Saturday, November 28, 2015

Engagement Cookie Overload

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While everyone else in the good old US of A was preparing for their Thanksgiving feast, I was hunkered down assembling and decorating a hundred engagement cookies!!  Why oh why did the bride-to-be schedule her party on the Saturday after Thanksgiving?

I had planned ahead and baked, partially decorated, and froze the cookies a few weeks prior, but on the day before Thanksgiving I was madly making fondant flowers and embellishing my mini masterpieces.

I experimented and made a few cookies using 4 different plaque/frame cutters.  One frame cutter by Ann Clark had a long, narrow shape that was perfect for writing out a message.

The other plaque cutters came in a set of three that were also very cute.  BTW, the bride's color is blush.

I had some cookies in the "Stick Couple" design...

And some in the "Save the Date Design"...  Oops sorry I didn't take a picture of that one.

I had some Snuggling Doves...

And some Mini Wedding Cakes.  Actually a lot of mini cakes.  When I was planning the cookies I thought these were the cutest design, but my finished minis didn't turn out as precious-looking as I had hoped. 

I guess in the end my favorite turned out to be a simple round cookie decorated with a bouquet of flowers.  

Simple and elegant.  Not too busy and not over the top.  If I every have to make another batch of engagement cookies, I just going to make these.

Happy Decorating,


Easy Fondant Ribbon Roses

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A simple way to make elegant, decorated sugar cookies is with the Fondant Ribbon Rose.  These ribbon roses are so much quicker and easier than buttercream version, and best of all there is no mess!

To begin simply roll out the fondant as thin as you can.  I'm using Via Roma Bakery Fondant on this cookie, but any kind will work.  The only advantage of the Via Roma is that you can roll it extremely thin, and it stays soft for a long time.

After you roll out the fondant, cut off the ragged edges using an x-acto knife, and then slice into strips.  The size and length of the strips will vary depending on how large you want the finished rose to be.  I cut my strips short and narrow because these roses were going on small, round cookies.  And don't worry about getting the strips even and uniform.  Remember - there are no straight lines in nature.

To start the rose, just start rolling up the strip of fondant...

Keep rolling, but as you move away from the tight center of the rose start adding little crimps or folds at the bottom of the strip/base of the rose.  Also gently squeeze the base as you roll.  All the crimping and squeezing will give the rose petals some life and keep the finished rose from looking too compact.  The crimping will also help to open up the top edge of the rose and give it a more flared and natural look.

When the strip of fondant runs out, just fold the trailing edge down toward the base of the rose.  

All that rolling and crimping will give the rose a large, bulky base, so just cut it off with a scissors. But be careful that you don't distort the shape of the rose as you cut.  If my fondant rose is too soft to handle I will set it aside for a few minutes and allow it to firm up before I attempt to cut it.

After the cut...

And that is all there is to making a fondant ribbon rose.  In a few minutes you will have enough to decorate dozens of cookies.

Happy Decorating,


Saturday, November 14, 2015

Snuggling Lovebirds - Engagement Party Cookies

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I needed to make some cookies for a friend's engagement party, and I saw these precious little snuggling Lovebird cookies.  They didn't look too complicated, so I decided to give them a try.

Now I'm not an experienced cookie decorator, so it was a painstaking and time-consuming task for me...

I used Toba Garrett's Glace Icing (Royal Icing with equal parts milk and corn syrup) as described in her book Creative Cookies, and I used Wilton Icing Gel for the teal color, and AmeriColor gel for the bright white and black.

 In this closeup you can see that the teal blue flooding glaze is a little splotchy.  I actually made these ahead of time and froze them.  The freezing worked great except for the splotchy-ness of the blue.  I don't know if the problem was the type of glaze used (corn syrup), the thin, flooding consistency of the glaze, or the type of color (Wilton).  I will have to do some experimenting to find out what is causing the problem.

But the splotchy blue was not that noticeable so I kept decorating.  Pink cheeks, brown branch, orange nose and tiny orange toes.  All of these were colored using Wilton gels. 

And after a few grueling hours ;-) I managed to churn out eight cookies.  But they still looked a little plain. 

So I took some little fondant flower I had made for some other cookies and gave the bride dove a little bouquet.  Now that looks better.

I just hope the bride-to-be likes them.  But hey, what's not to like about snuggling lovebirds?

