Shirlee Goodness Cakery

Making the world a sweeter place one cake at a time

Drum Major Bear

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Drum Major Bear Cake

Every Christmas eve for the last 4 years, I’ve made a birthday cake for my cousin’s daughter, Natalie.  This year, Natalie is one of the drum majors of her high school band, so I decided to make her a teddy bear cake dressed in her drum major uniform.

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Natalie in her drum major uniform

 

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Bear Cake Mold

I used the Williams-Sonoma Build-A-Bear cake mold and instructions.  I modified the Santa Claus and Soccer Player Bear patterns to make the drum major outfit.

The cake is baked in two halves and put together with a layer of buttercream.

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First, anywhere that won’t be covered with fondant gets covered in “fur.” The bear’s “fur” is created by sprinkling turbinado sugar over a sugaring glaze.

Then the bear gets dressed!

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I bought white, black, and blue fondant.  When you add a lot of gel color to fondant it just gets really sticky.  For intense colors, it’s better to buy the pre-colored fondant. I added some navy and black coloring to the blue fondant to deepen the hue.

 

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For the hat, I had baked a cupcake and then covered it in fondant.

The gold accents were white fondant with gold painted on. You can get the gold dust at a cake supply shop.  Sprinkle some dust in a small dish and add just little bit of clear alcohol like vodka or almond extract. The buttons were cut out using the small end of an icing tip. My daughter Allison helped me with some of the details.

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Allison painting the gold eagle ensignia

 

I think Natalie really liked her drum major birthday cake!

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Natalie and her cake

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Panda Cupcakes

 

Chocolate Panda Cupcakes

Chocolate Panda Cupcakes

My aunt was throwing a farewell party for her son who is moving to China.  Since the party was a drop-in buffet dinner event, I thought cupcakes would work much better than a cake.  People, especially kids, can easily serve themselves.  And you don’t have to worry about when to cut the beautifully designed cake, messing up the presentation for people who join the party later.

IPanda-cupcakes_3655 wanted to make something with a Chinese theme and saw these adorable mini-cupcakes on Bakerella’s site.  Can you believe these are made with MINI chocolate chips?! I decided to make full size cupcakes for my cousin.

IMG_8858These cupcakes were easy to make because I was able to find the items I needed: black chocolate melting wafers at the local cake and candy supply shop, candy eyes at Hobby Lobby, and dark chocolate expresso beans at CVS (yes, the pharmacy!).

Here are some cupcakes I decorated, experimenting with different techniques for the fur, eyes and ears.IMG_8861

The decorating steps are pretty self-explanatory:

  1. Frost the cupcake using large tip.
  2. Use spatula to smooth the frosting.
  3. Insert two chocolate wafers round side up for ears.
  4. Place two chocolate wafers flat side up for the color around the eyes.
  5. Squeeze a small dot of buttercream icing where you want to place the eyes.
  6. Place candy eyes.
  7. Place the chocolate covered expresso bean for the nose.

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It was fun to make subtle differences in the faces like moving the eyes up or closer together, using big or small noses.  I wasn’t able to make as many funny faces as Bakerella since I didn’t have a mouth.  Next time I hope to find something to use for the mouth.

Lastly, I decorated a small 6-inch cake so I could write a message wish to my cousin.  I think he really liked the cupcakes!

Panda cupcakes with 6" cake

Panda cupcakes with 6″ cake

 

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Peanut Butter Cookie Experiments

Peanut Butter Treats - Clockwise from top left: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies Cups, PB&J Cookies, Peanut Butter Cup Brownies

Peanut Butter Treats – Clockwise from top left: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies Cups, PB&J Cookies, Peanut Butter Cup Brownies

I love the flavors of peanut butter and chocolate together.  When I saw Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups at Trader Joe’s (TJ’s), I had to buy them!  Then I had fun incorporating them in some easy baking projects. Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

  1. Peanut Butter Cup Brownie – Very easy!  I mixed up a batch of brownie mix.  Then chopped up some TJ’s peanut butter cups and pressed them into the top of the batter.  Bake as directed.
  2. Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Cups – I made a batch of peanut butter cookie dough.  I pressed a ball of dough into a mini-muffin tin and used the Pamper Chef Mini Tart Scraper to make an indention and placed the peanut butter cup in the center.  Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes or until the cookie is golden.
  3. PB&J Cookies – I had leftover peanut butter cookie dough, so I rolled small balls of dough, flattened them and made a small well using a measuring teaspoon.  I spooned some grape jelly into the well.  Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes or until the cookie is golden.

And there you have it!

Chopped peanut butter cups on brownie dough

Chopped peanut butter cups on brownie dough

Peanut Butter Cookies with Jelly Centers

Peanut Butter Cookies with Jelly Centers

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Cupcakes or Cookies…?

