Sunday, December 28, 2008

Santa brought me a new camera!

Berries & Spiderweb
My previous camera, a Minolta DiMAGE 5, decided to retire. It made a few sputtering noises, then a loud *POP*, then it emitted the telltale aroma of burnt electronics. It still takes pictures, but the flash no longer works. And, every once in a while that lovely burnt smell accompanies a shot or two.

So, I shopped around, consulted photography friends, and decided I wanted a Canon 400D, also known as the Canon Digital Rebel XTi. I found a really great deal and placed it in my husband's shopping cart. I told him this just in case he decided to surprise me with a new camera for Christmas. He said he would like to but Christmas shopping had taken its toll on our funds, so it probably wasn't going to happen.

But then, lo and behold, he came through! He picked me up from work and told me about it on the way home. I cried, which kind of freaked him out because I don't usually all. I told him I was crying because there were other things that we could have spent the money on and we didn't need a camera. But on the other hand, I really enjoy my photography and I needed a camera for Christmas pictures of the kids. Then we had a good laugh.

He had it expedited so that it would arrive on Friday, December 19th. UPS, however, had other plans. They decided it should take a detour first so it went to Jeanerette, then back to the Lake Charles hub before finally arriving in New Iberia and put on a truck for delivery.

I met the truck at the road. The driver and his co-pilot are not regulars to our neighborhood, and I think my waving and jumping up and down kind of scared them. I rushed to the door on the passenger side and he looked a little apprehensive. But, nonetheless, he verified my address and handed my package over to me.

I took pictures the night it was delivered and of course I brought it to work with me the next day and took pics of my coworkers. It worked perfectly for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning shots. I took a ride out to Lake Martin the day after Christmas to test my new zoom lens. It was overcast and windy, but it was 77 degrees outside, so there was wildlife to be found. I was quite pleased with the pics I got considering that I really hadn't had time to acquaint myself with all the features and settings. I also got some good shots when we went to visit my grandfather in Sulphur, Louisiana.

Here are some of my favorite shots that I've taken so far.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Cookies 2008

Kasey and her friend Callie wanted to enter the 4-H Christmas Cookie Competition so included my younger daughter, Korey, and we made a day of it.

We made the dough from scratch. They each selected cookie cutters and helped cut the cookie dough. Once the cookies were baked and cooled, we made the icing. They decided on a color palette and I mixed the colors for them.

I demonstrated to them how to use a piping bag to outline the cookies and then how to flood them using squeeze bottles and toothpicks. They had a lot of fun and the cookies turned out really cute.

Kasey got the blue ribbon and her friend, Callie, got second place!

Click on the frame below then click on the right-arrow at the bottom left corner of the frame to play the slide show.

Friday, November 21, 2008

How to Photograph a Cake (without expensive equipment)

While I always enjoy compliments on my cakes and cookies, I've recently begun to get many compliments on may cake and cookie photography. Being a practical and frugal person (interpreted as "cheap"), I'm always looking for creative solutions.

After completing my most recent cake, I decided to try something new when it came time to photograph it. I recently installed full spectrum bulbs in the fluorescent ceiling fixture in my kitchen, which has improved my ability to shoot without a flash. Throw in an empty butter tub and a $2.00 scrap of fabric and voila, I've got some really nice photos. Read more about my Fuchsia Gerbera Daisy Cake.

Fuchsia Gerbera Daisy Cake

Fuchsia Gerbera Daisy Cake
This is another version of the cake I fell in love with on You can click here to see the first one I did, which was also my first fondant cake and featured peachy-pink flowers. This is my fourth try at covering a cake in fondant, but I'm still not sold on it. I guess I just need more practice before I can be comfortable with the whole process.

The cake is three, 1-inch layers of German chocolate cake. I made a traditional cooked filling with coconut and pecans. The outside of the cake was frosted with chocolate frosting I made from Ghirardelli sweetened chocolate powder, then it was covered in vanilla fondant.

