Sunday, April 28, 2013

More Birthday Cookies and MY Birthday Cake

So I did some more cupcake cookies for a friend's birthday last weekend.  I did them in pink and white and I made sprinkles for them by making tons of tiny straight lines of royal icing on wax paper and then rolling and crushing the sheets after they had dried.

My birthday was Wednesday and my sweet hubby called me on his way to work Tuesday morning to tell me that with all he had going on at work that he wouldn't have a birthday cake for me on my birthday, but that he would get one later in the week.  While most people might be disappointed by such news, I was THRILLED because it meant that I could finally try out my two new 6"x 3" round cake pans my mom gave me as an early birthday gift. I told him not to get one and then started running ideas through my mind.  First you must know that I stink with cakes!  I can never get them to look just how I want - just can't seem to do the base frosting quite smooth enough for my liking.  I've been dying to try this chocolate cage idea from Doughmesstic again, but had a bad experience by not following her warning about white chocolate as a newbie when I tried to do one for Easter with a lavender white chocolate cage, so I talked myself out of doing my birthday cake with a dark chocolate cage.  Instead, I decided to try doing a swirly rose cake.  Sometimes I'm just dumb enough to give anything a try and sometimes I am even pleasantly surprised with the outcome, like  I was with my swirly rose birthday cake.  The cake was four layers (the 6x3's cut into two layers each) and the frosting was chocolate buttercream with a hint of coffee extract in it.  It was sooooo good and like I said, it I thought it turned out pretty cute for a first time effort.

I ran out of my awesome mocha-ish buttercream partway through it, so I had to stop and make more.  I just made a 1/2 recipe to finish off and had ALMOST enough - the swirly roses on the top are kind of thin compared to the rest of the cake, but I was able to finish it off.  Besides, there is so much frosting on this cake that you really didn't miss out on any from the thinnish top.

Of course, we see them everywhere now, but I watched this video and decided I could do this. I believe the original idea of doing cakes this way came from I am Baker, here.

And oh my gosh, I almost forgot to show off all my new cutters I've received as gifts from friends for my birthday!!  I hit the JACKPOT!!!  And I got a lot of great cutters too! ;)

Check out the haul from my friend Missy.  My cat Helen was enthralled by them as well and that was the best I could do photo-wise in terms of getting her to stay out of the picture!  Missy and I have never met in person but became friends through Facebook back in 2009 - I guess we are like modern-day penpals!  lol  Anyway, look at the princess set with a castle, tiara, and shoe; the summer set of a margarita, sunglasses and flip-flop; and the boy set of a car, airplane and train; not to mention all of that luster dust and gel colors.  I was beside myself!  Oh, and I had never had a caramel apple, so she sent me a Colorado Caramel apple and I must say, it was divine!

These were a total surprise from my friend Mary, one of the surprise recipients during "Operation Spread a Little Sunshine."  I was shocked when I found them in my mail and totally overwhelmed when I opened the box and saw what all she'd sent to me!!  There was a kitty set that has lots of kitties in different positions as well as a little mouse; there was a graduation set that contained a cap, gown, diploma, award, apple and owl.  Then some others that she thought I might like - a rooster, a chick, a penguin (which I can totally see using for a boot with a little trimming), a palm tree and a sunburst.

These are from one of my oldest friends - we were best friends in 2nd grade - Christy. She sent me a message the other day asking for my address and it never crossed my mind again that she'd asked for it.  Then on my birthday, I went to my mailbox and found a package from her!  Everyone knows I love kitties (I only have 4 indoors, but tend to almost an entire community of strays!), so she did the great cat face/head and a playful kitty.  Then there's a hen!!!  I was so excited by the hen, because among my strays is a little banty Welsummer hen who chose me last year - she lives in my back yard during the day and sleeps in my camellia beside my front porch at night.  Her name is Chicky Boom and now I can make a Chicky Cookie!  Chicky's pic is my blogger profile pic above and the inspiration for the name of this blog.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Fun Cookies - PacMan Cookies and B-on-a-Stick, the cookie

