Friday, December 23, 2011

Week 51 :: Holiday Cupcakes!

This week I was able to make three sets of cupcakes.  My dear friend Sara helped me create these wonderful treats and I was lucky to have her assistance.  

First, some holiday cupcakes for Reagan's (Sara's daughter) school party.  And the snowman cupcake was born!

Then there were Christmas Cupcakes for work....

...the Christmas Tree Cupcake, complete with golden stars, ornaments and presents.  Sara is truly a natural at decorating!

Lastly, were baby gender surprise cupcakes:

This was such a special job.  A sweet co-worker of mine is pregnant with twins and the next ultrasound was to reveal the gender!  The results are going to be kept secret and handed to the sister who is planning a reveal surprise--which involves cupcakes!  I made two boy and two girl cupcakes for the sister, so she will be the only one to know before Mom and Dad.  Externally the cupcakes are all the same, but filled with pink and blue buttercream--when Mom and Dad bite in to the cupcakes they will find out the gender of the little-ones-to-be!  SO very excited to see how this turns out!

Just one more week to go!  Eeek! 

In the mean time...Merry Christmas and Happy Baking!! 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Week 50 :: Christmas Treats

I have always loved home made treats at Christmas time.  There is just something about the time and love that goes in to making Christmas treats that makes them that much sweeter (pun intended!)

Linzer Cookies
Over the past year many of you that live nearby have been able to try my sweets.  Many of my loved ones that live far away haven't been able to, so I thought--perfect opportunity!

Completed Tin

I was fortunate in that my Mom was easily recruited for the task.  She is full of great baking ideas and has quite a bit of experience herself.  After much deliberation and a carefully planned grocery list we ended up with Linzer Cookies, Macaroons, Gingerbread Men, Mint Fudge (below), Peppermint Bark, Sugar Cookies, Pfeffernusse Cookies and Peanut Butter Balls.  Phew!

Peppermint Bark

Many of the recipes we used are linked above.  Here is the recipes for the Mint Fudge (super easy):

Mint Fudge
Mint Fudge
Prep time :: 10 minutes
Chill time :: 1+ hours
Yields :: 2-3 dozen fudge squares
  • 1 lb. milk chocolate
  • 1 lb. semisweet chocolate
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tsp. peppermint extract
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  1. Melt chocolate and butter in a saucepan on low heat stirring constantly.
  2. Once chocolate is fully melted and smooth, remove from heat.  Immediately add sweetened condensed milk and extracts.  Mix well.
  3. Spread mixture on a wax paper lined 11x7 inch baking dish.  Allow to set in the refrigerator for at least one hour before cutting.

    Note :: For perfect fudge squares, let fudge sit a room temperature for 20 minutes before cutting.  Run a sharp knife under hot water and wipe dry before each cut.

We tasted everything (a few times to be sure) and I am really happy with how everything came out. Somehow I missed taking pictures of the Pfefferneuse Cookies and the Peanut Butter Balls before everything disappeared.  It was my Mom's idea to do Pfeffernusse Cookies and I am so glad we did.  There were by far my favorite and they have pepper in them--go figure!  Until next time...

Gingerbread People

Happy Christmas Baking!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Week 49 :: Cake Catch-up!

These past couple of weeks have been crazy with cake baking!  While exhausting I have thoroughly enjoyed it.  Here is quite a long re-cap of the cakes I have missed posting and some ideas/tips.

Happy Birthday Andres!

Double-yay for couponing and new cakes pans! I found a coupon in the paper this week for 50% off a full-priced item at Michaels (these coupons circulate almost every week).  I haven't bought many shaped pans (I usually carve the shapes), so I thought this would be a good opportunity to add to the collection for less than $7.  My friend Andres is a soccer fan and perfect circles are very difficult to carve so I thought the soccer ball pan would be perfect for several projects.

... and Happy Birthday Kietya!

This week I was asked to make another cheerleader cake for a girl's 13th birthday.  I remade this little girls head several times but I am happy with the way that it finally turned out.  I use star, heart, letter and square cutouts all the time.  They are inexpensive and super helpful in cake decorating and can be found here.

...and Happy Birthday Nikki! 

This cake was for another 13-year-old's birthday that happened to be the daughter of a dear friend I work with.  She had the party at the Brentwood Skate Center (so fun!) complete with pizza and cake.  I will be double that age next year but would it still be cool to have a party there?  I would require 80s themed attire and music, of course ;o)

Again, I used the awesome star and letter cutouts, but I also used pearly dust to create the gold effects (it is edible, as always).  I have found the easiest way to create cutouts like the dancer is to print the shape out, cut out of wax paper and trace with an exacto-knife into the fondant.  Is this the technical way to do it, you ask?  No idea--most of what I do is trial and error until I find something that works for me.  Often I find that when I try to do it "by-the-book" I either don't get it or it just doesn't work out.  On the other hand, sometime when I do it "by-the-book" I think "OH!  That is a whooooole lot easier and prettier."  In sum, if it doesn't work for you, just find another way to do it.  I honestly can't telly ou how many things I have redone or thrown out.