Cupcake Cookie with Sprinkles

Cupcake Cookie with Sprinkles

Cupcake Cookie Cutter

Cupcake Cookie Cutter

I had made some sugar cookie dough a few weeks ago and froze the dough because I didn’t get around to baking the cookies.  I had a cupcake cookie cutter and thought it would be fun to decorate the cookies as cupcakes.  For tips and tricks on baking and decorating cookies with royal icing, see my post on Baby Girl Cookies.

Cupcake sugar cookies?!

Cupcake sugar cookies?!

After I carefully rolled out the dough on parchment paper and cut the cupcake shapes out, I popped a tray into the oven.  I was dismayed to see how much the cookies spread in the oven! :(  They weren’t recognizable as cupcakes at all!  Oh, well, I thought, it’s a good thing that I was not making these for a particular event!  (After I finished decorating, you’ll see that the shape didn’t really make too much of a difference in this case.  Still, I will used a different recipe next time I make shaped cookies!)

I continued on, making the royal icing while the cookies cooled.  I made royal icing from pasteurized egg whites.  You can buy the egg whites ready to use from the grocery store.  I’ve like using egg whites better than meringue powder because my icing comes out softer.  I don’t like really hard icing for cookies.

The advantages of buying the egg whites in the carton are 1) You don’t have to separate them from the eggs yourself, 2) They are shelf stable for some time so you can buy them ahead of time and they are ready to use when  you want them, and 3) You don’t have to worry about salmonella because the egg whites are pasteurized.

Three steps to decorate cupcake liners

Three steps to decorate cupcake liners

I decorated the cupcake liner first, outlining the bottom of the cupcake with white icing, then flooding it with thinned colored icing. (I used more of the pasteurized egg whites to thin the royal icing for flooding.) The tip of a chopstick works well to spread the icing to the edges and into the corners.

I decorated the liners in various ways.  For some I piped white stripes to imitate the accordion fold of basic cupcake liners.  When the lines were piped right away before the flood icing set, they sank into the flooded icing, giving a nice integrated look.  For some, I dipped a chopstick tip into thinned icing of contrasting colors to make polka dots.  For some, I drizzled lines of contrasting thinned icing and ran a toothpick through the icings to swirl them.

 

Piped Lines

Piped Lines

 

Liner with polka dots

Polka Dots

Liner with swirled pattern

Swirled Pattern

The last step was to add the frosting tops.  I used a variety of star tips to pipe luscious-looking mounds of frosting on the top of the cupcakes. When I ran low on frosting, I used a knife to spread the frosting to look like a homemade frosted cupcake. Colored sprinkles added a festive touch!

Cupcakes or Cookies?  You decide!

Cupcake Cookies

Cupcake Cookies

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Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Filling

Baby Shower Favors

Baby Shower Favors

Last week I made cupcakes for a coworker’s baby shower party favors.

Wilton Color Cups

Wilton Color Cups

I decided to make chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter filling.  I used Ina Garten’s chocolate cake recipe.  The cakes were delicious and moist. The special ingredient is a cup of coffee.  The coffee intensifies the deep chocolate flavor. The batter was very thin and the cupcake tops ended up being flat.  That would be good for making layer cakes; I would have preferred to have more rounded tops for the cupcakes.  Next time I’d try cutting down on the liquid to have a thicker batter.

Important!  Use foil-lined color cups for nice presentation!

Left - black paper liner with colored dots; Center - white foil-liner with colored spots; Right - white paper liner

Left – black paper liner with colored dots; Center – white foil-liner with colored spots; Right – white paper liner

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Foil Lined Cupcake Liner

These cups are lined with foil on the inside so the cupcake color and oil don’t show through to the outside.  I baked a few cupcakes with some regular paper liners to show you the contrast.  You can see how much brighter the colors of the foil-liner are.

Cut a circle from the top of the cupcake.

Cut a circle from the top of the cupcake.

Now, the surprise inside – peanut butter filling! The filling was based on Martha Stewart’s peanut butter filling recipe.  It’s basically butter, peanut butter, and marshmallow creme. I really like the light texture of the marshmallow creme combined with the peanut butter flavor to cut down on the sweetness. I used Trader Joe’s unsalted creamy peanut butter which has a rich peanut flavor.

To fill the cupcakes: Cut out a circle from the top of the cupcake. Save the top.  Hollow out a bit more from the inside of the cupcake to make room for the filling.

Hollow out the middle of the cupcake.

Hollow out the middle of the cupcake.

Fill with peanut butter filling.

Fill with peanut butter filling.

