X-Box Cookies

When I decided to start this blog, I figured the only way I can take a potential cake business seriously would be if I could keep up with something like a blog. I have this bad habit of putting something simple off to do at another time, but then (of course) something else comes up, and then all the little simple things turn into one big project. So here I am, with all my little pictures ready to be added to blog posts. I’m going to try and bag it out today, and never do this again. Of course, I’ll say this and be in the same boat in a few months.

Anyway. Ignoring the Debbi Downer thing I have going on, I was asked to make Xbox themed cookies. I spent some time looking at what I could make and figured the controllers would be the easiest thing to do. Of course, I didn’t have a cookie cutter which was lovely. I really dislike having to cut out my own cookies. Something that should take about 30 minutes becomes a two hour plus ordeal. Below, is the picture and guide I used to cut and then decorate the cookies. The picture below also shows that the cookies spread out a little when they were baking. I’m not sure why, but since it didn’t distort the cookies too much I dismissed the problem for another day. ImageI also made some little circles and square cookies. I planned on making very simple designs to add to each favor bag.

ImageMy original idea with the cookies was to leave the circles open for the buttons, and add them later. You can see this below. It was so sloppy I knew it wouldn’t work. It’s a good thing I stopped with two cookies here. I filled them in, and then filled all the controller cookies in white. 

ImageI ran into some good luck for once and didn’t have to make any more royal icing. I had tons from making other cookies I was also making this week. I have them all wrapped up. I did make the decision that I will not wrap the icing again. Some of the thin consistency icing will fall from the bag no matter how tightly wrapped it was. Containers are much easier to handle.

ImageI needed to use a very small amount of color for the buttons on the controller and didn’t want to use four different piping bags just to make a couple of dots. I decided to try wrapping the icing in saran wrap again (last time I tried icing went all over me, and my kitchen). This time I had success. It kept the bag clean. I think this is best if you use a small amount of icing.

ImageBelow, you can see some of the squares. In retrospect, I should have piped the green lettering right onto the wet black icing for a nice effect. But anyway, you can also see the four colors I piped onto the cookies as the buttons. After they dried, I wrote the letters onto the dots with edible marker. I was going to try and pipe it on but I worried it would be too sloppy. Writing it out had the desired effect.

ImageI put some X’s and power buttons on the circle cookies. Again, I think these would have looked much nicer if I did the wet on wet approach with the design. Oh well! It is what it is. I took all the little circles and squares and boxed them up as an additional gift to the person that ordered these from me.

ImageFinal product! I think these could have been cleaner, but they still look like controllers. The best part was that they looked better when they were wrapped up. I found a website where I could make my own Xbox achievement (Happy Birthday), and printed it up. I’m about 60% happy with the final result.



Making Houses

A couple of posts ago, I showed my attempts at making modeling chocolate for the cupcakes. Well the first of two nights, I actually used the modeling chocolate to make the little houses. It was two long, long, long nights. When I signed up to make these cupcakes, I didn’t really imagine how long it would take to make all the tiny details.

To start out, I picked up the white chocolate that I dried out and then tried to put back together again? Yeah, it didn’t quite work out. When I broke off a piece to being rolling it out, it just immediately crumbled. So, no dice. Impossible to work with. I threw it all out.

ImageIt’s a good thing I had the good block of the vanilla chocolate chips. I broke off small pieces of that, zapped them in the microwave for 5-10 seconds, and then used the heat from my hands to roll it out. Below, you can see the three things that I made with the modeling chocolate that actually worked. First, the little huts. Just making simple squares was easy enough to do. The great thing about the modeling chocolate was how fast it dried. I figured out earlier that I couldn’t just drape the roof over the square shape. I would need a little cone to attach to the top. So I then spent another hour and a half making all the little cones. Finally, the easiest part was making the little chimneys to attach to the roofs. I just took a small block and rolled it out. This entire process took about 4 and a half hours. Very tedious work. I left these to dry overnight just to ensure they were solid and ready to be manipulated for the rood attachment.

Image The next night, or the final day of putting the houses/cupcake decorations together was extremely long. I mean, two episodes of “Friends,” nine episodes of “The Office,” and two episodes of “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.” Yep, that’s right. I spent about 8 hours finishing up the rest of these houses. Holy bananas. The only good thing during this part was how monotonous it was. I say good, because I was able to focus on other things (like the television) to distract myself from cutting out circles.

