Sunday, October 28, 2012

When Spiders Go a Little Preppy...

I mean, really, who said spiders and spiderwebs have to be black & orange anyway?
This is the second year that kiddo has decided he's not going trick-or-treating.  I miss Halloween costumes.  I'll be honest, Mr. E made a lot of them.  One of my favorites: a traffic light. He made it so the red and green lights really lit up and the yellow light could be pushed out from the inside to retrieve the candy.  (Would it surprise you to know that Mr. E has an engineering degree?)

That same year, Martha Stewart asked readers to send in their best kid's costume pictures and it made it onto her website!!!  Yes, kiddo is on Martha's website.  You never could be framed in her office, too.  Or in her wallet.  (Stranger things have happened.)

That picture was from 4th grade.  Kiddo is now in 8th grade...and looks like this.
{{Hug your babies, you guys.  Time flies.}}

I *do* love seeing the little ghouls & goblins come to the door for candy, though...and so does kiddo.  Looks like we've moved from the trick-or-treating phase into the "opening-the-door-for-trick-or-treaters, eating-more-candy-than-we-give-away" phase.  It's not all bad.

So, the cookies.  I knew I wanted to make some spiderwebs.  I wanted to use some different colors, but all I could visualize were black, orange, purple,, orange, purple,, orange, purple, green.  Don't get me wrong, I like those colors.  Then, it came to me in a flash of 80's nostalgia...preppy.
The cookies are super simple, and even though these are sprinkled with disco dust, you can totally leave that off.  You can see I was having some issues deciding whether or not to dust...

One note about the navy color.  I mixed AmeriColor Navy with AmeriColor Super Black.  You'll want to bring the color to a deep blue, but it won't look navy until it dries.  (You'll see from the how-to pictures how much the color deepens.)

To make the sparkly spiderwebs, you'll need:
Use a #2 tip to outline the cookies in the base colors.

Thin the base color icing with water, a bit at a time, stirring with a silicone spatula, until it is the consistency of a thick syrup.  You'll want to drop a "ribbon" of icing back into the bowl and have it disappear in a count of "one thousand one, one thousand two." Four is too thick, one is too thin.  Count of 2-3 is good.  Cover with a damp dishcloth and let sit for several minutes.

Stir gently with a silicone spatula to pop and large air bubbles that have formed.  Pour into squeeze bottle.   

Fill in the outline with the thinned flood icing, using a toothpick to guide to the edges and to pop large air bubbles.

Let the cookies dry for at least one hour.

Use a #2 tip to pipe a spiderweb outline in a contrasting color.  Start from one corner, or from the top center.

Use a #5 tip to pipe a spider body and a #1 tip to pipe the legs.

Use a #15 star tip to pipe a border along the edge of the cookies, using a pulsing motion.

{This is one of the easiest ways to make your cookies look fancy.  You'll need a fairly stiff icing to hold the design...I always test my icing on a plate first.  If the ridges fall, just stir in some sifted powdered sugar.}

Let the cookies dry uncovered 6-8 hours, or overnight.

If desired, add the disco dust.  Details on applying it are here.  I used a very thin paintbrush to go over the web and legs of the spider.

After the dusted cookies have dried about 30 minutes or more, use a dry paintbrush to brush away the excess.

Let me live vicariously through you.  What are your kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews going to be this Halloween?!? 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Spiced Poppy Seed Cake with Almond Buttercream Frosting

{Just go ahead and start adding these ingredients to your grocery list now.}

I'm not sure why I don't bake cakes very often.  Wait...yes, I have an inkling.  I don't make cakes very often because I feel like they have to look spectacular.  I love a spectacular cake.  My Pinterest cake board is filled with them.  I have immense respect for Amanda, and Rosie, and Heather, and Gail, and Melissa because they make them.   
My cakes, though, are not pretty.  I've decided to make peace with that fact. 

