Last month when I mentioned on my Facebook page that I was relieved a certain Jeopardy party was over and I had finished mopping all the floors, a friend teased me and commented: “jeopardy birthday party (nerd) + newly washed floors (slave)”. While I’ll wholeheartedly agree with the latter, I fervantly disagree with the nerd comment. After all, the party was for our son, Jamie, who was celebrating his 7th birthday. I think seven is too young for the “nerd” label. Perhaps later in life, yes (his mom certainly was one!), but not now.
When my mom visited us earlier this year, we got into the habit of watching Jeopardy, because she loves the show. Ever since then Jamie has wanted to continue the ritual. He doesn’t know 95% of the answers (occasionally he’ll get one right), but he just enjoys it. It’s somewhat educational, so who are we to complain? I thought it would be a passing fad, but we’ve been watching it regularly for awhile now.
So when his birthday was upon us, and we were trying to figure out different possible themes for the party, Jeopardy was the clear cut winner.
As per tradition, I made a pinata –this time of Alex Trebek’s head. Unfortunately it was a major fail and didn’t resemble anything like Alex Trebek’s head. The kids had a blast though, smashing it up, and they didn’t seem to mind that he looked more like George Washington with the mumps than Alex.
Denis’ area of expertise was writing the Jeopardy game. He found this amazing free software that is used as a teaching tool. You can input your own categories and answers. There are sound effects and a score board that keeps track of points.
The categories he came up with were: Books and Authors, School Days, Star Wars, Math Class, and Game Time.
He also showed them a clip of the real Jeopardy game so that kids who had never seen it would get the idea. A laptop was hooked up to our tv screen so that the Jeopardy board was as huge as possible.
Initially we divided Jamie’s and his friends into three teams and had them raise their hand when they knew the answer. The first one to raise their hand got to say the answer (in question form, of course) and choose the next category.
I don’t know if it was this particular group of kids or the age or what, but they loved it. The answers were completely age appropriate (“In The Return of the Jedi, Han Solo was frozen in this substance. ” Answer: What is carbonite?)
Though it was a drop off party, a number of parents stayed and halfway through the game, one of the kids suggested we change the teams so that it was kids v.s. grownups instead of the three original teams. This was a brilliant stroke of genius in our opinion. The kids completely trounced the grownups (especially in the Star Wars category) and they took great joy in that! They even aced the final Jeopardy question, where we did a word scramble in which they had to figure out what the words were (answer: all the invited kids’ names).
I made a white cake layered with raspberry jam and cream filling with rich chocolate ganache frosting to celebrate the big day.
Cake cut into two layers.
Covered in a mascarpone cream filling — my favorite frosting ever. Best tip from Martha Stewart: Line the bottom of the cake with strips of parchment paper which you can remove after decorating. This gives you a perfectly clean edge and serving platter.
I’m a horrible icer, so I devised a way of mapping out the letters pre-icing. I wrote the message with a wooden skewer in the icing beforehand so I could see if it was centered properly. This way if I made an error, I could “erase” it all by smoothing out the frosting and starting over. I’ve wasted many precious minutes pre-party in the past by just rushing in and trying to write with the vanilla buttercream on a perfectly iced cake, only to have to scrape everything off, get rid of every speck of white icing before starting again — and then making another mistake!
Here is the finished cake. I removed the parchment paper and did the last stars right on the serving sheet.
All in all it was a successful party. Everyone had a great time, the weather cooperated, and the game was a big hit. I think even Alex Trebek would be proud — smashed up head and all!
Chocolate Covered White Cake with Raspberry and Cream Filling
For the Cake:
2 3/4 cups cake flour, sifted
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1 3/4 cups milk
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Grease 2 round cake pans or 1 large rectangular pan and line bottom with parchment paper.
3. Sift cake flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. Set aside.
4. Cream butter for about two minutes in stand mixer until light and fluffy. Slowly add in sugar and cream for another two minutes. Add one egg at a time, mixing to incorporate after each addition. Add vanilla and almond extracts.
5. Alternating flour and milk, add about a fourth of each, beginning with flour. Pour equal amounts in pans, or into one large baking pan. Tap pans on counter to remove air bubbles.
6. Bake for about 25-35 minutes for two cake pans and 45 to 50 minutes if you are using a large pan. Start checking every 5-10 minutes after 30 minutes with a wooden tester. When tester comes out clean, remove cake and let cool on rack for ten minutes. Cut around edges and invert cakes to racks. Peel off parchment. Let layers cook completely before frosting.
For the Cream Filling:
2/3 cup heavy cream
4 oz. mascarpone cheese, softened
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extracts
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1. Whip heavy cream in the bowl of a stand mixer until soft peaks form. Transfer to another bowl and set aside in refrigerator.
2. Cream together cheeses in the same bowl of a stand mixer for about a minute. Slowly add sugar and extracts until completely incorporated. Fold in reserved whipped cream by hand. Refrigerate until ready to use.
For the Ganache Frosting:
12 oz. of chocolate, chopped (I used 6 oz. of semisweet and 6 oz. of bittersweet chocolates)
1 cup of heavy cream
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Place chopped chocolates in a heat proof bowl.
2. Bring cream to a simmer and remove immediately from stove. Pour hot cream over chocolate in bowl. Add corn syrup. Let stand a minute or two.
3. Add vanilla extract and using a whisk, gently stir everything together slowly. The mixture will gradually blend together and become glossy and silky.
4. Place in refrigerator and stir every 15 minutes about six to eight times. Store in an air tight container in refrigerator until ready to use. Before using, let come to room temperature.
For Buttercream Frosting:
1 stick of butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Cream butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. Slowly add sugar and vanilla extract to incorporate.
To assemble cake:
1. Cut cake into two layers if you used one pan. (Or if you are feeling ambitious, and you used two cake pans, you could cut these into thin layers and go for a four layered cake.)
2. Spread about 1/2 cup raspberry jam onto first layer.
3. Spread cream filling on top of raspberry layer.
4. Place second layer of cake on top of cream filling.
5. Frost entire cake with chocolate ganache frosting.
6. Decorate using butter cream frosting.