Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Surprise Inside Spring Butterfly Flight Cake

Happy SPRING!!! These guys flew into my mind a while back . . . 

. . . and eventually ended up landing inside this moist and creamy white chocolate and cream cheese cake.

Sorry to say that I didn't save the source and can't read the watermark. So unfortunately I'm unable to link to the creator of this beauty.
The exterior was going to be white like the inspiration photo. And the colors were going to be all soft and pretty.

But then I got moss in my hair and on my brain and this is what really happened. The outside was SO simple! Moss colored cake crumbs and wafer paper butterflies.  

The colors are a bit brighter than I'd hoped for. One day I'll learn. Hopefully. Hope YOU are enjoying warmer days and bright butterfly sightings where ever you are!


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Speckled Easter Eggs


Just finished this year's Easter projects. And delivered them all. And it's still not Easter! Hooray. Ahead of the game for today at least.


Decided to try and up the game with a bit nicer presentation and the blue and brown were just the look I was after. 


The cardboard bakery boxes, not so much. What a difference the right package can make! I still needed to transport 6 dozen of the minis so the bakery boxes came in handy for an office that usually devours the goodies without noticing any fancy boxes.

Last year I made these rustic speckled Easter egg cake pop sort of thingys. They didn't have the traditional addition of frosting to cake crumbs but instead were made from cake and chocolate. Surprisingly moist. And delicious. I wasn't thrilled with the presentation but the taste more than made up for it.

Along with the larger eggs for regular sized cupcakes, I made some mini eggs to fit on . . . you guessed it . . . mini cupcakes. Love the way the dark brown set off the blue in this freebee box from CookieCon.


Here's a close up. The crumbs were a mixture of colored sugar cookies and dyed graham crackers. I wasn't loving the taste of the grahams so I baked up a batch of extra vanilla-y sugar cookies and colored the dough in shades of greens and brown and pulverized them to bits once they cooled. Avocado and Electric Green seemed to work well together but next time I'd leave out the Leaf Green. It just didn't want to blend in very well with the rest of the green team.
start replacing here

I added a tag so the recipients would know what they were eating. Or about to not eat if they are allergic to peanut butter or chocolate.

The egg shells were made from blue Candy Melts and a little shaved chocolate mixed with chocolate jimmies. I loved them so much that I decided to leave that process alone. To switch it up a little bit, I filled the egg shells with a peanut butter chocolate truffle mixture instead of cake. They ended up as cupcake toppers on square chocolate cupcakes. In keeping with the theme, they were slathered with a light peanut butter frosting and sprinkled with cookie crumb moss. I may or may not have added chocolate syrup during the assembly. Twice. Wanted to make sure they were as moist and tasty as last year.

The square shapes were easier to transport and fit together than regular round ones. 

The cupcakes were then set inside birch boxes. Well. Not boxes really. And not birch. Just card stock strips printed with a white washed wood design. They really helped stabilize the treats which were a bit top heavy after the eggs were added. 

Even a pot can become an Easter basket in a pinch! My wonderful neighbors brought over a yummy pot of soup a couple of days ago so I filled their pan with sweet treats before returning it. The Reese's eggs hidden underneath the brown grass will give them a tiny Easter egg hunt of their own before heading out for Spring Break.

Hope you all have a wonderful Easter with family and friends!!!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Surprise Inside Mini Cupid Cakes

Stupid Cupid? Lover Boy? Angel of Love? Whatever you call him, he's around every corner this time of year! He was most recently spotted lurking inside these mini heart shaped cakes.  

These cute little cupids were made from dark chocolate cake  and surrounded by a moist delicious red velvet cake loaded with chopped maraschino cherries.  

The hearts were slathered with a generous layer of ganache, set on their sides and finished in four different textures.

Couldn't make up my mind between the rustic ganache, cake crumbs, sparkling red sugar or tiny nonpareils. None of the finishes were meant to look perfect since no one's heart remains unscathed after yearly brushes with this little fat man's arrows. No fear this year! In this case they are completely harmless and entirely edible!

