Wednesday, July 6, 2011

I'd rather be...making a sweet sixteen cake

I was lucky enough to get to make a special cake for a very special girl!  Lizzy turned sixteen this past May and because she is so fun I wanted to make a cake that was just a fun as she is!  To do so I wanted the inside to be as fun as the outside.  I had already decided to use bright colors to decorate the outside.  I LOVE bright, bold colors.  They very much appeal to my personality.  Most of the time I need to tame my choices down because bright isn't appropriate for every event-but this time I thought the brighter, the better!

So back to making the inside be as fun as the outside.  This is my new favorite trick.  People are always surprised when they cut into the cake and find out what is waiting for them.  And the thing is, its so simple!  Simply make a white cake mix (either from a box or from scratch) and add the coloring of your choice.  I use either Americolor or Wilton gel coloring.  Remember a little goes a long way.  Add a few drops and mix.

If you want to have more then one color in your cake, simply divide the batter into seperate bowls.  I chose to make this cake bright pink with lime green polka dots.  To make a design, pour the base color in first and then spoon/pour the second color into the pan.  You don't need to stir or shake the pan.  The colors will bake just as you put them in.

Here is a pic of my sweet, sweet helper!  She is always encouraging me and sharing wonderful ideas to help make my projects better :)

Here is the final cake.  It was so fun to make a cake for Lizzy!  I haven't been doing this for long but get a little stronger each time.  So for all of you out there just starting out like me, keep at it!  With each cake, cookie or any other sweet baked good you make there is an opportunity to learn something new.

Happy baking!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I'd rather be...actually making cookies ;)

Sometimes even with the best of intentions things just don't turn out right.  Ever happen to you?  Well this past week I was sick but still wanted to make some cookies for Munchkin's preschool teachers.  Friday was her last day of preschool and I wanted to make some cookies as a small token of thanks!  Her teachers at Lincoln Montessori were amazing and it was the least I could do for them.

Being sick and working full time, I really didn't have the energy to come home and make a batch of cookie dough and icing.  So being the genius that I am, I thought to myself "You know they do sell pre-made sugar cookie dough at the grocery store-why not give it a try?", big mistake.

I swear I rolled out the dough and used a cookie cutter before I baked the dough.  As you can see, then end result didn't so much turn out.  I will lovingly name these cookies "the blobs".

 Disappointed but not yet ready to totally give up I came up with another "brilliant" idea.  I wondered if I used my cutter to actually cut the shape out of the already baked cookie.  Now I didn't think it would be perfect, but worth a shot.  Um...not so much ;)

So instead of beautiful apple cookies for Munchkin's amazing teachers

I ended up getting a Barnes and Noble gift card and bouquet of flowers

It's definitely the thought that counts but still I'm disappointed in myself for trying to take a short cut.  But lesson learned.  So here is the recipe I've been using and should have used this past week.  Hope it works out for your guys!  I got this recipe from Marian's site at  I highly recommend you check this site out for recipes and ideas.  She is just so talented!

Sugar Cookie Recipe


2  1/2 cups butter (at room temperature)
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
seeds from 1 vanilla bean (or 3 tsp vanilla)
5 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt


1.  Cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer on low to medium speed.  (Use the paddle attachment).  Mix until thoroughly incorporated – for about one minute.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a plastic spatula and mix again for a few seconds more.
Over mixing the butter and sugar in this step will cause too much air to be incorporated into the dough.  If you’d like a light and fluffy cookie, that’s ideal, however the dough will spread more during baking; not ideal if you’d like the cookie to hold its shape.
2.  Add eggs slowly and mix.  Scrape down the bowl with your spatula at least once and mix again.
3.  Cut open your vanilla bean and scrape the seeds out.  Add to mixing bowl.  Alternatively, add liquid vanilla extract.  Stir briefly.
4.  Sift your dry ingredients together.  (Flour, baking powder and salt).
5.  Add all of the flour mixture to the bowl.  Place a large tea towel or two small tea towels between the edge of the bowl and the electric mixer so that the flour won’t escape.  Mix on low speed for 3o seconds.  Remove the tea towels and observe the dough mixing; when it clumps around the paddle attachment it’s ready.  It’s also important at this stage not to over mix the dough (the glutens in the flour develop and the dough can become tough).
6.  Roll the dough out between 2 large pieces of parchment paper.  Place on a baking sheet and into the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour.
7.  Roll out the dough further if you need to, and cut out cookie shapes.  Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Re-roll scraps and repeat.
8.  Put cookie dough shapes back into the fridge for 10 minutes to 1 hour to chill again.  They will then hold their shape better when baked.
9.  Preheat your oven to 350°F or 176°C.
10.  Bake cookies for 8-12 minutes or until the edges become golden brown.  The baking time will depend on the size of your cookie.
11.  Let cookies cool to room temperature and decorate!

