Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Cake

Happy Memorial Day! Today I want to say a special thank you to all of the men and women who have served our country - past and present. My husband and I have several family members and friends who have served, or are preparing to serve, in various branches of the armed forces. I know how hard it can be on those close to those serving so thank you to the families of service men and women as well - the sacrifice you make is incredible. And to those that have given the ultimate sacrifice - your life for our country - we remember you today. Thank you.

To celebrate Memorial Day, I wanted to make a cake. I have been dying to try a ruffle cake. If you haven't seen one before - and I hadn't until recently - here is, I think, the original

I think ruffle cakes are adorable and I seem to be finding them everywhere online. Here's my twist for Memorial Day. It would be perfect for 4th of July as well!

First, I did a crumb coat on the cake and put it in the fridge for a while.

Then I just picked a place to start and did the first ruffle column and marked where I wanted the next one to go. I used Wilton petal tip #104 for the ruffles. 

Making the ruffles is easy. With the thick end of the tip closest to the cake, and the opening perpendicular to the cake, move the tip back and forth until you reach the top of the cake.

Then I just kept adding columns.

I ended the columns level with the top of the cake.

After this was finished, I sat staring at the cake, trying to figure out how to finish off the top. Here's what I came up with.

I just started in the middle, using the same tip. I kept the thick end of the tip towards the center of the cake at all times. I just kept adding rings of ruffle icing around the cake until it was completely covered. Here's the final product.

When doing the top of the cake, I found the center of the cake by putting dents in the frosting on the top of the cake and then spinning it around while looking at it from the top. The dot that appears to stay put is the center - assuming your cake is centered on your turntable.

I think next time I might use a tip that would yield a less thick ruffle - probably a #103, or even a #102. I mean, I like frosting... a lot, but it was a little thick.

I was very happy with how it turned out...

And it tasted even better!

I can't wait to try another ruffle cake - my head is already spinning with possibilities!

Have you tried a ruffle cake - how did it turn out? Have you seen someone do a cool twist on the ruffle cake? Post a link in the comments - I'd love to see! 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Memorial Day BBQ Cookies

Happy Memorial Day weekend! My hubby and I are heading up to my dad's house for a barbecue this afternoon. He smoked a pork shoulder and ribs and I am very anxiously waiting to eat them later! It was supposed to be storming today here in Minnesota but we got a perfect day - partly cloudy and 70!

I wanted to share with you some cookies I made for the weekend. They are barbecue/picnic inspired.

I made hamburgers, hot dogs, watermelon, suns, strawberries, and some caterpillars. Most of these were made from using cutters I already had and then trimming or reshaping the dough. 

The strawberries were a football cut in half and trimmed.

The suns were a sunflower cutter with every other petal trimmed off.

The hamburgers were made from a smooshed small circle cutter and the hot dogs were made from a "1" cookie cutter along with two circle edges for the bun.

The caterpillars were made from a question mark.

And finally, the watermelon. They were made by cutter a circle in half. I used a small flower cutter to make the bite.

Hope you have a wonderful long weekend and get the chance to grill, get outside, and spend time with friends and family!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wilton Decorating Basics - Week 4

On Monday I went to the final class of the Decorating Basics course.  This week was light on learning and heavy on decorating which was fun. The supply list for this week included a cake, frosted and ready to decorate as well as icing dyed to whatever colors we wanted for both practicing and decorating our final cakes.

 First, we learned about writing on cake and got a chance to practice our technique on our practice sheets. Well, tracing some cursive is no big deal, but having to do it freehand on a cake? Yeah, I was terrified! I am horrible at using cursive in everyday life, probably because I never use it. And I never use it because it looks horrible. Catch 22. I digress...  More on cake writing later.

So after practicing our writing, we learned the ribbon rose. Now, I sort of cheated and practiced over the weekend. Several people in class were surprised thinking I’d just gotten it on the first try. Of course I told them I practiced and that it only took 87 sad looking roses, plopped back into the icing bowl immediately upon completion, to get a few good ones. Yeah, that was frustrating.

Finally, the instructor just talked for a couple minutes about the “order of operations” for decorating a cake.
1) Message - so you make sure to have enough room
2) Flowers 
3) Leaves
4) Border

And that was it. We now know all the basics to cake decorating. So then it was time to decorate. I was totally lazy and didn’t design an original cake. I just did one from our class book.
Photo credit: Wilton
I was making this cake for a coworker’s birthday so the first thing I had to do was writing the birthday message on the cake. I was terrified! Here was this perfectly white, smooth cake and I had a piping bag full of purple icing. Maybe I’m crazy but talking myself up to make the first mark on the cake was like... the feeling you get before jumping off a cliff. Okay, that’s dramatic. More like ripping off a band-aid. It was scary! One wrong move and I’d have to start thinking of creative ways of covering up the scribbles on the cake.

But I was very surprised – writing cursive on a cake is actually much easier than with a pen and paper! Who would have thought? It’s probably because you’re going pretty slow. The real difficulty is not smudging the message while decorating the rest of the cake.... no one warned me to look out for that one...

The rest of the cake was pretty smooth sailing. I piped a mound of white icing where I wanted to roses so they would rest on that and not all flat on the cake.  Then I placed my roses, piped some leaves here and there, and did the bottom border and sides of the cake.

This class was a lot of fun. Signing up for this class, and having to get all the supplies, is what led me into the world of decorating and sugar art and to start this blog. I'm having tons of fun with it!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cake Pops with Friends

This past weekend I got to catch up with two friends, Terri and Marie. We've known each other for a long time - we went to the same church, middle school, high school, and college. Terri has since moved (too) far away and gotten married. Marie and I decided to make the trek to Wisconsin to see her together. Marie and I go WAY back... we grew up next door to each other since we were 5 years old. We were also roommates all four years of college. 