Chocolate covered Pocky cookie sticks prevented the arrows from drinking up any moisture from the cake. The arrow end is made from a cherry flavored gummy heart and the opposite end was cut from wafer paper before dry brushing all of the arrow parts with edible silver luster dust. These would make a cute party snack on their own but I heart the way they look when shot thru the cake. Yes. I said I heart. It's the season. Deal with it. Cards, balloons, flowers, candy. What's not to heart?


Monday, December 28, 2015

Organizing Your Cookie Cutter Collection

Have you reached the point where finding that one cutter you need within all of your cookie cutters is more of a task than actually decorating the cookies? Fear not. I arrived at that destination many years ago in a land far, far away. There is hope. I promise.

If you have this happy problem then, 1) you are blessed enough to own lots of great shapes and, 2) it's time to do something to make your life easier.

I realized it was time to get down to some serious organization when I bought the exact same cutter as I already owned (twice!) because I couldn't remember if I'd purchased it previously, had received it as a gift, or if it was just on my want list. There had to be a better way than relying on my already full brain.

I'm so very happy to have resolved this. Not only can I go right to the tub the cutter resides in but I can sit at my computer and know in an instant what size it is. It seems like a lot of work up front but I promise it pays off in spades (or hearts) later on. I keep all of my newly purchased items in a box until I'm ready for a photo shoot. This happens about once or twice a year. You may not suffer from the same cookie cutter collection addiction as I do so your photo sessions may be spread out even more. I both hope you do and hope you don't have this affliction. Because I care about you. And your cutters. And I want so very badly to belong to a group. Even if it's "Cookie Cutters Anonymous."

Let's fix this, shall we? A simple 8-Step Program is all you need.

Step 1: Purchase a grid pattern cutting mat. I like this one.

Step 2: Get all of your cutters out and sort them into categories. I use brown grocery bags with the category name written on the outside for this step. My categories have grown and evolved over the years but they've stayed pretty much the same for more than 10 years now. This is what makes sense in my crazy brain. 

 1) Alphabets Numbers and Text
 2) Animals Farms Barnyard Dog Bones
 3) Babies
 4) Balloons Birthdays Party Packages Bows Bubbles
 5) Baptisms Christenings Confirmations 
 6) Birds Birdcages Bird Houses
 7) Bridal Engagement Shower Wedding 
      (See also: GLASSES for champagne, ALPHABETS NUMBERS for year number, VALENTINES for hearts)
 8) Butterflies Bugs Frogs
 9) Characters Trademarked
10) Clothes Shoes Hats Accessories
11) Clowns Circus Carousels Jesters Wizards Fairies Unicorns Monsters
12) Cowboy Western
13) Fish Shells Lighthouse Summer Pirates
14) Flowers Gardening Umbrella Cactus
15) Fruits Veggies
16) Geometrics and Classic Shapes
17) Gingerbread People Hands Feet
18) Glamour Princess Crowns
19) Glasses Teapots Wine Utensils Food
20) Holidays Alphabetical
      Chinese New Year
      Subcategories: Angels, Bells, Candles, Candy Canes, Christmas gifts & tags, Christmas Trees, Christmas Words, Jingle Bells, Lightbulbs & 
       strands, Nativity, Nutcracker, Ornaments, Other or Mixed sets, Pinecones, Poinsettias, Reindeer, Santa/Sleigh/Suit/etc, Snowflakes, 
       Snowmen, Stockings and Mittens, Wreaths and Holly.      
     Cinco de Mayo
      Fathers Day
      Fourth of July/Maps/Patriotic/Travel
      Groundhog Day
      Halloween/Day of the Dead 
       (See also BUTTERFLIES BUGS FROGS for spiders)
      Mardi Gras
      Mothers Day
      New Years Day
      St Patricks Day
      Valentines Day/Hearts
21) Houses Buildings Churches Fences City Skylines
22) Leaves Acorns Pinecones Trees Natural Landscapes 
       (See also CHRISTMAS re Pinecones & Pine Trees)
23) Mens Hunting Camping
24) Moons Stars Suns Planets Rockets
25) Music
26) Occupations Tools 
       (See also Ballet, Construction, Firemen, Graduation, Office, Office, School, Sewing, etc) 
27) Sports Toys Games Casino
28) Transportation

If you're having trouble deciding which category your cutter belongs in, choose the very first one that comes to mind. Chances are your brain will go back to this same spot when you want to find it again. Something like a cowboy hat could be filed to Clothes Shoes Hats Accessories but it's always going to be used with a Cowboy Western theme so that's where it resides. Same for hard hats being placed in the Occupations Tools bin. But where to put a robot? I used #27 Sports Toys Games Casino but you should use the category that makes the most sense to you.

