I am unsure exactly how we got into the practice of throwing extravagant birthday parties with elaborate themes for our elementary-school-age kids. I always thought we’d be the ones that would make (or at one point I’m sure I imagined buy) a simple cake, maybe let the children pick what we had for dinner that night and call it a celebration. Growing up I remember one invite-the-class birthday party. It was at the local swimming pool when I turned 10. It was great but not a regular event.
We didn’t start this business of getting carried away with kid parties until they began kindergarten. Maybe because they remember the earlier simple ways, both kids are always so appreciative and grateful for whatever we plan, which may be how the getting carried away begins. For instance, Claire’s pony party started as an at-home party with a few girlfriends where we would decorate stick horses and have a stick horse parade. Then I just wondered how much it would cost to add a real pony. It turns out not too much. And well two is a better deal than one. If you’re going to have a real pony you want to invite as many people as possible. The school has rules about inviting the whole class if you pass out the invitations at school. If you’re going to have a pony in your backyard, you’re also going to want to invite the neighborhood kids who are going to have to watch the pony be unloaded on the street. If you’re going to have all these kids, you’re going to want some fun activities, and well, there you go: over the top!
This year Max, an avid Harry Potter fan since his friends used to tease him about the resemblance, just wondered what it would be like to play quidditch. I am pretty sure he was imagining real flying brooms and knew that it was a fantasy. But a couple of google searches later and we realized there were rulebooks and college leagues for “muggle” (or non-magic) quidditch play. His birthday was coming up. Suddenly we were spending weekends building quidditch hoops (two by fours and hula hoops work best) and sending out owl balloon invitations. Who could resist these? Really it was easy to justify because at least we weren’t getting as carried away as these people.
I suspect if I delved too deeply into it I would realize the motivation for the elaborate parties comes in part from a desire to compensate for the food allergy. For one day, Max can eat the same cupcakes, fight over the same candy (or in the most recent case buy whatever he wants in our makeshift Honeydukes store) and be just like everyone else. After countless holiday and other kid birthday parties where he by necessity had to be different, that has got to feel pretty good. Maybe because we go over the top with the theme, no one ever seems to notice the cupcakes are missing dairy or eggs or that candy in the pinata is carefully selected not to have any of Max’s allergens.
These rainbow cupcakes are always crowd pleasers. They require a lot of bowls and make a huge mess, but you really feel like you are cooking.
We have served them at almost every party Claire has had.
Rainbow Cupcakes (makes two dozen)
4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup dairy free margarine or shortening
3 cups sugar
2/3 cup honey
1 cup soy milk, divided
generous dash vanilla extract
12 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
food coloring (at least three colors)
Preheat oven to 350. Line two 12 cup muffin pans with liners.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, cream 2 1/2 cups sugar and the margarine or shortening until fluffy using a hand mixer. This takes a few minutes. Add in the honey, half of the soy milk and vanilla. Mix. Add in the flour mixture and remaining soy milk.
In a large mixing bowl, use the mixer to beat the egg whites, remaining 1/2 cup sugar and cream of tartar until frothy. Again this takes several minutes. Fold this mixture into the flour mixture.
Divide the flour mixture into three bowls. Use the food coloring to dye each bowl a different color.
Fill the bottom of each cupcake liner a third full of the first color. Repeat with the second and third colors. Bake for about 20 minutes or until cupcakes are a golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Frost with dairy-free frosting if desired.