Friday, February 27, 2009

Fancy Brownies

This is a little twist on making brownies. I think they look a little fancier and have even more chocolate than normal brownies.

I started out with brownie mix and instead of pouring it in a 9" x 13" pan I put it in a 9" round pan then baked it in the oven. After letting it cool on a cooling rack I flipped it over on to a plate and put the plate on a cake stand in order to ice it.

For the icing, I used pre-made chocolate icing. Before I began icing the brownie I put the icing into the microwave for 15-20 seconds to make it soft and melted and easier to spread on the top of the brownie. Before I put the icing on I made chocolate shavings to put on top of the icing. I used a carrot peeler and an over-sized Hershey's milk chocolate candy bar to make the shavings. I tried to make them as curly as possible, because I think those look better.

So I poured the icing on, spread it around with an icing spatula to make it look smooth and while it was still a little melted I sprinkled the chocolate shavings on the top so they would stick better. Whenever I was ready to serve the brownie, I cut it into wedges like you would cut a cake.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Black Bean Tacos

I know this is not a dessert, but it is a great dish to have for dinner and easy to prepare. The dish is black bean tacos. Ben saw this recipe in the February 2009 issue of Bon Appetite, so we tried it out the other day. We made the tacos, guacamole, and Spanish rice. Here's the recipe:

Crispy Black Bean Taco with Feta and Cabbage Slaw
makes 4 servings
  • Prep: 25 minutes
  • Total: 25 minutes


  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 5 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 2 cups coleslaw mix
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 4 white or yellow corn tortillas
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese


  • Place beans and cumin in small bowl; partially mash. Mix 2 teaspoons olive oil and lime juice in medium bowl; add coleslaw, green onions, and cilantro and toss to coat. Season slaw to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Heat 3 teaspoons olive oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add tortillas in single layer. Spoon 1/4 of bean mixture onto half of each tortilla; cook 1 minute. Fold tacos in half. Cook until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Fill tacos with feta and slaw.
I don't think it really matters what brand of Spanish rice you use, just make sure you don't under or over cook it! After Ben made the guacamole, I wanted to make it a little fancier so I took the hollowed-out avocado skin and used it as a little individual bowl to put the guacamole in.

The dish was delicious and I didn't even notice that the tacos didn't have meat in them, so that's a plus for those people who don't think they can have tacos without beef!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ben's Birthday Cake

For Ben's 23rd birthday I made him a fish cake. He's a big fan of fly-fishing so I thought this would be perfect. When I first started this project I had no idea how I was going to manage to make a cake look like a fish. After consulting some friends, Sarah had the brilliant idea of using a cake pan that looks like a fish. So I began googling "fish cake pan" and found a whole bunch, but I was in bit of a time crunch so I needed to find a place either in Little Rock or at least close by so it wouldn't take as long to ship. I then googled "cake decorating Little Rock". Of course Hobby Lobby and Michael's came up, and I called them, but all Hobby Lobby had was a tropical fish pan and Michael's didn't have anything. I didn't really want to do a tropical fish, I wanted more of a trout or bass fish. Vanness in Little Rock also came up in the search, but they do not have their own website and I had never heard of them so I called and much to my surprise they had a bass fish cake pan.

I was expecting a metal cake pan, but it turned out to be a plastic one. I had never seen plastic cake pans and had no idea they can go in the oven, but apparently they exist and they come in a wide variety of shapes.

Luckily the cake pan came with instructions. For the fins, eye, and lips I used Wilton's Candy Melts that come in a bag like this. For the fins and lips I used peanut butter flavored and for the eye I used chocolate flavored.

Before I baked the cake, I followed the microwaving instructions on the candy melts bag (very simple), then I poured the melted peanut butter and chocolate into the pan on the designated areas and put it in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes. The molds should pop out pretty easily. I set the fins and stuff aside and poured the chocolate cake mix into the well-greased pan and put it in the oven to bake.

After letting the cake cool on a cooling rack for 30 minutes or so, Ben put the platter I was going to use on top of the pan and flipped it over (I'm always terrified to do this step, so I make Ben do it). At first the cake did not come out of the pan, so I gave it a slight tap and it came out looking perfect!

