It was a hot day. It’s always hot in Gero, and today it was blowing more hot air than the mayor on election day. I was sitting at my desk with a pitcher of melted ice, sweating like a hungry fat guy at a hot dog stand where there are only two weenies left.. and he’s third in line. The door squeaked on its hinges and I looked up to see her walking in, the kind of broad that could get a guy into five types of trouble.
“Ginnie Joan’s another year old this year, but this time it ain’t no ordinary birthday,” she said, “We gots to celebrate this one with a bang, and I hear you’re the girl to help us do it.”
“So what if I am, doll face. I ain’t got the time, and you ain’t got the dough,” I replied, wiping the sweat off my brow and looking around for fall to appear.It was hotter than a $3 radio at an all-night pawnshop but this dame was cool as ice. She reached into her bag and tossed two parcels across the desk before moving to the door, arching her back against the frame “There’s plenty more where that came from. You’ve got two days to get back to me, and keep your trap shut,” she said before slinking out.
I picked up the parcels, looking inside and groaning like a cheap plastic chair at an all-you-can-eat buffet. This broad had my number all right – wholemeal pizza dough and freshly made too. I poured the pitcher over my head before picking up the phone and admitting surrender.
When my sister first approached me with her idea of throwing a 1920s/30s themed party for our Mum’s milestone birthday this year, I knew it was going to be a night to remember. If you want a cool party organised, just ask my sister (only, you might not want to ask her right now or she might punch your nose flatter than a pancake driving off a cliff). Contrary to the above gumshoe, I eagerly jumped on board and soon we were watching old movies for ideas (watching Kevin Costner in fast forward doesn’t make him any less annoying), making many a list and madly emailing each other even more than usual.
Before too long, invites were sent out to the lucky chosen ones, giving each guest a moniker to use for the evening, and some Ginnie Joan dollars to use in case they need to bribe their way in past The Enforcer (my brother-in-law).
The Enforcer’s shift at the speakeasy began early, shifting and moving the usual furniture out of the way to make room for the hired tables and chairs, the “band” and the piano. The band were an unusually quiet lot, but they made up for it by looking the part, framed by red curtains and gold chandeliers. The band and curtains were made by the speakeasy’s artist-in-residence, my sister, who also happens to moonlight as a fine little moonshine brewer.
A couple of pinboards covered in photos of Ginnie Joan throughout the years, and a few photoshop-dodgy-ed up posters later, and we had the swankiest speakeasy this side of Chicago.
The food preparation began weeks ago, with my sister and I making all the freezable items in advance and storing them safely away until the big day. My sister put in some mammoth baking days for this, and soon we had a chest freezer filled with tasty treats. Cooking the fresh food involved two pretty solid days of cooking before the party, and by Sunday we were knackered but it was totally worth it.
The party was fantastic, with around 60 guests in attendance. I was so impressed by the effort that everyone went to with their costumes! I would love to put up some photos of us all but I’m not so sure everyone would be cool with me sticking their mugs up here so you’ll just have to imagine how awesome us ladies looked with our drop-waists and tassels and fishnets and feathers and the men in their dapper suits! I had bought myself a nice feather boa to complete my outfit, but ended up leaving it out in fear of a guest choking on any stray feathers (the mob doc was outta town that weekend).
The night’s savoury menu at this lavish juice joint consisted of:
- Selection of cold platters and dips (which I largely forgot to photograph!!)
- Party eggs (also totally forgot to photograph!)
- Smoked salmon and caviar blinis (kinda forgot to photograph)
- Assorted sushi rolls
- Salt & pepper squid
- Lamb koftas with yoghurt dipping sauce
- Mini quiches – ham, cheese & chives and sundried tomato & feta
- Spicy chicken sausage rolls
- Spanakopita triangles (made with puff instead of filo… don’t tell George!)
- Spicy pulled pork buns
- Butter chicken pastries
- Mini beef & Guinness pies
No recipes in this post I’m afraid, but perhaps I’ll write some up in the near future.
We were serving for a good solid couple of hours, before people started admitting defeat and we thought we’d let them rest their bellies in readiness for dessert. The rest period included some entertainment in the form of The Godfather theme being belted out on the piano, and a skit including some of the town’s hottest young flappers showing off their dance moves. While all this was going on, my sister and I busily finished off the final touches to the birthday cake we’d been working on for a couple of days by this stage, and arranging the other desserts (provided kindly by some of Mum’s sisters) on trays.
In addition to that slice of beetroot chocolate cake that I bought at the Subi Farmers market last week and stored safely away in the freezer for our coeliac guest, the other desserts were:
- Date slice (no photographic evidence at all! Trust me it was lovely!) (thanks Aunty R!)
- Banoffee pies, with a twist (thanks Aunty S!)
- Chocolate and raspberry tarts (thanks Aunty T!)
Now, the birthday cake/s was a labour of love. My sister came up with the overall design, and then got to work making the key component – an incredible fruit cake (man it’s a tasty cake… I was lucky enough to score a big chunk to bring back to Perth with me, and every day is a struggle to stop myself from eating the whole thing.) I meanwhile put myself to good use by sourcing all the icing paraphernalia from various cake decorating stores. Of course, there happened to be a statewide shortage in the ready-to-roll icing we wanted, but I just hit up Jimmy the shoeshine boy for the info I needed. For the right price, Jimmy could tell you were to find a needle in a haystack, and where it had been ’til now, and he sure as hell knew where in town had some o’ that fondant. (The Yellow Pages and many phone calls may have also possibly yielded the same information).
The cake process began on Friday with the baking of around 70 cupcakes – chocolate in black paper, and vanilla in white paper. We then got onto decorating the fruit cake. Neither my sister nor I had ever used fondant before, so we were incredibly apprehensive and had visions of it cracking horribly as we tried to roll it on and having to cover up our mistakes with lashings of ganache or icing sugar or just doing the Charleston in front of it to distract people. After watching a few youtube videos to get the process clear in our minds, we got started and it ended up being remarkably straightforward! Luckily the cake was lovely and goopy with all the booze in it, so it was quite easy to get the surface nice and level by plugging any little holes with pieces of extra cake before we did the rolling, and before long we had a mighty fine looking fondantified cake.
The piano decoration on top of the white fondant layer involved a bit more work, and I was able to put my engineering skills to good use by drawing up a template to cut the black icing to. Once the black squiggle and black keys were in the right position, we made the lines between the white keys with pieces of licorice before adding some black musical notes, placing some ribbon around the bottom and high-fiving each other a few times.
The high-fives may have been a little premature, as we then spent the rest of the night decorating the cupcakes with alternating black or white fondant, and musical notes. We also decorated some cupcakes to spell out “HAPPY BIRTHDAY”, and saved four in each colour to place some gold candles into.
So, while others were shimmying up a storm outside, my sister and I arranged the cake and cupcakes on the previously prepared cakeboard (made and painted by The Enforcer, I believe, and finished off with the musical score by my sister). It was while doing this that I thought that perhaps we should check if the board actually fit through the door. Mild panic ensued until The Enforcer used his rifle as a ruler and confirmed that it would indeed fit safely through the door. Candles were then lit and the cake made its way out to the lady of honour!
Big cheers for my sister for organising one hell of a party, and very big thanks to all who attended and helped that classy broad Ginnie Joan celebrate her birthday in style! Happy birthday Mum!