Thursday, March 31, 2011

Red Velvet & Coconut Love

After bringing home my new KitchenAid mixer, I had to immediately take it for a test spin. For the mixer's inaugural cake, I chose to make red velvet.

Red velvet is one of those recipes that people tend to have a strong opinion about.There are those that are of the mind that red velvet is a rich devil's food cake tinted red. Then there are those that believe red velvet cake is neither a vanilla nor a chocolate cake, but a moist buttermilk cake with a hint of cocoa and a bright red color.

I fall into the latter category, which is why I love Cake Man Raven's Red Velvet recipe (recipe courtesy of The Food Network).

Even though I really like this recipe, I do increase the cocoa powder to 1 Tablespoon (vs the 1 teaspoon called for by Cake Man Raven). While I don't think red velvet should taste like a chocolate cake, I do think there should be hint of it, which I don't think the scant1 teaspoon of cocoa powder provides. But I don't like to increase it past that because it starts to taste too "chocolatey" and also dulls the bright red color. Recipes that call for more chocolate tend to also use more red food coloring and I prefer to use the lesser amount called for in the Cake Man's version.

There is also debate about what the proper frosting for red velvet is. The most popular I think is cream cheese frosting. Some would argue and say that a 7-Minute Vanilla Frosting is the authentic one. But I went against both traditions for this cake. I've really been wanting to make a coconut frosting so that's what I did...using a super delicious Italian Meringue Buttercream.

If you aren't familiar with this style of frosting, it is silky smooth and less sweet than the powdered sugar type buttercreams you may be used to. It can seem intimidating to make since it requires boiling sugar and whipping egg whites, but I promise you it is actually pretty simple and the results are completely worth it!

The recipe I have been using is from Warren Brown of Cake Love, his famous bakery where he prides himself on fantastic from-scratch recipes. You can find the complete recipe here at  Warren Brown also has a great tutorial on YouTube that is very helpful in learning how to master this incredible frosting. He is very knowledgeable about cake making and fun to watch. You can watch the video below.

To make my coconut version of Italian Meringue Buttercream, I used a teaspoon of coconut extract and 3 Tablespoons of cream of coconut. This gave the frosting a definite coconut flavor without being overpowering. It was a complete experiment and it turned out yummy! I had way more "test tastes" than was necessary, but I couldn't stop myself.

The great thing about Italian Meringue Buttercream is that it is so versatile and you can use it as a base for many different flavors. It spreads onto your cake smoothly and pipes onto cupcakes beautifully! Whip up a batch and discover the deliciousness for yourself!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mama's got a brand new toy!

Every cloud really does have a silver lining! If it wasn't for the fact that my sad little stand mixer made it's last batch of frosting before heading to mixer heaven a few weeks ago...then I wouldn't have had to buy this...

Last year I tried to be "sensible" and purchased an inexpensive stand mixer because I didn't want to splurge on the KitchenAid. It probably would have been fine for occasional use. But after many many double batches of cake and frosting, I burned that little motor up. 

So what's a girl to do?

Oh it stands there all new and shiny just begging for a test run...and I'm happy to oblige. Recipe post forthcoming...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Florida I.C.E.D Cake Competition

This past weekend I was so excited to attend the Florida I.C.E.D Cake Competition in Ocala, Florida. The show is a sugar arts competition that not only showcased some very talented cake artists, but also raised money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation! Beautiful cakes & a fabulous charity...can't get any better than that!

I made the 2 1/2 hour trek with my beautiful 4 (almost 5) year old daughter, who also happens to be my cake buddy. She loves watching shows like TLC's Cake Challenge and Cupcake Wars. She was so thrilled to spend the day alone with mommy and check out some cakes!

There was quite a crowd at the show and by the time we got to the prize raffle and awards ceremony, it was standing room only! It was a great turnout for this 1st time event and I can't wait to go back next year. I might even get brave and enter a cake myself! 

The theme of this year's show was Romantic Wedding Dresses. All the cakes were wedding cakes designed to look like a particular wedding dress and each cake displayed a photo of the wedding dress that inspired it. There were some very beautiful & creative entries!

