Thursday, December 29, 2011

White Christmas

I don't know about where you are, but around here we are wishing we could have had a white Christmas. No snow was to be found at all last weekend! But it was still a very nice Christmas!

We did have a hard time convincing my daughter that Santa would still come even though there was no snow! She was very nervous...

I didn't end up having time to do the Christmas cake designs that I wanted to do, so the day after Christmas, I decided to do one of them on a faux cake. This "cake" is actually a styrofoam dummy. Cool, huh? And no calories! :)

The cake makes me feel like we had a bit of white Christmas at our house!

The whole thing is covered with white fondant. The "trees" are sugar cones turned upside down. The two shorter ones are cut to make them a little smaller, so the heights of the trees would not all be the same. I frosted them with buttercream and then rolled them in sparkling sugar. Next time, I think I will use royal icing and dip them, maybe multiple times, to get a nice thick coat, instead of frosting them. I was disappointed that the cone showed through and that the icing showed a bit because it was slightly more ivory in color than the fondant and the sugar. But overall, I love the look of it!

Here are a couple more shots for a closer look.

I hope you all had a very merry Christmas! May God bless you on this New Years' weekend and throughout the coming year!

Stay tuned for shots of more Christmas treats!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Gingerbread Houses

This year I wasn't going to do gingerbread houses. I thought it seemed like too much work and, frankly, too much of a mess with the children. But then I saw my good friend doing little houses with her kids and I saw how much fun they were having. My friend said she got the kit at Target, so off I went to look.

And look...

And look...

The gingerbread house kits were nowhere to be found! So, I decided to bake my own. I had seen a wonderful video tutorial on She also shares her recipe and a template for the house pieces.

So, I printed everything and got to baking! I baked the pieces on Monday and began to put them together over the course of the day Tuesday. It takes awhile because you have to let everything dry during assembly and then make sure the completed piece is dry before decorating so it holds together.

Yesterday afternoon, we got to decorate. I had bought an inordinate amount of candy for these houses! I'll have to hide the leftovers. From myself, I mean. I am a candy addict! :)

Will and Kate each got a little house to decorate. While getting them set up, I was wishing I had made one for myself too. But Will kindly let me help with his! He gave very specific instructions on how and what I should do, though! Ha! Sounds just like him, doesn't it? I don't have any idea where he gets that....

Each child also got a little baggie full of royal icing with one of the corners cut off. That way, they could pipe some icing out to attach the decorations all by themselves. I did the icicles for them with my own bag fitted with a #5 tip.

Here is Will's.

The front:


Did you see the little snowman? My contribution. I think he's so cute!

And the back. He went for the minimal approach on the front and back!

And here is Kate's.

That was the front. Here are the sides:

Kate insisted that her snowgirl have eyelashes. Can you see them?

Here is the back of Kate's house:

Both kids were so pleased with their creations! Even better was how tickled they each were with what the other had done. They each squealed with delight noticing things about the other's house. I love that!

And it was a lot of fun to see them make the houses come to life.

Today, I will probably let them eat some, but part of me just wants to keep the houses and look at them. Maybe put them on the mantle. They remind me of how much fun Christmas with the kids can be. And how some tasks that seem daunting end up being the most rewarding. Isn't that true of a lot of things in life??

Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, December 19, 2011


A new hobby? No, not for me anyway! The title of this blog refers to the most recent cake I've done.

This cake was done for a sweet friend of mine, Julie, who surprised her mother last week for her mother's birthday. How fun is that? Her mother was truly surprised, too! I love it!

Well, Julie's mother likes to cross-stitch and her favorite color is purple, so I ran with those two things in my design. Julie helped me think of ways to incorporate the cross-stitch.

What do you think??

I admit I was a little nervous over this one! I didn't have a lot of time to practice the cross-stitch piping before doing the actual cake and I wasn't sure my piping skills were up to the task. But, I must say, I'm pretty proud of the result. That was a lot of little X's to pipe! And, yes, I did each little X one by one to make it look as much like actual cross-stitch as possible.

Here's a close-up of the flowers.

Do you think it looks like cross-stitch?

After the flowers were done, I thought the design needed a little something, so I added the little swirls and sugar pearls off to the sides.