After coming to terms with this truth, I decided my birthday was the perfect excuse to make a cake I'd been dreaming about from the book Cake Ladies. (Found on Amazon and B&N.}

It's a poppy seed cake made with warm spices, honey, and a little whole wheat flour.  The frosting is a rich, fluffy, American buttercream flavored with almond & vanilla.  {Are you swooning, yet?}

Three things:
  1. If you happen to have a friend who is a beekeeper, this cake is even more special.  Yes, I'm lucky enough to have such a friend...Amy from She Wears Many HatsIs that totally cool, or what?  I loved that the honey for this cake came from her bees!
  2. Cake Ladies...if you haven't seen this book, take a look online or next time you're out at a bookshop.  Not only is it filled with delicious tried-and-true cake recipes, but the book showcases 17 southern "cake ladies," and their stories are so wonderful. 
  3. For the moistest cake, make the cake at least a day ahead of frosting...more on this in the instructions.  Trust me. 
OK, want the recipe.  Here ya go:

Spiced Poppy Seed Cake with Almond Buttercream Frosting
{slightly modified from Cake Ladies}

for the cake:
1 & 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 & 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 TBSP baking powder
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 sticks (1 cup) salted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 cups milk, at room temperature
2 TBSP vinegar
1 TBSP almond extract
1/2 cup poppy seeds

for the frosting:
3 sticks (1 & 1/2 cups) salted butter, at room temperature
7 & 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 & 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 & 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
6 TBSP half-and-half, plus more if needed
poppy seeds for sprinkling

Make the cake:
Preheat oven to  350.  Grease three 9" round cake pans with shortening; line the bottoms with parchment.

Sift the flours, baking powder, cornstarch, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cardamom together.  Set aside.

With the whisk attachment of a stand mixer, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar on high speed until soft peaks form.  Set aside.

In another bowl, use the paddle attachment to cream together the butter, sugar, and honey until light and fluffy.  On low speed, add the egg yolks one at a time, beating after each addition.  Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl and beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

In a bowl, combine the milk, vinegar, and almond extract. (Don't worry if it curdles.)

Add the dry mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk/vinegar mixture.  Mix lightly, between additions, just until combined.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl as needed.

Fold in the poppy seeds, then fold in the whipped egg whites in three additions. (Re-whip the egg whites first if they have separated.)

Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until done.  Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove to wire cooling racks.  Once the cakes are cool enough to handle, but still warm, wrap in plastic wrap, then in foil and freeze overnight, or until you're ready to frost.

{This tip is from my friend, Gail, and guarantees a moist cake.}

The day you're going to frost the cake, take the layers out of the freezer and place in the refrigerator for several hours to defrost. 

Make the frosting:
Cream the butter and powdered sugar together using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer until it forms a thick "paste." Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts, then the half-and-half.  Beat until fully combined.  Add more half-and-half as needed to get to a fluffy consistency.  Beat until fluffy and no lumps remain.

With an offset spatula, spread a heaping 1/2 cup of frosting over each cake layer, then frost the top and sides.

Sprinkle on the poppy seeds and add a little piping detail with a large star tip, if desired.

Will keep covered at room temperature for 2 days, or refrigerated for about 1 week.

Don't wait until your birthday...make it NOW!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Rosy Little Pumpkin Cupcakes

Rosy Little Pumpkin Cupcakes for a sweet little pumpkin named Lucy...
Kristan's baby girl is expected in just a few weeks and since she will be a fall little pumpkin, I thought some pumpkin cupcakes might be in order.

I feel sure you all know Kristan from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen.  I would say that Kristan is one of my very favorite bloggers, but you know what?  She's more than that.  She's one of my very favorite people.  Her little Lucy is about to be welcomed into one adorable and loving family, full of sparkles and big brother's magic tricks.

The cupcakes are a doctored up cake mix batter loaded with pumpkin and spices.  The frosting...oh, the frosting!  How about a buttery, cinnamon cream cheese frosting that's so good, you'll contemplate buying one of those beer helmets and converting it to a frosting helmet.

{Listen, cupcake ATMs are a real thing; why not frosting helmets?}

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
{adapted from Kraft}

for the cupcakes: 
1 box French Vanilla cake mix
1 & 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
1 (8 oz) container sour cream
1/4 cup oil
3 eggs

for the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
6 TBSP salted butter, at room temperature
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350.  Line 22 muffin cups with liners.

Whisk together the cake mix and spices.  Add in the remaining cake ingredients.  Mix on low until combined, then beat 2 minutes on medium.

Scoop the batter into the lined tins and bake for 20 minutes, or until done.  Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove to cool completely on wire racks.
To make the frosting, beat together the cream cheese and butter until combined.  Add the sugar in three additions, scraping the bowl as needed.  Beat in the vanilla and cinnamon.

