Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Black Crowes Cake

This year is the year of forty. I will be turning the big 4-0 later this year and since January, I have watched my friends descend into the by one, toppling over like a row of aging dominoes. 

One of those recently taking the tumble into their forties is my oldest and dearest friend in the world, Missy. She and I became friends at the age of 12 and bonded quickly over a mutual love of Duran Duran! Twenty-eight years later our musical tastes may have changed, but the friendship certainly hasn't.

She lives about 4 hours away so we don't get together often, but I knew I had to arrange a visit for her big birthday. I made the arrangements with her boyfriend and surprised her at her doorstop. It was awesome!

Of course I knew I had to make her special cake! I didn't want it to be a generic "Happy 40th Birthday" cake. I wanted it to be specifically about HER. 

One of her favorite things in the world is the band The Black Crowes. She loves to travel around the state attending their concerts and even met her boyfriend at a show. I checked a few album covers for inspiration and came across the one pictured above. I loved that it was black & white and had such clean, but dramatic look to it. 

So I went to work...

I knew I would use the album cover itself as the cake topper, making the logo out of fondant.

I was a little stumped as to what to do with the rest of the cake, but then got the idea of using feathers. Black Crowes, they're birds, birds have feathers, right? I thought it would look cool. I later found out that they actually have a song called "Feathers" so how perfect was that?

She loved the cake and I love the fact that I finally got to make a cake for my best friend in the whole wide world.

Happy Birthday Missy! You rock!!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Rainbow Cake

There have been lots of really cute popular party themes lately, but one of my favorites is definitely the rainbow party. Kids really seem to love all the bright and cheerful rainbow colors and who could blame them? It definitely makes for a happy & fun party!

So when my friend Sheila told me she was throwing her youngest daughter a rainbow party, I was so excited! I couldn't wait to make this cake! It was so much fun and the kids definitely loved it.

The cake was a vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream and cookies & cream filling. All the decorations are edible and made from marshmallow fondant.

It worked out perfectly that the birthday girl had exactly enough letters in her name to use each color of the rainbow.

And did I say it was a vanilla cake???

Well it was...with a small twist of course :)

Rainbow inside & out! 

Visit Sheila Sierra Photography for pictures from this cute Rainbow Party!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

{DIY} Puppet Theater

My girls, like most kids I imagine, love playing puppet show! I found these really cute and inexpensive puppets at Micheal's last year and we have put on many a show with them...crouched down behind the couch. I considered getting them a puppet theater this past Christmas, but was really put off by the cost, which was out of our budget. 

The thought to make my own struck me when I replaced the girls closets doors with curtains. One too many battles for position in the closet had lead to a few pinched arms in the bi-fold doors. I took them out and put up colorful curtains which I love. The other day I finally got around to (6 months later) shortening them so they didn't drag on the ground. I shortened them just a wee bit too much....oops! But I wasn't about to waste that curtain!

The solution? A doorway puppet theater!

First off, I apologize for the quality of some of these photos. I found it very difficult to take pictures in the hallway with the curtain blocking most of the natural light. But with that said, on with the tutorial...

This little project involves ZERO sewing! I'm not that handy with my sewing yet (working on it) so hot glue and fabric tape were my tools of choice for this. You can certainly put your awesome sewing skills to use if you prefer. 

Supplies needed:
-1 tension curtain rod. I used a shower curtain rod because they are much thicker and with my little ones, I wanted it to be very sturdy.
-1 curtain panel of your choice. Mine was 100% cotton and in retrospect, I think a blend would be much neater because I have ZERO intention of ironing this thing!
-hot glue gun
-self adhesive fabric tape 
-ribbon. I used several different colors and widths, so choose what you like.
-embellishments. I used buttons, but again, choose what you like or have on hand.
-felt in whatever colors you want
-measuring tape
-pencil or fabric pencil

What I really love about this project (aside from the no sewing) is that you can truly keep it as simple or as embellished as you like! I did not purchase a single supply specifically for this project. Every item I happened to have on hand, which was awesome. At a minimum you will probably need to purchase the tension rod, curtain, and fabric tape. But after that, if you make crafts you probably have most everything else you need in your craft supplies.

