60th Birthday Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Baking date: February 10, 2018

I was asked to make a special 60th birthday cake for my friend Rebecca’s fiance Gary. Rebecca had requested carrot cake, and I had never made one from scratch. So I looked for a recipe that I thought would be good, and came across Grandma Hiers’ carrot cake recipe from Paula Deen. I opted not to add the pecans to the batter, but did use some for decorating.

A few days before I was going to make the cake, I saw my hairdresser. I’ve been going to her for 25 years for my cuts and colors (the older I get, it’s more color than cut!). She takes care of me at her house, and we use the time to catch up on our lives. She’s a fantastic cook, so I told her about the cake I was going to be making.

“Oh, let me tell you the secret to an amazing carrot cake!” she exclaimed. “First, add a small can of crushed pineapple. And then – here’s the real secret – instead of shredded carrots, use canned carrots. Drain them, but they already have extra moisture and will shred apart once you mix them into your batter. The cake will be so moist.”

Since I had already googled “how many carrots does it take to make 3 cups of grated carrots” (yes, there is a website that will tell you), I did not look forward to shredding 9 carrots, and probably a few knuckles in the process. I figured I would give this canned carrots thing a try.  I did not go for the crushed pineapple, since I’m not a huge fan of it. Nor did the recipe call for pineapple or raisins, as I have seen in some carrot cakes.

I made the cake in the 12″ and 16″ pans from the performance square pan set. It was a busy weekend for me, so I used canned cream cheese frosting, rather than the recipe that was part of the offering from Paula Deen.

Gary is a boater. He and Rebecca also love the beach. So I decided to make sea shell candies to decorate the cake. I used a two-tone technique I saw on a YouTube video, using light cocoa and white candy melts. I finished them by brushing on white pearl dust.

I kept the decorating simple. I used crushed pecans to fill in the pressed outline of the 6 and 0 I made using cookie cutters on top of the cake. I also sprinkled crushed pecans on corners of the cake, but not all over, since I didn’t know if there were any allergies among the guests invited to his surprise party.

Here is the cake:

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And a close up of some of the candies:

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Here’s the cake, with all the photos and decorations for the party:

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I am pleased to report that the recipe with the “secret ingredient” (canned carrots) received rave reviews! People commented on how moist the cake was, and many party guests took an extra piece home to enjoy later.

Happy Birthday, Gary! Glad my husband and I could join your family and friends to help you celebrate ringing in a new decade.

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Left to right: Rebecca, Becky (me), Michael, Gary

 

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Red Velvet Birthday Cupcakes

Baking date: January 30, 2018

A mom who’s oldest son is a freshman in college this year commissioned me to make him a birthday treat. She was going to visit him and wanted to take something special with her.

She asked for red velvet cupcakes (his favorite), so I went to the Food Network site and searched for recipes. I found one from Tricia Yearwood. To save time because this was a mid-week request, I used canned cream cheese frosting.

I used baseball cupcake liners, since the birthday boy has been playing baseball since he was very young and is now a member of the Frostburg Bobcats team.

I frosted eight of the cupcakes flat and dipped them in gold pearlized sugar and ruby red pearlized sugar. Using some leftover red dyed icing from a get well cake, I piped his name on the cupcakes dipped in gold. For the other cupcakes, I added bats and balls from the large sports sprinkles pack.

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For the remainder of the cupcakes, I frosted with a swirl and then sprinkled on the gold and ruby red pearlized sugar on top.

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He enjoyed the treats:

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Happy Birthday, Josh!

My pricing philosophy:

How I price my work

Future Bobcat Cake

Baking date: July 14 & 15, 2017

I had some extra red velvet batter and cream cheese frosting left over from graduation cupcakes I had been commissioned to make, so rather than let it go to waste, I made a one layer 9″ cake.

Since the graduate was heading to Frostburg State University and would be playing baseball for the Bobcats, I added a red and black paw to the candy melts I was already making for the other cupcakes and cake. I also used candy melt molds to spell out FUTURE BOBCAT.

