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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Not Your Grandma's Sugar Cookies!

Nothing against a plain old sugar cookie or one with a few coloured sprinkles. There is no such thing as a bad sugar cookie! 

But, with the use of Royal Icing, Fondant, Gumpaste and a few little tools, you can step it up a notch this Christmas and wow your guests. Trust me, these little cookies are time-consuming, but well worth it.

Start by selecting a variety of cookie cutters. They are inexpensive and many are dual-purpose. The little snow people (faces) are made from an ornament cutter. 

Don't overlook the plain or scalloped round cutters, or the square or rectangle cutters. They may not seem "Christmasy", but it's all in the decorating. A rectangle cutter can easily become a cute little edible gift tag.

Shine and sparkle come from sanding sugar, petal dusts, glitter and finally, disco dust or 24k gold dust. (Note: Some glitters are "edible" but tend not to be as sparkly. Others, including disco dust are really sparkly and "non-toxic", meaning that you probably won't die if you eat it because it travels right through your body undigested. They are recommended for items that will be removed from a cake, cupcake or cookie before eating.)

A bulk food store is a great source for cookie cutters, fondant, dragées, non-pareils, jimmies and sanding sugars.The petal and disco dusts are more commonly found in a cake decorating supply shop.

Also have a look at a cake decorating supply shop (or look online) for impression mats. That is what gives the texture to the mitten and to the the hats on the snow people. You may already have items in your home that will also give texture to a fondant-covered cookie. The red stocking in the picture to the right was actually embossed with a stitching wheel. 

Fondant cutters and punches are great for small details such as holly leaves on a wreath. Tappits or silicone moulds are great for lettering. Here are a few great sources for decorating tools in Ontario. Have fun!

Golda's Kitchen
Icing Inspirations 
Flour Confections 

(Tutorial on Snowflake cookies coming soon!)

Friday, September 07, 2012

Bacon Maple Cupcakes

When my daughter asked me to make Bacon Maple Cupcakes for the dessert table at her wedding, I wasn't sure what to think. Essentially, I got two types of reactions when I told people what I was making. It was either "Ewwwwww" or "Awesome!". 
I thought I'd take the easy route and start with a cake mix, rather than creating a recipe from scratch. I did a test run first that went over well. In the end, the cupcakes were a hit at the wedding and practically flew off of the dessert table. I wish I'd made twice as many.

Bacon Maple Cupcakes:
Cupcakes - Use a regular French Vanilla cake mix and make the following substitutions - for the oil, substitute melted bacon fat (melt and cool slightly, otherwise it will "cook" your eggs). For the water, use half maple syrup (real maple syrup, not "pancake syrup") and half water. Add about 3 strips of cooked (crispy), crumbled bacon - mix and bake according to directions on box.  While the cupcakes are still warm, poke a few holes in the top and brush with warm maple syrup.

Icing - The icing is just a simple American Butter Cream - 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup shortening, 3 to 4 Tbsp Maple Syrup, 1 pound icing sugar, 1 teaspoon of maple flavouring, and a pinch of salt. Mix on medium speed of mixer for about 2 minutes. 
Decoration - Once the cupcakes are iced, top them off with two small pieces of crispy bacon and then add just a few drops of maple syrup on top (I used a piping bag and a small #1 tip - I am sure there's a better way!).


Friday, January 27, 2012

Cake Shooters

Cake Shooters, also called Cake Push Pops, are crashing not only the kid birthday party scene, but adult parties and even weddings.

They are easy to make and, if using the little snap-on lids, they travel well too. The containers are a little tricky to find and they aren't cheap - especially when you factor in shipping outside of the US. In Canada, the containers are available at Creative Bag in Mississauga, Ontario.

The Cake Shooters shown are made with a chocolate fudge cake, cotton candy flavoured pink icing, and lots of sprinkles. I started out by baking a regular cake in 9 inch round pans. You could also use a sheet pan. I've read where some people say to use a cookie sheet and bake the cake 1/2" high. That's tricky and then you have a lot of crust with which to deal. 

Once the cake was cooled, I cut off the top and sides and then used a cake leveler to make the layers about 1/2" thick. The top of the container can be used to cut round pieces of cake. You could also use a round cookie cutter if you have the right size. It would give you a sharper edge.

Making sure the bottom of the container was pushed all the way down, I then put in a cake round and pushed it down into the container gently. Next I piped in some icing and added a few sprinkles. Then, I repeated the process until the icing reached about 1/4" above the top of the container. (no higher, unless you plan on skipping the lids)

That's it! So simple.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Valentine Cookies

These Valentine Sugar Cookies are easy to make and they taste great. If you send a couple dozen to school with your child on Valentine's Day, you could find yourself on the short list for the class Mom of the Year!

Start by using your favourite heart shaped cookie cutter to make Vanilla Sugar Cookies. While the cookies are baking, roll out coloured fondant to about 1/16th of an inch thick. Time saver: Use the pasta attachment on a Kitchenaid mixer to do your rolling for you.

Using the same cookie cutter as you used for your cookies, cut a similar piece of fondant. Lightly brush the warm (or slightly cooled) cookie with corn syrup and gently place the fondant on top. Smooth with fondant smoother or with the palm of your hand. Impressions can be made with acrylic scrapbooking tools or with Impression Mats made especially for cookies and cakes. Use your imagination and add sugar pearls, royal icing dots, fondant flowers, etc.

I like to let the decorated cookies sit for about 12 hours in order for the decorations to set - then wrap in cello and tie with a ribbon. Easy and fun!