I have always heard people say, ‘Don’t feed children too many sweet treats’. As a pastry chef I have never paid much attention to the sentiment, that is until I was recently involved in the christening of my cousin’s son.
I was asked to make a blue macaron tower for the event and thought it would be fun to come along to see the proceedings. What I witnessed was like a jungle full of blue-tongued children running around, climbing on things, jumping, screaming, pulling and punching. This lasted until midnight. What created this jungle? A kid’s dessert buffet with a blue aeroplane theme. The children certainly became aeroplanes, and I was just waiting for all 40 of them to crash, but they seemed to just keep on going all night.
My cousin’s eye for perfection, creation and a ‘no price matters’ mentality really impressed me. When she first approached me about an adult’s buffet-style idea she emphasised it would be for the kids and all about the kids. There was blue rock candy, blue cookies, blue milk bottles, blue clouds – the list goes on. My contribution was the over-the-top macaron tower and four different types of blue macarons. The tower centrepiece had candy popcorn and chocolate work blending with the theme. I wanted it to be fun with a little twist to the filled macarons. Although elaborate, I didn’t want the centrepiece to be too full-on, with sugar and chocolate work, especially due to the heat and the transportation of it.
The kids’ buffet concept is quite popular in the US, where it’s more upmarket than the ordinary colourful ‘mixed lollies in a plastic bag’ concept. The baked goods were detailed and finished off with elegance and the set up of the buffet gives it different dimension and heights. I’m a huge fan of mixed lollies and fairy bread, but when I saw this buffet I was impressed. I’d like to think it was my contributions that made the difference, but it was actually the overall idea, theme and colours that made it work. How the event was arranged with the baked product highlighted provides some food for thought for bakers looking to offer a premium service to customers.
There was the layout of the buffet, the labelling, the kids’ boxes and the setup. The jars were beautiful and elegant, and the baked goods of cookies, macarons and cake were all themed accordingly. Everything had been thought through, from different heights to the table arrangements. Bright colours are more appealing than plain dark colours, it’s the same for dessert appearance, and if it’s visually appealing it will enhance the taste buds by 25 per cent before the taste buds even get into the dessert. In this case, my taste buds were enhanced by 75 per cent. And an additional 25 per cent once I started stealing the buffet items from the kids boxes. It wasn’t cheap, but for those involved it was well worth it.
These types of buffets don’t have to be themed just for the kids. They can be used in birthday parties, hen’s nights, weddings etc. It’s about colours and themes. My cousin told me that Trouli graphics gave her the idea for the buffet setting it up. Doing beautiful gateauxs, shot glasses, maybe even having a chocolate fountain with the same colour products in pink or blue would work too. It could certainly be done for a high tea setup.
As the whole buffet was finished beautifully, people weren’t aware of the amount of work involved, and, in my case, stress levels involved in making product and then transporting it. Getting the macaron colour right was also tricky, as I’ve never used blue – and even when you bake them they still change colour. There are also technical issues such as temperatures and consistency to consider during the mad rush of putting it together.
I applied royal icing on the cone, placed the macarons on and they began sliding down one by one. I might as well have placed ice cream in the sun and prayed for a miracle that maybe they wouldn’t melt. I wasn’t thinking straight at the time as tooth picks or chocolate with cooling spray would have helped. And so they all crashed in the bin and I started again and finally assembled it to the right shade of blue.
Sometimes you wonder why you ever say yes to things, especially with the hectic life style we have as pastry chefs. Ingredients are expensive and time even more so. But it’s worth it when you have created excited blue-tongued monsters and your cousin is so grateful and your family proud.
What is a little stress and a few white hairs, really? Especially when you’re challenging yourself and your staff to learn new things. And perhaps generating a few ideas for future marketing opportunities.