Ever notice how proud children are to announce their age? They would shout it from a rooftop, if they could! Children don’t just count their age by year, they are practically counting by day.
My niece always corrects me regarding her age. “No, I’m not six Aunty Yo Yo, I’m 6 and a half!” Oh, my bad. When do we loose that pride? I don’t go around boasting that I am 38 ½. But, why not? I say it’s time for us all to celebrate the ½ birthdays! Since my son is turning 1 ½, I’m going to use this as the perfect opportunity to do just that.
Let’s start off by baking my favourite chocolate chip cookies. I always like to have these ingredients on hand, or even a batch of the dough in the freezer. I find that emergency chocolate chip cookies are often a necessity of life. These cookies are delicious on their own, but I’m going to sandwich them together with ganache. Whipped ganache - even better!
For the Half Cookie Sandwiches
Ganache Ingredients & Tools
4oz semi sweet chocolate
4oz (½ cup) whipping cream
I suggest you make this a day before, and let it set at room temperature. Once your cookies are baked and cooled, we can whip up the ganache for piping.
While your cookies are cooling, place your now set ganache into the bowl of a mixer with the whip attachment. Whip the ganache at medium speed until it fluffs up and gets lighter in colour. About 3-4 minutes. Be careful not to over whip this because it will split, just like whipping cream. You can tell when a ganache has split when it looks curdled, and a bit more liquidy.
Chocolate Chip Cookies Ingredients & Tools
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
Baking tray lined with parchment, or a nonstick baking mat
Piping bag with a #824 star tip
Stir the flour and baking soda together in a bowl and set aside. With a paddle attachment, beat your butter, sugars and vanilla in the bowl of your mixer for 3 minutes on medium speed. On stir speed (or low speed if you’re using a hand mixer), add your eggs, one at a time, and mix until fully incorporated. Stir in the flour mixture. Once incorporated, add your chocolate chips.
I like to weigh out my dough using a scale. That way I know my cookies will spread to the same size. You can also eyeball it, if you feel comfortable, or use a small ice cream scoop.
Bake these cookies at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. They should be golden at the edges. Once baked, set your cookies aside to cool on the baking tray.
Place your ganache into your piping bag with the #20 star tip. You will need 24 cookies in total. Lay out 16 cookies on a tray. Now cut the remaining 8 cookies in half. Pipe a small mound of whipped ganache in the centers of your whole cookies. Push the half cookies into the ganache, so that they stand upright. Just for fun, lets toss as few sprinkles onto the ganache. Who doesn’t need a few more sprinkles in their life? Voila!
You know what’s next on our list? Dipped marshmallows! Yipee!
For the Dipped Marshmallows
Dipped Marshmallow Ingredients & Tools
4oz white chocolate candy melts
4oz dark chocolate candy melts
Microwave safe bowls
Baking tray lined with parchment, or a non-stick baking mat
Melt both chocolates in separate bowls in the microwave. I like to do this in short, 15-20 second increments. This ensures that you don’t overheat the chocolate, which will cause it to loose its shine. There should still be a few chunks left that you can stir out by hand at the end.
Set up an area where you can double dip your marshmallows. Don’t worry- this is the socially acceptable kind of double dipping! Lay out both melted chocolates, your sprinkles, and your lined tray.
Begin with 20 marshmallows. Start by dipping your marshmallows halfway up in your chocolate. Shake or wipe of the excess on the bottom of the marshmallow on the side of your bowl. Now, before the chocolate is set, dip the marshmallow into your sprinkles, and set it to dry, sprinkle side down, on your tray. I dipped half the marshmallows in white chocolate, and half in dark. I am pushing the ½ Birthday theme to the limit!
Now take your remaining 10 marshmallows and cut them in half. You will notice that the cut surface is very sticky. Dip that side straight into your sprinkles. How easy is that? We are going to use a bit of chocolate to glue these halves onto the full dipped marshmallows. Dip the bottom end just slightly into the chocolate, we want the sprinkle side to be facing forward for a full reveal. Remember to use the same chocolate as the base marshmallow. But it will still look and taste good if you switch them up!
Aren’t these the cutest! I think they look like little marshmallow people. Too bad they’re going to get eaten!
Let’s move on to the centerpiece, shall we. Guess what? It’s a cake! Surprise!
For the ½ Birthday Cake
½ Birthday Cake Ingredients & Tools
Two 7” and one 5” round funfetti cakes (directions below)
Purple food colouring
Orange food colouring
Small offset palette knife
#20 tip and coupler
I’m returning to my favourite vanilla cake recipe, which you can find right here. Make the cake as explained, but before you divide your batter among your pans, stir in ¼ cup of sprinkles. The sprinkles will melt and burst as the cake bakes, and your cake will look like a party inside and out.
For this cake I baked vanilla cake in two 7” round pans, and one 5” round pan. Line your pans with parchment paper. Bake the cakes at 350 degrees, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. About 30-45 minutes.
Once your cakes are completely cool, we can start to assemble and decorate.
Remove your cakes from their pans. Level and cut your cakes into two layers. Cut your 5” round cake layers in half vertically as well. ½ cake - get it?
Time to colour some buttercream. Colour 1 1/4 cups of your buttercream orange and colour 3/4 cup purple. Make the colours as light, or intense as you wish.
Fill your cake, and your half cake, with alternating colours of buttercream. I made two layers of orange, and one middle layer of purple. When filling your half cake, be sure to only let a little bit of buttercream peak out of the cut side. This will be the front.
Now crumb coat and chill both cakes. Remember not to crumb coat the front of your half cake. Only around the circular part!
Once your cakes have chilled we can ice them. I want my cakes to be very smooth so I am using a bench scraper to help me. This is not necessary, you can just ice with a palette knife. If your icing skills are not perfect- don’t sweat it! This cake will look lovely with texture and a more rustic approach. You’ll get there with practice, just keep caking!!!
Chill your cakes for about ten minutes, and in the mean time fill your piping bag, fitted with coupler and tip, halfway with buttercream.
Remove your cakes from the fridge and using the palm of your hand, press the sprinkles around the sides of the cake. I went about halfway up, in no specific pattern. No need for a perfect straight line, I can’t believe I just said that! Just have fun!
Time to stack the half cake on top of the full cake. I used 2 dowels for support. Once stacked, pipe a shell border along the bottom edges of the cakes and along the top edges. I used a little bit of left over purple buttercream to add some colour to my top borders. I simple piped dots between the shells.
I made my 1 ½ cake topper by rolling out gumpaste, and cutting out the small numbers “1 and 2” with cookie cutters, and a homemade template for the giant “1”. Then I painted my numbers with a thin layer of royal icing as an adhesive, and pressed them into the sprinkles. Ta-da! - homemade cake toppers!
I wanted to keep it colourful so I wrapped two cake pans in coloured paper and used them as risers. Look at all the amazing work you have done! Any one would want this half birthday extravaganza! Not just a child! I think I should do this for my own half birthday!! I’ve just got to figure out how to stack 38 ½ cakes….