Last week, I shared some untraditional dinner party themes. Now, it’s time to get cooking. Here are recipes for your own cooking competition, grilled cheese bar or breakfast for dinner feast.


Cooking Competitions: Iron Chef Home Edition

Recently, I was invited to to participate in an Iron Chef cooking competition and it was one of the most enjoyable times I have had at a dinner party (Thanks Harps for organizing!). At first, I couldn’t figure out how the logistics would work with eight guests trying to covertly cook in a small kitchen. But, with careful planning from our host, it turned out to be an adventurous, four-hour affair and bonding experience.

Organizing an interactive dinner event like this is also a great ice-breaker activity when you host a number of guests who aren’t familiar with each other.

Based on the competition I participated in, use this menu as inspiration for your own Iron Chef party. Our secret ingredient: Mint. 

  • Team 1: Appetizers – Baked Jalapeno Poppers (Recipe adapted and mint added to the filling)
  • Team 2: Main Course – DIY Taco Bar and Salad Bar (Mint was incorporated into one of the taco toppings — mint, coriander and lettuce salad)
  • Team 3: Dessert – Mint-Vanilla Cake with Mint-Chocolate centre, infused with a Mint Simple Syrup (see recipe below)
  • Team 4: Specialty Drink – Cucumber Lime Mint Agua Fresca


Mint-Vanilla Cake with Mint-Chocolate Centre and Mint Simple Syrup

mint vanilla chocolate cakeFor the purpose of the competition, this recipe was used to bake 8 individual cakes in 7 oz ramekins. This recipe also makes 12 cupcakes or a cake in 1-9×9 inch pan.

Cake recipe:
Adapted from

1 cup white sugar
½ cup butter, softened
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 ¾ tsp baking powder
½ cup milk
4-5 tbsp fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
2 Aero Peppermint chocolate bars, cut into chunks

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease your ramekins with butter or cooking spray.

2. In a bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. You can do this by hand or with a hand mixer. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla, Combine the flour and baking powder, add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Mix in the mint leaves.

3. Pour or spoon batter into the prepared ramekins. In the centre of each cake, add 1-2 pieces of the Aero Peppermint chocolate. Gently push the chocolate so it’s immersed in the batter.

3. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, on the middle oven rack. Check if the cake is done by inserting a clean toothpick in the centre of the cake (the densest part). If the toothpick comes out clean, the cake is ready. If there is some batter on the toothpick, let the cake bake for another 5 minutes and check again.

4. Once the cake is baked, let the ramekins cool on a cooling rack (or if you have a stove-top grill, like the one your mom probably uses for making roti or chapati, that works too!)

Mint Simple Syrup recipe:
Adapted from

½ to 1 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
½ cup white sugar
½ cup water

1. In a saucepan, combine all the ingredients and bring to a boil on high heat. Stir regularly to ensure that the sugar dissolves completely.

2. Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 3 to 5 minutes, undisturbed.

3. Remove from heat and run syrup through a sieve to remove the mint leaves. Let the syrup cool to about room temperature. Then, drizzle syrup onto each cake and serve.

The syrup keeps, covered and chilled, for up to 2 weeks.

*By the way, if you’re curious, Team 3 – my team! – won the challenge!


NEXT: Wine + Grilled Cheese Sandwich Bar – Click here for Page 2 of the Menu: Interactive Entertaining Recipes


the Menu is Jugni Style’s newest lifestyle column written by Naveen Atwal, bringing you details on what to eat and how to make it. Plus tips on entertaining like a pro – or at least pretending you are!