For the icing, I used the Wilton's paste in moss green, because I thought this would be somewhat close to the color of a bass fish. I iced the sides of the cake with an icing spatula and now it was time to start on the scales. For this, the instructions suggested to use tip #103. I used a gallon sized plastic bag for the icing and started at the tail end of the fish. It's hard to explain how I made the icing look like scales, but I'm going to try. I went line by line and started icing and I would ice a little bit then slightly pick up the icing bag while icing was still coming out and go back over the line a little bit. That is a horrible explanation, but hopefully the picture will better explain it. After icing, I put the fins, eye, and lips on!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mardi Gras

I'm not a huge Mardi Gras-er, I've never been before, but I love King Cakes. Southern Living has a great recipe for a Traditional King Cake. This recipe makes 2 King Cakes, so that's a plus. The icing recipe I used came from a reader of Southern Living who loves cream cheese almost as much as I do.

1 8 oz. package of softened cream cheese
1 1/2 to 2 cups powdered sugar
1 stick of butter (room temperature)
1 to 2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Mix the ingredients together until smooth glaze forms.

Just a warning, this is going to be a longer post than usual, because I want to show some pictures of the process to prepare the dough for baking. In the recipe, when it says divide the dough in half, I did so and set one half to the side while I worked with the first half and got it ready for the baking sheet.

Roll out the dough to a 12 x 22 inch rectangle. Spread softened butter all over the dough, leaving a one inch border. Then sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over the butter. This was where I made a small mistake. I did not put enough cinnamon (at least not as much as I like). So I suggest that if you think you have put too much cinnamon and sugar to put a little bit more, because what's a King Cake with out lots of cinnamon?

I think this is the trickiest part of making the cake. Make sure your hands are well-floured because the cake will be sticky and difficult to roll into a "jelly roll" type fashion.

I then carefully picked up the roll and placed it on a greased baking sheet in an oval shape, pressing and sealing the ends together. The person working in the bakery at Kroger was nice enough to give me a plastic baby to put in the cake and some bright green sprinkles!

Then the bread has to rise again for 30 minutes at 85 degrees. So I covered it with a towel and set it on the stove while it was pre-heating. Then I baked it for 15 minutes at 375. Once it is done baking, it is important to leave it on the baking sheet and place it on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes. After this, I spread the cream cheese glaze on the cake and put on the green, yellow, and purple sprinkles (the yellow and purple sprinkles came in a 6 pack of multi-colors, but the green included was more of a pastel green, which just wasn't going to cut it, so that's why it was so nice of the Kroger bakery to give me green sprinkles).

I then transferred the cake to a foil covered platter and cut a slice of cake to see how it turned out! I was very pleased!

Monday, February 23, 2009


For Ben's dad's birthday I made a golf themed cake. My first thought was to make a huge golf ball, but again, did not have the sports theme pan and was not quite ready to buy one/Ben told me I did not need it (but someday I'm going to get one). After talking with some friends, I decided to use a 9 x 13 cake pan and design more of a golf scene than an actual golf ball.

In order to make sure I would not have any trouble transporting the cake, I found a piece of wood about 1 inch thick by 24 inches long and 12 inches wide. I covered it in foil and put the cake in the middle of it once it cooled. For the design I wanted to do something realistic but still basic and colorful, and what I came up with was a green next to a sand trap.

To start out, I iced the entire cake with cream cheese icing. I drew a somewhat exaggerated and curvy line with green icing using an icing tip with a small round hole. This line served to separate the green and the sand trap. Right after icing the cake, I put brown sugar on the right half that was going to be the sand trap. I used quite a lot of brown sugar so that it would cover the top and sides and the cake. This stuff really looks like sand! Then for the color for the green, I just mixed green food coloring until I got a bright kelly green. Then I used an icing bag and a tip that was jagged so that it would look like freshly mowed grass. To make the grass I iced one line then move down and ice another line. This was the most tedious and time consuming part of the decorating.

On the green I made a 18th hole flag out of a plastic cocktail sword and cut out 2 little sheets of paper and wrote "18" on both, then glue it to the sword handle and for the hole I used just a little bit of chocolate icing. Once I was done with all of this I still thought the cake was missing something. It just looked too plain to me, so I began calling places like Party City, Kroger, Hobby Lobby to try to find golf figurines or anything to add to the cake. No luck. After just about giving up, I tried Wal-Mart and they said their bakery makes a golf cake and they had the plastic accessories that customers can buy. (I love Wal-Mart!) And just as a little bonus I hot glued golf balls and tees on the board around the cake. I was pretty proud of this cake and can't wait to make another golf cake so I can try out some other ideas.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Halloween Cupcakes

For Halloween, I made cupcakes that look like pumpkins. Ben was particularly helpful with these cupcakes. He tried to figure out how to help me make them look exactly like the picture we saw in a magazine, right down to the indentations in the icing to make it look more pumpkin-like (you'll understand what I mean later).

