Cupcakes to three-tiered cakes – oh boy!

My husband has so much more faith in me than I ever will.  That’s one of the many reasons I love him so much.  The guy really believes in me and despite my lack of confidence, many times he makes me believe in me, too.  Take for instance this three-tiered Over the Hill themed cake, or cake wreck if you prefer.  Ok, it wasn’t really that bad, but I still felt like I let the birthday girl down.  I think it’s the Virgo in me.  Virgos are perfectionists.  Perhaps that explains my lack of confidence and the reason I am so picky. *sigh*   I’d like to say it’s getting better with age, but sadly it’s not.

So, back to the story…hubby’s co-worker needed a cake for his wife’s 50th birthday party.  Because I like this particular co-worker so much, I  gladly volunteered and sent him some sample cake pictures to get an idea of what he wanted.  I hoped that he would pick the two-dimensional tombstone cake, not the stacked one.  It’s my own fault, I know.  I did send him the picture after all.  Soooo, there I was with a three-tiered monster challenging me to a fight and my husband cheering me on. I took a deep breath and after deconstructing the beast, I felt like maybe I could do this after all.  Here is the inspiration photo ( I apologize for not knowing who made it, but I can dig around and find out if you want me to.   It was on cakecentral.com.)

Inspiration cake

I didn’t have enough fondant to cover the cake and no time to order the one I like.  Yes, I could have picked up the Wilton fondant, but I wanted the cake to taste good.  Sorry Wilton, but your fondant is gross.  Fondant covered cake is really delicious if you have the right kind.  In my case, I like the Satin Ice brand.  I have heard you can make your own, but I have not tried that.  Yet. My cake was going to be covered in just  buttercream instead.  I did have enough fondant to make the tombstones and the reaper.  The one in the above photo is plastic.  I couldn’t find one near me.  So, I decided to make my own.  I was pretty happy with him.

Coffee cup, wooden skewer, rice krispie treats and fondant.

Draped in black fondant and fondant covered wooden skewer complete the look.

The three cakes were baked and assembled.  One chocolate Guinness cake with Bailey’s ganache center, one strawberry cake with strawberry swiss meringue center, and one vanilla cake with raspberry preserves in the center.  All were covered in different shades of gray.  Yes, on purpose.  😉  Cakes were stabbed with straws and wooden skewers for support and then carefully stacked in the “close your eyes and drop it” method.  Success!  Yay, me.  I added some decorative edging and admired my slightly lopsided creation.  Now to get this beast to the party in one piece.  Good grief was it heavy!  We got it in the car and the first bump we hit sent the bottom layers insides sliding around and trying to ooze out the sides.  Ugh!  I got it stabilized – hubby was driving and I was holding the cake – and we made it to the event.  Slightly lopsided became very lopsided.  I fixed it as best as I could and successfully fought the tears that threatened to flow.  Tombstones were carefully placed to hide the scars and the reaper was placed on top.

The finished wonky cake.

Much to my surprise the guests were amazed by the cake.  They loved how I made it wonky and lopsided – like I had done it on purpose.  🙂  They were all so sweet, that I quickly forgot about the mishap, and enjoyed the party.  The birthday girl seemed to really like the cake, too.  Yay. And the best part – they loved how it tasted.  Especially the strawberry cake.  Taste is equally, maybe more, important than how it looks in my opinion.  Ever bite into a beautiful cake and find out it tastes like ick.  Last two weddings I attended had cakes like that.  Very disappointing.  But I’ll save that rant story for another day.

Stay sweet,

Kate

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Sweet treat for my sweetie

Today is my hubby’s birthday.  We have celebrated his last 16 birthdays together.  *Sigh* I love him.  I’m so blessed to have him in my life.

To help kick off his big day, I made some yummy cupcakes for him to take to work.  Traditionally the birthday guy or gal brings in donuts or bagels to share, but I didn’t think they’d mind cupcakes. I was right.  They snatched these up almost as soon as they were set on the counter!

So what are these yummy sweets?  Well, they are Snickers cupcakes. Chocolate cupcakes filled with caramel sauce and chopped Snickers bars, topped with caramel buttercream, more chopped Snickers, and caramel drizzle. It was a lot of work, but so worth it for my guy.

Snickers filling

Snickers cupcakes

I have been keeping this recipe in my file for a while now.  I have never made caramel sauce, so my fear kept me from making it.  Silly me.  Turns out caramel isn’t so hard after all.  At least not with the guidance of a professional. This caramel sauce is delicious.  Tastes just like a Werthers!  Very toffee-like. Blends perfectly with the candy bar.  You can find the recipe for these at the wonderful food blog – www.annies-eats.com.  I bet you could easily replace the Snickers with Twix or Milky Way and it would be just a wonderful.

