A Valentine's Day Party

Saturday, February 17, 2018

My goodness has it been a busy time around Blueberry Barn! You see the Alaska String Band is getting ready for it's Spring Tour, and Quinn and I have been all abuzz preparing and practicing. I started packing last night, and how I am hoping for some warm weather along the journey - as it has been quite cold here in Juneau these past days!

Amid all the hustle and bustle of singing songs and mapping out a show, we were all ready for a break when Valentine's Day rolled around. Of course I had already been planing a few surprises in the form of Valentines and poems, and with Melissa's help a menu was planned and a date was set! We would be celebrating not only the day of love and friendship, but also Paul's, Laura's and Quinn's birthdays! You see Paul was gone for his birthday early in January, and we were gone in Seattle for Quinn's, and Laura's is at the end of February while we are on tour, so we decided to throw a big party and celebrate them all!

On Melissa's menu were: Hamburgers, fries, lemonade, baked beans, chips, roasted veggies, deviled eggs, and a plethora of baked cookies and desserts! I agreed to do the lemonade and the fries (as I had found a recipe for fries made in a Dutch oven that I really wanted to try) and a dessert that had captured my imagination for a long while: Swedish Princess Cake.

You know that I love everything Scandinavian, and specifically anything from Sweden in particular, so when I saw pretty photos of this dessert I was captured. It was just so lovely! I figured a Valentine's Day/Birthday Party would be the perfect time to try to attempt this grand dessert, and so I spent hours the night before the party preparing the separate components of the cake.

I found a very detailed recipe for the cake here on this website. The night before the party I was able to get a large portion of this dessert complete, which proved very handy since I would be so busy the next day. I was able to make the white cake, the pastry cream (which I don't think turned out quite right, but more on that later), and the marzipan (something else I had never made before!). The marzipan would cover the cake much like fondant does on fancy wedding cakes, and I was rather terrified of it. I had never used anything like marzipan or fondant before! Swedish Princess cakes are usually a light green color, but I saw on Pinterest that some were also colored a lovely pink, and so I chose that color for my cake to go with the Valentine's Day theme. As I kneaded the food coloring into the marzipan I prayed that the cake would turn out alright, or else Paul, Laura, and Quinn would have to blow out candles in a cookie rather than a real cake!

The next morning Quinn made the lemonade and the whipped cream for the cake while I started to put the layers together. Between each of the three layers of cake went some of the pastry cream along with a thin layer of raspberry jam. When the whipped cream was all done we added the pastry cream to it and I started the process of covering the whole cake in a dome of cream! Meanwhile, Quinn helped roll out the marzipan (I had started this before putting the layers of cake together, but I found that my frail little arms weren't going at a very fast rate! Thank you honey!).

In the photo above you can see that some of the pastry cream turned out rather lumpy, but Quinn told me it would taste wonderful all the same. As we got ready to put the marzipan on the cake I triumphantly told Quinn that "I've fried chicken before! This should be a piece of cake!" Unfortunately, it was not a piece of cake...
In times like this it is important to take a step back, understand that the end of the world has not yet come, and laugh at yourself. That's why I didn't mind Quinn taking this photo of my ruined marzipan (it tore right down the middle as we put it on) and me still with curlers in my hair. Oh well, perhaps I will be able to laugh at it in a year or so. Haha!

In order to fix the broken marzipan I scraped the whipped cream that had stuck to it from the cake and Quinn re-rolled it into a large piece that we sort of just threw on and hoped for the best. I didn't want to try to cover the large seam that ran through the center of the cake, so I just decided to live with it - after all, hopefully the taste would cover up the patchy exterior. After spending hours upon hours on this cake I was (though it's silly to admit) tired of looking at it, so we put it in the fridge and I prayed that the marzipan would't fall off the cake altogether! To the main house we went, Quinn carrying potatoes and our Dutch Oven and myself with a basket full of Valentines!

Quinn started right away on the fries, while I helped Melissa set the table. We wouldn't be putting out Valentines yet, they would have to wait till after lunch! Greta looked mournfully out the back door, for Paul was grilling out there...

Inside the table was all set and ready, and Laura had set out deviled eggs that she had made. Oh, but wait...it seems someone has already gotten to them!

All the cookies and treats were set out on Melissa's favorite Christmas present: a new cast-iron stove! It seems the ovens had been busy with all of these sweet looking cookies, and who do you suppose those boxes of chocolates are for, hmmm?

One of the other stoves was even more covered than this one, but in brightly wrapped packages!

In the kitchen Quinn called that the fries were done and a group of hungry people crowded around to watch him pull them out of the Dutch oven, looking (and tasting!) fantastic! Paul came in with a plate full of burgers and it was time for the party to begin! As we sat down to eat, someone remarked "Burgers and fries and parties, one could almost believe that it's summer!" and we all agreed!

