Sunday, April 20, 2014

Gingham Bunnies

Eggs are dyed, bunny has been visited, Easter basket prepared.  I know that Amelie went to bed dreaming of bunnies and eggs.  Even our prayer this evening included bunnies. Amelie's basket is full of books and little toys because we don't really eat candy in our house, but there is an exception of one necessary chocolate bunny and of course a white sugar cookie bunny.  My cookies were a bit of a mish mosh this year.  Some weird bohemian paisley rabbits....

easter cookies

 A couple traditional bunny scenes.....

bunny easter cookies

And one new pattern that I love for spring and summer. Gingham!  Yes, they do have holes in their necks.  I was going to string them on a ribbon garland in front of the patio door but I didn't get to.
easter pattern cookie

Summer picnic tablecloth cookies are in my imagination and now on my agenda.  Maybe some ants and picnic baskets....

I was so happy to find this stencil paper at Michael's.  I've been wanting to create stencils to be used with my airbrush. Luckily, I also own a Cricut machine.  In the picture below, you'll see this gingham stencil.  It was created using the Cricut and it's deep cut blade.  It was very easy, but required multiple cuts to break through the paper.  I'll be trying some more intricate designs.   Oooooo I just realized I could create monograms for cookies.  I guess you'll be seeing those soon too!

I thought you might like to see my airbrush area.  I use a trifold cardboard and some plastic sheeting over the countertop.  The first time I used the airbrush I tried gold food coloring and it turned out to be a beneficial choice.  It was a sunny day and beams of sunshine were filtering through the window.  You know how those sunshine beams show off all of the lovely dust dancing around your house?  Well, my dust particles were a very sparkly gold.  I realized then that at the very least something need to catch the overspray.  Until I could figure out a better solution, I'd also keep my airbrushing to a minimum until warmer weather came around and a box fan can be placed in the patio sliding doors with a spray station nearby.

Well, I hope everyone enjoys their Easter!  Have a great day!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Colony of Cupcakes

I was unsure of the correct term for a group of bunnies. Herd? Pack? School?  I just took a minute to look it up and found myself reading unnecessary information about rabbits - thanks Wikipedia.  Anyways, they are called colonies.   The only colony of bunnies that I will allow in my house, or on my plate....

mini cupcakes, carrot

I brought in a healthy snack to a "Mommy and Me" group along with little sweet bites of carrot cupcake disguised as bunnies with marshmallow tails.  We were celebrating Easter, carrot cake is a must. The Cricut has come in handy lately to cut out adornments for cakes and cookies, such as these bunny ears.  I'll be sharing a tip soon for those of you who have one of these fun machines!

The Ugliest Color

Pink.  It's just my opinion. The only pink you'll find in my life is on Amelie's toys.  I even struggle as I stare at a new "to go" cup purchase for Amelie.  Pink or green? Green can be girly, but considered gender neutral.  Green usually wins and I justify my decision by musing about the little boy I might have someday and that he can use it too.  See? I'm even being thrifty.  There isn't any pink in her bedroom either.  Green, orange, and yellow grace her walls and bed linens.  As I type this I am thinking maybe she should have a little more pink in her life;  her favorite toy is a blue train.
Have you ever heard that the season in which you are born determines the colors that look best on you?  I'm not sure what colors "they" think belong to what seasons, but the fall is pretty easy to figure out. I could say that orange, green, red, and brown look nice on me.  I suppose that's also why I only have 2 pink shirts in my closet.

Pink food coloring for cake and cookie decorating is notoriously ugly.  Americolor offers Deep Pink, Dusty Rose, Mauve, Soft Pink, and Electric Pink which seems like enough choices, but they always seem to need modification, especially if you are trying to match another pink.  I decided to incorporate a pink ribbon in the last cake I decorated and although the pinks seem to coordinate in the picture, they definitely did not once I added the color to the icing.

matching frosting

I do have a slightly nerdy love of color and so I kept this book above from my color theory college class. The book led us through a variety of exercises to help us learn to "see" color.  One exercise consisted of a zillion different color chips that had to be put in order. Every page was a different hue (red, yellow, green, blue, etc) and the chips were to be organized vertically by value (tint, tone, shade) and horizontally by chromaticity (saturation.)  It's surprising how many people would have a problem doing this.
In a much more scientific way than I care to remember, this book described the relationships between different colors and how everything around us affects the way they are perceived by the human eye.
You don't have to take a color theory class to know that blue and red make purple, but you may have to do a little more work if you'd like to change the pink food coloring above to match your favorite pink ribbon.

