cake decorating

The Best Dairy Free Vanilla Frosting

It’s taken me quite a long time to craft the perfect dairy free vanilla frosting. Using only sticks of margarine gives inconsistent results. I’ve managed to get it to a nice consistency before, as seen on my Thomas the Train cake:

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But I also had major issues with it turning out way too soft, like with my art deco smash cake:

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With both cakes, I used the exact same ingredients. Yet, as you can see, got completely different results.

I almost always have issues coloring all-margarine frosting too. More times than not, I would be left with white specks where the color didn’t quite stick.

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However, I think this was more of a mixing problem. I have found that mixing SLOWLY is the key to a good frosting. And you MUST soften the margarine before adding any powdered sugar. I’ve never been known for my patience, so this took me many years to figure out.

The smoothest frosting comes from using vegetable shortening. It still tastes good, but the margarine adds a depth of rich flavor that the shortening lacks. So, I wasn’t ready to give up on using margarine all together. I began experimenting with mixing margarine and shortening, and found that the best mix was 1 stick of margarine and 2 cups of shortening. The frosting was smooth, the color mixed through well, and the flavor was on the mark.

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The piped design is made of royal icing, but you can see how smooth the “buttercream” is underneath

Then I stumbled on this recipe for ‘Strawberry Dream Frosting’ on Pinterest. She uses marshmallow fluff with butter to create a really yummy flavor. I tried it for my daughter’s 2nd birthday, because she LOVES marshmallows. I modified the recipe a bit, using 1 stick of margarine and 1 cup of shortening, and using 3 cups of powdered sugar. Why more powdered sugar, you ask? Because frankly, I like my frosting sweet. And it wasn’t thick enough in my opinion with just 1/2 cup.

The result is a delicious frosting that pipes easily and can be used for frosting layer cakes as well. However, the marshmallow fluff doesn’t give a super smooth finish. As you can see in this Frozen cake, there are lots of air bubbles. But a lot of that could have been avoided if I would have kept my mixer at the speed ‘2’ setting.

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So if you’re looking for super smooth, this isn’t the recipe for you. But if you don’t mind a more “home grown” look, so to speak, you should try this recipe. It’s really delicious!

I can say that it pipes really well. I used this recipe for both the Tardis and the time vortex swirls on my Doctor Who cake:

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I also used it for this butterfly cupcake cake:

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I mixed it low and slow that time and, as you can see, got a much smoother result.

Let me state now that sticks of margarine are not 100% dairy free; they contain a milk derivative called ‘whey’. I would not suggest using tub margarine because it’s too soft. If your allergy is bad enough that you can’t tolerate whey, then simply use all shortening. I’ve successfully used 100% shortening with this recipe and gotten just as great results.

So here it is, my perfect vanilla frosting:

  • 2 containers of marshmallow fluff (also called marshmallow creme)
  • 1 stick of margarine
  • 1 cup of vegetable shortening (or 1 1/2 cups, if you are omitting the margarine)
  • 3 cups of sifted powdered sugar
  • Vanilla Extract
  • 2 splashes of vanilla almond milk

Directions:

  • Mix marshmallow fluff until smooth with the flat beater attachment on the ‘stir’ speed setting.(*HELPFUL TIP* Run a rubber spatula under hot water before scooping out the marshmallow fluff to make it come out super easy. This is written on the jar in the tiniest print imaginable, so I just barely learned this tip after months of making this stuff. It makes a world of difference getting all that sticky deliciousness out.)
  • Add half a margarine stick and mix on the ‘2’ speed setting until smooth. Then add the other half and mix until smooth.
  • Add the shortening half a cup at a time, allowing it to smooth out completely before adding more.
  • Add 1 cup of SIFTED powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Add the rest of the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time. If you feel you’ve reached a consistency and flavor that you like before adding all 3 cups, then don’t feel the need to add more. It’s all a matter of preference.
  • Add the vanilla extract (or whatever flavor extract you want). I don’t measure when I add extract. I just add it a bit at a time until it tastes right. Again, it’s all about preference.
  • If it seems a little thick, add a splash of almond milk. I usually end up adding 2 splashes, but this again is all a matter of preference.

