Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Holiday Sugar Cookies

Hi everyone! 

My mother and I always made iced sugar cookies for Christmas - she would bake them by the hundreds, and then we would frost and frost and frost!  Sadly, she passed away several years ago, and it's been too painful to try to make these without her.  This year, I decided that it was time, so I baked five dozen (more manageable amount) in batches, sticking them in the freezer as I went.

I used the Martha Stewart sugar cookie recipe, found here, but you can use any recipe and/or slice and bake dough.  Just flour your your board and roll out the dough to 1/4 inch, and cut out using cookie cutters.  I spent some time looking for an icing recipe that was glossy, but would dry hard.  My mother's recipe used egg whites, and I didn't want to get into all that, but I finally found one that worked beautifully -  you can find it here.

I made a decision not to go to the route where you outline the cookies and then flood then with royal icing...I've done that in the past, but I really wanted something that looked homemade.  I used white icing for the base, and then added red and green as accent colors.

They came out really cute!  I had different color sugars and sprinkles, and just had fun with it.  I love the little snowmen:
I frosted the hat red and stuck a tree sprinkle in it, then did the rest white.  While the white part was still wet, I dragged a toothpick with red icing through it to make the scarf.  You could do this after the white was dry, but I like this look.  The eyes and buttons are Wilton Black Sugar Pearls (you can get them here) and the mouth is a red sprinkle.
Some other shots:
Marbled two colors by swirling with a toothpick:
You can package these any way you want, but I did them three ways.  I found the Merry Munchies bags at my drug store, and the other two boxes online.

Hope you enjoyed these cookies...they brought back some great memories for me.  I'd love to hear in the comment section what you're baking for the holidays!
- Sugar Baby


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Baking with BeBe, Henry and Ella!

Last week, I had a baking day with my friend Laurie's two kids, and we had such a great time!  Laurie had mentioned to me that Bebe, Henry, and their friend Ella love the show Cake Boss, so I offered to come over and have a baking day with them.  I prepared nine different colored fondants (tutorial here) and brought rollers, cutters, frosting, edible ink pens, sprinkles, etc. plus two dozen unfrosted cupcakes (due to a time restraint). 

We had such a great time!  I covered their table with a vinyl tablecloth in an attempt to contain the mess, showed the kids how to roll and cut out fondant, and then let them at it:

Here are the final cupcakes - aren't they fun?

Then we molded chocolate bonbons and tulip lollipops (tutorials here).  This required a bit more supervision because it involved the microwave, and the chocolate was fairly hot - but they quickly got the hang of it:

It was a fantastic day, and I strongly encourage you to do some baking with the children in your life.  Honestly, I think I had more fun than they did!
- Sugar Baby

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fondant Letters

Hi everyone!

My friend Monique's birthday was a few weeks ago, and I wanted to make something special for her, because she's such a sweet friend.  So I prepared the fondant like this, then cut it out with letter cookie cutters.  I put them on cupcakes, and took them to her office.  I think she was really tickled, and she invited coworkers in to share the feast!

You read it across...I was a little limited by only having 12 cupcakes.  :-)   Also, her last name begins with a 'd'A', so I just used an upside down P to make the little d and free formed the apostrophe.

This is a really fun, easy way to brighten a friend's day, and think of all the things you could spell!

Have fun,
Sugar Baby

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

Hello everyone!

Sorry for my long absence - I've been sick.  I made Ina Garten's peanut butter and jelly bars today, and they were SO GOOD.  Here's the link:  Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars.

They were pretty easy to make, and I substituted seedless strawberry jam instead of raspberry.  I recommend cutting them fairly small, because they're really rich!

Now that I'm feeling a bit better, I'll be posting more regularly...thanks for your patience.
- Sugar Baby

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Birthday Cake Toppers - on cupcakes!

Here are the cupcake toppers that I made earlier in the week, on top of vanilla/vanilla cupcakes.  Pretty!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Birthday Cupcake Toppers

My friend's birthday is this week, and I wanted to make some cute cupcake toppers for her.  She loves bright colors, so I thought these would be fun.  [The grid is a baking rack they're drying on.]

