Sunday, December 9, 2012


I've been a bit obsessed lately with this simply-designed cake style. I first noticed it through cakes done by one of my favorite cake designers, Three Little Blackbirds cakes, which is based in Colorado. You can see her stunning creations on her website, here. You will want to hang out on her site awhile, I think. I always have a hard time looking away from her wonderful cakes!

If you click onto her blog, you will see a tutorial on covering cakes with ganache for a style she calls "simply ganache." It looks simple, but it actually takes a lot of time and practice to get the ganache that smooth and perfect. I encourage you to take a look at her tutorial, though, because she gives some really good tips and shows a great technique for covering cakes this way.

Here is my version. I was really pleased with how it turned out!

It's not perfect. You can see some little bumps and non-smooth spots on the top. Like I said, this takes practice! I do love how "simple" it is in that it's not over-decorated or fussy. I also really love the discipline of learning a technique like this. When you can learn to do something like this really well, it becomes the foundation for many, many other things in cake decorating. This is the literal foundation for smooth fondant, for example.

A few tiny gumpaste flowers and a butterfly adorn the top.

This next one is my favorite example. A couple of weeks ago, my sister had a milestone birthday and I made this cake for her. I used the simple ganache technique and I love, love, love the final result! She loves cake and decorating, too, so I was very happy to be able to give this one to her. (And to help her eat it!)

Notice the cake plate, too. It is my favorite of all that I own (and I own a lot now!). I tell you, a cake stand is the perfect compliment to a cake!

Here are a couple more pics of that cake. Try to ignore the messy kitchen background!

Did you notice the bow, too? I'm getting better! Thanks to Rebecca and a magazine tutorial!

On the top are a few fondant flowers. Simple. Beautiful. The perfect surround for the one candle.

For those of you who want to try this, here are some tips and instruction. First, make sure your cake is level and trimmed so that it is also even on the sides. This will make it much easier to cover evenly. You want the sides of the cake itself to be 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch smaller than the edge of the cardboard round underneath the cake.

After you stack the cake, fill in any gaps between the layers with ganache by piping it into the space and smoothing it out with an offset spatula. Then do a quick crumbcoat over the entire cake. This will keep the crumbs from destroying the final coat. Don't worry about getting this entirely smooth, but don't just glop it on either.

Once the crumb coat has set (this doesn't take long at all), apply your final coat, first to the top and then to the sides, using an offset spatula. Smooth it first with your offset spatula, then with a straight-edged bench scraper. Fill in any gaps or holes with a little ganache, then smooth it all down again. Keep repeating until it is mostly smooth.

For the top, you can use the upside-down method as demonstrated by the Three Little Blackbirds tutorial. Or you can smooth it with an offset spatula. I used the upside-down method for my sister's cake and the spatula method with the other cake, shown at the beginning of this blog post. I'm trying to practice the spatula method because it is a skill I really want to learn. It's a little more challenging, but if I can master it, I think it will make the overall process quicker and easier.

Refrigerate for about half an hour to let the ganache completely set. Then use heated metal tools (the bench scraper and the offset spatula) to completely smooth the ganache. Again, the Three Little Blackbirds tutorial will show you exactly how to do this using hot water to warm the tools. Make sure you wipe your tools often on a paper towel.

There is definitely a lot of back and forth and repetition with this technique, but the result is well worth it and the more you do it, the faster it will get.

One of these days, I will put a tutorial of my own together for you all!

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Horsing Around

Last week, I had the pleasure of creating this cake for a little boy who turned 3 years old this weekend. He had a horse-themed birthday party and his Mom, a friend of mine, wanted a cake to match.

She approached me about a month ago and I went a little crazy looking up ideas and thinking about it all. My poor friend! In the end, I think she was happy with all of my excited efforts!

When someone starts talking about a cake, I can't help myself! My brain starts spinning with ideas and the process of figuring out how to do new things.

This cake really was a whole lot of fun to do. It is definitely one of my favorites! And it included a lot of firsts for me, including the sweet little horse on the top.

I love how all of the little details came together. Like how the little rope hanging on the side of the barn connects to the name on the front of the top tier.

And the little bucket of apples with the same wood-grain detail that is on the little horse barn.

