Decorated Halloween Layer Cake

My sister and her husband had their annual, epic, Halloween party this past weekend and for the dessert contest I brought a Halloween themed cake.

I used a 10″ double layer chocolate cake and split each layer which gave me room for 3 layers of different colored filling.

The first layer I split with a knife and filled with a green buttercream layer of frosting.

Then I did an orange layer of buttercream which I forgot to take a picture of but you’ll see that later.

Then I split the second layer of cake and filled it with purple buttercream frosting.

Then I decided to frosted the whole thing with a rich layer of chocolate ganache frosting.

Chocolate ganache frosting is just cooled and whipped ganache. I doubled the recipe to fully frost this cake.

Then I made another batch of ganache to drizzle down the sides.

Next I piped a spider web and cute purple spiders out of buttercream.

Lastly I used the leftover whipped ganache and piped a ring of chocolate swirls on top.

How fun is this cake?! Plus here is a look at the inside colors including the orange layer

It was delicious!

It didn’t win the best dessert…that was reserved for my friend Lonnie’s very realistic litter box cake complete with pooper scooper lol!

Hope you have a fun, safe Halloween! -MM

Eight Steps to a Beautiful White, Blueberry Filled, Cream Cheese Frosted, Drip Cake

A couple of months ago I popped an unfrosted cake into the freezer to use for later and forgot about it. I came across it while I was looking for something else in the freezer and thought I would bring it out to have it as dessert last night.

Cream cheese frosting sounded better than butter cream this time and I had blueberries in the freezer that I could thicken and use as a filling. Perfect!

With all the ingredients on hand I formed a plan in my mind and set to work making a blueberry filled, cream cheese frosted white cake. Yum right?

Step 1, I used a 6″ baked cake, excess cake sliced off to create a flat surface. I created a frosting “dam” to prevent the filling from oozing out.

Step 2 fill it! I thicken 1 cup of frozen blueberries with about 2 Tablespoons of flour and about 3 Tablespoons of sugar (or to taste). Microwaved it for about 2 minutes then stirred, then another 2 minutes until it thickened. Then I cooled it before using it on top of the cake reserving about half of the thickened blueberries for the blueberry drip.

Step 3 place the second layer on top with the bottom of the cake facing up.

Step 4 crumb coat. It really helps to do a crumb coat to seal in all the crumbs. After frosting with the crumb coat pop it in the fridge to harden up for about 15 minutes (go stick a load of laundry in while you are waiting 😉 ).

Step 5 final coat of frosting.

Step 6 Blueberry drip. Using the leftover blueberry mixture dump it all right in the middle of the frosted top layer then carefully spread the blueberries towards the edges being careful not to just slop it over the sides. It should delicately drip down the sides.

Step 7 using a large star tip gently pipe pretty peaks onto the blueberries. (You can never have too much frosting right?)

Step 8 slice and enjoy!!

I hope you enjoyed this fun little step by step on decorating. Hopefully this gives you some ideas! Happy decorating 🙂 -MM

Easter Fun

Easter and Spring are such fun when it comes to crafts and baking. I love bright spring colors of greens, blues, yellows, pinks and lavenders after the dark colors of winter like reds, blacks, navy and grays.

Even though Doug is 15 he still likes to craft (once in a while) so I bring out the pot and we make homemade play dough. Ever make it yourself? It’s super easy and inexpensive. Really…I wouldn’t lie to ya.

Here’s the recipe:

1 Cup All Purpose Flour

1/4 Cup Salt

2 Tbsp Cream of Tartar

1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil

1 Cup Water

Food Coloring

Mix the flour, salt, and cream of tartar together in a medium sized saucepan to combine. Add water, oil and food coloring to it. Turn on the heat to medium and stir. It will get harder to stir and it will act like it is sticking to the bottom of the pot. Just keep stirring and scraping until the liquid is all gone and what’s left is a sticky mass of dough. It will not be neat but dump the ball out onto a floured surface and knead it a few times to get the remainder of any wetness out. It will be HOT so knead carefully not to burn your hands. You will have to soak the pan for a few minutes to clean it but it will be so worth it!

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Repeat as much as you like to get as many colors as you want. It makes a pound of play dough each batch (yes I weighed it) which is about 4 times what you get in those little plastic containers of the real stuff. Plus who knows what goes into the stuff you buy at the store.

Doug and I played with our homemade dough for 2 hours on Saturday night. We had a blast!

Store the dough in the fridge. It will last a few months or until the point where you get sick of it rolling around in there and you finally throw it out. 🙂

We also love to color eggs. Hey it’s not just for little guys ya know!

One thing I don’t do is boil them first. That may seem weird but as long as the eggs are not cracked I die them raw. I love to dye dozens of eggs but I can’t eat 5 dozen hard boiled eggs in a week. I like eggs, but not THAT much.

If we dye them raw I can have the pleasure of using the eggs for a month long and enjoy the pretty colors each time I bake something. See what I mean?

The eggs in the photo below are dyed brown eggs. You can use the same egg dying kits that you typically use for white eggs for brown eggs too. I like the rich colors better with the brown eggs.

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I make cutout cookies for Easter, which are almost as fun as Christmas cutouts but without the added stress Christmas and the holidays bring. See, aren’t they super cute?

easter cutouts

Now that I have a teenager I don’t have a need for fun paper crafts and cotton ball bunny tails but maybe grand kids some day right?