Occasionally I'll try the following method to help determine how to mix my colors:  Dab a tiny amount of your color on a paper towel and spray it with water.  Watch the color spread or maybe even dry, and you'll see what colors were mixed to produce your specific hue.  In this case, the colors that have been combined do normally make the purple that I dabbed on the paper towel. 

However, you may be using this "avocado green" in the picture below. Without this test your naked eye may not be able to tell what colors have been added to make this specific green, and you won't know what colors to add yourself to produce your desired color of green. I see brown, green, and blue near the bottom.

How to match frosting color

This test can be especially helpful even if you consider yourself a color expert. The companies creating food coloring can't always use our normal color equations to produce secondary colors. The chemistry behind their "colors" don't normally combine the way we would expect.
My pink test didn't show a color mixture to help me figure out how to alter it. more reason to not like pink.   But I could tell that it had a more yellow undertone.  You'll notice that most variations on a specific hue will have a distinct blue or yellow (cool or warm) undertone.  Common sense would tell you to then add blue to help counteract the yellow undertone.  But what else has blue in it and is close to the color pink?  Purple.  I only wanted to alter the pink slightly and so adding the purple was the most logical choice.  See the two bottles of food coloring in the top picture of this post and you should be able to guess which purple I had to use :-)

matching frosting colors
Perfectly matched pinks!  A simple buttercream frosted cake made for Glenda Crowe for her to serve to her son and daughter-in-law Darrell and Kim on their 25th wedding anniversary.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Perfect Size

I recently had a test that required me to consume a lot of liquids and to also keep those liquids inside of me for awhile.  I know that's not a great opening line.  However,  it was enough time for me to think about size. Size of body organs, capacity of these organs, serving sizes of beverages, serving sizes of cakes. It doesn't take very long for my mind to circle around and land on something sweet.  And by sweet I do not mean this enormous KFC bucket-like sugar pond.

I was curious to find the largest size fast food beverage after my experience that morning.  This is 64 ounces, or a half gallon. Of course I had to look up the capacity of a human stomach, and then the bladder.  We all come in different shapes and sizes so there is no accurate answer, but I at least know now that I can barely hang on to a 17 ounce bottle of water.  I'm having a hard time picturing someone at a drive thru balancing this on their console, drinking it with a straw long enough to reach the bottom, and consuming it without bursting.
Back to the sweet destination that my original thoughts landed - cake serving size.  In the cake world a party serving size is usually 2"x2" and a wedding cake serving size is 1"x2".  Which explains why at a wedding reception I'm always eating the scraps from everyone else's cake at my table.  I'm sure, like the drink above, everyone has their own preference when it comes to cake serving size.  Even though I bake a lot of cakes and cookies, I don't actually indulge daily with beautiful, nutritionally dead treats unless it's for a special occasion, or if I want to  have to trim your cake to level it.  Somehow cakes and cookies taste so much sweeter this way. So when I do indulge, a 1"x2" piece of cake feels like a prank.
But beyond the size of the slice of cake you'd like to eat, what is the perfect size personal cake? And I don't mean the size that you would eat if you are trying to be "good."
I previously made some petit fours that you can see here.  I would not survive on only one.  My smallest cake pans are 4" in diameter.  Waaaay to big.  Below is an example of my first try at a pretty little fondant ruffle cake in a 4" diameter for a friend.  Also below, very large individual size cakes for a boys basketball team.

fondant ruffles

basketball cake

Of course the easy answer is the 3 or 4 different sizes of cupcakes that you have to choose from.  I do love a good cupcake, but it's not the same as eating your very own mini cake.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Pretty Little (Green) Things

In case I never mentioned it, the "glue" in my blog's title was supposed to be about my crafty adventures which seemed to have fallen along the way side to be replaced by toddler crafts and games. Sensory bins, painting, play dough, sticky wall art, foam creatures with googly eyes, pom-pom shooters, home made cardboard train tunnels, and on and on. Just to prove my point: here is our homemade multi sensory play dough.  Green of course, gold glitter, and scented with peppermint essential oils. 

It was about time I took a few minutes to craft and I've missed making jewelry, luckily I had a little pinspiration.
I haven't worn a lot of jewelry lately, and my style has changed a bit. Somewhere along the way I had to protect my ears from little hands wanting to rip out my earrings. Not to mention you might get a few weird looks if you wear any type of chandelier earrings to a mommy/toddler play group.    
I love the versatility of this simple necklace. Any ribbon can be used to coordinate with an outfit and paired with any strand of beads, pearls, chain, etc. It only takes 5 minutes to make.  I've had my eyes on that fresh mint color for this spring and this was the perfect way to use it.  All I had to do was double up the chain and link it with a crimping bead on one end.  Then loop the two ends together with ribbon and tie your bow. Ta da! You're done.
It's not a very professional picture, but you'll get the idea.

