Monday, August 30, 2010

Graduation Cap Cake

I made this cake for a surprise party for a friend. She had just finished her master's degree. I'll talk about the cake building and decorating in this entry. For the recipe for the strawberry mousse filling inside this cake, click here.

Graduation Cap Cake

I started by baking two oval pans of chocolate cake. While those were cooling, I worked on the mortar board. For this I cut a cardboard cake board into a square (about 9 inches by 9 inches). I also used the point of a pair of scissors to cut a hole in the center of the board. This hole became important later.

Then I cut two pieces of rolled white fondant: one the exact size of the board and another slightly larger. The larger one was put below the board, so that when I flipped it over later the seams would be on the bottom. Using buttercream icing, I "glued" the fondant pieces to the board. Then I used a lollypop stick to poke a hole through the fondant where I had already cut a hole through the board.

I sealed up the edges by adding a bit more icing on to the edges of the larger piece of fondant and then folding the edge over the side.

While the fondant dried, I cut each cake into two layers and then filled and stacked the four layers. I pushed two lollypop sticks (cut to the same height as the cake) into the cake to stabilize it. Then I frosted the edges with enough white icing to cover the chocolate cake. I only put a light layer of icing on the top since it would be covered by the mortar board.

I piped small dots of icing along the border (I used tip #3 for those of you who are cake decorators). Then I added some pink roses and leaves that I had made out of buttercream icing.

When the fondant mortar board had dried, I put it on top of the cake and shoved one last lollypop stick through the center. I left this lollypop stick longer so that I'd have something to tie the tassel to. I made the tassel myself with some string and a bit of ribbon.

After tying the tassel to the center stick, I rolled another small piece of fondant into a ball and dropped it over the stick so that it was covered completely.

And that was it!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Cherry Ranger Cookies

I made these just before the Michigan trip. I stashed them in Ziploc bags so we could enjoy some homemade goodies right away. On the first night of the trip, we bought some black cherry ice cream, and a few of us made ice cream sandwiches with these cookies. The cookies were pretty good on their own, but I thought they were even better with the black cherry ice cream.

Cherry Ranger Cookies

½ cup butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ¼ cups flour
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1 cup coconut
1 cup cherry-flavored Craisins

In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer until smooth. Add granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. Beat until combined. Beat in egg and vanilla.

Add flour gradually and continue beating. If your mixer can’t handle all the flour, you can stir the rest by hand. Mix in the oats, coconut, and Craisins.

Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Baking at 375 degrees for 8 minutes or until edges are golden brown.

Cool on cookie sheet one minute before transferring to a wire rack.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Sticky Buns

This isn't really a cookie or a cake, but a lot of people have asked for this recipe. I got it from a co-worker who makes it every Christmas. She prepares it at night, lets it refrigerate overnight, and then puts it in the oven in the morning. It smells really good while baking!

Sticky Buns

2 loaves of frozen Rhodes bread (Packages come with three loaves)
1 stick of butter
2 tablespoons milk
1 large package vanilla pudding
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Thaw two loaves of frozen Rhodes bread. (I put the two loaves on a plate in the fridge for six hours). After thawing, cut up the loaves with scissors into walnut-sized pieces. Put pieces in a large bowl.

Melt the stick of butter. Add milk and stir. Pour over bread and stir.

In a smaller bowl, mix vanilla pudding, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Add mixture to bread and stir until bread is fairly well coated.

Put in a 9 X 12 inch pan. Cover with saran wrap and put in refrigerator overnight.

Heat oven to 350 and bake for thirty minutes until golden brown.

Mix some powdered sugar with water or a little milk to make a frosting and pour over warm rolls.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Lemon Bars

I made these while in Atlanta. My cousin and his family were on their way down to Florida, and they stopped to visit my brother and his family while I was down there. We all had dinner at a great pizza place and then walked back to the apartment for dessert.

Lemon Bars

Ingredients for crust:
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter or margarine, softened
½ cup powdered sugar
2 cups flour

Ingredients for filling:
1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
¼ cup flour
4 eggs
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (I squeezed two lemons.)
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13 x 9 pan with nonstick foil or parchment paper.

In a large bowl, blend butter, powdered sugar, and salt until smooth. Stir in flour until blended. Press mixture evenly into the bottom of the pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside.

For the filling, beat granulated sugar, flour, eggs, and lemon juice in a large bowl. Pour over crust.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until no imprint remains in filling when touched lightly. Remove from oven to a wire rack and cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

My sister-in-law requested carrot cake for her birthday. I was only too happy to oblige since I’ve been meaning to try out a carrot cake recipe from one of my other sisters-in-law. The birthday girl and I decided that this is a very healthy birthday cake since it has wheat flour, yogurt, and carrots.

Carrot Cake
with Cream Cheese Icing


1 cup vegetable oil
1 ½ cup sugar
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
1 ½ cups white flour
1 ¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 ¾ teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon
¾ teaspoon nutmeg
1 ½ cup yogurt, sour milk, or buttermilk
3 ¾ cup grated carrots
¾ cup chopped nuts (we used pecans even though the original recipe called for walnuts)

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients in the order listed above. Pour into greased pan(s). This will make enough for a 9 x 13 pan or two round pans (8-inch or 9-inch). Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool for ten minutes in pan. Run knife along edges before removing. Cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

This recipe is from the show DC Cupcakes. They gave the recipe away on the Today Show, and it can also be found online. I’ve altered it a little to have enough for a two-layer round cake.


5 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
5 ½ cups confectioners sugar, sifted

Beat butter, vanilla extract, and cream cheese until well combined. Add the sugar slowly and continue beating until the icing is smooth.

If you plan on decorating the cake with it as I did, you will probably want to add a bit more powdered sugar so that the icing is a little thicker and your decorations won't droop.