Of course I had to take some photos of my favorites. I wasn't able to stay through the awards ceremony (a 4 year old can only be expected to last so long), but I can't wait to read who won! But here are some of my (& my daughter's) favorites...

This one caught my eye for the unusual soft pretty!

And how about this peacock? Beautiful!

 I love how both of these cakes are shaped to mimic a woman's form...gorgeous!

LOVE all the ruffling on this one!

And check out this amazing work of art! Beautiful colors and amazing detail!

My overall favorite was this one. I love the touch of black on the bottom tier and the 4th tier and just the completely elegant and clean look of this cake!

My daughter's favorite was the following cake...

Would you like to know why? Because of the topper, which my puppy obsessed girl spotted from across the room! How adorable is this?

One of my daughter's favorite parts of the show was the free Kid's Corner. Kids were able to hang out in this room and try their hand at decorating techniques. Each child was given a cookie and decorating supplies along with some simple guidance. This activity was sponsored by Cakes, Etc of West Palm Beach, FL and was huge hit with the kids. Can you tell?

Of course it would have been a bummer to look at all those beautiful cakes and not get to taste some cake, right? And lucky for me, there were samples to be tried since my daughter kept asking me when they were going to start cutting the cakes!

We were able to try a few samples of Cakes By Lisa, whose cakes were delicious. Even our samples were decorated with some beautiful rice paper flowers!

Do you notice how happy my girl is when she has something sweet to eat???

There was a huge raffle with some a-m-a-z-i-n-g prizes to win...KitchenAid Mixer or Cricut Cake machine anyone??? I didn't win a thing, but that's ok since the money all went to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

And I have to add a big THANK YOU to a very kind person who was in attendance. I left my BRAND NEW camera on a chair and didn't realize it. An announcement was made that a camera was found and to come identify it. I don't know what made me check my purse, but I did, and was shocked to find out it was ME who lost that camera!!!

I never would have realized I'd lost my camera until I'd made it home...2 1/2 hours later...when it would have been too late!! So a big hug to whoever turned it in as this post wouldn't have happened without you. And "Lucy would have had some 'splaining to do when she got home"!!!

I had a FABULOUS time at the Florida I.C.E.D Cake Competition and can't wait for next year!

**UPDATE: To view photos of all the entries, along with the winners, please see the show's picasa album here. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

DIY: Subway Art

I'm so excited to share a really cool and (as always) inexpensive way to add some personalized art to your home! Have you seen all the really cool subway art that has been popping up on so many blogs out there? If you aren't familiar with subway art, it's a grouping of words with fun fonts artfully arranged on a canvas or wood. Here's an example of one such piece from Pottery Barn.

I'm in the middle of organizing and redecorating my work space and knew I wanted something "inspirational" on the wall. I found some free subway art printables on several blogs, but most were for holiday themes. I almost...ALMOST...bought a printable that was very nice and then I stumbled on a great blog The Mother Huddle who's authors show you how to make your own.

Now if you have good editing software, you can certainly use that to make your own. But the great thing about The Mother Huddle tutorial is that it shows you how to create this in the photo editing software Picnik, which I already have, and if you don't it's free! You can find The Mother Huddle's super easy subway art tutorial HERE.

I had so much fun making my subway art and I love the fact that I personalized it with words that were meaningful to me and my family. It's now framed and sitting above my desk as a reminder of some of our important family values.

Feel free to download my version below or check out the tutorial and make your own!
 Family Subway

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tutorial: Minnie Oreo Pops

This is my final post on my daughter's Minnie Mouse party! (You can read my other posts about the party here & the hat tutorial here).

In addition to making her special Minnie Mouse cake, I also made Minnie Mouse Oreo pops! These were delicious (who doesn't love a chocolate covered Oreo?), fun, adorable and simple to make!

Here is the tutorial to show you how to make the pops yourself!