To start, I used royal icing to glue the cones to the boxes and make the start of the little houses.

ImageI left these to dry while started working on the walkways for the cupcakes. I took out the block of milk chocolate modeling chocolate I made, zapped it for five seconds, and tried to roll it out. I was not successful.

ImageI’m not sure what the issues was. Every time I tried rolling the chocolate into a small ball, it would just crumble apart. I tried kneading it, refolding it, but nothing stuck. I was able to make a couple of strips for the base of the steps, but it was just too difficult to mold. I wrapped up the rest of the chocolate (maybe I can find some use for it in the future?), and decided to go with fondant.

ImageI took some royal icing and dyed it brown to use as an adhesive for the walkway. I made more strips to attach the “rocks,” and then I rolled out very small balls, and flattened them with a cup. I then used the royal icing to attach the rocks to the strips. Now I had my tiny little walkways, and the base of my houses.

ImageI started making the roofs for the houses. Earlier in the day, I went to the store and bought more white chocolate and made fresh modeling chocolate. I forgot to dye the chocolate when I added the corn syrup, so I had to kneed it in. This is supposed to be easy, but as you can see below… No. The chocolate kept crumbling as I kneaded it, and it took an exceptionally long time. I made one circle and tried to put it on one of the houses and it just immediately cracked. This was just not worth it.

ImageI broke out the fondant and decided this was the best course of action. I didn’t want to fight with the modeling chocolate anymore. I’m not sure what was the problem with this batch, or if it didn’t work well being draped, but I didn’t want to take the time to figure it out anymore. I took a ball of fondant and dyed it pink. I couldn’t find any circle cookie cutters the size I needed, so below you can see that I used a metal shot class to cut the circle out. I just had to dip it in cornstarch to make sure it released the fondant.

ImageThe circles were just a tiny bit small, so I rolled them out a little more after they were cut. I kept them stacked under a cup to keep them from drying out too quickly. I put a bit of royal icing on the cone of the house, and then draped the fondant circle on top. I took me about an hour to figure out how to get the roof on correctly. At first, it would crack, and the cone would pop out the top. I finally figured out the best way to put the roof on was similar to how you would cover a cake in fondant, and push up on the sides. It took about 5-7 minutes per roof to make sure it was on correctly. Once I got the roof on, I would dip the chimney in the royal icing and stick it on the side of the roof. Possibly in the future, I would use pink icing just to make it blend more, but it the long run it didn’t matter.

ImageOnce all the houses were done, I used the same pink circles and cut out very small ovals to make little doors. I attached these with royal icing as well. Now I had my army of houses.

ImageThere was only one last thing to do, and that was to add the dots on the roof and the doorknob. I spent some time debating if I should actually go through with that. The houses looked fine the way they were, and I already spent so much time making the details so far I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea. I finally decided that if I went this far, I might as well stay up and go all the way. I don’t really have any pictures of making the small dots, but that’s because I reached a point of exhaustion I can’t describe.

ImageI’m glad I actually put the dots on. I think they completed how the house looked. Really added something. Once they were done, I crawled into my bed and passed out.

Sugar Cookies vs. My Sanity

People like my sugar cookies. Which is awesome. I even tried one once, and I liked it. You can do so much with the icing and cookie cutters. You make make favors, or just have a dessert tray. But holy bananas. They can be such a pain in the neck, I want to throw them out the window constantly. My sister asked me if I could make cookies for a friend of hers that was due to give birth. Since birth dates are a tricky thing, I waited to make these when I heard she went into the hospital. This happened to coincide with a three-day span of downpours and damp weather. I didn’t think anything of it, but it became a problem later.

My sister asked for onesies, baby carriages, and butterfly cookies. The butterflies were to represent a family member of the new mom. I decided to make letters as well, since the babies initials were going to be A.B.C, which was too cute. I cut the cookies before the baby was born, so I also made “S” cookies since the babies name could have began with S. But look at how horrible that S cookie cutter is! Looks more like a snake. I adjusted it after the cookie was cut.

ImageI was concerned with only making this small amount of cookies. You never know what can go wrong!