And of course its not a post if I don't throw in a picture of one of my girls ;)  Here is Munchkin with her teacher Jeanne on the last day of school.
Thanks to a wonderful teacher and happy baking to you all!  I would love to hear how this recipe turns out for you guys!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I'd rather be...making cookies for my sister :)

If you don't mind I'm going to brag about my baby sister.  This past weekend she graduated from Kansas State University as a doctor of Veterinary Medicine.  She has worked really hard for the past several years in order to reach her dream of being a vet.  She has wanted this since she was a little girl.  Unlike myself, she has always seemed to know what she wanted to be when she grew up!  So when I learned of the date of her graduation ceremony, I decided to make some cookies as a small token to show her how proud I am.

In honor of my sister's awesome accomplishment I thought a plate of kitties and puppies would be appropriate.  We have always had a full house of furry, four-legged babies.  There is just something so pure about the love of an animal!  I also included some dog bones decorated with the KSU purple.

I will point out that the brown bear looking cookies are supposed to be puppies.  I took a large metal cupcake cookie cutter and stretched it to make a shape that as closely fit the desired shaped as possible.  It was pretty easy to change the shape of the cookie cutter and at a $1 its a pretty inexpensive way to custom made cookie cutter.  I wasn't expecting the cookie to spread so much.  I'm still looking in to how to keep my cookies from spreading so much.  The smaller ones didn't spread but the big puppies spread quite a bit. 
Here is what the cookies were supposed to look like:

Super cute right?!  I might try this guy again as I think he is super cute.  My attempt wasn't bad, but I definitely have room for improvement.

I really enjoyed making these cookies for her!  She has worked really hard and I can't wait to see what an amazing vet she'll become!  Plus I fully expect free vet service for all my four-legged babies whenever she is around ;)

I just have to throw in this pic of my sister and my munchkin!  Munchkin loves her aunt to pieces and can't wait to fly on a plane and visit her in Virginia!

Happy Baking to you!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I'd rather be...making baby face cookies

Today there was bake sale for the March of Dimes.  I love to help raise money for causes that are near and dear to my heart.  March of Dimes focuses on helping the babies make it to full-term and researching the problems that threaten babies lives.  Having two beautiful daughters of my own, I realize what a miracle each baby is.  It really hit home last year when one of my closest friends gave birth to her daughter about 6 weeks premature.  It was a scary time while Maisyn fought for survival.  She is now a happy healthy totally sweet 14 month old.  You would never guess that she is a preemie.  But until we can reduce or eliminate premature births altogether its important to keep raising funds for important research and support.

I originally was going to make some cookies with the March of Dimes symbol on them.  However with all the cookies I've made over the last week and a half I wanted to do something simple.  Its also hard to make detailed cookies during the week.  I don't get a lot of time to decorate between working and spending time with the girls!  But I still wanted to do something that went with the baby theme.  So I decided to make baby faces.  Pretty sweet huh? 

I loved making these guys!  It was also the first time I tried using food markers.  I used the black and red markers that came in the package I got at JoAnn's.  I learned that its very important to allow your cookies to dry completely before using the markers.  I iced the cookies around 9pm last night and drew their faces at 6am this morning.  So sufficed to say I didn't let them completely dry-ops!

