Category Archives: cake

Be a Band Geek!

Happy 28th Birthday, Ashley!

So, my bestie from college, Ashley, could give Pippa Middleton a run for her money at party planning. For her 28th birthday, she hosted a High School Reunion themed party – in honor of 28 being 10 years past high school. She asked that all attendees dress in their favorite high school stereotype. [You might remember Ashley from The Rubiks Cube Cake]

I was really torn as to how I should dress. Should I just show up in clothes I wore in high school? Na, that doesn’t really scream anything other than “Ginny!” (which doesn’t work when attending a party with people you hardly know and see once a year). Cheerleader was out, that was Ashley’s thing. Football player, sure I’ve got the jerseys, but that’s not creative. Finally, the night before I was leaving to go out of town, I decided on my costume: A Band Geek.

Now, we aren’t spending $ this year. So my costume had to be stuff I already have, or stuff I could fasten out of stuff I already have. I had two inspirations.
1. Ken, who has taken a liking to wearing bowls and plastic containers as hats.
2. The Waukee Warrior Regiment, and their beautiful hat plumes

Let’s get started.

What you’ll need:

Band Hat Ingredients

1. Plastic Container. I chose Country Crock, CoolWhip would also work great
2. Hot Glue Gun
3. Fabric scraps, solid colors work great. I used t-shirt sleeves.
4. Scissors
5. Pen, Paper
6. Sequins, beads, stringed embellishments
7. Feathers. Lots and lots of feathers.
8. [not pictured] A brooch or giant button

First things first, plug in that hot glue gun. Make sure you have it in an outlet that works. Just a little tip from me to you, this alone will save you a half hour of frantic “OMG MY HOT GLUE GUN DOESNT WORK!”

Next, trace around the bottom of the butter container. Cut yourself a piece of fabric to this size. Set it aside. If you’re using a knit fabric, cut a piece to use as a strap under your chin. Cut it so that it’s stretchy enough to get on and off – this isn’t an exact science. Cut a piece that is like 15 inches long also set it aside for later.

Take a larger piece of fabric and wrap the container. I used a t-shirt sleeve, and it was large enough to just fit the size of the container with minimal extra. I folded the extra and glued it to itself. Fold excess fabric into the hat and have fun gluing. No one will see this part, so do what you need to do to get it to stick.

Next, turn the hat over and glue down the top. I didn’t get an exact photo of this. Just fold and glue it down. Then, take your round piece of fabric, and glue it OVER the ugly part. I got excited and also glued on my embellishments, but you get the idea. See, no uglyness! Now is also the time to glue on any other stringed embellishments you want around your hat. Do it now, before you glue the feathers on.

Up next is my favorite part: The Plume

So, there should be a seam on the side of your hat. We’re going to cover it with feathers. Starting at the top of the hat, glue your feathers on one by one, from the top of the hat, down to the middle. Be generous. You want your plume to shine.

Once you get your feathers on, pin on your ugly brooch. I used this nice gold one. Pin it at the bottom of the feathers, to cover up the uglyness that comes along with hot glue and feathers. You know what I’m talking about.

I’ve also glued on a neck strap. Just more t-shirt scraps. Once I had the hat all decorated, I glued on one end of the strap. Once the glue was set, I held the hat on my head with one hand, and played around until I figured out where to glue the other side of the strap – the catch is being able to get the hat on and off WITH the strap glued on. It’s totally doable. Don’t make it too tight or too loose.

The rest of my costume consisted of black pants and a blazer (Thanx Lindsay!!!), a recorder, black socks and graduation tassels. I was going to wear white socks in spite of my old band director, but I decided to make him proud instead.

I also made cake balls for the party, which didn’t really fit the theme, but did fit my budget and cleaned out my freezer.

That's a lot of balls!

We also ate School Lunch Pizza and Jello shots.

There were also some extra costumes just in case you didn’t bring one. Here I am as a science nerd:

Let's go do science stuff!

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2nd Annual Cupcake and Wine Party

Woohoo! The 2nd Annual Cupcake and Wine Party was a success! This year we had a total of 11 adults and two children, far surpassed last year’s attendance record.

