Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category

Gone Fishing

June 11, 2009

I was recently thrilled and honored by my friend Sheila’s request to bake her daughter’s birthday cake. I love a good reason to bake something fun and what better reason than for the birthday of one incredibly sweet two-year old? Her party was being held at a local splash park and so Sheila chose a fish theme for the decor.

Kids Kampus Jacksonville, FL

Kids Kampus Jacksonville, FL

Sheila is very crafty and her party decor is always perfectly matched to her theme. She found a recipe for an adorable fish cake at the Disney’s Family Fun website. I was excited to make this cute cake and hoped it would put a smile on the birthday girl’s face! I also hoped it would live up to Sheila’s expectations as I didn’t want the cake to be the dud in her party decor!

After reading the recipe, I knew immediately that the Necco wafers had to go! Have you ever eaten a Necco wafer?

image courtesy of the Candy Baron

image courtesy of the Candy Baron

If you haven’t had the umm…pleasure…count yourself lucky. I think of Necco wafers as “old people candy” and with that said, I apologize to any seniors reading this. But Necco wafers taste like lightly sweetened chalk and the thought of covering an entire cake in them was frightening. Sheila suggested using candy melts and they turned out to be the perfect solution. What could be better than covering a cake in candy?


The inside of the cake was a yellow cake. I’ve been testing recipes to the find the perfect yellow cake one and finally discovered one I love…all thanks to the wonderfully resourceful Bakerella. Here is the link for her yellow cake recipe. Now I did make a few changes to get the cake I wanted. Instead of all butter, I used half butter and half butter-flavored shortening. This really adds some extra moisture to the cake. I also used 2 teaspoons of vanilla instead of vanilla and butter flavoring. I tried her sugar water trick, although I brushed it on with a pastry brush, and think it did help to keep it moist.

The original fish cake directions state to bake a 13 x 9 cake to cut out. I did bake it that size, but before cutting out the shape, I ran a cake leveler through the middle to create two layers. I then frosted the middle before I cut the shape out. This did make it more difficult to cut, but more frosting means a moister and more flavorful cake. One of my pet peeves is a sheet cake with no center frosting. The cake tends to be dry and you end up with a mouthful of dry cake. Don’t get me wrong, I will still eat such a cake as I haven’t met a cake I’ve turned away yet, but a little more frosting is the difference between a good cake and a great one!

I used Wilton’s buttercream icing recipe. There are more flavorful icings (or frosting if you prefer that term as I do), but this one really holds up well in the heat. This was an outdoor party at the end of May so that was definitely a concern.I tinted the frosting as directed. After frosting the cake, I added the candy melts by alternating the colors to create the scales. I wasn’t happy with the unfinished edge of the bottom of the cake. I could have piped frosting around it, but instead cut candy melts in half to create a border. I have to say, while this cake took some time from start to finish, I was pretty happy and proud of it!

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In retrospect, I would make a few changes if I were to make this cake again. I realized somewhere around midnight as I was decorating, that I had no where to write “Happy Birthday” or the birthday girl’s name.  I should have used fondant to cut out the letters and attach to the side of the cake. I improvised on the way to the party, stopped at the grocery store and purchased those candy letters sold in the bakery aisle. They did the trick, but the fondant letters would have been bigger and I think prettier. In the future, I also would save some of the batter to make one cupcake. The candle could then be placed into the cupcake and the birthday person would have their own mini-cake. As it was, we placed the candle on the top fin.

photo courtesy of Sheila Sierra photography

photo courtesy of Sheila Sierra photography

All the  party guests seemed to get a kick out of the cake and really enjoyed it! Most importantly, the birthday girl had a smile on her face as she blew out her candle! Making this cake just reminded how much I love baking for children and I can’t wait to do it again!


Sweet nothings

May 19, 2009

It was yet another week of steady Florida rain. In and of itself, the rain is not an issue. But when it is preceded by a week of a sick kid cooped up in the house waiting to feel better so she can GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY, well…it’s an issue. So there we were, desperate for diversion and crankiness loomed on the horizon.  We had made some paint crafts the previous day and when I suggested a similar project, my daughter’s lack of enthusiasm could be felt from across the room, where she sat begging to watch TV. So I countered with a cheerful “let’s make cookies!” Now that got her moving!

I was almost knocked down by the  powerful SWOOSH of a child dashing by me and into the kitchen. By the time I made it in there after her, she had already pulled the kitchen chair up to the counter and was demanding a wooden spoon. At that moment I thought, “gee I really hope I have ingredients to make cookies”. Something I probably should have considered sooner. Thankfully, I had the makings for a batch of sugar cookies. Well, technically I didn’t have enough butter. But part butter, part margarine, part shortening sugar cookies would do just fine!

Ingredients in...

Per the recipe (which I quickly took off the back of the sugar bag), I needed to chill the dough for an hour. To an almost-three-year-old an hour might as well be forever, so we went ahead and rolled the dough out anyway. It was definitely stickier than if we had chilled it. Here’s a handy tip to help with clean up when making cut out cookies…parchment paper.

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I cut out a large piece of parchment paper and used painters tape to attach it to the table. It serves two purposes. First, it keeps the mess off the table so all I have to do is roll up the paper and toss it into the trash. Second, because it is a fairly nonstick surface, less flour is needed. When you have a child who likes to toss the flour all around, the less flour the better! If you haven’t used parchment paper in your baking, I highly recommend it. It will help your cookies brown evenly and reduce the need to grease the pan (works great for cakes too)!

My daughter is getting pretty good at using the cookie cutters. I help her roll the dough out by using a mini sized rolling pin that I purchased just for her. After that, she chooses the cutters she wants and presses them into the dough.