To do the wood-grain look, I started with brown fondant, measured and cut to size. I then took a knife tool and scored fairly deep lines spaced evenly to make the "boards." With the same knife tool, I made very shallow lines parallel to and in between the deeper lines. These shallower lines are the grains of the wood. This alone would work, but the whole effect is better with some added color. I added color by taking some dark brown gel food coloring mixed with a little vodka and painting it lightly onto the fondant. With a dry paper towel, I wiped some of the moisture and color away from the surface, leaving deeper color in the grooves.

I really liked the pop of red that the apples added to the top, especially against the darker brown. So, I added more in other places! Lots of little apples are scattered around the cake.

And did you notice the tiny cowboy hat?

Or the tiny little horseshoe above the horse's head?

One of the most time-consuming little detail pieces was the little hay bale. I really, really love how it turned out, but it took me an hour to do!

I started with a little rectangle of yellow fondant. I then used my extruder to make thin lines of yellow fondant that I cut and used to cover the sides of the rectangle to make it look like hay in the bale. I cut two more lines to wrap around, so it looked like the bale was bound. Finally, I cut teeny tiny pieces of fondant and placed them one by one with a toothpick onto the ends of the hay bale so that it would look like the whole thing was a bound pile of hay. It worked like a charm! But placing those tiny little dots of fondant took awhile.

By the way, I think I've mentioned this before, but I use this type of extruder for my fondant. (You can also find it at Michaels.) I used it with a different size and shape plate to make the rope that you see on the cake. The trick to making the fondant come out nicely without sticking and tearing is kneading small amounts of glycerin into the fondant until the fondant is very stretchy but not sticky. Also take a cotton swab and brush glycerin onto both sides of the extruder plate and in the barrel of the extruder. This technique has saved me many headaches!

The cake itself was vanilla with chocolate buttercream filling. It was all covered in chocolate ganache and fondant. The little barn was also cake!

I have it on good authority that the birthday boy loved his cake and that he had a very fun birthday. That is the best thank you there is! Happy Birthday Cal!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Simple Birthday

Last week was my birthday.

I turned 39.

I'm okay with that.

Of course I made myself a birthday cake! Yellow cake with caramel filling and dark chocolate ganache. I just made a quick striped design by dragging my small offset spatula up the sides of the cake. A quick drop of sprinkles around the top and one candle completed the design. Oh, and a matching ribbon around the bottom.

I still need to work on my bow-tying!

Have a very happy Thanksgiving everyone! I, for one, am thankful for more things than I could possibly list, including each one of you! May God truly bless you and your family time this week!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Banana Almond Oatmeal Muffins

I begin this post with an urgent question:

Is it really so bad to have a Kit Kat with my coffee??

It really is the perfect accompaniment. Well, apart from cake that is. :)

These Banana Almond Oatmeal Muffins are also perfect with a cup of coffee. Or tea. Or juice. Or just about anything you drink in the morning.

For awhile now, I've been really concerned about the processed nature of the breakfasts we had been eating in our house. Namely, cereal. Cereal has a lot going for it - quick, easy, and the kids can "make" it themselves. That last one is the best one. All you Moms out there agree with me, right? That morning when you first realize your child is old enough and tall enough to put his or her own breakfast together while you laze around in your pajamas. Or, I mean, do housework, be really productive, and get lots done? That is the BEST.

But ... Don't you always hate the "but"? It's always there, lurking around the corner and ruining all that is nice and easy. No matter how much I tried to ignore the "but" it kept coming back to haunt me until I did something about it. So, I'm going to share this particular torture! Aren't you happy? You will thank me in the end (because the end is the recipe for these delectable muffins!).

But ... in all of my other meals and snacks, I have been trying really hard to eliminate processed foods as much as possible. Cereal is one of the most heavily-processed foods in the grocery store. Despite the claims of whole grains and good health, nearly all cereals are not that great for us. Even the best of cereals (plain, bran-y, organic) are pretty heavily processed. My kids never ate that kind anyway. Except for cheerios at church. Somehow plain cheerios taste great at church but terrible at home. Go figure.

A couple of months ago, we went cereal-free in an attempt to have a healthier start to our day. I stopped buying cereal, which, by the way, has also saved me quite a bit of money thanks to the rising cost of those boxes and the ravenous way my son and daughter wolfed it all down. Instead, I make my own instant oatmeal mixes and granola, served with almond milk. Sometimes if I'm awake enough we have eggs for breakfast.

