Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Cake Pops

I know I am getting it in just under the wire, but I wanted to share these cake pops/balls before Easter is officially over.  I am a big fan of cake balls.  Check out Bakerella if you haven't yet; she is amazing.  They can be a bit time consuming, but they are delicious and I haven't met anyone yet who doesn't love them!  I usually just make normal balls, but I decided to try something new this time and made them into chicks and bunnies for Easter. :-)

The first step is easy enough.  Prepare a cake.  You can use pretty much any cake you want; this time I did a double batch, one vanilla and one chocolate cake.  I used a box mix this time to save time.

Once the cake is made and cooled, you take the beautiful cake and destroy it.

This party is actually kind of fun. :-)  Just brake it up until the crumbs are somewhat fine. 

Next, mix in a can of frosting.  Again, the canned stuff is fine, but if you want to make your own frosting, go ahead.  Cream cheese frosting works best because it does not make the mix too sweet. 

Once everything is combined, roll the cake into balls on a wax paper lined pan and put them in the fridge for several hours.

To make the chicks, I dipped the cold cake balls into melted yellow melts.  While the ball was still wet, I attached the orange candy melt nose.  Once the entire pop was dry, I used melted chocolate to attach the "wings" and "feet."  Finally I drew on eyes with a food safe marker.

I found the pops very cumbersome and time consuming.  I soon said, "forget this" and made them into just balls.  Even though they were less perfect, I just loved them.

The bunnies were the same general concept, just with marshmellow ears. 

I made about 1/4 of the balls into chicks and bunnies and the rest were just cute and colorful balls.

Verdict: Delicious as always.  I will definitely make the chicks again, they were adorable.  The bunnies' marshmellow ears were annoying so I might do something different with those next time around.

Coming Up: No clue!  Easter was a whirlwind, I need a day to recuperate and post the things I made but didn't post!

Happy Easter!
Jenna xoxo

P.S. I made adorable little treat boxes for some people this Easter.  The cute little boxes were on clearance at A.C. Moore.  I lined the box with bright tissue paper, filled the boxes with sugar cookies and cake balls/pops and put a cute bow on top.  Easter Love! 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Sugar Cookies

I finally tackled royal icing!  After all of my unnecessary worrying, it actually wasn’t that scary.  I am pretty proud of the way they turned out, considering that it was my first attempt.  I think that the consistency of my icing wasn’t quite right.  I was scared of the icing being too thin, so I think it was too thick.  After I was about halfway through the cookies I had gotten the hang of it and changed the consistency, which made it a lot easier.  I used Bridget of Bake at 350’s royal icing recipe.  I did not have corn syrup.  Next time I decorate cookies (Yes! There will definitely be a next time!) I will make sure I have corn syrup because I did feel the icing dried a bit dull. Corn syrup is the ingredient that is supposed to make it shiny. 

I did extensive research and planning before beginning this project.  I normally do a lot of reading and planning before trying something new to make sure I get it just right.  I went a tad bit overboard on this project though! Aside from the countless blog posts, I also drew out many different options for decorating with crayons so I would be prepared! Aren’t I such an artist? ;-)

The first step was to make the icing.  Beat together the meringue powder and water.

Sift the confectioners sugar and slowly add to the mix.  Beat for 5 minutes or until the icing can hold a peak.

My next step was to color the icing.  Another thing I will be investing in for next time is better coloring products.  My dye is pretty old and not a good quality.  I have heard good things about Americolors, so I will probably try it out.  I chose to use yellow, pink, green and purple icing.  I also set aside a small amount of uncolored icing for detailing.

Next I piped the outlines.  This is where I had the most trouble.  I tried using a #2 tip, but the tip kept getting clogged.  I am sure this is an amateur mistake because of the icing consistency.  I ended up using a #3 tip for most of the cookies.

The next step was to flood the cookies.  Again, this was a bit of a guess and check procedure to get the right consistency.  I loved making flat designs!  The polka dots were absolutely adorable.

I let the cookies dry overnight.  The next day I added some detailing like names and dots, etc.  I definitely need some practice piping.  Even though they are not perfect, I am pretty proud of them for a first attempt.

Verdict: I will definitely try these again.  I will buy better food coloring and flooding bottles for next time.  Hopefully I will get better with practice in regards to consistency and piping.  I plan on using the cookies with my family’s names on it as place cards for our Easter dinner.   The worst part about the whole project was the clean up.

Next time: Still up for Easter baking are Easter Cake Pops, Mini Coconut Custard Pies, Easter Noodle Pie and maybe Carrot Cake, if I have time. 

Happy Baking!
Jenna xoxo

P.S. Only one cookie was harmed in the making of this blog post. 