Everyone has their own "jewelry" in some form.  For Johnny it would be his lures and right now for me, my cake sprinkles.  I'll share with you a couple of cakes adorned with said sprinkles.  I made this cake for Johnny's grandma - some mint colored,very easy, sloppy, rustic frosting with added ruffled fondant flowers.  Or in the cake decorating world they would be called "fantasy" flowers as they don't resemble any one particular flower.  I've made all sorts of "fantasy" flowers with my great imagination, they're so much easier.  You just don't really know what to say when someone asks you what type of flower they are.  So, I wanted you to see that this cake wouldn't look quite as pretty without it's "jewelry."  Some simple yellow sanding sugar and yellow non-pareils. Custom made yellow non-pareils I might add.  Colored sugar and non-pareils are very easy to make yourself with food coloring.  

Simple silver sanding sugar and silver non-pareils.

Gold crystals sprinkled on white chocolate leaves and gold luster dust painted onto fondant leaves.

Luster dust, disco dust, pearl dust, sanding sugars, non-pareils, jimmies, anything to add a little sparkle. 

This is a tiny sampling out of my bin to show you some of what is available to a cake or cookie decorator.  You've probably all heard of the sanding sugars, jimmies (bottom left), non- pareils, and those little fall leaf decorations. In the top right you'll see gold "crystals"; bottom row shows pink luster dust and green disco dust.  Luster and pearl dusts can be applied dry with a brush to dried royal icing or fondant/gum paste for a little bit of shimmer. They can also be mixed with a clear alcohol to apply as details for a more opaque concentrated appearance.  Disco dust can be applied to royal icing while wet or brushed on a slightly moist fondant for extra shimmer.  There is a little disco in this a little shimmer goes a long way.
It's a good idea to pay attention to the fine print if you choose to adorn your sweets with any of these alluring, tiny sprinkles.  Some of them have been rated as FDA approved for consumption and others are labeled simply non-toxic.  We all know crayons are non-toxic but most of us don't choose to snack on them.  It is a little bewildering that anything labeled non-toxic is marketed to be used on an edible substance.  I choose to use  non-toxic trimmings in small amounts on items that I know will be removed from the cake or cookie itself, and edible embellishments on those that will be consumed.  Unfortunately I don't believe everything approved by the FDA is actually safe for consumption, especially if it sparkles, but I will take my chances for an occasional indulgence.

A couple cute little cookie sandwiches for St. Patrick's day.  I made some of the same four leaf clover royal icing transfers as I did last year, paired it with my favorite chocolate cookie recipe and filled them with a fresh mint frosting.  I think I was just yearning for a summer garden when I chose this recipe.  The fresh mint in a frosting is a bit different than your peppermint flavoring from a bottle, so you have to prepare your tastebuds for it, but I enjoyed it.

Fresh Mint Buttercream Frosting:

1. Process about 20 mint leaves with 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar in a food processor until      sugar is moist. 
2. Cream this sugar mixture in a mixer with 1 stick of unsalted butter. Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt and beat until creamy. 
3. Gradually add 3 cups of powdered sugar.  
4. Beat for one minute and add up to 1/2 tablespoon of cream if the mixture appears too thick to spread.

I hope you enjoy something green this next Monday!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Choo Choo, Amelie is Two!

I cried at least one tear on February 13th.  Two years have flown by.  Amelie and I always read books at bedtime, but that day I had to rock her to sleep.  I sang Happy Birthday over and over to put her to sleep, in response to her prompts, "again, again."  What a happy day it was because we have an extremely happy, silly, hungry, healthy two year old little girl.  We know this because we hear the word "no" more than any other word every single day. We have so much fun seeing the look in her eyes as she feels proud of doing something as simple as looking in the mirror to see herself brush her own hair. We spend many hours crafting, getting messy, learning, playing, arguing, loving and I don't think either Johnny or I would trade a single second of them for any other experience.

I picked a few party pictures that describe her the best:

Spending her birthday with Thomas and taking advantage of any moment to steal some jewels.

I had a lot of fun with her birthday cake.  Almost too much fun because I might have gotten a little carried away, even so I still loved her cake. I usually try to keep things simple but I just didn't want to stop.  I made a little train and a number 2 out of a fondant, gum paste mix. The train cars are carrying her birthday candles and they sit atop a 10" round cake.  
fondant train

train themed party

Here is our Miss Amelie holding tight to her beloved "Cranky" the crane.  Cranky has many layers of chapstick on, and is adorned daily with my stolen necklaces.

