Tag Archives: frosting

The Outlaw Mom’s Gingerbread Sweetheart Mini Cakes and Cake Balls

21 Jul

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E & C are getting married!

To celebrate, Jane and I made them Gingerbread Sweetheart Cakes.

These sweet little cakes would be perfect for celebrating Valentine’s Day, a birthday or an anniversary, too!

Ingredients

  • gingerbread cake (from scratch or mix)
  • almond buttercream frosting (or cream cheese frosting)
  • fondant
  • candy melts (or white chocolate)
  • heart-shaped cookie cutter

Step 1

Follow my cake pop tutorial to combine your gingerbread cake and my favorite buttercream frosting (or any vanilla frosting) into cake pop mix.  Instead of using all of the mix to create cake balls, form and flatten three or four palm-sized balls of the mix and use a cookie cutter to cut out heart-shaped cakes.  With the remainder of the mix, form your standard cake balls used for making cake pops.

Step 2

While your mini cakes and cake balls are chilling in the refrigerator, roll out and cut your fondant using the same cookie cutter from Step 1.  (If you dislike the taste of fondant, you could substitute the fondant with marzipan or leave it out completely and stick with the buttercream or cream cheese frosting).  You can also cut out any other decorative shapes now.

Step 3

Attach the fondant heart cutouts to the mini cakes with a generous layer of frosting.  I used my favorite buttercream frosting, but substituted the vanilla extract with almond extract for a more exciting flavor against the warm and spicy gingerbread.

Step 4

Turn your cakes upside down and spread a layer of melted candy melts to the entire base of each cake.  This will give the cake a more solid surface to sit on and also add another sugar kick to the overall taste of the cakes.  You could always substitute white chocolate for the candy melts, but keep in mind that if the weather is warm, the chocolate will melt or sweat, while the candy melt will stay put longer.

Step 5

After your cakes have been chilled and the candy melt bases have dried, start decorating!  For fun, I decorated the cake balls with Xs and Os, attached with a candy melt base.  Again, you could substitute chocolate for the candy melts.

Happy Baking!  And Long Live Love!

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Delphinium Dollop Chocolate Cake Balls

13 May

Sometimes cake pops can be too time-consuming and labor intensive.  Sometimes a treat on a stick – no matter how trendy – is not the right dessert for your mood or your occasion.  Sometimes simple is best.

Save yourself time and effort and create a delicious bite-sized dessert with minimal effort by following my cake pop tutorial and tips here and here and simply topping your chilled cake balls with a dollop of my favorite buttercream frosting tinted a beautiful spring-into-summer delphinium blue.

Enjoy!

The Rise of Spring: Easter Craft & Baking Recap

28 Apr

I’ve always looked forward to back-to-school sales in early August, which mark the imminent start of the school year ahead.  New academic apparel means Halloween – the first official “holiday” of Fall – is around the corner, with Thanksgiving soon to follow, and Christmas rounding out the holiday season in early Winter.

This trio of festivities continually make Fall my favorite season with all the crafting, baking and planning involved for each occasion.

And of course, Fall wildly surpasses all other fashion seasons.  Autumn collections deliver, with bold classics for the serious fashionista.  Spring and Summer looks, on the other hand, tend to fall short.  They’re so full of – well – frivolous frippery, if you will.  Yes, platform sandals and gauzy blouses get my heart in a tizzy, but after the thrill of neon brights and florals wears off, you’re just left with a few flimsy pieces.

The same it was – I thought – for spring and summer crafting and baking.

I never thought I would say this, but I think Spring may be nudging out Fall as my favorite season.

Maybe having kids has gotten me all soft.  But it seems that my yearning for mellow autumn days of melancholy sunlight and the chill of winter solitude has been replaced by a fondness for chirpy chicks, fuzzy bunnies, bright pastels and the zippity-do-da of Spring.  Could it be that I’m ready to drop my teen angst at the ripe old age of 35?

With peppy springtime projects like candy-filled eggs, confetti cake pops, painted puppet boxes, sprinkled cookies and paper mache eggs, I just might be.

Candy-Filled Easter Eggs

All the cracking, bashing and crunching made these by far and away the most exciting springtime activity for the kids!  They also make a gorgeous hostess gift, too.

Materials:

  • eggs (white eggs will take color better than brown, but you can do a few uncolored, brown eggs for variety – I even did some white uncolored eggs)
  • vinegar
  • hot water
  • McCormick food and egg dye in the regular and neon colors (a fun – and much faster – alternative to dyeing the eggs is simply decorating with markers or stickers)
  • a non-metal container
  • mini cupcake paper/foil baking cups
  • glue

Instructions:

For detailed step-by-step instructions, see not martha‘s excellent tutorial for Easter Surprise Eggs here.

