the cake remains stuck in the pan.  The good news is the kids can now have a piece of that delicious chocolate cake they’ve been smelling for the past couple of hours.  The bad news is your cake is ruined.

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Or is it?  Well, there’s the obvious solution of a glaze on top.  Tried it.  Still looks like the second hole on the golf course with all the missing divots. 

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I needed something to cover the glaze and the flattened top.  Sugared fruit is a wonderful and seasonally appropriate way to decorate a cake and cover a multitude of flaws.  All you need is fruit (hard skinned fruit works best), egg whites (I use meringue powder) and super-fine sugar (pulse regular sugar in a food processor if you don’t want to make an extra trip to the market).

Simply brush the fruit with the egg whites,  cover with sugar, and let dry.  Simple as that!

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Doesn’t it look like I always meant to put those gorgeous sugared fruit atop my chocolate cake?  It’ll be our secret.

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(I use this recipe for my go-to chocolate cake.  Try it – I know you’ll thank me.)

The mother of all stains is a Sharpie mark (good luck with that one), but second only to that are kim chi stains.  Spaghetti sauce?  Hah!  Mere child’s play.  Anyone who has had the pleasure of eating kim chi knows the true second burn:  finding that tiny vermilion drip on your pants or shirt as you throw it into the laundry.  And then finding that same stain undiminished after it comes out of the wash.  After three or four washes, you pretty much resign yourself to the fact that that unflaggingly red stain is now a permanent part of your wardrobe.

Despair no longer!  Here’s the simple trick to getting out kim chi and any tomato-based stains.  Simply place the stained clothes in direct sunlight for several hours.  I usually wash the clothes and then place it outside still damp, but inside by a  very sunny window will do the trick.  The problem I’ve found with placing it outside is the other things that fall on it (leaves, pollen, etc.), forcing me to wash it yet again.  The stain will disappear like magic.  I promise.

The downside to my kids’ love of Korean food:  kim chi stains on their clothes.

Here’s my daughter’s shirt after a couple of washes – the stain did not budge even after direct scrubbing with my first line of defense (Shout gel, Fels Naptha soap, Oxiclean soak).

 

Her shirt after a couple of hours in the sun.  The hard part was waiting for a sunny day.