I used chocolate and yellow cake mix for the cupcakes and white icing. To make the icing orange I did a little bit of elementary school thinking...what two colors make and yellow. So I took the red and yellow food coloring and put 1-2 drops of each into the icing and mixed it. Then added more until I got the orange I wanted.

The picture of Halloween cupcakes I saw had these indentations to make them look more like a pumpkin. The article suggested using toothpicks to make a line in the icing, but this did not work at all. Instead, the toothpick just got covered in icing and totally messed it up. So after a few tries, Ben and I decided to forgo using the toothpicks altogether (how important were indents in the icing, really?).

To finish them off, we put orange-tinted sparkling sugar sprinkles and pretzel sticks. I imagine that the orange sprinkles would be easier to find around Halloween, but I bet if you really needed them then a store like Hobby Lobby or Michael's would have them year-round. The pretzels were the stems and I broke them in half. However, I noticed that the pretzels get soggy after about a day, so I would not suggest eating them. Here's what the cupcakes ended up looking like:

While we're on the theme of Halloween, here's a picture of two jack-o-lanterns Ben and I carved! So cute!

We wanted to go with more traditional-like jack-o-lanterns, can't beat that.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Peanut Butter Granola

Southern Living's January 2009 issue had a recipe for homemade peanut butter granola. It was delicious and very easy to make. I made it once and Ben keeps asking me when I'm going to make it again. Here's the recipe:

Peanut Butter Granola

Prep: 15 min., Cook: 3 min., Bake: 20 min., Cool: 20 min.

Makes 6 cups


  • 3 cups uncooked regular oats
  • 1/2 cup dry-roasted peanuts
  • 1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Vanilla yogurt
  • Sliced bananas


Preheat oven to 350°. Toss together oats, peanuts, coconut, and sesame seeds in a large bowl. Cook peanut butter, brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat 3 minutes or until smooth. Stir peanut butter mixture into oat mixture until blended. Spread mixture in a single layer on a lightly greased, aluminum foil-lined 17- x 12-inch jelly-roll pan. Bake 20 minutes or until lightly golden, stirring after 10 minutes. Transfer to wax paper, and cool completely (about 20 minutes).

The granola tastes good with yogurt, bananas or just by itself. However, I'm sure it would taste even better with chocolate chips in it, but it's supposed to be a "healthy" treat, not a dessert!

Hayden's Baseball Cake

This was a last minute cake for Ben's cousin Hayden's 10th birthday. This was just the family birthday party for Hayden, so I was not as pressured as I might have been if I were decorating the cake for his actual birthday party.

It was a yellow cake and chocolate icing (very popular and the same type of cake as my first post). I used my 9" Calphalon pans to make the 2-layer cake. At first I was not going to decorate the cake, just put candles on it. But Ben and I started thinking if there was an easy design that I could do without having a lot of preparation and new decorating tools. Hayden eats, sleeps, and lives baseball, so naturally he would want a baseball cake. I sketched out the design on a sheet of paper, which was easy. Then we went to the grocery store and purchased a tube of Wilton's red piping gel.

The piping gel is not the easiest stuff to use, but if you're just doing a simple design it works fine. This is not the fanciest cake I've ever made, but I think it served its purpose. Next time I make a round cake with a sports theme, I want to use this Wilton's Sports Ball Pan.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Arkansas Razorback Cookies - Part II

For the Arkansas v. LSU tailgate, Deanna and I made razorback, helmet, and football shaped cookies. (Thank you Sarah and Bill for the football cookie cutter for my birthday!) This time I did a little research before starting the icing process. I looked up recipes for icing that hardens and I also looked up tips for how to make the icing as red as possible. Here's the recipe for the icing that hardens (very easy to make and tastes delish!)

1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 teaspoons milk
2 teaspoons corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla flavoring (almond flavoring is also good)

Stir sugar and milk together in a bowl until icing mixture is smooth; beat in corn syrup and vanilla until icing mixture is smooth and glossy in appearance. Add food coloring to desired shade. Ice cookie and set aside for the icing to harden.