I followed the color recipe exactly because her eggs turned out so strikingly beautiful, but the only recipe that developed into a similar color to hers was the blue – and still it wasn’t quite as robin’s egg/turquoise in color.

The Outlaw Mom’s Tips:

  • If you agitate the eggs, you’ll get splotchy color, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  In fact, Hubby and Grandma’s favorite egg was the one that turned out the most speckly.

  • If you use just-boiled water and highly acidic vinegar (like I did), when you drop your egg into the coloring solution, it will spin and fizz like crazy on its own, which creates the speckled effect.
  • Although most blogs advise not to move your eggs around, I found that dipping the eggs once for an initial coat, and then dipping additional times to increase the color intensity worked better than when I tried the recommended method of letting the eggs sit in the solution and then rotating halfway during the coloring time.  Submerging the entire egg or leaving the egg floating on top of the solution didn’t seem to make a difference (except that if you leave the egg floating on top, you’ll have to rotate four times – quarter turns).

  • When taking the eggs out of the boiling water during sterilization or the just-boiled water for the solution, do not lift the egg out completely vertically so that the boiling hot water drips down on to your finger!  Try a more horizontal angle.
  • Try an eggs inside of eggs look.  I chose Cadbury Mini Eggs as the main candy,  Marich Mint Chip Maltballs to go along with the speckled theme, and Jelly Belly Ice Cream Parlor  jelly beans for more of the speckled egg look.  Sconza Dark Chocolate Raisins finished out the mix.

  • Use mini-cupcake baking cups to seal your eggs.  Stickers don’t fold around the jagged opening as well.  I used polka-dot mini-cupcake paper baking cups for all the colors except the blue eggs, which I sealed with silver foil cups.

  • Present the eggs in a clear tin for a pretty and practical way of transporting this gift.  Alternate the eggs with layers of paper Easter grass.

I think we’ll be making these for other occasions, too.  I see Fourth of July flag eggs, pumpkin eggs, Santa eggs . . . the cracking is irresistible fun!

Confetti Cake Pops & Ribbon Box

Since my first shot at the cake pop, I’ve been busy trying to perfect my technique.  I took my own advice on this attempt and chose white candy melts to make the spring confetti really pop.

The lifesaver this time around:  disposable candy melt bags.  I’m never making cake pops again without this handy dandy device!  You can melt and decorate so easily and with virtually no mess.  The double-boiler method would still probably give you the best results because it keeps the candy melts at an even temperature for a prolonged period of time, but my life is all about shortcuts these days.

For a fun spring birthday theme, I tried three different pastel confetti designs:

(1) all over confetti

(2) confetti dots

and (3) an ice cream look (covering only the top of the pop)

These were a birthday gift for a friend, so I needed a portable presentation.  A beribboned styrofoam block (using colored tacks) worked out perfectly.  A few tied ribbons on the cake pop sticks and a rectangular piece of cardstock used as a gift tag completed the present.

Wooden Spring/Easter Puppet Baskets

To make these springtime baskets – which make great children’s gifts – you’ll need:

  • wooden baskets (ours were $1 from Michael’s)
  • paint suitable for wood surfaces + a paintbrush
  • stickers
  • felt for the puppets (or buy pre-made felt puppets)
  • lollipop sticks (even a pencil will do – you just need something to prop up the puppet)

First, have your toddler paint the undecorated wooden baskets.  Let the paint dry overnight.

Then, decorate the painted boxes with stickers.

Finally, make your felt puppets or take your store bought ones and prop them up on a lollipop stick.  The easiest gift and super cute, too!

Easter Egg Sprinkle Cookies

These hard, cardboard-tasting “Ideal Sugar Cookies” were a total bust!  A little embarrassing because I gifted these to one of my friends, but it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it?  And they’re oh-so-pretty to look at.

The recipe was fine, but I doubled the butter and then tried to correct it by adding more of all the other ingredients and it just didn’t work. Of course, I used my favorite buttercream frosting, so licking off the sprinkled frosting was delicious!

“Paper Mache” Plastic Eggs

This is one project I couldn’t finish in time for Easter, but now that we have literally dozens of plastic Easter eggs littering our living room floor, I’m going to continue with the project anyway.  I only got so far as one egg, but the results are very cool.  Check out Sweeter than Sweets’ Tissue Paper Easter Eggs tutorial here.

