Cheer Cupcakes

Baking date: October 20, 2017

This year, my son Alex was moved up to the varsity high school football team. He is one of only 4 sophomores and 1 freshman to be invited up. It’s exciting for him, but we know that he won’t see much playing time unless the team has a lead securely in hand.

It’s quite an accomplishment to be that close to the older kids, who made it to the state championship game in 2015 (lost 21-20), and in 2016, when they went 14-0 for the season and brought home the championship. This year, it was #NewTeamSameDream of heading back to the state championship game for a repeat.

I’ll spare you the suspense..our boys lost in the Regional Championship game. It was a close-fought game, against two powerhouses in the region.

But back to those cheer cupcakes…the cheerleaders had made yard signs for all the varsity players this year at the beginning of the season:

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I thought that was a very nice gesture and wanted to do something for the cheer team. I asked for the team roster and set out making chocolate cupcakes with white frosting. But to amp up the offering a bit, I dipped the frosted cupcakes in blue sugar sprinkles, piped on the cheer names in golden yellow tinted frosting, and added candy melt hearts in royal blue and yellow. I made extra cupcakes with yellow frosting and added the blue sugar sprinkles. Some had the extra candy hearts (the mold makes 20) with some of the blue sugar sprinkles.

Here’s a look at the cheer cupcakes (coaches included!):

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And here are all the cupcakes:

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Thanks WHS Cheer!

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And thanks to my friend Michelle, for capturing photos during my son’s Sophomore year on the varsity squad. I   and I ❤️ #54

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College Freshman Care Packages

Editor’s note: It’s been awhile since I have posted. The Fall is always super busy with football for my kids, work projects and the start of the holiday season. Thanks for your patience as I try and catch up on sharing a bunch of baking I’ve been doing since September.

Baking date: September 4, 2017

Every year for the past 4 or so, I have been making cookies to send off to my friends’ kids as they leave for college. This year was no different. There were 5 kids who got care packages this year. They were big brothers of some of my oldest son’s friends, and others are my community friends’ kids.

Packages went to Frostburg University (MD), McDaniel College (MD), Shepherd University (WV), and Wake Forest University (NC). The inserts were simple enough – loaves of Snickerdoodle bread and pumpkin bread, as well as chocolate chip cookies. I sent them via 2-day delivery — please don’t tell the USPS I check the box that affirms there are no perishables in the package!

I had no bubble wrap this year, so to secure the baked goods in place, I added crumpled up plastic grocery bags. Oh yes, and I included this picture…

Clark Griswold

with this handwritten message…

Handwritten note

The best part is seeing the reaction/getting the thank yous…

Like this email, from one of the kids (a big brother of my son’s friend Nick) who shared his package with his roommate:

Joe TY

And this Facebook post (from the big brother of my son’s friends Matt and James):

Josh TY

And this text I got from my friend Kelley (recipient is the big brother of yet another of my son’s friends, Owen):

Ethan TY

And then there was the kid who returned home for a varsity football game and  delivered these to me in the stands while I was watching my kid play:

Noah TY

There’s nothing better than the feeling of community. And making the good young people you know feel loved and happy.

So, what are the ways you could pay it forward for others?

Yellow Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Baking date: September 3, 2017

I love that Pinterest is filled with “the best”, “the most amazing”, and “the best ever” recipes for anything your baking heart desires. Most of the recipes I have tried have been delicious. But a recent attempt at new recipes found on Pinterest didn’t turn out quite the way I envisioned.

My husband called me from the store and asked the question “do you have the stuff you need to make a yellow cake with chocolate frosting?”  I responded with “sure, but could you get me some extra powdered/confectioners sugar.” What I really was thinking was “holy Hell man, how long have you known me? I can’t believe you even have to ask that question.”

I searched Pinterest and found this old-fashioned yellow cake recipe. Then I looked for a chocolate buttercream recipe.

Long story short — my husband thought the cake itself was a bit dry. And he said the frosting tasted like “what they use on Tastykakes.” Hmmm…I guess everything on Pinterest isn’t the best or to to be fair, to everyone’s unique liking.

It did give me the opportunity to use Viva paper towels and a fondant smoother to try a buttercream frosting smoothing technique I found on YouTube.

Here’s the cake, after using the smoothing technique (I should have snapped a before picture – next time, I promise):

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I’m sure these recipes will work for others, but for my husband, his advice was “why do you go to all the trouble of homemade cake and frosting? Just buy a box of cake mix and a can of frosting and I’ll be good to go.”

Sigh

Shirley Temple Cake

Baking date: August 18, August 19 and August 27, 2017

They say the third time’s the charm, right? Well, after my attempts at a Shirley Temple bundt cake, I’d have to say I agree. What it really comes down to is I’ve always avoided sprinkling the pan with flour after I use baking spray. But after trying this cake three times (and finally getting it almost perfect!), I know that’s an important step in the baking process.

Attempt #1: The first time I made the cake, it was for a friend who moved into a new house. There were big chunks out of the side and I only reserved 4 cherries, which didn’t cover all the holes I made to pour the reserved maraschino cherry juice into. I also drizzled the glaze while it was on the cake plate and that was a huge mess to wipe up.IMG_0598

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Not very pretty, but evidently very tasty because her daughters and niece enjoyed it:

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I decided to try again for a family gathering we were having that Sunday. This time, I iced it on a rack with wax paper underneath. Clean up was much easier, but I still had the issue with parts of the cake sticking to the pan. And it is so much batter that it climbed over the top too far, so the base was a mess when it was turned out of the pan:

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Determined to make this an attractive cake, I tried a third time. This cake was going to a family that had made one of the dinners after my Achilles surgery. I had the pan they delivered the calzones on for two months. I felt so guilty about returning the pan after so long, that I couldn’t return it empty. Plus, their son who plays on my oldest son’s baseball team loves Shirley Temples.