The "pearls" around the border and the green stems are both made of hand-rolled fondant. The flowers are gum paste. The fondant for the stems was colored with Americolor Electric Green. I used a little bit of Americolor Fuchsia to color the fondant that covers the cake. I added a little more color for the lighter flowers and then added a bit more for the darker flowers.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the techniques I used to make this cake.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Our 19th Wedding Anniversary

"...what thwarts us and demands of us the greatest effort is also what can teach us most." --- Matthew Arnold

Yesterday, November 11th, was our 19th wedding anniversary. I have to admit that it hasn't always been easy, but I have learned a lot along the way. On this year's anniversary I learned that my husband can still surprise me because I did not expect to receive flowers on my anniversary, yet I did. I received the most beautiful bouquet of 19 perfect red roses. Roses that were so perfect they didn't look real. The card read, "So far, so good. Love, Me".

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Grandpa is 93 years young!

My paternal grandfather, Harvey Dever, turned 93 on November 4th. We got together at his house the following Sunday to celebrate.

Since he loves banana cake, I took the opportunity to try my maternal grandmother's banana cake recipe for the first time. And, oh my! Why did I wait so long? It was delicious. Basically, it's a white cake with mashed bananas and ground pecans added to it. The filling consists of well-sugared, sliced bananas. Then you frost it with a simple buttercream frosting to which you add a mashed banana. I then coated it with toasted pecans. Yum!

Of course I brought my scratch-baked carrot cake, because it is always a hit. I decorated it with flowers in autumn-inspired tones.
But, not to leave the kids out, I made dirt cupcakes with gummy worms. They were filled with a mousse made from chocolate pudding, cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and Cool Whip. They were enjoyed by kids and grown-ups alike! In fact, I made so much filling that I served it up in a big bowl. Grandpa ate two heaping servings as seen in the slideshow below.

Happy Birthday, Grandpa!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Baptism Cake for Baby Boy

A friend asked me to make her baby's baptism cake. She left the design up to me. I searched for ideas, but nothing really caught my eye.

In the meantime, I attended the Louisiana ICES Day of Sharing. The theme for the day was Glitz & Glamor. We saw several demonstrations, but I was most interested in the one presented by The Two Sweet Sisters from St. Martinville, Louisiana. They showed us how to create a pattern on fondant using a diamond-shaped cutter. They then piped small, royal icing pearls at the intersections of the lines and painted the pearls using super pearl dust. They also showed us how to create strands of pearls using silicone molds. I was so intrigued by what they did that I ordered the supplies a couple of days later.

As the date drew near for me to make the cake, I decided that the cake definitely needed to be covered in fondant since it was traveling to New Orleans. I decided I would try my luck at recreating the beautiful quilted pattern embellished with royal icing pearls. I knew I wanted the cake to be a light blue. But I wasn't sure what was going to go on top of the cake.

The flavor of cake was easy to decide. I baked three, 9" white almond sour cream cakes. When the time came to assemble them, I torted them into six separate layers. I filled them with bavarian cream filling. I covered the cake with a smooth coat of buttercream frosting.

I used Americolor Sky Blue to color the fondant. I immediately knew that I had chosen the wrong color to achieve a pale blue effect. Instead, what I got was a blue that was close to the color of a Tiffany gift box. Pretty, but was it too feminine? Too late to turn back now.

This was my third time covering a cake in fondant. It took me longer than it should have, but I was relatively pleased with the outcome. I then began pressing the diamond cutter into the sides of the cake to create the diamond pattern. The fondant had already begun to set up so I had to press harder than expected to get the cutter to leave a good impression, which caused the buttercream to ooze out. This also cause the fondant to extend lower than the cake board so that I had to trim it a second time. OK. Fine. Lesson learned.

Once I had the pattern all the way around the cake, I placed the cake on the foil-covered cake board. I then piped royal icing pearls using a #2 tip. I piped a section at a time, stopping to go back and flatten the dots into round balls using a dampened paint brush. I then brushed super pearl dust into the pearl strand mold and pressed white fondant into the mold. The result was strands of pre-dusted pearls. The strands tended to break apart, but that wasn't a problem. I held the pearls in place with a bit of royal icing on the cake board.

