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30 June 2011

Four Stack Pie

Here's the first of the pie recipes I promised you.  Maybe one of them will find its way into your Fourth of July celebrations!  Though if not for the 4th, then really just about any day will do.  After all, any day is a good day for pie, right?

Four Stack Pie
Printable Recipe
Adapted (very, very slightly) from Family Circle Magazine
Yield:  12 servings (1 9-inch deep-dish pie)*
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Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 large box (5.9 oz) instant chocolate pudding
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup confectioners' (aka powdered) sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups (approx 4 oz) frozen whipped topping (i.e. Cool Whip), thawed
Preparation:
  1. Heat oven to 350°F.  Using your hands or a pastry blender, mix together the flour, butter, pecans, and granulated sugar until well combined and crumbly.  Press into bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch deep dish* pie plate.  Bake crust for 18 to 20 minutes or until very lightly browned.  Remove to a wire rack and cool completely.
  2. While crust is cooling, whisk together the chocolate pudding mix and milk for 2 minutes or until thickened.  Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate.
  3. Beat together the cream cheese and confectioners' sugar on medium-high speed until completely smooth.  Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over cooled crust.  Top with chocolate pudding, then spread the whipped topping over the pudding.  Chill for at least one hour or until set.
*This recipe calls for a deep dish pie plate and it means it.  It yields plenty of filling, so much so that if you don't have a deep dish pie plate (which I didn't the day I made this recipe), you can use two regular pie plates for twice the goodness; the pie(s) won't stand quite as high, but they'll taste just as good!

Happy baking!

29 June 2011

Just a Little Bit of Pixie Dust...

And don't forget to think lots of happy thoughts.  That's the key to flying after all.

Or maybe it's the other way around...pixie dust is the key and happy thoughts are the main ingredient.  Who knows?  We could ponder it all day, but either way, you have to have the dust.  And, just so happens, this cake has it.  (Look closely, it's there, promise.)

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Did you see it?  

Now that you've found it, don't forget the happy thoughts!  Maybe you need a few yummy sweets as inspiration?  How about one of these?

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Cupcakes! With swirled icing that looks blue, but was actually supposed to be purple!  (Violet food dye...what more can I say?)  Ooo, and sparkly, handmade toppers, too!

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Mexican Mocha Bars!  With a dash of cinnamon and white chocolate! And still warm from the oven so the mocha fudge frosting is ooey gooey scrumptiousness!  (I was too impatient to allow them to cool completely before sampling...)

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Lime Triangles! Citrus goodness on a homemade shortbread crust!  These are a nice change from the more traditional lemon bars; a perfect warm weather snack!

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Four Stack Pie!  Four layers of creamy, cold goodness!  Cream cheese! Chocolate pudding! Whipped topping! And, bonus!  This will be one of the pie recipes I plan to share with you the next few days, just in time for the Fourth of July.  Woo-hoo!

Fly on, friends, fly on.

28 June 2011

Banish the Bugs


Planning an outdoor celebration soon, maybe for the Fourth of July?  Here's a few tips and tricks to help keep some of those uninvited pests from crashing the party:
  1. To keep ants from crawling up table legs, place several cucumber peels around each leg.  Ants are averse to cucumber and will stay away, just be sure each leg is securely surrounded by a ring of peel to prevent any interlopers.  (You can use slices of cucumber as well, but why waste perfectly good veggies?)
  2. Keep flies, wasps, and other insects from sampling the food by inverting inexpensive, wire-mesh colanders over the food platters.
  3. Bowls of brightly-colored sugar water placed several feet away from the party area will draw insects (particularly wasps and bees) away from both the food and your guests.
  4. Clear, zipper-seal storage bags filled with water and hung from tree limbs or eaves, or placed on a table or the ground will draw flies and flying insects.
  5. Create an ant-free zone by sprinkling a heavy layer of ground cinnamon around the area you want to protect (i.e. a table or the entire patio).  This will also trap any stray ants inside the ant-free zone, so be sure you have most of them relocated before applying the cinnamon barrier!
  6. Consider planting pots of basil, lemongrass, citronella, rosemary, catnip, marigolds, garlic, or tansies.  These are all plants with natural mosquito repelling qualities and they can be used as part of the party decorations.  (Many greenhouses have huge sales going on this time year, you could pick up several small plants for minimal cost and place them among the seating area and tables.)
Even using these tips, you'll still want to consider lighting citronella candles and having insect repellent/bug spray available for your guests to use.  Also, remember to keep sugary foods and drinks tightly covered until ready to serve.

Mmm....tasty!

22 June 2011

Bright, Happy Colors

Bright, happy colors were the order of the week, every cake I designed was bursting with pops of color.

Like this one in electric green and bright blue.  And, I even got to do a bit more gumpaste sculpting!  I really like the expression on the pup's face; it's amazing what adding a set of eyebrows can do.

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And this "hippie" themed bridal shower cake...

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The design idea for this cake was pretty loose, basically bright colors and "Summer of Love" worked in somewhere.  It was a huge hit with the client and recipient; the "Summer of Love" piece was hand drawn and colored. That reminds me, I need to order a new purple food pen...