Happy Decorating,


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Low Carb Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

 If you are on a Low Carb diet you know that your dessert options are few and far between, but one luscious treat you can eat is ICE CREAM!

Here is my first attempt at ice cream making -- Vanilla Bean Ice Cream...

My adventure into ice cream making began when I was given some Gourmet Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans.  If I wasn't on a Low Carb diet there would be hundred of things I could use them in, but since I was deep into induction my choices were limited.  I had just made mini cheesecakes, so I decided to give ice cream a try.

The ice cream begins with a custard base.  I just used my regular custard recipe and swapped out the granulated sugar for granulated Splenda, and used all heavy whipping cream instead of a half cream / half  whole milk ratio.  

In the first step I add 3/4 cups of Splenda, cream, a pinch of salt, the seeds from the vanilla beans, and the beans themselves to a saucepan.  Heat the mixture till it scalds and then cover and allow to steep for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile whisk the egg yolks in a 1/4 cup of Splenda.   

You want the mixture to be smooth and creamy with no lumps.

Transfer the mixture to another pot and set aside.

Remove the vanilla beans and while whisking constantly, slowly pour the still warm milk mixture into the egg yolks.

Over medium heat, stir the mixture constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens and starts to coat the spoon.  Do not allow the mixture to boil or it will curdle.  

When the custard base is cooked pour it through a fine-mesh sieve to remove all the bits debris from the vanilla beans.

You will end up with a smooth, creamy ice cream base / custard that is good enough to eat just as it is...

But no, into the ice cream maker it goes.  I use a Cuisinart ICE-21R Ice Cream Maker, and in about 15 minutes I have ICE CREAM.   Yummy, delicious, lovely, ICE CREAM.  Who said you can't have dessert on a Low Carb.

Open wide, here comes a spoon full....

Low Carb Vanilla Bean Ice Cream


  • 4 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup granulated Splenda, divided
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 vanilla beans, split in half lengthwise and seeds scraped
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  1. Over medium heat warm the cream, 3/4 cups of Splenda, and salt in a medium saucepan.
  2. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla beans into the cream/Splenda mixture.  Add the bean skins to the mixture.
  3. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and allow it to steep for 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile whisk the egg yolks and 1/4 cup Splenda until smooth and creamy.  Transfer the egg mixture to a second sauce pan.
  5. Remove the vanilla bean skins from the cream/sugar mixture.  While whisking constantly, slowly pour the still warm cream mixture into the saucepan containing the egg yolk mixture.  Make sure you constant whisk the yolks as you pour the warm milk into it.  You will end up with scrambled eggs if you don't whisk the egg yolks as the warm cream is introduced.
  6. Place the saucepan on medium heat and stir the mixture constantly until the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of a wooden spoon. About 8 minutes. DO NOT ALLOW THE MIXTURE TO BOIL.
  7. When the ice cream base is cooked to the appropriate consistency, pour the mixture through a fine-meshed sieve to remove any lumps and bits of vanilla bean bark.
  8. Stir in the vanilla extract and leave bowl on the counter until it cools.
  9. Once the mixture is cool, cover and refrigerate until completely chilled.  At least 8 hours or overnight.
  10. When the ice cream base is chilled, churn the ice cream according to the ice cream makers instructions.
Yield: 1 quart

Monday, August 31, 2015

Neymar Jr Jersey Cake

It has been awhile since I decorated a cake.  The last one was exactly one year ago when I decorated a One Direction cake for my niece.  Well this year she has gotten over Niall Horan and is now in love with Neymar da Silva Santos Junior, a Brazilian soccer player.  So this year she is getting a Neymar jersey cake. Ta Da...

I'm not a great cake decorator, but she was pleased with my efforts.  And the inside of the cake was Cake Man Raven's Red Velvet (recipe at bottom) so she was really, really happy about that.  Here are all the ingredients that go into the cake.  Note that I use powdered buttermilk instead of the fresh, liquid stuff.  I've made hundreds of Red Velvet cakes using both fresh and powdered buttermilk, and honestly I can't tell the difference.

Below is the cake being mixed.  The original Cake Man Raven recipe called for mixing with an electric mixer, but for me the combination of red food color and an electric mixer never turned out well so now I just use a whisk.  For this cake I baked a double batch, so I ended up with 4, 10" square cakes.  But a word of warning: make sure you line your pans with parchment paper.  This cake will stick to the bottom of the pan if you don't take precautions.  After baking I iced the layers with a crusting cream cheese frosting. (recipe at bottom).