Stay sweet,

Kate

Easter Bunny Cupcakes

Last year I was inspired to make Sweet Sugar Belle’s (she has an amazing website!) Bunny Cupcakes -you can find them here –http://www.sweetsugarbelle.com/blog/2011/03/bunny-ear-cupcake-toppers/.  Talk about cute!  I was making a dessert for our church’s Friday Fish Fry and wanted to really wow them.  I think these did the trick!  Here is my version –  I must admit these were very time-consuming, but really worth the effort.  I used a bunny head cookie cutter and cut off the bottom part of the face (sorry bunny!), leaving just the ears and a small part of the head.  The cookie sinks into the frosting so you need a little extra. I froze the cut dough before baking to help them resist spreading in the oven.  Meh, it didn’t work as well as I hoped, but the ears turned out okay still.   I used royal icing to outline and flood the ears, waited for them to dry overnight, and then using a pink edible ink marker, drew in the pink centers. I think if I do it again I will use pink royal icing instead.  I “glued” popsicle sticks to the back of the ears using royal icing.  Once dry, they were ready to be inserted into the frosted cupcakes.  Add eyes and ears, mine were sprinkles I dug out of sprinkle mixes, and you are done!   I just love the pink heart noses!  Check out the directions and photos on Sugar Belle’s site for a detailed explanation and a photo of what good cookies look like.  Mine are a little rough.  They did taste good though, so there’s that.  Hee hee.

I am making dessert for another Fish Fry this week.  Trying to decide between coconut cupcakes with little bird’s nests on top or vanilla cupcakes with royal icing daffodils.  Hmmmm decisions, decisions…I will keep you posted.

Pinterest – Etiquette and Peeves

Pinterest is not just for pinning pretty pictures.  It is a valuable tool, as well. For example, I am able to keep all the recipes I want to try in one place. Want to try a new cupcake recipe? Open my Cuppycakes board, find a pin that I am interested in, and click to go to the website that will give me that recipe.  Piece of cake! (yes, pun intended.)  This is the genius of Pinterest.  Everything in its place and easy to find.  It makes those of us who are unorganized, organized. Seriously, sometimes I just open my boards and admire all my beautiful pins.  Very gratifying.

If you are new to Pinterest, you may be interested in a quick course on what to do and what not to do.  If you are not new to Pinterest,  you might still find these informative.  Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind.  Many of these are from personal experience, some I learned from others along the way.

1.  Play nice. Yeppers, it’s that simple.  You will find some pinners who like to post harsh comments or use Pinterest as their personal soapbox.  I simply choose to ignore them. I’m here to have fun, not get all preachy.  If you see a mistake in a pin description, simply tell the pinner in a nice way.  Telling them they are an idiot will not do anyone any good.  Yes, I have seen this.  Some people are just mean, I guess. In the end, though, they look like the idiots.

2. Always pin from the original website when possible.  And pin the permalink, not just the main blog page.  Many bloggers like to share their fellow bloggers genius ideas on their websites.  And that is wonderful!  I hope I get shared one day! But when you find a pin you like and have to open link after link to get to it, it becomes a task. If pinning from the source is not possible, please credit it in your description to save us all time and frustration.  Also, pin the permalink, not just the main website page.  Same principle.  It’s not fun to have to search the source site, especially if they have a lot of pages. When you re-pin an image, if it is already linked to the source, then you are good.  No need to go out and pin it from the site.  But not everyone follows this rule, so you won’t know if it’s original until you try it.

3. Do not pin a Google or other search engine image.  Again, frustration.  Doing this will not bring me to the website.  Take the time to open the website and pin from there, please and thank you.

4. Use the description box properly.  Your photo is lovely, but please tell me what it is.  A simple phrase, nothing fancy.  A good description is useful when searching on Pinterest.

5.  Hashtags. Don’t be afraid to use them.  This goes along with using Pinterest to search for inspiration.  Write a brief description and add hashtags to help us find it.  What is a hashtag, you ask? It’s a word preceded by a pound sign to further describe something. Like this – #chocolate.  You do not need to hashtag a word if it is already in the description, but you can if you want.

6. Do not copy the instructions or recipe to the description.  This makes for not only a very long pin, but also doesn’t give anyone incentive to visit the website that originally posted it .  Bloggers and web authors spend a lot of time, money, and energy to provide you with great ideas.  They deserve to have the traffic sent to their site.  Besides, who wants to try to follow instructions written in a tiny box?