The photos of some of my cutters and sets are copied to more than one category in the computer files but the actual cutters have to live in only one place. Naming the files allows you to do word searches later on if needed. (Step 5) 

Step 3: Photograph each cutter while on the grid mat to show the exact size. REALLY helps with planning! You don't need a special camera or equipment for this. A camera phone works fine. I place the cutter one inch inside the numbered borders so the numbers won't be blocked by the cutter. To measure I just count the one inch squares or subtract one inch from each side. See the bee cutter photo above.

Step 4: Edit your photos if needed. I usually have to crop and straighten them a little no matter how hard I try to get a straight on shot.

Step 5: Create individual files on your computer for each of the categories above. Name each image so that you can do a word search to bring up all of the heart or alphabet cutters you own. Or any other named cutters you are looking for. Put the image in the proper file and copy it to other files as needed. UPDATE: it is handy to note which category you've stored the actual cutter to in bold text in the file name.

Step 6: Purchase containers for the categories depending on the size you need. Create labels on your computer by typing in the category name, printing to card stock and placing the printout either inside for see thru or by taping to the outside if not using clear containers.

Step 7: Place the contents of the grocery bags used for sorting into the labeled containers.

Step 8: Repeat Steps 2-4 and 7 as needed after CookieCon or any other shopping binge.

Hope this helps get your cutters in order and on your way to the fun part, decorating!!!

I've taken this one step further and created files with same names as my cutter categories but followed the file name with "IDEAS." This was long before Pinterest so you may choose to do some organizing of what inspires you there. This way when you finally get around to making whatever odd cookie that you never knew you were going to need, like a pirate theme, you'll have already saved some cute ideas as you came across them. The only draw back to Pinterest is the sorting and text searching and that's when the plain old computer files win.

I'm in the process of creating a lending library for other cookiers in my area so that someone else might benefit from my sickness. At last count over 4000 cutters reside with me. But that was before CookieCon 2015. The saga continues . . .

Sweet regards,

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Surprise Inside Buffalo/Lumberjack Plaid Cake

Merry Christmas! Or Chris-Moose if you prefer! Hope you are loving life and the season and taking time to savor a special moment now and again.

Not sure WHAT possessed me to finish this cake so late in the game with the big day only two days away. No more room in the freezer perhaps?

The layers have been chilling out for some time while the oven door was overworked with loads and loads of Christmas cookies. My favorite holiday activity is baking. Anything. (Could you guess?) Mostly cookies because they're such a happy treat but I've been known to indulge in cupcakes, tartlets, cinnamon rolls and special breads from time to time. And with all of those baked and safely delivered and the Christmas packages mailed and the snow shoveled, well, mostly shoveled, I finally took time out to put this together. The snow just had to wait today. By the way, what exactly happened to December? I turned around twice and it was just g o n e. 

My first attempt at this design was "okay" but I wanted this second try to be a little closer to what was in my head. Didn't even bother to finish or frost the first try but once I fully defined the exterior elements I couldn't wait to finish this one! After thinking I'd get it done for November or Movember and then having that deadline slip past, I just couldn't bear to have it looming into next year. So my Christmas gift to myself was to finish this project.