For this third attempt, I got a larger jar of cherries. I cut the cherries that would be stirred into the batter in half, and drained them. I poked 8 holes in the top and rather than putting a full cherry on top of it, I halved 4 of the best looking cherries and put them over the holes. I also didn’t pour all of the batter into the bundt pan — only filled it about 2/3 full. I put the remainder of the batter into a rectangular cake pan.

And most importantly, I floured the bundt pan after I sprayed it.  This time, there was only one small spot that didn’t release:
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And one very small spot on the inner part of the cake:

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Here’s the cake with the glaze drizzled and the cherries on top:

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Here are both cakes on the sheet pan I was returning:

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Of course, a full returned dish is always appreciated:

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And the third time did turn out to be the charm.

Get Well Soon Eyeball Cake

Baking date: August 6, 2017

My friend Rebecca’s fiance had cataract surgery recently. Since I’ve been itching to get back into my baking rhythm after Achilles surgery, I jumped on the opportunity to make him a get well cake.

It was a simple enough recipe of one bowl chocolate cake and a dark chocolate canned frosting. The not so simple part? Adding eyeballs to the cake.

I used a technique I had seen for a Halloween cake. You twist/separate (carefully!) Oreo cookies so that the cream filling is all on one side. It’s not as easy as you would think. Then, place a Junior Mint in the center of the white cream.

I added eyebrows with some buttercream icing. With the remaining dark chocolate frosting, I added bursts along the border. In the center of the bursts, I added a white sugar pearls.

Here’s a side view…

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And here’s the top view:

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You can also make the eyeballs with mini-Oreos and M&M’s, if you’d like to add more pairs of eyes or have the eyes be smaller in size. I did that for the Monster eyeball cake I made for a friend who was going through some tough medical issues one year around Halloween.

Here’s to a quick recovery, Gary!

Baby Shower Fresh Strawberry Cupcakes and Lemon Velvet Cake with Raspberry Buttercream Frosting

Baking date: July 21, 2017

A friend commissioned me to make 60 cupcakes for her daughter’s baby shower. I had made cupcakes for her bridal shower two years earlier, and a gender “reveal” cake when her daughter became pregnant. The the mom-to-be again requested the fresh strawberry cupcakes with buttercream frosting for her baby shower.

I told them I would make a cake as my gift to the bride. We decided on a lemon velvet cake with raspberry buttercream frosting.

The theme of the shower included elephants and the colors pink and grey. The grandma-to-be purchased pink polka dot cupcake liners, elephant cupcake toppers in pink/grey and pink/grey zigzag, and other shapes, as well as a cake topper. Links included to show samples; I can’t vouch for the vendors since I do not know where grandma-to-be purchased them.

The website for this cake topper wouldn’t load, so here’s a picture:

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For the cupcakes, I pulled out my big gun of a cupcake pan. This was the last of the batter going into the oven:

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The cupcakes were topped with a swirl of buttercream frosting. I then added pink and silver sugar pearls around the cupcake, and then topped them with the cupcake toppers that had been hot glued onto toothpicks.

Here are the cupcakes:

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Then it was on to the cake. I will say that I tasted the batter before I cooked it. It didn’t taste real lemony to me, so I squeezed some fresh lemon juice into the batter, in addition to the lemon zest and the lemon extract.

The raspberry buttercream recipe — holy cow — it makes a ton! This was the cake and the frosting before I got started:

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I tried a buttercream smoothing technique I saw on YouTube. I had placed the cake in the frig, so it took a bit longer and I never did get it completely smooth. In the future, I’d ice the cake and let it “crust” at room temperature, and then do this technique with the Viva paper towel and the fondant smoother.  I should have taken a before and after picture because it did help smooth out the frosting. Here’s the after:

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Around the base of the cake, I piped on bursts, and added a large white sugar pearl in the center of each burst. Finally, I spelled the baby’s name with raspberry buttercream piped on candy melt circles in bright white that I added some black color to in order to get a grey.

Here’s all of the sugar, ready to be delivered to the party:

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Here’s the table full of goodies:
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Congrats Kaitlyn and Kevin – we can’t wait to meet baby Hannah!

Kaitlyn and Kevin

Photo courtesy of Lidia Miller Photography.

My pricing philosophy:

How I price my work

Future Bobcat Cake

Baking date: July 14 & 15, 2017

I had some extra red velvet batter and cream cheese frosting left over from graduation cupcakes I had been commissioned to make, so rather than let it go to waste, I made a one layer 9″ cake.

Since the graduate was heading to Frostburg State University and would be playing baseball for the Bobcats, I added a red and black paw to the candy melts I was already making for the other cupcakes and cake. I also used candy melt molds to spell out FUTURE BOBCAT.

Here’s the top of the cake:

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Around the base, I piped on bursts. In a feat that would make Sister Francis Miriam — my elementary school algebra teacher — proud, I counted the bursts and then based on the number of mini-M&Ms I had, figured out how to space them equally around the base in the center of those bursts. I then added ruby red pearlized sugar sprinkles on top of the bursts. Here’s a shot that shows the base with the mini-M&Ms and sprinkles. Always remember to place the “M” side down.

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All the best as you head off to college this Fall, Josh!