Happy Spring baking and crafting!

Special Agent Oso Themed Birthday

13 Feb

For Jane’s first birthday last year we had a Hello Kitty themed party, with a cute fondant cake from Sugar Butter Flour.  This year, Jane wanted an “Oso birthday party!”  Here’s how we did it.

The Invitations

We mailed out these homemade invitations – download your free printable!

The Cake

Although my own mother made all of our birthday cakes when we were kids – in addition to all of our elaborate Halloween costumes every year – I rang up the bakery again this year to see if I could get a 3-D cake like this or cupcakes like this made for Jane’s party.  Turns out that this would cost more than both my arms and legs combined, plus a few of my vital organs as well.

So, with great determination, I set out to make a Special Agent Oso birthday cake on my own.

Special Agent Oso up close and personal

First, I bought the Wilton Stand-Up Cuddly Bear Pan Set at Michael’s.  This cake pan requires 2 firm ready-made cake mixes, like pound cake.  I chose one pound cake mix and one yellow cake mix.

Second, I made my first e-Bay purchase:  an edible image of Special Agent Oso with the text, “Happy Birthday Jane” from Cakes for Cures.  The image stores for up to a year and is very simple to peel off and apply to your cake.

Two days before the party, I pre-made the frosting using my favorite buttercream frosting recipe.  I mixed the colors using the Wilton 12 Icing Colors Set, which includes Aqua – the perfect color for Oso’s ears, eyes and paw prints.

Since I wouldn’t be using the frosting right away, I mixed the colors right into tupperware containers so I could pull them straight out of the fridge, re-whip, and use them immediately.  (You can re-whip with a fork instead of the mixer because the quantities are relatively small).  I mixed a generous amount of Yellow, equal amounts of Aqua and Black, a small amount of No-Taste Red and saved a small portion of uncolored frosting.

I also made the fondant cutouts two days in advance.  First I colored three pre-made fondant balls with the Wilton Icing Colors in Aqua, Yellow and pink (using No-Taste Red).   I rolled out the pink ball and used a fondant cutter to make 20 little number “2”s for the sides of the white sheet cake base.  Then I rolled out the yellow and shaped it into the base of the paw print image.  Last, I rolled and flattened smaller balls of the aqua and placed them onto the yellow base for the Oso paw print.

*Tip:  use a little bit of water to adhere the fondant pieces together.  Be careful not to use too much water or the fondant pieces will slide off of each other and the colors will bleed.  Finally, I created a few free form “2”s in green and aqua to use as accents.

A day before the party, I bought a white sheet cake from Costco which would serve as the base for the 3-D cake bear and feature the edible image and other decorative elements.

The evening before the party, I baked and decorated the 3-D bear.  The baking part was a little tricky because you need to pour the cake batter into an upright cake pan, but I enlisted the help of Grandpa to do this.  After letting the cake cool for two hours and with Jane’s figurine as my guide, I decorated Special Agent Oso free hand with the largest closed star decorating tip I had.

*Tip:  The larger the tip, the more time you’ll save because it will cover more surface area with each star.   And, the star tip is great if you’re short for time because you can easily disguise your mistakes and less than perfect handiwork is less noticeable.

After Special Agent Oso was finished, I covered him with plastic wrap and set him aside for the big day.

On the day of the party, I anchored Special Agent Oso to the sheet cake, piping extra frosting around his base to blend him into the cake and secure him well.  I placed the edible image on the remaining surface area of the sheet cake and used the fondant “2”s and multi-colored candy accents to finish the design.

Here’s the final result:

Special Agent Oso Birthday Cake

The Decorations

I love balloons, so any opportunity to go overboard, I take it.  Since Oso’s colors are turquoise and yellow, I ordered about 3 dozen balloons in yellow, blue and turquoise and hung them in two bunched columns.  We also had a giant mylar “2” balloon to mark the occasion.  We followed the same color scheme for the streamers and spread a blue plastic table cloth over our kitchen table for a little punch of color.

As a nod to Special Agent Dotty – the one female special agent – I hung these homemade Martha Stewart pom poms in bright pink and orange tissue from our ceiling.  (I’d love to take credit for putting these together, but actually got them from a friend who had put them together for her party).

Since there are no Special Agent Oso party supplies commercially available, I made do with the printable decorations from the Disney website’s Celebration Center, like this pinwheel.