As far as tips for making red icing, there were many. The one I went with suggested buying Wilton's red icing tube. It looks like this.

The instructions were to gradually squeeze the red icing into the white icing until you get your desired color. Well, as you can see from the picture of Deanna and me, the icing was not exactly bright red (and I used the entire tube of Wilton's). But the tailgate was still amazing. Grant smoked some ribs and we had a ton of good food and beverages and of course beating LSU didn't hurt either!

My most recent discovery in the world of red icing is Wilton's paste. I've heard that this, because it is so concentrated, will really help make the icing a bright red. But I have yet to try it out since the Razorback basketball team has not won a game in way too long therefore I have not felt the need to make special cookies. You could say I've put my razorback cookie-making on hold in protest of their losing streak. (Come on Rotnei! What happened to your 3-pointers?)

Arkansas Razorback Cookies - Part I

I made Arkansas Razorback Cookies for two football games this season. First, Sarah, Ben’s sister-in-law, and I made them for the Arkansas v. Alabama game. Then my high school friend, Deanna, and I made them for the Arkansas v. LSU game (woo pig sooie)!

I bought the football helmet and razorback cookie cutters from Eggshells Kitchen Company in Little Rock. They are metal cookie cutters.

For the Alabama game, we made sugar cookies from Sarah’s family cookie recipe and I think we used cream cheese icing or just white icing. We tried to make the icing as red as possible, but as many of you know, the more red food coloring you put in the pinker the icing gets (so annoying). We ended up just icing them with what looks like pink and putting red sprinkles on them in hopes of masking the pink color.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Easter Egg cookies

For Easter 2008, my college roommate, Elizabeth, and I made Easter egg cookies. The cookie cutter was purchased at Target (great store). It was the first time I used a metal cookie cutter with rubber around the rim. Oh, and just a side note, these cookies were made while living at Chateau Ghetto.

If you haven't noticed, Easter was before my birthday and before I really got into the whole cookie/cake decorating. Therefore, Elizabeth and I were using what little decorating instruments we had in our house, which were mostly plastic bags and food coloring.

For the cookie recipe we used our friend Ann's.

Deluxe sugar cookies

1 cup softened butter or margarine
1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cream of tarter

Let butter soften. Mix thoroughly the butter, confectioner's sugar, egg, vanilla, and almond extract. Bend in flour, soda and cream of tarter. Cover and chill for 2-3 hours. Hear oven to 375 degrees and divide the dough in half. Roll into 3/16ths of an inch thick on a lightly floured cloth covered board. Cut into shapes and place on greased baking sheet. Bake 7-8 minutes or until lightly brown. Makes 5 dozen 2-2 1/2 inch cookies, unless you use a cookie cutter, then it makes 3 dozen, depending on the size of the cutter.

For the decorating, we used cream cheese icing for the base, then for the details (which now looking back I realize how elementary they are) we separated the icing into individual bowls. We had red (which makes pink, perfect for Easter but bad for making razorback cookies), also we had blue, green and yellow food coloring. Like I'm sure many of you have done, we put the icing into plastic bags and cut off the tip of a corner of the bag so we could have more control over the icing when making designs.

Monday, February 16, 2009

How it all got started

Welcome to my blog about decorating the delicious goodies that are cakes, cookies, and cupcakes.

This blog will not so much tell you how to make cake mix, but about how to be creative when decorating for birthdays, holidays, or just for fun.

My decorating hobby (I guess it's a hobby now) all started when my boyfriend, Ben, bought me a rotating cake stand, 2 9" Calphalon cake pans, and one large and one small icing spatula for my birthday last October.

Of course, like all cake decorating beginners, I started out by making a basic cake. It was a 2-layer round cake with icing (yellow cake and chocolate icing - a classic). See pictures below. Both the cake mix and the icing were store bought, because for the time being I have decided to focus on the actual decorating and not really on mastering the perfect homemade cake.

The cake turned out really well (I was very nervous using the cake stand and icing spatulas, because I had little experience using real icing tools).

On a side note, I would like to thank Alex McCulloch for answering my hundreds of questions about setting up a blog and for being the creative genius behind "Cake You Very Much" and "Jstans Bakery". Brilliant!