Sunday, December 15, 2013

Mini Cheesecake Bites

There are those days. Those days when your child says something like, "Oh yeah and I need a dessert today." Really. Today? I like to think, plan, shop and create something special, unique, just for you! Not just throw something together at the last minute while running out the door. 

Today was one of those days. And I found myself standing in the grocery store aisles thinking, "I can do this last minute. I know I can. What would Sandra Lee do?" Thank you Sandra Lee for reminding everyone that semi-homemade can be special too. 

Here's the Mini-Cheesecake Bites I pulled together in less than 15mins, not including the trip to the store!


Mini Cheesecake Bites Recipe

Crust
1 pack of Chocolate graham crackers, crushed and mixed with 
5T melted buttter
2T sugar

Press 1t into each mini cupcake cake liner.

Filling 
No-Bake Cheesecake Mix combined with 
1 1/2 Cup Milk

Follow directions on package for the the filling. Set the graham crust packet aside for another time. 
Pipe the filling into the mini cupcake liners. Leave room for the topping.

Topping
Whip Hershey's White Chocolate Pudding with 
2 C whipping cream till it thickens. 

If you whip it too long it won't look as pretty, but will taste as good! Try not to eat this all straight from the bowl. Use the same piping bag with a star tip to pipe a little swirl on top of the mini cheesecakes.

Finally, drizzle a little of the fudge sauce on top. I used some peppermint ganache I had already made. If you want to add a little peppermint extract to the fudge sauce you can. I used peppermint candy oil. I think they carry it at Michael's.

Let the cheesecake bites set-up in the fridge for an hour. Although I think I had a little less time than that today and it was no problem. The picture a quick shot while running to the car :-) 

Here's what I can do with a little more notice: 

Red Velvet Cake with White Chocolate Frosting, Peppermint Ganache and Chocolate leaves
Hope you are making some sweet treats for the holiday! Merry Christmas


Monday, October 14, 2013

4 Ways to Flood a Cookie

My single biggest stumbling block to icing sugar cookies is flooding. You've seen those cookies with the smooth flawless royal icing finish. It is luck of the draw for me, sometimes perfection, sometimes less.

As usual, I choose to focus on what I can do, rather than what I can't. That has led me to....

4 Ways to Flood a Cookie

1. You can actually flood the cookie with royal icing. Sweet Sugarbelle has some great tips on how to do this. When I can get the right consistency of icing and have the patience to flood a cookie, it is magic!
 These little apothecary cookies turned out super nice. I made a 100 in one setting and was pleased with the outcome.

2. Another great way to achieve that fabulous smooth background color is fondant. Cheating? Maybe. But it is awesome. If you use a fondant smoother on your cookies when they are just out of the oven, you can gently smooth out any bumps before you attempt to cover your cookies. Oh yes, be prepared to place the cut fondant on a hot cookie and you won't have to add any other icing to glue it together.
 I love, love, love the way these snowflake cookies turned out. I was able to add some royal icing piped lines to accent the fondant details. Super clean and polished.

3. If you are not opposed to painting, you can use an egg wash to get a solid background color on your cookie. This approach worked really well on these ornament cookies. Slightly opaque and shiny, it was a super quick way to add color. The down side is the edges weren't crisp. With all the detail for the ornament, it didn't matter. Just keep those edges in mind when planning your design. Even The Pioneer Woman likes this technique :-)

4. Finally, and I can't believe it has taken me years, Years, to figure this out: color your cookie dough. <face palm> For some reason the thought occurred to me last night to just color the dough. Duh. I made the royal icing transfer faces a day before to let them dry. Then attached to the cookies as soon as they cooled with a little dab of royal icing for each piece. I piped on a few additional orange line to mimic pumpkins and tah-dah. I think I might try this again and use a really thin powdered sugar glaze to add a little shine to the cookie before piping the details.

Seeing so many amazing cookie ideas on the web is inspiring.  If a cookie project seems too complicated, focus on what you can do and create something fabulous :-)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Cheerwine, Ice Cream and Cake, Great!

Had a moment to experiment last week. Wanted to try the melted ice cream cake recipe with Cheerwine! Although you can buy Cheerwine pound cake locally, I was hoping for a more "Cheerwine" flavor.

Since Cheerwine syrup isn't available, I thought that melted Cheerwine ice cream might do the trick. However, all that was in Food Lion was sherbet. Don't you remember a Food Lion brand Cheerwine swirl ice cream? Oh well, sherbet was the new plan.

The recipe is very, very simple. A cake mix of your choice, 2 cups melted ice cream, three eggs.  Mix and bake.

I made a simple glaze with powdered sugar and Cheerwine but couldn't wait for the cake to cool to try it! So the glaze melted some. It was delish. I didn't run my knife through the batter once it was in the pan and thus the air bubble. But the kiddos didn't mind.