Then I had to decide what to do on the top of the cake. I decided to cut a circle of white fondant and pipe the baby's initials on it, then surround the plaque with pearls. This proved to be a little challenging, but it was easier than trying to write on the cake.

For the finishing touch, I used lemon extract mixed with super pearl dust to paint all the piped pearls as well as the plaque.

My friend arrived shortly after I had finished my usual post-decorating photo shoot. She was very pleased with the cake. I made her husband promise to drive safely so that the cake wouldn't be destroyed on the way. We had a good laugh and agreed that even if it got smashed, it would still taste good!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Boo-lated Birthday, Happy Halloween & Happy Fall Y'all

Three more cakes in autumn and Halloween themes.

First is Brook's Boo-lated Birthday Cake. We were going to Brook & Sam's annual Halloween party so I offered to bring a cake, of course. Brook had just had a birthday, but didn't get to celebrate it so Sam asked me to make a birthday cake. Lemon is Brook's favorite so I baked a lemon pound cake with lemon filling and lemon buttercream frosting. I went with a Halloween design and I can't say I was happy with the final outcome. I was, however, happy with the custom cake stand that I made. But they enjoyed the cake with family the next day and said it was really good.

Halloween Cake

I also made this dirt cake, which I adorned with gummy worms and insects. I modified the filling recipe and added a bottom layer made of devil's food cake. It was actually delicious. The filling ended up being more of a chocolatey-cream cheese mousse! There was extra filling left over and we enjoyed it for several nights!

Halloween Dirt Cake

And finally, this is a dessert cake that I'm bringing to work for food day on Friday, which is also Halloween. It's an 8-inch devil's food cake with six layers of cake and chocolate bavarian cream filling. I frosted it with Ghirardelli chocolate frosting and then pourced Ghirardelli chocolate ganache over the entire cake. The decorations are buttercream and cream cheese frostings. Yummy!

Happy Fall Y'all

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Autumn-Inspired Birthday Cake

This is another cake that I made for a coworker's birthday. Gum paste is a new medium for me, so I wanted to try something new.

I used a cookie cutter for the small oak leaf. The other leaves were hand cut from a template. I found the clip art from Microsoft Office Online. (I love free stuff!) To make the leaves dry in a natural looking state, I crumpled up several foil sheets and layed them on a cookie sheet to create a very uneven surface. I cut out the leaves, used a ball tool to thin the edges on a foam sheet, then used a veining tool to create the veins. Then I creased them down the center and kind of folded the leaves along the veins then layed them in various positions on the foil hills and valleys. When they were dry enough to handle, I used a dry paintbrush to add gold and bronze lustre dusts to them. The leaves actually started out as vibrant shades of red, red-orange, and yellow. The lustre dusts softened the colors.

The cake is a 9", triple layer carrot cake, baked from scratch; filled and iced with an old fashioned, homemade cream cheese frosting - lots of buttah! Paula Deen would be proud. Based on techniques I've seen in Serious_Cakes' videos on YouTube, I used a #104 tip to stripe the sides and then I used a #18 star tip to create a seashell and C-scroll border around the bottom. I used the reverse shell technique (kind of) to form the border around the top of the cake.

I wasn't at work Monday because I was attending the local ICES Day of Sharing, which means I wasn't there when the cake was cut. But there was a little bit left Tuesday morning, so we enjoyed it for breakfast! Yummy in my tummy!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Purple Roses & Pink Fondant Cake

Purple Roses Cake

This is my second attempt at covering a cake in fondant. My first attempt at making gumpaste roses. This is definitely going to take some practice!

Thanks to my Wilton instructor, Geneva Breaux, for being such a patient and knowledgeable teacher.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

2009 Black Pot Cook-off - First Place Pork!

The Black Pot Cook-off fundraiser was held at Angelle Park in Cecilia on October 4. Our friends, Brook and Sam, asked if we'd participate and Sean agreed. He is not a competition cooker, but thought it would be fun and besides, it was for a good cause.