Use a piping bag or small spoon to fill the cupcake. Replace the top and you’re ready to decorate!

The frosting is swiss meringue buttercream, colored blue with a combination of royal blue, sky blue, and turquoise colorings.  I used a large round tip “6PT” to pipe a simple icing top.

Wilton Royal Icing Monkeys

Wilton Royal Icing Monkeys

I found these cute royal icing monkeys made by Wilton.  They were perfect for the jungle animal theme of the baby shower..

Yummy!

Yummy!

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Let It Snow!

Snowflake Birthday Cake

Snowflake Birthday Cake

Each year I make a birthday cake for my cousin’s daughter Natalie whose birthday is on Christmas Eve.  This year she turned 16 and I made a snowflake cake.

Snowflake plunger cutters

Snowflake plunger cutters

I chose to make the snowflakes out of fondant using these plunger cutters.  I really like the detailed shape and design on the plungers.  I let them dry overnight and dusted them the next morning with sparkle luster dust.  I also cut out two large snowflakes from the fondant using a regular snowflake cookie cutter. The sparkle was very subtle.  Next time, I think I would roll out the fondant and dust before it dries, and then cut the shapes.

 

Snowflakes dusted with sparkle dust

Snowflakes dusted with sparkle dust

I baked two 8-inch round cakes, leveled them and cut each in half to have four layers.  Natalie  likes chocolate, so I filled them with chocolate buttercream.  Then I covered the cake with white buttercream tinted a light sky blue.

Four chocolate cake layers filled with chocolate buttercream

Four chocolate cake layers filled with chocolate buttercream

I used a round #5 tip to do the edging around the bottom of the cake and then placed the snowflakes on the top and sides of the cake.  I piped “Happy Birthday Natalie” using the same blue buttercream.

Snowflakes on the top and sides of the cake

Snowflakes on the top and sides of the cake

I thought the cake looked a little plain and wanted to add some more sparkle.  I tried brushing the luster dust on the cake, but the sparkle was very subtle and didn’t brush on evenly.  Then I added some small silver dragees…and they really did the trick!

First slice! Yum!

First slice! Yum!

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Cake Decorating 101

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Last weekend, I held my first cake decorating workshop. The workshop was part of a crafts event at church which where ladies could take classes to make items such as greeting cards, fabric pumpkins, mini-glitter houses. I had eight students ranging from 7-years-old to seniors. We all had a great time, and I was so pleased and proud of each of the beautiful and unique creations!

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For each student, I provided:

two six-inch cakes

filling

frosting

offset spatula

handout with basic instructions and icing techniques

 

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piping bags

couplers

tips

icing color gels

other miscellaneous tools

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I demonstrated basic steps for filling and frosting a cake, and decorating techniques using a star tip and round tip.  Lastly, I showed them how to make leaves with tip #352, and how to ice cupcakes.

I think the pictures speak for themselves!

 

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It’s a Boy!

Shower cake for Baby Boy

Shower cake for Baby Boy

 

A coworker requested a cake for his wife’s baby shower.  They are expecting a boy.  I asked them to send me some pictures so I could get an idea of what they wanted.  Here are the pictures they sent.

baby1 baby2 baby3 baby4 baby5

 

 

 

 

 

These pictures gave me a good idea of what their tastes were like.  I knew I should do a tiered cake in fondant for that classic look, and have baby booties on top.

Cut out shoe part with detailing

Cut out shoe part with detailing

Directions for making baby shoes can be found on the web. I saw the most adorable baby high tops, but I thought this cake would be better with a more traditional baby shoe look. Many thanks to the Cake Journal for their Baby shoe tutorial which I followed more or less.  I used a mixture of half fondant and half gum paste.  The gum paste gives strength and the fondant gives pliability to shape the shoes before they dry too fast!

Assembling the shoes

Assembling the shoes

 

When I saw the mother-to-be after the shower, she told me that she was so happy with the cake.  She said it was the first time that she asked for a cake and got what she wanted! She didn’t get the cake she wanted for her wedding cake or birthday cakes, but she did for her baby shower!  So I was very pleased that I was able to meet her expectations!

Here is a picture of the mom-to-be and the big-sister-to-be at the baby shower.  They are very sweet!

Mother and daughter with baby cake

Mother and daughter with baby cake

 

 

 

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Baby Sweater – Size 18 months to 8 years!

Kristi wearing pink sweater that I knit for her.

Kristi wearing pink sweater that I knit for her.

Pictured above is my niece Kristi wearing a sweater that I knit for her when she was 18 months old. Just to tell you upfront, this post is not about baking.  I haven’t posted since January because I really haven’t baked anything I thought was interesting.  I’ve been busy knitting and sewing.