And this stack of gifts for a soon-to-be arriving baby girl...

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I've done several cakes recently using the bright pink and zebra stripe...I never get tired of it.  I love the way it looks and the addition of the lime green took it up yet another level.  Everything, except for the handle on the rattle, was edible.

And this logo-ed* cake...

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I know you're probably thinking that this cake isn't popping much at all...but the orange stands out beautifully in the expanse of black and white.  If the logo were done in any other color, while it would still look fabulous, it wouldn't draw near the attention the orange does, so, I'm going to stick with my argument that it too "pops."

Ciao!
*Is "logo-ed" even a word?  My Google searches yielded no firm answer.  I'm somewhat disappointed in you, Google, you've failed me. *sniffle* *sniffle*  

21 June 2011

Introducing....Tasty Tip Tuesdays!

I'm sure you're wondering what "Tasty Tip Tuesday" is all about.  Allow me to explain...

Each Tuesday I'll post a helpful, handy tip or idea.  Mostly these will deal with your kitchen life, but I may throw in a few random ones to keep things fresh.  Only time will tell...though I promise to keep the posts short and sweet and very to the point.  No sense in wasting your precious time...you want the info, not flowery drivel!  (Today is an exception, have to do the introductions after all, but I'm done now, on to today's tasty tip!)


For Keeps

Did you plant to many herbs in your garden this year?  Already unsure what to do with them all, but hate to see them go to waste?  Here's 3 easy ways to store all those fresh herbs without sacrificing nutrients and flavor:

1.  Dry Them.  Snip off healthy branches and remove the leaves from the bottom 1 inch of the stem.  Bundle several stems together with string or a rubber band, and hang upside down in a warm, airy room.  Check them weekly until completely dry.  Crumble the leaves into spice jars.

2.  Freeze Them.  Chop herbs and fill the sections of an ice cube tray with them.  Then, carefully pour water into each herb-filled compartment and freeze.  When frozen solid, remove from the ice cube tray and place in zippered plastic storage bags.

3.  Refrigerate Them.  Use specially designed produce storage bags to keep herbs fresh and green for up to two weeks.

Mmmm....tasty!

16 June 2011

But Wait, There's More!

As promised, I'm back today with more baking goodness to show you.  And it's not all cake!  I made cookies and cupcakes this week too; they were a wonderful change of pace.

Oh, and I made some amazing pies as well, but I'll share them with you at a later date...maybe even throw in a recipe or two. *wink, wink*

But, first, the cakes!

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These were for a going away party.  Buttercream with fondant pennants and lettering.  Oh, and the phrase on the left-hand one?  A play off the honoree's nickname (JV), it read "Way to make it to varsity!"  Very fun inscription, though admittedly not mine, the client provided the idea!

This next one though, I came up with all by myself.  (I'm inordinately proud of my cleverness, I know.  My apologies.) Two golf themed retirement cakes, which also needed to include a reference to the retiree's new locale...hmm...to the drawing board!

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My solution:  a "green" cake with golf club, golf ball, and tees (they even looked wood-grained!), and the pin flag marking the location of his new city on the map of Georgia.  The cakes were buttercream, with the accents being made from fondant and/or gumpaste.

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Chewy, Chocolate Chip Cookies

Mmmm....look at that scrumptiousness!  Saying I was pleased that I had to make cookies this past week would probably be an understatement.  I'd been craving them, and this order came along at the perfect time.  K and I found the quality control sampling to be a major hardship, I assure you.  No worries, though, we came through it unscathed...well, unless you take into account the extra pound or two we might have gained...

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Peanut Butter Cookies

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Softhouse Sugar Cookies

Anybody want a cookie?

15 June 2011

Monkey Business

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Pretty cute huh? 

As you probably surmised, I ventured into the realm of modeling figures from gumpaste again this week.  I'm getting better at my attempts...I think.  The facial expression is my favorite part though; lends a serious adorableness to the figure.  Wanna see the entire cake?

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I love, love the way this cake looked...maybe I need to work from looser design plans all the time, because admittedly, I didn't have a firm idea in mind when I started this one.  

The colors and the topper also bring to mind Rock the Sock, a wonderful philanthropic organization that donates socks to those in need.  I encourage you to check it out, perhaps even make a donation!*


I'll be back tomorrow with the other cake creations from this week, see ya then!

*Not a paid advertisement, just wanted to share an organization that is important to me!

08 June 2011

Survival of the Fittest

Or maybe it's just survival of the busiest and most sleep-deprived.  Either way, I am one of the survivors!  And a pretty pleased one at that.

So, what, exactly, did I survive?

How about two (count 'em, TWO) weddings, including the groom's cake for both, as well as two special occasion cakes...all in the same weekend!  Not the same week, people, the same WEEKEND; we're talking two days to stack, decorate, and deliver over 500 servings of cake...

Crazy?  Yes. Un-doable? Absolutely not!  (And I can prove it, because I've got the photos! Hee-he!)

Let's start with the special occasion cakes.

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One for a baby shower that, unfortunately, was postponed because the mom-to-be couldn't attend.  But on the bright side, when the party is re-scheduled, the baby honoree will be in attendance!  Congratulations!  (Yep, that means exactly what you think it means.)