What kinds of crafts do you do for Easter?  Have a wonderful and blessed week and Easter Holiday. -MM

How to Decorate Christmas Cutouts

For almost a decade I have been decorating Christmas cutouts with colorful glazes and a piping bag.

Traditionally, cutouts are decorated using royal icing and a technique known as “flooding”. Flooding is time consuming, tedious and very tiring on your poor fingers and hands.

I decorate hundreds of dozens of Christmas cutouts every year and instead of using royal icing I find that making a glaze of confectioner’s sugar, milk and a flavoring like vanilla or almond extract works almost as well and is much less time consuming.

To finish the cutouts and bring out fine details, I use a pastry bag and pipe on buttercream frosting which I think makes for a very tasty and beautiful cookie.christmas-cookies

In the You Tube links below I show you how I decorate my cookies and also how to package them so they don’t crush. Hope you enjoy these videos. Happy decorating! -MM

Christmas Cookie Decorating Part 1

Christmas Cookie Decorating Part 2

Christmas Cookie Decorating Part 3

Christmas Cookie Decorating Part 4

Packaging Christmas Cookies

Prepping Mixes-Chocolate Chip Cookies

In the food service industry, prepping is crucial. Preparing ahead of time cuts your time in half when it comes to cooking for a crowd or getting ready for a party.

I have created more than a dozen dry mixes that I use in the bakery every day. I am going to share these mixes and the recipes to bake the finished products through the next few weeks.

Cookie mixes are my favorite because all you have to do is grab a couple bags of the mix, add eggs, some kind of oil (butter, shortening or oil) a little water and some vanilla and voila! In less than 10 minutes you’re scooping dough onto a cookie sheet. Sounds easy doesn’t it? It is!

Essentially what you are doing with these mixes is preparing the dry ingredients to your recipes ahead of time which is a real time saver especially if you prep multiple batches.

For the chocolate chip cookie dry  mix you will need:

1-1/2 cups granulated sugar

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1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar

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The two sugars make up your first bag

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Twist tie the bag and set aside

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Next you will need 4-1/2 cups of all purpose flour

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2 tsp of salt and 2 tsp of baking soda

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This makes up your second bag.

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That’s it! Easy right? The reason we keep the sugar separate from the flour is that in most recipes it calls for the sugars to be creamed with the shortening and egg. Then you add the other dry ingredients so it is easier to have to separate bags.

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At the bakery I build to 6 mixes per recipe. In other words for this chocolate chip recipe I would make enough dry mix for 6 batches of cookies. At home for the 3 of us I would probably make 3 batches to store away for later use.

Now when you want to make a batch of cookies here is the rest of the recipe.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Dump the bag of brown and white sugars into a mixer bowl and add 2 cups of shortening, a 1/4 cup of water and 1 tsp of vanilla extract. Cream these ingredients with a mixer or by hand with a sturdy spoon. Next add 4 large eggs and mix in until incorporated.

Next, dump the second bag with the flour, soda and salt into the bowl with the creamed ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Do Not Over Mix! Then by hand add 4 cups of chocolate chips and fold in until just incorporated.

Drop spoonfuls of the dough onto parchment lined cookie sheets. If you want more uniform cookies use a spring action ice cream scoop to form the dough and drop onto the parchment lined cookie sheet.

Bake for about 12 minutes or until browned and not wet in the middle.

Here is the full recipe:

1-1/2 cups granulated sugar

1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar

2 cups of shortening

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup water

4 large eggs

4-1/2 cups of all purpose flour

2 tsp of salt

2 tsp of baking soda

4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

This recipe makes 4 doz good sized cookies.

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Here is a pic of my shelves at the bakery.

mixes

On these shelves I have mixes for chocolate crinkle cookies, snickerdoodle, chocolate chip cookies, brownies, ginger snap, cornbread, frosted sour cream cookies, oatmeal cookies, scones, chocolate chocolate chip cookies, jam thumbprints, and peanut butter cookies.

I will be sharing more mix recipes over the next few weeks so watch for more.

Also you can take your own recipes and make mixes out of them like I did. It makes life a whole lot easier when you have something already prepared in the pantry. -MM

 

Pie Challenge and the “Kids” are Up

I have really been slacking on my “Operation Pie Challenge” I left off at week #7 so this would be week #8. I am not going to do a recipe this week. Instead, I am going to show you a technique with pie crust that my Granny taught me years ago that I think you will find interesting.

This technique is best used on a berry pie with its dark purple or red color.

Start by having your bottom crust and filling ready. The filling pictured below was a mixed berry from our raspberries frozen from last season.

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Next, roll out the top crust and instead of slicing completely from one side to the other as in a traditional lattice, create a cross shape instead.

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As you can see next you cut each corner of the cross into an “L” shape.

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Carefully lift the cross shape (it can be a little tricky not to break it, so go slowly) and place in the center of the filling. Next lift and position the “L” shaped pieces of crust just like they were on your floured counter but leave a little space so the color of the filling peaks through. Now add the corner pieces and crimp the pieces into place.

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Bake as you would any pie and voila!

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Not only is it impressive to look at but it tastes darn good too!

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The Kids are Up!

Last week I showed you how I started my seedlings in pop bottles. My hubby and I always call them our “kids.”

The kids are up and out of the soil and stretching towards the sky. Here are a few pics!

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So far the plum tomatoes, regular tomatoes, basil, cilantro and dill are all up. The peppers and celery will hopefully be up some time next week.

Are you starting any plants indoors yet? If so, what are you growing?

Can’t wait to report back next week. Happy baking and gardening everyone! -MM