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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Field Hockey Cakes

Baking date: October 9, 2016

I was commissioned by a mom to make a cake for the high school field hockey team to celebrate senior night during the last home game of the season. There were no specific instructions other than it needed to feed about 40, but I knew I wanted it to include a special nod to the seniors in the school colors.

I started with a French vanilla cake mix. I always add a tablespoon of vanilla to any box mix, and if the recipe calls for vegetable oil, I used canola oil. I find that canola oil makes cakes a bit lighter/”fluffier”.

For the cake shape, I used the 8″ and 12″ squares from the performance pans square set. For the icing, I used my go-to buttercream recipe. I dyed some of the buttercream using royal blue, kelly green, and golden yellow icing colors.

To personalize it, I made yellow candy melt stars and piped on the girls names using the royal blue frosting. I started using a #1 tip, but the frosting was not going through the tip well (too thick), so I switched to a #3 tip. You can see the difference in the lettering (next time, I’ll use a small amount of the buttercream that is thinned a bit when I pipe with a #1 tip). I was able to script the name with the #1 tip, but the thickness of the frosting was an issue. With the #3 tip, I didn’t have as much room to script the letters because of the thickness of the piping.  I also made royal blue candy melts smaller stars, and using the golden yellow icing, piped the number of each player on the star with the #3 tip.  I also added a “bead” border between the top and base layer, using royal blue candy melts in the large size bead mold.

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I placed the stars with the players names on the base layer, pushing them against the top layer to anchor them. For the stars with the player numbers, I used a 3 tip to make a burst on the top layer above the corresponding player name star and anchored the number stars there.

Using a #17 and a #18 tip, I added yellow bursts with blue on top on the corners of the top layer. I did the reverse for the border of the top layer. In the corner bursts, I added white sugar pearls. I piped on grass along the base cake border using a #233 tip in the kelly green frosting, and added more of the white sugar pearls in the “grass”.

On the base layer of the cake, blue bursts with yellow on top were placed in the corners, and yellow bursts were placed along the border.

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I felt like the cake needed something more,  so using the blue and golden yellow icing, I piped on bursts in the shape of field hockey sticks, with a sugar pearl in the curve at the base of the stick.

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Now the cake was complete!

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I wasn’t done there, tho. As a bonus, I decided to use a round/sports ball cake pan to make a field hockey ball.

Prior to placing the cake on the cake board, I cut off part of one side so that the base would be flat and more stable. I covered the cake in the buttercream frosting, and added the “grass” at the base of the cake. On top of the grass, I added alternating blue and golden yellow bursts.  Finally, I added the same style of field hockey sticks on top of the ball that I had put on the top of the other cake, again with a white sugar pearl in the curve of the stick.

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I’d say the cakes were a big success!

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And as a reminder, it takes a village to honor kids and make things special for them. Cake was only one element of the celebration.

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Shortbread Star Cookies

Baking date: July 2, 2016

My mom and dad decided to have a dinner over the July 4th weekend. My mom isn’t as big on cooking out as she is on cooking, so this was a buffet style dinner, but not a hot dog or hamburger was in sight.

I offered to make dessert, but mom said no, she had that covered. Yeah, like I’m going to show up empty-handed. I decided to make shortbread cookies because my uncle has an egg allergy.

To make them a bit more celebratory, I used star-shaped cookie cutters along with red, white, and blue decorations. I made some large stars, some small stars and some large stars with a small star cut-out. The large stars with the cut-out were delicate — even more so since the cookie was shortbread.

There were cookies that I topped with a mix of blue and red sugar sprinkles:

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Large, small and cut out stars, as well as an up-close look at the cookies.

And there were large star cookies that I topped with classic white frosting and then placed a cut-out large star on top. In the cut out, I added red, white, and blue sprinkles.

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I topped some of smaller stars with classic white frosting and added the red, white and blue sprinkles. For the rest, I iced the sides and added the sprinkles:

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Here are all the cookies that had frosting:

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My cookies — in addition to the homemade strawberry shortcake my mom prepared — ensured a sweet ending to a nice 4th of July spent with family.

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!

Fathers Day Sugar Cookies

Baking date: June 18, 2016

This year on Fathers Day — as has been the case in many years — my son Alex’s baseball team was playing in a tournament. The tournament was for the league his team is part of. We were going up against a team in the championship game that we had split our regular season games with.

I’ll spare you the suspense — we lost in the bottom of the 7th, after coming back to tie the game in the top of the 7th. Tough loss, but we were also down a player who didn’t show, one player in a cast due to a torn ligament, and one player who took a wicked foul ball off his forehead in the semi-final game, just 45 minutes prior to the championship game. We had just enough boys to field a team as long as no one (else) got hurt. Well, one of our players was covering first and got spiked on the top of his foot by the metal cleats the base runner was wearing, but he gutted it out and finished the game. Way to hang tough, Drew!