I prepared the fondant like this - using pink, burgundy and kelly green gel colors.  Once the shapes were cut using various shaped cutters, I poked holes around the edge for a pretty design.  I also made a few daisy shapes to add a little pop.

All that was left to do was to grab my black edible ink pen and write the letters.  I haven't decided whether to make regular or mini cupcakes for them, but I'll post a picture when I do.

These were super fast and easy, and are a fun present for friends or family!
- Sugar Baby

Friday, September 21, 2012

Fun Baking Supplies from the Grocery Store

Hello everyone!

I was at the grocery store yesterday, and was perusing the baking aisle as I always do.  I was happy to see some cool new products:

Betty Crocker Fondant Toppers:

The Primary Colors box has three four ounce tubs of blue, red and green fondant, and four cutters in the shape of a heart, star, flower and circle.


They also have one called Bold Colors that has pink, purple and yellow fondant, with the same cutters.

I thought these were so much fun, and super easy if you don't have the time to color your own fondant!

The other items that I saw were Reynolds "baked for you" cupcake lines.  They're silver on the inside and pattern on the outside, and the box promises that the designs won't fade after baking:


Such a good idea...I have so many cute liners that fade out when the batter is baked!  I haven't put these to the test yet, but will do so in the next few weeks.

That's all for today...hope you have a great weekend!

- Sugar Baby

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Fruits of Our Labor

Hello everyone!

I made some delicious vanilla cupcakes and frosting, and topped them with the gum paste flowers and fondant designs from previous posts!  I was in a hurry, so I made a box cake mix (gasp!) and a homemade confectioners frosting.  The recipe for the frosting is my mother's, and calls for:

1 cup of butter, room temperature (two sticks)
4 cups of powdered sugar
1 tsp. good vanilla extract
Up to four tablespoons of milk

Beat the butter and vanilla extract with either a stand or electric mixer until it's nice and creamy.  Making sure your mixer is on low, gradually add the powdered sugar.  [If the mixer is moving too fast, you'll end up engulfed in a sweet cloud of sugar!]  When the sugar is incorporated, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add two tablespoons of the milk.  Turn on the mixer and at this point, it's up to you to decide how you want the texture of the frosting - I usually end up adding all four tablespoons, but if you want something stiffer, leave it at two.  When the milk is mixed in, turn your mixer on high and beat the frosting for three to four minutes to make it creamy and fluffy.

Here are the decorated cupcakes:

I think they're super cute, and everyone loved them!  It's always nice to see the fruits of your labors, isn't it?  I made enough of the gum paste flowers that I have a little stockpile for future projects, or last minute baking needs.  The fondant won't last long enough to keep on hand, but they're super easy to make on demand.

Feel free to leave any questions or thoughts in the comments below!
- Sugar Baby 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Tools and Supplies

There are so many brands of tools and supplies, it's hard to know what to get.  Here, I'm going to show what has worked best for me.  You'll see that I rely heavily on the Wilton brand, and that's mostly because they're easily accessible at baking and craft stores.  I've linked most of the items to an online store for easy buying.

A peek into my (messy) baking cabinet:

Edible Supplies

Candy melts
Gum paste
Rolled fondant
Icing colors (set of 12)
Dab 'n Hold Edible Adhesive
Pearl or luster dust (sorry - no link)


Joseph Joseph rolling pin
Ateco plastic rolling pin
Wilton gum paste flower set
Edible pens
PME veined flower cutters
PME flower plungers
Decorating tips (set of 28)
Disposable decorating bags
Fondant/gum paste tools (set of 10)
Truffles candy mold
Tulip lollipop mold
Squeeze bottles


Meri Meri cupcake boxes
Wilton cupcake boxes

I'd love to hear what brands work for you!  Next up - fondant flowers.
- Sugar Baby


I've been having fun with fondant for the last few days, and wanted to share some basic techniques with you!  For this, I used:

Wilton premade fondant
Powdered sugar
Gel colors
Rolling pin
Various cutters
Edible adhesive (not required)

Start by pulling out a handful of the fondant, and you'll find that it's really quite sticky.  Cover your board/mat and rolling pin with powdered sugar, and that you will find it MUCH easier to work with.

