Bridal Shower Cupcakes: Chocolate with Mocha Buttercream; White with Strawberry Buttercream

Baking date: March 2, 2018

I was commissioned to make cupcakes for a bridal shower. I was asked for chocolate with a chocolate frosting, and a white cupcake with strawberry frosting.

I ordered purple foil liners, since that was the color for the wedding. For the chocolate cupcakes, I used one of my favorite chocolate cake recipes – one bowl chocolate cake with a chocolate mocha buttercream. I piped on the frosting with a 1M tip. I hand piped chocolate heart shapes and added a gold sugar pearl and purple sugar sprinkles on each heart.

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Here’s the cupcake up close:

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The base for the other cupcakes was a white cake recipe. The strawberry icing recipe received rave reviews, but I found it difficult to pipe on in a fancy swirl. It wasn’t firm enough to keep it’s shape, like in the inspiration photo:

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I may have added too many strawberries, so it was not as firm as it needed to be. I topped the strawberry frosting with white sparkling sugar sprinkles.

Here’s a photo:

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In the future when using this strawberry frosting recipe, I’ll stick with the recommended amount of strawberries. And if I still find it won’t pipe on and hold it’s shape, I’ll probably add fresh strawberry garnish to improve the aesthetic appeal of the cupcakes.

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Hershey’s Kiss Cake

Baking date: December 24, 2017

I found the recipe for this cake on PinterestInspiration Cake

I have made the cake a few times the past few months, the most recent for my family’s Christmas dinner. It’s a super easy recipe. Instead of making the frosting from scratch, I used canned cream cheese frosting. I also added a few extra pops of icing around the cake (no one ever complains about extra icing, am I right?)

If you’re looking for a tasty, easy homemade cake, this is a great option. I have noticed that the Kisses you place on top of the cake batter do not melt away completely when baking, but that means a yummy chocolate chunk surprise when you are eating it.

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Christmas Cookies and Mini-breads for Our Baseball Family

Baking dates: December 21, 22, and 23, 2017

Each year at Christmas, I bake goodies for our Summer rec baseball family and deliver them on Christmas Eve. Six of the players have gone on to play with elite teams, but we still see them for high school games. And some of them we see at football and basketball during the rest of the year.

These are the people who welcomed us into the community when we first moved here in 2004. They are the people I have spent many weeknights and weekends with as our boys practiced, played games and competed in tournaments. I have watched their sons grow into fine young men.

This year, there were 24 families with 110 family members to personalize cookies for. In addition, I make mini breads. Some are from scratch – snickerdoodlebanana and sour cream chocolate. Some are from a box mix gingerbread, pumpkin, and cranberry.

I use three vacation days prior to Christmas Eve to do all my baking for my baseball family (and my aunts and uncles who we visit on Christmas day). My kitchen typically looks like this for about 4 days:

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Cookies – I make the cookies first, since the royal icing takes a while to dry. The cookies are a chocolate sugar cookie. This recipe makes a lot of cut outs, depending on how large your cookie cutter is. This is one batch – it’s a thick cookie batter and clumps around the paddle with lots more still in the bowl:

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I made two batches this year. In the past, I have made Santa hats, and stockings, so this year I went with a long fancy plaque cookie cutter and a square plaque cookie cutter. Here they are:

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This year, I tried pre-made cookie icing in white, red, green and blue. It worked fine, however once you snip off the tip for the icing, that’s the size that flows out, and you have less control over the squeeze than you do with an icing bag and tip. So I decided to make the opening medium size for the general decorating and made a small batch of royal icing in white, red and green so I could pipe on names using a #1 tip. Baker’s note: this royal icing recipe called for a flavored extract. For a larger batch recipe, I add 1 tablespoon of almond extract in place of one of the tablespoons of water. I find that royal icing with an extract flavor tastes much better than with only water.

Here are the cookies halfway decorated  – there are very few that are exactly the same:

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And here are all the personalized cookies, by family (presented in slideshow format):

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Breads: for the pumpkin, I typically add milk chocolate chips on top before I bake the loaves. But this year, I emptied the one bag of milk chocolate chips I had into a batch of snickerdoodle bread and stirred once before realizing my mistake.

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Because of that mistake, I sprinkled white chocolate chips on the pumpkin bread. But those chips don’t hold up as well (they melt much more than the milk chocolate), so the loaves were not as pretty. I also used the white chocolate chips in the chocolate bread, instead of the chocolate chips. Because the chips were mixed into the batter and not sprinkled on top, they fared much better. (Baker’s note: a friend dropped off all the baking supplies she didn’t use this year because she got the flu and wasn’t able to bake. I think there were 4 bags of white chips!).

For the cranberry and gingerbread, I drizzled the leftover white royal icing (from the personalization of the cookies) on top.

Here are some of the banana breads. The bigger loaves are for some of the larger families. IMG_0964

And when it comes to baking mini-breads, I break out the big gun:IMG_0966

Here is the entire final production of baked goods:

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Another element I put in the bags is Christmas-themed chocolate candy minis. There is one baseball player with allergies to many ingredients in my baked goods, so I get candies like Sour Patch kids, nerds and Twizzlers for his family’s bag.