You shouldn’t even have to ask, but yes, I tried each of these. A few of them multiple times, probably more than I should admit. I can’t help it. I.Love.Cupcakes. (mostly ones that are drowning in frosting)

Before I photobomb this post, I have to make a few confessions.

The Cupcakes: I ruined 3.5 batches of cupcakes the weekend prior. I was going to spend a Saturday baking away! And I thought I was excited, but apparently my head was not in the game. The first batch went well – these were the Breakfast Blends, which was actually made from pancake batter. The second was a box of yellow cake mix. I divided the batter in two for different flavors. There were two pans, they went in a few minutes apart. I was closely watching one of them because it had Graham cracker chunks in it and I didn’t want it to dry out. That one came out first. They seemed to be a little brown on top, but I tested one and it tasted great, so I was happy. Then the timer went off for the second pan. These were well done, like too dry and ugly to cover with frosting. WTF? I know my oven is wonky, but I’ve never ruined cupcakes like this. Then I noticed the oven was cranked to 450. Thanx Ken! So, it’s not that I leave my child unattended in the kitchen, I usually shoe him away from the stove when he gets close, but he is Ninja fast. 

I was using recipes from this Better Homes and Gardens cupcake book, and the recipes kept calling for “a box with pudding in the mix” so then I thought, “Hey! Let’s just make pudding and ADD it to the cake mix!” Nope. A full batch ruined.

Then I made a batch of perfectly fine Chocolate cupcakes!

It was getting to be mid-afternoon now. I didn’t want to run to the store again, so being the awesome baker that I am, I decided to stop being lazy and make a freaking cake from scratch. I have done it before, I promise. So I did! And then I took the first pan of cupcakes out of the oven and realized something was off. They hadn’t risen. I FORGOT THE BAKING POWDER. And of course I already had the next pan(s) in their cupcake papers already. Oh, I should also mention that I doubled this batch of made-from-scratch cake?

Just throwing some basic math out there, that’s 3.5 batches of cupcakes ruined. At this point I decided we were going out to eat for dinner, as I was not going to ruin Saturday Night Dinner. (The ruined cupcakes actually tasted delicious, so I salvaged what I could and froze it to make cake balls this coming weekend. So it’s not going to waste!)

And the next morning, I went to the store and bought two more boxes of cake mix. I made them exactly as the directions stated, didn’t even sub buttermilk for water.

Frosting: None of my frostings turned out the way I wanted them. They were delicious tasting, but not the correct consistency. The chocolate was too runny, so it wouldn’t hold it’s shape. Peanut Butter, Maple and Marshmallows were all too thick to pipe from a zip-bag, so I had to use the cookie/ice cream scoop for those. Oh, and I killed my hand-mixer while making the chocolate frosting. Like, dunzo, needs to be tossed, killed it.

Let the photobomb begin.

Cupcake Smorgasbord

Breakfast Blend

Crowd Winner! I think I’ll be making these for the next Ray Family Gathering
Cake: Pancake batter, plus some brown sugar. I had half a box of whole wheat mix and some Heart Smart Bisquick. The batter wasn’t sweet enough on it’s own. Also in the cake was delicious Farmland Pork and Bacon Sausage (look in your freezer section), cook it, drain it, add it to the batter.
Frosting: Maple (cream cheese, butter/margarine/crisco, milk, powdered sugar, maple syrup and maple extract flavoring), with Real Bacon sprinkles

Almond Joy

This was my favorite 🙂 If you’re into the Almond Joy candy bar at all, this one is for you.
Cake: Chocolate, regular chocolate cake mix. Each is filled with Almond Joy filling, which is just coconut and sweet and condensed milk (more coconut than SACM, you just need enough to coat the coconut). Once the batter is in the cupcake pan, add a tablespoon (or two, or three) of the coconut/sweet and condensed milk mixture and bake as normal. The coconut will brown on top just a little. I feel like I’ve unlocked a secret baking badge with this. Homemade Almond Joys???
Frosting: Chocolate (cream cheese, butter/marg, milk, powdered sugar, cocoa powder and Hershey’s syrup, lots of Hershey’s) and cute almonds on top