They hauled both our Cajun Grill and our Dixie Backwoods Smoker to the park on Friday night. We got there around 8:30 Saturday morning and lit the fires. Sam said she would register the team, but she needed a name. Sean quickly answered, "Team Grosse Affair"! We started cooking at 9:00. It was a beautiful day, not too warm with a nice breeze, perfect for barbecuing and hanging out with friends.

Sean had marinated ten racks of pork spare ribs, which is what he was entering in the competition. He had also marinated some beef short ribs, which he had never cooked before and wanted to try. While he was putting the pork ribs in the smoker and the beef ribs on the grill, I started on the side dishes. First I gave him some thick cut bacon to crisp on the grill. Then I mixed up a large batch of my baked beans. I put them in a disposable pan and placed them on the grill to slow cook. Sean season the rice dressing mix and I cooked it down for a couple of hours or so, then I mixed it in with a big batch of rice.

I had baked four dozen cupcakes, which I iced with buttercream in green and yellow, Cecilia's school colors. I donated them to be sold at the concession stand.

When they started to announce the winners I wanted to walk over to the main pavilion, but Sean wanted to hang back because he really didn't think they would call our team. Brook headed over there and before we knew what was happening he was calling across the field for Sean to join him. Team Grosse Affair had placed first in the pork category! So I grabbed my camera and we all headed over there.

The first place winners in each category were awarded an oblong black pot and lid, a small round black pot and lid, and various seasonings and mixes. After several pics were taken by family and friends, we headed back to the campsite. We were joined by several people who were there as spectators and others who had also participated in the cook off. Everyone wanted to get some of those award winning ribs. And, they had to check out his smoker, too. At the end of the night, when all was said and done, there wasn't a rib to be found!

Everyone should be as lucky as I am to have a husband who cooks award winning food for them. It has gotten to the point that dining out for me is second to eating in.

Everything Sean cooks, especially his ribeyes and pork ribs, always takes first place with me!

Baby's First Birthday - My First Fondant Covered Cake!

My friend and co-worker, Belit, asked me to bake a cake for her daughter Bella's first birthday. She gave me creative license and I knew I wanted to make something special. As luck would have it I had a Wilton class the night before I had to bring her cake to her. In that class, we learned to cover a cake in fondant.

So, I decided on a design, which was actually inspired by a cake I found on Flickr. It was a cake made for a wedding shower by Pink Cake Box, of which Anne Heap is the founder. She is a graduate of the Pastry Arts Program at the French Culinary Institute in New York City and completed an apprenticeship with Ron Ben-Israel Cakes in New York City (OMG!). She is a spectacular cake artist. You can click here to see the cake that inspired me.

I covered my cake in class with fondant colored a very pale shade of pink. But, instead of adding all the other stuff that was included in the class curriculum, I waited until I got home to decorate it.

I colored gumpaste in a shade slightly darker than the fondant on the cake, then I made an even darker color, adding a little orange to it so that it was sort of a shrimp color. I used a daisy cutter to make gerbera daisies and then rolled bright green stems and tendrils. I used a darker shade of green to make the centers of teh flowers. Then I used a small round cutter to cut circles from white fondant. I rolled two circles together to form a pearl and did this until I had surrounded the entire cake. I then brushed the pearls with pearl white shimmer dust for a finishing touch.

Since fondant isn't "mushy" I decided Bella needed a "smash cake" that she could dig into. So I cut a small circle out of cardboard and covered it in silver paper. Then I used a biscuit cutter to cut the center out of an extra cake. I frosted it in pink buttercream and covered the entire cake in pink sugar crystals. I finished it with a gerbera daisy on top.

Belit was ecstatic when she saw the cake and I was thrilled that I could deliver two cakes to her that I was quite proud of.

This was Bella's little smash cake.

Chocolate Ganache Birthday Cake

This cake was baked for the son of my friend, Tally, to celebrate his 14th birthday. It's a six-layer, devil's food cake with bavarian cream filling. I covered it with Ghirardelli chocolate frosting then poured chocolate ganache on top.


