High School Football Championship Cakes and Cookies

Baking date: January 6, 7 and 8, 2017

I’m going to cut to the chase here – my son’s high school varsity football team won the Class 2A Maryland state championship in 2016. He played on the JV team because he is a Freshman, but this accomplishment is no less exciting for all of us in the community. Last year, the team made it to the championship game but came up short by 1 point.

In January, the teams — both varsity and JV — held their awards banquet and meal. Of course, this was a perfect opportunity for me to bake and pay tribute to the players, coaches, and parents who were part of this amazing season.

First up was general cakes for all to enjoy. I made a large (16″) square cake.  I covered it in buttercream frosting, and piped on bursts in royal blue and golden yellow, with white sugar pearls on top of each burst. The item in the center of the cake is a buttercream icing transfer. The intricate letters were not that easy to pipe on and instead of peeling off the wax paper, I used an icing spatula to “slide” it off, which smeared the colors a bit. Finally, I made a giant Lion paw with yellow and royal blue candy melts.

img_2167img_2166

I also made a 1, a 4, and a 0 (Baker’s note: this is the new version of this pan. I have an older version that does not have angled edges). This team’s record was 14-0. I even made a dash with a mini bread pan. I used the motto “Small Town, Bigger Dreams” we had printed on tee shirts as buttercream transfers on these cakes. The buttercream frosting I made is really better designed for piping and not spreading. In the future, I may microwave it a few seconds to get better spreading consistency.

15975122_10212361293012755_56522657674464263_oimg_2162img_2163img_2164bigger-dreams

Next up were some special cakes. First was the cake for the team mom. She manages all the communications and activities between coaches, players and parents for both varsity and JV. She received a football make with red velvet cake (her favorite) and a chocolate cream cheese frosting (sorry, can’t remember where I got the recipe!). She also got a big lion paw candy melt in yellow and royal blue.

img_2159

Next was a cake for the head coach, who received High School Coach of the Year honors in the state of Maryland from the Baltimore Ravens.

coty

His football cake was triple chocolate cake with the same chocolate cream cheese frosting. He also got a large Lion paw candy melt on his cake.

img_2161

And then there were the players. I got the roster from the team mom. I made football shaped sugar cookies with royal icing. I piped each players name and number on the cookies with a #1 Wilton tip. There were also cookies for the coaches, managers, statisticians and videographers. Extra cookies were decorated with either royal icing or chocolate jimmies.

img_2171img_2172img_2173

There was also a special larger football cookie for a team mom and photographer, decorated with royal blue and golden yellow buttercream bursts.

img_2170

Congrats to the coaches and players for bringing the win home to our community and for all the accolades and pride that came with it!

15390996_10211988391210443_580992525245555179_n15380274_10206891427998235_7849686184066748594_n15356666_10211988559094640_6474823533524345283_nwetzel-defensefirst-team-offensefirst-team-defenseoffense-second-teamhonorable-mention-defense

Christmas Cookies and Other Goodies

Baking date: December 22 & 23, 2016

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted an update. I was dealing with a bulging disc, sciatica and terrible pain. I’ve been in PT to right my back issue, as well as on medication for pain. Thanks for your patience as I had to keep focused on work, family, and recovery.

I’m much better now and happy to share some of the baking a did before and after this bout with back issues. This Christmas I did the baking while hopped up on some serious pain medications, so if you see any errors, I’m going to blame it on that!

Each year I bake for the kids on my oldest son Alex’s baseball team. This includes kids he plays with now, and those we played with for many years, but have moved on to more competitive teams that pull from a larger talent pool.

I make goody bags for each family that include candies (bite size things like Snickers, KitKats, Kisses, etc.) and mini-breads (pumpkin, snickerdoodle, gingerbread, and banana). I also made sugar cookies with royal frosting, chocolate sugar cookies, and gingerbread cut out cookies. Bakers note: I substitute 1 tablespoon of almond extract for one of the tablespoons of water when making my royal icing. I think it gives the icing a much better taste.

This is a big effort, so I take vacation days to do this. The recipe I use for the sugar cookies and chocolate sugar cookies both involve extra steps/time of refrigerating the dough before rolling out (sugar), rolling out and refrigerating (chocolate sugar) and refrigerating again once cookies have been cut (sugar), before baking.

This was my kitchen island before everything got underway. My supplies include my favorite apron from a job years ago, the mega mini-bread pan, recipes, and cookie cutters:

img_2118

This year, I decided to personal Santa cap cookies. In a previous years, I used the stocking shape when personalizing.

There’s lots of prep work that goes into getting decorating ready. You can see the mini breads in the bucket and more cut out cookies in the containers with red tops. As I captioned this when I posted it to Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook: “Santa has his workshop, I have mine”.

img_2119

I used red (no taste) and leaf green to color a portion of the royal icing. I also had a wide variety of sugar pearls, sugar sprinkles, and other edible decorations. Each Santa cap had a unique design. And I started with a #1 Wilton tip to pipe on the names, but I found that the royal icing would clog this very narrow tip.

