Cherry/Blueberry Patriotic Pie

Baking date: July 1, 2016

I had seen a really clever photo on Pinterest of a cherry/blueberry flag pie, and wanted to try it for a pool party we were attending. The kids got firecracker cupcakes, but this was a dessert more for the adults. Truth be told, the adults ate the firecracker cupcakes also!

Here’s the inspiration photo:

Inspiration photo


Since this was only a photo from Instagram, I googled cherry and blueberry flag pie to see if there were any recipes. There were plenty, but it wasn’t the recipe I needed because I used canned cherry and blueberry pie filling and refrigerated pie crust. I wanted to know how to get that quadrant look to the pie.

I found one recipe that said to fold foil into a 90 degree angle and place that in the pie pan after inserting the crust. Press it down a bit into the crust. Then you gently spoon the blueberry filling in (1/2 a can). Then gently spoon the cherry pie filling in (2 cans). Do your best to make sure the blueberry and cherry filling are level with one another. Gently pull out the foil. Baker’s note: there is also a tool called a pie dam which can help with sectioning the pie.

For the second pie crust in the package, I laid it out on the cutting board and used a pizza cutter to make the stripes out of 1/3 of the crust. For the other 2/3 of the rolled out crust, I used a small star cookie cutter. I needed more of the crust for the stars, because I was using them on top of the blueberry section and also to line the edge of the pie. I sprinkled some cinnamon sugar mix over the top (not very evenly, I’m afraid!) once the stars and stripes were added.

Here’s the pie ready to go into the oven:


And here’s the pie out of the oven. I didn’t use egg wash to help brown the crust, in case there were any allergies at the party:


My oldest son had a piece and liked it so much, he asked me to make another for our own family 4th of July cookout. So I did:


Going into the oven


Bubbly hot out of the oven

The pie was delicious…both times. This is an easy way to make a special dessert for your 4th of July celebration.

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Baking date: January 1, 2016

My friend Rebecca and her boyfriend Gary have been together just over two years. They moved into my development and on January 2 were having an open house.

While they were supplying plenty of food and goodies to nosh on (along with homemade Sangria to wash it all down!), I never arrive at a party empty-handed. I had seen a recipe for chocolate sugar cookies and decided to make them for the party. In addition, I made Bailey’s Irish Creme cheesecake balls, because they taste so good (I used regular Oreos to make my batch). And they have liquor in them, of course.

A few notes about this recipe:

  • This is a rich cookie – the recipe calls for 2 cups (that’s cups, not sticks!) of butter.
  • It makes a TON of cookies. I had 43 regular size star cut outs (1/4″ thick – my rolling pin assures they are all the same thickness), and 29 mini-star cut outs (also, a 1/4″ thick).
  • Refrigerating the dough after the initial roll out is very important. I cut the dough in half and rolled out two separate pieces. I might divide it into quarters in the future to make it more manageable when you pull it out of the fridge and start the second roll out.
  • Refrigerating the dough after the second roll out and cut out of cookies is important for the cut outs to keep their shape while baking. The dough quickly softens from all the butter.
  • I found that 10 minutes in the oven was the perfect time for the cookies to be firm, but soft.

I decorated the large stars with royal icing: 1 pound powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons meringue powder, 1 tablespoon almond extract [to improve the taste of the icing], and 4 more tablespoons of water [or more] to get the consistency you want for outlining and then flooding. I outlined the stars in white and then used icing tinted light blue (1 drop of McCormick blue) and light purple (small dab of Wilton violet icing color). I then added regular sugar pearls (gold, silver, white, pink, light blue), medium and smaller sugar pearls in white, and gold and silver sugar sprinkles in a variety of designs. For a few of the cookies, I made designs using alternate colors of the royal icing.


I tried to make each star look unique


This recipe of royal frosting sets rather quickly


The small round cookie at the bottom right is the cookie made from the last of the scraps

For the mini-stars, I did some in royal icing like the bigger stars, and for others, I used mini-M&Ms on top. Here is the plate of mini-stars:


Mini-stars – whenever I decorate with M&Ms, I always place the ‘m’ side down, so it’s not visible (no offense, M&M Mars!)

