Cream Cheese Chocolate Cupcakes

You know how actions speak louder than words? These very cupcakes pictured here are a case in point of that. I made these one morning and what do you know, some utility guys came to replace the telephone pole out in our front lawn that afternoon. After they were here for awhile, I put a bunch of cupcakes on a glass platter, locked the dog in the garage, and took the cupcakes and a little table out, offered them as I was setting them on the table, and said I’ll just leave them out here, eat as many as you want.

There were 3 guys on the crew.
They ate almost all of them.
Or maybe they took some for the road.
Anyway, that has got to be one of my favorite things. Making a lot of something and seeing it get inhaled.

cream cheese cupcakes

They also did rave about them when they brought the platter and table to the door before they left. So, there were words, too. But the actions spoke louder.

Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip Cupcakes …from the Derstine cookbook

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup cocoa
2 cups water
1 cup oil
2 Tbsp. vinegar
2 tsp. vanilla
Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. Add water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Mix together until smooth. Here’s a tip for if you’re in a hurry… use a cake mix instead of mixing the cupcake batter from scratch. Fill cupcake papers 1/2 full. I made a note that says I used my biggest scoop for the cake part (which would be the Pampered Chef large scoop) and a heaping regular spoon for the filling. Put 1 rounded teaspoonful of filling on top of each one. Bake at 350 for 22 minutes. The recipe says 20-25 min, but 22 min was perfect for my oven. Makes 34 cupcakes.

FILLING:
1 8oz pkg cream cheese
1 egg
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup chocolate chips
Beat cream cheese, egg, sugar, and salt until smooth. Stir in chocolate chips.

cream cheese cupcakes1

You don’t need to drop the filling in all neat and stuff. Let them have some character. Imperfect perfection.

cream cheese cupcakes2

cream cheese cupcakes3
They come out of the oven all puffed up like this. ^^^

And then as they cool, they kind of go down a bit in the middle.
cream cheese chocolate cupcakes

And last, but not least, I have a little note by my recipe that says “165 calories each if makes 34.” I’m pretty sure I must’ve figured that out for a friend. Because why would I be eating cupcakes if I was on a diet?!

American Girl Doll Birthday Cake

Tiffany turned 8 last week. Usually, the girls pick what they want for a cake, but this year Tiffany said, “I don’t want to pick my cake this year, I want you to surprise me. My only thing is I’d like something that has to do with princess-y”.

So, the morning of her birthday, Tiffany left for school and I got busy baking.

This is what was waiting for her when she got home.

american girl doll cake4

Yes, I did put her American Girl doll Rebecca inside a cake. Yes, I know, it was a little crazy.
In all of Pinterest-searching for princess cakes, I never saw an American Girl doll in one… Barbie seems to be pretty much monopolizing the whole doll-in-cake thing. If you’re wondering how Rebecca’s cloth body fared, it was totally unharmed. Before putting her in the cake, I wrapped her in plastic wrap up to her chin and down her arms a bit. I did have to wash her hair afterwards, though, because it was against the back of her dress and the fondant tiara was sitting on it.

Tiffany loved the cake extra much because it wasn’t some random new doll… it was a doll she’d had for over a year and already knew and loved. Ok, that sounds weird talking like that about a doll, but if you were once a little girl with a favorite doll, you might understand how that can feel accurate. ;) I don’t know how many times Tiffany said, “I just feel like I have to pick her up and hug her!” and then sometimes adding the obvious “but I know it would get fondant and cake all over me”.

So, for the details, here is how I did it (not to be confused with the professional way to do it, ha). You’ll notice some winging it and some improvising and some lack of planning ahead and some details that didn’t get very good. But so what, my 8-year-old was speechless ….and yours would be too if you’d up n wing a cake like this for her. :)

First is baking the cakes…

The cake part is white cake baked in 4 pans… a 10″, 9″, 8″, and 6″ pan. I needed a hole in the middle to put the doll down thro’, so I thought why not save on cake instead of cutting out the middles, so I put a coffee cup in the center of each pan and dumped the batter in around it. Can you say “wing it”? Worked great, though! The handles were kind of a pain to work around, but my drinking glasses aren’t big enough for how big I wanted the hole.
cake baking1

cake baking2

Next step was to layer the cakes, put Rebecca in, and cover the skirt with frosting. I did no skirt carving to make an even slant, except for the very top layer so it wouldn’t be quite as big of a jutting out. And yes, the top layer did sort of break in the trimming process, in case you notice it looks a bit pieced together. For the other layers, instead of trimming, I just put more frosting where needed to fill in the gaps. As you’ll see in the picture below, I put a cardboard between layers 2 and 3, and there are skewers going down thro layers 1 & 2 under the cardboard, just in case the cake and frosting would want to settle down into each other from the weight.
american girl doll cake1

american girl doll cake2

Now the fun part… fondant. For the first time ever, I MADE fondant. I got the recipe from Around My Family Table. It was more stretchy than store-bought (which can be good or bad, depending what you’re doing), otherwise it was pretty much the same. And it tastes a lot better, so I’m kind of thinking homemade from here on out. Not sure if it would work as well for figurines though, will have to experiment. For this cake, I made a double recipe of fondant and used almost all of it.

