I believe in miracles.
I try to change the world every day.
I love my husband, my friends, and my family.
I plan my next great adventure constantly.
I think most occasions call for a dress.
I write what I know and believe.
My original plan was to use rubber stamps and create adorable monogrammed cookies like these goodies. I failed. Big time. BUT, I was determined to find an alternative, so I headed to Micheal’s, and I found ONE alphabet stencil… so here we are. Erin assures me they are cute, so I’m not going to scrap them and start over – mostly because I have to be on a plane to Lubbock on Saturday morning, so this needs to work.
Glace icing is not royal icing. It’s beautiful, it’s tasty, but it doesn’t dry hard enough to rubber stamp. Lesson learned.
Gel food coloring can be used as paint, but it’s pretty thick and takes forever to dry. I would probably play around with this some more, but I’m in a time crunch.
I still haven’t figured out to make a home-made stamp pad. I tried wet paper towels, but the stamp never really took the ink well. Painting the ink onto the stamp didn’t work well either.
Things I Would Do Differently:
Make a better “paint” using diluted food coloring and candy flavoring. Even after sitting out for a day or two, these still didn’t dry completely.
Use royal icing so I can rubber stamp the cookies as originally planned.
Find a cuter stencil if rubber stamping doesn’t work
Use thicker ribbon to tie the bags so they have cute bows.
Use outline icing, not piping gel (again with the drying thing…)
As a whole, I deem this project to mostly be a failure because it didn’t live up to the expectations in my mind (or on Martha Stewart), but I think it will make a cute favor gift with a lot more practice?
So, here we are – Labor Day. My boyfriend is laboring away at the office and I’m laboring away at home. My intent was to have these favors DONE by today, but life has gotten in the way this weekend. I’m not complaining though – we worked hard and we played hard… and this morning, I tried to hold him hostage. But failed. Miserably.
This afternoon’s first step was to get the cookies outlined and prepared to flood. Usually, I use a stiffer royal icing or buttercream to do this, but today I decided to try Wilton’s piping gel. Perhaps I should have read the reviews on this first, because I’m not entirely sure it’s going to do what I need/want it to do, but I decided to try it. Really, I just need it to act as a barrier so I can flood the cookies with royal icing and not have a giant mess.
Here goes nothing.
Update: So, it appears to have worked, but the piping gel is pretty sticky.
I used Wilton tip 3 for the piping in traditional icing bag. We’ll see if it hardens at all… I think I learned my lesson though – glace piping icing for outlining. HOWEVER, it did stand up to the flooding, so I’m pleased today. Mission accomplished.
This afternoon’s second step was to flood the cookies with glace icing. Glace icing is like royal icing, but it doesn’t use egg whites or meringue powder. This was one of the main lessons of Toba Garrett’s class – how to use this icing to make beautiful cookies… Her book has beautiful and inspiring ideas. You can also thicken it to make outline icing, which would probably be a much better idea than my piping gel plan…. details on that below.
Mix until combined. This icing should very stiff. If it’s not stiff enough, add additional confectioners sugar until you have medium-stiff consistency. Wrap the icing with plastic wrap to prevent drying.
Tips to Make It Easier:
Instead of using an icing bag for flooding, buy squirt bottles. (I bought mine at Sally Beauty Supply) This allows more control over flooding and cleaner work. I MAKE HUGE MESSES trying to use glace icing in icing bags. When I took the class at ICE, I literally had icing all over my hands, clothes, parchment, and my cookies were REALLY ugly. I felt like a 5 year old in a class of professionals. Squirt bottles = heaven.
Fill squirt bottles using a funnel on a covered surface.
To fill cookies, start from the edge you piped and work your way in to the center. You don’t have to make each line right next to each other – the icing will naturally spread and you can fill the other parts in if they don’t fill completely.
There are all kinds of nifty things you can do with this icing, but for my purposes, I just needed to fill my cookies with a single color. You should let the glace icing sit for at least 24 hours before it’s considered “done”. These will have a pretty sheen on them… no pearl sheen because I forgot to put it in the mix. Oh well. 🙂 Oh -and my pretty robin’s egg blue? It’s a combination of Wilton’s sky blue and cornflower blue. A little more sky than cornflower, but I think it’s pretty. For flavoring, I used raspberry candy oil… blue raspberry, duh. (The ICE class focused on matching colors with flavors… like orange is orange… and lemon is yellow… and Godiva Chocolate Liquor is brown (and TO DIE FOR!)…
A few years ago, I spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day in New York City. Being that it was SO cold, I looked for indoor activities to occupy my time, and preferably ones that didn’t involve shopping. I do enough of that in NYC as it is.