Cup-O-Joe

Cake: Chocolate Cake mix. Use Super Strong Coffee instead of water. I brewed my strongest K-cup (Revv) plus added 3 tbs of instant coffee. Pretty sure I added a couple more tbs of instant coffee to the batter after I initially mixed it up. Oddly enough, it didn’t have a strong coffee flavor when baked. I was disappointed, I didn’t follow a recipe because I wanted mine super strong.
Frosting: Chocolate (cream cheese, butter/marg, milk, powdered sugar, cocoa powder and Hershey’s syrup, lots of Hershey’s) and Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans on top (melt chocolate bark, add coffee beans, spread on pan to cool, break apart, top on cupcakes or just eat)

Salted Nut Roll

These were also a little slice of heaven.
Cake: Yellow cake, mixed and baked as normal. Once cooked and cooled, I scooped out a half tablespoon or teaspoon of cake from each cupcake. Before frosting, add a heaping tablespoon of caramel to the hole.
Caramel: you could use ice cream topping or whatever, but I had an extra can of Sweet and Condensed Milk, so I cooked it in my 2qt slow cooker on low overnight, creating perfect caramel goodness.
Frosting: Marshmallow (mallow cream, butter/marg, milk, powdered sugar, baby mallows), topped with caramel and salted nuts.
This is a messy one! 

Peanut Butter and Jelly

Cake: Yellow cake, mixed and baked as normal. Just like the Salted Nut Roll, once cut and cooled, scoop out a small chunk of the cake to create a lake for the jelly. I used good ‘ol grape jelly for this, squeeze it in the hole (thatswhatshesaid), cover with frosting.
Frosting: Peanut butter! (cream cheese, powdered sugar, milk, butter/marg and peanut butter), topped with peanut butter chips

S'more

Cake: Yellow cake, with chocolate chips and Graham Cracker chunks baked in. Watch your baking times, the grahams will dry out the cake batter.
Frosting:  Marshmallow (mallow cream, butter/marg, milk, powdered sugar, baby mallows), topped with chocolate chips and Teddy Grahams.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Delight

Cake: Chocolate, with peanut butter chips.
Frosting:  Peanut butter! (cream cheese, powdered sugar, milk, butter/marg and peanut butter), topped with peanut butter chips

Jade’s Rodent Cakes

My adorable niece, Jayden, turned 6 in May. She loves rats. Fortunately she does not have a live one, but just lots of stuffed/plastic/rubber ones. They totally freak out Grandma!

So we went on a quest to make a rat cake. I cheated and made these closer to Zhu-Zhu pets, whatever rodents they may be.

I split one cake mix into two loaf pants. Once completely cooled, I carved off all the corners and made him more oval shaped. I used regular kitchen knives. Sure, I could have tried fondant and made a smooth rat, but when has that really worked for me? (Hint, it hasn’t! Yet!).

We mixed up four frosting colors – black, brown, tan and white. And some pink for his little rodent feet and tail. We frosted in sections, then forked all of the frosting for a really matted fur look. 

The ears and nose are made from bubblegum strips. Eyes are some sort of chocolate – looks like malted milk balls. The teeth are some minty 

Milestone Birthday Cakes

May was a big month for us. Brian had a birthday (but doesn’t eat cake), brother Tim turned 40, and my little man Ken turned ONE (And my niece Jade, but her cake won’t be made for another week)!!! As the official Ray Family Birthday Cake Chef, along with my Sous Chef mom, we had big plans!.

First was Tim’s cake. I wanted to really personalize it, so Brian and I came up with an idea based on his first tattoo, a koi with an “S” in waves behind it.

The base is a simple chocolate chip cookie cake. Ok, I threw in an extra bag of white chips too. The cake is from a cake pan shaped like a fish (an AWESOME garage sale find, thank you Brian!). We frosted him in yellow to start. I wanted the fish to have more texture, so the main part of his scales are made from cut pieces of candy orange slices. His tale was from peach rings. I really wanted to use orange colored licorice, but was wayyyy to lazy to visit multiple stores to find it.

