Thursday, May 22, 2014

Graduation 2014 Cookies

So I only did one set of graduation cookies this year. Just didn't really know that many people with kids graduating this year. My sister in law is an excellent artist and did the decorations for her friend's daughter's graduation. She never told me what she was doing for the decorations and just told me to do whatever I thought would be cute for the cookies. It is amazing how closely they mirror the party decorations. Don't think I could have gotten them any closer had I known what the decorations would be!

Graduation Cookies

Graduation Cookies
Graduation Party Decorations

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Cookies and Cupcakes from Mother's Day

So I was pretty well burned out after the gigantic cupcake order and didn't really get into doing a lot of cookies for Mother's Day. I had agreed to do a small bouquet for my friend's mom and just held out some of the dough from when I did the beach cookies to do them. And while I was doing those, I cut out a ton of mini flowers to use as decoration on the cupcakes I decided to do for Mother's Day for my mom, grandmother and mother-in-law, because those are so much faster to knock out. Here is a really bad pic of the bouquet my friend and I put together for her mom:

Mother's Day Flower Bouquet
For the cupcakes, I did red velvet with cream cheese frosting and butter yellow with peanut butter buttercream. I used this recipe from the Cake Mix Doctor for the red velvet ones. And for the cream cheese frosting, I ended up just sort of winging it after reading several recipes. I added extra powdered sugar to make it very stiff. This is what I ended up using:
              2 8oz. blocks of cream cheese
              2 sticks of butter (1 cup)
              1T vanilla
              2T milk
              6 cups powdered sugar

For the peanut butter I totally cheated and just used the Duncan Hines butter golden cake mix and then used the Wilton Peanut Butter Buttercream recipe, although I may have had a little extra peanut butter in there, just because I wasn't too precise in my measurements with it, since IMO, one can never have too much peanut butter! ;)  Again, I didn't get a good pic. This one is after they'd traveled over 100 miles and then picked out of the bunch by my cousin and taken to her house while sitting on a paper plate covered with a paper towel. The peanut butter one looks horrible. Oh yeah, I decorated the peanut butter ones with wedges from round chocolate cookies that I had the foresight to cut out while making the flower bouquets. I used an Ateco #828 open star tip for the peanut butter ones, which I'd just bought the day before. 

And do you recall me mentioning my niece who helped me with the Derby cupcakes? Well, she already loved to bake, but now, she's into decorating, too, after that day and the fun we had. I picked up an Ateco #809 and #829 for her and late last night, I got a notification that she'd tagged me in her facebook photo of her baking project from last night. She did 70 minis to take to surprise the 5th graders at Boaz Elementary school, who she'd done her student teaching with this semester (she graduated the day after we did our Derby cupcakes and is now looking for a teaching job). Makes my heart proud!

Elisabeth's cupcakes  

And here is her photo compilation of our cupcake making day at the donut shop and her quickly learned petal rose. Check out that ginormous donut!  Ha!

Cupcakes and Donuts with Elisabeth


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Sand Dollars for the Beach House Salon

Did these for an event my friend Kelly was having at her salon today. And yes, these are a complete copy, including even how they are photographed, of these by Georgeann of Lila Loa. But when the idea is already perfect, why reinvent the wheel? Kelly loved them and used my suggestion of serving them on a bed of light brown sugar, although I think she may have bought dark brown sugar and tried to lighten it using powdered sugar, or at least that's what the pic appears to be. The first pic is mine and the second is hers from the event.

Beach cookies, Sand dollar cookies, Starfish cookies, Seashell cookies

Beach cookies, Sand dollar cookies, Starfish cookies, Seashell cookies


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Mint Julep Cupcakes for a Derby Party

So yeah, cookies are my thing, but a friend asked me about doing some cupcakes for an event she and her husband were catering. I looked into what they wanted and consulted my personal cupcake master, my sister who owns HaliHannigan's Cupcakery in Jackson, TN, and told her that I could do them. Their clients wanted a total of 100 cupcakes, 50 of which were to be mint julep cupcakes and 50 were to have red icing petal roses on them, flavor up to me. I specify petal roses to point out that they weren't simple swirl roses. Might I also note that I had no idea how to make petal roses with icing when I agreed to this, but I'll get back to that later.

Initially, I was most worried about the mint julep cupcakes, because my ignorance had not yet realized the tedious nature of petal roses made from buttercream. So I spent a couple of weeks periodically thinking on how to do the mint julep cupcakes. Fortunately, I was bright enough to do a test run a little over a week before. The first batch, which used a recipe I based on one I found online, was a total flop!! It had far too much liquid in the cake recipe - it called for a cup of milk AND a cup of bourbon.  I knew it was too much liquid intuitively as I was making them, but I just pressed on - idiot! They were looking okay until I got them out of the oven. They then completely caved in the middle. I opened one up and there was a giant hole inside them! When I say caved, I mean CAVED all of the way down to the bottom of the cupcake. So I made some adjustments and tried again. They came out great. I then did a buttercream with a little mint and bourbon in it. I once again consulted the master and she gave me some options of how to finish them off. I did them several ways - some were injected with a butter and bourbon glaze before icing, some were brushed in straight bourbon then iced, others were brushed, iced and then drizzled with the glaze and then some were just cake and icing. 