Sometimes people ask me if it’s hard to spend so much time creating a cake and then have it eaten and gone.  Actually, I like that it’s not permanent.  I can feel free to try new things and if they turn out, it’s great, and if it isn’t exactly how I had hoped, no one will remember in a few days. Plus, I know the cake will taste good!  And I always can look back at my pictures.

I do like to create some more permanent items, though.  These days, I mostly make baby things like baby quilts, sweaters, hats, booties.  Here are a few pictures of my knitted projects from the last few months.

 

Baby girl hat and botties

Baby girl hat and socks

Purple Hat and Booties

Purple Hat and Booties

Multi-colored Toddler Cap

Multi-colored Toddler Cap

And guess what?  My niece Kristi is now 8 1/2 and still wears the sweater…now re-imagined as a cropped sweater with three-quarter length sleeves.  I guess it’s time for me to knit her another one!

Kristi wearing sweater at 18 months.

Kristi wearing sweater at 18 months.

Kristi now, 8 years old, wearing the sweater I knit for her 7 years ago!

Kristi now, 8 years old, wearing the sweater I knit for her 7 years ago!

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How to make Microwave Brownie Mix

Individual Serving Microwave Brownie Mix, Packaged for Gifts

Individual Serving Microwave Brownie Mix, Packaged for Gifts

In past years, I’ve baked a selection of cookies to give my friends and neighbors at Christmastime.  This year, I decided to do something different.  I made microwave bowl potholders.  They’re quite handy.  You microwave your bowl nestled in the potholder.  When you go to take the hot bowl out the microwave oven, the potholder is already in place!  I found some really great directions at the blog Syzygy of Me.

Mix flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, cinnamon and instant coffee in a large bowl.

Mix flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, cinnamon and instant coffee in a large bowl.

Place labeled baggie in a mug to hold it open, and tare the scale.

Place labeled baggie in a mug to hold it open, and tare the scale.

As I was making the potholders, I decided I wanted to give a microwavable food item that could be used with the potholder.  I thought about healthy things like soup or oatmeal, and then I realized I could give a fun ready to bake treat– microwave brownie mix!  I took some different recipes from the web and then modified them a bit to my liking.  I like the cinnamon because it gives the brownie a hint of baked goodness, the instant coffee deepens the intensity of the chocolate, and the two types of chips add to the complexity of flavors…the chocolate chips lend bursts of real chocolate, and the white chips add color contrast and a bit of vanilla flavor. I printed the “baking” directions on a label and stuck them on plastic ziploc bags, and filled the bags with single portions of the brownie mix.

Add 87 grams of flour mixture to baggie.

Add 87 grams of flour mixture to baggie.

Add semisweet chocolate chips and white baking chips.

Add semisweet chocolate chips and white baking chips.

Since I was making a bunch of these to give as gifts, I multiplied the amounts of all the ingredients except the chocolate and baking chips times sixteen and mixed them in a big bowl.  (I wanted to make sure each mix got enough chips, so that’s why I didn’t mix the chips into the mix.  I thought that most of the chips would probably end up at the bottom of the bowl.)  I labeled the baggies and filled each one with 87 grams of the mixture and added chocolate and white chips to a total of 114 grams.

Here’s the recipe amounts for making a single serving or mixing up a batch of sixteen portions.  A few of my friends told me that the single serving mix was a perfect dessert for a family of three!

Ingredient

Large Single Serving

Sixteen Servings

Single Portion Package

Flour

¼ cup or 31 grams

4 cups or 496 grams

2/3 cup

or

87 grams

Sugar

¼ cup or 46 grams

4 cups or 736 grams

Cocoa powder

2 Tbsp or 9 grams

2 cups or 144 grams

Salt

pinch

2 tsp or 14 grams

Cinnamon

dash

½ tsp

Instant coffee, crushed into powder

dash

½ tsp

Semisweet chocolate chips

1 Tbsp

1 Tbsp or ~23 grams per package

White baking chips

1 Tbsp

1 Tbsp or ~23 grams per package

Directions for single serving:

1.  Empty contents into a microwave safe bowl or large mug.
2.  Add 2 tablespoons oil and ¼ cup water.
3.  Mix well.
4.  Microwave for 1 minute and 40 seconds or until cooked through.
       CAUTION: The bowl or mug will be hot!
5.  Remove from microwave and allow to cool for 2 minutes.
6.  Top with ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.
7.  Enjoy!

Microwave brownies aren’t as wonderful as oven-baked ones, but they’re still yummy and will satisfy a chocolate craving in a pinch.  And they’re fun for kids to make!

Freshly "baked" microwave brownie!

Freshly “baked” microwave brownie!

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