I did not have the dress visualized before making it, so it kind of just happened as it went… deciding it needed some white to break up all the pink and just kinda messing with and adding things here and there. I need to get better at folds in fabric, like at the top of the skirt. The flowers around the neck were to hide the plastic wrap sticking up, so the other flowers on the dress were to tie in with that. Btw, I have a flower cutter set that makes those so easy, my 3-yr-old can even make them. She was making some along with me here and we kept stealing cutters and presses from each other. I think she ate all the flowers she made, though.

american girl doll cake3

After this picture, I put some water in a spray bottle that sprays a very fine mist and misted the dress to give it the look of shiny fabric. Plus, it was an easy way to get rid of the extra powdered sugar on the dress (which is on there from rolling it out because you need powdered sugar to keep it from sticking to the counter and rolling pin).
Tip: If you want to get rid of the powdered sugar without getting the shine, carefully wipe it off with a barely damp paper towel or cloth.

The lack of progress pictures is partially because I forgot, partially because my hands were always powdered-sugary, and partially because you can pretty much see everything in the done picture. For the sleeve puff, I put a chunk of fondant on each shoulder, then gathered fondant and shaped it for a sleeve. There is no cake on the top half of her… that is fondant directly on top of the plastic wrap that she’s wrapped in. The necklace is simply piped dots of frosting.

american girl doll cake5

Just a few tidbits:
– Her arms got in that position when I was wrapping her in plastic. When I was done, I was about to put them down, but instead let them up in the air like that because it looked more festive or something rather than hands boringly at her sides.
– The tiara was a bit of an afterthought. She was done and I thought “oh dear, a princess needs a tiara! I should’ve made one 2 days ago so it could be dry and hard now!” I had to go with a chunky one because a delicate one couldn’t have stood up because there was no time for the fondant to harden. So I made a ‘snake’, looped it a few times, pinched the middle loop into a point, sprinkled it with granulated sugar, and put it on her head.
– The candles… we were ready to light candles and sing Happy Birthday to You, but I hadn’t put any on! We couldn’t think of a good place to poke them in (I mean, really, who wants their dress on fire?!). Just then a light bulb moment hit and I ended up piping 8 little piles of frosting on the cake board, and stuck the candles in. Worked great! You can kind of see it on the very last picture of this post.

I’ll just add a couple pictures yet of a cut view so you can see how Rebecca was in there.

american girl doll cake cutaway

Rescuing the princess from the tower, er, oops, I mean, cake…
american girl doll cake disassembling

Happy birthday, Tiffany. Only 8 years ago, you looked like this:
tiff baby

How did you get to this already?!:
american girl doll cake rebecca tiffany

 

Wooden Baskets with Daisies Cake

I’m in the mood to feature a cake. I have a bunch that I’ve never put on here. Sometime, I’m going to make a separate cake section on this site. I think at some point, it could merit its own section because that’s what I picture doing in 5 years or so… cakes. Between now and then, I plan to have fun doing a few hit n miss and taking classes and tripling my cake-decorating tools/gadgets/pans supply. I want to take classes so I can prevent mistakes instead of learn from my mistakes. ;) Right now cake-making is pretty much a “wing it” deal, and while that’s worked out pretty well so far, there’s also been a lot of wincing-then-sighs-of-relief involved too. And well, yeah, some wincing-then-starting-over moments, too.

This particular cake was quite an honor. It was the FIRST wedding cake I’ve ever done. The bride-to-be knew I’m not a pro, but she trusted me anyway… uhhhh, in case you wonder, that spells p-r-e-s-s-u-r-e!!! :)

wooden basket daisy cake

You know that whole “wing it” thing I was talking about earlier? Well, I had never done wood grain before. Nor had I ever made a cake this big (the biggest pan size I owned up to this point was a 12″ and I had to go get a 16″ pan for this cake). The bottom layer is 16″, middle layer is 12″, top layer is 8″, and each layer is roughly 6″ tall.