The first thing you need to do is to figure out where you want your opening to be. I eyeballed most everything with this project since there honestly is not a whole lot of "wrong" you can do. The only real measuring I did was to find my center point and then I counted out 10 inches on each side to determine how big I wanted my opening.

I was so happy that my curtained happened to be striped because that made it fairly easy to keep my cutting lines straight! But if you have a different pattern, you will probably need to pay more attention to your lines. You can use a pencil on the reverse of the fabric (or right on it if you can see it) to mark your cutting lines.

I wanted the edges of the opening to be neat, so I folded them under all around and then ironed them to keep them flat.

The I used my self-adhesive fabric tape to tape everything down. Make sure when you fold your fabric over, that the excess fabric is at least as wide as your tape or you will have sticky tape exposed.

I flipped the curtain back over and then cut ribbon long enough to form a border around the entire opening. I used the fabric tape to attach the ribbon.

I hung up the curtain to see how it was coming along and noticed that the bottom edge of the opening was sagging a great deal.

That was not going to work so I was a little stumped as to how to fix it. I thought perhaps reinforcing the back with a wooden dowel to give it weight might help. But I didn't have a dowel and really just wanted to finish this without any trips to the store as my little ones were ready to play! So instead, I folded the fabric in the back to create "pleats". I pulled it taught enough, a little on each side, until the sagging was gone. Then I held it all together with the fabric tape. You could probably be more successful with a dowel or another solution, but it worked for me! Of course this made my opening not so square anymore, so I repeated the same process with the top edge. 

With the basic shape complete, I was ready to decorate. I started with some very simple ribbons that I tied a knot in. 

I then hot glued the ribbons onto each corner of the opening like streamers. I glued a button onto each ribbon grouping in order to fill it in and because I just love buttons!

Right about then, my girls couldn't resist anymore and had to do a quick show for me!

After the show was over, I decided maybe the girls should watch a movie so Mommy could finish this up!

My favorite part is the pennant banner. I cut triangles out of felt and then hot glued each one to a long ribbon. I then hot glued the ribbon onto the curtain. For a little more decoration and to cover up the ribbon ends, I glued on some more buttons.

I used chip board letters to spell out {theater} and glued them onto a piece of felt. And of course I added a few more buttons because I just couldn't resist. Another option I considered that would be cute, would be to put the letters on the pennants instead. My daughter really wanted me to spell {puppet theater}, but I didn't have enough letters. 

I chose not to cut any fabric off the end of the curtain. Instead, I used some self adhesive velcro tape that allows me to lengthen and shorten the curtain as needed. I forgot to take pictures of this step (sorry), but basically I put 3 small pieces of velcro across the bottom edge and at 2 different heights on the back of the curtain. This allows me to change the length. Between that and the fact that you can move the tension rod up or down, it allows children of different ages (and heights) to put on shows and of course makes it easy for the grown ups to do a little entertaining as well.

And at the end of play time, you just roll the whole thing up and tuck it under the bed or in a closet. Great for small spaces or even for taking to Grandma's!

I really loved making this project and my girls are thoroughly enjoying it. I hope you give this fun & easy project a try!

I'm linking this post up to the following blog link parties:

Nothing But Country

Tip Junkie handmade projects

The Girl Creative

Monday, May 16, 2011

Chocolate and Coconut...the perfect combination!

I'm a vanilla girl. Vanilla cake, vanilla ice cream, vanilla cookies...given a choice I will pretty much choose vanilla in most sweet situations. But I tried out a new chocolate cake recipe that I'm so in love with, it might actually trump vanilla for me!

One of my other favorite flavors in the world is coconut and well, chocolate & coconut are pretty much an incredible combination no matter what the vessel (cake, candy bar, cocktail...)!