(If frosting the cupcakes generously, like these roses, double the recipe.)

To make the rose frosting, I used Created by Diane's video as a guide.  I didn't have the correct tip on hand (I used an Ateco 828 star tip), but I still think they turned out pretty.

Since Kristan likes sparkles, I sprinkled the rosy icing with a bit of sanding sugar.

You know how all of us love a chance to celebrate a new bloggy baby, so there are lots of us celebrating Kristan & Lucy today.  Go take a peek!

Cookies and Cups | Zebra Cake Cupcakes
The Hungry Housewife  | WhiteCupcakes 
She Wears Many Hats |  Pretty in Pink Party Marshmallows
Two Peas and Their Pod | Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes
My Baking Addiction | Sugar and Spice Cupcakes
Sprinkle Bakes | Princess Torte Cupcakes
Sweet Sugarbelle | Damask Cookies
Chocolate and Carrots | Whole Wheat Chocolate Cupcakes
Living Locurto | Baby Shower Printables (coming soon)

We can't wait to meet you, little Lucy! ♥

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I baked my what? (Works for Me Wednesday)

Alright.  So, you baked your cookies.  You're ready to start decorating.

Where do you put them to start?!?
{thanks to my iPhone & Instagram, I have a million of these shots.}

Here's what I do: Instead of setting them on my kitchen counter or table, I put them on cookie sheets. Cookies line the edges, facing out, no cookies in the middle.

Why no cookies in the middle?
  1. When reaching to the middle cookies, my pajama sleeve might brush into a cookie on the edge and mess it up. (Yes, sometimes I wear pj's while the middle of the day. Kidding. Kind of.)
  2. Sometimes icing bottles leak.  You know when they'll leak?  Right when you're reaching over a perfectly decorated cookie.
  3. Piping will go much more smoothly if you don't have to reach. 

Cookie sheets are easily rotated.  Try doing that with your kitchen counter.

Cookie sheets are easily transported.  Working at your kitchen table and your family wants to eat dinner?  Pick them up and move them to the dining room.
(Not your family, the cookie sheets.)

You don't need expensive cookie sheets.  I have lots of cookie sheets that I bake on, but I also have a whole stack of cheap-o cookie sheets just for this purpose.  They come in handy when you're decorating 100's of cookies.  Or, if you're decorating 12 cookies and want your good cookie sheets to heat up some taquitos.

Cookie sheets for cookie for me.

    Sunday, October 14, 2012

    For my little sister on Halloween...

    Here's how the story goes... sister is 5 years younger than I am and was in high school when I started working for Delta.  My dad had been transferred to Atlanta, home of Delta, which led me to tell my sister about a very fancy hair salon I'd heard about while I was in flight attendant training.

    So, when prom rolled around, Molly went to have her hair styled at the salon.  I happened to be home for the weekend, so Mom & I dropped Molly off at the salon and planned to pick her up when she was finished.

    Hours later, Molly emerged from the salon, I'm not exaggerating, with her hair piled and ratted at least 12 inches high.  She was only missing the white streaks.  Mom & I looked at each other and didn't say a word.

    My sister got into the car, shut the door, and my mom said, "well, how do you like it?"
    Molly's reply, "I look like the *freaking* Bride of Frankenstein."

    {Except she might have used more colorful language.}

    I remember slowly turning to my mom, waiting for the reprimand on the colorful language bit...words like that were just NOT used in our house (or car)...and she burst out laughing.

    What followed was a race home, so Molly could re-wash and style her OWN hair, and be ready for prom.

    Bride of Frankenstein prom hair.....scarier than any horror movie.

    You don't need a frightening hair story to make Bride of Frankenstein cookies, though.  All you need is a simple candy corn-shaped cookie cutter.

    You'll need:
    Use a #2 tip to outline a heart shape with a rounded bottom for the face in the lighter purple.

    Use another #2 tip to outline the hair with black icing.  Reserve some of this piping consistency black icing for adding details later.

    Thin the light & dark purples and black icings with water, a bit at a time, stirring with a silicone spatula, until it is the consistency of a thick syrup.  You'll want to drop a "ribbon" of icing back into the bowl and have it disappear in a count of "one thousand one, one thousand two." Four is too thick, one is too thin.  Count of 2-3 is good.  Cover with a damp dishcloth and let sit for several minutes.

