Friday 31 May 2013

Russian Doll Matryoshka theme party

For the past few years I've had a theme for my birthday party because I think it's fun to make a cake and decorate the room and find a few props that all work together. I love Russian dolls and decided this year to have that as a theme for my birthday party. It's a theme that would work well for adults or children and I'll try to give a few ideas here.

It's actually quite easy to make a birthday cake in the shape of a Russian doll; this is a vodka and lime cake though you could easily make a different flavour for children and decorate it in the same way. See the blog post I did on the cake here.

I had this set of three Russian doll decorative boxes that I bought from Paperchase a couple of years ago. I used them as decorations on the table - I always think it's a good idea to arrange things at different heights, e.g. cakes on a cake stand, and if you have any props that draw the eye upwards as well. I used the front of the boxes to stand up on the table and used the inside of the boxes (lined with greaseproof paper) to serve crisps.

I made some chocolate cupcakes, which happened to be vegan, and decorated them with printed sugar paper that I bought over the internet. You can find the recipe for the cupcakes here.

Here are the cupcakes on a cake stand on the dessert table.

I also made some sugar cookies, which again were vegan, and decorated them to look like Russian dolls - at least I tried to! It was a messy job and I didn't have a huge amount of time, so I'm not particularly pleased with how these turned out but they tasted ok. An idea for a party, that would work well for older children, is to give each guest a few plain cookies and allow them to decorate them. You could even turn it into a competition!

I bought a table cloth with a Russian doll print from Ebay which I used to cover my dining room table. I did look online to see if I could find any disposable tableware (e.g. paper plates and cups) with a suitable design, but I couldn't find anything.

I happened to have an umbrella with a Russian doll design (from Totes via Tesco) and also some A4 filing boxes from Paperchase, which I use to store recipe cuttings. I stood one of the boxes up on the table to provide some height, and used the other one laid on its side and arranged the sugar cookies on top.

Here you can see everything on the table. If you look closely at the red and yellow items behind the main cake, you'll see a set of traditional matryoshka Russian stacking dolls - I bought these in Moscow and used them as an additional table decoration. In the bottom right of the photo is another set of Russian dolls, also from Moscow, but rather than women these dolls actually look like different Russian presidents and leaders (including Lenin, Stalin and Putin) and they are even wearing little hats.

 Here's a close up of the cake, cookies and Russian dolls. On the right of the photo you can also see a (fake) Faberge egg - the Kremlin has the world's largest collection of Faberge eggs, which I saw when I was there, and I bought this as a souvenir.

The cupcakes and crisps served inside my Russian doll boxes, with the umbrella in the background.

I wanted the meal I served to have a Russian theme as well, and looked for suitable recipes online. I needed something people could eat with their fingers or from plates on their laps and something where I could make vegan and meat versions without going to too much effort. I found a recipe for Russian shashlik kebabs which fitted the bill perfectly; you can read the blog post about how I made them here.

I made baked potatoes to go with it, which I filled with sour cream and caviar, for another Russian touch. Some people at the party had never eaten caviar before so it was quite fun to be able to let them try it.

And if the food was Russian, the drinks had to be too.. I was aware of a cocktail called a White Russian and decided to see if I could find any others. In the end I found about eight or nine and wrote up a 'cocktail menu'. I got the template for the menu from a website called I Do It Yourself, where you can print your own stationery - this template was actually free of charge. Each page was divided into three columns, with a cocktail menu header and picture of a drink at the bottom, but for some reason it would only allow me to duplicate the text across each column - what I wanted to do was put a different cocktail recipe in each column so there would be three to a page. As I couldn't work out how to do it I ended up writing them by hand!

The cocktail menus were a good idea as guests were able to choose what they wanted to drink - and I had a reminder of how to make them! All the recipes I found involved vodka so I bought a bottle of Russian Standard vodka, though you could also make non-alcoholic versions.

I got the recipes from various sources mainly on the internet. I particularly recommend the Bolshoi Basil, which tastes a little like a mojito.

Bolshoi Basil
40ml Vodka
30ml Fresh lime juice
3 Fresh basil sprigs
20ml sugar syrup
soda water

Muddle the basil and sugar syrup in a tall glass, fill with ice, add the vodka and lime juice and stir. Top up with soda water and garnish with a sprig of basil.

St Petersburg
40ml vodka
1/2 tsp angostura bitters
1 orange wedge

Mix the vodka and bitters, squeeze in the orange wedge and use as a garnish

Moscow Mule
40ml vodka
20ml lime juice
ginger beer
lime wedge

Mix the vodka and lime juice, top up with ginger beer and garnish with a lime wedge

Cossack Crush
40ml vodka
1 tbsp fresh pomegranate seeds
10ml grenadine
pomegranate juice

Mash pomegranate seeds and add with ice to a cocktail shaker. Shake well, add the vodka and grenadine and shake again. Strain into a glass and top up with pomegranate juice.

White Russian
40ml vodka
40ml Kahlua
cream or milk

Fill a glass with ice cubes. Pour the the vodka then Kahlua into the glass and top up with single cream or milk.

Black Russian
40ml vodka
40ml Kahlua

As above but straight without the cream or milk.

I think the cocktails were the best part of the evening, along with the birthday cake of course!

I am sharing this with the readers of Cooking Around The World; Chris hosts a challenge called Bloggers Around the World and this month is asking for Russian-inspired recipes. There are plenty here to be going on with!


  1. You did a great job, Im looking for the russian doll table cloth on your blog. looked on ebay and found nothing, do you know the company I can order this from, thank you

    1. Thanks! I bought the table cloth back in April, the Ebay seller's username is habbyboy . I did a search on that username (in the advanced search options) and you're in luck, he has another one for sale - you'd need to check the size, but this is the link:

      I think when I bought it there were other sellers with the same item on Ebay too so if you can't purchase this one you will hopefully find another. Good luck!

  2. Wow, that was a monumental post. I like the idea of a themed party. At first I thought it was all about Russian dolls. :-) So I was happy you got on with some cocktails. Thanks for sharing with Bloggers Around the World.


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