However, I have to say, not quite the distinct Cheerwine taste I was going for. I tried a second attempt but that vanished so fast, no pictures! I made a marble cake but instead of chocolate, I boiled about 2 cups of soda for about an hour to make a syrup and mixed that with the 1 cup of batter. It was a really good cake. I think this marble Cheerwine concept deserves a third attempt. I'll post a picture next time I experiment.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

It's All About the Game

Sports are obviously a huge part of life in America. Celebrating "love of the game" with cake is always fun. Among the most requested cake designs is this one with a jersey and ball. I first saw this design on pinterest, but with half a ball instead of a whole ball. The half ball was perched on the edge of the jersey, like a player holding the ball. I liked the idea of a whole ball, just at the edge of the sheet cake and have made this version a few times.




If you are interested in just a sports jersey cake, here is an example using cheerleading uniform top.

Another favorite sports cake concept is one with the stripes on the side and some type of  logo on top. Super easy to change colors and logos for a school or team. These were inspired by designs I saw on CorrieCakes on facebook. Her work is so flawless and charming! 


And, because you can never have too many basketball cakes! This angry face design is from The Cake Don, except his was fondant perfection. Mine was created using a frozen buttercream transfer.


This last design is another pinterest find. Love the combination of scrapbooking and cake. The original pinned idea had a goal and basket made from gumpaste! This simplified paper version makes the cake affordable and still awesome :-)


As the school year begins, I am looking forward to creating a whole new batch of cakes celebrating The Game, whatever your favorite game may be!!!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"I'm Taking July Off"


What I have learned this month is that when I say, " I'm taking the month off," I really can't say no. There were a few more cakes this month that didn't get pictured and some cookie orders too.  One wedding cake to go and that brings me to the end of my "month off."  After almost a year in this business, I also have learned that the month to take off is January not July!









Saturday, June 29, 2013

Micro Bakery

What I love most about baking from my tiny kitchen is the attention I can give to a single project. Take for instance these cookies. The recipe is called "Alice's Chocolate Chip Cookies." And, no joke, best ever.


These are no one bowl cookie. They take time. A little patience and some more patience. But in the end. Best. Chocolate. Chip. Cookie. Ever. This is what I take to the coffee shop in town. And for one brief moment only 12 extra large, delicious cookies are available.

Crazy right? Only 12. A few changes are needed Alice's recipe to make each cookie so large. First I weigh every scoop so they are exactly the same size. 3 ounces per cookie. To add to the visual appeal, I keep a handful of chips out of the batter and place them on top after I scoop the dough. (Not pictured, learned that trick later!)

Also, I have to bake at 2 different temps. First at 375 degrees for 7 min, then at 325 for 13 mins. This allows the cookies to spread but not totally to a crisp.

Finally, the I have learned that if I let the dough rest for a bit, like 15 mins before I start scooping, the cookies will spread much more evenly.

I think with a larger mixer and better oven, I probably could bake more of these at one time. In the meanwhile, I know that these cookies are something special, something to savor and enjoy with a great cup of coffee shop coffee. Hope to see you around town!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Father's Day Already?

With the Girl's Night Out fundraiser for school, Holly's Dance Recital and Lee's graduation, this spring has vanished. The neighborhood pool is open and the last day of school is here. Sharing a favorite post from the past about baking and Father's Day.   What a great memory with the children and good friends!

A few pics from this spring:
 My niece, Mary Scott, graduated from high school! Yipee!

 My son, Lee Allison, graduated too! Starts college in three weeks, yikes!

 Loved making this mini rifles in the push pop containers for the Girl's Night Out fundraiser.
Made 200. Whew!

And a pinterest idea: Tutu Cupcakes for the Dance Recital Bake Sale <3

Taking a short break for the summer from baking. Hopefully will find time to blog between trips with Holly and Bill to the pool!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Banners

There is a trend out now that I adore,  banners!!  Banners are popping up everywhere. On walls, cookies and cake! I love it. Another way scrapbooking and cake come together. My two favorite things, after family, of course.

My friend created this enormous banner for her son's 1st birthday. I knew then this was a must-do!!
Here's is Debbie and Hayden. What a great day at Dan Nicholas Park :-) 

When my youngest nephew turned one, Anna and I found this great free downloadable banner. 
There were a couple of blank triangles that I reprinted and added Banks' name.
It hung on my dining room wall for a couple weeks before, I was so excited :-)

 The celebration was at the lake so this fish cupcake cake was perfect! 
Melissa at MyCakeSchool.com has the best ideas <3

Most recently, I added a banner to this circus cake...

 and this Cool Whip frosted chocolate cake! 
The birthday girl wanted Cool Whip and chocolate, yummy but not really 
a "decorating frosting".  This awesome banner is also a free download. 

Google "free downloadable banners" and see what great things are out there!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cheaper than a KopyKake

First, let me say I would love, love, love a KopyKake. Or an ipad so I could download that projector app. Either one. I'm not picky.

However, I will not be deterred! One of my most favorite purchases this past year is the $20 lighted tracing pad from Crayola. Found it at Wal-mart. Didn't even have to pay shipping.

Just short of projecting images on to cookies or cake. I can print an image and tape it to the tracing pad. Then roll out gum paste or fondant onto wax paper or clear acetate. I bought the acetate to make chocolate cake wraps, but works for this too :-) If you don't want to use fondant, buy a Wilton Sugar Sheet in white. Already on the acetate.