If you'd like the recipes I use for the oatmeal mixes and granola, just let me know and I'd be happy to share!

And now, we have these muffins. They are full of healthy ingredients, lots of fiber to keep the little ones full longer, and they taste great! It's a good breakfast alternative no matter what your normal routine is.

My daughter and I love the new breakfast options. My husband will eat pretty much anything, though I think he misses his raisin bran! My son does NOT like the new breakfast situation. He is a kid who loves his cereal. Poor guy. He's not at all convinced by my reasoning that granola with some milk is the same as cereal. There's no fooling him with that one, I guess. (But it really is kind of like cereal, isn't it?)

What does my son like? These muffins! Yay! Success!

You can't see it, but I'm patting myself on the back right now.

These muffins are so easy to make, too. Just mash up two browning bananas in a small bowl. You know those bananas that no one will eat? If you have some that are a little too brown to eat, that are sitting there all lonely with no one to take them, just throw them in the freezer (I put them in a freezer bag). The peels will get really brown in there, but doing this will preserve the fruit inside for use in muffins and other baked goods. They don't take long to thaw and will be a bit mushy when they warm up again. Just ignore the squishiness and mash away. It makes the job easier and it tastes wonderful. I promise.

Whisk together some flour (I like to use whole wheat pastry flour for added nutrition, flavor and a wonderful texture), almond flour, oats, flax seeds, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. I know, it seems like a lot. But it's easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy, as my kids like to say. Do all of this in a medium-sized bowl.

In a large bowl, whisk together an egg with some almond milk, vegetable oil and vanilla. One of these days, I'm going to try subbing coconut oil or applesauce for the vegetable oil. I haven't gotten around to that yet. If you try it, let me know how it turns out!

Whisk the bananas into the egg mixture. Then add the dry ingredients all at once to the banana-egg mixture and stir just until moist throughout. Make sure you get any dry pockets that may be hiding on the bottom. Don't over-mix, though, or you will end up with hockey pucks instead of muffins.

Fill your lined or sprayed muffin tin.

There. You're done. Once the oven has done it's work, you can enjoy these sweet and hardy treats! They also freeze wonderfully. I usually put all of mine into the freezer as soon as they are cool. Then I pull out a few at a time and thaw them in the microwave or oven before eating. This way, they stay very fresh-tasting for quite awhile (I'd say a few months, though I haven't had a batch last quite that long yet.)


P.S. I'm playing around with the look and layout of the blog. Do you like it? Hate it? Have ideas for me? I'd love your feedback. And while you're leaving feedback about the blog, let me know how you like these muffins! :)

Banana Almond Oatmeal Muffins

3 ounces (3/4 cup) all-purpose flour or whole wheat pastry flour
2 ounces (3/4 cup) almond flour (also called almond meal)
3 ounces (1 cup) old-fashioned oats (not the quick-cook kind)
2 tablespoons flax seeds (optional)
3-1/2 ounces (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 egg
3/4 cup almond milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 bananas, mashed

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, oats, flax seed, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the egg, almond milk, vegetable oil and vanilla. Whisk the mashed bananas in to the egg mixture. Add the dry ingredients all at once to the wet ingredients and stir just until moistened. Using a 1/4-cup scoop, fill muffin tin liners about 3/4 full and bake in preheated oven for 15 to 18 minutes or until the top of the muffin springs back when touched and a toothpick inserted in to the muffin comes out clean. Makes about 18 muffins, which keep for a few days in an airtight container at room temperature or for a few months in the freezer.

*Try using vanilla sugar in place of the granulated sugar. To make vanilla sugar, place a few vanilla beans in a container filled with granulated sugar. Stir every once in awhile. The longer it sits, the stronger the vanilla flavor will be. Allow to sit for at least 2 weeks before using it the first time. Use as you would regular sugar for an added vanilla flavor boost. Keep topping off your container with more granulated sugar for an endless supply.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Finally! Another cake! :)

Lately I haven't been decorating as much as I'd like. In fact, I hardly did any decorating all summer. I guess I figured that with two in school every day, I would have lots of time come fall to bake and decorate to my heart's content.