I ended up taking a cookie decorating class one afternoon with Toba Garrett at the Institute of Culinary Education. As soon as I got home, I bought her book. She taught us about using royal icing and innovative decorating techniques. She also taught us about flavoring royal icing to match the colors because people expect things to taste like what they look like. It was GENIUS. If you ever find yourself in NYC, try to take one of her classes. She’s brilliant. It’s fun to meet people, too. (Really, all classes I’ve taken there were spectacular. I highly recommend the entire experience.)
At any rate, next week is my friend Kristin’s wedding shower. Morgan and I have been conspiring with Kristin’s mom’s friends to make the shower a memorable experience for her. One of the things I’ve been charged with is favors. I pinned all sorts of ideas, but at the end of the day, I have to fly to Lubbock for the shower. So, I’m planning on using my skills learned at Toba Garrett’s class… Because these things are multi-step processes, this afternoon I carried out step one – making the cookies. I decided on a simple butter cookie – a recipe given to me during Toba’s class. It is easy, simple, and perfect for cookie cutter cookies, so I’m going to share it with you.
1 cup (8 oz) - unsalted butter (let set out for 15 minutes before using)
1 cup (8 oz) - granulated sugar
1 - large egg
1 tsp - baking powder
1 tsp - pure vanilla extract
3 cups (12 oz or 340g) - all purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out dough.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In large bowl, cream butter and sugar with mixer for 2 minutes. Stop and scrape bowl. Cream for an additional 60 seconds. Butter and sugar should not be emulsified.
Beat in the egg and vanilla. Beat until well combined (15-20 seconds).
Sift together baking powder and flour. Add flour mixture 1 cup at a time to the creamed butter and sugar mixture. Mix thoroughly after each addition. Dough will be stiff. Avoid over mixing.
Divide dough into 2 balls. Wrap one ball in plastic wrap until ready to use. (Could be frozen for 3 months.)
Divide remaining dough in two. On floured surface, roll out one of the halves to about ⅛-1/4 inch thick. Use a large offset spatula to run under the dough to prevent sticking.
Cut out cookies with cookie cutters, dipping cutters into flour before each use.
Place onto ungreased non-stick cookie sheet or a parchment lined half sheet pan. Bake 6-8 minutes or until edges slightly brown. Let cookies rest on cookie sheet until ready to use.
Toba taught us that we shouldn’t use Tupperware to keep cookies fresh. A cardboard box is the best way to store them – and they will stay fresh for up to 2 weeks at 70F. No refrigerators either.
Make sure you have your cookie cutters before you start. I couldn’t find my heart, so I had to abandon ship to go to TWO STORES, and I still didn’t find one. (There was apparently a run on hearts this week?) So, you’ll see my round cookies. Erin tells me she likes that better. Hrmph.) Once again, look before you leap?
I, like so many of my creative friends, am addicted to pinterest. It’s pretty much amazing, and it’s one of the things that recently got my creative juices flowing. This week’s PINspiration? A Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcake recipe. I don’t even know what that means but it just sounds good, right?!
Devil’s Food Cake Mix (I used chocolate fudge. Target didn't have a single Devil's Food cake mix this weekend. I KNOW?!)
Eggs (amount specified on cake mix box - 3 for me)
Oil (amount specified on cake mix box - 1-1/4 cup for me)
Milk (amount specified for WATER on cake mix box - ½ cup for me)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used Mexican Vanilla)
1-½ teaspoons cinnamon
⅓ cup heavy whipping cream
½ cup butter
2-3 cups powdered sugar (I used 3)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin tins with cupcake liners.
In a large bowl, beat eggs, oil, milk and vanilla.
Add cinnamon and cake mix (you can sift the cake mix in to make for easier blending.) Stir well.
Fill cupcake liners ¾ full and bake for 15-18 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.
Place immediately into airtight containers to seal moisture.
Whipped Cream Topping: Whip heavy cream (took me about 3 minutes), then remove from bowl. Beat butter for 5 minutes, then add whipped cream.