The ingredients:
-Oreos (these must be Double Stuffed or you won't have enough space for the stick)
-Chocolate chips (I used semi sweet, but dark would work just as well)
-chocolate candy melts (you will only use a handful of these)
-mini marshmallows
-lollipop sticks
-pink fondant (you can make your own or buy it premade)

Supplies needed:
-wax paper
-2 glass bowls (for melting)
-clear candy bags & coordinating ribbon if you choose to use these for party favors 

Things to keep in mind...
There are 33 cookies in a pkg of Double Stuff Oreos (at least in mine). When planning the amount to make, keep in mind that you will probably lose a handful to breakage. That's ok...that's just an excuse to eat a few cookies :)

One 12oz pkg of chocolate chips will cover more than an entire package of Oreos, but will not completely cover two. So to be safe, buy one package of chips per package of cookies. You will end up with leftover chocolate chips, but since when are leftover chocolate chips a bad thing?

Here are all my ingredients ready to go!

Step 1:
Carefully separate your cookies so that you have one side with the filling.

Step 2:
Melt your chocolate chips according to the package directions. Be sure to add the shortening per the directions in order to keep your chocolate easy to dip in.

Step 3:
Grab a cookie w/ the cream side. Take your lollipop stick and dip the tip into the melted chocolate. You want enough to cover about 1" of the stick. Don't be too skimpy as the chocolate will help hold the cookie together. 

Now gently push the stick into the cream of the cookie. You can dig it in a little to get it to lay flat. You may lose a couple cookies in this step until you figure out the right pressure to use (I certainly did). But I had happy little taste-testers who were waiting for me to break one!

In the picture above, I used a flat coffee stirrer stick. I wanted to see if it would work better than the more rounded white lollipop stick. Both worked equally well, so it's your choice.

Step 4:
While the chocolate is still soft, take the other half of the cookie and gently push the cookie back together. This is the other point where you might lose the a couple until you get a feel for the right pressure. Or you might get lucky and get it right on the 1st try (I wasn't quite that lucky). My family was very pleased with all my mistakes on this project!

Step 5:
Melt a small amount of chocolate candy melts following package directions. You could use the chocolate chips for this purpose, but I have found that the candy melts dry faster and are stronger than plain chips. I often use them for "glue" on my cakes.

Step 6:
Dip a mini marshmallow into the candy melts and attach to the cookie for each ear. You will have to hold each one for a minute until it dries enough to set it down. Don't skimp on the candy melts here. You need these ears to be on there firmly in order for them to survive the final dip!

Here are all my "naked" pops waiting for their chocolate bath!

Step 7:
Dipping Time!
Gently dip your cookies into the chocolate. Use a spoon to cover the exposed cookie parts. This works better than trying to swirl the cookies as the marshmallows tend to fall off that way. Gently tap your lollipop stick on the edge of the bowl to remove the excess chocolate.

Then lay them flat on wax paper to dry. I sprinkled them with white sprinkles just for some extra sparkle, but you can certainly leave them plain chocolate. I also popped them in the fridge for a few minutes just to harden the chocolate faster. But they will harden on their own without the refrigeration. 

Step 8:
The bow! Minnie wouldn't be Minnie without her pink (or red) bow. I already had a batch of hot pink fondant made from the cake, so I just used that. But you can use pre-made fondant (sold in the craft stores or from your local cake supply shop) or make your own. If you buy or make white, use pink gel coloring (not the liquid food colors) to color it to your preferred shade.

The bow is a very simple shape. I rolled my fondant into a long skinny snake or spaghetti shape. I then cut the long piece into approximately 1 1/2" small pieces which I looped into a bow. You could even use a small butterfly cutter to make a bow which would be super cute also! I put each bow on the cookies while the chocolate on the cookies wasn't completely hardened, which helped them to stick. If you end up doing the bows after the cookies are set, just melt some candy melts and dab a little on each bow (use a toothpick) to "glue" them on.

These cuties can be displayed on your dessert table or individually wrapped in clear bags tied with a bow for a very yummy party favor!