ImageAfter the cookies were done (and sat for a few hours), I outlined the butterflies in black royal icing. I let these sit overnight. I was concerned if I put light colored icing next to the black too soon, the colors would bleed into one another.

ImageAfter the butterflies were outlined, I made purple, hot pink, and peach colored icing, and got to work on the other cookies. I’ve seen in many pictures, people using a wet/wet technique on royal icing to give a flat polka dot look. I went a little overboard with my dots.

ImageSince the babies name ended up staying A.B.C., I wanted to try and make the letters stick together. It was slightly problematic (and one C broke in the end), but eventually it worked. I had to use a ton of royal icing and patience to get them to stick together. But I think it was worth it for the overall design. For the set that the C broke off of, I just decorated the side, and wrote the babies name on the cookie. The name didn’t come out awesome, but I was having such problems with the icing at this point, I just rolled with it. I used a small dot of purple on some letters to make them more legible.

ImageI had high hopes for the baby carriages. I found this amazing picture I wanted to copy, with a pleated cover to the carriage. I figured it looked easy enough, and according to the instructions, I just had to wait 20 minutes between each piping. What could go wrong?

ImageYeah. A lot. Look how sloppy that is. Sheesh. The icing wasn’t working out well, and everything was just… a slop fest. the picture below shows what my original intention was (I drew on the cookie with edible markers). I ended up trying to color in the top of the cookies which made it even more sloppy.

ImageThey looked really sloppy here, but I hoped they would even out by the morning. Would they? Of course not!

ImageLook how horrible! It looked like I took a leather mat and imprinted the cookies. These were at least almost dry, but looked horrible. So what could I do to fix it? Hide it as best as possible! I bought sanding sugar the other day, so I figured I could cover up the parts that looked sloppy. I used piping gel to paint the wheels and the top of the cookie to hold on the sparkles. After I did that, I added some small sugar pearls around the bottom of the carriage. Even though I wasn’t super happy with how they came out, they looked much less sloppy.

ImageBut here is the big thing. I let the cookies sit out for about 12 hours. When I checked them, they were all still wet/sticky. This has never happened to me before when making cookies with royal icing. I guess it’s hard to tell in the picture below, but they were just not drying. I had to add some extra dots to the purple cookie because when I tested it, it was so tacky it made a mark. You can see the leathery appearance starting on these cookies too. Damn!

ImageI tried to put this in the back of my mind. I figured maybe I made some mistake somewhere along the line, so I decided to go ahead with the butterfly cookies. I used the wet/wet technique again on the butterflies. I would make three lines, then drag a toothpick through the lines to make the design on the butterflies. The butterflies had to be done right. This was the important part of the cookie platter,

ImageI let the cookies sit for another two days, but they still didn’t dry completely. I started frantically looking online to figure out why this happened. Turns out, when the climate is damp (and it rained for three days straight while I iced these cookies), it can make the icing not set, or take on a leathery appearance. Because I had a ton of work to do for the week, and the cookies had to be done in a couple of days, I couldn’t do anything to fix them. The more they dried, the more of a leathery appearance they took on. Below, if you look closely at the purple icing in particular you can see the issues. Apparently they still tasted fine, but I was/am not happy about it. I’m going to have to figure out what to do in case this happens again. Maybe try a glaze icing instead? Who knows!

ImageThey look cute from a distance at least!

Finished and Delivered Cake!

The day before the cake was due to be delivered, I had to go out and buy a new cake pan.  I thought three layers of a 9in square would be sufficient for 25-30 people, but I was told I was wrong. So, a 10in cake pan it was! After getting the pan, I made three layers using the same chocolate cake recipe I practiced with. It is a very firm, and dense cake so it easy to get out of the pans and move it around (I also used a non-stick pan for the first time, lined the pan with parchment paper, and used a Crisco non-stick spray – I wanted to gaurantee nothing stuck in that pan!).

I used the leveler again, and I really think that has been my best purchase so far. The cakes came out mostly level, but after adding icing, I was able to tell which sides had too much, or too little and adjust until it was perfect. I did a basic crumb coat. This really wasn’t necessary since the cake was so intact, no crumbs really formed. I also didn’t really have to do it since this was not s crusting buttercream. I ended up sticking with the frosting recipe I test the day before since I heard rave reviews about it (I would end up regretting this). The icing went on smooth.