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And one for a surprise birthday party.  The golf ball, sadly, was not edible.  I chose to make it from Styrofoam to prevent it sinking into the cake because of weight.  I'm glad I did...it wanted to weeble-wobble as it was, it definitely wouldn't have stayed upright if it had been any heavier!

Now on to the grooms' cakes.  (O yeah, I'm gonna make you wait until the very end to see the wedding cakes...I know that's what you're really waiting for.)

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This one was fairly simple, but was exactly what the groom had in mind.  The photo image was fully edible and the cake was filled with homemade caramel.

This next cake was probably my favorite of the entire weekend...though I would like to make another one sometime to tweak a few design methods, make it look even better, and truer to life.

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It's a fire fighter's helmet made out of cake.  Even the shield and eagle are edible.  It was designed to closely match the groom's real helmet.  Here's a side view of the cake one, as well as a similar view of the real one:

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Side

Not too shabby, eh?  Though, in retrospect, I shouldn't have steamed the cake helmet; made it a bit too shiny! 

And now, for the moment we've all been waiting for...drum roll, please...

The Wedding Cakes!

Both of these wedding cakes were done in buttercream...not a bit of fondant in sight.  This made the transport even more nerve-wracking then usual considering it was 90+ degrees outside, but they both held up fabulously well. All I can say is thank goodness for excellent air conditioning!

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Although I've used fabric ribbon on cakes before (as in the top wedding cake picture), the crystal cake banding (in bottom picture) was a new element for me.  I was excited that I was able to utilize it, and found it fairly easy to work with.  It definitely added plenty of "bling" to the cake!

Cheers!
Oh...I almost forgot!  Special thanks to A, K, and Hunny's for helping me survive the madness.  I couldn't have done it without you!

01 June 2011

Critical Capacity Reached

I hope everyone had a fabulous Memorial Day weekend!  My weekend was filled with cake, cake, and more cake, though I did manage to fit in a wonderful meal with the fam and a quick, jam-packed trip to the nearest "big" city.  At least my past six days in the kitchen were a little easier to handle since the weather was not only hot, but also VERY windy...I wasn't being tempted by beautiful weather!

Here's the rundown of the past week's handiwork:

1 State Championship Golf Team Cake

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It was designed to be a replica of the team golf bag, and included an edible copy of the official state tournament scorecard.  For additional realism, I included an R11 driver (apparently, according to K, it is the latest and greatest in drivers) made from rice krispy treats and a gumpaste putter and iron.

1 Luke Skywalker Lego-inspired Figure & 36 Lightsaber Cupcake Toppers

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These cupcake toppers were made from fondant and gumpaste...meaning they were completely edible.  And in the interest of complete disclosure, I didn't make them.  A, my handy sous chef did.  I provided plenty of tips and pointers, but A ultimately did all the sculpting.  She did an amazing job!  Not to mention, she saved me a lot of time and a fair amount of sanity.  Thanks, A!!

2 Birthday Cakes

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One for my former marine, brother-in-law's 40th un-birthday.  (His birthday isn't until much later in the year, but sometimes you have to celebrate when life allows!)  The logo was made using a chocolate mold; I then painted it using food dyes and luster dusts.

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And, one for my second-eldest sister.  Hers was an un-birthday cake as well.  See, she's married to the former marine brother-in-law (see above), and they were lucky enough to get to spend a couple of weeks with us before heading to their new post, so we opted to celebrate their birthdays with them.  This cake was fairly simple in design, but was absolutely delish!  It was a white velvet cake with chocolate chip peanut butter cup filling.  Sis practically swooned when she tasted it!

1 Retirement Cake

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A fairly simple retirement cake for a local teacher.  The notebook paper was made from gumpaste and drawn by yours truly.  I think maybe I have a future as a sketch artist...then again, probably not!

3 Graduation Cakes

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This one was a "Memory Lane" themed cake.  It included several of the graduate's favorite memories, as well as a look at his future college plans.  I used edible images for each of the "memories," though in hindsight, I should have backed all the images with white fondant before applying them to the cake; the colors would have looked considerably brighter...

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A 4-year dance team participant's graduation cake.  This was a tough one to find a suitable design for...there's not an over abundance of dance team themed cakes out there for inspiration, but it turned out exceptionally well.

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Orange and black was the color of the weekend for graduations...  Everything was edible on this cake with the exception of the graduate's hat.  And, although you can't really tell in this photo, the monogram was spiffed up a bit with edible silver disco dust.  Ooo...sparkly!

And...

1 Cowboy Hat Groom's Cake

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This cake and I had a couple of disagreements while I was building it; I broke two hat brims, and ended up having to use a flat one, but it turned out alright in the end.  Though I am now on a mission to create a properly shaped hat brim from fondant and/or gumpaste...I'll keep you updated on my attempts.  The board was covered in wood-grained fondant, then the brand was carved from it to look "burned" into the wood.  The spur was also made from gumpaste.

That's all folks!

I'm off to bake 500 servings of cake; see you soon...hopefully!