Chocolate Ganache Birthday Cake

Bright Birthday Cake

I baked this cake for the daughter of my friend and co-worker, Toni. She wanted a cake to match the party invitations.

It's an 11" x 15" single layer "cinnamon toast" cake. I used a recipe from Cupcakes by the Cake Doctor by Anne Byrne. Delicious! I coated the cake in buttercream frosting and decorated it with fondant appliques.

Bright Flowers Birthday Cake

Stormy Weather

I took these pictures on my birthday, September 8th. The sun was setting as storm clouds were building. I thought the scene was quite beautiful and a great ending to a great day.

Storm clouds build as the sun sets

Storm clouds build as the sun sets

Storm clouds build as the sun sets

Happy Birthday to Me!

My birthday was September 8th so of course I baked myself a birthday cake. I wanted to try something new and I definitely wanted buttercream frosting. I recently discovered Cupcake Cafe a wonderful, all-buttercream cake shop that does amazing cakes. I turned to them for inspiration and found a lovely wedding cake covered in lilacs (see tiered cake below).

I thought I would do my interpretation of that cake in a single tier, so I made a four-layer, french vanilla cake with red raspberry filling. I mixed a (too dark) shade of ivory buttercream and two shades of purple, some brown for stems and green for leaves. I wasn't sure how to actually make the flowers, so I experimented with a few tips and ended up with something completely different!

I don't think they are actually lilacs. Some people thought they were wisteria and others thought they were hydrangeas. (My kids thought they were grapes). But everyone thought the cake was beautiful and tasted great. In fact, it was pretty much devoured in one sitting.

All in all, I enjoyed my birthday celebration with family and friends. And I got the birthday cake I wanted because I baked it myself!

A New Business Venture

My son, Nick, has decided that he wants to run a plant nursery. My paternal grandfather, Nick's great-grandfather had one, my dad's brother, Joe, now has one, and my dad has a degree in horticulture. So, my dad decided it was a good idea and the project was born.

My grandfather, who will be 94 years old this November has been supervising while Nick, my dad, my grandfather, my dad's brother, Mark, my dad's friend, Bill, and others are working to build the structure.

I'm going to try to document the progress in photos, provided I can find the time. They plan to have it open for Spring of 2009.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Hurricane Gustav Comes to Town

8-31-08, 8:27 pm. Staring Into the Cone of Uncertainty

After much preparation and anticipation, hurricane Gustav headed straight for us. Of course I made the usual preparations: cleaned house and ensured all the laundry was clean in case we were without electricity for days, bought food that needed little or no preparation, charged all the batteries for the flashlights and portable TV, put all of our family photos and important documents in Ziploc bags and plastic totes for easy transportation, packed overnight bags, fueled up the cars, and made sure we had enough junk food to keep us happy. Oh, and Sporty - The Dog that Adopted Us, followed me into the house at one point, made herself comfortable on the couch and it was obvious that she was here to ride the storm out.

Sunday night when I had completed preparations, Sean asked if I had happened to pick up ingredients for chocolate chip cookies while I was out shopping. I told him that it just so happened that I had. He asked if I could bake some cookies because that would really make it a less stressful situation. So...I baked eight dozen cookies Sunday night and cleaned the kitchen all over again!

Monday morning we awoke to clear skies but it didn't take long for the first bands to appear. Then came the strong breezes, then came the wind and the rain. We lost power around 11:30 a.m. Sean and I watched the events unfold through the storm door in the family room. The worst of the storm hit from around 3:00 - 3:30 pm and we had the girls "camp out" in our walk in closet with lots of pillows, blankets, a flashlight and their Nintendo DS games.

The winds were incredible. At one point they made a deep, rumbling noise that we could feel in our bones. It was like a caravan of 18-wheeles was passing through. It was awesome and scary at the same time. The rain seemed to take the form of sheets in the wind, billowing horizontally. The water rose quickly but as soon as the eye passed over us and the rains stopped, the water drained just as quickly. Luckily the southern wall of the eye had collapsed so we didn't get the second round of strong storms that you would usually expect.