Here’s the top of the cake:

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Around the base, I piped on bursts. In a feat that would make Sister Francis Miriam — my elementary school algebra teacher — proud, I counted the bursts and then based on the number of mini-M&Ms I had, figured out how to space them equally around the base in the center of those bursts. I then added ruby red pearlized sugar sprinkles on top of the bursts. Here’s a shot that shows the base with the mini-M&Ms and sprinkles. Always remember to place the “M” side down.

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All the best as you head off to college this Fall, Josh!

High School Graduation Cupcakes

Baking date: July 14, 2017

Months ago, I had been commissioned to make to make cupcakes for a graduating high school senior whose younger brother plays baseball with my son Alex. The one potential wrinkle…I had surgery on May 31 to repair/rebuild a ruptured Achilles and remove a bone spur on my heal.

I would be off of my foot completely for 6 weeks, and then move to a boot/walker for 2 weeks. By the time of the party, I would be in the boot/walker phase of recovery and able to take on this task.

Easy-peasy, right?

Well, not so easy to begin walking on a foot in a boot when you’ve been off of it completely for 6 weeks. But I did manage not only the 36 cupcakes, a career stolen bases record cake, but also a cake celebrating the college he would be heading to.

The first thing I did was make a bunch of candy melts in the shape of medium- and large-size Lion paws, letters, numbers, and squares:

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Then, it was on to the cupcakes.

The cupcakes were red velvet, at the request of the graduate. Given that I was just starting to walk, I used box mix for the cake instead of making it from scratch. As always, I add a tablespoon of vanilla when mixing to make it taste more homemade.

Because I had been asked to make 36 cupcakes, I had half of one box of batter leftover. I used that for one layer of a 9″ round cake to make his college-bound cake.

I started with blue and gold foil cupcake liners I found on Etsy (very pleased with this vendor’s service and the product I received), which are the colors for the Walkersville Lions. I topped the baked cupcakes with a swirl of cream cheese frosting — another confession — I used canned frosting (easier than making from scratch in my post-surgery state!). I then used blue and yellow sugar sprinkles on top.

But that wasn’t all! I made candy melt paws in royal blue and yellow to top some of the cupcakes. For others, I made square royal blue candy melts, and topped them with cream cheese icing dyed golden yellow, piped on with a #2 tip to from the tassels with a yellow mini-M&M in the center. I placed them on top of an inverted mini-Reese’s peanut butter cupBaker’s note: I bought a small tube of mini-M&Ms at the grocery check out line and had only 18 yellows, since the pack contains multiple candy shell colors. Also, if you are aware of any peanut allergies, you may have to forego the mini-Reese’s and just put the cap on top of the frosting.

Here are some of the cupcakes:

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Congrats Josh – and all the best as you head to Frostburg this Fall!

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My pricing philosophy:How I price my work

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Baking date: August 14, 2016

In the local sports association football program my boys have played in, they have weight limits for age groups. If you are over the designated top weight for your age group prior to the first game, you must either sit out games (and be re-weighed a few weeks later), or play up in the next age division.

Our oldest son was always close to the top of the weight each year. And his second-to-the-last year of playing, he was over and had to work real hard to make weight to play with his friends, rather than sit out or play up with older kids. Helping growing boys make weight – it’s awful. I even blogged about the experience.

When one of the young kids was faced with a similar battle this year, his mom asked for ways to help Jonny drop the weight in advance of the official weigh in. Many people chimed in with advice; parents and his teammates offered to run extra laps and work out with him more.

I offered inspiration as well – sharing some of the things we had Alex do that week before weigh-ins. I also offered this:

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I know it seems counter-intuitive to offer someone baked goods for losing weight. But so what – motivation comes in many forms!

After a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and self-discipline, Jonny made weight. His mom let me know he liked red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting.