So I decided just to have some fun with the cookies I wanted to send to a couple of friends.  Since first seeing several online, I have wanted to do Pac-Man cookies.  I happened upon a mini tulip cutter about a month ago at Hobby Lobby for 50¢ and immediately grabbed it up, knowing it would come in handy when I decided to do them.  Then it hit me that my lifelong friend April's birthday was coming up and I cannot tell you the number of hours the two of us spent playing that game as kids, so it was perfect.  And not to mention that one Christmas when I talked her into opening her Christmas presents one afternoon before her parents got home from work.  She had the coolest Pac-Man phone among those gifts.  I guess we didn't do such a great job rewrapping them, because her mom knew immediately.  So as her punishment, when Christmas came, her older sister got the phone, not her. :(  

Still didn't have a circle cutter (got one yesterday) when I was working on these, so I started rifling through the cabinet to see what wonderful round shapes I could find.  I wasn't thrilled with the size of my drinking glasses for the circle, so I opted for the lid to a travel coffee cup.  It worked great.  I then used one of my heart cutters to cut out the Packy's mouth.  I used the end of a decorating tip for all of the little game pellets and for the power pellets, I used the cap of 20 oz. Coke Zero bottle.  Of course, the ghosts were made using the mini tulip cutter.  Here they are baked but undecorated:

I have the hardest time with yellow RI.  When I use just electric yellow, it always seems to separate very easily and seems a little thin.  Then if  I use egg yellow, it looks like American Cheese.  So I opted to mix the two.  Still the consistency just didn't seem quite right.  I don't know what my issue with yellow is.  Any ideas?  Anyhow, it all came out okay.  I just made big piped dots on the 50 pellets and on two of the big ones, after realizing that was much easier than outlining and piping each circle.  Oooo, just thought that perhaps my issue with the RI this time might not have been just the fact that I was using yellow.  I only had 1/2 of a bag of powdered sugar, so I cut the small recipe from SugarBelle in half and it just didn't seem quite right in the mixer, so I just added meringue powder and water until it looked right to me as it was mixing.  Maybe that was my issue this time.  Who knows.  Anyway, sorry for my digression.  So back to making the big piped dots on the pellets.  Even though I sort of stirred each one with a toothpick after finishing, 95% of them ended up with a little hole in the top once they were dry.  Tell me how to fix this in the future, please!

For the ghosts, I took a lazy shortcut for the light colored one and the orange one, because I didn't have anything else I would need either of those colors for, so I just dipped them.  Actually I dipped the red one, too, but I already had that mixed and was just to lazy to put it in a bag or bottle for just that one little ghost.  The light colored one and the orange one looked funny along the edges, so  I decided to outline them in black.  Yeah, once again I was lazy and used black icing that was too thin for outlining, so I am not sure that those two ended up looking any better than they did with the dipped edges.  Gee, the way I am talking you'd think they turned out horribly, but really they looked quite cute as a set and my friend was THRILLED with them. I was in a bit of a hurry the morning I took the pic, so I didn't lay out all of the little pellets for the pic, but this will give you the gist of how they looked.

Pinky is the only ghost that I piped, but if you look above, Blinky (the red one) looks pretty much the same as Pinky does.  See how ick the black outline looks above on Inky and Clyde?  Maybe I should have let the magic of overnight drying see if it could fix the edges before piping the black onto them.  (Oh wait, I piped the blue ghosts too.  OOPS, I forgot.)

Yeah, I know the title of this post says Pac-Man and B-on-a-Stick, the cookie, but it is late and I am tired, so I'll get to the B-on-a-Stick, the cookie, part of this post later.  Night.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Coffee Anyone?

Decided I wanted to try some cute coffee cup cookies that I've seen done by others.  Had some leftover icing and decided to try it out.  Of course, I didn't have a cutter for it, so I had seen online where someone used parts of the Wilton birthday cutter set of the cupcake and cake cutters.  I tried that option, but couldn't quite get the upside down cake to come out like I liked it for the body of the cup.  So I just used the top of the cupcake, but trimmed the pointy level of the top off and hand cut the body.  That's why none of these look exactly the same.