Add cinnamon, vanilla and powdered sugar slowly. If it clumps, be patient and keep beating. Add as much sugar until you get the taste you want.
Pipe onto cooled cupcakes and sprinkle with cinnamon. (I used Wilton tip 1M.)
A few notes from my experience:
Put your cupcake batter in a gallon ziploc bag and cut off the end. Drizzle into cupcake liners. No muss, no fuss. It’s seriously so much easier to get them properly filled AND not make a mess. Toss the bag and move on.
I ran out of the whipped topping and I was only about to do about 15 cupcakes with this recipe. Next time, I’ll probably make two batches to be safe.
My topping isn’t as white as hers – it’s more of a light cinnamon. I think it’s pretty either way. No big thing.
My topping doesn’t look as stiff as hers – probably leaving the whipping cream in the fridge until ready to whip is a good idea. (So is living somewhere that isn’t on Day 64 of days over 100 degrees.)
Don’t take the mixing bowl off the Kitchenaid until you wipe the beaters clean. It dropped all over the base. Maybe that’s where some of the topping went? Oops.
Update (11:01pm): Several cupcakes have disappeared. Update (12:51pm): One plate of them disappeared from the office this morning. One left. Update (3:01pm): The lady who makes and sells her cupcakes in the office gave me an A+++. Update (4:30pm): One left. Who is it going to be? Update (11:19pm): The plate of cupcakes I left at home were gone. Not sure when, but I didn’t get one.
Okay, I’ll be honest. This wasn’t my first attempt at sewing handmade Bucilla Christmas stockings. It’s my second. I abandoned my first stocking kit when I was disgusted with my inability to match things up, and then it got stuck behind some furniture temporarily being stored in the living room of our tiny apartment…
A few weeks ago, I decided I was ready to try again. (Amanda’s hashtag of #nostockingforyou! on Twitter last week made me giggle. Incessantly. For a week.)
Handmade Bucilla Christmas Stockings – Tips for the Newbie!
1. Do yourself a favor. Get a compartmental storage container with a lid. Sort your beads and sequins into the compartments. You’ll thank me later, I promise.
2.. Use straight pins to pin your pieces before you begin trying to applique them. It works!
3. Buy true polyfill. Don’t try and stuff it with cotton balls. It doesn’t work the same. I know.
4. Buy a needle threader.
5. Do all of this before you start. Again, you’ll thank me later.
I won’t lie. I think I might have been too ambitious. See those tiny parts at the to? They almost drove me mental on Saturday night. But, I think it’s coming together quite well…. It’s amazing how much easier it is when I have everything I need BEFORE I START.
Stages of Making Handmade Bucilla Christmas Stockings:
Excitement (!): I’m excited to see the Snowman. I think his jacket is adorable. It’s about the extent of my embroidery skills though. Is there a machine that can do this? Just kidding… maybe.
Pride (!!): My snowman has a head!!! Isn’t he cute?! I kind of love him. Notice the embroidery on his nose? I did that. All on my own. I’m pleased with him. 🙂 He’s so cute!!
Impending doom (…): …I have a ton of tiny pieces that are going to have to be embroidered and ornaments and lights to put on very soon. I know it’s coming…
Elation (!): Operation Stocking is DONE! (Well, aside from the backing and the name tag… but all of the details are DONE.) I can’t believe it.
Joy (!!): I LOVE it. I can’t wait to finish it up and use it this year!! Also, MLo was asking me about it this morning – she LOVED it. And Tom is pretty impressed with my skills, too.
Finals Tip from a Genius:
-Don’t up-end your organizer. It doesn’t work out to your benefit… I’m not sure how mine got flipped upside down, but it did, and it’s a mess. And the pieces are too small for me to REALLY want to sort out. Doh.
-If you lose a piece (and I did), contact Plaid and ask them for a replacement. I lost an elf head and knew it would be a disaster if I tried to freehand it. I tweeted them and received a replacement within a week. BEST CUSTOMER SERVICE EVER.
I don’t think this is perfect by any means, but it has character… (Pretty I sure I used that excuse when my babysitter in 2nd grade commented on my wrinkled clothes. I got it from a Sweet Valley High book. She thought it came from my mom. I realize now that was not a compliment. Rude.) It does make me incredibly happy though… and it’s a way to carry on some of the traditions of my childhood while incorporating others into them, too!