7. Do market yourself, but don’t overdo it.  Pinterest is a great marketing tool, however that is not what is was designed to do. Don’t get me wrong, it’s perfectly fine to use it to share your ideas or product, but don’t overpopulate the site by pinning your stuff over and over. Honestly, I have yet to see this become a problem, but I think it should be said.  It is very exciting having someone pin from your site!  And I give myself a high five, so to speak, when something I have pinned gets lots of repins.  Makes me feel like I have good taste. 🙂

8. Pinterest is NOT kid-friendly.   Is it really necessary to get your point across by using the f-bomb?  Browse the humor section (and sometimes other random categories) and you will be bombarded with foul language and lewd jokes.  And yes, if I don’t like it I don’t have to read the Humor section.  I get it.  Some of them make me laugh, too.  But, parents should be warned. Besides the language, be aware that there are a few nude images. I have never found one to be distasteful (okay there was one so awful I shudder to think about it), but parents should know that they exist and pop-up in the oddest places.  I have even found one while browsing recipes.  I think it was simply pinned it to the wrong board.  Pinterest is an amazing tool and I wish my daughter could share it with me.   But I am concerned about what she will find.  For now, she will have to browse along with me.

9. Beware of the grammar police.  I am guilty of this, I can’t lie.  When I see a word misused or misspelled, I get a twitch and I yell at my computer screen.  Do I point it out? No. I am not perfect, so I don’t think I should be correcting others. Other pinners will, though.  So at least try to be correct because the grammar police are not always nice about it.

10. Do you have to follow someone if they follow you?  From what I understand, it is considered rude not to follow someone who follows you on Twitter.   I do not think the same rule applies on Pinterest.  However, the jury is still out on this one.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  If it’s a friend, I will follow back. If someone I don’t know is following me, it is probably because they have like my pins and have similar interests.  To me that is a compliment! I always take the time to browse their boards and follow any that I like.

I hope this has been informative and will help us all have a great Pinterest experience.  One more thing I want to point out. Spam sucks.  I have seen a lot of pins saying “Pin this and Pinterest will give you free Starbucks, or free KFC, or free gift cards.”  Sorry to break the news to you, but that is not going to happen if you pin it.  Really people who create spam are just so irritating!  I think we are all smart enough not to fall for that, but I still keep seeing it, so maybe we are not.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the list.  Please!!!

Kate

Pinterest – The Basics

Ah, Pinterest.  I am sure you have all been hearing about this amazing pinning site in the last few months.  I am here to give you the lowdown (as I see it, anyways.)  I joined/was invited to Pinterest six months ago, so I have had time to learn my way around the site and really see the benefits of it.  I have seen a major jump in users in the last month.  Wowzers!  Invitations were flying! I love that I can connect with friends by sharing all the things we find interesting. I have learned a lot about people just by looking at their pins. It’s like a glimpse inside their minds.

What is Pinterest? Wikipedia defines it as a pinboard-styled social photo sharing website.  I don’t think that begins to cover it.  While it photo-based, it is much more than just photo-sharing.  It is sharing inspiration be it fashion, food, crafts, or funnies.  Each photo, or pin,  represents a link to a website page where I can find these inspirations. Each pin is stored on a themed board.  It is a “corkboard” full of ideas that are all about me.  My recipes, my sewing patterns, my home decorating ideas – all in one convenient spot, organized onto my boards.

This is a screenshot of all of my boards. If I click on a board, it will show me all of the pins that reside within.

I chose my Pink! board as an example. You really can make a board for anything! You can see each pin on that board.

Finally, here is a pin on the Pink! board. The blue circle shows the website origin of the image. The green circle is the re-pin button. Use this to add the image to your board.

Why Pinterest?  If you are anything like me, you have a zillion bookmarks on your computer for everything from recipes, home decorating ideas, crafting/sewing tutorials, and more. How many times have you forgotten what you bookmarked or had to open them all just to find what you were looking for?  I was constantly forgetting which recipe I wanted and would spend way too much time opening bookmark after bookmark trying to figure it out. Or worse, I would forget to bookmark a recipe I liked and have to search forever online to find it again.  Pinterest offers you a neat, organized way of keeping all of these bookmarks, and missed bookmarks, in one spot.  And it includes a photo, so you always know exactly what the pin is and you are reminded of all the great pins you may have forgotten about.

Another benefit is self-promotion.  Have a website that you’d like to get noticed?  Pin it!  This is great way to show off your website and bring in traffic.  Especially good for newbies, like me. 🙂  Don’t be shy.  It is a terrific marketing tool and we all do it.