P.P.S. Check out Bake at 350 for the icing recipe and awesome cookie decorating techniques.  Bridget is the expert, not me!

P.P.P.S. More pictures because I am so proud of myself. hehe.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Naked Sugar Cookies

I have been making sugar cookies for as long as I can remember.  Since I was a little girl, sugar cookies have been a staple at Christmas time.  My sisters, mom and I would sit around the kitchen table and kneed, decorate and eat.  By the time we were finished, the entire kitchen would smell delicious, about half of the cookies made it into cookie tins (the other half was eaten) and the entire room would be covered in flour and sprinkles.  The sugar cookies that my family makes were not the beautiful icing decorated pieces of art you see on blogs.  Ours were hand made by little girls; cookies hand shaped into funny designs, totally covered in sugary jimmies and sprinkles.  I don't know if my mom never got into icing decorating because she didn't like it or because maybe it would be even more to worry about cleaning up.  These days we still make sugar cookies with sprinkles, we are just a bit more efficient about it.

When I saw my first cookie decorating blog, I was amazed!  There are truly some amazing artist/bakers out there.  I have been OBSESSED with Bridget at Bake at 350 for a while now. haha.  I love every design she comes up with.  The cool thing about her is that she makes it seem so accessible.  I have been trying to convince myself to give it a try for a while, but have been too chicken.  Bridget also started the University of Cookie where she and other bloggers upload how-to videos.  It is really awesome.  I have spent the past few days pouring over the past video posts to get ready to try it myself.  I think I finally worked up the courage to try!

I made the sugar cookies yesterday so that step would be finished and I plan on decorating them in the next few days.  I considered using one of the sugar cookie recipes I found online, but decided to just stick to my tried and true recipe of my childhood.  I work myself up when I make something new.  I don't know why, but I get so stressed that what I am making won't be good.  Trying to ice cookies is enough of a leap for me, so I figured I would stick with my old recipe. :-)  Maybe this blog will help me let go of my fear of new things! ... Maybe not ;-)

I always double this recipe, but for whatever reason I decided not to this time.  I thought maybe I should start small.  When I saw the tiny amount of cookies it would make (20 3.5 inch cookies), I quickly made another batch!  My family is Italian after all.  20 cookies would be gone in one sitting.

The first step is to cream the sugar, shortening, and vanilla together.

Then add in the egg and beat until light and fluffy.  Stir in milk.

Sift dry ingredients together (don't skip this!) and blend into creamed mixture.  Don't over beat!

I decided to try a technique I saw online on the University of Cookie.  A lot of bloggers say that adding too much flour to your dough when you are cutting the cookies will make the cookies tough.  I do agree that too much flour will affect your end product, however I the technique they suggest didn't work for me.  You lay out a layer of wax paper below and over top a ball of dough.  Then roll of the dough and refrigerate.

After the dough gets chilled, you can just cut the shapes out and transfer to a cookie sheet.  At this point my dough was so greasy and fragile that the cookie were falling apart!  It could be something I was doing wrong, I am not sure.

I am not a very patient person so I immediately gave up and when back to my old ways!  I floured everything and got to work!

Like my new cookie cutters?? Super cheap at Walmart. ;-)

They came out so soft and delicious. Only one bunny was harmed in the process.

Don't worry.  He made it safely to my tummy. ;-)

With a tiny bit of left over dough I free-hand cut out a cross and a square to be a little bit different.

I can't wait to decorate these cookies!  I am going to use Bridget's Royal Icing recipe and an assortment of colors.  Wish me luck!

Verdict: Of course I will make these again! We usually just save sugar cookies for Christmas, but I think I will have to expand my cookie cutter collection so we can have them all year round.

Coming Up: Icing the cookies!! Probably by Tuesday... We will see how my schedule goes.  I am also planning on making some Easter chick cake pops and and Italian Easter Noodle Pie soon.  Probably lots of other things too for the upcoming holiday.  Can't Wait!

Until next time, send positive royal icing thoughts my way,
Jenna xoxo

P.S. Beautiful Spring Flowers on my kitchen table. :-)

P.P.S. Here is the recipe!

Sugar Cookies
From: Jenna's Mom
Cooking Time: 350 for 6-8 min
Yields: about 20 3.5 inch cookies

2/3 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
4 tsp milk
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 cups flower

1. Cream shortening, sugar and vanilla.
2. Add in egg; beat until light and fluffy.
3. Stir in milk.
4. Sift dry ingredients together, blend into creamed mixture.
5. Divide dough in half.
6. Chill at least one hour.
7. Bake on greased cookie sheet.
8. Enjoy!