You know how when you think you have lots of time, that time suddenly gets eaten up by a huge monster and disappears before you know it? Yeah, that's what happened to me.

I did manage to try a new technique on this little cake last week. I was inspired by a picture of some fabric on some chairs in a magazine. Sadly, I cannot find it now to show you all. Basically, it was a multi-colored background with a white overlay. The white had various geometric shapes cut out of it revealing the colored background in a really cool way. I wanted to try to do that with cake.

Here is what I came up with.

This is a tall 6-inch round cake. I marbled together some fondant in different shades of blue, teal, purple, and pink and used that to cover the cake. Then I measured the circumference and height of the cake. I cut a piece of waxed paper exactly to size, stuck the waxed paper onto the rolled-out white fondant with some shortening, then cut around the edges of the waxed paper so I would have a piece of white fondant big enough to wrap around the cake. I then flipped the whole thing over so the fondant was on top and cut out all the shapes with an exacto knife. Finally, I applied a little bit of water to the fondant with a paint brush, then lifted the waxed paper up and used it to apply the fondant to the cake. Once the fondant was on, I removed the waxed paper.

This technique for applying a complicated fondant design to a cake was actually invented by Jessica of She is an amazing decorator and so innovative! Check out her much better explanation of the technique, along with a very helpful video, on her blog.

There are many things I like about this design - the graphic quality, the colors peaking through, the idea of it all - but I almost didn't show it to you all because I do not think I executed it well. Maybe you can learn from my mistakes too! First, I learned that I need to make the waxed paper and overlay fondant an inch longer than the circumference of the cake. I didn't do this and had a hard time bringing the ends together in the back. With the extra fondant, you can overlap the ends and make a nice cut with minimal interruption to the design.

I also learned that you need to hold that piece of waxed paper holding the fondant by the ends and the ends only when applying it to the cake. If you let go and hold by the middle, or let go to smooth anything out before all of it is applied, the whole thing will collapse and/or peel off of the waxed paper making a huge mess. It is also much easier to get straight lines at the top and the bottom if you just hold by the edges and hold the whole thing taut the whole time. You can see how the top edge of my white fondant is a little wonky because I didn't follow this little tip.

I am anxious to try again. The nice thing about making mistakes is that it is very easy to learn from them! It's more often the mistakes we make that make us better and not necessarily the successes. Am I right or am I right? :)

Thanks for stopping by and taking a look!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Confetti Cookies

I've had this post ready for awhile now, but after I made these cookies I saw an explosion of funfetti/confetti/birthday cake cookies and other treats all over the web. I didn't want to appear to be jumping on the bandwagon, so I didn't post these.

Now maybe enough time as passed. I really was the forerunner in this trend! Ha!

Okay, on to the fun!

I have a confession. I have a weakness for sprinkles. I just love them! They make me smile. And pretty much all children love the colorful little jimmies. It's pure sugar deliciousness and fun all rolled up into one bright little package!

These cookies bring all of that fun to your tastebuds. They are quick, easy, and a fun treat for any time.

When I say these are easy, I really mean it! I just threw a couple of handfuls of rainbow-colored jimmies into some sugar cookie dough before spooning out my cookies and baking them.

A handy tip - if you live anywhere near a Homegoods, try looking there for discounted sprinkles of all shapes, colors and sizes. They almost always have some at the store near me. If you use a lot of sprinkles, you can find them online in bulk for even cheaper!

Just look at all of that sprinkle goodness! Yum!

After they cooled, I topped my cookies with a quick swipe of buttercream and some little ball sprinkles.

One thing that you will notice about this recipe is that it contains shortening. Now, I usually opt for real butter in things like this, but these are soft and fluffy cookies and you just can't get the same rise or fluffiness with all butter. You can certainly sub in real butter, though. The cookies will still be delicious, but they will be noticeably more flat with the butter. Feel free to use whichever you like best!

Here is the recipe! Enjoy!