Need more convincing?  How about this. My kitty dumped a glass of water onto my laptop.  Needless to say, the laptop did not survive. No worries, the cat is fine.   Now I am left with a ton of lost bookmarks!  So many recipes and free sewing pattern links, just gone.  I was very happy that I had taken the time to pin my favorite ones.  They were still there all safe and snug on my boards.

How do I join?  To join Pinterest, you need an e-mail invitation.  You can request one from the site or Facebook fan page, but if you know someone who is using it already, it will be quicker to have them send you the invitation.  Once you get the e-mail, follow the directions to get your account set-up.  You will get a set of pre-determined boards when you sign on.  Feel free to change them, delete them, and/or add your own.  They are there just to help you get inspired.  You will also need to add the “Pin it” button to your internet toolbar.   You will use this often, so don’t skip it.  More details on how to use it below.  So you have your account, your button , and your boards.  Now what?

How and what do I pin?  There are three ways to pin.  You can use the “Pin it” button to pin something you found on the internet or you can re-pin an image you found on Pinterest.  If you have some favorite bookmarks, go ahead and start with those.  When you find, say, a recipe, that you want to save, click on the “Pin it” button and you will get a page that shows you the images available for pinning.  Pick the one you like and a “Pin this” button will hover over the picture.  Click that and a small pop-up window will give you the option to choose which of your boards you want this to go on and a section for a description.  Don’t skip the description!  A simple phrase is sufficient.  More on that later. Click “Save” and done!  The third option is to upload a photo from your computer.  This will not have a link attached.  I have yet to see the benefit of this, but it may hit me one day.

If you look closely, I have circled the "Pin it" button in red.

Sorry.  The images are smaller than I wanted, but hopefully you can see what I am talking about.  I hope this has been helpful.  I will be talking more about Pinterest over the next week or so.   There is so much I want to tell you all!!  Up next, etiquette rules and pet peeves.  Have some rules or peeves you think I might need to know?  Post them below.

Kate

Sunshine on a cloudy day

I adore lemons.  Just cutting or zesting one fills the air with a sweet smell and immediately lifts my spirits.  Sometimes I will buy one just to cut it up and put it down my disposal.  Cleans and freshens the disposal and makes the kitchen smell great, too.  Oranges work well for that, too.  One of my favorite drinks is lemonade with fresh strawberries or cherries smashed in the glass. And my mom’s lemon squares, hold me back!!  I look forward to those every Christmas.  I am drooling just thinking about these lemony treats.  Yummers.

 So, I happened upon a big bag of lemons at my local warehouse store last weekend.  They were so bright and yellow and summery, I just had to buy them.  I convinced myself that unlike the other lemons I have bought over the winter, these would not go bad before I made something delicious with them.  Seriously, who knew lemons could get moldy?!?  Clearly, not me.

I gathered my lemon recipes and pinned some new ones to my Pinterest board.  Everything from lemon garlic chicken to lemon curd to homemade Limoncello.  I am going to use all of these lemons in the next week.  I am determined!  First on my list were these light, lemony cupcakes based on this recipe – http://the-cupcakery-blog.blogspot.com/2008/02/week-8-lemon-cupcakes-with-lemon-kissed.html .  I did tweak it to my taste just a bit.   This is just a personal preference.  These are seriously delicious.   The original recipe is amazing, so I thought it best to give you that.  After all someone else put in all the hard work to create it.  You will love them.  Promise.  If you decide to tweak them, it should be to your taste.

So here are my lemon cupcakes with lemon buttercream and lemon zest sprinkles.  I hope the lovely ladies at PTU and hubby’s co-workers will enjoy them.  Too dangerous to keep at home, but I am saving one for breakfast tomorrow.  There is a new study that says cake for breakfast is a good thing.  Seriously!  True statement!  You can look it up. 

Sweet Treats for the Father/Daughter Dance

Every year my daughter and her daddy get to go on a date to her school’s Father/Daughter dance.  She loves getting all dressed up, he loves spending the evening dancing with his little girl, and I love that the two of them get to have these wonderful memories that I know they will both cherish.  It never fails, I always tear up when he gives her her corsage and they head out the door.  *sniffle*  I wish I had been able to have this tradition with my dad, but alas it wasn’t something we had even heard of back then.  Instead, my dad and I shared a love of sports.  More specifically, Redskins and Orioles.  The memories of those games (live) and alone time with my dad are irreplaceable.  I am so grateful for them.   I think it is so important to have that one on one time with your parents and I love that the two of them really treasure and look forward to their annual date.  