We were lucky - didn't lose a single shingle off our roof. Some of our neighbors weren't as luckily, but still faired well. Quite a few large trees fell, but for the most part missed homes and structures - sometimes by inches.

We are very thankful that we didn't get a stronger storm and that we made it through safe and sound.

To see the description for a slideshow image, click on it.

This video shows the winds picking up as Gustav approaches.

This video was shot from the back door. It shows the rain blowing horizontally.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Pink Petals Birthday Cake

This is a carrot cake that a friend ordered for her own birthday. It's a triple-layer carrot cake filled and frosted with cream cheese frosting. I was free to decorate it as I wished, so I took the opportunity to try something new. I found this Lilly Pulitzer-style cake created by Laurie Lucov Wedding Cakes . I liked the pink and green combination and the whimsical design. I thought I could interpret it in a single layer cake.

But...the fates had a different idea. The chocolate transfers turned out horrible and my latticework looked even worse...I had to scrape off the latticework and re-smooth the cream cheese frosting...hence the marbled sides. I made a batch of royal icing and made the flowers, let them dry until they could be handled and arranged them on the cake. Once the cake was finished I thought something was missing, so I brushed it with shimmer dust.

Most importantly - Tallie loved it! Happy Birthday, Tallie!

The World Around Me

I carry my camera with me everywhere. I enjoy taking pictures of my children and my confections. But I also find beauty and interest in the ordinary and the mundane. I don't know if I can define my style of photography, other than "random".

Click to play the slideshow below or visit my photostream on to see all of my photography.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

Recently I discovered Picnik, a free web-based application that lets you do cool things with pictures, without using PhotoShop. I found a Flickr group calle Picnikers and joined.

Each week a "homework assignment" is posted. You have to take a picture of a subject relevant to the assignment, enhance it using Picnik and then post it in a comment under the homework thread.

These pictures were taken for the assignment titled "Shopping". I decided I could kill two birds with one stone by heading to WalMart early Saturday morning to take a few pictures and get my grocery shopping done.

The shelves of merchandise suddenly looked quite different when viewed from a subject matter point of view. I photographed bath towels in a rainbow of colors, an Herbal Essence end cap, and Sterilite tubs all in a row. A long-time employee insisted on tidying the shelves of towels before I took pictures.

So often WalMart is considered a dirty topic. But these pictures prove that beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder.

Photo Essence

got the shopping blues...

Cotton Candy

Buckets of Color

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Happy birthday, Hubby!

Bright Circles Birthday CakeToday is my husband's birthday so I made a cake just for him. It's an 8-inch, three layer, french vanilla cake. One layer of banana filling and one layer of red raspberry. He requested Duncan Hines Classic Chocolate frosting, so I obliged. One must choose their battles!

I hadn't worked with fondant before today, so I decided I would try it out. Since he is a barbecue fanatic, I mean "enthusiast", I was going to cut out flames. But I decided to keep it simple, so I figured I could try out my new set of circle cutters. I chose a white stoneware cake pedestal so I figured there needed to be some white on the cake to tie it all together.

Working with the fondant wasn't so difficult once I realized that I needed a little Crisco to keep the fondant pliable and prevent it from sticking to everything. I could have cleaned up the edges of the cutouts a bit better, but in the end I thought it turned out OK.

When I showed it to him, he laughed and asked if I had made it to coordinate with our comforter. And that's when I realized that the two were quite similar! And then he said that it wasn't really a birthday cake, it was a project cake. I told him it was indeed a birthday cake, but I had taken some creative license.

Most importantly, he said the cake was absolutely delicious and I could bake another one whenever I wanted to.

Hmmm...gotta start thinking about what design to try next!

Oh, and here's what our comforter looks like, if you were wondering. We got it from

Friday, August 15, 2008

My new KitchenAid Pro600 6 Quart Bowl-lift Stand Mixer...argh argh argh argh

This baby rocks!
Cake baking and cookie making have been elevated to a new level! This mixer can handle anything you throw at it.