So I moved to a #2 tip, but found that it was too wide. I had to move from full first names to initials. Baker’s note: I asked Wilton via their Facebook page about how to make the icing more “pipeable” and clog less. They suggested I sift the powdered sugar before mixing with meringue powder and water. I did that the next time — in addition to adding a tad more water when using a #1 tip — and it worked much better for the next personalization project I did. Also, holding the piping bag straight up was an improvement, so recipe tweaks plus technique tweaks helped do the trick.

img_2124

You can see the first few I piped on names using the #1 tip. I quickly moved to the #2 tip, but the names were too runny to continue with that…

img_2127

So, on to initials it was. For some families with multiple same initials, I added a number at the end. The JK family are big Ravens fans, so I put purple and black jimmies on their hats. The one pink hat is for a friend who is a breast cancer survivor.

img_2125

Here’s where I moved from full names with the #2 tip to initials

img_2126img_2121

Of course, there was a special hat for my friend Brian, who is the biggest fan of the movie Christmas Vacation that I know.

img_2128

There were also some extra generic Santa hats and lots of star cut out cookies.

img_2122img_2123

And finally, there was a Fireball fudge that I put in the goody bags of my closest baseball mom pals!

img_2132

I cut it into small pieces so no one would over indulge.

On Christmas Eve, I take my son Alex with me and we make deliveries of the goody bags to everyone. We have plastic bags to put the red or gold paper bags in (should have taken a picture of the goody bags, shouldn’t I?!) for folks who may not be home.

He asked me recently, “mom, why is this such a big deal to you.”  So I shared a story with him and decided I would put a note with the story in each of the bags:

img_0068

Christmas Cookies for Co-workers

Baking date: December 18, 2016

Each year, I bake goodies for my co-workers during the Christmas holidays. This year, I focused on cut-out cookies in a variety of shapes – snowmen, Christmas lights, mittens, stars and snowflakes.

The cookies were chocolate sugar cookies and regular sugar cookies. These cookies take some extra time to set in the frig (the regular sugar cookies are refrigerated twice), so make sure you have planned out your day of baking to include time for it.

I used colored sugars and sugar pearls to decorate the cookies rather than royal icing (don’t worry, I will post about another batch of Christmas cookies where I did use royal icing). Here are the cookies, which my co-workers were grateful to snack on throughout the day.

img_2116

img_2114

You can see a missing star cookie from this sheet – my son always offers to taste-test cookies for me.

img_2113img_2112img_2111img_2110img_2109

img_2108

As you can see, not every cookie will accept sprinkles

Cake with Frozen Buttercream Transfer

Baking date: November 19, 2016

A former colleague of mine Jennifer celebrated a fun family accomplishment recently – her husband Sean, and their two kids Caeley and Seamus published their first children’s book. It was written and illustrated by Sean and the kids.

Here’s a synopsis of the book Little Robin: Flying South for the Winter:

In this lovable adventure, we fly away on Little Robin’s journey to meet up with his friends and fly south for the winter. Little Robin is in danger of missing the trip when he is faced with the important decision of whether to help others in need. As the air turns cold, in a moment of fright and worry, Robin teaches us how to stay calm and not give up hope.

The family had a book publishing party with friends and family. I decided to make a cake to help them celebrate. I used the 16″ pan from the Wilton performance pans square set for the cake. I used a French vanilla box mix for the cake and wedding buttercream icing to ice the cake and make the buttercream transfer.

I had watched a video tutorial on frozen buttercream transfers on the Wilton channel on YouTube. Here’s the image after I had piped on the white outline, white/black eyes of robin, green leaves, the red robin, and black feet. As you can see, it’s not easy to pipe on small details – I smudged some of the buttercream in the lower right side of the image and had to fix it. After piping on the blue and brown, I let it set an hour. I then added plain buttercream over all of it and put it back in the freezer for another hour to help it set even better.img_2006

Here’s how the cake turned out once I piped on the names of the authors and added a border of blue bursts around the base. Because the transfer image sits higher on the cake, the next time I try this, I’ll add a decorative border around the image to that it looks more seamless:

img_2007

And here’s the book cover next to the cake – not a bad likeness!

img_2010

Congrats Sean, Caeley, and Seamus!

Thanksgiving Turkey and Acorn Sugar Cookies

Baking date: November 19, 2016

Each year, I try and let my colleagues know how thankful I am for them by making sweet treats to share. This year was no different. In order to save myself some time, I used refrigerated sugar cookie dough, that I rolled to make cut-out cookies.

This shortcut does come with some compromises. The scratch sugar cookie recipe I usually make includes a step that allows the cookies to set and hold their shape. You can probably add the step of refrigerating the cookies for 30 minutes once they are cut out to help them set with any recipe or prepared dough, but I skipped that step in the interest of time. And here’s what some of the “round shapes” looked like once they cooked. To be honest, I didn’t leave much room between each on the cookie sheet:

img_2011

Some would say “what’s wrong with a giant cookie?”, and to them I respond “absolutely nothing because it still tastes great!”