I used a box cake for red velvet – I haven’t found a scratch recipe I like yet. For the icing, I used a classic cream cheese frosting recipe.  The recipe made plenty of frosting and I used the leftovers to frost some banana bread later.

To make the cake extra special, I added the letters WEIGH TO GO JONNY using royal blue candy melts. I included chocolate candy melt footballs, with some of the extra cream cheese frosting piped on for the laces. I also included royal and yellow Lion paw candy melts. Here is a view of the cake from the top:

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And from the side, because I piped bursts along the lower edge, and added in alternating blue and gold sugar pearls:img_1737

Let’s just say that Jonny thought all the work was worth the weight:

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Walkersville Slugger Cake

Baking Date: May 11, 2013

It has been a very exciting few weeks for one of our little league team moms. After being nominated by her daughter (which I blogged about previously), Krista won the competition to be the 2013 Baltimore Orioles Honorary Bat Girl!

We are so proud of Krista, all the other nominees, survivors, and those currently in the battle. We, of course, are thinking about the angels who gave their all in the fight and are no longer with us.

I’m especially proud of Krista’s daughter Sarah Grace, whose winning nomination essay should be an inspiration to any family member or friend of someone in the fight against cancer.

Sarah Grace's Honorary Bat Girl Nomination Essay

Sarah Grace’s Honorary Bat Girl Nomination Essay

As a way of honoring Sarah Grace, I made her a special cake, along the theme of the special pink bats used on Mother’s Day by Major League Baseball.

Photo: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Photo: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

I made a red velvet cake (her favorite), with cream cheese frosting in light pink all over. I made a bright/hot pink border using the same cream cheese frosting. In the interest of time, I used a box mix and can frosting.

For the lettering, I piped melted chocolate candy onto a “logo” I created.  Thanks to my designer friend Rebecca Henigin from Henigin Design, who studied the font and told me which fonts I should use for my logo.

I printed out the logo, and taped a piece of wax paper over it.  Using a piping bag and small tip, I hand-drew the letters on the wax paper, tracing them with the chocolate candy melt. Since the McElwains live in Walkersville, MD, that’s the location I used on the bat.

In hindsight, the letters need to be a bit bigger/thicker.  Once they harden and you begin to peel them off the wax paper, the thinner parts break very easily.  There are a few “Frankenletters”, but hopefully you can’t tell which ones they are!

Yes, yes, I know the letters don't form a symmetrical arch!

Yes, yes, I know the letters for Walkersville don’t form a symmetrical arch!

The hot pink frosting on the side of the cake.

The hot pink frosting on the side of the cake.

Congrats to Sarah Grace and her mom Krista, and thanks for bringing inspiration to all those who are “Fighting Like a Girl!”

Bridal Shower Cake

Baking Date: December 3, 2012

I was commissioned to make a cake for a former colleague who is getting married.  After discussing particulars with the organizer, it was decided that red velvet heart-shaped cakes with cream cheese frosting would be the choice.

In addition, the bride’s colors are bright pink and something described as “the brown side of periwinkle”.  I opted not to try to incorporate that, since I have no idea what that color is. Or how bad it might turn out if I attempted to mix colors to achieve it.

I used the 10″ heart-shaped pan from Wilton.  I used a box mix and can frosting, just because I don’t have a scratch recipe for either that I have tried and like. I iced the entire cake with cream cheese frosting.  I hand-piped the message using a script font sample I found on the internet.  I piped on stars in pink around the top edge of the cake, and shells along the base of the cake. Pink heart-shaped candy melts were place on top and around the sides of the cake.

I made 6 mini-heart cakes using a pan my husband gave me for Christmas a few years ago.  I used a #18 tip for piping on mini-stars in cream cheese frosting.  In the center, I placed a candy melt heart, done in white with pink sugar sprinkles added in once the candy had been melted and before I put it in the mold.

Wedding Shower Cakes

Two of the six mini-heart shaped cakes are pictured. The others were decorated the same as the ones you see here.

Wishing all the best to Lynn and Eduardo!