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My original intent is to have her cut out all the cookies. I know she will have a lot of fun with this. But while the first batch is in the oven, the baby lets me know in no uncertain terms that she needs to be nursed NOW. One look at the clock reminds me that it’s past lunch time and nap time is coming up too. I decide to take care of the children’s bellies and deal with the cookies later. During nap time, I cut out cookies from the remaining dough. My daughter’s disappointment will be eclipsed by her delight of the next step…decorating!

I had planned on whipping up a quick batch of icing…powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, milk. Simple. Quick. Then I look at my sink. My sparkling clean sink. Next to my sparkling clean sink is my sparkling clean mixer and my sparkling clean mixing bowls. I had just washed everything. Did I really want to do it all again? A quick peek in the pantry reveals…

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Thank you Pillsbury for making life a little easier!

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And thank you sprinkle makers for making sprinkles look so darn colorful and cheerful!

Nap time is over and the fun begins!cookies 033

After frosting a few cookies she informs me that her hands are too dirty and that “you should frost them mommy”. The sprinkling of happy sprinkles is what she is really after anyway.

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And boy can she sprinkle! I mean, thick coats of sprinkles on each cookie. I have to go behind her and shake off the excess. But what a beautiful collection of happy rainy day sugar cookies we created!

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Cake pops for a cause

May 6, 2009

In memory of my beautiful mother, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease seven years prior to her death, I will be walking in the Alzheimer’s Association 2009 Memory Walk. My husband and I participated in the walk a few years ago, but this year we will be walking as a family of four. Of course technically the baby will be in the stroller, but at 3 years old, my oldest will be walking by my side this year!

I also decided to take my new found obsession with Bakerella’s cake pops and put that energy to good use. She recently posted on her blog that she had made her cup cake pops for the American Cancer Society’s “Relay for Life”. Check out the story Cute for a Cure! I was so inspired that I contacted the director of the Alzheimer’s Association’s North Florida chapter and offered to do the same for the Memory Walk. She was thrilled with the offer!

So I will be making about 200 cake pops to sell at the walk this year! Every penny of the sale will be donated to the Alzheimer’s Association in my mother’s honor. I really hope these turn out well and that I raise a large amount of money during the walk. The walk isn’t until November, so I have some time to work on my cake pop making skills. Here is a picture of the ones Bakerella made.

photo curtesy of Bakerella

photo courtesy of Bakerella

I plan on making the regular cake pop version instead of the cupcake pop. I think that will help to make this a reasonable task for me. It turns out that the Alzheimer’s Association’s color is also purple so mine will look similar.

photo curtesy of

photo courtesy of

If I get really inspired, and depending on what is going on in my life in November, I might attempt to make candy versions of the Forget Me Not flowers to attach to the pops. This flower is a symbol used by the Alzheimer’s Association.

If you are in the North Florida area, please sign up to walk and raise funds for Alzheimer’s research. If you are there, please make sure to visit my table and buy a cake pop (or two or five)! If you aren’t in the area, you can still help by making a donation to the cause. Click here to be directed to my Memory Walk fund raising page. This is a website created and monitored by the Alzheimer’s Association and all funds go directly to them.

If you want to help even more, you can sign up as a member of my team. This will create your own webpage which you can then forward to friends, family and coworkers. You don’t have to be present at the walk to raise money, so you can join my team no matter where you live.

Or you can even start at team of your own. Check out the Memory Walk website for more information. This is a cause that is so very close to my heart. I never want my daughters to have to suffer the slow and painful loss of their mother the way that I did.

To learn more about Alzheimer’s visit the Alzheimer’s Association online!

Bunnies and chicks…oh my!

April 24, 2009

Easter…another holiday…another excuse for some fun baking! Do I really need an excuse though? I love holidays…just about any holiday can be made more special by a fun and thoughtful dessert. My daughter is now at the age where she can appreciate a cute cake or confection. She was born with a sweet tooth and has come to expect a cake at any and all celebrations. And while she would eat any cake, cute or not, it’s nice to get a smile and “Wow, a bunny cake!” out of her.

I remember the first time my mother made me an Easter bunny cake. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world and I adored her for making it. I’ve been waiting a long time to step into Mima’s shoes and make one for my own daughter. This Easter was the year! I was probably more excited to make it than my daughter was to see it, but it was a joy to make nevertheless. It is a simple bunny cake…no fancy shaped pans or laborious decorating techniques. An old fashioned cut out cake from a box mix and canned frosting.  But it was chock full of love!

Hippity hoppity!

Hippity hoppity!

I followed the instructions from the Betty Crocker website. I decided to go with a strawberry mix for the cake and  coconut frosting. For the eyes and decorations, I used cute “bunny corn” which is pastel colored candy corn I found at Michael’s. It was as delicious as it was adorable!

Since the cake only used one layer of a two layer mix, I needed to make something with the leftover batter. At first, I thought I would make cupcakes out of it. Then I decided to be adventurous! A friend had turned me on to Bakerella’s blog and her too-cute-for-words “cake pops”. Cake rolled into balls, coated in chocolate, on a lollipop stick…I couldn’t resist. I took one look at her sweet chick pops and decided to go for it! The first time trying something new is challenging. Trying something new at 8:00 at night after putting the kids to bed and still needing to pack for a trip the next day is a bit insane. But there I was at 11:30 at night still making my cake pops. Oh but it was completely worth it! How cute are these?

Almost too cute to eat!

Almost too cute to eat!

The cake pops were addictive to make. I’m already planning on making some fish ones for my friend’s daughter’s birthday party and I can’t wait! I don’t think there is an occasion that these  pops can’t be adapted for. The possibilities are endless…which means you will see more posts of my Cake Pop Adventures!