I also sort of hurriedly did the icing on these free hand, so I was sort of askew on the ring portion of the cup bands, but was overall pretty happy with how they came out.  Took them to work with me today and received rave reviews both on the look of the cups and how yummy those chocolate roll out cookies from Lila Loa are!  After eating one myself, which I do not often do, I decided that the next time I do these, I might branch out a little and try some coffee extract in the icing, which would be cool because of the cookie design itself and a wonderful complement to the chocolate cookie.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Operation "Spread a Little Sunshine"

After doing Easter cookies and birthday cookies over the last two weeks, I told my husband on Sunday that I was over doing cookies for a while.  Yeah, that lasted about a day or so.  But since I didn't have anyone specific in mind, I wasn't sure what I was going to do.  Then I decided I'd just do some simple flowers - only mixed up two colors of icing - pink and yellow.  I did about 3 dozen, well it actually came out to 34 cookies and then with quality control and all, there ended up being 32 to divide up.  I'm a huge Andy Griffith Show fan and always have been.  There's an episode in which Andy sings a line out of a song that goes, "Spread a little sunshine every day.  Spread a little sunshine every day.  Help someone along life's way.  Spread a little sunshine every day."  That episode was on in the background one day while I was working on cookies to surprise a friend and it just fit.  So now, I call surprising people with cookies "spreading sunshine."

Yesterday I packed up six boxes of 5-6 cookies each and sent them all over the U.S. to various friends.  A couple went here in my home state of Alabama, one to Memphis, one to Denver, one to Florida and one to Kentucky.  Only one of those people knows to be on the look-out for them, because I knew she'd had trouble with a neighbor taking packages from her house, so I had to get her work address from her.

Just got word that the nearest one has been delivered!  She was totally surprised and was having a really bad day worrying about her son's friend who'd had a very serious car accident on his way to school this morning and was air lifted from the scene.  She said it could not have come at a better time.  (Also, good news came about the young man shortly thereafter - he is stable - has some broken bones, but overall okay).  Here's the pic she took and posted to Facebook thanking me:

Here is what she said, which brought me to tears:
"Today my heart was heavy.______ had a doctors appointment(which he received awesome news) and I learned of one of _____'s classmates having a horrific accident in which she and her brother were injured. I was in tears and looked in the window and saw I had mail. I had a small box addressed to me. I had a box of cookies ( so springy and beautiful) from a friend. I had admired her cookies for weeks. I always say it is the little things that mean the most and today it was AWESOME!!! How or why she thought of me was amazing but she did and I needed a reason to smile. In her note she stated to pay it forward and I will. Thanks to all of you who love me for being me. Thank you Beth:)"

Yes, that is a little hint of green you see in the center of the smaller flower, but that was leftover green from the birthday cookies, so I did only mix two colors for these flowers.  I also cheated doing these by using pre-made centers for them.  Seems that I can never mix up just the right amount of icing (although I came pretty close this time around) so I always make dots and flower centers with the leftovers.  Since I wasn't doing dimension with these, just an outline and flat flood, then dropping the pre-made centers on them, I knocked out these almost 3 dozen very quickly.  I actually did the yellow ones on the same morning that I mailed them out in the afternoon - just put the fan on them immediately after getting them ready.  I'll post pics and updates to this post over the next couple of days as I receive word that the surprises have arrived.

UPDATE:  Have received word that packages #3 and #4 have also arrived.  Didn't get pics of both of those, but both were very surprised.  For package #3, I just giggled to myself the other night when she commented on one of my posts on Facebook that she wished she lived closer so she could try my cookies.  All the while, she was already on the list to send some to the very next day.  She had no idea and was completely shocked when she received them today.  Looks like spreading sunshine is making me smile a lot, too! Here's the pic of package #4 that made it to Colorado:

There are actually 6 cookies in this pic. I bagged them back to back.