I'm linking up this post to:

Tip Junkie handmade projects

Monday, March 21, 2011

Tutorial: Minnie Mouse Party Hats

For my daughter's recent 2nd birthday, I threw her a Minnie Mouse themed party. She loves Minnie and all things pink, so this party was a big hit with her! After looking at various party stores and websites for cute party hats, I decided to make my own. They are fun and best of all easy & inexpensive to make! Let me show you how to make your own.

The supplies you will need:
-black cardstock: one sheet per hat PLUS one sheet for every 2 sets of ears (that's 4 ears per page)
-pink polka dot scrapbook paper (or whatever color/pattern you would like for the bow)
-coordinating ribbon
-double sided tape
-hot glue gun
-exacto knife
-3 inch round cookie cutter or 3 inch round craft punch
-medium sized butterfly cookie cutter (optional)

Step 1
Using your cookie cutter as a stencil or your round craft punch, cut out enough ears for your desired number of hats out of the black cardstock.

Shape a cone out of the black card stock and use double sided tape to seal the seam. You could also use hot glue for this if you wanted, but I found the tape to be less messy. It took me a few tries to figure out how to get the cardstock to roll up neatly into the cone shape.

Step 3
Cut desired number of bows out of your scrapbook paper. I used a butterfly cookie cutter to trace the basic shape (I then trimmed it to my liking), but you can certainly freehand them!

Step 4
Cut your ribbon allowing 2 pieces for each hat. These will be your straps. I used my child's head to measure and they came out to about 12 inches per strap.

Step 5
Now you are ready to assemble the hats!

Cut 2 small slits near the top of the cone using your exacto knife. You will be inserting the ears into these slits. You want them large enough to allow the ears to be attached, but not so big that you lose too much of the rounded shape.

Apply a small amount of hot glue to the slit and then place each ear inside. You may need to apply a little more to get the ears to adhere. A little goes a long way and isn't very noticeable on the hat!

Using the hot glue, attach the ribbon to the inside of both sides of the cone. Make sure you are careful where you place the ribbon so your ears aren't crooked!

Finally, attach the bow to the front of the hat using either hot glue or double sided tape.

You could even jazz these up further with the birthday child and/or the guests initial on the front! Need a Mickey Mouse hat instead? Just leave off the bow and use red ribbon!

The perfect party hat for your little Mouseketeer!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Kiss Me I'm Irish!

Ok so not really, but come March 17th I think we are all feeling a little Irish aren't we? And while I won't be out drinking green beer or feeling green from drinking in general, I will be celebrating Mommy Style! This essentially means making something cute for the kids to enjoy and to make their day a little more special. 

I have been overloading on all the St. Patrick's day eye candy showing up on the many great blogs out there and I decided to share a few of my favorites with you. I really love these ideas because they are fun, simple, and inexpensive!

Up first is the adorable little goody I chose to make for my daughter's preschool class. I discovered this on It is what it is How cute is this?
Beth provides the FREE printable and instructions so click HERE! She has many fun St.Patrick's Day ideas so be sure to check them out! And just an bag of Rainbow Twizzlers has enough for 5 complete rainbows! I guessed and ended up with an extra bag...darn ;)

Or how about this cute idea from the creative ladies at eighteen25?

You can find their FREE printable and complete instructions HERE!

And One Charming Party has another wonderful FREE printable (find it HERE) for this fun little treat!

And finally, if you are looking for a special way to start the day (which I am totally using by the way), check out this cute idea from Thoughtfully Simple. Lucky Charms and green milk with a very adorable printable note!

A fun way to start the day...and of course the super sweet Rainbow printable (with several variations) is there for the taking...check it out HERE!

The breakfast will be quite a treat in our house since we banned Lucky Charms last year (a little girl I know...and I'm not naming names...insisted on eating ONLY the marshmallows)! She will most certainly be feeling lucky this St. Patrick's Day!


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Rapunzel, some cake!

Or at least that's what would get ME out of that tower asap! But maybe I'm a little biased because for me, it's always about the cake. And what fun I had making a cake for my friend Sheila whose oldest daughter was turning five!