I think we all must have been hungry because not much was said during lunch, but I think everyone agreed afterward that Quinn's fries stole the show. Before we knew it it was time for presents and Valentines! Everyone retrieved things from hidden spots and carefully set beautiful surprises at each persons place at the table. It was such a joy to see all the colorful things awaiting you!
 As I promised, I'll share with you a few of the poems I wrote for everyone in their Valentine cards. I think everyone liked them, and I hope you like them as well!

For Melissa:
I'm not a flower, nor a dish or a shoe,
I may not be an oven, but I'm in love with you.
And though I'm not a flower, a dish or fancy shoe,
Perhaps you could find it in your heart to love me too?

For Abigail:
Coffee and chocolate are both lovely things,
And boys are alright with their speeches and rings.
So what could I do to win all your love?
I'll kill all the spiders! (And give you all things above.)

For Paul:
I know the doctors have you eating right,
But it won't hurt to take just one bite.
And if you feel bad just remember your kin,
For you come from a long line of Chocoslovakians!

In case you didn't guess, Abigail does not like spiders whatsoever, haha! And the silly Czechoslovakian joke in Paul's poem is all thanks to Abby: One day the band was playing up at the Mount Roberts Tramway here in Juneau. Abigail was quite young then, and someone asked her where her family came from. She replied that they were "Chocoslovakians" which is very close for a young girl!

I think it is safe to say that everyone enjoyed their poems, though I did sign them 
"-Anonymous" so they were a bit baffled at the beginning - but isn't that part of the fun of Valentine's Day? I also gave everyone another Valentine, this one cut from an old road atlas and decorated with confetti from my friend Jaclyn's stationery store, "Leaving a Paper Trail" (which I talked about in the Valentines making post here). Here are some photos of the one I made for Quinn - though each one had a different saying typed out on the front:

I have to say, I felt quite special after opening all the pretty cards and marveling at all the yummy chocolates and candy set before me. It's so nice to feel loved, especially through the giving of silly cards and Valentines! Please tell me about your Valentine's Day celebrations below in the comments, Dear Reader, I would love to hear about them! Did you make some homemade Valentine's this year? Did you make any special treats?

Speaking of which, it was time to reveal the Swedish Princess Cake, oh dear! Quinn again assured me that all would be well, and together we went back to the Barn to retrieve it from the fridge. To my relief the marzipan had mostly stayed on the cake, and it only needed a little moving about to get back where it was supposed to be. Before we went back inside I had him take a photo for me:
Of course I'm trying to hold it so the large seam that goes down the middle isn't visible, but believe me, it was there! Haha! I also read that a lot of bakers will put a pretty ribbon around the base of the cake to cover up the seam of the marzipan, so I did that as well with a bit of lace that I had lying around. I decorated the top of it with mini roses and rose buds that I made out of extra marzipan. 
Everyone was very surprised when I brought it in. It looks so different from what we in the US think of when we think of a cake. It doesn't have straight sides and it has a big dome on top, nothing like what usual fancy cakes are like here. Melissa wasn't sure if we would "ruin" it if we put candles in it, but I said it would be fine, so Paul, Laura and Quinn got to blow out candles after all!
No, none of them are turning 108. Melissa just added up all of their ages, and they each got a candle, haha!
Quinn was super nervous after the marzipan fiasco, so he blatantly told me that I would have to cut the cake, he wasn't going to mess it up again. He's so silly, isn't he? I didn't mind at all, I just hoped it would taste good!

Dear Reader, I'm not quite sure how to say this but believe me that it was worth all of the hours and all of the failure with the marzipan. Yes, it was that good. So if you ever have a spare two days or if you're just swinging through Sweden someday, I heartily recommend getting a slice (or probably two or three) of this cake, because it was fantastic! And the best part, everyone agreed with me! They all loved it as well!

And though Valentine's Day is now passed, the idea of love is still on my mind as I ponder a cherished verse from 1 John:

"We love because He first loved us."
1 John 4:19

I pray your Valentine's Day was filled with love from family, friends, and the One who started it all, our Lord Jesus Christ. It turns out that I'll be gone from Blueberry Barn for Easter, one of my favorite holidays, as the band will still be on tour, but I hope to celebrate (and decorate the Barn) later in the month of April. Please also know Dear Reader that I plan to keep you updated on the happenings while I am on the road, perhaps in the style of a travel journal, so I won't be dropping off the face of the earth for six weeks, I promise! I would also love to have your prayers as I am away, for a tour is an exhausting experience in nature, though it is filled with new sites and adventures as well. Until next time friend!

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