I'm pretty much stalking the USPS tracking page to see where the packages are in their transit.  I'm a little concerned about the one headed to Kentucky, as there has been no update on its status since it was sorted in Birmingham in the wee hours between Wednesday and Thursday.  All the others had/have detailed information for each stop along the way to the various destinations.  Wonder when I should begin to worry. 

UPDATE #2 Got word last night after posting this that package #5 arrived at the end of a very stressful day filled with doctor's appointments.  She said the timing was perfect and that she and her husband quickly gobbled them up.

Also heard today that the seemingly lost Kentucky package found its way to its destination today.  My friend said her son gave them the seal of approval, which is huge because he's not a big sweets eater!  I must have done an okay job packing these (unlike the mixer cookies) because all 3 of the packages that I got pics of seem to be intact!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Birthdays Galore!

I did cookies this week for the kids of a couple of friends who were having birthdays during the week.  For the little boy, they had nothing specific in mind, so I remembered that among the cutters my mother-in-law had given me was a birthday set.  I did cupcakes and party hats.  For the technique of giving the cupcake icing dimension, I once again used the tutorial provided by Lila Loa and used basic blue, green, yellow and white. Then, I just played with the party hats and mixed up the basic colors into fun mixes.

For the 10 year girl who is a huge animal lover and was having a creepy crawly birthday party with someone bringing an alligator, a tarantula, a snake and some other animals that induce the crawling of my skin, I did these cookies that were shown in this tutorial by Bake at 350', only in the party colors of yellow and orange and I used sanding sugar instead of luster dust.

I ran into some funny things while working on these.  I'd had issues with the yellow I'd used on the Easter Cookies, which was Electric Yellow, so I decided to try a different yellow this time around.  It had come out okay on the boy birthday cookies I had just finished, so I didn't think anything about using it on the spider cookies.  So, I flooded an area of the square chocolate cookies with Egg Yellow and just about died laughing after it dried.  It looked like pumpernickel cheese toast!  

I was also extremely indecisive about how I was going to add sparkle to these.  Initially I decided I was just going to use orange and yellow sanding sugar since I already had those, instead of going to the expense of getting luster dust (have I mentioned yet just how cheap I am?)  Then when I did a test one while the web was still wet, I just didn't like how goopy (sorry SpellCheck, that you do not recognize that word, but that's the best and only description I can come up with) it looked.  So I then decided I'd later make a run to Hobby Lobby and get luster or pearl dust in both yellow and orange and just dry brush it on.  That was almost $10.00 I'd be forking out, so I called my mother-in-law and asked if she would be willing to meet me there so we could each buy one with a 40% off coupon.  She agreed and we decided we'd likely go around 6 or 7 pm, which was a good 6 hours away at the time.  Then after that goopy one dried, I decided it didn't look so bad after all, so I called my MIL back and cancelled our little shopping outing.  So I tried another and once again didn't like it and decided I would just go to Hobby Lobby a little later and just get yellow pearl dust and use it on both colors, so I wouldn't need a shopping buddy since I would be buying only one item.  I went ahead and piped the webs and spiders at that point so that they would be dry when I was ready to apply the pearl dust. Then came the need for a Saturday afternoon/early evening nap, which turned into a two hour nap (...a two hour nap...).  I awoke around 7:30 pm and simply could not force myself to take a shower and get ready to go to Hobby Lobby, so I googled applying sanding sugar to dry cookies.  And what do you know?  I found this grand little gem from Sugarbelle on University of Cookie about doing just that! So, I was able to stay grungy and in my weekend around the house uniform of a t-shirt and yoga pants and do the dry application of the sanding sugar.  And might I say, I really liked how much control brushing the meringue powder and water mixture on before adding the sanding sugar gave me.  Here's a look at the comparison of the cookies done while the webs were still wet versus those on which the sugar was applied after the webs were dry. (Wet application top row; dry application bottom row)

Had never done a border of anything other than dots, so using the #15 star tip was a new thing for me.  You can see that I definitely need work on that piping skill, but I think they turned out really cute as a whole.  Thanks to all of the helping hands out there online who helped me make both of these birthday sets of cookies!