See the resemblance?

The next weekend was also filled with a sugar coma, from Ken’s Birthday Cake. He’s a little guy, but he needed a big cake. So, four boxes and one batch of chocolate banana cake later, here’s what we got.

From far away, I LOVE LOVE LOVE it. The family was a BIG help! Dad cut the dowels, Beckey, Tim and Brooke rolled and shaped the fondant, and Mom is an awesomesauce cake froster! But, here’s my critiques (on me, not my help!):
1. I WAY underestimated how much time it takes to build a cake. The cakes were all made and frozen the week before, as was the frosting (most of it anyways 🙂 ). But actually assembling the beast was a process.

2. Next time I will build the fondant shapes as I make the fondant. It took way to long to roll out (three colors!) that morning. I could have saved time and gotten it to the correct thickness (half of what it was) if I would have done it on the spot. Traveling back in time, I would have just stacked the shapes between layers of waxed paper.
On a positive note: My red and black were RED and BLACK. Yay!

3. Buttermilk makes a heavy cake. I cheated and used cake mixes. So sue me. But, I did sub buttermilk for water, which I blame for some of the heaviness. It doesn’t help that I had four layers on the bottom tier, three in the middle and so on. Those dowels and cardboard didn’t stand a chance.
Positive: Probly one of the most delicious cakes I’ve ever made!

Cupcake Heaven

I finally found the key ingredient in delicious homemade frosting: Cream Cheese.

After weeks of thinking and recipe Googling, I decided on my flavors. First things first, need to lessen the holiday baking stash. Get rid of all cake mixes and candies.

The first batch I made was Chocolate Cherry. I used a recipe found here. Didn’t quite follow all the steps. The cupcakes were delish, but I’d either use only half of the cherry pie mix, or run it through my food processor before mixing with the batter. The heavy cherries just sank to the bottom of the paper. This recipe alone made like 36 cupcakes. If you like this flavor combo, I highly recommend.

Yum! Red Velvet was great! Recipe here. Deliciousness all around, follow the recipe as-is.

I found this recipe by accident, and I love mandarin oranges AND coconut, so it seemed like a win-win. I made this one with my Mom in mind because she was coming to my party and she doesn’t care for chocolate. These would be absolutely perfect as a breakfast muffin.

My complaints are small – 2/3 cup of oil was way too much. The PAN was greasy when I took the cupcakes out. Cut back to 1/3. Run the oranges through the food processor.

Don’t mind the burnt coconut, that’s the work of my lovely oven. The oven that I still haven’t mastered after a year and using it every week.

___

The other cupcakes were candy-bar themed.

I used a vanilla cake mix and divided the batter into two, Heath for one half and Cookies and Cream for the other.

The Heath were kinda fails. I put at least a cup of Heath bar in the cake batter. Halfway through cooking, I dropped a caramel into each cupcake. Thats where the fail comes along. The caramels were just sticky, hard and annoying.

Cookies and Cream also a failure. The crushed Oreo crumbles dried out the cupcake batter, so even tho I cooked these the correct time, they were still way way way dry and burnt.

Both of these cupcakes had plain Cream Cheese frosting.

Ingredients:

  • Cream Cheese (the 8oz container)
  • Butter/Margarine/Crisco (whatever you got works) – 1 cup
  • Powdered sugar (lots) – start with half a bag
  • Milk (for thinning)
  • Vanilla

Mix room temp cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add powdered sugar accordingly. Add vanilla. Taste. Add more powdered sugar if you need a thicker mixture. Mix til you think it tastes great. This is a big mixture for tall frosting, aka drowning the cupcake in frosting, as it should be.

You do not need any fancy schmancy cake decorating tools. I *tried* to use my reusable bag for one of the batches, was a total failure. It wasn’t Wilton’s but the bag was busting at the seams and seemed like the frosting was seeping through the fabric (word to the wise, dont buy cake decorating sets from Ikea). So, for the rest of them I just used gallon sized freezer bags. Worked great, less mess.