I don't like mint, so I was not the person to test these. I lined up the boyfriend of my friend Alison. He likes mint juleps and he's a chef, so I knew he would take doing a taste test seriously. He preferred the ones that were brushed in straight bourbon, then iced and drizzled in the bourbon butter glaze. So that was good enough for me and the feedback I received from my friends after their event was that they were very good and were the talk of the party. They were garnished with green straws and mint leaves.

Mint Julep cupcakes and Red Petal Rose cupcakes for Derby party

Now back to those buttercream petal roses. Oh my. Once I realized they weren't just simple little swirl roses, I started worrying. I held back a few of the MJ cupcakes and icing to practice with the week before, but I ended up not liking the original MJ icing consistency for either set and it didn't come out quite the way I would like. I had never before made anything like this with buttercream icing, so I spent quite a while watching YouTube video tutorials before trying. I wasn't happy with my centers and I felt like the overall roses stood up too straight to the edges of the cupcakes. Granted, I only did about two before I decided to ditch that batch of icing. I didn't revisit until a week later, which was THE DAY BEFORE I was to do these! At that point, I found this YouTube video that really helped me with making lovely centers for my roses. English is not the first language of the person in the video, so if you can get beyond that, there really are some good technique pointers in there. I found the section at 6:56 most helpful and skipped around to some other parts, because it is a very long video at over 17 minutes. So after watching this video and doing two more test ones with my new buttercream recipe, I decided I was good to go.

I used a different icing recipe for the final cupcakes and just made the red icing much more stiff than the MJ icing. All was well and I was ready to go the next day. Because I am severely limited in kitchen space, I had arranged with my aunt to use kitchen space at her donut shop about 1.5 hours away. I packed the car with everything I would need, including the icing I'd made the night before and stored in the fridge. Thankfully my niece came over to help me that day because I simply could not have done this all without her. When we got there, we learned that the AC was out in the kitchen at the donut shop. I don't like being hot, but was okay with it until it started melting my buttercream for these petal roses, such that they were turning into giant red blobs. We compensated by working a little, chilling the icing a little, then working a little more and then chilling the icing a little more. It took forever. We really didn't think we'd ever get done, but we did! While I was stressing over them early on, I sent my friend a pic and told her I was totally stressing. Her reply was hysterical - "Do they taste good? If so, then you are just being Beth." Which meant, "Chill out, they are fine. Quit being your usual worry-wart self."

Mint Julep and Red Petal Rose Cupcakes for Derby party
I was also quite pleased with myself with a bit of what we'll call redneck ingenuity for making those petal roses. The concept of making them is the same as making roses for cakes on a rose nail and having the spinning factor is very helpful so that you aren't contorting your wrist. So I took a large rose nail that I had, no idea why I had it since I'd never before used it but I had it nonetheless, and a red solo cup trimmed to be just shorter than a cupcake, but with enough of a lip to keep the cupcake from falling off, and hot glued the two together. Sadly, during my trip to the donut shop to work on these, they came apart and my aunt didn't have a hot glue gun there, but I once again employed my redneck ingenuity and took that term to a whole new level. Yep, that's duct tape holding the two pieces together. Worked like a charm. So I give you The Redneck Cupcake Rose Nail:

Cupcake Rose Nail

I am going to go ahead and publish this because I am falling asleep, so I won't be checking for typos and errors tonight. So please know that I am not an idiot if there are things here that make no sense. I'll edit later.

Friday, May 2, 2014

House Cookies and Car Cookies

So it looks like grand opening celebrations are my thing! Since this one makes three. After sampling some of my cookies last week at Cheyenne's grand opening at The Wildflower Boutique, my friend Amy sent me a message saying she knew it was last minute but wondered if I could do some cookies for the grand opening for her little brother's business on Tuesday, April 29th. I told her I could likely do some, but asked what she might want. This was a really hard one to come up with an idea for because his business is an insurance agency. After doing a couple of Google Image searches, I came up with the idea of doing houses and cars. I had a small house cutter and a church cutter that I used and cut the steeple off of. I had the plastic Wilton car that comes in the 101 cutter pack, but didn't love it, so I ran to Sur la Table and got their small version of a VW bug. So I had four varieties and used a variation of about 5-6 colors - red, yellow, white, gray, blue and black. I did the details on the houses very quickly with a black food color marker. I have decided that my next cookie investment, yes, I know I am using that term loosely since it is only about $20.00, but nothing in my cookie arsenal is really over $5-7 dollars, so in that sense, $20.00 is an investment - but as I was saying, my next cookie investment is going to be a pack of assorted colors of food color markers. 

This is the only picture I have of them right now, as I am on a Facebook hiatus, so I haven't been able to pull them from Amy's page. I needed a break and had a ton going on this week (100 cupcakes tomorrow for a Kentucky Derby party- 50 mint julep and 50 rose topped chocolate), so I knew I would need to deactivate my account this week to keep myself from becoming distracted. Not really missing it, except for Lila Loa's "Cookies are My Kryptonite" List, where there are tons of gorgeous cookies done by people all over the world. Anyhow, here are the house and car cookies in the one pic I have for now. Will add more later.

Car Cookies and House Cookies

Here are a couple of more pictures. There's an old story with my face on a stick here with the person for whom I did these cookies, which is why B-on-a-Stick is in these pics.

Car Cookie with B-on-a-Stick#12

House Cookies and Car Cookies with B-on-a-Stick#12