Soft and Fluffy Sugar Cookies with Simple Buttercream Icing

2 cups (9 ounces) self-rising flour*
1/2 cup (3-1/4 ounces) butter-flavored shortening
1/2 cup (3-1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (2 ounces) brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 to 3/4 cup rainbow jimmies or other small sprinkles

*Can substitute 2 cups (7 ounces) cake flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 2 teaspoons baking powder, whisked together, for the self-rising flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, cream together the shortening and the sugars. Add extracts and mix well. Add the eggs and mix just enough to blend. Add half of the flour to the shortening mixture and mix just until blended. Add the remaining flour and mix by hand until blended. Stir in the sprinkles. The dough will be thick, so don't strain your mixer.

Chill the dough in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes. Drop tablespoon-sized balls of dough about 1 inch apart on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until just starting to brown around the edges. Cool for 1 minute on the baking sheet, then remove to a wire cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting.

Simple Buttercream Frosting
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons milk or cream
Gel color of your choice, if desired

Blend all ingredients together until combined. Spread onto cooled cookies. Decorate with colored sprinkles or colored decorating sugar, if desired. Store in an airtight container or freeze.


The Rise

Hello! I am sorry to have been so neglectful of my blog lately! Not sure what happened except just life with two kids and a house to clean.


Here is a nice quick little post to show you something about bread. The last post was about bread baking and explained a little about putting steam in the oven with your bread.

In case there was any doubt, I now have some proof! I didn't intentionally create this and was pretty surprised myself at what happened when I accidentally put in this loaf of bread not quite totally over the pan of steaming water in the bottom of my oven.

Check it out!

Can you tell which side was over the steam and which one wasn't? Pretty remarkable, huh?

Mmmmmm.... makes me want to go bake some bread!

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, August 25, 2012


Here is a quick little post to share more of one of my little obsessions: bread baking.

I love making my own bread. It's more than just the health benefits of homemade bread over store-bought bread, though there are many, not the least of which is ensuring only real ingredients are in each loaf. I just love the feel of the dough, the chemistry of it all, the smell of bread baking in the oven, and of course the taste! It still amazes me to see flour, yeast, and water come together into something so delicious.

Here are my latest loaves - honey whole wheat.

I've been reading The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. it is amazing and I am learning a lot. I've been reading about starters, which are basically preparation of part of the dough ahead of time to develop more flavor. It is working really well so far and has the added benefit of making my bread last longer before going stale.

I'm still playing around with my recipe, but I will share the version I have been using lately. It is really good! It does require a bit more work, but not much. And you need to plan ahead a little to make sure the timing works for you. Let me tell you, it is very much worth all of the effort!


Honey Whole Wheat Bread

1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110 degrees)
1 teaspoon honey
2 cups (9 ounces) bread flour

Starter (above)
2 cups warm milk (110 degrees)
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoon melted butter
1-1/2 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon salt
3 cups (13-1/2 ounces) whole wheat flour
3 cups (13-1/2 ounces) bread flour

Put together the starter one day before you want to bake your bread. To make the starter, first whisk together the warm water and yeast. Whisk in honey. Allow to sit until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour. The mixture should look and feel like a sticky bread dough. Cover loosely and let sit at room temperature for 2 hours. Refrigerate overnight.

To make the bread, bring the starter to room temperature. Place it in the bowl of a stand mixer. In a small bowl, whisk together the warm milk and yeast. Add the yeast and milk to the starter. Add the melted butter and honey. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours and the salt. Add to the mixer bowl and mix with the paddle attachment until everything is combined. Switch to the dough hook and knead for 5 minutes. The dough should be slightly tacky but not sticky. If the dough feels too sticky, add additional flour 1 tablespoon at a time while kneading, being careful not to add too much.

Lightly oil a large bowl, then place the dough in it, turning so that the top of the dough is also coated with oil. Allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about one hour.

After the dough has risen, turn it out gently onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a loaf and place into lightly oiled or sprayed (with non-stick baking spray) loaf pans and let rise for about an hour or until each loaf is nicely domed.

Just before the time is up, dip a sharp paring knife into water and gently score the top of each loaf. You score the loaf by gently scratching the surface, with a paper cut motion, rather than plunging the knife into the loaf. The water will keep the knife from sticking and dragging in the dough. You can skip this step if you like, but scoring the loaf will give you a better rise in the oven and keep the loaf from splitting.

