We have some lovely neighbors where we live, and in the spring, summer, and fall we see lots of them in our shared courtyard, but during these months of winter hibernation we miss them. So the kids and I decided to invite them over for a Valentine's Tea Party. Now, this is a holiday that checks all the right boxes for my daughter, so she's been busy planning the decorations and food. This was never intended to be anything big or super fancy, just a nice opportunity to craft and bake together and to treat some lovely people to the results.
For the invitations, I folded winged origami hearts and the kids tucked a note inside with the details. I found the instructions here. I've never done origami before, but these were easy to do and made me want to explore this craft some more. I used regular paper in pale pink, which is what I had on hand. I tried using construction paper but it didn't work, and they would look nice in paper with a different colour on the reverse, which would show up on the wings of these ones. Like gift wrap or real origami paper. But I still like how mine turned out.
I'd bought a bag of craft foam hearts that I thought my daughter would use to decorate her Valentine's cards, but they were deemed not glittery enough for that purpose, so instead I used them to make a heart garland. Using the zig-zag stitch I ran a length of yarn through the sewing machine and added the hearts with a bit of space in between. Would be lovely in felt, too, and I suppose you don't even need the yarn to hold it together, just run the straight stitch on your sewing machine and let the thread link the hearts together. Or you could probably even glue the yarn to the hearts and make it a no-sew project.
As for table decor, I let my daughter lead the way. She has many different modes of creativity and artistic expression. Minimalist and understated are not amongst them. But she has such fun being creative so I try to just let her do her thing, hard as it sometimes is to not pull back a little. She picked the fabric for the table runner. She was hoping for a full table-cloth so I guess I do hold her back sometimes....I backed it with thin corduroy that I had on hand and stitched rick rack a couple of inches in from the edge. There are few things in the world that cannot be improved by adding rick-rack, we agreed. Hanging from the lamp are lengths of satin ribbon that we glued dollar store jewels to. Red hearts and pink baguette-cut jewels. They have mirror-like backings so they added a lot of sparkle. The heart garland was draped over the blind at the window.
My daughter also made one-of-a-kind valentine's cards for each guest and put them on the plates. Some were felt or paper with glued-on embellishments or nice patterns created with her most fancy pens. Others were wooden heart-shaped disks that she glued felt onto one side of and wrote the guest's name on the other. No two were alike and that's how she'd intended it.
The table she set with all the most special and shiny stuff we have. These are things we have from my mother-in-law who sadly can't use them anymore and we love any opportunity to take them out. They include little silver plates and bowls, gold-plated tea spoons and assorted fine china cups. All perfect for the occasion.
Mini Chocolate Cupcakes
The menu was sweet: mini chocolate cupcakes using a brownie recipe that we decorated with hearts and silver sugar beads stuck into melted white chocolate chips. My three-and-a-half year-old son helped me and miraculously copied me without my asking! Only on a few of the cakes did he stray and did his own thing. That was a first!
These chocolate cupcakes are my current go-to recipe for a quick treat. It was a recipe I found in one of those free parenting mini-magazines the sit around at school all the time. It was a holiday edition and the recipe was for two-bite brownies spruced up for the holidays with mint extract and crushed candy canes on top. I haven't tried the minted version, but the recipe does make a good, not too rich and kinda chewy two-bite brownie, but I've also made them in a larger square pan, just adjust the baking time slightly. They are super easy to put together:
1/3 cup soft butter
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp mint or vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Cream sugar and butter, add vanilla, then eggs. Mix together dry ingredients in a separate bowl then add to egg mixture and mix by hand til just combined. Spoon into prepared mini-muffin pan, sprinkle with crushed candy cane if making the minty version, and bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes. As always with brownies, don't over bake. Makes 24 minis. Also works well in a 9inch square pan, just bake 5-7 minutes more.
Danish Sweet and Buttery Rolls
We also did sweet and buttery rolls that we cut with a heart-shaped cookie cutter and set out in a ring on the baking sheet, close enough that they'd stick together during baking. I gently pulled them apart and sliced them in half but then set them back on a plate in the ring shape before serving with butter and jam.
Butter rolls are a Danish staple and mandatory at any birthday or tea party, I suppose they're our version of scones, really. The cardamom adds a fantastic nutty sweetness and is commonly used in baked goods all over Scandinavia. I've adjusted the recipe for dry yeast (as I grew up with a different kind of yeast...)
Danish Butter Rolls50 grams of melted butter (yes, it would have to be metric, wouldn't it?)
400 ml. warm milk
2 1/2 tsp dry yeast, or one envelope
150 ml buttermilk (or milk with 2 tsp vinegar, let sit for 5 min.)
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cardamom
800 grams flour
Stir yeast and sugar into warm milk, let sit covered til frothy, about 5 minutes. Add melted butter, salt, cardamom, buttermilk, then work in flour a little at a time until the sough is soft, but not too sticky to work with your hands. Knead for as long as you can stand it, it only makes it better. Let rise under a cloth in a warm place for about an hour and a half. Punch it down and form into 24 rolls, and place on baking sheet. Or use heart-shaped cookie cutter like I did, and place in a circle in a baking sheet. If you leave less than an inch between them they will rise and bake together which is a nice effect. Let rise another half hour . Brush with egg wash, sprinkle with whatever you like, or don't. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 430 degrees. Serve fresh and warm with butter and jam. Or freeze. Thaw and reheat before serving.
Shortbread Heart and Sandwich Cookies
I used the Canadian Living Festive Shortbread Recipe to bake some heart cookies that the kids decorated as they saw fit.
I rolled out the remaining shortbread dough thinner than for normal shortbread, and once baked and cooled I sandwiched them together with raspberry jam, spread icing on top and added a few sprinkles for good meassure.
It is a good idea to ice half of the cookies first, then let them dry a bit before sandwiching them together. You want the icing to be fairly thick so it doesn't run off and trying to spread this with the jam still fresh and soft in the middle makes everything kinda slide around a bit. The jam eventually stiffens a bit, so you could also wait and ice later.
These little cookies are similar to ones my mom always makes. They are a traditional Danish pastry, and I'm talking about the country here. None of what's called Danish pastry in North America has anything to do with actual Danish pastry. Just so you know. But the traditional raspberry sandwiches are actually made by baking two large sheets of shortbread, then spreading jam on one, layering the other on top, icing and then cutting into squares. They freeze really well, are quite sturdy for picnics and a total crowd pleaser. They were a staple of the care packages my mom used to send me when I was away at school.
Finally, we added some strawberries and red grapes and tea for the ladies and sparkling juice for the kids.
Preparing this tea party was at least as much fun as the party itself. Sometimes doing these things with the kids don't always work out the way I hoped - maybe I get a little too impatient or perhaps they're not as into it as I thought they would be. But this really was the sweetest afternoon and they, too, were very proud of the results.
Suzanne, thanks so much for stopping by and sharing the details here. Have a happy birthday and lovely Valentine's Day!