I didn’t take very many step-by-step pictures because I was in the cake-decorating zone and well, simply forgot. But in case you’re interested, here is the construction, then I’ll get to the fun part… the wood and flowers. ;)

The bottom layer is a 3″ chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream and a 3″ vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream, each split with frosting between. When they were frosted, I put the chocolate layer on the cake board and put four 3″ dowels in it so the weight of the rest of the cake wouldn’t be on it, then set the white layer (which was on cardboard) on top. Here is a (very bad) picture of that, quickly taken before all the fondant was on.
bottom layer basket cake

Then I put four 3″ dowels thro’ the white cake and one sharpened 6″ dowel down thro’ both cakes and the cardboard layer between them.

The middle basket is all chocolate with chocolate buttercream and is on cardboard. No cardboard between the layers, but the cake does have dowels in it for holding the weight of the top basket.

The top basket is all vanilla with vanilla buttercream and is on cardboard. No cardboard between layers and no dowels.

ready for stacking and flowers

Now for the fun part! :)

First is the wood grain. The slats may look like individual pieces, but it’s actually larger sections with multiple slats per sections. I started with white fondant and mixed in some cocoa powder to make it a light tan. In hindsight, I don’t think I would’ve had to do that step though because the “stain” would’ve covered it fine without leaving white spots when wiping it off.

Roll out fondant. Cut it to a rectangle… length doesn’t matter, but try to get the height as close to correct as possible. Take something about 1/8″ wide and indent lines from top to bottom, these are the slats. I said “take something 1/8″ wide” so you know you can make wood grain without a well-I-don’t-have-a-decorating-tool-set excuse. ;) You can use the handle end of a small paintbrush or whatever. Next, beat it up. Give it some character. Make dents, make lines, make knots. And yes, there is powdered sugar all over the place… it keeps the fondant from sticking to the counter.
wood grain fondant 1

Then, mix vodka with brown food coloring paste to make “stain” to stain the wood. If you’re concerned about the alcoholic aspect, the alcohol evaporates. Plus, you don’t use much at all, so the teeny bit that would be on one piece of cake wouldn’t affect anyone if it wouldn’t evaporate. (Do NOT use water or you’ll have a mess on your hands because water becomes like glue when it touches fondant.) Get a clean paintbrush and brush the stain on. Wipe it off immediately with a clean cloth. And THAT is when the magic happens. It doesn’t look like much up to that point, in fact it looks like quite a mess. But as soon as you wipe the excess stain away, a beautiful realistic-looking-wood piece of fondant appears!
fondant wood grain 2

If the icing on the cake is a crusting kind, run a knife or something over it to un-crust it so the fondant will stick to it. Carefully pick up the fondant and place it around the cake. If you wait several minutes until the alcohol has evaporated, it doesn’t stick to your hands while you’re placing it on the cake and you can also loosely roll it up without it sticking together to transfer it to the cake.

After all the wood was on, I made the bands. This beautiful blue was one of the wedding colors, which is why the bands were this color… if I’m making a basket case for just anyhow, I’d probably make the bands tan. This was simply coloring the fondant, rolling it out, cutting it into strips, wetting the back of the strips with water, and placing them around the cake. After putting each band on the cake, I did the staples. If I’d have waited to do the staples until all the bands on all the cakes were done, it wouldn’t have worked as well because the fondant on the first bands would’ve started drying out and it wouldn’t have been as easy to make an indentation. After making the indentations, I took a tiny paintbrush and painted brown food coloring inside them. Some of them got a little messy and I was sighing about it to Shannon and he said, “No, it’s great. It makes them just look rusty.” Ah, way to make lemonaide out of a lemon.

Next, I covered the visible part of the cake board with white fondant and put a white ribbon around the edge. Then, I crumbled up some leftover chocolate cake for the “dirt” and put it around the rims of the 2 lower baskets and over the top of the top basket. It looked good, but next time, I’d use Oreo crumbs… I think they’d look more like dirt, but I didn’t think of it at the time.
fondant wood flower baskets cake

Then, it was time to add COLOR. Fondant daisies. Hot pink was the other wedding color, so that’s what the daisies were. Here are some of the daisies and leaves drying ahead of time. I put them on crumpled tin foil so they wouldn’t dry flat and boring.

fondant daisies

In case these look hard, they’re not. I have a flower/leaf cutter and impression set that I used… one of my happy purchases from Michaels with a 40% off coupon. I also added a bit of petal dust for a more realist look.

So, there you have it, a wooden basket daisy cake. It was challenging and a whole lot of FUN!

stacked wooden basket daisy cake

Happy New Year!

How can it be 2014 already?! It doesn’t seem that long ago that we brought in the 2000s on the beach in FL. This year was brought in by tucking my girls and their cousins in bed and the cutest conversation in which their grandma (Shannon’s mom) was explaining what new year’s resolutions are and helping them make one. I was glad she vetoed and explained to my 11-yr-old how “Getting Mom and Dad to buy me an iPhone” is not a valid new year’s resolution. :) And the funniest one was when Chad (5) made one for his toddler sister… “I know what Tianna would say. She’d say to make the whole world into nippys”.