Here’s the platter of large star cookies, along with the Bailey’s Irish Creme cheesecake balls in the middle:


A whole lotta yum!

Thanks Rebecca and Gary for opening your home to friends. Glad I could bring something to make the evening even sweeter!

Monster Eyeballs Cake

Baking date: October 18, 2015

A friend of mine had been going through some medical issues. She is a four year survivor of breast cancer, so any medically-related issues take on heightened attention. After a brief stay in the hospital, I decided she and her family could use something to bring smiles to their faces.

Someone had posted a picture to my Facebook wall of a “monster eyeball” cake — people do that all the time when they see treats they think I can make. I decided that would be a fun cake to make.

Here’s a photo of the inspiration cake along with the ‘how to’:

Inspiration cake

A new notes about modifications I made for my cake.

  • I used one white cake mix as the base and tinted half pink (breast cancer survivor). This would definitely work better with two cake mixes for maximum zebra effect, as my cake layers were very thin. I followed a tutorial on how to make a cake with zebra stripes on the inside. Picture of the result at the end!
  • The original recipe calls for a Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting, but I used a regular buttercream frosting.
  • I thought a mix of eyeballs would be fun. The bigger eyeballs use Junior Mints for the pupils. It was Halloween season, so green mint Oreos were abundant and those were the base for my bigger eyeballs. I think the green added a nice monster/spooky element. And it was mint on mint – win!
  • I used red M&Ms for the smaller eyeballs.
  • My cake was only two layers, and the inspiration cake looks to be three or four smaller layers.

And one note – in my rush to get this done (on a week night!), I didn’t scrape the Oreo cookies clean once I took off the cookie from one side. That’s a step you want to think about if you want your cake to look as perfect as possible.

Here’s my cake:


As a special touch, I piped on the word “HOPE” in pink sparkle gel around one set of eyeballs. This is a word that has very special meaning for my friend, after her battle with cancer. I piped on starbursts around the base of the cake and added a pink sugar pearl at the center of each.


And the “zebra-like” inside:


My friend said the cake cheered up the whole house, given the weight of her recent health situation. And isn’t that what it’s all about?

Cinnamon Monkey Bread

Baking date: September 27, 2015

This cinnamon monkey bread post was showing up all over Facebook as people shared the link, so I decided to try it. It is a very simple recipe and a novice baker could certainly make this with no problem.

I do have some notes about the recipe:

  • I found that the brown sugar/butter mix was not as dark or thick as the photos in the sample recipe. I ended up adding more brown sugar until I was comfortable with the color and thickness.
  • I put all the cut up pieces of the biscuits into the cinnamon sugar mix at once. I found that some pieces still stuck together. I had to pull them apart to get coverage all over the pieces. There was extra mix left over, so as I layered the biscuit pieces, I sprinkled the extra over them in the pan.
  • Cooking time – I would add another 7-10 minutes to the recipe. While the outside was fine, the middle didn’t cook completely, so we ended up tossing about a quarter of it.

Here’s what it looked like right out of the oven:


You can see that the paper liner on the baking tray came in handy for clean up!

And here’s the finished product on the plate and ready to be eaten:


My son loved this and wants to know when I will be making it again. It’s definitely best warm out of the oven, though he picked pieces off the next day and warmed them in the microwave. It’s an easy recipe that would feed a big group.

Salted Caramel Apple Crisp Bars

Baking date: November 12, 2014

I have some former co-workers that I try to catch up with monthly. We have what we call “alphabet” lunches. We pick a place beginning with whatever letter we are up to, meet up for lunch, and catch up on the personal and professional goings on with one another. My friends still work at the same place; I’ve moved on.

We work in downtown DC, so there are plenty of venues for us to choose from. When we meet, I try to make some goodies for each of them.

This time we were up to letter “F”, and we had lunch at Fado Irish Pub. We had a great “bar food” lunch.

I brought treats – salted caramel apple crisp bars. I got the idea from a box of special cake mix – Pillsbury Caramel Apple. This is a seasonal mix, which is only available August – January. I also bought a can of the caramel apple frosting mix.

