Floptimism's Graduation Party Recipe Round Up: Hors D'oeuvres and Cake

I mentioned in Monday’s post from L’s graduation party that I get a kind of thrill out of planning events. I love to think up themes and create a party around them, from the food to the decorations and everything in between. Unfortunately, I rarely get the opportunity to implement such extravagant plans – I’m almost never the actual hostess, and my family seems to be less and less into actual festive gatherings now that there really aren’t any kids running around. It’s really a shame, but I know that in time, when I own my own house and start my own family, I’ll have the chance to throw the kind of celebrations the nerd-factor-ten part of my brain loves to imagine.

My graduation party last weekend gave me the opportunity to throw one of these celebrations on a miniature scale – I couldn’t go all out on decorations and other thematic elements, but I could create my own menu, and I definitely took advantage of it. Being early June, I felt like it was the right time to do a pseudo “afternoon tea” spread, just, you know, without the tea. I wanted to capture an elegant Sunday brunch in hors d’oeuvres form, and I think it turned out pretty well in the end.

So without further adieu, after much anticipation, here is the Floptimism Graduation Party Recipe Round-Up:

These little brunch appetizers were my favorite of the entire party. The pancake was soft and pillowy, not incredibly flavorful yet certainly not bland, making it the perfect base for the flavorful 1,2 punch of the horseradish sauce and salty-sweet lox. The only true changes I did make were to use lower fat cream cheese in the pancakes and to substitute plain Chobani yogurt for the sour cream in the horseradish “cream;” and the only changes I would make if I were to make these again would be to buy nova smoked salmon to cut the saltiness just a little bit. I also would like to know why my pancakes didn’t puff up as nicely as the ones in the original post’s pictures, but that’s ok.

This almost didn’t happen, but at the last minute my mom decided that we didn’t have enough food, and I pulled out a dip mix that I had bought at a craft show earlier that year. The link is to the company’s site. I’m usually all about 100% homemade, but this dip turned out pretty well and the ingredients are impeccable. It was a good, quick fix to the solution of not-enough-food without needing to panic, run out to the store, or scramble for a recipe when I was already knee-deep in cooking tasks to get everything done in time. I ignored the instructions on the package and made it with 100% plain Chobani instead of a mixture of mayonnaise and sour cream, and I have to admit that I found it to be a littletoo potent with that Greek yogurt tang, but everyone else fawned over it. You can without a doubt get away with making these dips with partial Greek yogurt, but some people might prefer it with at least the addition of a more subdued base to even it out.

Caprese Bites
This recipe was the simplest to think up, the easiest to execute, and bar-none one of the most popular. One thing I’ve learned in planning parties is that as intrigued as people get by the fancy, sophisticated, and intricate dishes, it’s the simple ones that really light their sparks. At least, that’s what I’ve learned from my experiences. The two biggest hits of the day? Store-bought crackers and brie cheese, and these caprese bites. Here’s what you do: (1) Buy 1 pack of cherry tomatoes, 1 pack of mozzarella balls, toothpicks and a few sprigs of basil. (2) Halve the mozzarella balls and any large cherry tomatoes. Cut little leaf-shapes or strips out of the basil leaves. (3) Stick a mozzarella half through the toothpick, followed by the basil, followed by the tomato. (4) Refrigerate or serve. It takes a little bit of time to assemble since everything is so miniature, but it’s easy as pie and totally stress-less. I think a little cup of balsamic would be great for dipping, but everyone seemed to enjoy them perfectly fine on their own.

The above link will bring you to a much more gourmet-looking “Puff Pastry Squares with Pea and Tarragon Puree,” but I wanted to offer some gluten-free options (as one of my relatives has Celiac) and overall wanted something a little lighter and less indulgent than the puff pastry. I immediately thought of endive, and simply used an endive leaf as a boat for the dip. I look each leaf, smeared it with a scant ¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard, and topped it with about 1 teaspoon of the dip. Overall it made around 16 endive boats of varying sizes (I just used 1 endive). And let me tell you, this dip is fabulous. It’s not a very overtly flavorful dish – all of the flavors are somewhat demure – but calling it plain would practically be blasphemy. This dip is naturally sweet with salty-savory undertones from the cheese and a hint of almost licorice from the unique flavor of tarragon. I couldn’t get enough of this dip, and spread the extra on crackers and raw vegetables long after the endive boats themselves were gone. Ok, not long after – both the endive boats and leftover dip were mostly eaten that day and finished off by yours truly less than 48 hours later. Further proof of how delicious this was.

My family member with Celiac also has an egg allergy, so I thought these egg-less and crust-less quiches would be the perfect addition to my spread. It uses lite firm silken tofu (it’s the Mori-Nu shelf-stable kind; the recipe is very specific about the type of tofu used, as apparently other varieties fall apart) instead of the eggs, and turmeric to give it a yellow color. I think some of the party-goers were slightly suspicious, as the texture is not quiteeggy, but no one questioned me and I suspect that no one knew that what they were eating was not actually egg* (except my family member with the egg allergy, who I very quietly told off to the side and who graciously helped cover for me whenever someone inquired about the recipe). I did run into some snags with this recipe and want to play around with making it again before I say too much, but I did provide the link to the original in case you wanted to take a stab at it yourself.
*Note: as soy allergies become more common, be very vigilant about serving this without full disclosure of the ingredients. I know that no one in my family has a soy allergy, so I chose to pass it off as a regular quiche to encourage more people to at least try it, but if you’re unsure, please don’t risk this.

 White-Chocolate Champagne Layer Cake
And then there was dessert. You don’t get a link because I took about 4 different websites and smooshed them together into one fantastic cake. Except, you have to wait for the recipe – la piece de resistance – because it deserves its own post. This cake is phenomenal. It rivals the one I made for my sister’s graduation two years ago, and that was truly one of my finest “creations” (as in, I followed the recipe well – I still can’t take credit for creating the recipe itself). It was certainly sweet enough to be addictive and qualify as dessert, but it wasn’t overtly or overpoweringly sweet. The cake was soft in texture and flavor, pairing well with the frosting and ganache which explode on your taste buds with decadence. I mean really, this cake is out of this world, and I promise that you will be hearing from it again many times on this blog. First, of course, I’ll give you the recipe. But then…ohhhh, then. I have this scheme that I’ve been devising for the most decadent, extravagant cake imaginable, and it involves these two cakes plus five more. That’s all I’ll say for now. 

 So there you have it, after nearly a full week of taunting and teasing you with the promise of revealing my graduation party spread, I’ve finally come through. I hope it was worth the wait!

*Note: I have since re-tried this recipe and blogged about it. See the improved version here.

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