In her final post in this 3-part series, Fiona Faulkner shares a great recipe and expert advice for keeping the food easy when hosting a party for the kids at home. She suggests that you save yourself time and stress and host an informal picnic on an old blanket on the carpet, or serve food in party boxes to keep mess to a minimum.
Keep the food simple and don’t over cater – kids never eat as much as you think they will, she advises. Finish the party with her show-stopping cake – the kind of thing they’ll remember forever.
Hansel & Gretel Cookie Cake Recipe
- 1.2kg plain flour
- 4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 12 tsp ground cinnamon
- 500g unsalted butter – cut into pieces
- 600g caster sugar
- 8 tbsp maple syrup
For the icing ‘glue’:
- 250g icing sugar
- Juice of 1 lemon – strained so no pips etc
- Plus various sweetie decorations of your choice.
You will also need:
- 4 cardboard template shapes – see NOTE below!
- Baking trays x 2
- Greaseproof paper
- A piping bag with a very thin nozzle OR a disposable piping bag with approx ½ cm cut away
- 400g tins of food x 4 (to use as support)
Create the dough in two separate batches – i.e. divide measurements in half and make the dough twice (unless you have a very large mixing bowl).
Prep Time: Approx 3 hours – plus decoration time
Cook Time: Approx 45 minutes
Creating and cooking the cookie dough:
- Pre-heat the oven to 200°C / fan 180 / gas mark 6. While you’re waiting for the oven to heat up, create your cardboard templates – see below. Once that’s done, place a sheet of greaseproof paper on a large chopping board or surface and put the kettle on…
- Sift the flour, bicarb of soda and cinnamon into a very large mixing bowl. Meanwhile melt the butter, sugar, and maple syrup in a saucepan, stirring regularly until thoroughly combined.
- Add the contents of the saucepan to the dry ingredients in the bowl and – using a large metal spoon, then your hands – stir and combine. The mix should become a wet dough-like consistency. Add just a tablespoon or so of warm water from the kettle to help the last bits come together.
- Take out approx a quarter of the mix. Roll it out on the greaseproof paper to a thickness of about ½ cm (you may find it easier to press it down with your hands) and using your first cardboard template, cut away the front panel of your house – leaving about a centimeter all around the edge of the cardboard panel – i.e. so it’s a bit bigger than the cardboard. (Place any left-over dough back in the bowl to be mixed through and re-used). Place the dough shape directly on one baking sheet (still with the greaseproof paper underneath so you don’t have to pull it off).
- Using more greaseproof paper on your surface, do this again so you have the back panel (place that on a second baking tray). Bake these both for 8 minutes. While they’re cooking, get on with creating the two roof sections in the same way (leaving an edge of about 1cm all around).
- When the front and back panels are cooked for eight minutes, very carefully (so you don’t burn yourself) place the cardboard template back on top of each one and this time use a sharp knife to cut more precisely around the exact edge of the template. Then place them both back in the oven for a further 2-4 minutes until slightly more cooked and hardened. After that, let them sit on the baking trays for a minute or so before carefully sliding off onto a flat surface / chopping board (and then you can re-use the same baking trays). Continue exactly like this to create the two roof sections, the two side panels and the hidden roof support. Read the tips below in point 7.
- About half way through, you may wish to add just one more tablespoon of warm water from the kettle to help the mix come together. If you need to, sprinkle a little flour when you are rolling it out to help prevent sticking. Create small cookies with any leftover bits of dough – cook these for nearer 5-6 minutes…
Creating the icing glue and decorating the cottage:
- When everything has cooked and cooled, create your icing ‘glue’ by sifting the icing sugar into a bowl.
- Very gradually stir through the lemon juice.
- Spoon it into your piping bag.
- Next, decorate your panels as you wish, using the icing glue to hold everything into place (press down carefully). *Only use ‘flat’ sweeties on the back panel of the house (for now).
- LEAVE IT ALL TO DRY FOR AT LEAST ONE AND A HALF HOURS. (Store the icing in a sealed container).
Putting the cottage together:
- Take a chopping board that you will be happy having as the base for your cottage. Perhaps cover it with foil or tissue paper to create a pretty effect?
- Having your tins of food nearby, place the *back house section face-down with the pointy roof end towards you.
- Take both side panels and figure out which sides are flattest and would sit most evenly against the front house section.
- Pipe your icing glue along the side of one of the side panels and then ‘glue’ it to the back panel of the house, ensuring that it’s evenly spaced and flat at the bottom.
- Hold it for a few minutes, then secure with a tin of food sat inside and outside to support it while it dries.
- Repeat with the second side panel, using more tins of food to hold steady. Then glue on the front of the house, which should be easier to secure as it will balance on top while the icing ‘glue’ dries.
- LEAVE TO DRY FOR ANOTHER ONE AND A HALF HOURS OR MORE. Meanwhile you could very carefully continue to decorate the front panel of the house if you wanted.
- Once you’re happy the ‘shell’ of the house has glued together, carefully place it the right way up. Then glue the top edges of the side panels so that you can sit the hidden support across the two ‘walls’.
- Finally glue and pitch the roof sections together, using the hidden support to rest the bottom edges of the roof. Again, allow to dry fully before adding any further decorations.
Use a couple of cereal boxes, scissors, a pen and ruler to create the following:
Template 1: The front and back panels of the house – 15cm (at the base); 12cm in height; and a further 12.5cm in (pitched) roof height.
Template 2: The two roof sections – 21cm x 11cm
Template 3: The hidden roof support -17cm x 17cm
Template 4: The two side panels – 15cm base x 12cm height
(You’ll only need one cardboard template of each).
Fiona Faulkner is a writer, broadcaster, kids’ food expert, and author of “25 Foods Kids Hate & How To Get Them Eating 24”
Find out more at www.fionafaulkner.co.uk