Baking - Desserts, Decorating

Travel Baking Challenge

Just over a month ago I signed up for our local Make-a-Wish Foundation’s Rope for Hope, where I need to raise a certain amount of money for the Foundation in order to get the chance to rappel down the side of a city skyscraper. As incentive to make donations I offered my donors various amounts of baked goods for various amounts of donations. (You can check out my spiel by clicking here). The response has been amazing!

I started honouring some of the baking requests last week in a bit of an unconventional way. Two of the generous donors were my brother and his family, and a longtime friend and her family, who all happen to live on the west coast. It also happened to be my brother’s 40th birthday last week. So I decided to surprise him for his birthday and delivered his stuff, and my friend’s, in person! I travelled from London, ON, to Vancouver, BC with several dozen cookies and two birthday cakes in my suitcase!

I made the cakes and decorations ahead, froze them, then packaged them up as securely as I could on departure day and hoped for the best! It all went surprisingly well. Following is a photo essay of the adventure.

V1
Fondant Dog: For my friend’s three year old son, he wanted a cake with his ‘doggy’ on it.
V2
Fondant Running Shoes: For my brother, who has gotten into running over the last year.
V3
Prepping the fondant pieces for transport.
V4
All the baking accessories I would need to assemble the cakes once I got there.
V5
Fondant ‘doggy’ getting wrapped and ready to go.
V6
All the fondant decorations wrapped and ready to pack.
V7
Three cakes (2 spicy chocolate, 1 plain chocolate) frozen, stacked and prepped for packing.
V8
Cakes snuggly packed into cake carrier.
V9
My suitcase, with more baking supplies than clothes! In addition to the cakes and supplies, there is a container of chocolate mint sandwich cookies, and a container of cardamom ginger cookies.

 

V10
Doggy cake all done!
V11
Such a cute puppy 🙂
V12
40th Birthday Running Shoe cake all done!
V13
Close-up of Running Shoe cake.

 

Baking, Baking - Cookies

Homemade Oreos

After the Power Ranger cake last week I had some fondant leftover. Last time I had leftovers I made some little fondant-covered two-bite brownies. We were about to host a party at our place and I didn’t think those would be the right fit, so instead I decided to try and make some imitation Oreos and use the fondant for the filling.

I looked up some recipes and settled on a chocolate sugar cookie. It was pretty straightforward, cutting out all the chocolate cookies, and then cutting out the fondant to match.

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The fondant was quite smooth, so I knew it wouldn’t stick to the cookies very well on its own. I was also making some empire cookies, so I just put a dab of royal icing on each side of the cookie to stick the sandwich together. It worked out pretty well, and because I had two colours of fondant leftover, we had two colours of cookies: white and hot pink. They were pretty tasty little guys, I will definitely be doing them again if I have leftover fondant!

Baking - Cookies, Decorating

Flooding Cookies

I often admire the bright, clean look of cookies that have been decorated with royal icing. They are so attractive that you almost don’t want to eat them and mess up their perfect appearance. I have been wanting to try and make them for a while now, but I actually don’t often bake sweets unless there is a specific purpose; for example, a special event. Well, this weekend I had my chance. My husband and I were going to attend a party to celebrate life – most notably celebrating people who have survived breast and other forms of cancer, people who are still fighting cancer, and just the amazingness of life in general.

I decided to make some simple sugar cookies and use the flooding method to make pink ribbons as decoration. I looked up flood icing, which is basically royal icing that has some extra water to make it more runny to ‘flood’ an iced outline.

I made a dark pink icing for the outline, with the thought that it would look better to see the definition of the ribbon crossing itself. Then I made a lighter pink icing for flooding. When I first made the icing in the morning it seemed to be a good consistency; not too thick for a small piping tip. But when I went to use it in the evening it seemed to be thicker. I had already loaded the piping tool by the time I discovered this and decided to do the best I could with what I had, because I didn’t want to go to the trouble of taking it all out again. I had made the lighter pink icing runnier than the dark pink to begin with, but even so, it too was a bit thick for the purpose of flooding. It wasn’t a flood so much as a sploosh that needed a bit of spreading to reach the edges. The perils of not testing things in advance!

