Thursday, May 31, 2012

dora the explorer cookies

My son has a friend named Olivia at his preschool, and recently her mom contacted me about making cookie favors for Olivia's birthday.  Since Olivia loves Dora the Explorer, we decided that they would be Dora cookies, as well as "O" cookies ("O" for Olivia).

I already had an "O" cookie cutter from my alphabet cookie cutter set, but I didn't have one for the Dora cookies.  Again, my husband came to the rescue and created me a custom cookie cutter (see here, here, and here for the other custom cutters he has made for me!), based on an outline of Dora which I drew for him.

Armed with my shiny new cookie cutter, I made the cookie dough, stamped out my cookies, and baked them using my favorite homemade sugar cookie recipe.

Next I made a batch of royal icing, and divided it according to how many colors I would need - white, black, dark brown, skin tone (and purple for the "O" cookies).

I used the skin tone royal icing to outline Dora's face, and the black royal icing to outline her hair.  Then I filled it in with runny royal icing in the same colors.

After I let the cookies dry for a few hours, I was ready to pipe the details.  I piped a brown outline on Dora's hair, and black outlines for her eyes, nose, and mouth.  Then I filled in her eyes with thinned white royal icing, and waited for that to dry before I added her brown eyes and black pupil.  Then I let the cookies dry overnight.

For the "O" cookies, I was disappointed that the cookie cutter in my set turned out to just be a circle!  I was surprised there was no inset circle to complete the "O".  So I just piped my own purple "O" outline, and filled it in with runny purple royal icing.

Then came the finishing touches ... a white dotted border on the "O" cookies, and a tiny white dot on each of Dora's eyes, to bring her to life.

Happy Birthday, Olivia!  Hope you enjoyed your cookies!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

purple ombre petal cake with chocolate butterflies for mother's day

My mom likes desserts that are not too sweet.  And, she loves lemon.  So for Mother's Day I decided to make her a lemon blueberry cake, with purple ombre petal frosting for a girly feminine touch.

Initially I was going to make a lemon cake with blueberries in the batter itself, but last minute I decided to just make it a lemon cake, filled with blueberry whipped cream.  I had been eyeing a recipe for "hot milk cake" in my copy of "Miette" by Meg Ray; it sounded interesting because it was the total opposite of any other cake recipes I had tried.  While usually I would combine the fat with the sugar and then add eggs, and then alternate a flour mixture with milk, this recipe called for beating eggs with sugar, then adding the flour, then melting butter with hot milk, which is then poured into the cake batter at the end.  Interesting!  I wanted to try it.  The only thing I changed was adding lemon zest to the batter, to give a nice lemony flavor to the cake.

The blueberry filling was fairly simple - I whipped heavy cream with a bit of confectioner's sugar and vanilla, and when it started forming stiff peaks I added a few tablespoons of pureed blueberries (blueberries that I had pulsed in the food processor), and then whipped it a bit more to incorporate.

For the frosting, I wanted a light frosting that wasn't too sweet, so I chose this swiss meringue cream cheese frosting at 6 Bittersweets - I've been wanting to try her recipe, and it sounded perfect with the lemon and blueberry combination.  But I must have done something wrong, because my frosting came out very loose.  I tried refrigerating it for a while and then rebeating, but this only lead to clumpy not-smooth frosting.  But I was running out of time, and besides it still tasted great, so I used it anyway.

I piped a border of frosting on the perimeter of my first layer of cake, so that the soft filling would not leak out.  Then I filled it with the blueberry whipped cream, and then topped it with my second layer of cake.  After a quick crumb coat of frosting, I began the fun part of creating the petal look of the frosting.  I found this great tutorial at Hungry Housewife, which shows you step by step how to create the petals.

I also made chocolate butterflies for the finishing touch!  I found a great tutorial here.  Initially I was going to make the butterflies purple, but since the top of my ombre cake was purple in the middle, I decided to just make them chocolate so that they would stand out.

When we cut into the cake, the inside looked so pretty with the purple and lemon yellow constrasting colors!  The cake was nice and lemony, but very very dense, and tasted almost like a lemon pound cake.  But the overall combination of lemon and blueberry flavors was nice.

Happy Mother's Day, Mommy!

Friday, May 11, 2012

banana cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and fruit leather flower pom poms

By the time I got to the sign-up sheet for the Teacher Appreciation Week luncheon at my son's preschool, there was nothing left to sign up for.  Literally nothing - all the slots were full.  But I wanted to make something to bring anyway, and since we had an abundance of overripe bananas at home, I decided to make banana cupcakes.

At first I was just going to top the cupcakes with a simple cream cheese frosting, but then a few days before the luncheon I saw this post at Best Friends for Frosting, which linked to this tutorial at Wedding Chicks - edible DIY flower pom poms made out of fruit leather!  Genius!

Making the pom poms was fairly simple.  The hardest part was getting the petals to stay put.  But the tutorial said to use toothpicks to help hold the petals in place while they dried, and that seemed to help.  But even though I let them dry overnight, they were still a bit soft and floppy the next morning.

The night before the luncheon, I made my banana cupcakes using my mom's banana bread recipe (stay tuned for a post on her banana bread later).  One batch of batter that would normally fill one 9-inch loaf pan ended up making 16 cupcakes.

I thought perhaps the cupcakes might come out more like muffins, since the recipe was meant for banana bread, but I sampled one after they were baked, and it was actually the perfect texture!

Next I whipped up a batch of cream cheese frosting and used a 1M tip to pipe large roses on top of the cupcakes.  And then I topped them with my pom poms.

I had only made 6 of the fruit leather pom poms (they were more time-consuming to make than I had anticipated!), so I topped the remaining cupcakes with sugar pearls and non-pareils.

I hope all the teachers enjoyed the cupcakes!  Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

another golf ball cake! chocolate cake filled with chocolate mousse and covered with cream cheese buttercream

Since my coworker's dad loves golf, he asked me to make a golf ball cake for his dad's birthday.  So I made an 8-inch version of this cake that I made last month (based on a golf ball cake at Love & Olive Oil), but this time I made a chocolate cake filled with chocolate mousse.

I used my favorite homemade chocolate cake recipe, which I baked in two 8-inch pans.  Once they were baked and cooled, I started on the chocolate mousse filling (the same recipe from America's Test Kitchen that I use for the middle layer of my triple chocolate mousse cakes).

Next I sliced off the tops of my cakes to ensure a flat surface.  After piping my chocolate mousse filling onto the first cake layer, I placed the second layer on top and then let the whole thing chill in the fridge while I started on the frosting (a cream cheese buttercream).

This time I added less green coloring to the frosting, since last time I thought the cake was too "green" and wanted a lighter effect for this cake.  I did a quick crumb coat of frosting over the entire cake, and then a second smooth coat on the sides.  And then it was time for the fun part - piping the grass!

I started by piping the perimeter of the cake with my grass tip, then filled it in until the entire top was covered.  Then I finished it off with a grass border on the bottom of the cake.

The final touch was a white chocolate golf ball that I made with my golf ball candy mold!

This time, the cake took me about 4 hours to make, from start to finish.  Now I just have to practice making large 12x17 cakes - the last one took me 12 hours to make!