Pick a gel color and add a little bit to the ball of fondant with a toothpick.  [You might want to use gloves so you won't stain your hands.]  Began to knead.  Luckily, it's much easier to knead than the gum paste, and with minimal effort, you will have a lovely color.  I chose a teal blue:

I also colored some yellow and left some white.  Roll it out until it it's approximately 3/16" thick, flipping it over a few times so it doesn't stick to your board or mat.  For a simple design, I chose a biscuit cutter, the wide end of a decorating tip, and the small end of a decorating tip.  Press your shape into the fondant, making sure it cuts cleanly.

(No idea why I used 2 different tips!)

Continue with the cutters until you have used up the free space.  Lift the fondant gently to separate the shapes, and put them to the side.  Gather up the scrap pieces and knead it together - roll it out again and cut out more shapes.  I did this with my three colors, and ended up with this (in containers to keep it soft):

The reason I cut the fondant in different sized circles is because circles are the building blocks for some fun designs!  Stack different colors for a simple cupcake topper design, as shown here:

Or have fun creating animals like this guy - with a few strokes of an edible pen, you could make monkeys, dogs, bears, etc. from basic circles.  It's easy to stick the shapes together with frosting or with an edible adhesive like Dab 'n Hold.

Once you're comfortable with the techniques above, get more adventurous with the cutters you use!  In the next couple of weeks, I'm going to showcase some fondant and gum paste flowers, and how you can paint them to achieve a realistic look.

Have fun!  Next up - a post on tools and supplies.
- Sugar Baby

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Making Candy Bonbons

I've never tried molding chocolates because I assumed that it would be difficult - now that I've done it, and have seen the results, I can't believe I was such a chicken!!

FYI - I started with a very simple mold for my first time, and plan to try something more complicated in the future.  For these bonbons, I used:

Plastic bonbon mold
Candy melts - white and pink
Squeeze bottles

There are many different methods for melting candy melts, but I chose to microwave them.  Place them in a bowl and microwave for one minute at 50% power.  Remove and stir a little, but don't be dismayed if very little melting has happened.  Microwave in 30 second intervals (at 50%), stirring after each time, until the melts are smooth and glossy.  See below for before and after:


At this point, I transferred the melted candy to squeeze bottles for ease of pouring.  Do not try to microwave the candy in the bottle, because the bottom will melt, which I found out the hard way.  Oops!


Set the clean, dry candy molds on a flat surface, and begin to squeeze the candy into the shape.  When I did this, the candy tended to stay in the ribbon shape from the bottle, but I solved it by dunking a toothpick or small knife in the candy a few times to liquidize it.  (Is that a word?)


Fill to the very top of each opening for consistently sized bonbons, and try for a smooth surface at the top (I used a small spatula).  When you're finished filling the molds, pick up the sheet and rap it or drop it on the counter several times - this helps bring air bubbles to the top of the candy.  If you see air bubbles that haven't popped, just jab them with a toothpick!


Now, simply place the mold in the freezer, making sure it's as close to level as you can get it.  Wait five minutes, remove from the freezer and invert onto a clean surface - beautiful bonbons!  If they stick to the mold, just hold it upside down and pinch the bonbon shape in the plastic, and they should pop out.


The molds that I have come with a spiral shape in what will be the top of the candy...I tried many times, unsuccessfully, to pipe a different color in the bottom of the mold to have a lovely spiral on top.  I asked around, and nobody has had much luck with that.  So if you want, you can pipe a spiral on top after the molding is done.

If you want to get tricky, you can do two-layer bonbons with different colors, but make sure the first layer is completely hardened before adding the second color.  You can also do different colors for the outside and inside of the bonbon, but I haven't tried that yet.