For those of you who want to imagine you are eating this lovely thing, here are the details! :)

The bottom tier is an 8-inch dark chocolate cake with strawberry swiss meringue buttercream filling. The top tier is a 6-inch vanilla-chocolate marble cake with oreo filling. The entire cake is covered with vanilla bean swiss meringue buttercream and iced smooth. The flowers, stems, and scrolls are all piped with colored vanilla bean swiss meringue buttercream. I used a Wilton #1 tip to do all of the piping so that the lines would be as small and fine as possible.

I did learn one thing: when using a #1 tip, which has a very small opening, it's best to NOT include the vanilla bean seeds in the icing. I never would have thought a vanilla bean seed would ever plug anything up, but I had to keep unclogging my tip while piping those X's! Lesson learned. :)

I hope you enjoyed my latest creation! It was so much fun to make!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Toffee Cookies

I have been so busy in the kitchen lately! Lots of goodies to share with you in the coming weeks, if I can find some spare minutes in all of the Christmas craziness! I must say, though, that God has granted me a good deal of peace this year and I'm using that to focus more of my attention on Him. Christmas is, after all, all about Christ!

Back to the cookies...

I decided to try something new this year. I know the concept isn't new at all. There are tons of toffee cookie recipes out there. But I didn't use one of those. That would have been too easy! No, I wanted to create my own.

It wasn't too hard, though. I already have my own sugar cookies recipe. Add to that some homemade toffee, which I just learned how to make, and voila! My own Toffee Cookies! And, I must say, they are fantastic!!

Take another look at this toffee goodness....


Ahh, went into a bit of a cookie trance there....

Let me show you some details and give you the recipe! Yeah!

First, make the toffee. I used a recipe from Country Kitchens. I paid for a class to get my recipe and don't want to step on their toes by giving it to you for free. But I did find a similar recipe online that they have already chosen to post for all to see. So, you can have it! Click here to get the toffee recipe. Just omit the chocolate and the nuts. We are making plain toffee here to put into the cookies. But you should make the full version with chocolate another time because it is a very tasty treat!

Start the toffee by melting the butter in a large pot over low heat. You want a large pot because it will bubble up quite a bit once it gets going. After the butter melts, add the sugar, salt, water, and lecithin. This is what it will look like.

Keep stirring until the sugar dissolves. Then put your candy thermometer in the mixture and cook to 290 degrees F over medium heat. Stir it occasionally. You want the color to be even and, especially towards the end, you will notice it darkening a bit more in some spots. Watch it carefully! As soon as you walk away, it will burn. That's like the law of candy-making I think. Kind of like Murphy's law. It just always seems to happen!

While that's bubbling away...

...let's talk about a couple of things. First, the lecithin. Some of you may be wondering, as I did at first, what in the world is this stuff? And why do I need it? Well, lecithin is an emulsifier. A fancy way of saying that it is something that will help the butter blend with the sugar a little better so that your finished toffee will have a surface that is more dry and less greasy. And so that your mixture comes together the way it should. Yes, you can make toffee without it. But it's not that expensive. I got mine at Country Kitchens candy and cake supply store. You can order it from them online and I am sure there are other online suppliers if you can't find it near you.

The other thing I wanted to talk about it preparing your pan for the hot liquid. You will need to be ready because as soon as your toffee reaches 290, you must immediately pour it from the pot. I use a silicone mat. Silpat is the most well-known brand and it is pricey, but worth it for things like this. Nothing, and I mean nothing, sticks to it. And it can withstand very high heat. Mine is not Silpat brand and so it was a little less expensive. Put the mat into a heat-proof pan. This recipe is perfect for a quarter-sheet pan. I don't have one. At least not one without high sides. So, I used a cookie sheet with sides and put parchment under my mat just in case the liquid flowed off of the mat. I didn't want to scrape it off the pan later! You can also just butter some aluminum foil really well and put that in a pan. Either way works!

Once you reach 290, immediately pour the toffee onto your prepared pan. It's better if you pour in a circle motion or back and forth instead of pouring into one spot. This way the heat is distributed a little better and it will cool a little more evenly. Once it starts to set, you can use a bench scraper or something similar to start scoring your toffee. You will have to go over your score marks a couple of times. Scoring the toffee while it is cooling will allow you to break it into even pieces later on. Of course, you could always just let it set and break it unevenly too. Whichever way you like it is fine with me! For the cookies, we are going to crush it all up anyway.

