I’ve got a competitive kid who just turned ten. Maybe it’s because he’s the youngest of three, or because he’s the shortest of three, or maybe it’s something altogether different. But four years back, his family birthday party took on a creative–and competitive–new format, and we’ve never turned back.
My son shares a birthday with one of my best friends and she had long talked about hosting a cupcake war. Well, we decided to incorporate that into our party. Indeed, as we gathered our two families–including her parents, my parents, my in-laws, other relatives, and our closest friends–for their birthday, we changed things up. People were to bring their favorite cupcakes, made from scratch, to compete in a cupcake war, to be judged by the birthday buddies. My son (then turning six) also loves to eat kadhi–a flavorful indian dish made from buttermilk and chick pea flour and usually served over rice–so we also hosted a kadhi cook off. And thus the meal was complete.
So every year, we set a few snacks out for when we’re waiting for everyone to arrive, but then everyone goes around sampling the entries. The judges are required to taste every entry (obviously) and then confer together to reach a decision.
Three years ago, we had a Chocolate War (and ordered Chipotle catering for the meal). Last year, there was a Salad Showdown and Dessert War. And this year, we hosted a Pizzalympics and another Chocolate War. The first year, I had gone to a local trophy shop (Minota’s Trophies) and ordered two trophies, one for each competition. The next two years, we just printed out certificates (adding a presentation category). This year, in honor of the Olympics, my son and I bought medals.
For the Pizzalympics, guests arrived with their toppings. They also brought dessert. We made dough, plenty of it, and one after another, contestants came to the kitchen, prepared their pizzas, and my husband baked them. The judges, for both contests, were the birthday buddies.
Sure, there’s a little prep work involved, but the coolest thing about this format of party is that I barely do any cooking. Indeed, the guests all bring the food. Including dessert. It’s basically a potluck with a twist. There’s plenty of food to go around, my son has to sample every entry (even if they include mint, which my son abhors), my other kids actually willingly enter the kitchen to cook, and the party concludes with an awards ceremony.
As for the entries, everyone gets creative and joins in the fun.
As an example, here’s the recipe for Bam Bam Blocks, invented by my 12yo kid.
Bam Bam Blocks
6 cups Cocoa Pebbles
1 10oz bag marshmallows
3 Tbsp butter
Raspberries (1/2 a small carton)
8 oz bittersweet chocolate baking bar
8 oz white chocolate baking bar
- Melt butter, add marshmallows and melt.
- After marshmallows liquefy, stir in Cocoa Pebbles.
- Spread half onto buttered baking tray.
- Layer raspberries on half.
- Cover all with the remaining mixture, press down, then let cool.
- Cut into half, to separate the raspberry from non-raspberry.
- Cut all into small squares/rectangles. Cool completely.
- In a double boiler (or microwave), melt bittersweet chocolate.
- Dip the non-raspberry blocks in the chocolate, coating completely, then set on waxed paper.
- Refrigerate non-raspberry blocks.
- Melt white chocolate.
- Spoon white chocolate onto raspberry blocks
- Drizzle strands of white chocolate onto the non-raspberry blocks to decorate.
- Refrigerate all blocks.