I will never admit to how many hours, wait, minutes. It was just minutes, right? Anyway, the moose took WAY longer than I'd planned. Tried him out of peanut butter chips then caramel then peanut butter candy melts and finally got one that worked. And I thought that was going to be the simple part. Silly girl! Just when I thought I had a beautiful caramel shape all finished, some very cute deer decided to pop in. On our upper deck. Not their usual hangout. So I dropped what I was doing to take some (lots) of video of them eating anything they could find in the snow laden pots and planters. When I returned to the task at hand I discovered I'd set something on top of the moose in my haste. Sticky mess so I decided to try something else. The peanut butter candy melts were the winner. Right color. Tasty. And easy to pipe when heated. The peanut butter chips were much more temperamental  during the melting so go with the easy stuff if you decide to give this a try.

The rosemary sprigs and cranberries were the simple part. Simple yet striking somehow. Love them very much. I was going to hand cut the squares for the plaid strip but decided it would be quicker and as effective to use an edible image. Didn't love the way it warped or decided to be green instead of black but kept on going in spite of the hiccups.

inspiration for the next madness
And now hopefully I can finally sleep a full night without visions of checkerboards and  plaids dancing through my head. Right. Like that's ever gonna happen. Now it's back to visions of triangles. Lots and lots of colorful triangles. Up next. But probably not until after New Year's.

Until then, rest up, eat yummy stuff and take lots of pictures of those special smiles in your house.

Sweetest dreams!


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Inside Out Movie Cake / Disney Pixar Surprise Inside

I've been SO excited to share this technique with you guys for such a long time!!! I was waiting. And waiting. Thought I'd save it for a book.

But the cat is out of the bag now. Someone else figured it out recently on their own and shared it on Facebook and youtube. So my big reveal is now just eh. Hopefully you'll still find the tucking of tiny polka dots in your cakes as fun as I do!

Photo courtesy of Disney Pixar Inside Out
Photo courtesy of Disney Pixar Inside Out
When I learned that Disney was making a movie called, "Inside Out," the title alone made me sure that I HAD to design a surprise inside cake around it. And then I learned there were polka dots in the movie! Memory Orbs. Absolutely perfect for this method!

Here are some earlier mini polka dots.
A surprise inside polka dot pumpkin cake.

And this fun confetti colored polka dot naked birthday cake.

But we're here to talk about how you can make your own Surprise Inside "Inside Out" polka dot cake. So let's get started!!!

This method is different from my original Surprise Inside Polka Dot Cake in that it will produce the same size dots in every slice. And you don't need a special cake pop pan. Just some piping bags and you're set to go!

I usually begin with white cupcakes for the crumbs so that the colors will stay true. I use two cookie sheets on the rack above to deflect some of the heat. This way the tops don't brown.

Twenty four cupcakes from one Duncan Hines cake mix all baked and ready to rumble. Er, crumble.

Perfectly baked and yummy looking but no tasting of these beauties just yet.

I always try to use white paper liners when making cupcakes for crumbs. Any slight browning that occurs mostly sticks to the paper so you end up with whiter crumbs.

The bowl in the front has crumbs from the same brand of cake mix baked in a jelly roll pan with parchment and cookie sheets above during baking. So much browner than the cupcake crumbs in the rear bowl. Which is fine if you're making dark colors. But I only used the white ones here.

The white crumbs from one baked Duncan Hines mix were divided evenly (about 1 1/8 cups per bowl) between five bowls. Then about 1/2 cup of batter from a second double batch of white cake mix was added to each bowl.

Once the crumbs and batter were well mixed, each bowl was tinted with Americolor gel color to coordinate with the Sixlets colors. I choose these candies for their bright and shiny finish, wide color assortment, perfect size and taste. They're chocolate. And delicious. Plus they are so tiny and cute that they couldn't possibly contain more than 3 calories each. I hope.

You can buy them in bulk by the color at some candy shops. I found mine at the local party supply but they don't seem to offer them online. Probably 'cuz they're chocolate. You can also buy them here.

I used a number 12 round piping tip from Wilton. But I only had one so I measured 1" from the point of the the remaining bags and cut them to match the size of opening of the tip.

Five fun filled piping bags filled with the crumb/batter mixture to match the Sixlets candies! BTW, these chip clips work WONDERFULLY for sealing up your piping bags. Just give the bag a twist after filling and snap in place. SO much easier to remove than a twist tie or rubber band when you need to refill or clean up. Thanks to Georganne of LilaLoa for this great idea!

