I know, I know, I know. This is maybe the most ridiculous thing you’re going to see on this blog or maybe ever. It involved sketches and candy melts and extricating green M&Ms from a large bag of multicolored M&Ms and a small tube of mini ones; it involved baking brownies and whirling a milkshake. It involved an 11th-hour FaceTime consultation with Jodi Levine of Supermakeit fame. But, here’s the thing! As someone noted on instagram when I storied this pic last week, if ever there was a year to go completely over-the-top for a kid’s birthday…it’s this year. Not only because: 2020. But because it’s the last one we’ll have for her in the house, for at least the next four years. (If all goes according to plan and we should be so lucky! Not complaining, not whining!) So in the end, I didn’t really have a choice: I had to make Abby an Extreme Milkshake for her 17th birthday.
Do you guys even know what Extreme Milkshakes are? (I’m of course, exclusively speaking to those of you who’ve never been on Pinterest.) I’m not sure where they began in the wider world, but the first place we discovered them was at a touristy New York restaurant called Black Tap. It was probably three or four years ago, when Instagram was informing dessert menus more than chefs were, and the more over-the-top you could go, the better. At least with the kids. That meant candy-studded, whipped-cream topped milkshakes erupting with entire slices of pie or cake or ice cream cones and pops. When it’s done properly, there’s enough going on there to feed a family of five…for a week.
Abby’s favorite dessert combination is chocolate and mint, so I figured that was as good a place to start as any. I knew the milkshake was going to be mint-chocolate chip, but I didn’t want everything to be mint-flavored, so I decided I’d just use green as the theme. Other than that, I didn’t really know what I was doing. Wearing my green goggles, though, I hit the candy aisle at Stop & Shop, grabbed a few things from around the house and started building.
The first thing I did was find the right container — I went with at 12-ounce wide-mouth Ball jar because, well, that’s what I had, and also it felt like the right size. From everything I researched online, the rule appears to be that sturdier and taller the foundational base, the higher you will be able to pile the sweets.
Using a regular old table knife, I spread a 2-inch band of Duncan Hines dark chocolate frosting around the rim, then studded the frosting with green pretzel M&Ms. (When I first FaceTimed with Jodi, she said “Wow, I love the Wilma Flinstone vibe” which should tell you why I love her so much.) The frosting acts like glue, and though no one advised freezing to solidify the bond, I did anyway because I was making as much of it as I could ahead of time and I didn’t want the frosting to get melty.
Next, I looked for tall skinny things I could use as spears. I used two metal straws to spear a brownie (made from a box mix the night before) estimating how deep they needed to pierce the brownie and still be the right height in the glass. (I wanted it to be high enough to tower over the whipped cream I’d add last.) Using the sharp tip of a metal skewer, I also speared three Peppermint patties in their centers, then stacked them together, threading a plastic straw through the holes. (“So mid-century Space Age,” said Jodi.)
At this point, I thought to myself, It’s cute, but is it over the top? What could I do to that big brown brownie? I dug around the birthday box, found sprinkles, candles, dusting sugars, then walked down the block to Jodi’s house. (To answer your question, no, I never take my proximity to her for granted. That box shown up there is just 1% of what she has in her basement.) She plied me with green candy melts, “thinning” flakes for the melts, mini M&Ms and a bunch of candies she had leftover from all her professional shoots.
Jodi gave me a quick tutorial on candy melts, which I had never used before. “They are just as temperamental as chocolate,” she said. “Don’t introduce moisture!” I did as I was told, and without really having a plan, ended up dipping one half of the brownie in to the melted candies, then covering that in green dusting sugar. Then, painstakingly, ridiculously, I applied a dot of frosting to one side of each of a dozen mini M&Ms and stuck them across the middle. The rainbow cookies (speared on a chopstick) were a clutch find at the last minute.
And as luck would have it, one of Abby’s (green!) birthday presents — a Breaking Bad laptop decal from Redbubble — arrived just as I was finishing up my design. And though I was immediately overcome with regret about not theming the whole thing Breaking Bad (I even had a large supply of light blue dusting crystals) I was pretty happy with the direction.
I saved the rest of the construction for after dinner. (Take-out from her favorite Mexican spot.) All that was left to do was pour in the milkshake (blend three scoops of mint chip with about 2/3 cup of milk, but you’ll have to eyeball it), top with whipped cream (don’t you dare go fancy fresh whipped cream on me here; only the spray will do), rainbow sprinkles, and a little star candle.
I have to say, it worked. She completely freaked. The only acceptable reaction.