It was so great getting to catch up with these two - we don’t see each other often enough. One of the things we planned to do over the weekend was make cake pops! Marie was the most experienced cake pop maker of us all, she’d done it several times. I’d only done it once, and it was Terri’s first time.
Marie, the cake pop pro of our group 
We decided to make a double batch and made the cakes in advance. I brought a cooked, cooled, and crumbled red velvet cake and Terri had made a yellow cake. We decided to use a canned cream cheese frosting for the red velvet cake and chocolate frosting for the yellow cake.

We didn't do anything too fancy with the decorations, just picked some candy melt colors and used whatever sprinkles we had on hand. 

I have to admit. Cake pops were frustrating the first time I tried them. This second time went MUCH more smoothly... Here’s a couple things I learned:

1) Don’t make extra work for yourself – go with boxed cake and canned frosting.
The first time I made cake pops, I used boxed mix but made homemade frosting. I did this mostly because I’d read in a lot of reviews that the cake pops are almost too sweet with canned frosting. Well, I’ve had both now and I disagree. I do have a sweet too, but I really don’t think they are too sweet.

Cake pops are enough work as it is, you don’t need to add making a homemade frosting to the process. The difference in taste just isn’t drastic enough to justify it, in my opinion.

2) Use a spoon to assist with coating
Marie had a great tip for us - use a spoon to help coat the pop and get the excess off. I thought this was really helpful. Work with a cake pop in your right hand and a spoon in your left (if you're right-handed). Dip the pop in the candy melts and get a spoonfull of candy coating. Use the spoon to add candy coating to any missed areas. Then (without any pressure) rest the cake pop in the spoon and gently spin. Sorry I don't have photos of this, I didn't think of it at the time. I'll get some next time.

3) Grab a friend!
Make cake pops with friends whenever possible! This is by far the most helpful tip. The first time I made cake pops it took me several evenings to get through the entire batch. Granted, I did two different kinds. But still, it was frustratingly slow. I figured we'd be making cake pops all of Saturday this time around. But we completed two entire batches in only 90 minutes! 

Teamwork is your best bet when it comes to cake pops!!
Terri, me, and Marie

I'd definitely claim this cake pop adventure a success! In fact, it was such a breeze, I'm already itching to make them again :-) Thanks for a fun weekend, girls!

Oh, and I had to make a special cake pop to bring home for my hubby...

And, in case you were wondering, cake pops make a good treat on a long car ride :-D 

Have you tried cake pops? What's your favorite tip or trick you use to make it easier?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Wilton Decorating Basics - Week 3

Last night was the third week of my Decorating Basics class. This week we decorated cupcakes and started learning some buttercream flowers. For this class we had to bring 6 cupcakes and two batches of frosting pre-colored. While it was a bit of work making, dividing, and coloring all of the frosting, it was really nice not to have to do that in class. More time for learning new things and practicing!

First we did some practice on the practice sheets that come with the class kit. We practiced drop flowers, a shell border, and a couple different kind of leaves. Then we got to make our first pom pom flower. This was the first time we got to use a flower nail.

We also practiced frosting our cupcakes with the 1M tip.

Finally, we learned the shaggy mum flower. This one was harder than it looked.

This class was really fun. It was my first time really decorating cupcakes and I really like it! Cupcakes are easier than cake because you can mess up on one and not have the whole project messed up. :-)

Next week we'll make our final cake and learn the ribbon rose. Can't believe the class is almost over!

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cinnamon Chip Scones

You know why breakfast is awesome? Because there are so many breakfast foods that resemble dessert. Does any other meal have more foods that contain as much sugar as breakfast foods? Only if you count dessert as a meal.

Cinnamon rolls, syrup-covered waffles, pancakes, and french toast, donuts, pop-tarts, muffins. Pretty much all of these are a form of either cake or cookies dressed up in, what I like to call, their breakfast-suit.

Okay, okay. I know that most people don’t eat these things for breakfast ever day, which is good. But they are delicious, fun breakfast treats to have and today I want to share with you my favorite cookie-in-a-breakfast-suit: the scone!

Scones are like a thicker, fluffier, less sweet cookie. This is one of my favorite scone recipes. It is adapted from one that my step mom gave me. These are always a hit! If you try them out, leave a comment and let me know - I'd love to hear about it!

Cinnamon Chip Scones
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
8 tbls butter (1 stick)
½ cup sugar
½ cup cinnamon chips
¼ cup cinnamon/sugar mixture (if desired)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2. In a small bowl, mix buttermilk, egg, and vanilla

3. In a 7-cup (or larger) food processor, add flour, baking soda and powder, salt, and cinnamon. Pulse a few times to blend
4. Dice butter into small cubes, add to food processor
5. Pulse food processor until butter is pea-sized
6. Add sugar and pulse a couple times to incorporate
7. Add liquid mixture and pulse until everything is incorporated. Be careful not to over-mix or dough will become tough and elastic (disclaimer: this has happened to me and they still tasted delicious - so don't sweat it!)

8. Once wet and dry ingredients are starting to form a dough, dump onto a floured surface

9. Add cinnamon chips and kneed gently to finish incorporating ingredients

10. With your hands, or a rolling pin, form dough into a square approximately ¾ inch thick
11. Cut dough into 32 triangles as follows, place on cookie sheets

12. Wet tops of scones with water, sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar mixture (optional)

13. Bake for 8-12 minutes
14. Scones are done when tops are firm when lightly tapped with finger
15. Cool 2 minutes on pan, remove to cooling rack

16. Enjoy!

What’s your favorite dessert in a breakfast-suit?