Friday, December 31, 2010

Cookie Exchange 2010 – The Cookies

For my exchange I ask everyone to package up their cookies in small batches.  This makes it much less time consuming to exchange and you also get some nice containers to pack up and give away cookies for gifts.  Plus I think it’s a little more sanitary. PC140192 This year we presented the cookies one at a time for tasting.  Here is what we had…

Top row (L to R):  Grandma’s Ginger Cookies, Almond Cherry Bites, Mexican Chocolate Cookies, MoonBeam Cookies.PC150193 Bottom row (L to R):  Chocolate Snowballs, Eggnog Frosted Nutmeg Sugar Cookies, Pumpkin Cookies, Peanut Butter Blossoms, Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies.

Grandma’s Ginger cookies were a crunchy cookie great for dipping in tea or coffee! A traditional favorite.

Almond Cherry Bites –almonds, dried cherries and melted chocolate.  A gourmet presentation!

Red pepper in the Mexican Chocolate cookies complimented the bittersweet chocolate and left you saying “mmm, there’s the heat” with a smile.

MoonBeam cookies won the favorite cookie award of the night!  A sugar cookie with coconut and lemon filling.  Yummy!

The Chocolate Snowballs were hiding a secret.  Kisses inside.  The peppermint kisses were definitely a good choice!

Eggnog Frosted Nutmeg Sugar cookies – A sweet cookie that really brought home the holiday flavor.  Runner up for favorite cookie!

Pumpkin cookies were a soft, cakey cookie with sweet icing.  These would be great at Thanksgiving too!

Peanut Butter Blossoms – How can you go wrong with peanut butter and chocolate?

Chocolate Candy Cane cookies – A soft chocolate cookie with melted chocolate and crushed candy canes.  It must be Christmas!

Oh, I almost forgot to mention…we had a flashing holiday sweater this year!

Thank you everyone who came and shared in some good food, good conversation and good cookies!  It was lots of fun! 

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year Everyone!

Cookie Exchange 2010 – The Menu

Another successful cookie exchange!

Here is the menu I planned…

Salami Crisps with Sour Cream and Basil

5 Layer Mediterranean Dip

Asiago Cheese Puffs

Cherry Tomatoes with Olive Tapenade

Louisiana Crab Dip with Crudites

Stuffed Mushrooms

Spiced Fig Marmalade & Blue Cheese

As always, I did my best to have a variety of flavors, colors, temperatures and textures.  The Salami Crisps are a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis.  These can be done ahead of time and they do take a little longer to cook than the recipe states.  Be sure to line your baking sheets with parchment or foil to make clean up easier.  Also be sure to get a quality salami.

This 5 layer dip is a much healthier alternative to traditional layered taco dips and is a nice change of pace.  I found this recipe at  Basically it’s hummus, feta cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers and olives.  I used plain hummus but you could change it up and use a flavored version.  I used kalamata olives, but if you are not a fan any black olive will do.  And it keep it healthy I served it with multi grain chips.

I love tapenade and instead of doing a crostini with tapenade like I usually do I decided to use cherry tomatoes as the base.  I was short on time so I purchased already made olive tapenade from my local grocery store.  While these were tasty, I think you need to really like the kick that olive tapenade has because the tomatoes do not tone down the flavor like bread does. 

I found this crab dip recipe while I was researching menus for a Mardi Gras party.  I decided to try it again.  Typical cream cheese/sour cream dip recipe.  Honestly, this didn’t taste as well as I remembered it.  But I do think the presentation in the fancy glass bowl looked nice.

I also made some basic stuffed mushrooms but I forgot to take a photo.  Sorry.


The fig marmalade was from one of my cookbooks, The Menu by Davis Laris and Dean Brettschneider.  The book has 15 five-course menus.  This is the first recipe I have tried from the book and was quite pleased with it.  The blue cheese complimented the figs nicely and I think the whole grain crostini were a good choice.

While the fig crostini was good I think the hit of the night (besides the cookies of course!) was the Asiago Cheese Puffs.  A mixture of asiago cheese, mayo, onion, thyme and a dash of cayenne on lightly toasted white bread rounds.  I prefer these hot but they can also be served at room temperature.  Check out for some more easy gourmet recipes and menus.  The site is pretty ad heavy but the author includes photos of every recipe and you’ll be sure to find something to inspire you. 

And there you have it.  Next up…the cookies!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Julie's Baby Shower Cake

I offered to make a cake for a coworker’s baby shower. There are so many cute baby shower cake ideas out there I struggled with what design to do. Not to mention I had another cake due the day before and we were leaving for a short vacation the day this cake was due. So the design had to be fairly simple. This design is from Wilton, I just changed the colors.

Gumpaste circles were cut out for the wheels a few days ahead so they could dry. I had to special order the crystal plate separators used for legs. The cake consisted of a 12” square cake, an oval cake and ½ of a 3D egg cake. Once the cakes were stacked, I was surprised at how quickly this came together.

The most difficult part was piping the ruffle around the hood of the stroller, just a weird angle to work with. I used a 127 tip for the ruffle around the hood and a 127D tip for the ruffle around the sides. The original design called for only 3 rows of ruffles around the sides but I must have put mine too close together because I needed to add a smaller white ruffle on top.

I added some small flowers on the base cake, and the wheels were decorated and adhered to the legs with buttercream. The stroller was placed on top and it was done.

This cake could not be transported like this, so I just had to remove the stroller and place it in a separate box. I was a little upset that the stroller slid in the box and if you look closely you can see that the ruffles hit the side of the box. Just minor damage though. It happens.

Once I arrived at work I put the stroller back on the legs. The cake was a hit!

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Congratulations Julie!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Jacoby's Tractor Cake

Jacoby wanted a tractor cake for his birthday, you’ll probably recognize the famous green and yellow color scheme. Jacoby’s mom also wanted cupcakes instead of a large cake, she’s a smart lady…much easier for small children. I did a small cake for Jacoby and cupcakes for the rest of the children.

First the cupcakes….Chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream tinted green and yellow. They also had a small amount of buttercream filling too. I ordered tractor chocolate molds and spent an afternoon making chocolate tractors. I think they turned out pretty cool! Each cupcake got a tractor.

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Jacoby said “Look Mom, the tractors are stuck in the frosting.”  How cute is that?

The cake was a chocolate cake stacked in a tractor shape and covered with green fondant.  I just made a paper template trying to get the proportions to look right.  The wheels were made of rice crispy treats and covered with fondant.  A few fondant details and done!

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And this was a wonderful reminder of why I love doing cakes!
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Happy 3rd Birthday Jacoby!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Kolby's Police Car Cake

I seem to get requests for cake cars quite a bit. They can be time consuming but I love the detail and focus they require. Cars for children are usually more playful and abstract while adults are more impressed by realism. Either way I always have to tell myself to “drop the gumpaste tools and walk away!” I could add details to these cakes all night.

This police car was made using the Wilton 3D cruiser cake pan. It is covered with black and white fondant. I didn’t really have a plan for this one; I just decorated while looking at a photo of a police car.

I really wanted to add flashing lights to this cake but my local craft stores did not have wireless LEDs and I did not leave myself time to order them. I guess I should order those after I finishing writing this so next time I’ll have them.

The base cake is an 11 x 15 marble cake with chocolate buttercream.
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Happy Birthday Kolby!