This year I volunteered to make some treats for the dance and I am so glad I did.  It’s such a fun event and since I had to deliver desserts I got to peek on the dads and daughters. Cute overload! We made 150 mini vanilla cupcakes, 100 heart-shaped sugar cookies with royal icing, and 175 heart-shaped chocolate-covered marshmallow pops.  It was a busy week!   Here are some of the goodies.

Mini vanilla cupcakes

Chocolate sugar cookie hearts with royal icing and sanding sugar

My favorite and most time-consuming treats were the marshmallows.  I have recently discovered how yummy and easy homemade marshmallows are. I use the recipe from Alton Brown (I have a total crush on him.  Weird?  Idk.)  You can find it here – http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/homemade-marshmallows-recipe/index.html.  I found a Wilton whoopie pie pan that had heart shapes and it was perfect for piping in the marshmallows.  I even added some pink food coloring to a few batches.  Super cute!  Once they set for 12 hours they were ready for lollipop sticks and to be dipped in milk chocolate.  I added sprinkles, too.  I just loved the colors of these sprinkles and used the whole thing.  So sad I can’t find anymore.  I looked everywhere.  Oh well.  Once the chocolate set, I placed them in cellophane bags and tied them with ribbon.  Simple and they will stay fresh for about two weeks. 

Marshmallow Pops

The dance was a big hit, as usual, and my daughter is already planning her outfit for next year.  🙂  And I am thinking of themes and desserts to go with it.  It’s her last one, so it has to be over the top!
Any of the desserts you see here are available for order.  Marshmallows need time to set up, so I need a few days notice on those.  They are so delicious, you will never be able to eat a packaged one from the store again.  Promise.  You will be seeing some gourmet (and boozy) marshmallows soon, too.  Stay tuned.
 
Stay sweet,
Kate
 

Two weeks to go…

Two more weeks until my knee surgery.  Eep!  I am both excited and anxious about this.  I am nervous about the pain and recovery, but very happy to finally put the surgery behind me and get on with life.  I feel like things have been on hold long enough.  

In the meantime, I have been testing recipes.  Mostly cupcakes and marshmallows.  So in love with homemade marshmallows, I could cry!  Who knew they were so easy to make?!?  My stand mixer does all the work, really, and it has been working hard the last month.  Thank you Kitchenaid for making such a sturdy beast.  🙂  So far I have made traditional vanilla, maple bourbon, raspberry, and Bailey’s.  On my to do list are strawberry, lemon, honey, chocolate, and mint chocolate chip.  Drooling just thinking about them.   And they are easily shipped, which makes me happy.  I can finally provide friends and family some goodies even though they live far away . 

Thanks for all your patience.   I should be up and running full time by the end of February. 

 

Holiday baking menu

I have been delayed on trying new recipes and adding photos.  Boo.   But I do have some seriously delicious desserts available for Christmas.  These are customer favorites!

Chocolate whoopie pies with marshmallow buttercream – $.75 each – minimum of 20 – Silky smooth filling inside a rich chocolate cake

Chocolate whoopie pies with peppermint marshmallow buttercream – $.75 each – minimum of 20 – Crushed candy canes give this a minty twist

Vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream – $18 for either 12 regular sized or 24 mini – Sweet and classic cupcake

Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate ganache filling and rich chocolate buttercream – $24 for 12 regular sized – Very rich and decadent

Mini peanut butter cheesecakes with chocolate ganache topping – $18 for 24 cheesecakes – Divine little bites

Cinnamon sugar roasted almonds – $10 a pound or $5 for half a pound – So good you can’t stop eating them!

Please give me 48 hours notice.  Thanks!

And she’s back…

First, a big thank you to my customers.  I am so grateful to have you. 

Second, I apologize for the delay in updating my blog.  I injured my knee over Labor Day weekend, torn ACL to be exact.  The injury wasn’t too bad, but it made my knee wobbly and unstable so too much walking or standing was a little rough.  Some physical therapy and time made things much better.  Almost too much better because I would occassionally forget that I was injured and do things I wasn’t supposed.  Things like walking around without my knee brace for support and trying to jump up to knock down a curtain rod.  The latter resulted in my knee giving out upon landing, which resulted in a severe sprain and an emergency room visit.  This time the injury kept me on bed rest for almost two weeks.  It has now been six weeks since the second injury and I am finally able to get around enough to bake again.  Yay!  While the baking itself isn’t hard on the knee, the visits to the grocery store for supplies and standing for long periods of time while mixing and preparing were a bit too much. 

So, Sweet Mia’s is back in business.  🙂  Please let me know if I can whip up some goodies for you.

Kate