These were the templates I designed a couple of years ago and edited for this project. I only ended up loosely following them in the end.  I didn't have room for the last two rings in the center so maybe next time I'd start with a smaller piping tip. Or not. Six rows of dots in each slice was plenty.

I used ten somewhat straight sided aluminum foil pans at about .25 each to avoid waiting for each pan to bake. I don't own that many real pans of the same size. But you can substitute real ones if you'd like. The price tag said they were 7 inches but they only measured 5 1/2 inches at the bottom so be sure to measure before you plan out your cake. Spray each pan with Baker's Joy or grease and flour. You may want to add a parchment round and spray again just to make sure they don't stick to the bottom.

Add 3 Tablespoons of batter to each pan and tilt and rotate pan to distribute evenly. The batter barely covers the pan but that's what you want.

Starting at the outside edge of the pan, pipe six rows of the crumb/batter mixture on top of the batter, alternating colors for each ring. Repeat for the remaining nine pans. Be sure to switch up the order of the colors. 

Here's the order I used but you can mix it up any old way you'd like:
Ring One: Red, Purple, Green, Blue, Yellow, Red. 
Ring Two: Purple, Green, Blue, Yellow, Red, Purple. 
Ring Three: Green, Blue, Yellow, Red, Purple, Green.
Ring Four: Blue, Yellow, Red, Purple, Green, Blue.
Ring Five: Yellow, Red, Purple, Green, Blue, Yellow.
Repeat Rings 1-5 for the second set of five pans.

I misjudged the number of rings since I thought the pans measured at least 6 inches across to match the templates. Silly girl with no tape measure! I also ran out of certain colors toward the end so I just piped what I had without following the 5th ring order for the last two pans. No biggie. The colors in the movie are supposed to be random anyways but I was attempting to distribute the colors evenly so as not to run out. And I almost made it!

Here's a shot of the first five pans. There was a second set of five pans for 10 total layers. Sounds like a lot but they were very thin layers. Plus I wanted a tall barrel type cake to imitate the towers.

Once the ten pans were filled with the piped rings, I added 3 more tablespoons of white batter.

Then I used a silicone brush dipped in water to gently smooth the batter over the rings.

Little foil tags marked the pans indicating which template was in which pan. This helped later when stacking the layers. The layers were baked at 350F in two batches. Mine were done at about 20 minutes.

Here's a layer all baked. You can still see the ring colors so the labels probably weren't all that necessary but I wasn't sure about that part when I started this little project. And looking at the tag numbers was much easier than matching the layers to the templates during assembly.

I wanted all of the layers to be level without having to trim each one and risk cutting off those precious dots. So I used the damp paper towel method for flattening. Once you try it, you'll be hooked and may never trim a cake layer again.

The paper towel edges were folded over and then the layers were stacked with a couple of bowls to help flatten them as they cooled. Which took no time at all since they were so thin.

Again, the rings are plainly visible so you don't really need the foil labels but I threw them in the bags just in case. This size fit perfectly in a quart Ziploc storage bag. Plastic wrap would also work but I just wash and reuse the bags for other baking projects.

The layers were laid in single layers inside quarter sheet pans and then stacked in the freezer before the crumb coat.

And then it was time for the buttercream. You can see how light it started out. I almost always get my shades too dark so this time I was extra careful and played it safe on the lighter side.

Once the layers were frozen, they were stacked starting with template 5 at the bottom. Then 4, 3, 2, 1 and then the second set of five layers on top using the same order.

The first crumb coat before they were off to the freezer to firm up again.

Then the final top coat and back to the freezer. See how dark the purple buttercream turned out? An even layer thick enough to hold the Sixlets is all you need since there's already a good amount of icing between those ten layers. And you don't need to get all crazy with the smoothing on the sides since they'll be completely covered in chocolate.  Oh! Doesn't that sound nice? I want to be completely covered in chocolate too! Sorry. Squirrel. Just make sure you have nice level sides and a smooth flat top.