After frosting and stacking the cakes, I placed them in the freezer for about 30 minutes.  This gets the cakes firm enough to cut and shape.  After cutting and shaping comes a thin crumb coat, and then back in the freezer for another 30 minutes.  Chilling the crumb coat keeps it from sticking to the fondant as you tug, push, and smooth everything into place.

Next comes the fondant.  I'm all about making things easy so I used my latest discovery Via Roma Bakery Fondant.  This stuff is great.  It is soft right out of the box so it doesn't need any kneading or microwaving.  It takes color pretty well, but I did noticed a tiny bit of marbling when I tried to make darker colors.  No matter how long or how vigorously I kneaded the dark blue fondant it still had faint streaks of lighter blue.  My Wilton food colors were also old and a little hard, so I ended up with hard flecks of dried food coloring in the final fondant.  I tried to pick them out, but I didn't get them all.  I think I'm going to switch to the AmeriColor brand, I'm hoping they don't dry out as much.  But regardless of which coloring I use, next time I make a fondant cake I'm going to buy boxes of the pre-colored stuff.  No more kneading for me.

I also like the Via Roma Fondant because it rolls so easily.  You can even get it down to a paper-thin thickness of 1/24" inch.  I don't even bother using guides on the rolling pin.  I just roll and roll till the fondant doesn't stretch any more.  I also roll using Sweet Wise's The Mat.  This is another great time saving tool.  With The Mat it is so easy to transfer the fondant to the cake.  No creases, folds, tear or tears.

Onto the cake the fondant goes...

Next some red fondant cut into strips for the jersey decorations.  I used a Wilton fondant cutter and embosser.  It works okay, but it is a little difficult keeping it straight and steady.  

Red and yellow stripes on the cake.  It is starting to come together.

Next all the lettering.  I used the Wilton fondant cutouts for the letters, but in that kit all the letters are capitals.  Capital letters are okay for Neymar's name, but the other text (like unicef and beko) should have been in lower case letters.  And I didn't know this till later, but apparently unicef, beko, and LFP are the team's sponsors.  Nike and Qatar Airlines are also sponsors, but their logos are on the front of the jersey.  I should have made a jersey that stood on end and showed both sides.

And finally the finishing touches of thin ribbons of fondant scored to look like stitching.  Another Wilton tool: the fondant wheel cutter/embosser.  Wilton has a tool for everything. 

So my niece was pleased with her birthday present: the Nike Neymar Barcelona Home Jersey 15/16...

And she was also pleased with a cake that kind-of, sort-of, looked like a Neymar Jr jersey...

And all that work --- gone in 60 seconds.

But it sure did taste good.

Happy Baking (and Decorating),


Red Velvet Cake Recipe 

( from Cakeman Raven & Southern Red Velvet)


2-1/2 cups Cake Flour
1-1/2 cups Granulated White Sugar 
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon fine salt ( I use popcorn salt )
1 Tablespoon Cocoa Powder

1-1/2 cups Vegetable Oil
1 cup Buttermilk (or the powdered stuff with water)
2 large Eggs
2 Tablespoons Red Food Coloring
1 teaspoon Vinegar
1 teaspoon Vanilla


1 - Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2 - Grease and line with parchment paper 3 - 9" round pans. (Note: I like thicker cakes so I usually bake in 2 - 8" pans.)
3 - Sift together all dry ingredients
4 - Combine all wet ingredients 
5 - Slowly add dry ingredients to wet, whisk until smooth
6 - Bake 20-30 minutes till a tooth pick comes out moistly clean.  These cakes are super moist so don't over bake.

Crusting Cream Cheese Icing 


1 cup (2 sticks) Unsalted Butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 lb (2-8oz bars) cream cheese, softened
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fine salt ( I use popcorn salt )
3-1/2 lbs (14 cups) sifted Confectioners' Sugar
1 teaspoon fine salt 


1 - In a small cup dissolve salt in extract
2 - Cream butter, shortening, cream cheese, and extract mixture
3 - Gradually add confectioner's sugar 

This recipe will produce a frosting with a thick consistency.  For a thinner consistency use less sugar.  This frosting will crust when it dries.