Here it is all set and scored. Mine got a touch dark this time, but still tasted fantastic!

Now mix up your cookie dough. I've included my fluffy sugar cookie recipe at the end of this post. That is the recipe I used. Crush up as much of the toffee as you would like, keeping in mind that it will melt a bit while the cookies are in the oven, so if you incorporate too much, you may end up with a sticky mess. Play around with it and see how you like it! I used about a quarter of my toffee, but I wasn't using a full batch of dough. (I used part of my cookie dough to make peppermint pinwheel cookies! A yummy treat for another post!) You want the pieces of toffee to be fairly small.

Stir the toffee pieces into the cookie dough.

Then spoon or scoop into tablespoon-or-so sized balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for approximately 8-9 minutes, then cool on a rack. Try not to eat all of them at once!

Soft and Fluffy Sugar Cookies
2 cups (7 ounces) cake flour*
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup butter-flavored shortening**
3/4 cup (5-1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (I used vanilla bean paste)
1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 whole large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. In a large bowl, cream shortening with sugar. Add extracts and mix well. Add the eggs and mix just enough to blend. Add half of the flour mixture and mix just until blended. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix until blended. You may have to do this last mixing by hand. The dough will be thick. Chill dough in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes. Drop tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake 8-10 minutes or until just starting to brown around the edges. Cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet, then remove to a wire cooling rack.

* You can substitute self-rising flour for the cake flour, salt, and baking powder. That is what I do!
** I know, I know. Shortening is evil, right? Why am I using it here? Well, I do have my reasons. I wanted a fluffy cookie and it's difficult to get that with butter because of butter's low melting point. I admit that the shortening makes me cringe just a bit, but it really is the right ingredient for this type of cookie. Feel absolutely free to substitute a good unsalted butter, though, understanding that your cookies will spread a bit more. This recipe is delicious either way!

You can make these as-is and then frost them with a nice buttercream frosting. Or you can mix in pretty much anything - toffee like in this post, nuts, chocolate chips, etc. It isn't a good recipe for rolling out, like for sugar cookies cut-outs, because it is a little sticky. I'm still working on adapting it for that!

Time for you to get baking! And time for me to get another cookie! Enjoy!!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

My Little Cakers

Aren't they just the cutest little cooks in the kitchen? They have their own aprons, decorated themselves, and everything!

A few weeks ago, I let Will and Kate decorate a couple of little cakes. They said it was for my birthday, though my birthday had passed already and after they were done they had a touch of a problem with sharing their masterpieces. But man did they have fun! And so did I!

Here are some more pics of them hard at work.

Kate is trying hard to decide what cutter she wants to use next. Lots of flower shapes to choose from!

Will is very serious and very focused. He knew exactly what he was going to do before he started. Those of you who know him won't be surprised by that at all!

Will has issues with the way Kate is doing her cake. I think he's about to give her some instruction. Helpful of course! :)

I'm not sure what Kate is doing with her hand in that last picture. And I'm sorry it's blurry! I still thought it was worth sharing!

Here are the finished cakes. First, Kate's creation. Lots of flowers, some butterflies, and some bears. The one bear has her name stamped into it. Very girly and just lovely!

And Will's. Those are bats in memory of Halloween and a Star Wars spaceship in honor of Will's first love right now, Star Wars. I love how neat and organized it is. He did such a great job!

Each had definite opinions on which was the best cake. I love them both equally and can very clearly see the personality of each child is his/her cake. It's funny how their decorating reflects their personalities!

I hope you enjoyed my kids' creations! I did supply the modeling chocolate (that's what the cut-outs were made of), the cutters and tools, and the supervision. But I let them each do whatever they wanted and tried not to help at all unless they asked. I am so proud of my little cakers! :)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Don't hate me. I don't have any pictures or recipes ready for you today. But I wanted to jump on here quick and let you all know what's going on and what I've been doing. I was so blessed to be able to take a candy class with my sister last week! So, there will be many posts to come on candy making. And one cake next week! So, sorry about the delay in new posts and pics, but stay tuned! I promise lots more to come this holiday season! :)