I had already used the mix to make cupcakes, but I saw that there was another recipe on the box for salted caramel apple crisp bars. The recipe is fairly straightforward and didn’t take long to make.

Salted caramel apple crisp bars

Salted caramel apple crisp bars

My friend Jennifer tried one before we left the restaurant and gave it a definite thumbs up. My friend Reid’s wife let me know that none of the goodies made it home:

Oh Reid, should have saved some for the family!

Oh Reid — should have saved some for the family!

Next time, I guess I’ll make enough for other former co-workers back at the office AND for them to take home to their families.

Cinnamon Rolls and Crumb-topped Coffee Cake

Baking Date: August 24, 2014

I just hired a new employee who is taking my former job after I was promoted in May. On her first day, we had a standing morning staff meeting. As part of her welcome to the team, I decided to make some breakfast goodies to have at the meeting.

The first thing I wanted to make was cinnamon rolls. I had found a recipe that claims to be a “clone” of Cinnabon®.  Here is the inspiration photo:

Image Copyright © 2014 Kennon & Green Press, LLC,

Image Copyright © 2014 Kennon & Green Press, LLC.

I have to say, these taste delicious and while not an exact clone, they are pretty darn good. I will confess, I didn’t knead the dough as the recipe directs (I forgot!), I just mixed the ingredients and let it rise, kneading it after the first hour of rising. Didn’t seem to effect the taste – it was a hit with the staff, even though they were served cold.

Here is my version:

Cinnabon clones - my version

Cinnabon clones – my version

I also made a New York style crumb-topped coffee cake. Here is the inspiration photo from the site where I got the recipe:

Photo: Copyright 2014, Hugs and Cookies XOXO. All Rights Reserved.

Photo: Copyright 2014, Hugs and Cookies XOXO. All Rights Reserved.

So a couple of notes about this recipe. Don’t be alarmed by how thin the batter appears when you transfer it to the 9 x 13 baking dish. I was worried it wouldn’t be thick enough, but it is. Also, I would bake the cake an additional 5 minutes (15 minutes total) before putting the crumb topping on. After 10 minutes the batter was still pretty loose, and as I started to add the crumb topping, it began to sink pretty far into the coffee cake. I found that in order to get the amount of crumb topping like you see in the photo, double the topping recipe.

So here’s what my version looked like (you can see where some of the crumb topping sank into the coffee cake):

Crumb-topped coffee cake still in the pan

Crumb-topped coffee cake cut into squares

This is what my son saw that Sunday evening:

Wait, what do you mean this isn't for us?

Wait, what do you mean these aren’t for us?

He asked who this was for, hoping and anticipating I had made this for the first week of school breakfasts.  I told him it was for my new employee, who was starting work the next day.

He wailed, “why do you torture us by making these amazing things and then give them to other people?”

So I made our family another batch of the Cinnabon(R) clone rolls this weekend – guilt works!

Easter Basket Cupcakes (Almost)

Baking date: April 19, 2014

I was asked to bring dessert to the family gathering at Easter this year. I had seen a photo of a cupcake that I wanted to try. This was the inspiration photo I saw:

The inspiration cupcake

The inspiration cupcake

Unfortunately, I was unable to find the marshmallow rope. And not that I didn’t drag my family to four different locations on the Saturday afternoon before Easter looking for it. Notes to self: Start search for marshmallow rope well in advance of the day before Easter. And leave the husband and kids at home if you aren’t sure that you can find what you are looking for at the first craft/candy/grocery store where you stop to look. Reduces angst, frustration, and general grumpiness. For everyone.

Instead I bought some cow tails and Twizzlers, thinking one of the two would work. Unfortunately, both are too heavy to stay upright in the icing in a bent position, so I abandon the basket idea and went with just Jelly Belly jelly beans in grass.

I used the Wilton tip #233 to make the grass with dyed green vanilla icing the cupcakes and then added the Jelly Bellys on top of the icing. I also had some blue icing left over from another project, so when I ran out of green icing, I used the blue on the leftover cupcakes.

Happy Easter!