The party theme was based on the latest Disney movie Tangled. Of course there was one thing the cake absolutely HAD to have and that was a tower. And so I set off to build a tower and make a cake that would be just as special as the birthday girl!

I always learn something new when I make a cake and this one was no exception. It was the first time I had constructed this type of tower, which I made with rice cereal treats. I really love working with this stuff. It can be shaped and molded into pretty much anything and is much sturdier than cake alone.

I used two empty Crystal Light canisters as a mold to shape the treats into the tower shape, coated it with melted candy melts to hold it all together and then covered it in homemade marshmallow fondant.  All the decorations on the cake are made from the marshmallow fondant.  I do use ready-made fondant at times (typically for darker colors), but the homemade version is simple to make, way less expensive and yummy as well (hello...marshmallows & sugar...yum!).

And in case you are wondering...yes, it is completely edible. I received a text with a picture showing that no part of the cake went to waste as the tower was being sliced and eaten (and I quote) "like salami"!

For me, adding the finishing details is always fun and the part of decorating a cake that I look forward to the most!

My friend Sheila is a talented photographer and a crafty mom who knows how to put together a great party. You can check out her blog for pictures of her fabulous Tangled party at Sheila Sierra Photography!

Say Cheers for Minnie Mouse!

My beautiful baby turned 2 this January. She is gorgeous and full of love & life. And she is also full of opinions...lots of them. She is in fact, the most opinionated 2 year old I have ever met (disregard the fact that I haven't met that many). But when it was time to plan her birthday party, I figured I would choose the theme. 

After all she's she really cares as long as it's a party, right?

Poor deluded became apparent very quickly that my daughter was having a Minnie Mouse party and there would be no further discussion! And it was going to be PINK, her favorite color. I didn't even know 2 year-olds could be so adamant about colors. So a pink Minnie party it would be...
Originally this was going to be a two tiered cake, with this being the top tier. But, my baby has the misfortune of having her birthday in the middle of flu season. By the time we got through a round of it, we had to reschedule the party and ended up with less guests than we had originally planned as it seemed everyone we knew was sick. Another tier would have balanced out the cake I just love the look of a tiered cake. In retrospect I should have made the 2nd tier anyway...but I was working with a post-flu brain myself.

The mouse ears were really fun to make. The entire hat is made from fondant. I used Satin Ice fondant instead of my usual homemade marshmallow fondant because I think black fondant is hard to achieve at home.  I made the hat about a week before the party in order to give it time to dry. I used a very thin plastic bowl as the mold for the hat and cut out the ears with a cookie cutter. After everything had dried completely (a few days) I used candy melts to attach the ears!

Another fun party treat that I was so excited to make was Minnie Mouse Oreo pops!
These were adorable and yummy! Check out my tutorial here on how to make these pops!

And I couldn't have a Minnie Mouse party without providing some adorable ears for everyone. I made these out of cardstock adding a ribbon for the tie. Super easy and super cute (my kids are still playing with these)! You can read the tutorial on how to make them HERE.

The party favor boxes were purchased from Walmart, filled with Minnie & Friends stickers, bubbles, and some m-n-ms (pink of course). I dressed them up with some ribbon and thank you tags from Get the Party Started on Etsy.

Oh and speaking of the pays to plan ahead! Buying a specific colored m-n-m bag of candy can get pricey! But they always put out colors for the holidays. Lucky me, all the Valentines Day candy was available in January so I was able to pick up several bags for the party. Of course the bags were mixed with red, white, & pink. And I just needed pink so....yep, I sorted through those bags and just picked out the pink ones! Still way cheaper than buying them the other way!

A few more decorations purchased from Etsy...

Door hanger also from Get the Party Started

Birthday banner purchased from Roxy156789.

The birthday girl fell in love with her beautiful Minnie Mouse dress (and she asks to wear this regularly)! This was another Etsy purchase from Fun UpTown Girls.

One very happy birthday girl! Super Cheers!