So, I started the year out laughing… here’s to a good one! And wishing you and yours a good year too! May you have plenty of cake.

chocolate raspberry cake

Snowman Cake… cute and EASY, I promise!

We have snow!! So I’m gonna post a snowman.

snowman-cake-and-cupcakes.jpg

You know, I was just thinking… after I wrote those first 2 sentences, I looked out the window for awhile at the snow I was talking about… you know the snow that I used TWO exclamation marks after when I said we have snow, and I realized how my standards have changed. Do you know how much snow we have right now?
About 1/2 inch.
1 inch at the deep parts.
Wow. :)

I was born and raised in northern WI and moved to OH 3 years ago. If we’d get this much snow in WI and Shannon’s dear grandpa from PA would call and say, “What’s the weather like out there? Do you have snow?”, same as he’d always start every call with between Sept and May, we’d say “No, not really, just a little dusting.” I do really like the mild winters here though. I think it’s pretty cool that in Ohio right now, it’s mid-January and I still haven’t gotten out my winter coat… my temp mark for bulk-of-winter-coat-is-worth-it-for-the-extra-warmth-over-light-coat is about 25 degrees, unless I’m going to be out for a long period of time.  I haven’t gotten my boots out either because… I have none. I threw them away last year because they were so out of style and I was so in love with them… so when I was tempted to wear them, I’d weigh the pros (love them) and cons (out of style)… and love always won. So the only way to make myself stop wearing them was to throw them away.

All that to say that I’m in the market for boots. I love the style of boots right now… especially the sorta short ones with a heel and slouched and black and a bow-type thing on the side… so I’ll probably be back in my out-of-style-but-love-em predicament again in 5 years. :) Maybe I’ll buy some boots tomorrow… we seriously need to get out of the house because we’ve been sick for nearly a week around here and I think we’re all functioning at 85 – 100% power today now… so what better thing to do on a Saturday than to go out on the town.

Anyway… let’s circle back around to where we started… “I’m gonna post a snowman”.

snowman-face.jpg
Isn’t it crazy how M&Ms can almost seem to make something have a personality? :)

I feel like I need to talk really fast to interrupt any crazy “I’d never have time for that!” thoughts. It’s simply 2 cake mixes… dump one in a mixing bowl instead of a 9×13, dump the other one in a small mixing bowl and the rest in cupcake liners. Bake. Frost… you don’t even have to add food coloring because snow is conveniently white! ;) Press M&Ms on. Make a melty chocolate/peanut butter hat. Fruit roll-up scarf. Eat. There is no carving or shaping of cake going on here. I made this for dessert for hot lunch at school.

Get your 5-yr-old to decorate the cupcakes… Tiffany did all of them while I did the snowman. We used orange M&Ms for noses only and put them sideways so they stuck out a little more.

snowman-cupcakes.jpg

Keep the 18-month-old demolition-crew-of-one as far away as possible. Or do what I did and count one cupcake and a small handful of M&Ms as loss and set her up to destro—, I mean, decorate it.

snowman-cake-making.jpg
*cell phone pic alert* Yeah, we tried just giving Megan some Apple Jacks to munch on so she could happily watch while munching, but nope, no luck, she was more into M&Ms and gooey frosting.

One thing I should say about the baking… I was afraid the cake wouldn’t get done in the middle, so I looked around the kitchen, saw a glass Coke bottle (filled it to make it heavier), covered it in tin foil, and put it in the middle, like it’s sitting in the mixing bowl here… kind of an angel food cake pan effect. It worked perfect. I don’t know if it would be necessary or not, though. I baked the cake for 1 hour.
snowman-baking.jpg

I used candy canes for the arms (broke off the curved part), but you could use pretzel rods or whatever. The hat is a chunk of leftover buckeye-type peanut butter filling dipped in melted chocolate with too much chocolate poured on top so it ran down beside it, making a hat brim. Then I put it in the fridge until it hardened. You could pretty much use anything… like a chocolate-dipped small cookie or whoopie pie or something.

*gasp* Did I just used the phrase “too much chocolate”?! Sorry, it should read “extra chocolate” instead… I’m more comfortable with that term.

Add a fruit roll-up or fondant the color of your choice for the scarf. Snip the ends with a scissors to give a tassle effect.

snowman-cake-done.jpg

And there you go… celebrate winter with your kids! Whether you have 2 feet of snow, a 1/2 inch of snow, or only dream of snow.

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