So the cake baking, leveling, and icing went smooth. Too smooth. Things don’t go this well for me. I had that annoying little voice in the back of my head reminding me of this, but I tried to stay positive. This cake was due in 14 hours!

I broke out the fondant squares I made the day before. They were firm, but not too stiff. Most of them still had corn starch on them. I brushed it off with a wet cloth. The cloth was more effective than a brush or my fingers. I also tried steaming the squares over a teapot. I heard this could give a nice shine to the fondant (which is what I wanted). The shine wasn’t permanent, and it faded. Also, if I steamed the square just a second too long, the square would break. So I just stuck to using the wet cloth.

Now. This is when the bad things happened. I don’t have any pictures for this part because my kitchen when into defcon 3 mode. Sheer panic. But it did wake me up! Anyway, if you look at the picture on the left, it started out okay. The squares went on and attached. So I kept at it! I was feeling good! But as I kept going it started to look super sloppy. As you can see in the picture on the right? Slop city.

cakesale6So after looking at the cake for about 5 minutes and debating all my options, after panicking, after wondering how I was going to find a bakery to make this cake for me in the morning… I went into damage control mode.

I took all the squares off. Most of them broke doing this since the icing wasn’t crusted. For a moment, I tried something crazy. I thought if I covered the entire cake in a sheet of fondant, and then put the squares on the cake, it would look awesome! Right? No more white buttercream showing? So I started coloring and rolling a huge amount of fondant. It looked like it would work, but the fondant kept sticking to the counter. No amount of Crisco or corn starch was helping. I really need a non-stick mat for things like this. So that wasted a good half an hour. I settled back down and figured out a new plan.

I took off all the buttercream. I dyed the buttercream a light green, and put a very thin layer back on the cake. I think the white was really problematic because you can see the icing between each square, so if I make it green, it would be better… right? Well this was what I thought. Additionally, the thick icing was a pain because the icing would bunch up between the squares when I pushed he squares into place. So thin, green icing.

After the cake was iced, I did something that I should have done the first time around. I took the square cookie cutters that I used to make the fondant squares, and actually measured out how they would fit on the cake. The sides of the cake would only hold a square and a half, so I had to make sure I cut squares out. Now the biggest problem (if you look at the first completed picture of the cake above) was the very thin line on the edges of the cake that just seemed too small for a square piece. So I had an idea. This is a Minecraft cake, right? Minecraft has grass! Why not make some green grass along all the edges of the cake? That should work! So now I felt more motivated. Maybe it wouldn’t look horrible.

I measured it out, put on all the squares, piped the grass, put on the black “monster” face, brushed off some dried fondant in places…. and it was done (see picture below, left).

After it was finished, I glued some brown ribbon along the cake board edges, then covered it in brown squares. I had to go with a very sturdy cake board since the cake ended up being very heavy. Then I put the “Happy Birthday” right on the cake board. The picture below, right, is the final cake. Some parts look a bit shiny still since I kept making corrections with water.

cakesale7The box for the cake was just a tad short. If would have just messed up the icing. I debated letting it, and just fixing it when I got to the house, but decided against that. I took a wooden dowel, broke it in half, and glued each half on either side of the cake so the top wouldn’t close on it. Then I taped the top of the cake box down as best as I could.

The cake was ready for delivery. I had originally planned on making a small thank you gift with matching rice krispies, but ran out of time. I’m just happy it’s done. The cake did look super sad sitting in my trunk.

cakesale8I heard everyone liked the cake, so I’m hoping it all worked out. I’m such a nosy person, I want to ask 100 questions about how it came out, and what people liked/didn’t like. I have to get used to not be able to do that!

Final thoughts: I’m glad that I was able to deliver a cake I was happy with. I think that I recovered when I thought all was downhill. But, I wasn’t happy with the fondant. It just didn’t shine. In the original picture I based this off of, the squares were shining. I really need to practice with that, and see what I can do about that.