And, I have to give kudos to KitchenAid for their customer service. Shortly after I received the mixer they shipped to me in June, I noticed a knocking noise in the motor. I was going to just ignore until I heard from others that it could be a gear problem. So I called KitchenAid and they shipped me a brand new one! They had me pack the old one in the new box and FedEx is going to contact me to pick it up. WOW! Now that's service!

So I used this one to make some Toll House cookie batter, which is very thick and has been responsible for burning up hand held mixers in the past. Not only did the paddle glide through the batter, the motor seemed to run quieter than the previous mixer.

My new mixer energizes me so much that I named her Black Molly, which is slang for amphetamine or speed! (No, I've never taken speed.)

Now all I want to do is bake cakes and cookies, 24/7!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Testing the Boundaries of Friendship, or Teaching a Friend How to Decorate Cookies

Practice Cookies
Want to learn more about someone? Try to teach them something.

My girlfriend Sandi was telling me about a baby shower she was going to host. The color scheme was going to be pink, brown, and white. Fun!

She tells me all about her ideas for decorating the venue. And, since I'm always looking for an excuse to try new cookie designs, I thought this was a great opportunity, so I offered to bake some cookies. We were discussing this on a Wednesday, or so, and the shower was the coming Sunday so I told her I couldn't make any promises, but I would try to get them made by Saturday evening.

But Sandi had a better idea. "How about if I come over and help you?"

Uhm..."OK. Yeah. That could be fun. Maybe you could help me."

Now I'm an easy-going, patient person, but there are some things that I am particular about. The words "bossy" and "control freak" have been used lightheartedly by friends and coworkers. And I'll admit that I have my quirks. But, I know that whenever Sandi and I get together, we always have fun. The cookies were just for practice and no one was actually paying me for them, so I figured, what the heck? Let's do it. We agreed to get together Saturday since her son and my daughters had been invited to sleepovers, so we would be kid-free for the evening.

Sandy arrived at my house at 5:30 Saturday afternoon, with enthusiasm and excitement, ready to take on the world of cookie decorating.

Long story short. I am a very patient person. Sandi is not.

I have rules when it comes to some things. Sandi does not.

But we pressed on. We agreed that I would outline and Sandi would flood. And she did pretty well for it being her first time. Once the flood icing had crusted, we began to apply the detail outlines to the cookies, which brought them to life.

By the end of the evening, make that 3:00 Sunday morning, Sandi made it very clear that I was a much more patient person than she was. I, in turn, made it clear to Sandi that if the day ever came that I was baking and decorating cookies for a living, we probably wouldn't be working side by side. We had a good laugh.

In the end, the cookies were very cute. Well, most of them were. If you didn't look at them up close.

I asked Sandi how the shower went and she said that everyone loved the cookies but when she said that she and a friend had made them, everyone looked at her suspiciously...

On a serious note, we did have fun. Sandi learned something new and I got to spend an evening with a dear friend. Something that doesn't happen often because while we are not only friends, but coworkers, we don't spend much time together at work or otherwise.

I think the next time we get together it will be to sit on the patio and drink adult beverages while my husband does the cooking!

Cookie Notes: I own cutters for the onesies, baby buggy, and baby bottle. The shoes were inspired by Susan Caliendo's shoe cookies found on her website, Rolling Pin Productions. They were handcut from a template drawn on cardstock. The striped onesie is also inspired by one of Susan's designs.

My sugar cookies were baked using the cookie dough recipe found on page 120 of The Flour Pot Cookie Book by Margie and Abbey Greenberg. Not only does it perform well, but it tastes great, too, which is very important to me.

I use royal icing to decorate my cookies and the recipe I prefer is known on Cake Central as Antonia74 Royal Icing. You can visit her website, Marmalade Cake Company.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Golden Anniversary German Chocolate Cake

50th Anniversary Cake for Gene & Lois Hebert
Our friends were celebrating their parents' 50th wedding anniversary. They had already ordered a small scale replica of the original wedding cake, but when additional guests were added to the party at the last minute, they felt more cake was needed. So they asked me to bake a German chocolate "groom's cake". They provided me with an edible image and left the design up to me.

