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!

Josh Graduate

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!

Christmas Cookies for the Office

Baking date: December 20, 2015

My holiday gift to my staff each year is always home made goodies. Not only do I include cookies and other sweets, I also give them a gift card to a local coffee house.

This year, the goodie boxes included shortbread cut out rounds, decorated with royal frosting to look like snowflakes.  I tinted the royal frosting light blue, added on the snowflake designs in white. I topped them with white and light blue sugar pearls, as well as mini white sugar pearls and silver sugar sprinkles.

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They also received reindeer cookies. This time, I added some red sugar sprinkles to the red-tinted royal frosting noses.

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The package also include Bailey’s Irish Creme Cheesecake Balls. I substituted regular Oreos for the Tim Tam cookies. They were topped with red, green, and silver sugar sparkles after being dipped in the Godiva white melting chocolate.

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For the rest of the co-workers in my division, I included quite a spread! It was three containers full of cookies that made the trip in on the Metro with me:

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The spread of goodies included sugar cookies decorated like snowflakes. I used white royal frosting to outline and flood. The snowflakes were created using royal frosting tinted light blue. Each cookie had a different snowflake design, enhanced with light blue, white, or gold sugar pearls, silver or gold sugar sprinkles, and a few different candy decorations like snowmen, holly, Christmas tree, and the occasional blue M&M.

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It also included Bailey’s Irish Creme cheesecake balls. These were dipped in red and green, topped with more Christmas-inspired sprinkles.

Here’s the full spread of goodies, which included many of the left over decorated cookies from my cookie exchange, as well as ROLO turtle fudge, the snowflake sugar cookies, and the Bailey’s Irish Creme Cheesecake Balls:

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And here’s a look at everything up close and labeled.

It only takes a little sugar to bring smiles to the faces of your co-workers during the holiday season.

 

Turkey Cupcakes

Baking date: November 17 & 18, 2015

This year, our larger work group decided to have a Thanksgiving pot luck lunch. People signed up to bring entrees, sides, and desserts. I was on dessert detail — no surprise there, right?

I had seen a cupcake decorated like a turkey that I wanted to try and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Here’s the inspiration design:

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I made a chocolate cupcake because I thought that would taste best with the Reese’s Pieces. The frosting I used was a milk chocolate.

A couple of notes about this recipe and modifications I made:

  • The inspiration cupcake called for 8 brown Reese’s Pieces around the outer edge. When I did the math — Sister Frances Miriam would be so proud! — that was 192 brown Reese’s Pieces. When I emptied the bag, it was clear I wouldn’t have that many. So I started with six around the outer edge, five in the middle, and four on the inside. As I got toward the last turkeys, I modified the outer edge to be the orange colored Reese’s Pieces because I had the most of those. I actually had to use brown M&Ms for the last turkey because I ran out of brown Reese’s Pieces.IMG_0595
  • If you are making these for a party where you may not know everyone, remember there may be people with peanut allergies (I checked ahead of time). To be safe, use M&Ms for the turkey feathers to avoid problems with peanut allergies if you aren’t familiar with the guests on the list.
  • I found the mini-red M&M didn’t stick well like in the inspiration recipe, so even though I had purchased mini M&Ms, I didn’t add that element at all. I don’t think it took anything away from the final product.
  • I didn’t use candy melts for the beak — I used left over royal icing from pumpkin cookies and dipped them three times to get the “beak” portion fully covered.IMG_0582
  • I used white frosting as the background for the mini M&M eyeballs because it was one less step in the process (no melting of candy).
  • I added some multi-colored jimmies for additional visual interest.

These were the full trays of cupcakes:

And here’s the cupcake up close:

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The pot luck was great. So many wonderful foods, shared with wonderful colleagues. Very thankful I work with so many amazing people.

 

Cake and Candy Fail

Baking date: May 16, 2015

I was commissioned to make cupcakes for the daughter of a friend. It was for her bridal shower and I was thrilled to make something girly (I have boys, so I rarely get to make girly things!).

In addition to the cupcakes, I wanted to make her family a snickerdoodle cake with brown sugar buttercream frosting. I was trying out a new cake pan (giant cupcake) and had found a recipe for sea glass candy. I planned to decorate the base of the cake with sea glass candy, which would complement the beach theme of her bridal shower/wedding.

Everything worked fine with the cake pan. Until I got to the frosting part. I was using my cake frosting turntable, and was almost done. And then I accidentally hit the tilt button. This is what happens when you accidentally hit the tilt button:

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And then this happens when you have two dogs who will eat anything. Mocha and Jake gave this baking fail two paws up.

IMG_3332 IMG_3333In addition to the cake fail, the sea glass candy never set. I’m guessing I didn’t get the sugar/corn syrup/water mixture to the required 300 degrees (note to self: purchase a candy thermometer!). Even after being in the frig overnight to set, this is what happened when I tested it.

Just a reminder…not all my good intentions turn out the way I hope!