The last two had peanut butter themes – so take the above frosting mixture and add peanut butter. Start with half a cup. Add accordingly.

I mixed like a cup or two of crushed Butterfinger into the batter. Cook. No complaints.

I saved these for last because they were by far my favorite. I saved out 12 whole PB cups to top the cupcakes. The remaining were ran through the food processor and mixed into the batter.

So there you have it. Please don’t eat your computer screen.

Have your (cup)Cake and eat it too! Part 1.

There is a small business credit card commercial that I used to hear all the time. About a woman who started a cupcake and wine bar. I thought the concept was genius, and on the spot decided I wanted to do the same in the form of a party. So this has been on my mind for like 6 months.

What better way to drown the winter blues than with 7 different types of cupcakes?

First of all, I needed some decor. I didn’t want to go all out, but found a super cute idea online that took cupcake papers and styrofoam balls and made cupcakes. So I did just that!

As I was buying the ingredients, I found out how expensive styrofoam was. So I only bought a 6-pack and hoped that I would find something else of the same size to use for more. I’m cheap.

I stopped at Michaels later and they had some leftover Christmas decor – including plan, 3 inch not-heavy, not-sure-what-they-are-made-of Christmas balls (bulbs). On clearance for like a quarter each.

They were great for painting. Also glued sequins to a bunch as well. The original idea called for these to be made into Christmas ornaments, but I wanted garland. So I secured the loop under the pom-pom, and tied that on another piece of string.

Here’s a better shot of most of the styrofoam garland,

If I had to do-over, I think I’d stick to styrofoam. It was so much faster to slap on some glue (ok, I used ModPodge for the glitter) rather than hot glue individual sequins. I think I just liked the styrofoam ones better. I love these, but can’t help but think that they look more like ice cream cones than cupcakes.

Ingredients:

  • Styrofoam Balls (3inch)
  • Cupcake Papers
  • Pom-Poms
  • Glitter
  • Paint brush
  • Paint (optional)
  • Sequins (optional)
  • Glue (Hot, Tacky, Modpodge, whatever you want)
  • Ribbon (optional)

Directions:

  1. Glue the ball to the bottom of the cupcake wrapper. I used hot glue.
  2. Decorate the ball. I brushed on the glue, then poured the glitter over. I was kinda leery about glitter on Styrofoam, but the excess shakes right off.
  3. Cut your ribbon, if you want it to hang. Like 5 inches? Fold in half, glue to top of ball, add a dab of more glue and add the pom-pom.
  4. Hang.
  5. Don’t eat.

I don’t want this post to get TOO long, so I’ll leave you with a glimpse of the edible cupcakes. I’ll post recipes and more detailed pics soon.

Welcome Kenny

So, I’ve been busy. 

We welcomed our little Kenny bear into the family on May 18 at 12:16am! He was 8lbs, 20 inches long. He is the perfect addition to our family. Brian and I find ourselves just staring at him, we had no idea how entertaining babies are. Anyways, we are absolutely IN LOVE with this little man. 

Photos are by Stephanie Starr. We had these taken when he was one week old. Super cute. He loved the camera 🙂

Kenny is pretty relaxed, he lets us know when he is hungry or wants to cuddle, and other than that he is game for whatever. That means Mom has had some time to go on a sewing binge and do some baking! 

We took Kenny to Illinois for his cousin Jade’s 5th birthday. She had a frog themed party, so my mom and I made her a Kermit big top cupcake and regular sized froggy cupcakes. She loved them!

Muppets are the easiest character to duplicate on the Big Top Cupcake. He is filled with pudding/cream cheese/cool whip filling, his eyes made of Oreos dipped in white candies. The frogs below are cupcakes (obviously), the eyes are made from Wilton candies with chocolate chips. The kids all went for the cupcakes, little did they know there was delicious filling in the cake, not the cupcakes. 

New posts to come soon. Sewing binge, Sock Monkey quilt and more.