    Stir gently with a silicone spatula to pop and large air bubbles that have formed.  Pour into squeeze bottles as needed.

    Flood the face portion of the cookies with the thinned light purple icing, using a toothpick to guide to the edges and to pop large air bubbles.

    Working 6-8 cookies at a time, flood the hair  portion of the cookies with the thinned light black icing, using a toothpick to guide to the edges and to pop large air bubbles.

    Starting with the first cookie flooded, add squiggles of thinned dark purple icing directly on top of the wet black icing.

    Let the cookies rest for at least one hour.

    Use a #2 tip to pipe eyes in white.

    Switch the tip on the black icing to a #1 and add pupils, eyebrows, eyelashes, and a nose.

    Use a #1 tip to pipe a heart-shaped mouth.

    Molly, this is for you:

    PS...I think a lot of Bride's problems could have been solved with a good hair gel.

    PS 2...if you want to see what a multi-tasker a candy corn cookie cutter is, take a look at just a few cookies made using it.  It's a good shape to have in your arsenal.
    1. walruses
    2. popcorn
    3. kissing couple
    4. ...candy corn! 



    Tuesday, October 9, 2012

    Book Signing (and cookies, too!)

    Hey, y'all!  I'm going to be doing a little book signing of Decorating Cookies just north of Houston in The Woodlands on October 20th.

    A. I would love, love, love for you to come...otherwise, Mr. E, kiddo & I are going to have a 2-hour long staring contest.

    B. I'll be doing a little cookie demo (spiderwebs, anyone?).

    C. It's at Hubbell & Hudson Market, from 12-2pm.  If you've never been to Hubbell & Hudson, oh, are you in for a TREAT!!!  It's one of my happy places. (Bring your wallet.)

    D. There will be books available for purchase. (You may definitely bring books you've already purchased, but showing H&H some love for hosting us would be awesome!)

    E. If you'd like, you can let H&H know you're coming by clicking here on their Facebook events page.

    F. {{I'm bringing COOKIES!!!}}

    And finally....I'd LOVE to meet you.  Be warned: I blush...a lot.  And, I'll be sweaty, and do the whole nervous laugh thing.  Other than that, it will be fabulous! ;)

    Hubbell & Hudson. October 20th. 12-2pm. Cookies.

    Sunday, October 7, 2012

    Banana Bread French Toast with Peanut Butter Maple Syrup (and brown sugar whipped cream)

    If I could, I'd take you all to Dallas right now to eat brunch at one of our favorite places, Bread Winners.  From what I understand, they've opened a few locations since we lived there, but we'd go to the original location on McKinney.  It's quaint and hip and cool, without being pretentious...multi-level with a gorgeous, plant-filled, open-air atrium (where I never sit because I don't want my hair to frizz).

    Here's what we'd order: Banana bread French toast and mimosas.  Mr. E always gets some sort of egg dish, but me....I just can't get past that French toast.

    Inspired by Bread Winners, I made Banana Bread French Toast at home.  Like theirs, I piled mine high with clouds of whipped cream (I sweetened mine with brown sugar)...but for the syrup, I made up a little peanut butter maple syrup.
    {I think I was channeling Elvis.}
    {I certainly might resemble Elvis in his later years if I eat this every day.}

    First, you'll need banana bread.  If you have a banana bread you love, by all means use it.  I'll provide one for you below.
    {Do you love that "crack" in the top of bread like I do?}

    You'll want to bake the bread and let it it COOL COMPLETELY before making the French toast...the warm bread may fall apart on you.

    Banana Bread French Toast with Peanut Butter Maple Syrup

    for the bread:
    {adapted from King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion}

     2 & 2/3 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon kosher salt
    1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
    2 eggs
    1 cup sugar
    1/3 cup vegetable oil
    1 cup mashed, ripe bananas
    2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
    3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
    1/4 cup milk

    for the syrup:

    1/2 cup maple syrup
    1/4 cup smooth peanut butter

    for the brown sugar whipped cream:

    1 cup heavy cream
    3 TBSP light brown sugar

    for the French toast:

    3 eggs
    3/4 cup milk
    1 TBSP sugar
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla
    dash kosher salt
    butter for the griddle

    make the bread:
    Grease a flour a 9 x 5" loaf pan.  Set aside.  Preheat oven to 350.

    Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.  Set aside.