I used round cut outs in two sizes to make turkey cookies. They were decorated using royal icing dyed brown for the main body of the turkey, golden yellow for the beak and legs, and black for the dots of eyeballs. Candy corns were added for the feathers, M&Ms were added for the eyes (although in the future, I won’t use the brown ones because you can’t see the dots for eyes piped on), and multi-colored jimmies were sprinkled on. Here’s how the turkeys turned out:

img_2015img_2012

For the acorns, they didn’t hold their cut-out shape well either. So I used the brown icing for the top and then dipped the still wet icing in chocolate jimmies for texture. Once that dried, I darkened the brown, piped an outline of the rest of the acorn to give it more shape, and filled that in with the remaining brown icing.

img_2016

With shapes that need more definition, I’ll definitely add in the 30 minute refrigeration before cooking in the future (regardless of the recipe or any shortcut I use). For the rounds that became turkeys, its not as important that they are perfectly round.

It’s always nice to remind those you work with how thankful you are to have them as colleagues!

Football Playoff Sugar Cookies

Baking date: October 28, 2016

My son Nick’s 8th grade football team made it to the playoffs this year. As has been my custom with football playoff games for my boys throughout the years, I make treats for the players, coaches, cheerleaders, and fans.  There would be three rounds of playoffs, quarterfinals, semi-finals, and the SuperBowl.

Originally, I was inspired by these cookies:

inspiration-cookie

but decided that those would be the cookies I would make if the team got all the way to the SuperBowl.

For this first round of playoffs, I decided to make sugar cookies in the shape of footballs that were personalized. I use a recipe for the sugar cookies that I found on Food Network. For the royal icing, I always substitute one of the tablespoons of water with a tablespoon of almond extract. I think it improves the taste of the royal icing.

Here are all the footballs with the brown tinted royal icing. I left a portion white for the football laces:

img_1935img_1936

I also tinted some of the icing golden yellow and royal blue, which are the team colors. I used these colors for piping on names, numbers and other decorations.

The players’ cookies had their name and number:

img_1937img_1938

The coaches’ cookies had their names:

img_1939

The cheerleaders and their coaches had their name and a blue “pom” (tip #233) on each end of the football. Not easy to do with royal icing that is more flooding consistency, so my poms looked more like blobs.

img_1940

There were also cookies for the water crew — younger brothers and sisters of players on the team. On the extra cookies, I piped on Lions:

img_1941img_1942

And last (but certainly not least!), I hand shaped a large football cookie for the team mom:

img_1944

Our team was up against the top ranked team…and I’ll spare you the suspense. Our boys did lose and our playoff run was over after only one game.

But the important thing is…even when it was very clear the game was out of hand, our boys continued to play hard until the end. And the other important thing? We had cookies to celebrate what great kids, coaches, and fans we have!

Good luck in high school, fellas!

img_8461a

2016 GVAA Walkersville Varsity Lions

 

 

Hot Chocolate Cake

Baking date: October 15, 2016

My college roommate at Towson State University (as it was known at the time) was a gal from an area of Maryland, equally as rural as the place in Maryland where I grew up. Funny story – I ended up moving to the small town where she grew up to raise my family. She also lives close by, but in another school district. Over the years we have remained good friends – we have sons that were born one day apart.

Alex and Kendall are both athletic.  In middle school, both boys made the elite basketball team for their respective schools and were often on the court up against one another. Kendall excels at basketball and soccer. Alex has found his home behind the plate as catcher and on the football field. It’s a bit sad that we won’t see Alex and Kendall go up against one another any more as they head into high school.

So, it was great news to hear that as a freshman, Kendall had made the varsity soccer team for his high school. But it was terrible news to hear that Kendall had injured his knee before the first game of the season and would require surgery to reconstruct his ACL.

The day after his surgery, I arrived at their home to provide wishes for a speedy recovery in the form of a hot chocolate cake. The first recipe I found called for a now discontinued International Delights frozen hot chocolate, so I had to find another recipe. This is the recipe I eventually decided on, which includes the cake, chocolate frosting and marshmallow buttercream.

I made the cake in two 9″ layers. Note that the butter needs to be room temperature, along with the eggs, so allow time for that. When it came to icing the cake, I didn’t use the “nesting” technique described in the recipe because I wanted to write a message on top of the cake. In between the two layers was the chocolate buttercream, but I also swirled on marshmallow buttercream.

Here’s how my cake turned out, with the marshmallow buttercream piped on for the message:

img_1905

And a view from the side. I piped the marshmallow buttercream up the side in lines and added mini-marshmallows around the base of the cake, anchored with a layer of the marshmallow buttercream.

img_1906

Kendall said it definitely tasted like hot chocolate and assured me it would help with the healing process.

It must have worked because his surgery went well and he’s now on the mend. Heal fast and get back out on the field and court soon, Kendall!

kendall

Brace off less than 2 weeks after surgery!