I love miniature versions of things, especially desserts. So when I decided one morning to whip up some sweet treats for a playdate, and saw that I had a whole bunch of mini chocolate chips (as opposed to regular-sized chocolate chips), I knew exactly what I wanted to make: bite-sized chocolate chip cookies!
Since I was a bit short on time I knew that I wouldn’t be able to soften butter to room temperature, so I found a recipe using melted butter instead. To keep things simple I mixed up the dough by hand rather than using any kind of mixer. The resulting dough was a bit too soft, so I popped the bowl into the freezer for 10 minutes to firm it up a bit (smearing the dough up the sides of the metal bowl to give it maximum surface area to chill).
Yet another treat I served at my daughter’s woodland creature party was a selection of woodland creature cookies– foxes, hedgehogs, and squirrels. I used my classic chocolate cutout recipe for the cookies, and frosted them with a 3/4-sized batch of a hybrid glaze/royal icing that I picked up online from Baking Sweet Hope. It’s a nice combination of the best of both icing worlds, and I had just about the right amount of icing to cover my cookies in several different colors without worrying about running short.
The original icing tutorial and recipe are both so good that I’m not going to try to summarize them here– just go check out her page!
I did make a few mistakes in the icing process– first, I think I thinned the icing too much, which prevented me from getting quite the amount of detail I’d wanted. I also tried to do too many cookies at once (at least on the foxes), assembly-line style, which messed with my details a bit as well. But in general I think the animals turned out well, and they tasted great! I admit that the hedgehogs were my favorite of the lot– which ones are your favorites?
In keeping with the woodland theme, I wanted to decorate my dessert table with various items that you might find on the forest floor– but I wanted to make them edible. Candy rocks immediately came to mind, like the ones I’d used for the Kitty House Cake for a previous birthday party, but the available options were all rather small and I wanted to think bigger. Then I came across a recipe for homemade rocks made of white chocolate fudge– I was sold!
These rocks are really easy to make– you just melt together some white chocolate and sweetened condensed milk, then add cookie crumbs for some realistic speckles and mold the slightly chilled mixture before rolling in powdered sugar. Plus, they look amazingly realistic! I made a half-sheet pan full of rocks with this recipe, including some pretty large ones that I made by wrapping storebought brownie bites (or pieces thereof) in the fudge mixture to bulk them up– I figure that the fudge is sweet enough that no one would want to eat a solid piece of it as big as their fist.
For my daughter’s woodland party I couldn’t *just* do sweets, so I made a few savory themed treats as well– case in point, this hedgehog-shaped cheese ball. Because who doesn’t like cheese?
I went with the standard sliced-almond technique for the spines, and for flavoring I took inspiration from recipe online and used half a package of dried onion soup mix as my main mix-in. With a few other additions for extra kick, it turned out creamy and flavorful, and went well with crackers. As an added bonus, any leftovers can be spread on toast and broiled for a delicious snack, or melted over pasta for a more substantial meal!
So for her birthday party this year, my daughter chose “Woodland Creatures” as her theme. I admit to nudging her a bit in the right direction a few months ago because I thought it would provide an opportunity for lots of cute themed food, but she really got into it, even giving me a list of things she wanted to include. I’ll give details of how I made things in the next few posts, but take a look at the resulting dessert table…
Included above are a tree stump cake, meringue mushrooms, decorated animal cookies, white chocolate fudge rocks, moss-covered cupcakes, candy acorns, and pads of “moss” made of green-dyed sugar cookies. (Also edible pinecones but they didn’t turn out all that well so I’ll forego posting a recipe until I get it right).
I had *so* much fun putting this party together. I raided the 80% off Christmas decoration section at my local craft store to get the artificial greenery, but aside from that all of the decorations on the table were edible– my version of the infamous Willy Wonka chocolate room. Honestly, I think this is one of the best dessert tables I’ve ever done!