On another note.....February 13th was also my first "bloggiversary."  I have to thank every one of you for reading!  I can see the count of every page view and your region through google's analytics (but not who you are) and even though I started this blog to document for myself and share with those who are closer to me, I can see that I have reached many more people. I feel happy at the possibility that I may be inspiring others to create! 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Valentine's Cake, Strawberry Filling, and Vanilla Bean Ice Creammmmmmmm

White cake recipe number three. I've been testing white cake recipes in hopes to find the most moist white cake ever baked in the history of cake baking.  I'm afraid this is an impossible task.  Recipe number two was very, very moist but I just feel the need to try more recipes. I'm starting to feel like one of those people who never finishes what they started because it's just not good enough.  I have plenty of sewing projects that fill that description.  I won't even mention the yards of fabric purchased that I've glanced at now and again. 
White cake tends to be on the dry side because the majority of egg added to the recipe is in the form of egg whites where as the yolk would add more tenderness/moisture. Also, not to mention color (yellow - if you couldn't figure it out.). Most white cake recipes seem to use cake flour, and other oils/fats are used in place of the majority of butter ( I'd rather have yellow cake, thank you.)
Anyways.....I don't usually share my cake recipes because I'd like to be the one that makes them for you :-). But in this case it's just not ready yet......

Red heart cake topper

This cake is frosted in Swiss Meringue Buttercream. I will tell you that I have never knowingly eaten Swiss Meringue Buttercream.  I'm sure I have had it before since I am a professional cake eater, but it definitely did not have a name.  Same goes for Italian Meringue or French Meringue or a meringue of any other ethnicity.  I certainly am not prejudice, especially in the name of sugar. All I know is that all these meringues must be delicious because I have never met a frosting I didn't like.
So in case you don't know her and you'd like to meet her, here she is.  Friends meet SMB, SMB meet my friends. She is not as sweet as American Buttercream whom we all know and love, but don't let that fool you.  She is created on your stove top; egg whites and granulated sugar heated to a safe 160 degrees.  The mixture is then whisked by your electric mixer until room temperature.  This takes a whole 10 minutes or so. At this point the mixture is a meringue. Or so it should be but I didn't take a picture so...good luck.
Then cool (not cold) butter is added in chunks. I took this picture below and realized that if you were even contemplating a diet of some sort I'd lose you right here.  Not that cake would be in your diet anyways but this definitely looks like an army of butter. I assure you that your best friend, American Butter cream is every bit of buttery as my best friend, SMB so get off your high horse right now.

After an extremely unattractive curdly stage, your SMB becomes a smooth, creamy, dreamy frosting.

It spreads just as nicely as American buttercream. I'd say even better.  If I heat my spatula it will sort of melt the butter into a very smooth finish.  SMB can be a little tricky, but if it doesn't look quite right - don't throw it out, most likely you'll find a fix if you search online or ask me and I'll try to help.
Weird SMB icing consistencies tend to be related to temperature.

I made a couple accompanying flavors to compliment the cake.
Homemade strawberry filling and a vanilla bean ice cream. Strawberry filling is SO easy and quick to make - there is no excuse for buying a can, especially because in my opinion, fresh tastes better.

Strawberry Filling

  1. Dissolve 2 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch in 1/4 cup of water.
  2. In a small saucepan add 2 1/2 cups of coarsely chopped hulled strawberries (frozen works too), 1/2 cup sugar, and cornstarch/water mixture.
  3. Bring all ingredients to a boil, stirring constantly while crushing berries with potato masher. 
  4. Boil a few minutes to thicken and then pour into a bowl to cool completely.

Now this is where I realize that I have many wasted many months between last Mother's Day and today.  Johnny spoiled me last year with the ice cream maker attachment for my Kitchen aid mixer.  I made chocolate peanut butter ice cream and then somehow forgot about this appliance stored in my basement freezer.  I don't even know how that's possible, that chocolate peanut butter ice cream was every bit as good as this vanilla bean ice cream.  
You really just don't know how good vanilla is, unless you've scraped it from a bean.  I mean this from the bottom of my heart. There can be a lot of explanatory words used in food blogs that make you roll your eyes and think - get on with the recipe already!  But the vanilla bean deserves a moment of silence and reverence.

scraped vanilla bean
I used the Pioneer Women's recipe. I don't feel the need to test any more vanilla bean ice cream recipes.

Half and half is heated with the vanilla and sugar.  I must mention that during this step I scooped a spoonful or two for my coffee.  I looked at my coffee and then at the pan, back and forth a couple times, and thought.....well, this is convenient.
Egg yolks are whipped, then tempered into the vanilla mixture. Heat until custard-like. Yum.

This mixture is then combined with heavy cream. Place in refrigerator to cool, then cycle through ice cream maker, freeze, and wait and wait and wait.

Aren't they just the cutest little vanilla bean flecks you've ever seen?