I started with about a cup of each of Sixlets candies for four of the colors and twice as much of the yellow since JOY was prominent in the movie. I only ended up using about a half a cup of each of the four colors and one cup of yellow when it was complete. Snacks!!!

The shelves between each row of Sixlets were made of wafer paper. It's inexpensive and lightweight but you may want to tell your guest to peel it off before eating. It's not great tasting but rather tasteless. I added a drop or two of oil based candy flavor during the coloring process but the texture is well, like eating paper. Kids might love this part but adults . . . not so much.

I cut two arcs for each shelf and then placed them as I went. The ends were overlapped slightly for a continuous band. I also used four straight strips (not shown) to duplicate the vertical lines shown in the movie. Just slide the arcs between the rows and the buttercream will anchor them in place. My cake used eighteen shelves x2 per shelf or 36 arcs.

The arcs and strips were colored with oil based candy color and a brush. I dabbed off so the excess color so that it wouldn't stain those lovely shiny candies.

Here's a shot of the rows before I added the 4 vertical strips. 
(And before I froze it. Try to avoid this. Read on . . . )

The topper for the cake was a hand cut black fondant silhouette with chocolate lettering inspired by one of the movie's teasers. Really easy to do. And you never want to expose yourself to my attempts at modeling figures! I truly can't afford the therapy costs involved for all parties. Myself included.

Do you hear voices? I've never been properly introduced to all of mine but they're in there. The purple disk behind the silhouette is chocolate so that the topper could be removed easily before slicing.

Here's the cake with the vertical strips in place. They were just tucked under the top and bottom shelves once the cake was complete.

And then it was time to cut it open and see how many Sixlets would fly across the floor. I almost always try to slice my cakes when they're frozen or very chilled but once you add the Sixlets and wafer paper, putting the decorated cake in the freezer is a big no-no. The coating on the candies will dull slightly and get watery as the cake thaws. Not a great look. This cake WAS frozen after decorating. My mistake. So you don't have to make the same one. I know, I know. Do as I say. Not as I do.

The four previous photos show the cake after freezing and thawing. Although the pictures don't show it well, those little candies got quite moist and could no longer be touched without smudging.  Good news is that the wafer paper stayed in place and didn't warp. There was an excellent chance of that since wafer paper shrivels and shrinks when it comes in direct contact with any moisture (and buttercream) but it held up well for whatever reason.

Here's the sliced cake! Tah-daaaa!!! It's really just half a slice or 5 of the ten layers. That kind of slice would require an entire platter. And a turkey fork.

From inside your head to inside your cake to inside your jeans in a matter of hours! Unless you don't have a slice. Dare you. Double dare you.  

One of those little voices is surely saying, "Go on, have a bite." And the other, "DON'T. DO. IT." Which one will prevail?

I was only kidding about the Sixlets flying over the kitchen during cutting. But they did. EVERYWHERE. Perhaps cutting over a tray with a lip would help. Or leave the outside plain for even more contrast and surprise. Just throw a few candies on the plate during serving.

The wafer paper doesn't slice so easily. I'd like to say that the cake sliced nicely when using a hot knife. It didn't. Maybe remove the wafer paper before cutting.

Since the cake is too tall (7 inches! and about 6 1/2" across with the candies) for one lengthwise slice to be a serving, use a second cake round between the sets of five layers. I like the plastic corrugated kind that hold up better than cardboard. Especially in a cake this moist. I didn't use any straws or any other type of supports and the cake held up just fine.

The white cake between the dots almost disappears which is the look I was after. Yay! And finally, the cake stayed really moist with all the frosting!

Stuff you need for this: 

The colors I used were Americolor Super Red, Regal Purple, Electric Green, Royal Blue and Lemon Yellow.

I used a total of 3 Duncan Hines white cake mixes and the ingredients called for on the box along with a double batch of buttercream. There was some batter and frosting left over.

Sixlets: about 1/2 cup of four colors and 1 cup yellow for a total of about 1 1/2 pounds.

Wafer paper is available online. I used 3 or 4 of the large sheets. You'll also need candy color and an edible marker for tracing your template as well as scissors and a ruler.

Thanks for stopping by!