It has been tradition recently (2015 Fathers Day cookies, 2013 Fathers Day cupcakes, and 2012 Fathers Day cupcakes) for me to make special treats for the dads. I didn’t do it in 2014 because we were in Myrtle Beach for a tournament and didn’t have access to a kitchen.

This year, it was star-shaped sugar cookies, with buttercream frosting (leftover from a previous baking effort two days earlier).  I made white candy-melt square shaped bases. I covered the sugar cookies in the golden yellow buttercream frosting. I then placed a “base” on the cookie and piped a players number on the base along with the word ‘DAD’ with a #2 tip. Using a #42 tip, I double-outlined the edge of the star in royal blue buttercream (more leftover frosting from the cupcakes the day before).

Here are all of the cookies decorated, and one extra big star with a few royal blue mini-M&Ms:

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And here’s one up close:

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Of course, there was plenty of cookie dough left over for regular and mini-stars for the families and fans who showed up to cheer the boys on.  Some had buttercream frosting, mini-M&Ms, and others had sprinkles:

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And since we had a semi-final game before the championship game, I had made Rolo-stuffed chocolate cookies (I use mini-Rolos and dip the top in sea salt instead of nuts, before baking) to make sure there were plenty of goodies for both games.

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Even though we didn’t end up being the county league champions, I have to say, with all the dads opting to spend their special day cheering on their boys through two games in the hot Summer sun, it was a win.

Thanks to all the dads out there, who make sure their kids know how special they are. Especially my husband.

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Middle School Graduation Cupcakes

Baking date: June 18, 2016

As a special treat for all the 8th graders on my son Alex’s baseball team, I decided to make graduation cupcakes. I had done the same thing last year for a few of the boys on the team who were heading off to high school in the Fall. This year, it was the rest of the team’s turn.

The cupcakes were from a triple chocolate fudge cake mix in a baseball baking cup. To make the graduation toppers, I used square molds with light cocoa (milk chocolate) candy melts. Each mortar board was placed on top of an inverted mini-Reese’s cup and secured with buttercream frosting. I then added a mini-M&M in royal blue (secured with a dab of buttercream) and piped the tassels on with buttercream frosting dyed royal blue, along with each players name.

Here are the cupcakes:

In this picture, you can see a few of the mini-Reese’s poking out under the mortar board:IMG_5476

I made extra cupcakes for the rest of the players and coaches, using the royal blue and golden yellow butter cream. Both were leftovers from high school graduation party cupcakes.

The blue cupcakes had white sugar pearls and the yellow cupcakes had blue sugar pearls on top. Here’s one of the yellow cupcakes up close:

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Congrats to all the graduates — and on to high school baseball next year!

High School Graduation Cupcakes

Baking date: June 16, 2016

Many of my friends have kids that are now graduating from high school. One of them is my good friend Rebecca, whose oldest son Zack was part of the Walkersville High School class of 2016.

There was going to be a graduation party for her son Zack and three of his friends at a community park on a recent Friday. Rebecca asked me if I could make 4 dozen cupcakes for the event and was going to pay me for my efforts.

The schools colors are royal blue, yellow, and white. I decided to make royal blue velvet cupcakes, and top them with buttercream frosting dyed royal blue and golden yellow.

I piped on the blue or yellow frosting around the edge and then used the opposite color to create a peak. I topped all of the cupcakes with white sparkling sugar sprinkles.

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But I wasn’t done there! I created mini lion paws out of candy melts in royal blue and yellow. Some of those went on top of the cupcakes. I also made hearts out of the royal blue and yellow candy melts. They also went on top of some of the cupcakes.

I created square candy melts in royal blue and topped them with a mini M&M in yellow, and piped two loops of the yellow buttercream onto the top and over the edge to make a graduation mortar board and tassel. Those went on top of other cupcakes.

Finally, for the graduates, I created graduation mortar boards out of light cocoa (milk chocolate) candy melts. I topped those with blue mini M&Ms, piping on two blue buttercream tassels. I added each graduates name in yellow buttercream. These were placed on top of an inverted mini Reeses peanut butter cup.

Here are all the candy melts and M&Ms ready for decorating.

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Here are the four graduates’ cupcakes

Here are samples of the Lion paw, heart, mortar board/tassel topped cupcakes:

Finally, here are three of the four dozen cupcakes trays (not sure why I only took pictures of three of the four):

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Congratulations, Zach, Ethan, Jack, and Aaron!

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