Back in the spring, I walked by Sweet Nectar Dessert Kitchen in Philly and glanced inside to notice what seemed like a baking class for kids. That stuck with me for months, thinking how it would be the perfect setting for my daughter's seventh birthday in November. I wanted something intimate, educational, fun, and unique. I also liked the idea of supporting a local business, and being able to walk to my daughter's party.
I wasn't sure if they really offered birthday parties, but when I called the owner, Robin, she confirmed that they offer cookie- or cupcake-decorating classes that can double as birthday parties, for up to 10 kids. So I signed up right away.
I had never shopped there before, but I had had their cupcakes at another party and loved them. I don't have a sweet tooth, especially not for American desserts, which I almost always find too sweet. The taste of processed sugar is often so strong that it overpowers any other flavor the dessert may have. Sweet Nectar's cupcakes are different. Yes, they are sweet, but you can also taste the chocolate, strawberry, or whatever flavor is in them. They also have a dense consistency that I really love.
The store is very welcoming, and has the character and charm of so many other old Philly buildings. The bright white interior and the kids' chocolate-covered faces are the dream combo for a documentary photographer like me.
The birthday package at Sweet Nectar includes five cupcakes for each kid to decorate over 90 minutes. When Robin first told me this I thought, five cupcakes in 90 minutes? They are going to be twirling their fingers after 15 minutes! She assured me that it actually takes a long time to teach them and then have them do it. And she was right. Turns out, five cupcakes for five- to seven-year-old kids is actually too many. It took a while to show them how to use the bags and the various tips, so they had to rush at the end to finish all of their cupcakes. I do think five cupcakes for slightly older kids is a perfect amount.
Sweet Nectar provided plates and utensils, but we brought our own Harry Potter-themed ones as well as a banner. We also ordered their smallest sized cake (six-inch diameter), but it was tall and plenty enough for 10 kids and a few adults.
Like so many other parents, my life is very busy, so I try to keep birthday parties for my kids easy and with as little preparation as possible on my part. I'm not a Pinterest mom at all. I make pictures, that's where my creativity begins and ends. The unique experience of learning how to decorate cupcakes like a pro, and then bringing them back home in a gift box, is sweet, perfect, and so simple for me.
This was a drop-off party, and another mom stayed to help me supervise while Nina, the cupcake decorating expert, led the class. I will say that with such young kids, it's best to have at least one parent for three children to supervise and help them.
The best part of all this is the kids had a blast. They paid close attention to the first couple cupcakes, and took their time to decorate them neatly. But as more cupcakes came, the frosting migrated from the cupcake straight into their mouths. So yeah, they were bouncing off the walls by the end, but that's kind of the point of birthday parties, isn't it?