Yield: 4-5 cups

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Via Roma - My New Favorite Fondant

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Back in August 2013 I did a big comparison of different fondants to decide which I liked the best.  Sadly there was no clear winner.  The ones that tasted the best were the most difficult to work with, and the ones easy to work with didn't taste so hot.  I was so disappointed that I didn't have a "goto" fondant, that I when a new fondant from Italy hit the US market I jumped at the chance to give it a try.  This new, ready-to-use fondant is called Via Roma Bakery White Roll Fondant. Ta-da....

In my original fondant comparison I used 8 different criteria to judge and rank the fondants.  I will stick with the same 8 criteria in this post. 

Taste ---- Face it -- No fondant taste great, but some are more palatable than others. This Via Roma Bakery tasted okay, but it did have a somewhat rubbery feel in my mouth. It had a pronounced marshmallow flavor that was both mild and agreeable. It didn't taste as good as brands like Pettinice or Choco-Pan, but it tasted much better (IMHO) than some of the other brands like Wilton, Fondx Elite, Fondarific, or Satin Ice.

Texture ---- When you knead the Via Roma it feels very dry in your hands. It is not sticky or tacky at all. It is very soft and does not need to be microwaved or heated to loosen it up. It is amazingly easy to work with.

Rolling ---- It rolled very easily, and I did not need any powdered sugar or corn starch to keep it from sticking to the mat. In fact the Via Roma did not stick at all. No matter how thin I rolled it, it easily lifted from the mat without any sticking, pulling or tearing. The rolled fondant was also very elastic so the edges of the fondant didn't crack as I rolled it out.

Coverage ---- In my fondant comparison I used the same amount of fondant (5 ounces) rolled to the same thickness (1/8") to see how far each brand would spread. At 11+ inches round, this Via Roma fondant was one of the best performers (tied with Fondarific). The worst performers, at 9" round, were Duff & Satin Ice. I was also able to roll the Via Roma to 1/16" which gave me a 13" circle of fondant. (The box says that you can roll the fondant to 1/24", but my rolling pin doesn't have spacers that thin.) So with just 5 ounces of Via Roma fondant you can cover an 8" cake! That is pretty amazing.

Fondant rolled to 1/8"...

Fondant rolled to 1/16".  You can see through the fondant it is so thin.

Draping/Smoothing ---- Because the Via Roma is so soft and elastic it created a lot of folds and drapes when placed on top of the cake. But the folds were very easy to smooth away with a little bit of work. The stretchy, elastic nature of the fondant also made it easy to buff away imperfections. As the Via Roma dried I did notice a bit of “elephant skin” texture forming (Satin Ice does this a lot), but when I smoothed it with my warm hands the skinning went away. Also no air bubbles formed. Yea!

Cutting/Trimming ---- The fondant cuts very cleanly; no ragged edges like you can get with other fondants (Duff).

Drying Time ---- The Via Roma fondant has a slow drying time. I was able to re-roll, position, and smooth the fondant three times without noticing any stiffness or cracking in the fondant. Some fondants I tested would start to dry out while as soon as you start rolling (Wilton). If you need a fondant that never dries out try Fondarific -- this stuff will stay soft for years!

Final Look --- Perfection. I have to say that I was really impressed with the final look of this fondant. The elastic nature of the fondant kept it from drooping into the nooks and crannies of the cake. The fondant almost seemed to float on top of the cake which helped to mask all the imperfections beneath it. Out of all the fondants I’ve tested, I think the Via Roma looks the best. (Followed closely by Elite and Wilton.)

So all-in-all this Via Roma is a great fondant. It is easy to knead, roll, drape, and smooth. The elastic nature of the fondant gives the finished cake a look that is as smooth as glass, and hides most of the cake's little imperfections. The fondant stays soft enough for repeated rollings (important in case you mess up and have to start over), and even when it dries it is still easy to cut. It doesn't taste as good as Pettinice or Choco-Pan, but it is still pretty tasty.

So after all this time I think I have found my "goto" fondant: Via Roma Bakery!

Note: some additional fondant comparisons/reviews are for Cake Craft Fondant and Carma Massa Ticcino .

Note2:  I haven't been pleased with my last two purchases of Via Roma Fondant (there were a little dry and I got the dreaded "elephant skin" texture on my cake), so I'm again on the hunt for the perfect fondant.

Happy Baking (and Decorating),