Cake Preparation

For a little bit of background, the person who ordered a cake from me needed it for her twins birthday party. She asked if I could do a Mincecraft cake. Now I have a vague idea about what Minecraft is. I play some video games, but never Minecraft. I know it has to do with building things with boxes. Some people take the game very seriously. I know there is a Mincecraft convention. So I quickly googled “Minecraft Cakes,” and sent her the first easy thing I found. I have no idea who the origional source is. Google images led me to a Pinterest page, and that link just let to a picture of the image. The woman ordering the cake liked this one, so this is what I decided to try and copy. Image

Originally, I considered using royal icing to make all the squares. To date, I have not made decorations with royal icing in advance to decorate a cake with and I was concerned how it would turn out. I also didn’t know how the icing would hold up when it was cut. So I decided to cover the cake in fondant squares. I’ve had some minor practice with fondant. I made a cake for my nieces birthday last year, and had to work with fondant. I went to Restaurant Depot and bought a 15lb tub of it. My only issue is getting the fondant out of it. I literally stabbed it with a knife and ripped it out of tub with my claws. If anyone would have passed by and looked into my kitchen window, they would have been concerned for my mental health.


Now one of my biggest issues with fondant is rolling it out evenly. I didn’t want to use the paint strips for this one so I started looking for pasta rollers. The attachment for the KitchenAid is $200, so that was completely out of the question. I like that it is motorized, but $200? Nope. So I checked out a few online stores, but the most I found for decent reviews cost about $70. While running some errends, I went into Williams-Sonoma and found one for $60! And then, when I checked out, it was only $30! My indecisiveness paid off! The machine was simple, but looked like it would do the job. It attaches to the side of the counter easily, and the fettuccine/spaghetti attachment could be removed and kept in the box.


When I was reading up on the pasta makers, many people complained of “dirt” coming out of the machine and onto the pasta, so I grabbed some old fondant I had sitting around and ran it through the machine a dozen times to make sure it was clean. I thought it would be difficult turning the hand crank and pulling the fondant/pasta out of the machine at the same time, but it was very easy.

cakesale3The next step was making all the squares for the cake. I estimated I would need about 40, so I figured making 65 would be safe. I knew I would break some. The best part about making this cake is the squares can be all different colors. I didn’t have to make a huge batch of fondant, or worry about running out and trying to replicate a color. I bought all the Wilton green gel colors, and just went to work. I use brown in some of the colors to get it a deeper shade of green. This was monotonous work. It took about 4 hours to get the fondant out of the box, color it, roll it and cut it. The good part? Because it is so brainless, I could zone out to some TV and not worry about messing it up. The bottom right picture was the letters I needed for the cake board. I bought the small letter cutters that I found at Michaels, but after using them I was not happy with them at all. They are not all the same thickness, and some letters just looked awkward. At this point, it was too late to worry about it, so I just had to swallow my panic and move on.

cakesale4I originally planned on baking the cakes the same night, but I didn’t expect the fondant to take me as long as it did. I put all the fondant covered in a tubberware and decided to let it firm up overnight.

First Cookie Sale!

As as it turns out, my first official sale was a batch of cookies! A teacher at my nieces pre-school tried some of my peep bunny cookies and ordered 20 of them. She asked for 10 of them to be bagged similar to how I made them for the pre-school, and 10 not bagged just to eat or possibly mail.

So I finally used the attachment for the mixer that allows you to add things to the batter as it is mixing. I have no idea what it is called, but you can see it in the picture below. Previously, I would have to unlock and lift the mixer out of the batter, add what I needed, and start back over. With this, it makes adding flour much easier. Some flour does still splatter out, but it’s easy clean up. Even draping a towel over the machine helps prevent that.


I used the paint sticks again to roll out the cookies, but this time I kept them at the thickness the paint sticks were. The last time I made these, I rolled them out a bit thinner. Turns out, I think the cookies are more successful on the thicker side.

practice6I picked up some mixing bowls to use just for royal icing. Usually I’m using any bowls I can grab to mix it, but that really isn’t the best idea since royal icing really should have its own bowls to make sure absolutely no oil has been in the bowls that could potentially ruin the royal icing. It made things much easier to do it this way. I made the same colors as last time (pastel green, yellow, pink and purple).

practice9Last time I used Wilton’s Black Decorating Icing in a tube to make the dots I needed for the eyes/noses. The icing didn’t set well, and smeared on some of the bags when I put the cookies in. This time, I made some black royal icing and let it dry overnight on the cookie. This seemed much more effective. I think the sprinkles helped the black icing not bleed.