The trick to this frosting is to not over whip it. If it gets too much air in it, then you will get holes as seen in the Frozen cake above. Do not put your mixer any higher than the ‘2’ speed setting. It will take longer, but be worth it when it comes out soft and smooth!

This recipe will yield enough frosting to cover two 8″ or 9″ round cakes, a 12″ x 9″ rectangle cake, or two dozen cupcakes. It will keep at room temperature for a couple days and for a couple of weeks in the fridge. It also freezes really well if you double wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and then store it inside a freezer Ziploc bag. If you freeze it, allow it to come to room temperature and mix it in your mixer on the ‘stir’ speed setting for a minute or two until it’s smooth.

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I hope you enjoy this delicious frosting as much as I do!

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Double Barbie Frozen Cake: Redemption Edition

For those of you who have been following me know that I did a Frozen barbie cake for my girls’ birthday last November. It was the first time I had attempted a barbie cake and it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to. The dolls were leaning because the structural integrity was so poor, the fondant seams were a mess, and the detailing was unfinished because I ran out of time.

I learned a lot from that cake.

A neighbor kid turned 5 earlier this month and had a Frozen party (of course!). For the first time I was on the fence about offering to do a cake. The baby has not been sleeping well; she usually wakes up 4 times a night, despite co-sleeping. This throws a wrench into any baking, because I usually get all of my cake work done at night once the girls are asleep. So with the baby’s schedule being so unpredictable, it seemed too risky to roll the dice this time. I would die if I wasn’t able to get a cake done after saying I would do it. Just when I was leaning strongly towards not doing it this time, my 4 year old asked me, “Mom, can you make a cake for my friend?” Looking into her big brown eyes brimming with excitement, I could not deny her request.

So I got in touch with my neighbor and told her that I would be happy to make her daughter a cake as a gift. “Maybe they’ll want something simple”, I said to myself. Kids love cupcakes, and cupcakes are easy! After browsing Pinterest, they sent me a picture of what the birthday girl wanted…

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Definitely not a cupcake. Of course she wanted a barbie cake. What 5 year old girl wouldn’t want this cake? BUT I DON’T KNOW IF I CAN DO THIS CAKE!!!

After the initial panic subsided, I actually thought about it and realized that I could make this cake. Sure, my first attempt at a barbie cake was kind of a disaster. BUT – – I learned a lot from that disaster:

  1. Bake the top layer in a bowl. That way, the shape of the dress is already there and won’t need to be carved.
  2. Don’t make the frosting in between the layers too thick. You want a thin layer, really. Enough to act as glue and add some flavor, but nothing like what you would put in a tiered cake. Too much frosting causes instability.
  3. Don’t pick a cake recipe that is super moist, because it doesn’t hold up well to stacking high or carving. This has always been an issue for me because I believe that there is nothing worse than dry cake. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter how pretty a cake looks if you get dry crumbs when you go to take a bite. The taste must match the beauty of the decorations, or else there’s no point. However, it’s very difficult to find recipes that are the perfect balance of moist yet sturdy.
  4. Chill out. No seriously–this cake needs to be chilled. Over and over again. So set aside enough time to do that.
  5. Details are key. I had to have enough time for the details of the dresses, otherwise it’s not a very interesting cake. Just a dome with dolls popping out.

That weekend was kind of busy for me, because aside from the birthday party, I also had committed to helping my mother-in-law with a jewelry party the night before. She is a stylist for Stella & Dot and one of her clients booked a party, where she brings all of her jewelry samples and the guests get to try everything on. These parties are always a lot of fun, but also a lot of work because my mother-in-law has a lot of samples. As in, it takes the two of us working together for an hour to set everything up. I knew that it was going to take up all of Friday night, and I knew that I couldn’t count on the baby sleeping. Since the birthday party was bright and early at 11 am Saturday morning, I knew that I had to get the cake done before I left for the Stella & Dot party on Friday evening or I would be screwed.

