When you want to hold a festive affair for a birthday, but not one that is romantic or infringing on evening party plans, choose lunchtime. Serving the birthday star's favorite food is always ideal; but, when you need to feed a crowd, fill out the meal with any variety of offerings.
Casual Family Gathering
A casual family gathering at lunch allows all ages to come together. An outdoor barbecue, with burgers, hot dogs and grilled chicken, plus classic potato salad, coleslaw and grilled veggies, is simple to prepare and crowd-pleasing. Serve a watermelon-designed cake for dessert; make a deep-pink colored vanilla cake studded with chocolate chips encased in fondant decorated to look like the rind.
For a party indoors, serve a supersize sub sandwich cut into individual servings, bags of chips with dip and cupcakes, made with pretty cupcake liners that brandish stripes, polka dots or flowers. Choose flavors that appeal to adults and children, such as devil's food with vanilla cream frosting, ginger cakes with lemon glaze or red velvet cakes with cream cheese icing.
A big event that includes people from all the birthday celebrator's social circles -- family, friends, work and hobbies -- calls for quality food that can be made in bulk. Italian allows you to make large servings of pasta, sauce, lasagna, stuffed mushrooms and salad that pleases a lot of palates. Prep a special birthday tiramisu, sponge cake laced with coffee liquor and cream, for dessert.
A Mexican-style buffet with tacos, tamales, black beans, sauteed peppers and onions and guacamole, also works well for crowds. A tres leches cake, a dense cake moistened with sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream, is a celebratory way to end the meal.
Small Sit-Down Lunch
If you're after a party that's more elegant, serve a plated starter of Caesar salad or a cup of chilled tomato bisque, and make the main meal poached chicken breast with steamed baby carrots and homemade rolls and herb butter. An elegant berry and vanilla cake rounds out the meal with a stunning, festive finish. Other ideas for an entree include poached salmon or shrimp or a pork loin roasted with fresh herbs and sliced thinly.
Toddlers and Children
For a kid's affair, realize that you're really cooking for the grown-ups in attendance. Fun finger foods, such as pinwheel wraps filled with turkey and cream cheese, mini meatballs and mini appetizer pizzas, satisfy both adult and kid palates. The small servings are kid-sized, too, while adults can simply indulge in multiple bites. If you're into cake decorating, design one around a theme that delights your child; if not, order one -- childhood birthdays are a time to go all-out in the cake department.