My heart is full, my feet are tired and I’m floating on a cloud! But it’s not romance (though rest assured that is alive and well!). I’m talking about Galentine’s Day, which any Parks and Recreation fan could tell you falls on February 13th every year, the day before V-Day itself.
This year I had the double good fortune of remembering G-Day WITH enough time to plan something, and (more importantly) the best bestie a girl could ask for agreed to share in the planning and co-hosting.
The plan was simple: food, fun and friendships. We invited all the special women we know – from our church as well as our other friends, family and co-workers – to a special party.
We made delicious and pretty food and drink in Valentine’s colours.
Lemonade and sugar-free herbal iced tea, each served with raspberries, were perfect for the hot afternoon of the party. Those polka dot and floral paper cups lent a festive feel when paired with some funky paper straws. And the pretty wee gal on the pink stand was a 7″ raspberry and coconut cake – free from dairy, gluten, nuts and sugar (except for the icing) – made with two times this recipe.
Other treats included the ombré buttercream shell cake in question, chocolate mousse cups (served with the most adorable heart spoons from The Pretty Baker), crudités with dip, E’s fantastic cheese crackers, and heart-shaped meringue cookies. Those meringues have special nostalgia for E and I, because we made these for the first time 8 years ago when we were flatmates as Valentine’s gifts for our buddies. Except…we got the oven temperature wrong: turns out 200 degrees Celsius is a lot hotter than the 200 degrees Fahrenheit in the recipe! We burned our hearts then, so we recreated them this time without the singe!
We prepared delightful, girly games and activities.
We played two female-affirming games organised and led by my lovely co-host, E. For the first, each guest was given either an author’s name or a book title and then had to find their match. All the books (bar one) had strong female characters! The other game was ‘pass the parcel to poetry’, where E read out a poem that instructed guests to pass a wrapped gift to certain people around the room, in rhyme of course! For example, the woman wearing the largest earrings, or the gal most recently married. The one holding the gift at the end of the poem got to keep the contents.
To keep the ladies busy outside of the formal games, we had a couple of crafty activities on the go. I set up a cookie decorating station: ginger cookies and gluten and dairy-free almond cookies were covered in royal icing and sprinkles in just about every shade of pink. E prepared some heart-themed origami activities that the ladies enjoyed doing on the outdoors table. And last but certainly not least, we set up a photo wall that you can see in the pic below.
And we decorated with flowers and heart-shaped balloons and streamers.
E worked her magic with crêpe paper to make the most glorious streamers, which we complemented with cute balloons. The gorgeous roses were from the garden around the church office where we hosted the party.
Sadly, I ran out of time to take a decent photo of it on its own! *sigh* But there were plenty progress shots as you’ll see, some taken by me and some by my camera-wielding Valentine. He has his uses 😉
Ombré Buttercream Shell Cake
- Start off with a crumb-coated cake: I made two 8 inch round layers of red velvet cake (using this recipe that makes super easy-to-slice layers), which were each sliced into two horizontally to make four layers, then filled with cream cheese Swiss meringue buttercream (a.k.a. SMBC, made using this method).
- Prepare your buttercream: I used SMBC made with this fabulously easy recipe , substituting half the butter for Kremelta so that the yellow butter didn’t affect the colour too much. If you haven’t tried a meringue buttercream recipe, that method is foolproof (or Claire-proof, in my case!) and it is sooo easy to pipe with. I made about 1.5 times the recipe but cut down the sugar a little, which made about enough to fill, crumb-coat and cover this baby with ombré shells.
- Make your ombré shades: Now in all admission, I didn’t have a lot of time to decorate this cake, given all the decorating and other food prep on the cards for the party. If I’d had more time I would have mixed all the different ombré shades I needed upfront, rather than making it up as I needed as I did here. I gradually made up four different shades of Americolour burgundy to go up the side of the cake, using about 3/4 cup of icing to complete two rows of each shade. I started by colouring about 1 & 1/2 cups of SMBC with burgundy and used half of that to pipe two rows. For the next shade I added an equal amount of uncoloured icing (about 3/4 cup) to the remaining burgundy icing, mixed them together and then piped the next two rows. Repeat for the next two shades.
- Create the swirl on top: Another case of “do as I say, not as I do”… The easy way to ice the top of this cake is before starting to ice the sides. As I was in a rush, I waited until I had enough leftover buttercream from icing the sides before I did the top, but this makes it difficult to tidy the top edge after making the swirl. You can avoid my mistake by mixing up an extra 3/4 cup of buttercream in the shade of your choice when you are making up the shades for the side of the cake. To create the swirl, place your cake onto a turntable and smooth a thick layer of this buttercream evenly on the top using a palette knife (see pictures below). Then lightly press the tip of your palette knife into the centre of the cake and start turning the cake while gradually pulling the knife away from the centre to create an even spiral. This is much easier to explain by demonstrating, so please enjoy the GIF I’ve made below! Lastly run your palette knife around the side of the cake to tidy up the top edge.
- Pipe the ombré stars: Either using your pre-coloured shades of buttercream or making it up as you go, pipe two rows of shells in each shade. I started with the darkest shade at the bottom and used lighter shades going up but there’s nothing to stop you doing the reverse! To create these shells I used the Wilton #4B tip, after trying that and the #1M and deciding I like the look of the #4B best, but you choose whichever gives you the look you prefer. I also did a bit of experimenting with the direction of the shells. For the first couple of rows I pointed my icing tip down onto the cake board, but in the end the look I wanted was better achieved by pointing the tip at right angles to the cake. And being in a rush, I didn’t go back to fix those bottom two rows… Check out the photos below showing the different effects of the two tips I tried and another fun GIF, this time showing how I piped those stars (in the direction preferred!).
- Decorate the top: To finish the cake, I cranked out my Russian flower piping tips in an attempt to make two-tone tulips in similar form to the inspo cake. I created the two-tone by lining the icing bag with a light shade of burgundy buttercream and I piped a splodge of a darker shade into the centre. I piped a few practice flowers then I piped directly onto the cake. I used a third shade of burgundy buttercream with the shell tip to pipe little spikes betwist the tulips! Not my best Russian piped flowers – again, oh for more time!!
I hope you had a lovely Valentine’s and/or Galentine’s Day if you were celebrating 🙂