So I planned out my design. I found this YouTube video, which shows exactly how to make a single barbie cake. This is where I got the trick of baking the top tier in a bowl. Aside from the bowl cake, I knew I was going to need two 8″ rounds as well. I decided I was going to use this white cake recipe, swapping the milk for almond milk to make it dairy free. This recipe was perfect. The cake was strong enough to hold up to the stacking, but still moist and delicious. This will now be my go-to recipe for vanilla cake, because it’s kind of perfect in my opinion.

I decided to forgo the fondant this time around because it was already going to be challenging enough without adding the stress of frigging fondant. I wanted the frosting to be nice and firm, so I went with my fail-safe vanilla frosting. 4 ingredients: vegetable shortening, powdered sugar, a dash of almond milk and vanilla extract. Dairy free, delicious, and perfect for this job. One of these days, I’ll do a post with the recipe.

Elsa’s dress has a delicate ombré effect, which I decided to honor. Even though her dress doesn’t actually have snowflakes on it (those are only on the cape; can you tell I live with Frozen fanatics?), I couldn’t figure out a way to replicate the fancy ice shards seen on her skirt. If I was going to use fondant, I could have made scratches and dusted it with luster dust for sparkle. But scratch marks in buttercream just looked like I didn’t know how to frost properly. So, Elsa’s dress would need 4 colors: 3 shades of blue and white.

Anna’s dress has beautiful detailing along the hem of the skirt. The stripe at the bottom is a lighter shade of the blue of the skirt, but I wanted it to pop a bit more, so I decided I wanted to go with purple. A lot of artists had made that choice too, so I wasn’t too concerned about kids calling me out on it (except my own 4 year old, who is very detail oriented and noticed that it was wrong). The stems for the embroidered flowers are also a lighter tone of the blue of the skirt, but again I decided to go with a teal to make the design pop. I didn’t want to do all the work of piping all these details on if no one was going to notice them. Just like her sister, Anna was also going to require 4 colors: dark blue for her skirt, purple for the bottom stripe, and teal and fushia for the flowers.

Despite my well intentions of giving myself enough time to do this cake, motherhood got the better of me yet again and I wasn’t able to start it until Thursday night. Mind you, when I say ‘night’  I don’t mean right after dinner. I mean after the girls were in bed. Thankfully, God took mercy on my poor soul, and I was able to lay the baby down in her crib! Since I was going to be around people the next day, I had to make showering a priority. She was still sleeping when I got out, so I made a mad dash to the kitchen and got to baking! She slept long enough for me to get most of the batter done for the bowl cake; I had to fold the whipped egg whites in with her on my hip because she was not happy with Daddy.

I set the oven to 325° instead of 350° so the outside wouldn’t burn before the inside could bake. It ended up taking 70 long minutes to cook through, so if you do one of these cakes, be sure to plan for that extra bake time.

I hit the ground running Friday morning and baked the two 8″ rounds and made the frosting. The baking took awhile because I only have one 8″ pan. I contemplated using one of my 9″ pans so the cakes could bake at the same time, but I didn’t want to have to carve anything. I really didn’t want to mess anything up because I would not have the time to fix it. Coloring frosting takes for. ev. er. The dark blue for Anna’s dress didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to. The “dark blue” icing color that I bought looked more grey than blue. So I had to futz with it a bit, mixing in a lighter blue to get it to look blue. Note to self: buy more than 1 type of dark blue next time, so that I have more to work with!

Time was really getting away from me and I at least wanted to have the cake stacked and crumb coated before I had to leave. The last 8″ round was still a little warm, but I decided to flip it out of the pan anyways so it would cool faster.

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That was a bad idea.

Luckily it split in a nice line down the middle, so I was able to save it.