Once you tape your fondant or sugar sheet over the image, trace with food color pens or paint with thinned gel colors. I love this technique.

You can even pipe royal icing transfers this way too!

I think this picture explains the rest. 

 Tape the picture to the pad. Tape the sugar sheet on top of that. Trace away.

I know not very Easter-y. But hey, anything for my first born. Isn't that what mothers do?

There is a great tutorial on MyCakeSchool.com about painting and drawing on fondant. Everything  Melissa describes in her video is true, just add the tracing pad behind your image. The trick is not to smear the black food coloring. I choose to trace all the bright colors first, then outline in black last. 

 These images are on fondant/gum paste. I outlined with the black first and quickly realized I had a problem. There was a little smearing of the black but that did not stop me. I forged ahead. 

One day I might get that Kopykake but until then I think I can create some really neat cakes with this tracing pad.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Easter Vigil and Cake!

With Easter just a few weeks away, once again I'm googling cake ideas for our parish Easter Vigil reception. Let me just say the pickins' is slim. Apparently celebrating Easter Vigil with a show stopping cake just isn't something everyone does. Here are a few that I have made over the past years might inspire someone else too <3.

First, I have to recognize sweetcreation on Cake Central. Her design is right on the mark! Loved her design so much, I used it two years in a row. Each of these cakes is enough for 100.





Any exciting baking plans for your holiday?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Apple Puff Pasty

Apples, apples, apples! I love apples. Apple pie, apple sauce, apple butter, apple jelly. And apple cake!! If an apple can be put in it, I will love it.

This weekends test kitchen was about the Apple Puff Pastry. I mean how easy, peasy and Pepperidge Farm, thank you. However in searching for a recipe, I stumbled across this Quick and Easy Puff from scratch.

Could it really be that easy? Would the layers puff like Pepperidge Farm? Oh yes, just like Truc describes. Light, flaky, buttery layers, puffed around lightly spiced and sweetened apples!

 Pepperidge Farm is on the left, from scratch on the right. True, the frozen dough 
puffed a little more, but the freshness and flakiness of the from scratch wins by a mile!

Preferred the honey glaze on the from scratch to the powdered sugar on the frozen.


This is the last batch from scratch. Got the temperature and time just right 
as well as the honey glaze with cinnamon sugar dusting on top.

Only three changes to the original recipe is the baking temp, changed to 400 degrees for 25 mins. Then brushed the edges with an egg wash to make it brown so nice. Oh yes, I used all purpose flour instead of unbleached all purpose flour because that's what I had.

If you are up for a little Test Kitchen at your house, I highly recommend this recipe. And the Pepperidge Farm puff pastry, you know to be diligent :-)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Fondant Bow

I learned two important lessons in the spring of 2010:  sometimes these techniques take a little practice and never, ever apologize for how your cakes turn out. Just keep going and smile! I thank Julia Childs for those two little whispers in my ear all the time.

I have a sister whose family celebrates 4 birthdays in the spring.  That year they were gracious enough for me to practice, practice, practice fondant bow making. As well as refining the White Almond Sour Cream recipe. Of course, the youngest in the family understandably did not want a bow on his cake! It was three times' the charm for the bow making experiment!

First a few lessons from my sister, Michele's cake. I followed steps like those described here. But somehow my loops were a little more round than an actual bow.

The recipe was another first. Can I say again how much I love the White Almond Sour Cream recipe? The only change since first baking this cake is that I now use 6 whole eggs instead of 8 egg whites. I  like the texture a little better. The end result isn't as white and fluffy as a true white cake, but the cut cake is so very neat and pretty.

Finally, sugar sheets. I love sugar sheets. For my sister's cake, I found beautiful free downloadable scrapbook papers, printed them on card stock and had our local Harris Teeter print that on sugar sheets. I loved the ability to cover a cake entirely with a fabulous pattern. I learned that the best way to do this in the future is to have a cake the same size as the sheet. The sheets aren't seamless.You'll see in the picture!


Even though I knew I had a little more to learn here, 
Michele was surprised and thrilled with her birthday gift cake!

The very next weekend was my brother-in-laws birthday. This time I tried another method of bow making. Wilton can't be wrong, right? Although the loops were more bow like, I still felt something was missing. Maybe not enough loops, definitely not to use buttercream to put it all together.
This time I stamped with black food coloring to get the pattern on the loops. 

Finally, my nephew's party the very next weekend, I think. Third times the charm.

 The loops are cut at 1" wide 6" long. Those proportions work every time. I managed to get a shape that I really, really liked. Also, this bow was a mixture of modeling chocolate and white fondant. Way more stable than plain fondant. Since then, I use either modeling chocolate or gum paste to mix with fondant. Either way is the bows loops aren't as likely to break as with plain fondant. Oh, and I used melted chocolate as the glue to hold the bow together.

Shortly after this bow making marathon, a month or more later, I had the opportunity to try again for a family friend.  Bingo. I love how the sugar sheets really make this bow stand out. And the extra ribbons add the finishing touches to look like a real bow.


Reading Julia's book "My Life in France" was totally worth it. I hope you will remember those two whispers too. Practice makes perfect and Never apologize, just keep going and smile!