For my daughter’s kitty-themed fifth birthday party, the first thing she asked for was “a cake shaped like a house, that’s also a cat.” What could I do but give it my best shot? After all, coming after last year’s castle cake, it should be a snap, right?
One thing to know about my daughter is that she loves cats. LOVES them. Anything that can have a cat on it, or be shaped like a cat, is bound to come out that way at some point. So when I suggested that we make cookies for a party she was invited to, she immediately declared that they would be “kitty cookies, with chocolate chips for eyes.” Fair enough, I could do that!
Since the only cat-shaped cookie cutter I have is a Halloween-style arched-back cat, I decided to make a slice-and-bake roll of dough and go a little more cartoony and do kitty faces instead. I colored the main dough pink, leaving part of it plain to use for the muzzle and the insides of the ears, and formed the two doughs into a log I could slice cookies off of. A little more work to begin with, but easier than rolling out thin and definitely quick at the end for decorating.
Recently I was enjoying a lazy Sunday afternoon with my daughter and mentally scrolling through the contents of our refrigerator, planning her lunches for the upcoming week, when it occurred to me that I hadn’t made her anything particularly cute for lunch in a while. Since she had just put on her little apron for a session in her play kitchen, I thought she might want to help me with this project– and of course then I knew that it had to feature cats in some way.
Remembering my previous piggy bun project, I thought I might try a variation on it and make “kitty buns.” Since I didn’t have any savory fillings ready I decided to use my currant bun recipe for the dough. All was going well– the dough mixed up just fine, rose nicely– and then it was time shape the kitties.
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!