...and Happy Birthday Chloe!

Then there was a Sweet 16 Cake for Miss Chloe who loves make-up.  I researched some of her favorite products and made the decorations accordingly.  I tried a new trick with this cake as well--after I made the cake, assembled and dirty-iced it, I froze it.  When I was ready to decorate, I removed it from the freezer, gave the dirty ice another coat and then decorated while still frozen.  Well--don't do that.  Because the cake is so cold it causes the fondant to condensate and get really hard.  It all worked out OK in the end but I wouldn't do it again.

...and another Baby Shower!

The baby cake was a repeat request from an earlier week, but fun to try again.  The "box lid" is made out of rice crispies covered in buttercream and fondant.  I don't make a lit of things out of rice crispies; however, there are times when logistically you need something like this lid to hold it's shape with little support and it is perfect to use rice crispie treats!  the baby and all other decorations are made of fondant.

Phew....Happy Baking!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Week 48 :: Happy Birthday Liam!

Happy Birthday Liam!

This week was a busy cake week, but there was one cake in particular that was extra special.  My sweet friend Shay asked me to make her little one's FIRST birthday cake!  He is a unique little boy with what appears to be an affinity for yellow--bananas, giraffes, and his favorite dump truck which happens to guessed it--yellow!  So after much brainstorming came the Giraffe-Driven-Banana-Hauling-Dump-Truck!

Happy Baking!!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Week 47 :: Potted Flowers Cake

I have been wanting to do this cake for a while now--and it almost turned into a disaster!  Even after all of this time I still have major issues sometimes.  I made a GF chocolate cake and wanted to try a new chocolate frosting--and while it was delicious, it was almost too creamy to hold the shape of the cake!  I had to finish decorating it in the fridge--no joke!  All-in-all it turned out well and I can't wait for an excuse to make one like it again.

I should have taken pictures during the process and posted directions but I was gabbing away with my grandmother who stayed up with me until 1am baking this cake.  Here are some tips if they help:
  • Make three thick 6" layers.
  • Use two layers to make the pot, fill and cover with frosting, and cover it in clay-colored fondant.
  • Take the third layer, round it on top by carving.
  • Put a little frosting on top of the "pot" and put the rounded layer on top.
  • Cover the rounded layer in frosting to make it look like dirt.
  • Cut two strips of clay fondant. One to make the rim of the pot and one for the base of the pot.
  • Make flowers as desired and adhere them to the "dirt."

Happy Baking!

Week 46 :: Cheer Cake!

This week I made a cake/cupcake combo for a friend of mine.  She is a superstar Mom of a superstar daughter who is part of the Nolensville Cheerleaders.  Go black, white, and red!

I have used this cupcake tower twice now and it is awesome!  Paying $40+ for some cardboard seems a bit crazy, but it is awesome, reusable, and decorate-aable.  It is well worth it if you get a few uses out of it.  The stand on top holds up to a 5 lb. cake as well. Definitely something useful to have around.

Happy Baking!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Week 45 :: In the Jungle!!

What a fun cake to make!  One of my dear friends Jill asked me to make this for a little one's 1st Birthday.  I think it turned out wonderful.  I could have spent four more days on this cake because I was having so much fun.  I also made some matching cupcakes so the birthday boy didn't have to share :o)  The elephants are by far my favorite!  Well....the giraffes are pretty cute too, and will be making a reappearance in a couple of weeks!  Here are some close ups:

The flavors were just vanilla and chocolate with buttercream.  Little one's don't appreciate fancy flavors and there is something to be said or that! Here are the matching cupcakes:

And as always....Happy Baking!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Week 44 :: Chocolate dipped Peanut Butter Cookies

These cookies were a bit time consuming but worth the tediousness.  First, you want to make your favorite peanut butter cookie recipe.  If you don't have one, try the one below:

Peanut Butter Cookies
Prep time :: 10 minutes
Bake time :: 10-11 minutes/batch
Yields :: 24-30 cookies
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cream together butter, sugars, and peanut butter. Beat in eggs.
  3. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Mix well on medium speed for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Roll dough into balls about the size of golf balls, place on cookie sheet.  Grease a fork and press down to make an "X" onto cookies as demonstrated below.  Bake for 10-11 minutes or until slightly browned.

Once the cookies are complete, let them cool.  While the cookies are cooling melt chocolate in a double broiler.  If you don't have a double broiler you can put a couple inches of water in a sauce pan and place the chocolate in a glass bowl on top, like so:

I used dark chocolate chips, but you can use any kind of chocolate that you like.  Just dip the cookie in the melted chocolate about half way and voila!