Doesn't this cake look so innocent and angelic?

Fluffy Coconut Italian Meringue frosting swirled all around with shredded coconut dressing it up...It looks so sweet, but you know that even the sweetest things in the world have a dark side...

And what a delicious dark side it is...

I discovered the cake recipe on the blog The Whisk Kid. If you haven't check out her blog, definitely take a look. She's a 20 year old college sophomore and a talented baker and photographer. She has quite a following and her talents even landed her on the Martha Stewart show. And yes you read that right...she's TWENTY!

The chocolate cake is dense, but moist, with a rich chocolate flavor. The richness of the cake pairs perfectly with the light & fluffy coconut frosting.

The Whisk Kid's recipe is for a 6" cake, but unless you own a kitchen scale you will probably find it hard to measure. I know I can't accurately measure 3/8 of a cup of anything (but I'm working on getting that scale). Her notes tell you that doubling it will give you a 2 9" cakes. To make the doubling easier I used an online recipe calculator as I don't like to rely on my sketchy math skills. But I've gone ahead and provided the recipe already doubled for you. 

Deep Chocolate Cake adapted from The Whisk Kid

2 2/3 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
3 cups brown sugar lightly packed
4 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/3 cups sour cream, room temperature
1 1/3 cups hot coffee

{Preheat oven to 350F (175C). Grease two 9-inch pans (I use Bakers Joy spray). Set aside.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, soda and salt in a large bowl and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar, until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until very well incorporated. Add the vanilla. Being sure to scrape the bowl often, pour in a third of the dry ingredients, mix until just combined, then add half of the sour cream and mix until just combined. Repeat, then add the remaining dry ingredients. Gently stir in the hot coffee, and pour into prepared pans. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Place baked cakes in pans on a cooling rack for ten minutes, then remove the cakes from the pans and allow to cool completely before frosting.}

A little trick for keeping your scratch cakes moist is to wrap the layers in plastic wrap before they cool completely. Once your cakes have cooled in the pan for ten minutes, turn the cake layer out onto a cardboard cake round (you can find these in the cake aisle of any craft store). Place a large piece of plastic wrap over the exposed cake part, then place another cake board over the plastic wrap. The cake and plastic wrap should now be sandwiched between the two cake boards. Flip it over, remove the cake board from the top side and wrap the plastic wrap over the exposed cake. Do this a few times around with the plastic wrap, always using the cake boards as support so your cake doesn't rip in half. Be sure not to wrap so tightly that you warp the shape of the cake!

Wrapping the cake in the plastic wrap while it's still fairly warm, will help trap the escaping steam and keep your cake super moist! I leave my cakes wrapped until they are completely cooled and ready to frost.

For the frosting, I made an Italian Meringue Buttercream and added 2 teaspoons of coconut extract instead of vanilla. You find the recipe and watch a video on how to make it in my previous post. The flavor of the coconut was not overpowering, and at my husband's request,  I also added shredded coconut in between each layer and then sprinkled some on the top and bottom of the cake as well.

Delicious! So go on and enjoy a little chocolate & coconut love yourself!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

DIY {Fabric Magnet Board}

One of these days I'm going to have a wonderful {Before & After} post to share of my home office/creative space. But since that seems to be taking forever to complete, I thought I'd share a simple fabric covered magnet board tutorial that is a small part of that makeover.

I had (ok I admit I'm still a little guilty) a very bad habit of taking "important papers" and stacking them in a pile on my desk. That is probably the worst way ever to organize anything and I was tired of missing paperwork and deadlines! I knew having things in my face was the only way I was going to keep track of everything. So a pretty magnet board seemed like the perfect solution and I love it!

You can make this super easy yourself with just a few supplies:
-A magnet board: I used one purchased for around $6
-fabric of your choice 
-coordinating ribbon
-hot glue

First I cut the fabric to cover the front of my board and a few inches around the back. You can see that I didn't spend much time cutting neatly. Make sure the magnetic part of your board is face down on your fabric like so...