I followed the lead of my YouTube video and used a circle cookie cutter to create a well in the middle of the tiers for the dolls’ legs. This was a huge saving grace when it came to structural integrity! With my first barbie cake, I just stuck the dolls in the cake without removing any first, and the moment I did that, the cake started cracking. Cutting holes in the middle worked beautifully!

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I put my cracked cake at the bottom and patched it together with frosting. Luckily, it held up just fine and wasn’t a problem.

I put a thin layer of frosting on it to lock in the crumbs and popped it in the fridge while I went to the jewelry party.

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In case you were wondering what I did with the baby while I was working – I stuck her in her activity chair on top of the counter.

As I anticipated, I didn’t get home until 9 that night. But God took mercy on me again, and I was able to lay the baby down in her crib! I went straight to the kitchen and started working again.

The first step was to wrap up the dolls’ legs in plastic wrap to protect them from the frosting. I did this by putting the dolls back to back and taping their legs together. Then I wrapped their legs in plastic wrap and spun tape around the plastic to make sure it would stay put.

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I put the arms up so that they were out of the way, and then I slid them through the hole in the cake.

Using my spackling tool (which I only use on cakes, obviously), I marked where the two dresses met.

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Next, I took my extra large cake icer icing tip (Wilton #789) and piped the icing for each skirt on in horizontal stripes. I used a small round #2 tip to get the icing on the dolls’ hips, and used a toddler butter knife to smooth it out on their backsides because it was too small a space for my icing spatula.

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Next, I took my icing spatula and carefully smoothed the frosting. This was tricky with Elsa’s skirt in particular because of the ombré effect. I couldn’t just slab more icing on like I would with any other cake, because it would ruin the effect. You’ve really only got one shot at it, so make sure you use enough icing the first time you’re applying it and that you don’t scrape too much off when you’re smoothing it out. I started at the top, smoothing the flat part of the dome first. Then after wiping the spatula off, I lined it up vertically with the bottom of the skirt and smoothed the rest of it in one go.

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I wasn’t able to get the frosting as smooth as I wanted because I couldn’t scrape over it more than the one time. But the ombré effect turned out nicely.

By the time I was done icing the skirts, the baby woke up. So I popped it in the fridge and called it a night.

The next morning I woke up early, hoping that I was giving myself enough time to finish the detailing before we had to leave for the party. Luckily, the older two girls ended up sleeping in until 9:30 so I wasn’t getting interrupted every 5 minutes. But the baby was wide eyed and bushy tailed, so I still had my hands full.

Since Elsa’s dress doesn’t technically have snowflakes on it and since I did the ombré effect, I decided that Anna’s detailing was more vital and focused on her first.

I started by piping a straight purple line along the hem of her skirt using Wilton tip #47.

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Then I used my #2 tip and piped on the peaks.

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If you wanted to be precise, you could use a ruler and toothpick to mark out exactly where each peak should hit. I free handed it because ain’t nobody got time fo dat!

Continuing with the #2 tip, I filled in each peak.

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Then I smoothed it out with my handy dandy toddler knife.

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Now on to the flowers. I started with the long stems, working it from the tip of the peaks up. Again, if you have the time, then you can measure and mark before piping. But I was really cutting it close, so again, I free handed it. After the stems were piped, I used a different #2 tip and did the simple pink tulip. Then I went back to the green and piped on the smaller leaf design that’s in between each peak.

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This didn’t take that long, so I decided I had time for some snowflakes on Elsa. That was 100% free hand. I just took it one snowflake at a time, adding swirls to break it up. I then used a small closed star tip to pipe a line of white flowers along the seam where the two skirts meet so that it would look tidy.

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I ended up finishing at 10:30! Luckily the venue was only 5 minutes away and my oldest girl and I were able to get ready fast.

The birthday girl loved it! Seeing her face light up when I brought it in made all the work worth it.

And that is how I was able to conquer the barbie cake.