I had a general idea of what I wanted to do and I knew that the top would have to be iced with buttercream in order to apply the image. I baked two 9" x 13" German chocolate cakes and torted into four layers. I actually only used three layers, and it's a good thing because I cooked a single batch of coconut and pecan filling and had to scrape the bowl. Anyway, I layered the cakes and filling then iced the top of the cake with a vanilla/coconut buttercream, smoothed the top with a Viva paper towel and applied the image before it crusted. Then I applied the filling to the sides of the cake. It wasn't a thick filling so I had to add additional coconut flakes to get it to stick and not slide down.

Then, I mixed a batch of regular Hershey's Unsweetened cocoa frosting and used it to pipe the border around the image and the trim around the top and bottom of the cake. Then I piped their names and wedding date, but the cake was still too plain. So I decided to try my hand at roses. I don't think I've made roses since taking a Wilton class months ago. So I added more powdered sugar and some meringue powder to the frosting to stiffen it up and used a flower nail to make some roses. The frosting was still kind of soft so the petals kind of melted into each other, but they dried rather quickly, which minimized the problem. My friends had provided the gold 50 Years plaque, which I mounted in a rose cluster.

Once the chocolate frosting had crusted somewhat, I used a dry brush to apply gold luster dust to the rose petals and the piping that framed the image.

Although I'm never truly satisfied with anything I create, I thought it turned out quite nice. And they were pleased, so I guess it was a Mission Accomplished!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Grandmommy's Carrot Cake Meets the 21st Century

Carrot Cake Cream Cheese Frosting Bright Flowers Basketweave (9)
My friend, Toni, loves carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, especially when I make the cake and frosting from scratch using a recipe from my maternal grandmother, Edwina Crowder Hebert. Toni's birthday is July 8th so I decided to bake a cake for her. I usually decorate carrot cakes with, you guessed it, CARROTS! So today I thought I'd try something different. I mixed up some bright, cheery colors and made it up as I went.

The result was a basketweave-trimmed cake with bright, happy flowers. I had also baked some carrot cake cupcakes, so I decorated them to match.

My grandmother passed away in 1976 when I was only eight years old, but her recipes and my memories of her live on. Here are some pictures of Grandmommy, along with some pics of my cake and cupcakes. You can view more pics of my grandmother and several others of my ancestors on Flickr! as well as many more pics of these cakes and others.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

New Sugar Cookie and Rolled Chocolate Cookie Recipes

I tried two new recipes. I wanted a tastier sugar cookie so I tried the recipe found in The Flour Pot Cookie Book by Margie Greenberg. And, oh my goodness! They are delicious. I rolled them 1/8 inch thick (used paint stirrers for my levelers). Iced them with the Antonia 74 royal icing recipe posted on Cake Central. This is definitely the royal icing recipe I will use until someone can convince me otherwise!

I also wanted a chocolate cookie for a dark background. I used the dark chocolate rolled sugar cookie recipe, also found on Cake Central. I didn't have any espresso powder. I used Hershey's Special Dark cocoa. They tasted AWESOME! I also rolled these 1/8 inch thick. They baked up nice and firm on the outside, but slightly soft on the inside.
I found the Cherry Blossom tree cookie on Flickr! posted by Nancy's Fancy. These were simple and fun to do, but no where nearly as perfect as Nancy's!

The birthday cookies were for my 8-year-old neighbor, Emma, whose favorite colors are purple and blue. I hand cut the cake cookie. It measures 7 1/2" x 5 1/2".

The round cookies were just for fun!

You can view more shots of these cookies and others in my C is for Cookie! set on Flickr!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

My first royal icing decorated sugar cookies!

After two months of research, I finally felt confident enough to try my hand at decorating sugar cookies. I owe a big Thank You to for all the inspiration I found while reading user posts and viewing the image gallery. I also checked out lots of websites like , , and , and read several cake and cookie decorating books.

For these cookies, I used the No Fail Sugar Cookie recipe and Antonia74 royal icing recipe found on
You can click here to view additional photos.