 I had to be very, very careful with my pressure.  The curly-ques were easy since the outer edges were dry.  The hardest features to draw were the mouths.  If I pushed even just a tad too hard it would push down and distort the mouth.  Long story short-the lesson I learned was to let the icing DRY!  Which also applies to the marker too.  I didn't let them dry before I bagged them up for the bake sale.  A few of the babies arrived a little smudged :(  But lesson learned right ;)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I'd rather be...making Easter cookies

So two posts in two days!  I wanted to share the cookies I made for my grandmother and her twin sister's 80th birthday party.  Today is her actual birthday but we celebrated last weekend.  It was so special to be able to join in with family to celebrate these two amazing women! 



 I was asked to make cookies with a Spring theme.  I make three different designs-bunnies, sweet baby chicks, and Easter eggs.  And a special shout-out to my friend Kaitlyn!  She helped me decorate the Easter eggs.  She did an amazing job and it was fun to work on the cookies together!

No Kaitlyn didn't make these extra special cookies!  These beauties were made by my 4 year old.  She made the purple one especially for her Grandma Jan and the blue one for herself.  You can see the love and attention she put into each cookie :)


I hoped you enjoyed this post!  If so, I would like to encourage you to sign up for the newsletter so you can get these posts sent directly to your email :)  Just in case you're curious my next post will include my baby face cookies I made for the March of Dimes bake sale at work.

Happy baking and I hope you all have a wonderful Easter season spent with friends and family!

Monday, April 18, 2011

I'd rather be...making butterflies and flower cookies

Its been such a crazy month!  Tax time is always such a "fun" time in my world ;P  To help ease some of the stress and frustration I made cookies for my friend Annette.  Her sister is in from Arizona for a surprise visit to their mom.  Annette thought her mom would enjoy some butterflies and flowers!

Now I apologize for the not-so pretty pictures!  I was tired and was in the process of getting them boxed up before I remembered to take any pictures.  The butterflies were a little time intensive.  If you don't give darker colors a chance to fully dry before you add another color, the two colors will bleed together.

To achieve the designs on the butterfly wings I used the 'wet-on-wet' method.  This is when you add your secondary colors immediately after flooding the cookie with the first color.  I did a combination of lines and dots, then I used a toothpick to create the different designs.  I know a TOOTHPICK!  Its really that easy.  It does take some practice-which I still need-but its also really fun.  I would encourage you to give it a try!

So I told you I was kinda lazy about taking pictures this time around....can you see the butterflies peeking through the parchment paper?  I warned you ;)  These are the daisy flowers for Annette.  Growing up she loved daisies, so these were very appropriate for her.  I love it when I can make something that is personally meaningful for someone else! 

My favorite part of these flowers are the bright colors.  The bright spring colors just made the cookies all the more appealing to me.  I have to admit that I made a few extra so that I could enjoy some myself ;)  What I found interesting though were the centers.  I made the centers out of icing and covered them with white nonpareils the night before.  When I went to adhere them to the cookies I noticed that the nonpareils had changed colors.  They were really fragile but I sorta liked the affect.

Next I'll share some of my Easter cookies.  Until then...happy baking!  Bon soir!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I'd rather be...making chocolate chip cookies

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon Alice's blog  I was looking for a buttercream recipe and I was amazed at what I saw.  Alice made a cake to look exactly like a pair of her nephews shoes.  This might sound weird, but seriously they look just like the real thing.  Her talent is just amazing!  Anyway, I started searching some of her other recipes.  She has recipes that cover just about anything you can think of.  Being the sweet tooth that I am, I've only looked at the sweet in "savory sweet".  Thats when I found her chocolate chip cookie recipe.  Alice claims they are the BEST-and I was intrigued!  So I printed off the recipe and gave them a go.....

THEY WERE AMAZING!  I loved them.  I've made them twice now and am secretly craving some cookie dough.  I think I might have to make some more just so that I can eat the dough.   

Chocolate chip cookies are just a great comfort food.  You can't go wrong with them...the smells, the yummy gooiness always just hit the spot.  I made these this past weekend and my friend's husband couldn't stop eating them.  I'm pretty sure he had an easy dozen, if not more!  I can't wait to make my next batch.  I highly recommend that you try these too! 

Enjoy and happy baking!

PS. I also recommend Alice's buttercream recipe...its literally the best I've ever tried!