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For goodie delivery, this year I used plain white bags lined with a sheet of tissue paper, with the Christmas card for the family attached to the outside. I line the bags up for packaging in the order they will be delivered, with the last families we will visit in the front.

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Then, I transfer the bags to the back of my car in the reverse order, with the first families we will visit in the front.

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Then, my son Alex and I go about our business of delivering the goodies to the families on Christmas Eve. If people aren’t home, we have plastic grocery bags to place the goodies in (that pile of grey and white underneath all the paper bags). If they aren’t home, I text them to let them know we’ve made the delivery.

Everyone is so appreciative (presented in slide show format):

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I hope you were able to share a bit of the holiday spirit with family and friends.

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!

High School Graduation Cupcakes

Baking date: July 14, 2017

Months ago, I had been commissioned to make to make cupcakes for a graduating high school senior whose younger brother plays baseball with my son Alex. The one potential wrinkle…I had surgery on May 31 to repair/rebuild a ruptured Achilles and remove a bone spur on my heal.

I would be off of my foot completely for 6 weeks, and then move to a boot/walker for 2 weeks. By the time of the party, I would be in the boot/walker phase of recovery and able to take on this task.

Easy-peasy, right?

Well, not so easy to begin walking on a foot in a boot when you’ve been off of it completely for 6 weeks. But I did manage not only the 36 cupcakes, a career stolen bases record cake, but also a cake celebrating the college he would be heading to.

The first thing I did was make a bunch of candy melts in the shape of medium- and large-size Lion paws, letters, numbers, and squares:

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Then, it was on to the cupcakes.

The cupcakes were red velvet, at the request of the graduate. Given that I was just starting to walk, I used box mix for the cake instead of making it from scratch. As always, I add a tablespoon of vanilla when mixing to make it taste more homemade.

Because I had been asked to make 36 cupcakes, I had half of one box of batter leftover. I used that for one layer of a 9″ round cake to make his college-bound cake.

I started with blue and gold foil cupcake liners I found on Etsy (very pleased with this vendor’s service and the product I received), which are the colors for the Walkersville Lions. I topped the baked cupcakes with a swirl of cream cheese frosting — another confession — I used canned frosting (easier than making from scratch in my post-surgery state!). I then used blue and yellow sugar sprinkles on top.

But that wasn’t all! I made candy melt paws in royal blue and yellow to top some of the cupcakes. For others, I made square royal blue candy melts, and topped them with cream cheese icing dyed golden yellow, piped on with a #2 tip to from the tassels with a yellow mini-M&M in the center. I placed them on top of an inverted mini-Reese’s peanut butter cupBaker’s note: I bought a small tube of mini-M&Ms at the grocery check out line and had only 18 yellows, since the pack contains multiple candy shell colors. Also, if you are aware of any peanut allergies, you may have to forego the mini-Reese’s and just put the cap on top of the frosting.

Here are some of the cupcakes:

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Congrats Josh – and all the best as you head to Frostburg this Fall!

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My pricing philosophy:How I price my work

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:

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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:

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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.

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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!

Firecracker Cupcakes

Baking date: June 30, 2016

I had seen a firecracker cupcake on Pinterest, and immediately saved it.

Inspiration Firecracker cupcakes

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I knew I’d have an event to make them for and sure enough, the end-of-season baseball gathering was just the event, since we were having it on the Friday kicking off the long July 4th weekend.

I used a yellow box cake mix for the cupcake. I made buttercream frosting for the cupcakes.

Creating the firecrackers was the fun part. I used marshmallows and red candy melts. At first I pushed the toothpick pretty far into the marshmallow, but that made it difficult to pull out after dipping it in the candy melts. The pre-cut strands of licorice went in just fine. Baker’s note: definitely pre-cut these before you begin dipping. Once the candy melt starts to harden, you won’t be able to insert it. Also, try and keep your bag of marshmallows from getting smooshed – the more cylindrical they are, the easier it is to have them stand and dry.

You also have to be patient to let the excess drip off or scrape the bottom with a spoon (which is what I did).

I wasn’t able to find black licorice string anywhere, so I had purchased red/white/blue pull and peel Twizzlers. But then on a final trip to AC Moore, I found a bag of black licorice laces and ended up using those.

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Here are my “firecrackers”, freshly dipped and waiting to dry on wax paper. As you can see, there is excess candy melt. I used one of my kitchen knives to carve off the extra once they had set.

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I used a special 4th of July-themed cupcake liner. I used a bit of the buttercream frosting to cover the cupcake and then placed the dried “firecracker” in the middle. I used a 1M tip, piping on more buttercream around the “firecracker”. Finally, I topped the buttercream with red/white/blue sprinkles.

Here are the trays of cupcakes:

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And here are some close-ups of individual cupcakes:

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For those that don’t care for the flavor of black licorice, you can remove the “wick” and munch away, or use the patriotic Twizzlers instead.

I didn’t have a single cupcake left and was able to give the bag of leftover black licorice to one of the moms who I know loves that stuff (me? not a fan!).

Hope you had a sweet 4th of July weekend!