Since I’m always paranoid while prepping for parties that there will not be enough cake (spoiler: there is ALWAYS more than enough cake), I decided to make some extra cupcakes to supplement the tree stump cake. I used a dairy-free box mix (many Duncan Hines mixes are dairy-free), which had the added benefit of providing cake for the party guest who I knew was allergic to dairy and who otherwise would have had to make do with some of the other random sweets on the table.
I decided to make moss a component of my edible dessert table, so in addition to adding some green food coloring to a double batch of my no-mixer sugar cookies, I topped my cupcakes in “moss” made of crushed graham crackers.
Note– it’s not as simple as just squirting food coloring into a bag of graham cracker crumbs and mushing them around to combine; the dye immediately gets absorbed into just a few surrounding crumbs and doesn’t do much good. Instead, the trick is to dilute your food coloring in a few tablespoons of water, pour that into your crumbs, and mix until it distributes evenly. Don’t worry if your crumbs seem wet and mushy– the next step is to spread them onto a baking sheet and bake for about 10-15 minutes at 300 degrees F, until they dry out. Crush one more time to ensure that there are no clumps, and they’re ready to use!
I frosted my cupcakes with a relatively small amount of frosting, then dipped them into the container of mossy crumbs to get a nice, even coat. For a few, I added meringue mushrooms as decoration– for others, some flowers piped with my new Russian floral tips!
For my daughter’s seventh birthday she declared that she wanted a Parry Gripp-themed party. Who is Parry Gripp? Try typing it in as a search term on YouTube and go down the rabbit hole of playlists…
The short answer is that he writes weird songs, most of which appear to be aimed at kids, with accompanying bizarre animated music videos. Current favorites in this house include “Neon Pegasus,” “Space Unicorn,” and “Pancake Robot.” There are actually a ton of food-related songs, which we used as inspiration for our party menu, but one thing my kid was adamant about was that she wanted a galaxy-mirror-glazed cake, which would relate to both Neon Pegasus and Space Unicorn. I’m not sure where she even found out about mirror-glazed cakes, but hey, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!
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.
So remember how last year I let my daughter tell me what she wanted her birthday cake to look like? This year I didn’t even have a chance to ask– she handed me a sketch one day and informed me that this was what I’d be making. It had three tiers (!), was decorated with berries and green icing, and had a fake warning on the outside saying that it most certainly did NOT hide any surprises inside… or did it?
Apparently she decided that what she wanted was a hidden pawprint to surprise her guests. It had to be pink, and it had to show only when the cake was cut into. While I had a general idea as to how to get this done, I turned to the internet and was happy to find a tutorial to give me some details as to how it could be accomplished! Here it is:
I’m not going to bother posting too many step-by-step instructions because honestly, the video is pretty good at explaining what to do.
My daughter’s class is having a Halloween party and has requested parent contributions to the menu– naturally, I volunteered to bring a dessert item, and asked her what she’d like me to make. After a little debate about ingredients and logistics, we decided on pumpkin muffin balls decorated to look like pumpkins. And I can’t wait to tell you about an awesome discovery I made with regard to decorating icing– but I’m getting ahead of myself.
I recently co-hosted a baby shower for a friend of mine, who was expecting a baby boy. Seeing as she and her husband are huge Star Wars fans, we decided to make the shower space-themed. Of course I was in charge of desserts, and one of my contributions was this batch of planet cookies.
This is really just a mini-post about a technique I tried out for dressing up macaron shells. Sure, you can use food coloring to tint the shells pretty pastel colors, and you can make teddy bear faces, but did you know you can also apply many wet-on-wet icing techniques to make pretty designs on them before baking?
To make these flower macarons I tinted my batter into several different shades. I started by piping a small “kiss” of batter, about 2/3 the diameter of the finished macaron. I let it spread a little, then piped another “kiss” in the center of the circle of batter in another color and let it flatten out.
Then I took a toothpick and drew a line from the outermost edge of the batter to the center. I cleaned the toothpick and drew another and another, until I had a five-petaled flower design. Then I used my final color and piped a tiny dot in the center.
Adorable, no? You can do a marbled effect by dragging your toothpick randomly through blobs of color, or drag a toothpick through tiny dots to make hearts. The design doesn’t distort much at all in the oven, so have fun!
Nothing gets a preschooler excited quite like rainbow-colored food. Even better if it’s rainbow-colored dessert. So when I found myself with some extra frosting (as one does), I decided to color up some white cake mix and make rainbow cupcakes for my daughter to take to school to share.
A few tricks to getting those layers nice and even on the inside– first, remember to make different amounts of your different colors– more for the color on the bottom (since it’ll spread out and up the sides) and progressively less for the colors in the center. Second, use piping bags to put your batter exactly where you want it– no more mess with spoons!
Like I’ve said before, I love making cute lunches for my daughter to take to school. It’s fun coming up with creative ways to make food look interesting, and one of the easiest things I’ve done is to make rainbow pasta. It’s just pasta, dyed with food coloring.
The great part is, you don’t have to cook it in special water or anything like that– just cook your pasta as usual. While it’s cooking, take a few drops of liquid food coloring or a tiny dab of gel food coloring and put it into a plastic sandwich bag. Put in a tablespoon of water to dilute the pigment. The water really is necessary, or it won’t coat the pasta evenly.
Then, when the pasta is finished cooking and still warm (doesn’t have to be right out of the pot, but you should do it within 5 minutes or so), put it into the bag, seal the bag, and toss it around until the colored water has coated the pasta.
And that’s it. Serve immediately and store any leftovers in the refrigerator for as long as you would regular pasta. If you do multiple colors, it’s best to store them separately so the dye doesn’t rub off onto other pieces of pasta.
Note: I find that red, yellow, green, and blue work best for coloring pasta, though yellow is kind of subtle. Purple/violet does NOT work well. Seriously, it turns the pasta this unappetizing grayish color– no one will want to eat it. So just skip that one.
Gail Carriger is one of my new favorite authors, and for those of you who haven’t read Soulless (of The Parasol Protectorate series) or Etiquette and Espionage (of The Finishing School books), I suggest you go out right now and get them. They’re the perfect blend of light, frothy humor, pseudo-historical commentary, and plain old fun. Plus, Gail has a fashion blog that I thoroughly enjoy perusing, as it features many fun vintage and vintage-inspired looks. I even sent her one of my hats once, since her characters so clearly appreciate fine millinery.
So when I heard she was going to be in town for the launch of her latest book (Manners and Mutiny), I knew two things: First, that I was going to attend and meet her in person, and second, that I would bring cookies.
What kind of cookies, you ask? Pretty ones. Definitely pretty ones. Vaguely Victorian-ish, since that’s the era her stories are set in, and probably featuring items and/or characters from the books. When I was making the Spooky Mummy Cookies I deliberately set aside some of the dough to cut out some fancy plaque shapes, and froze the baked cookies in preparation for this project. When I was ready to get started, all I had to do was defrost and they were ready for decoration!
Not to imply that this wasn’t a complicated project– heaven forbid! It involved two different kinds of icings and several decorating techniques spread over two days, so let’s get started!