After letting the cookies completely dry, I bagged and boxed them up. Right after I took this picture, I dropped my phone right onto the box of cookies. Breaking three of them. Well, just the icing on the ears. I bought some return address labels that I put my e-mail address on. I think they came out pretty cute!


My Favorite Peeps!

About a month ago, my sister asked me if I could make something for my niece’s preschool Easter party. I agreed. I didn’t think it would be until, you know, closer to Easter? Unfortunately no. I had a bomb dropped on me that they were due April 9th instead. Fantastic! I had already agreed to make more cupcakes this weekend, so I planned ahead and tried to not have too much to do at the last second.

First thing I did was make the sugar cookie dough on Sunday afternoon. I went with a different cookie recipe and I had more success with it (http://tinyurl.com/pkbsm2g). The picture below shows my impatience. I need to learn to take the butter out and let it get to room temperature. Right now, I just zap it in the microwave for 20 seconds and then stab it with a knife while it mixes. As you can see, butter is wrapped around the mixer. It will not budge from here unless I attack it.

ImageAt first, I didn’t think these cookies were going in a positive direction. As you can see in the picture below, the dough formed into dry, mini balls at the bottom of the bowl.

ImageBut alas! The dough did exactly as the recipe said it would. The dough would “pull away from the sides of the bowl,” and indeed it did! As you can see, the bowl was almost clean. This put me in a better mood.

ImageLast time I made sugar cookies, I was searching for ideas on how to refrigerate the dough better. I remember reading that someone rolled out the dough a bit before hand, individually wrapped the sheets, and refrigerate it like that. I honestly don’t remember where I saw it, but figured I would give it a try. Below, you can see I rolled the dough out in 4 sections, and wrapped them in press-seal wrap. Then I stacked them, and put them all in the fridge.

ImageSo I just realized I somehow deleted the other pictures I took about rolling out the dough. I’m not sure how I even managed this, but guess I did! So, I used two paint sticks (glued together, so four total), and placed them on either side of the dough with parchment paper on top, and some flour on the counter under the dough (the link posted above is where I got the paint stick/parchment idea). I waited until the dough warmed up to almost room temperature. It still broke when I rolled it out, but nothing near as bad as the last time. The scraps also mixed back together very well. Hopefully the cookies go this well in the future!

So the next step was to make royal icing… But then I remembered! I saved royal icing from my tulip flowers. Holy bananas. I was too excited. I didn’t have to fight with the royal icing again. Additionally, I actually used something I saved, verses keeping it for a month than throwing it out. The best part, the colors are the same that I needed to make for the peeps. Fantastico! Below, you can see how I took it out of the fridge. The cling wrap worked amazing. I hand kneaded the icing in the bag to make sure it was well mixed, and the cling wrap didn’t even budge. You can see in the second picture, I could hang the bag in the air and still, nothing moved. In the third picture, you can see that I just cut the bottom of the cling wrap open, and was able to squeeze it directly into the new piping bag. It was super easy, and super clean. I’m considering doing this in the future to make the bags easier to fill.

ImageImageImageSince the icing was on the thin side, I couldn’t just outline and immediately flood the cookies. The icing would start to fall over the sides. So i did a rough outline first, then waited about two minutes then filled them.

ImageAfter filling in the cookies, I waited about 5 minutes, then poured sanding sugar from Wilton generously over each cookie. I waited another five minutes, then dumped off the excess sugar and put them on the rack to dry overnight.

ImageAfter all the cookies were done, I waited a few hours. I then used Wilton’s black decorating icing in a tube with a a #3 tip, and put on the eyes/mouth dots that match the peeps.

ImageImageThe next day, I bagged all the cookies and attached a sign that I found from (http://tinyurl.com/l9rtq66). This is also where I got the cookie idea from. I folded the paper in half (since my sister didn’t want any staples on the cookie bag), punched two holes it in, then weaved ribbon through it and tied the bag shut.

You can see in the picture below, the peep in the front row smeared a little on the bag. This was due to my impatience. I really should have let them dry for a few more hours before I put them in the bag. But overall, I think they came out great!