Baby Shower Fresh Strawberry Cupcakes and Lemon Velvet Cake with Raspberry Buttercream Frosting

Baking date: July 21, 2017

A friend commissioned me to make 60 cupcakes for her daughter’s baby shower. I had made cupcakes for her bridal shower two years earlier, and a gender “reveal” cake when her daughter became pregnant. The the mom-to-be again requested the fresh strawberry cupcakes with buttercream frosting for her baby shower.

I told them I would make a cake as my gift to the bride. We decided on a lemon velvet cake with raspberry buttercream frosting.

The theme of the shower included elephants and the colors pink and grey. The grandma-to-be purchased pink polka dot cupcake liners, elephant cupcake toppers in pink/grey and pink/grey zigzag, and other shapes, as well as a cake topper. Links included to show samples; I can’t vouch for the vendors since I do not know where grandma-to-be purchased them.

The website for this cake topper wouldn’t load, so here’s a picture:

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For the cupcakes, I pulled out my big gun of a cupcake pan. This was the last of the batter going into the oven:

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The cupcakes were topped with a swirl of buttercream frosting. I then added pink and silver sugar pearls around the cupcake, and then topped them with the cupcake toppers that had been hot glued onto toothpicks.

Here are the cupcakes:

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Then it was on to the cake. I will say that I tasted the batter before I cooked it. It didn’t taste real lemony to me, so I squeezed some fresh lemon juice into the batter, in addition to the lemon zest and the lemon extract.

The raspberry buttercream recipe — holy cow — it makes a ton! This was the cake and the frosting before I got started:

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I tried a buttercream smoothing technique I saw on YouTube. I had placed the cake in the frig, so it took a bit longer and I never did get it completely smooth. In the future, I’d ice the cake and let it “crust” at room temperature, and then do this technique with the Viva paper towel and the fondant smoother.  I should have taken a before and after picture because it did help smooth out the frosting. Here’s the after:

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Around the base of the cake, I piped on bursts, and added a large white sugar pearl in the center of each burst. Finally, I spelled the baby’s name with raspberry buttercream piped on candy melt circles in bright white that I added some black color to in order to get a grey.

Here’s all of the sugar, ready to be delivered to the party:

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Here’s the table full of goodies:
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Congrats Kaitlyn and Kevin – we can’t wait to meet baby Hannah!

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Photo courtesy of Lidia Miller Photography.

My pricing philosophy:

How I price my work

Home Run Cake for Jake

Baking date: May 26, 2017

I’ve made so many home run cakes over the years, I can’t keep count. This year on my son’s travel team, only one player hit a home run.

Technically, he hit two home runs. But one of them came after May 31 and I have been out of the baking game since then, when I had surgery to repair/rebuild a rupture in my Achilles. Recovery required 6 weeks completely off of my foot, so the the kitchen has been shut down while I was on the mend.

Jake requested a vanilla cake, so I used a French vanilla box mix — always add that extra tablespoon of vanilla when mixing to make it seem a bit more homemade.

The frosting was white. I dyed some red for the baseball stitches and some green for the grass around the base, piped on with a #233 tip. I also used some of the white for piping his name and date of the home run on the star candies. The large red star candies were for his name; the small star candies for the date of the home run. Home run was spelled out using royal blue candy melts (only the number mold is shown on the site, but they have an alphabet mold also).

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Finally, I added turtle crunch sprinkles around the base of the cake on the grass to simulate dirt. It’s been my go-to for sports cakes that require dirt, but I fear the product has been discontinued. It’s no longer on the Wilton site, and every place that does show it says it’s out of stock with no anticipated available date. Guess I’ll have to buy Heath bars or Butterfingers and pulse them in the blender if I need “dirt”. *sigh*

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Turtle Crunch sprinkles – the perfect “dirt”

Congrats on your home run, Jake — and welcome to the cake club!

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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!

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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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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.

My pricing philosophy:

how-i-price-my-work-field-hockey-cake

Freshman Care Packages

Baking date: a couple of weekends in August in September

I can’t remember when I started doing this, but a few years back I began sending homemade cookie care packages to friends’ kids who were heading off to college, with a note of encouragement. I remember when I started college, my mom sent me a care package of cookies and a note. It made whatever was happening during that transition to life away from home just a little bit sweeter.

As my own boys get older, there are more and more people I know who have kids heading off to college. Even though I send the packages via USPS priority mail second day delivery (yes, I lie when they ask me if there is anything perishable in the package – don’t rat me out!) for only $6.80, this year I spent over $60 on mailing out the packages.

Maybe I need to transition to a big bag of cookies they can pack in the car when they head off to college…

This year’s list of recipients included kids who were first born, youngest, and middle children. For many of the kids, I feel like the moms need the treats more to cope with a first born leaving or dealing with the now empty nest.

Most of the kids had attended the local high school. I made chocolate chip cookies (I use milk chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet) and also royal blue and yellow lion paw candy melts.

The first batch went to destinations in TN, SC, and TN:

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One of the students got my cell # from his mom and called me to personally thank me. One student sent me a message via Facebook:

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And a mom gave me a shout out on Facebook:

 

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The second batch of goodies went out to TN and WV: second-batch-of-cookies

 

These included the same chocolate chip cookies and “paws” candies. For Lana – it was blue/gold paws for her high school team the Lions, and orange/black paws for her new college team, the Bobcats.

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I got tagged in this post on Facebook:

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For my niece Madison, it was green/black paws, which were the colors of her high school team, the Panthers. I also included some quarters since she was going to need them for laundry:

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She send me this note:

The final packages went out a bit later to DE, my alma mater Towson in MD, and VA:

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I got a thank you from my college roommate whose daughter is now going to our alma mater:

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And for two of them, the cookies came when they were needed most:

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All in all, $60 well spent. Best of luck to all the students!