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My Doctor Who Cake

Last July, my husband convinced me to watch Doctor Who. He had already seen all of the episodes of the recent seasons (Christopher Eccleston and on), and was hoping to get me hooked and caught up before season 8 started up. Being the nerd that I am, I of course became an instant fan. But the new season started a month from when I started watching, and I had a little over 100 episodes to watch if I was going to catch up in time. We only had 2 kids at the time, but I still didn’t have much TV time. Somehow, I managed to do it, which you could either see as impressive or embarrassing, your pick.

I love Doctor Who.

Now I want to get my hands on the original seasons from back in the day so I can be a true Whovian.

So when I was thinking of ideas for my birthday cake, I immediately went to the Doctor. I wanted to do a Tardis cake. Since my birthday is January 6th, I decided to go with a Christmas Tardis theme. We had the flu over Christmas, so I still wanted to hold on to Christmas because I had kind of felt cheated.

My conception art

My conception art

My mom found an awesome video tutorial on YouTube of how to make a Tardis cake.

I was only having a small gathering of friends and their kids over to celebrate, so I was sure the Tardis cake alone would be enough.

I am not very good at sculpted cakes. I have yet to find a cake recipe that holds up well to being sculpted. So I took a risk and tried a recipe that I had never tried before: vanilla pound cake. Since I was going to need 5 squares for my Tardis, I needed 2 square cakes. I only had 1 square pan though, so I had to do them one at a time, which took forever because the bake time for this recipe is an hour and fifteen minutes! My first cake burned on the bottom and along the edges. I was able to cut it away, but it made my squares smaller than the ones in the tutorial video. For the second batch, I reduced the oven temperature to 325°, and that cake came out perfectly. So if you try this recipe, I would suggest lowering the temperature. (It was a very tasty cake.)

It took to sculpting ok. But since my squares were smaller, I ended up doing 4 instead of 5. I was unsuccessful in leveling, so it wasn’t the sturdiest of structures. Despite me using a ruler, I still managed to cut each square a little differently, so they weren’t all the exact same size when I stacked them. Which left me to cut down my already small cake in an attempt to make it even on all the sides. My husband ended up helping me shape it down because it was not looking pretty.

I now did not have enough cake to feed the people I was expecting, so I changed the plan and made two 9″ chocolate rounds for my tardis to sit on, using my moist dairy free chocolate cake recipe. Instead of going with a Christmas Tardis, I decided to ice the rounds to look like Van Gough’s Starry Night with the Tardis sitting on top, recreating the iconic painting from the Van Gough episode. I was sad to have to scrap my Christmas theme, but excited about the new direction.

I focused first on decorating the Tardis, following the instructions from the YouTube video. The blue icing that I had on hand was not Tardis blue, unfortunately. Lesson learned: always buy a few different shades when you need such a specific color so you can mix up your own. But painting the fondant panels really helped with the color. In the video she used a paint powder, but I didn’t have access to that. So I just mixed a drop of water into gel icing colors inside a painter’s palette to get a more “paint like” consistency, and it worked really well.

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How many panels does it take to cover a Tardis?

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The panels post painting

 

I mixed white & black gel icing colors to make grey, and used that around the edges of the window pieces to dirty them up a bit. The Tardis has been around the block a few thousand times after all; she should look worn in.

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I wish that I would have painted the sign grey before writing the words on, but hind sight is 20/20.

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Obviously, I ran out of space for all the words. I had to make this panel slightly larger than the others just to get these to fit. But the important ones are on there.

I almost forgot about the door handle & key hole, but remembered with enough time to whip them up.

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The Police Box panels

 

My mom got me a fondant rolling mat system, conveniently called The Mat, for Christmas. If you are serious about cake decorating, you need this mat! The fondant didn’t stick to it at all.

I mean, look at that!
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Absolutely incredible.

Once all the pieces were cut and painted, it was just a matter of putting them on. I let my 4 year old help with this part. She was so careful & methodical while placing each panel. I saw a piece of myself in her in that moment, which was so beautiful to witness.