    In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, and oil until well combined.  Add in the bananas and vanilla bean paste and mix.  Add in the flour mixture on low speed, just until combined.  Stir in the yogurt and milk.

    Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake for about 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  If the bread is browning too quickly, tent with foil.

    Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

    make the syrup:
    Whisk the maple syrup and peanut butter together in a small saucepan.  Keep over low heat, whisking occasionally.

    make the whipped cream:
    Add the brown sugar to the bowl, breaking it up with your fingers.  Add the cream. With the whisk attachment, whip the cream with the sugar until peaks form.  Set aside.

    make the French toast mixture: 
    Heat a griddle or pan.  Whisk together all of the ingredients, except the butter, in a shallow dish. 

    cook & assemble:
    Slice the banana bread into thick slices.  Dip both sides of the bread in the egg mixture.

    Butter the hot griddle, and cook the bread on both sides, until golden.

    Place 2 slices of bread on each plate.  Add sliced bananas, if desired.  Drizzle with the syrup.

    Add massive dollops of brown sugar whipped cream.

    Unbutton pants. (Optional.)

    {No, this post was NOT sponsored by Bread Winners. Yes, my love for them, and banana bread French toast, runs deep.}

    Monday, October 1, 2012

    Decorating Cookies

    Decorating Cookies: 60+ Designs for Holidays, Celebrations & Everyday
    decorating cookies 600 new Pictures, Images and Photos
    Well guys, today is the day.  The official release date for Decorating Cookies.  I know Amazon and Barnes & Noble shipped a bit early, so some of you have it already.  YAY!!!

    This book is for you.  You, who have never decorated a cookie.  You, who have attempted and want to try again.  You, who love decorating cookies and are looking for some new ideas.

    This book is FOR you and because of you.  All of you...whether you've been reading Bake at 350 for 5 years (ok, that would just be me), or 5 seconds. YOU.

    Here's a little peek of the inside: ( pictures do not do the book pics justice.)
    I love that visual Table of Contents!  I cannot say enough about the people at Lark Crafts, the publisher.  They pretty much rock.

    EVERY project has a step-by-step photo tutorial.  Most of the cookie designs are new, but there are a handful of favorites that we just had to include...most with a new twist.

    Oh!  Not only that, but 5 superstar guest cookie makers show one of their specialties!  We're talking: Amanda from i am baker, Callye from The Adventures of Sweet Sugarbelle, Gail from One Tough Cookie, Meaghan from The Decorated Cookie, and Marian from Sweetopia!!!  I know, right?!?  I'm so thankful for their beautiful contributions!

    Shouts-out (shout-outs?) to Amy, Melissa, and Kate for letting me use some of their fabulous artwork for a couple of projects...and to Amanda of Everyday Elements for making yours truly presentable in the author pics.

    Wanna see a little behind-the-scenes from our 6-day photoshoot for the step-by-step cookies?
    In two of those pictures, you'll see Steve Mann...the book's photographer.  Yay, Steve!!!

    Are you still here?  Oh, good.  Guess what...I have something for you to celebrate!
    • 1 lucky person will win a KitchenAid 5-quart, tilt-head, stand mixer in Aqua Sky (US only)
    • 5 people will win signed & personalized copies of Decorating Cookies (anywhere)
    • enter through 11:59pm CST, October 9, 2012
    To enter for the mixer, leave a comment.  That's it. 

    To enter for a signed book, leave a SEPARATE comment telling me where you live (city, state, country...whatever).

    Curious about where to buy the book?  Check with your local bookstore or order here:
      I really, truly hope you love the book as much as I loved eating the cookies that are in it.
    thank you.

    KitchenAid Mixer: 
    Brandie: "That mixer would look fab in my kitchen... and get TONS of use!"

    Signed books:
    Allison Jordan: "I am a seemingly hopeless cookie decorator (better with cakes) but am determined to learn - your book looks amazing! I am a transplanted both-coaster now living in Greensboro, North Carolina... Congratulations! Cookie on" 

    Nane ┼×ekeri: "Congradulations for the book.In Europe it is still pre-order :(  I live in Netherlands."  

    Mrs Cosper: "Because of your blog everyone in my family will be getting personalized cookies for Christmas! NC LOVES you!!"

    Kristen M.: "Hi from San Diego. I'd love to win a copy of your book!"  

    James: "Rural Illinois is getting cookies this holiday season!"