Twenty minutes before the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Place a metal pan in the bottom of the oven and allow it to heat with the oven. Use a heavy metal pan with 1-2 inch sides to do this. Do NOT use glass, which will shatter when you add the hot water later. Start 1-2 cups of water on the stove and bring it to a boil (I use a tea kettle). Have a spray bottle filled with water handy (room temperature).

When the loaves are ready, put them in the preheated oven so that the loaves themselves are in the center of the oven and directly over the preheated pan. Carefully pour the boiling water into the pan at the bottom of the oven, being careful not to touch the hot steam and not to pour water onto the loaves. Quickly close the oven. After 30 seconds, crack open the door and lightly spray water from the bottle onto the walls of the oven. Do NOT spray any glass, any lights, or the loaves. Repeat the misting two more times at 30 second intervals.

This all creates steam that will allow your loaves to rise higher in the oven and have a better crust. You can skip all of this if it seems like too much trouble, but I have found that it is worth the small effort.

After the third misting, turn the temperature on the oven down to 350 degrees F. and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until the loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove from the pans immediately and allow to cool on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes before cutting.

These loaves freeze really well. After they are completely cool, wrap each loaf tightly in plastic wrap and then tightly in aluminum foil before putting in the freezer. Otherwise, you can store the loaves at room temperature in an airtight container and they will keep for about a week.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Surfing Hello Kitty


Last week I had the chance to make a cake for a lovely little girl turning 8 years old. Her lovely mother is a friend of mine and she is so sweet. I was happy to make this cake!

The birthday girl requested Hello Kitty. On a surfboard. With a palm tree and a red crab.

I said "sure" but when the time came to make all of that and get it to work, it had me trembling! In the end it all worked out, though. Don't you think?

Here is a slightly closer look.

I assembled this cake on site, so I don't have a lot of pictures. I was afraid that if I put Hello Kitty on the top ahead of time, she would fall and break during transit. I do wish I had gotten a close-up of HK, the tree (my personal favorite element) and the little red crab.

The cake itself was chocolate (you can find the recipe in this post) with vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream (recipe here).

I was really proud of how I did covering and smoothing the buttercream. My corners actually turned out pretty sharp! That is not easy! For those of you who are interested, the method I use for frosting my cakes is very similar to that demonstrated by John Russel in his new Craftsy class. This class is free, so check it out! I also cut and trim my cakes in pretty much the same way as he does, except that I don't trim the cake board. Instead, I keep it about 1/4 inch bigger than my cake and use it as a guide to hold the smoother steady and keep the buttercream even all the way around. Maybe someday I'll do a video....

Here is a picture of the cake chilling in the refrigerator. You can see that I've already smoothed and stacked the tiers, and I've put on a few "waves" and the tree. Please ignore the food in the background and how messy my frig is! :)

The "sand" is also in place in this picture. I love, love, love the way this sand turned out! I was just going to use brown sugar. Then I was just going to use crushed graham crackers. I went to make it and I decided to use both together. I chose the graham crackers for the bulk of the sand because they didn't seem as likely to melt into the buttercream. I added some brown sugar for some depth of color and for the slight sparkle of the sugar crystals. Then, and this is the brilliant part if I do say so myself, I added a handful of white chocolate chips. I pulsed it all in my food processor - first the crackers and sugar until very finely ground, then the white chocolate chips until they were in fairly small pieces but not evenly ground. The chips ended up looking like little bits and pieces of shells scattered in the sand. It was perfect! And tasty!

(Please don't tell me if people have done this before! I'm sure I'm not the pioneer of this technique, but I like to think I am!)

Hello Kitty, the tree and the waves are all gumpaste. I had to make HK out of gumpaste so that she would be firm enough to stand up. Same with the tree. I made the trunk and the leaves several days ahead of time and left them to dry. The leaves were on wires and then inserted into the top of the trunk. There was a toothpick in the bottom of the trunk to hold it in place. I really like how the tree turned out. I do wish I had dusted the leaves with petal dust, though, to bring out the details and give them more depth. Sadly, I didn't think of it until after the tree was all assembled and I was afraid that if I took the leaves back out to dust them, they would break. I couldn't afford any breakage because I didn't have time to make more. My extras had already broken!

Handy tip: when working with gumpaste, always make extra! Some pieces always end up breaking.

Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed surfing Hello Kitty! Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Rolo Cake!

