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Pudding on the Ritz - How to throw a pudding party

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BEST PUDDING RECIPES

I love a good pudding. At least, I used to. I used to like them until I decided to do a pudding party. I am not sure what came over me. Now, I am used to doing big buffet parties. I used to host three a year here at Hanson Towers, but for numerous reasons I haven't done any this year. I know - shocking. So in October I decided to right this heinous wrong and host one for Christmas. And I decided that this one would be all puddings (and yes, on the invitations it actually did say 'Pudding on the Ritz').

The invitations went out in late October and I had the usual moans from friends that I was inviting them too early and they didn't know what they were going to be doing on that date. (I told them that they were coming to mine, that's what they are doing).

My thoughts on flimsy guests have been documented on this site before, but honestly - get in the real world. As with other hard-working people, I get booked half a year, sometimes even a whole year, in advance so five weeks is hardly a stretch is it?

With the guest list set, the menu could be decided. Carrot cake, lemon possets, triple chocolate brownies, flourless chocolate lime cake, mince pies, chocolate crunch bites, trifle, raspberry crumble, Victoria sponge, banana and golden syrup loaf cake - to name but a few.

The joy of puddings - I was telling myself in November as I made the crumble - was that one can make most in advance and freeze them. Well, yes. But for some bizarre, masochistic reason I chose to only make the mince pies and crumble in advance and leave the rest to the few days leading up to the party. The day before was exhausting and if I saw self-raising flour once more then I was going to snap quicker than you can say brandy basket.

What amazed me was how many of the guests asked before the party whether there would be anything savoury on offer. Errr...it's a pudding party. The clue is in the title. (As it happens, I did have bread, grapes and cheese available - but really - where they expecting me to knock up a tagine as well as umpteen batches of my own pastry?)

The day itself arrived, and started with a newspaper interview on the telephone. I managed to clean the fridge during the interview as the cheese I had bought for the cheeseboard had made my fridge smell ghastly - almost like a student's fridge. And we can't have that.

Rather smugly, I managed to fit in the ironing of two lots of bed sheets as well as making a Victoria sponge (hardly the most difficult of cakes, I know), a flourless chocolate lime cake (during which my trusty Kenwood hand-whisk gave up the ghost after many years of good service) and sixteen apricot tartlets. By eight o'clock, having removed my coats from the coat stand so we'd have somewhere to put guests', I was ready.

It's always disconcerting and a bit depressing to have a text as the party is starting from a guest saying that they aren't coming, but I soldiered on - catering the 34 that did turn up.

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I had banned viewing of the X Factor this year. At a party this time last year the guests hijacked the television and started watching the 'music' competition. I had specifically told guests in advance (as well as informing them of the 'only man-made fibres dress code) that we were not watching any television whilst the party was on. They have come to socialise - not to watch drivel. I had also sacrificed watching my beloved Strictly Come Dancing live, so they could jolly well do the same for The Ergh Factor.

The actual event went smoothly, with the exception of me backing into the 'non-drop' Christmas tree, causing it to deposit 65% of its needles on the artistically wrapped empty boxes beneath as well as my previously flawless off-wheat carpet.

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Guests were sent home with 'doggy bags' (a practice I do not approve of in restaurants but at buffet parties it is permissible) and my flat-mate, his girlfriend and I spent a good hour tidying up - as there is nothing more I dislike than waking to the remnants of a raspberry crumble.

As with all my buffet parties, I am currently thinking I shall just stick to dinner parties, but come February I may start toying with the idea of mass catering once again. Who knows? I may now do a 'dessert party' - which would be a lot easier as it'd just be fruit and nuts (as that is what 'dessert' correctly is). I sent guests home if they dared call any of my offerings dessert. No, really. I did.

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