One great idea is to cutout the different characters and paste them on to foam flowers in the Oso colors.  Here’s an example of one taped to our wall above the “Happy Birthday” banner:

I also made Digi-Medals for each of the children by cutting out the printable medals from the Disney website, writing each child’s name in permanent marker on the medals, laminating them, punching a hole in the top, and then attaching the medals to the neon-colored nametag necklaces I found at Diddam’s.

For the finishing touch, I decorated with lime green and yellow flowers in monochromatic bunches.

The Food

I knew I didn’t want to be in the kitchen cooking the entire time the 30 guests were here, so we came up with a simple, finger food menu that would be easy for the kids to eat and quick to prepare:

  • 3 dozen bagels (1/2 mini bagels) + assorted cream cheeses from Posh Bagel
  • frozen mini-quiches
  • cheese slices (cheddar, havarti, swiss, american)
  • crudites and ranch dip (try Costco‘s readymade vegetable platter with organic dip)
  • watermelon (sliced into “smiles” with the rinds on, rather than cubed)
  • coffee (Peet’s has great to-go containers and provides the stir stix, creamer, sugar, paper cups and lids)
  • apple juice and water

The bagels and coffee were the most popular; and next to the cake, the kids loved the watermelon slices the best.

Watermelon smiles

The Entertainment

The Jumpolene Uncle B gave us was the hit of the party!

All in all, a great day.

Easy Valentine’s Day Cake

12 Feb

We made this cake for Hubby’s birthday, but it’s just as easily a Valentine’s Day cake.

Birthday/Valentine's Day Cake

First, we greased and floured a heart-shaped Wilton pan, which you can easily find at Michael’s or online.

One trick to avoiding Crisco-hands is to scoop out the vegetable shortening in a paper towel instead of directly onto your fingers.  Your toddler can help squishing around the greased up towel and then banging on the edges of the pan to evenly distribute the flour.

Next, we followed the directions on a Betty Crocker Super Moist ready-mix cake.

Any ready-made cake mix – or your homemade recipe – will work fine.  We chose chocolate because that’s Hubby’s favorite, but any old flavor will do.  (Although, I think the even dark brown of the chocolate mix makes for a nice background for the frosting colors).

After pouring the batter into the cake pan and setting it in the oven to bake, we started on the homemade frosting.

This delicious buttercream frosting recipe is the tastiest part of all our homemade cakes.  It’s a traditional recipe for a heavy, sweet cake frosting, not anything light or gourmet, but it is the absolute definition of birthday cake frosting (in my book).

Frosting in primary colors

I separated portions of the white frosting into little bowls and sectioned tupperware and asked Jane to pick the colors – she happened to pick primary colors, which blended into nice greens and purples when the colors mixed together.  Your toddler can help make the colors by mixing a small dollop of food coloring into the plain white frosting with a spoon or fork.

*Tip:  if you mix the colors straight into tupperware, you can easily chill and store the pre-made frosting until it’s decorating time.

Finally, it was time to decorate.  I set the cake on a sheet of aluminum foil and let Jane have at it with the spatula.  Her method – which was totally self-taught – is to poke holes in the cake with her fingers and then fill in the holes with frosting and go over the cake a second time with another layer of frosting.  An ingenious filled-cake method.

Happy baking!

Favorite Buttercream Frosting Recipe

12 Feb

This is the BEST buttercream frosting recipe I’ve come across and it’s the same one my mom used for all of my birthday cakes since the ’70s.  It’s my mom’s recipe, but I’m pretty sure it’s basically the Wilton recipe.  This frosting is easy as pie and takes all of 15 minutes.  You’ll love it!

Frosting Delight!

Ingredients (makes approximately 3 cups of frosting)

  • 1/2 cup Crisco (or other solid vegetable shortening)
  • 1/2 cup room-temperature butter (1 stick)
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar (approx. 1 lb)
  • 1 tsp clear vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp milk

Mix the butter, vegetable shortening and vanilla extract with an electric mixer.  Then, slowly mix in the confectioners’ sugar.  Make sure the portion of sugar you’ve added is mixed in well before starting on the next portion of sugar.  Add in the milk throughout the process to keep the frosting moist enough to mix.  The frosting is ready when it has a medium, fluffy consistency.  Adding more sugar will make it thicker and adding more milk (or light corn syrup or water) will make it thinner.  Chill in the refrigerator before use.  The frosting is good for about 2 weeks — just re-whip before using.

To color, just add gel or liquid food coloring.

*Tip:  if you’re trying to achieve an intense red color, use the Wilton No-Taste Red food coloring as opposed to the regular red to avoid a bitter tasting frosting.

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