Basketball Championship Cupcakes

Baking date: March 4, 2017

My younger son plays basketball (is there a sport we don’t play in this house?) and for the second year in a row, his dad was his team coach. My husband took his group of kids all the way to the championship game in their bracket.

After the game — win or lose — the team was going to celebrate with a late lunch at Pizza Hut. Of course, I had to make celebratory cupcakes.

I made an easy homemade chocolate cake recipe I had recently found.  For the frosting, I used a canned white frosting with a 2A tip to pipe on a small swirl. I added yellow sugar sprinkles and Wilton Short Stack Blue Nonpareils Sprinkles on top of the swirl, since the team colors are blue, gold and white.

For additional decorations, I used a round candy mold with orange candy melts. I then piped chocolate icing for the seams. I placed a basketball candy on each cupcake.

Here are the cupcakes:

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A view from the side:

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Congrats to the 13U Silver Bracket Champs Walkersville Lions. Especially that cute #13 and the incredibly handsome coach!

Father Son Win

Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache Frosting

Baking date: February 19, 2017

For my son Alex’s 15th birthday, I made cupcakes for his basketball team to enjoy after their weekend game. When I asked what he wanted, his one-word response was ‘chocolate’.

I have an easy chocolate ganache frosting recipe that I wanted to use, but I also wanted something more than a box mix. I turned to Pinterest, and found a recipe for One Bowl Chocolate Cake. Homemade and easy? I’m in!

The cake was very easy to make.  For the frosting, I used a 1M tip to apply it to the cupcake. I was under a time crunch and didn’t really let the ganache set enough before piping, so my fancy swirls drooped!

I finished off the cupcakes with Wilton Short Stack Blue Nonpareils Sprinkles and Betty Crocker white cupcake gems sprinkled on top, for the team colors.

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In spite of droopy swirls, there were no complaints from the boys in terms of taste. Go figure – I’ve never known a 15 year old boy to turn away chocolate!

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Happy Birthday, Alex!

Valentine Cupcakes

Baking date: February 13, 2017

Our high school boosters organization has monthly meetings, typically an evening gathering on the second Monday of the month. In February, our meeting was moved to a Tuesday, which happened to be Valentine’s Day.

I decided to make some cupcakes for the group to enjoy. Because it was a weeknight, cake mixes and canned frosting are my go-to, so I made triple chocolate fudge cupcakes with a classic white frosting.

To decorate the cupcakes, I had made royal blue and yellow heart-shaped candy melts to place on top, because these are the high school team colors. I then dipped the edges of the cupcakes in Valentine pearls.

Here are the cupcakes:

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And one of the cupcakes up close:

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You can always find a group of people to share the love with!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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!

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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:

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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”.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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

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

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

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

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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:

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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.

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

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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:

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

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Congrats Sean, Caeley, and Seamus!