It ended up taking quite a bit longer than I anticipated, and my outlines didn’t have the super smooth look that I like so much, but I enjoyed the challenge and feel that I’ve learned something for the next time I try it. Practice makes perfect, so I just need to find a few more events to attend! Or I could just bite the bullet and make them for fun, I’m sure my family wouldn’t mind!

Baking - Cookies, Decorating

Playing with Food: Bringing Fairy Tales to Life

20150328_171337My daughter has been really into the story The Gingerbread Man lately. You know the old Golden Book classic, “Run, run, as fast as you can, you can’t catch me I’m the gingerbread man!” She has a pretty high attention to detail, so after reading the story many times she finally said we should make a gingerbread man, “with raisins for eyes, a currant for nose, and a pink sugar candy waistcoat.” She did also say that she wanted a girl gingerbread, but we ended up making some of both 🙂

So one Saturday morning we made the gingerbread cookies together; I helped with the rolling, but she did most of the cookie cutting herself. They cooled during rest time, and I set to work getting all the decorating requirements lined up, with a few additions just for fun. I had almost forgotten the most important piece, but when I went up to check on my daughter mid-rest (I don’t think she actually rested at all!), she reminded me with great excitement “raisins for eyes, a currant for nose and a pink sugar candy waistcoat.” I had about 20 minutes to produce some pink sugar candy waistcoats!

I threw together a mini-batch of fondant by melting some marshmallows in the microwave, mixing in icing sugar, then colouring it pink. It came out perfectly, and there was just enough for the number of cookies we had.

She didn’t seem to mind that we didn’t have any currants for noses, and was pretty happy with chocolate chips and gold dragees as substitutions. Even the raisins only made it on the first one she decorated! But she was very focused and spent about an hour meticulously decorating each gingerbread cookie, making each one unique from the last. And at the end she eagerly picked her favourite one to eat.

On the last page of the story (spoiler alert) a fox eats the gingerbread man, and it reads “that is exactly what should happen to all gingerbread men.” I couldn’t agree more, and I think my daughter does too!

Baking - Cookies, Baking - General

Toddler Baking: Part…I’ve Lost Count

As I’m sure you can guess, my time is pretty occupied these days with our kids. Although I am an avid baker, my day job is not only looking after my own kids, but a couple others who come to my in-home daycare. Needless to say it is a busy household!

Over the last few months I have done some fun baking and food activities with them all and thought I would share some of them here. Some involve baking, and some don’t, but they all involve eating yummy things, so I decided to include them anyway!

To start with, my kids love my flour bin. It’s an excellent sensory experience to feel the flour on their fingers, and I’m in constant awe of just how far that flour can travel!

Now let’s go back a bit and do this in chronological order. I’ll start with Valentine’s day. My daughter helped me make some heart cookies, and my sister-in-law helped me cut a ton of tiny little heart and star shapes out of fondant to use as decorations. With some royal icing in hand the kids did some awesome decorating. The rule was that they had to finish decorating their set amount of cookies before they could pick one to eat. They showed surprising restraint, only needing reminders a couple times, and then thoroughly enjoyed the fruit of their labour!

This winter was particularly snowy and cold, which meant we spent a lot of time inside. One day we set a bowl out in the falling snow, and once we had caught enough clean snow we made some snow cream to eat. So simple: snow, sugar, milk and vanilla. It seemed a lot colder than regular ice cream, and was like a super sweet snow cone. Needless to say they slurped it up in no time!

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Also, because we were indoors a lot this winter, we tried several sensory activities. Finger painting is always a favourite, but my 17 month old son still eats everything he can get his hands on. I found a recipe for edible finger paint online which was literally some plain yogurt and food colouring. My son was super excited to be doing something that looked like what the bigger kids were doing. And when he discovered what it actually was he was super excited about eating it…and he ate it ALL!

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And lastly, for now, we did some more cookie decorating for St. Patrick’s day. My daughter and son helped me bake the cookies, and then everyone participated in the decorating. What fun to be able to do all this with such an eager group of kids! An awesome reason to make and decorate cookies for any season!