Have you all seen new Rolo minis? I came across them purely by accident in the store a few weeks ago and I HAD to get them. I love Rolos. Anything with caramel and chocolate is my friend. Rolos and me, we're really good friends.

Don't they look good?

Rather than just eat my new minis, I decided to incorporate them into a new cake. Chocolate. Caramel, Cake. How could it miss?

First I made a chocolate sheet cake.

Someone snuck into my picture! Actually made the picture better, in my opinion! :)

For the cake, I used The Pioneer Woman's recipe, which you can find here. Just the cake, not the icing. (Though I've made the icing before and it is really good!) This time, I had something else in mind.

After the cake was completely cool, I topped it with Caramel Buttercream. You can find a good recipe for that in this post. You could also just take your favorite vanilla buttercream and add some homemade or store bought caramel sauce.

Next, I chopped up some of those Rolo minis.

I cut them in half, but you could also leave them whole or chop them more. Whatever you like! I used all the Rolos in one of those bags above.

Nevermind what happened to the other bag! A mom has to have her secrets, right?

Finally, the Rolos got sprinkled all over the top of the cake.

Oh man, does that look good!

I meant to get a nice styled picture of a piece of this cake on a nice little plate, but the cake got eaten too quickly. This is a good one! Super easy. Super tasty. Just plain super. I hope you try it too!


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sugar Flowers

A few weeks ago, I made a bouquet of sugar flowers for a birthday cake. The cake was for a friend of my sister, who was celebrating a milestone birthday. My sister was making and decorating the cake and asked me to do the topper.

At first I was nervous because I don't have a lot of experience making sugar flowers. So, a few of these aren't really true to life but I think overall they turned out really nice.

The hydrangeas are the only ones I had been working on before doing the topper. I took a class on Craftsy about making sugar flowers. It is taught by Jacqueline Butler, who is an absolutely amazing sugar artist. Her class was wonderful and I learned a lot. If you are interested in sugar flowers at all, I highly recommend it!

I added in some white filler flowers and buds, some leaves, a sprig of berries and a couple of coral-colored flowers.

I'm not sure what to call the big coral-colored flower in the center. I was copying something I saw online and I confess I have no idea if it's a real flower or just a fantasy flower. I like how it looks in this bouquet, though!

I did a version of a small peony and a small rose, too.

I planned to include more leaves, but they kept breaking on me. *sigh*

I think my favorite element was the berries. I love the way these turned out and wish I had made more. Again, it was supposed to have a couple more leaves, but they kept breaking. I definitely need to work on my technique for those and give them plenty of drying time next time.

Sugar flowers are strangely addicting. While I was working on these, I kept getting frustrated and asking myself why in the world I had agreed to do them. But as soon as they were finished, I just kept thinking about making more!

There are definitely a lot of things about flower-making that I need to practice, improve, and learn. Even though these aren't perfect, it was so satisfying to see it all come together. And I was soooo glad when the 3+ hour ride with them to my sister's house was over!

I hope you enjoyed my sugar flowers! Come back soon for some fantastic treats and recipes! Cherry Cordial Cupcakes and more!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

5th Birthday

Whoa - I'm on a roll with these posts! I let them all stack up, I guess.

Last week, my baby turned 5 years old. For the third year in a row, she requested a Hello Kitty cake. It was fun to come up with something new for her!

After looking at tons of Hello Kitty stuff, I decided to do a rainbow cake with another molded Hello Kitty on the top.

The cake is extra tall because it is 6 layers. Vanilla with milk chocolate ganache and fondant.

But not plain vanilla. Are you seeing where I'm going with this yet?

6 layers. Rainbow. Surprise inside!

Kate loved it!

Make a wish... (And try to ignore my messy kitchen in the background!)

Here is a close-up of Hello Kitty.

She's not perfect, but pretty close. I had a little trouble, you see, and couldn't start over. My favorite part is the tiny cupcake she is holding, complete with teeny-tiny sprinkles and a teeny-tiny cherry!

This whole cake gave me a bit of trouble, actually. But I'm learning that success comes not in never having trouble but in learning how to deal with the trouble that inevitably comes and enjoying the whole process.

I can't resist showing a couple more shots of the kiddos being silly. I love these guys! :)