It's finally Spring time, and one of my favorite traditions is sneaking up on us rather quickly! I'm not talking about that post Easter candy sale, although that's pretty awesome in itself. Nope. Give me fancy hats, southern food, bourbon, and the sport of kings! The first Saturday in May will be here before we know it!
When I was younger, I was in charge of planning a family vacation to Kentucky. I painstakingly researched farm tours, race tracks, museums, and restaurants. Every dollar was carefully allotted for the best possible horse-crazy kid vacation ever. I dragged my family to everything from tours of Claiborne Farm to early morning workouts at Keeneland. (It also solidified my role as expert vacation planner for the rest of my life.) I remember sitting at Churchill Downs watching a horse race from some other state on the tv, clutching my very first betting stub, and cheering on some random horse I'd selected because of a cool name. We didn't win anything of course, and it was probably supposed to be some lesson about the dangers of gambling. My grandparents (who had provided our gambling funds) looked at us expectantly and asked what we had learned. My little sister chimed in, "Always bet with someone else's money!" Well played, Rebecca. Well played.
Horses have always been my heart, and although I don't follow racing as closely as I did as a kid (Aka- no more binders of newspaper clippings and track reports), I will always love the Kentucky Derby.
I created this digital Derby Day Printable Party Pack with that love in mind! Who doesn't want easy to print decorations that will tie your event together?! (NOTE: this paragraph contains information about a product I have created to sell.) You can find it listed in my etsy shop here, available for instant download! You'll be able to print out everything from water bottle labels, straw flags, blank food labels, cupcake toppers, betting cards, two pennant banners, and two original art prints that are suitable for framing! You'll need Adobe software to view the PDF file, but you can download the software at no charge from the adobe website. No physical products will be mailed, and I recommend printing it on card stock or sending the file to a printing service for best results. If you're worried about the colors running, you might consider laminating certain decorations. Purchase is for personal use only! Please do not sell or share the file!
Now that the fine print is out of the way, keep reading for some tips on how to create a fancy Derby Day event on a budget that all your friends will love! I'll even share my recipe for grain-free Bourbon Almond Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream, topped with Candied Pecans!
When I host a party, I like to have several areas around my house decorated to encourage people to walk around and not hole up around the table. One of the areas I created was this 'Place Your Bets' station with bottled water and snacks. I offered peanuts, but popcorn or any other finger food would be a great substitution. I love the idea of having betting cards to encourage people to engage with the races. You can even turn it into a game and collect dollar bets to be split among the winners!
We kept the elegance of the day by using crystal and china dishes, and I pulled out some silver serving trays to remind everyone of that classic mint julep feel. I located some roses on sale, because you can't have a Derby Party without the classic Derby flower! The menus were hand lettered for a personal touch, and I focused on serving some classic Southern fare. We kept it simple with shrimp and grits and a few finger foods.
This party could easily be made casual- use what you have available! Instead of fancy dresses and hats, host a silly hat competition. Want to make it family friendly? Provide materials for kids to create their own crazy Derby hat. Host a stick horse race outside and let the kids create their own Derby winning horse name. Switch up the menu for something you could grab if you're in a hurry. Fried Chicken would be an excellent dish to serve to a crowd, or keep it simple and provide sandwich fixings.
I'm definitely a bourbon girl, but mint juleps aren't my favorite. I accidentally leave the mint in too long, and then it's too minty. (Apparently, just give me my bourbon neat and we're all good!) I like to let my guests mix their own drinks so they can control the strength and taste. Mint sprigs served as both a decoration and a garnish, but there were numerous other spirits to choose from! I thought the Mint Julep print made an excellent background for the bar set up especially with a picture of the famed Secretariat! And check out these adorable custom hand lettered wine glasses! (I have a limited number available, so message me on Etsy if you have a phrase in mind!)
Have a great bar setup for the adults, but want to incorporate a fun detail for the kids? You could always offer them small glasses of junior mint candy! Don't forget to go to the official Kentucky Derby website to print out race programs for this year's Derby, and remember to drink good bourbon and have fun!
Derby Party Printable Pack available for purchase here!
Grain-Free Bourbon Almond Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream & Candied Pecans
These cupcakes were a HUGE hit! Because approximately 30% of the bourbon remains after baking, these are for adults only! You can easily substitute the bourbon for additional milk to make them family friendly!
What You Need:
- 1 1/2 cups almond flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup salted butter
- 2 eggs
- 6 tbsp milk (I used almond milk)
- 6 tbsp bourbon
- 1/2 cup sugar (I used coconut palm sugar)
For the Icing:
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 cup butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup maple syrup, more to taste
What Do I Do?
- Preheat oven to 350*F and put 12 cupcake liners in a muffin tin
- Combine dry ingredients except for the sugar in a large mixing bowl.
- In a seperate small bowl, combine the butter, eggs, milk, bourbon, and sugar
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until incorporated NOTE: Overmixing can make these cupcakes more dense.
- Fill cupcakes 1/2 to 2/3 full. NOTE: These cupcakes don't rise very much
- Bake for 22-24 minutes
- While cupcakes are baking, put butter in a large mixing bowl with a whisk attachment.
- While mixer is on medium high speed, slowly add in one cup of sugar at a time. You may have to stop and scrape down the sides occasionally.
- Once all sugar is in, continue to mix for 30 more seconds.
- Slowly pour in maple syrup, and stop to taste. You may want to add more syrup for a stronger taste.
- Candied Pecans: I tossed my crushed pecans in a skillet with 3 tbsp of maple syrup over medium high heat for about 5 minutes. You could also toast them in the oven, just watch to make sure they don't burn!