Saturday, January 31, 2009

Preparing for Global Domination... cupcake at at time. Once again inspired by Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, I converted their basic chocolate cupcake recipe into a mini version for a take-along for last Sunday's Youth Group meeting. I used cake flour instead of all-purpose to give these sweeties a nice, soft crumb (minis can tend towards the dry side)--and these were perfect. Throw 1/4 cup of crushed Oreos® into a half-batch of their fluffy vegan buttercream, frost, then top with a mini cookie! Portable fun guaranteed to bring a smile to anyone's face! If the sight of a mini Oreo® cupcake doesn't make you happy, then you should go hug a puppy or a chubby baby :) No one deserves to be sad!

Stuck in a Magical Forest

It's a good thing I have some friends to keep me company :) My new-found obsession with sugar cookies prompted me to go on an online cookie cutter shopping spree, resulting in much joy and anticipation of putting them to good use. Where might one find such cutters, you ask? There are tons of online shops selling them, but I'm drawn to the smaller Mom and Pop operations. Check them out:

H.O. Foose Tinsmithing Co.

Country Kitchen Sweet Art (everything you could imagine for baking and decorating. My most favoritest place for supplies! Also where I purchased the ridiculously cute sugar eyes and jumbo heart sprinkles you see on the cookies above.)

I am deeply indebted to the Little Fox Factory for finally ending my 3-year long search for the classic, foot-free gingerbread boy cookie cutter! (you know, like "Gingey" from Shrek? ) I was so happy when I saw it for sale online that I stared at the computer screen in disbelief for a few minutes, but I was even more delighted when he arrived in my mail box. So cute! Straight legs AND a big head? Perfection. I can die in peace now. And stop lopping off the feet from the cookies made using my usual cutter.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"Hoo" Could Resist? Guess "Owl" Never Know!

*groan* :) These owl cupcakes are probably among the cutest things to ever emerge from my kitchen, no? My sister and I joined forces to bring these owls to life as both blondes and brunettes. It's only fair after all. Wanna make some? Find the instructions in the Hello, Cupcake! book I've ALREADY TOLD YOU TO GO BUY (see previous post). Do it now! You'll have a hoot! Sorry. ^_^Okay... one more, I promise. A word to the "wise": seek out other brands of chocolate sandwich cookies (as in, maybe not Oreos®), because the brand name ones, delicious though they may be, can be too fragile to separate successfully. The cookie is just too delicate and crumbly to remove in one piece! The Golden version of that same cookie? A dream to work with! Oh and go ahead and follow the book's recommendation of using Junior Mints® for the eye part. We used Milk Duds®, which were unfortunately kinda lumpy and misshapen. Which is fine if you're going for the crazy-eye look, but we weren't.

* If you really love owls and cheesy puns, go to Target and seek out a particular set of towels in their bed & bath section. They're hot pink, valentine-themed towels with owls appliqued on them. And the phrase "Owl love you forever" Awesome!

King Cake Season has Arrived!

Okay so they're not exactly king cakes...or even king cake flavored, but with their festive gold wrappers and drizzle, I think these cupcakes are perfect for ushering in the season. The icing base coat is made from (gasp!) canned frosting, which I zapped in the microwave for 15 seconds, transforming it into a luxuriously shiny glaze perfect for dipping. It's actually quite a neat trick I learned from the book Hello, Cupcake! Go pick up a copy, especially if you have kids. Or if you're a big kid at heart (like me!).

A Holiday Wedding

Exactly one month ago, I delivered this (my second actual wedding cake ever!) cake to my co-worker's house, where her sister's wedding ceremony and reception were held. I somehow managed to forget my camera that day, so this photo is courtesy of the bride! Being December 20th, the house was splendidly decorated for Christmas, and the wedding colors coordinated perfectly. The flavor? Red velvet, of course! The icing job didn't turn out as smooth as I would have liked, owing mostly to the crazy 90% humidity we had in Louisiana that weekend. Definitely not a white Christmas. But now, one month later, we're going to have a dry 30°F night. Go figure.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Oh, Baby!

Maybe I'm blowing this out of proportion, but it seems like everyone I know is expecting. Is it something in the water? Or have I reached the age (yikes!) where the vast majority of my peers are getting married and starting families? Yeah...that's it. I'm still lovin' the cookie making, so this weekend I whipped up a batch to divide up and give out. The cookie itself is the same recipe as the chocolate cream cheese cookies I made earlier, except I used a total of 3.5 cups flour instead of flour and cocoa. Adjust flavorings to taste--this time I used vanilla and almond extracts, but lemon or coconut would be good too. If you haven't already, try out the recipe. It's a soft and creamy, not-too-sweet cookie with a cream cheese background. YuM!

Happy New Year!

Happy 2009, everyone! It's been a busy but wonderful year, hasn't it? Made/broken your resolutions yet? How about "eat more cookies?" That sounds like a good idea to me! Cookie making has made its way to the top of my interests as of late, and I am all the more happier for it. I had been waiting for my new Christmas cookie cutters to come in the mail, but sadly they did not arrive on my doorstep until December 26th. No worries, though--the Christmas season isn't really over until after Epiphany! Our church choir had a holiday party this past week, which gave me the perfect opportunity to test out my new cutters. Cute!

Chocolate Cream Cheese Cookies

* 1 cup butter, softened
* 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
* 1.5 cups sugar
* 0.5 tsp. salt
* 1 egg yolk
* 1 tsp. vanilla
* 2.75 cups flour
* 0.75 cups cocoa

Cream butter and cream cheese together, then slowly stream in sugar with mixer running. Beat until light and fluffy, then mix in salt, egg yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add flour and cocoa to creamed mixture in batches, beating just until combined after each addition. Divide dough into halves or thirds and roll out to 0.25" thickness between sheets of parchment or waxed paper (dough may be sticky). Refrigerate at least 2 hours (I do mine overnight) or until dough sheet is firm and easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut out shapes with a floured cookie cutter, and place on parchment-lined cookie sheets at least one inch apart. (Dough holds its shape very well and will not spread into unrecognizable blobs) Bake in preheated oven for 8-12 minutes, depending on size of cookies. Cool on wire racks, then ice and decorate as desired.

Cookie Glaze

* 3 cups powdered sugar
* 4 Tbl. milk
* 4 Tbl. light corn syrup
* 0.5 tsp. vanilla or other flavoring, if desired

Mix powdered sugar and milk together until smooth and creamy (may take a few minutes). Blend in corn syrup and flavoring, then cover bowl with plastic wrap and let glaze sit for at least 15 minutes. During this time, the glaze will form small bubbles due to the mixing. These will slowly surface to the top, at which point you can gently stir them out. Stirring vigorously now will only make more bubbles... and you'll be sorry! Use an offset spatula to glaze cookies, or you can hold the cookie by its edges and dip them in glaze. Let set until dry and firm, which may take several hours depending on humidity.