Happy Baking!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Week 43 :: Pumpkin Cupcakes

Less than 10 weeks left and I have so much that I still want to do this year!  I suppose this may turn into 52WoS-and-then-some.

I made this cupcake for a sweet friend's birthday. Happy Birthday, Sara! I iced the pumpkin cupcake with cream cheese frosting and a gumpaste rose.  It was more than a fair trade since her husband made her a delicious dark chocolate cake for her birthday and I got to eat that all weekend while house-sitting.  

These pumpkin cupcakes are by far one of my favorites! I love pumpkin, and this is the first of several fall pumpkin recipes.  These cupcakes are rich and full of pumpkin flavor.  If you want, you can easily add a cup of walnuts or pecans to the batter.

Pumpkin Cupcakes
Prep time :: 10 minutes
Bake time :: 25 minutes
Yields :: 24-26 cupcakes
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 can mashed pumpkin or 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice (if you don't have this on hand, you can use a mixture of ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cream together butter and sugar.  Beat in eggs. 
  3. Add milk and flour alternating and mix well.  Add pumpkin puree.  Add baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices.
  4. Pour into prepared muffin cups 1/2 to 2/3 full and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. 

    I made a batch of these for a Vanderbilt party and decorated with a fondant embellishment.  Here is a close-up:

    Happy baking!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Week 42 :: Mitzi's Sprinkle

Congratulations sweet friend!

A dear friend of mine is expecting Baby #2 and I had the honor of making the cake for her sprinkle!  Here is a picture of me and the mom-to-be, the beautiful Mitzi:

The hostess did such a beautiful job and it was such a wonderful day to celebrate Mitzi's new addition. 

The cake was strawberry/vanilla with green and pink fondant.  I made the feet several days before so that they had time to dry.  The "bum" is actually a second tier to the cake, carved into a tooshie.  The ruffles are white fondant strips.  Here is a close-up:

Happy baking!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Week 41 :: Cars and Dragons...

Interesting combo, I know....but I am willing to try anything someone would like.  

Honestly, both cakes surpassed my expectations seeing as I know nothing about classic cars OR Dungeons and Dragons.  But, with a lot of help from friends and Google, here are the final products:

1950 Custom Chevrolet: 

The back is my favorite:

And the Dungeons and Dragons cake with custom dice and gold coins:

Happy baking!!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Week 40 :: Mr. and Mrs. Parmley

Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Parmley!

At this point I have made a lot of cakes, but never wedding cakes.  Oh, the pressure was on!  I feel so honored that a friend of mine trusted in me to make the cakes and cupcakes for her reception!  The party was for about 50-75 people and she wanted two cakes--a beach-themed wedding cake and cupcake tree and a groom's cake.  So here's the first look:

Now, I guess I will start with the groom's cake since I am sure you are thinking--"is that a shoe?"  Yes--it is a shoe.  A Nike-Air-Jordan-UNC-Tournament shoe.  Jason, the groom, likes Nike, Michael Jordan and UNC and I couldn't think of a better idea!  Now, I know you ask, "why would he like UNC?"  That, I cannot answer....why would anyone like UNC?  I almost refused to make any cake resembling UNC; however, Jason and Diana are very sweet people so it's not like I could say no--but I did think about it, seriously.  The groom's cake was strawberry with strawberry icing.  Here's a close-up:

The bride's cupcake tree turned out better than I could have ever imagined.  Several flavors went into this cake.  The top cake was a funfetti (bride's favorite) cake with vanilla buttercream.  Next was banana cupcakes with peanut butter-chocolate frosting. Next was pineapple with coconut buttercream (my favorite--yum!).  And the last two layers were chocolate with peanut butter-chocolate frosting and them Key lime cupcakes with vanilla buttercream.  Phew!  This was a lot of work but I took my time.  I made the cupcakes and cakes a week ahead and froze them (Note:: The BEST way to freeze cupcakes is to get 2.5 gallon zip locks, put cardboard at the bottom, fill with cupcakes and top with parchment paper--SO easy).  Cakes iced in buttercream can stay frozen for months because of the high fat content.  Just wrap in parchment paper and then plastic wrap and freeze.  I also made and bagged the icing and put it in the refrigerator.  The icing will stay fresh in the fridge for at least two weeks.  I also make the white chocolate sea shells a could weeks in advance.  This made for a much easier day-of prep.  Here is the cupcake tower:

And a close-up of the cake on top:

The "sand" accents in the cakes and cupcakes were made out of crushed graham crackers.

I feel so blessed to have been a part of this special celebration.  The party was so much fun and the bride and groom loved the cakes, so it was certainly a good night!  I wish Mr. and Mrs. Parmley a lifetime full of love and happiness (and cake) :o)

Happy baking!