For May the Fourth I attended a Star Wars themed party, so of course I had to make something in-theme to contribute! I decided on these porg-shaped rice balls, which are rice balls rolled in crushed sesame, with nori accents and a chunk of cucumber in the middle for extra crunch. They turned out adorable, if I do say so myself, and were popular with party-goers, so I consider them a success!
While you can make these without any special tools, it’s a lot faster and easier to do if you have the right equipment. I used a nori punch for the facial features, and a rice-roll press to make my pieces evenly shaped and well-compressed. That being said, you can feel free to shape your rice by hand (wet hands make it easier) and to cut out eyes and mouths with scissors. I would definitely recommend using the parchment paper cutout to mask off the white parts of the rice during the sesame step, though!
For a Halloween party this past weekend I was tasked with bringing something sweet– last year I made iced pumpkin cake balls, which were a rousing success, so I decided to revisit the idea and try again with a different theme. Eyeballs!
This time I started off with a regular box of white cake mix, doctoring it up with some sour cream in place of the water– in this case 1 1/4 cups of it. This really is necessary to make the cake batter thick enough to properly fill the wells of the cake pop maker– otherwise the batter is so thin that when it rises it just overflows, rather than doming to fill out the ball shape.
Once my cake balls were cool I popped them in the freezer for a little while to firm them up a bit while I prepared my coatings.
For my last project for the ninja baby shower I made a cake. The mother-to-be had requested bright, punchy flavors, so I went with a lemon cake using my hot milk sponge cake as a base, filled with a fantastically easy homemade lemon curd (recipe below, and it’s the creamiest, most luscious lemon curd ever) and iced with my favorite cooked-flour frosting. Then it was time to decorate!
I knew I wanted something special to tie in to the ninja theme, but just piping little ninjas or sticking the ninja cookies to the outside of the cake seemed boring, so I went in a little more sophisticated direction. I printed out some reference images of Japanese temples, and sketched them (interspersed with trees and a bridge) onto long, skinny pieces of parchment paper. I flipped the paper over (didn’t want graphite in my cake), and carefully traced out the design with melted dark chocolate in a squeeze bottle (a little less precise than I’d have hoped, but not bad). Then came the tricky part…
It’s no secret that I adore cute food, and cute food that’s been miniaturized is automatically cuter than the original. So when I saw these cute-tastic Japanese animal donuts, I immediately tried to think of ways to make them myself, only extra-adorable. That’s where my mini-donut maker came in.
Another one of my kitchen unitaskers, the mini-donut maker churns out ridiculously precious little donuts, 6 at a time, without all that frying. No, the donuts don’t have the classic texture of a fried donut– firm to the initial bite, then giving way to pillowy softness– but they’re perfectly respectable baked donuts, and did I mention they’re cute?
I’ve made these with regular boxed cake mix before, but the soft fluffiness of the cake made the donuts one-dimensional and boring– plus, the relative thinness of the cake batter made the little donut wells more difficult to fill properly. I’ve learned that boxed pound cake mix actually works best for mini donuts– it’s thick enough that it can be easily piped into the donut wells, it rises to just the right height to make a nice rounded donut, and the pound cake flavor is pretty close to a classic old-fashioned donut, which is my favorite. Sure, I could make my own pound cake mix from scratch and use that, but these are so small and will be coated with so much sugary icing that no one is going to notice the flavor of the cake– at least not the difference between homemade and box mix.
Anyway, so I mixed up the cake mix per the box directions, piped it into the heated donut maker, cooked for 3 minutes (2:30 if you want them extra-soft), and pretty soon I had a big batch (about 6 dozen) of tiny donuts. On to the decorating!
After making those Spring Watercolor Cookies, I started getting the urge to indulge my “cute food” obsession by making other kinds of decorated cookies using different techniques. When a friend of mine decided to have a fancy tea party for her birthday, I knew I’d found my excuse. Continue reading →