Peanut Butter Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Baking date: April 8, 2017

On occasion, I will recognize the accomplishments of kids my boys are friends with. It has tended to be sports accomplishments, since that is something we spend a lot of time focused on in this house.

Recently on my son Nick’s lacrosse team, his friend Josh had a hat trick. For those not sports-minded, that’s scoring three goals in a single game. I asked his dad what kind of cake he might like, and his dad said peanut butter and chocolate.

I turned to Pinterest and found a recipe for peanut butter cake with chocolate buttercream frosting. Since it was a hat trick, a triple layer cake was perfect.

Except that not everything always goes as planned. While turning the cake out to go on the cooling rack, the collapsible legs actually collapsed and the cake starting sliding off the counter and toward the edge. My attempt to grab it was unsuccessful, as this was the only part left on the counter:

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Baker’s note: I’m pleased to report that Mocha and Jake — my furry sous chefs — loved the peanut butter cake, based on the samples they quickly snarfed off the floor.

I covered the cake in the chocolate buttercream. Baker’s note: the frosting recipe did not leave a lot of extra for my two-layer cake, so I would use the frosting sparingly in between cake layers if you end up making it with all three layers.

For the letters and numbers on the cake commemorating the achievement, his name, and the date, I used white vanilla candy melts.

This is a view of the top of the cake:

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And here’s a side view, showing the bursts piped at the base, with a gold sugar pearl placed in the center of each burst:

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The cake received positive reviews in terms of taste. But the best review is Josh’s smile before there was even a slice to sample — way to go bud!

Josh with Cake

Gender “Reveal” Cake

Baking date: March 25, 2017

Friends of ours are expecting their first grandchild this September. Their daughter contacted me and asked if I could make a gender reveal cake. She was finding out on a Thursday, and the family was gathering on Saturday, when the gender would be revealed.

I had found a great idea for a cake on Pinterest, however, the gender reveal was not to be. That’s because the Mimi-to-be could not wait the three days to find out. But I decided to make a gender cake anyway to help the family celebrate.

Another idea I had seen on Facebook for a gender reveal was this:Hershey Bar Blue and Pink

So I decided to make the cake to mimic the Hershey bar gender reveal.

This family has an affinity for snickerdoodle anything, so I started with a snickerdoodle cake recipe with brown sugar cinnamon buttercream frosting. I used the loaf cake pan set for the perfect rectangular shape.

For the frosting, I dyed some of it darker brown for the top and the piping at the base. For the letters, I used canned white icing, and dyed a small portion of it rose. I used a #47 basket weave tip, with the smooth side up to spell out HERSHEY’S. (Baker’s note: I have used the white icing coloring in the past, but I find it takes a lot to get even the lightest buttercream white, it has a taste I do not like and also it changes the texture of the icing. That’s why I go for the canned white frosting when a pure white frosting is the goal).

For the bursts around the top, I added pink sugar pearls in the middle of each burst and a smaller burst row inside in leftover rose icing. At the base, I made brown dyed icing bursts, with more of the mini-bursts in rose in the center.

Here’s a top view of the cake:

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And a view from the side so you can see the base: IMG_0134

Here’s the inspiration photo with the cake:

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Congrats Kaitlyn and Kevin on your exciting news!

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!

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!

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!