Then I just went around hot gluing everything down. I did cut the corners at an angle so they would fold neatly...

I cut my ribbon long enough to cover the front of the board with a few inches to spare in the back and hot glued that down as well....

Of course I realized I wanted some cute magnets to go on my board. I happened to have just what I needed in my craft box, remnants of some project I can no longer recall...

I just hot glued those magnet backs onto those cute buttons and ta-da...adorable magnet buttons!

Now all my "don't forget" items are front and center! So I guess I will have to come up with another good excuse as to why I let that coupon expire, or didn't RSVP or get the picture...

Happy Crafting!

Linking up this post over at

Nothing But Country

Sunday, May 8, 2011

S'mores Cupcakes

Chocolate...graham crackers...marshmallows...a combination that pretty much always ends in YUM! I've been wanting to make s'mores cupcakes for awhile now and had the perfect opportunity recently when I needed to bring some cupcakes to my daughter's preschool.

I searched a number of recipes online and I found one that looked and sounded like a winner here on Annie's Eats. The crushed graham cracker crust sounded tasty and her cupcakes looked beautiful. The recipe yielded enough graham cracker crust and batter for about 30 cupcakes.

 The chocolate cupcakes baked up perfectly and I will be using that recipe for my chocolate cupcakes from now on! But I wanted to do something different for the frosting and there was a recipe I had on my "must try" list that seemed perfect...Sweetapolita's Toasted Marshmallow Frosting!   She uses the frosting as a filling for her decadent looking 6-Layer Rich Chocolate Malted Cake...which I plan on making in the near future. After you are finished drooling over her mouth watering cake, you will find the frosting recipe towards the end of her post.

The combination  of the marshmallow frosting (which calls for actual toasted marshmallows) and the chocolate cupcake with graham cracker crust was delicious! An absolutely perfect combination that I will most definitely making again. If you try it, make sure to double the Toasted Marshmallow Frosting in order to have enough for 24 cupcakes.

But of course the cupcakes did need a finishing touch...

Can there ever be too much chocolate on a dessert?

My answer is no :)

Happy Baking!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

All ruffled up

I've been admiring all the beautiful ruffled cakes I've been seeing lately. Normally, I work hard to make sure my buttercream cakes have a smooth fondant-like finish. I love a smooth & clean looking cake! But I kept seeing those pretty feminine I decided to give it a whirl!

And it was quite a literal whirl...whirling and whirling curls of buttercream over the entire cake.

I love the old fashioned and decidedly feminine look of this style. It would be perfect for a ladies tea, shower, or oh let's say maybe...Mother's Day? ;)

The cake is a mango cake made with fresh mango puree. It's filled with more of the puree and frosted in vanilla buttercream. A flavor combination that I think is perfect for our warming weather.

The ruffling technique is actually pretty simple, don't be afraid to give it a try! There are a number of great tutorials available. Check out the amazing  Sweetapolita's Rich & Ruffled cake.

And for a great video, take at look at the YouTube tutorial provided by My Sweet & Saucy, who's site is chock full of more drool worthy confections and photos.

Happy ruffling!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Rock Candy Cake

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of making a cake for Wendy Updegraff of Wendy Updegraff Photography. She threw her son an awesome water themed party, complete with dunk tank!

In our talks regarding the cake design, it became apparent very quickly that her son had pretty sophisticated taste for an almost-eleven-year-old! He definitely did not want a typical "kiddie" cake. But we still wanted the cake to be fun while complimenting the water theme. 

What could be more fun and kid friendly than a cake covered in rock candy?

I love how the light and dark shades of blue rock candy echo the water element. Wendy came up with the clever idea of using the rock candy sticks as the number eleven...perfect touch! The bottom cake tier was red velvet and cream cheese filling (the birthday boy's favorite) and the top tier was vanilla with chocolate filling.

Check out the colorful and fun food table!

For more pictures and details  of this incredibly fun party, check out Wendy's post Water Wars!