I had some extra candy melted, so I made some tulip lollipops using the same method:

A note on cleaning the squeeze bottles - put them in the freezer for ten minutes, then roll them under your palm to crush the candy into smaller pieces.  Then just shake out!  I save these little bits for some other project.  [I'm not sure if you can re-melt them, but you could chop them into fine pieces and sprinkle them on top of cupcakes.]


Have fun, and enjoy your delicious bonbons.  Next up - playing with fondant!
- Sugar Baby


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Simple Gum Paste Flowers

This is my first attempt at making sugar paste flowers, and it was super simple!  For this, I used:

Vegetable shortening
Wilton premade gum paste
Wilton gel food coloring
PME flower plungers
10 piece gum paste tool kit (you can improvise if you don't have)
Rolling pin

Preparing the Gum Paste:

To begin, smear your surface with a thin layer of vegetable shortening.  This will help later as you work with the gum paste.  I used a thin plaster cutting board, but any clean, smooth surface should work.

Remove several globs of gum paste from the bag and combine - the paste will seem dry and a little crusty.  No worries!  Add a tiny dab of shortening to them, and knead the ball in your hands until it is soft and pliant.  If it still seems crusty, just add more shortening.

Straight out of package:

After adding shortening and kneading:


Coloring the Gum Paste:

I chose a violet gel color for the paste.  [I wouldn't recommend using food color, because you'll have to use a lot of it, and you won't get an intense tone.]  I dipped a toothpick into the gel color and smeared it onto the ball of paste.  Caution: a little will go a looooooong way.  As you can see from the photo, I only used a small amount:

I chose to wear gloves for the next step, because the color will get all over your hands!  Knead the paste to incorporate the color - I treated it like it was silly putty and stretched it out, rolled it around, etc.  It takes some time for the color to make its way through the paste.  If you want a streaky look for the final product, just don't incorporate the gel all the way through.  I wasn't happy with the intensity of the color, so I added some more gel until I reached a pretty purple.  Take into consideration that the color will fade a little when the gum paste dries.  Here's my incorporated color:

Rolling Out:

When the gum paste is a solid color, place it on your surface and begin to roll it out.  My method is to roll it a few times, then turn it over and change the angle a little.  [If the paste is sticking when you turn it, just smear a little more shortening on the board.]  You want to reach a thickness of about 3/16.  My Joseph Joseph rolling pin has these neat discs that let you set the thickness, but you can just eyeball it.  Note that my gum paste is a little streaky here - I was being lazy in the color step!


Making the Flowers:

I used a nifty contraption called a flower plunger to make my shapes.  They usually come in a set of four sizes, and I used the 1 inch and 0.5 inch widths for these.  I'm sure you could also use small cookie cutter.  The plungers have a little divot maker, when you press the top, that makes an indent in the center of your flower:

Press the plunger into the gum paste and rock it a little to make sure you've pressed through the fondant.  If you want the little indent in the middle, press down lightly on the plunger.  Pick up the plunger, and voila - a beautiful flower! 

Sometimes the flower stays in the plunger when you pick it up - just press down on the top of the plunger and it pops out.  Continue pressing down into the gum paste until there's no more room.  Slowly lift the excess paste until the flowers are clear. 

If they stay stuck to the surrounding paste, just press down gently on the flower.   If you want, re-roll the remaining paste and keep going!

Finishing Up:

The flowers are beautiful as they are, but I like to clean them up a little.  Some may have a little extra smidgens of gum paste around the edges - I used a tool like this from my Wilton tool kit to clean up the lines, but you could also improvise and use something you have on hand.

I think it's nice to have the flowers curl up a little, as they do in nature.  I used a ball tool from my tool kit, draped a flower onto it, and shaped it.  You can also just use your fingers to get the flowers to curve up.  As they dry, they will flatten out some.

And you're done!  I made some pink flowers as well:  

Let the flowers dry for up to a week in a cool dry place.  These would be adorable on top of cupcakes, placed on a cake, or even on top of molded chocolate squares.  They are also great for making in the shape of leis, as Bakerella did here for her lei cupcakes.  Good luck to you, and please feel free to ask questions in the comment section!!!

Next up - molding chocolate!

- Sugar Baby