Planning Luca’s birthday party has been keeping me very busy these past few weeks. Thankfully it’s over. The reason for this is, I take on the task of making everything myself, from designing the invitations to making the piñata and of course, making the food and sweets all from scratch. I love to do all of these, don't get me wrong, it’s just tiring.
For the food, I made falafel sandwiches. I know, very unusual for a birthday party but they were quite a hit. I also made a few salads and simple sandwiches, chicken and tuna. His cake was THIS chocolate cake which is his favorite. I also made other treats, including these chocolate swirl meringues. I can't begin to tell you how good these were. They are light and airy with a chewy center and a crisp exterior. They simply melt in your mouth. The chocolate was just an extra bonus to this sweet treat, they made all the kids very happy.
3 large egg whites
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
2 tablespoons of corn starch
5oz chocolate, melted and cooled
Preheat the oven to 275 ˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat, set aside. Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites until frothy (on medium speed), about 1 minute. Add the cream of tartar and gradually add the sugar too, one tablespoon at a time. Increase the speed to high and beat until stiff peaks form. Mix in the vanilla extract and mix until glossy and thick. Using an spatula, lightly fold in the corn starch. Drizzle the chocolate over the meringue but don’t mix it. Spoon the meringue into the prepared sheet pan. You will get about 9 4-inch meringues. Bake for 45 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the meringues dry inside with the oven door closed for another hour. Don't peek! you'll let the heat out. Let it cool completely before serving. Store in an airtight container.
For the Piñata:
This piñata is made from wire, newspaper and a glue made from flour and water and a little salt. This is the way piñatas are done in Central America. A well done piñata will take a while before it breaks, which makes it fun because all kids get to hit it at least twice. It has been a while since I last made a piñata, 15 years to be a precise. I was nervous about the piñata not lasting enough but I was pleasantly surprised when all the kids a the party got to hit it. It takes some work, I’m not going to lie but it’s a pretty straight forward project and kids can help decorate!
What you’ll need:
Wire (not the hardest type)
Plier, to cut and twist the wire
Homemade glue (see below)
Regular craft glue
For the Glue :
5 cups water
1 cup of flour
1 tablespoon salt
Add all ingredients into a pot, bring it to a boil mixing constantly, let it boil for 5 minutes or until the mixture is thick and smooth. I used almost all of it for this piñata.
Shape the piñata. I did a simple round piñata. Basically cut 4 pieces of wire the size you want the piñata to be (I cut 65-inches pieces). Then, take a wire and using the plier, twist the ends close to form a circle. Do the same thing with the remaining pieces. After you have all 4 circles, arrange them to form a ball, securing the bottom and the top with a piece of wire. Cut another piece of wire and form a loop, this is where you will hang the piñata so make sure you double wire it. (see picture 1).
Start by covering the wire with pieces of newspaper. Using the brush, brush some glue (It’s ok to use the glue while it’s hot, just be careful) all over the newspaper and start covering the wire. Do this until you cover the entire structure. Now, start the layers, this step will take a while, you need at least 4 layers of newspaper and you then need to let the layers dry over night before you move on with the tissue paper. (See pictures 2 and 3). Be generous with the homemade glue for a stronger piñata.
Once the newspaper is dry, proceed to cover it completely with tissue paper (you can use regular glue for this), I like to do this in case I miss a spot, people won’t see the newspaper. Let the layer of tissue paper dry. (see picture 4)
Note: The piñata may not be completely dry over night and that’s ok, we just want it to be dry enough to move forward with the tissue paper, otherwise, the tissue paper gets really wet.
Take the tissue paper and cut strips. Cut the strips ¾ of the way up into about ¼ wide fringe. Place a line of regular craft glue onto the top of the tissue paper. Wrap the piñata with the tissue paper strips, starting from the bottom of the piñata, overlapping the fringe. (see pictures 5 and 6). You have to start from the bottom, otherwise it will be very difficult to continue wrapping the piñata.
At this point you can decorate it however you like (polka dots are really cute!). Also, you need to let it dry completely before you use it, this may take a couple of days. Add the candy the day of the event to prevent molding. It shouldn’t happen but just in case!