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We got the Tardis done 2 hours before people were set to arrive. That may have been enough time to frost the Van Gough design on the rounds if we were already dressed, the house was already cleaned, and if the baby would sleep the entire time. But none of those things had happened, of course. Time got the best of me yet again. It is not easy getting these cakes done when I’ve got 3 girls 4 years old and under to take care of.

But I couldn’t bring myself to slap plain white frosting on it; it had to have some kind of design to it. My new plan: pipe swirls to make it look like the time vortex. Since I was completely out of time (pun intended), I chose 3 colors: blue, purple, and white.

I stuck the blue and purple icings in their own piping bags and then shoved them side by side into another piping bag, so that they would come out at the same time.

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Too bad I ran out of frosting before the whole cake was covered.

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I only had blue leftover, so the colors were off balanced. Then I ran out of the blue!

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It was not looking like what I was going for. Out of pure panic I decided to add white dashes, partly to hide the spots of crumb coat that were peeking through, and partly to try to add a…wibbly wobbly timey wimey effect… Again, I was panicking.

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I stuck my leaning tower of Tardis on top and called it a day, because I had about 10 minutes to get myself dressed before people showed up.

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Let’s just say that it was meant to look off kilter because it was bumping around the time vortex…

Is it the worst thing ever? No. Did it look anything like what I set out to create? Not in any way. Did the perfectionist in me want to throw it on the street and run it over with my car? Absolutely.

But my main goal in life lately has been to not stress out. Especially on days that are supposed to be fun like my birthday. Despite everything that went wrong with this cake, I had a lot of fun making it. I mean, it’s a Tardis cake! Plus, my girls helped me bake and make frosting, on top of watching me work on all the Tardis pieces. I was actually surprised at how interested they were to just watch me work.

Of course having them in the kitchen with me meant extra messes…

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But the extra clean up was worth it, because it meant I got to spend my birthday with the 3 greatest kids on earth.

Good thing I took pictures of my cake right away, because while I was upstairs getting dressed…

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The Doctor crashed the Tardis on my stove.

At this point, I just had to laugh.

We ate the tie dye swirl cake at my dinner party and then the girls and I devoured the Tardis for breakfast the next morning (eating leftover birthday cake for breakfast the day after a birthday is my favorite birthday tradition).

Death of the Tardis

Death of the Tardis

Structural integrity has never been a strength of mine in cake decorating. But I’m working on it. I’ve decided to make a Tardis cake for my birthday every year until I get it right. I’m only 27; I’ve got plenty of time.

I’ll take the long way, Doctor; you meet me on the year I nail it.

Basket of Roses Cake

My Mother-in-law’s birthday is today. When we got the flu over Christmas, I wasn’t sure if we were going to recover in time for me to do a cake for her. But, we got healthy just in the knick of time and the stars aligned just right, allowing me to bang this cake out in 2 days for her. Normally my cakes take a minimum of 3 days for me to complete because I’ve got 3 kids 4 and under. It’s taken me years to learn how to efficiently make cakes in the stop-and-go rhythm of motherhood. It’s hard to do cakes in piece meal, because once I start, I go into a zone and don’t want to be interrupted. Except, I’m ALWAYS getting interrupted.

Here’s what 2 minutes of cake decorating looks like for me now: put the baby in her seat; cut a hole at the bottom of my icing bag; tell the 2 year old that she can’t stand on a chair to watch, and take the  chair that she dragged into the kitchen back into the dining room; put coupler and icing tip in icing bag, and maybe even put icing in the bag; get snacks for suddenly starving children; pipe a quarter of basket weaving on the side of a 9″ cake; answer 4 year old’s questions about how I’m doing this technique; swat 2 year old’s hand away from the cake, as she’s standing on the chair that she dragged back into the kitchen.

It can get frustrating very quickly, because my thought process is being CONSTANTLY interrupted. I’ve lost count how many times the 2 year old has messed up the side of my cakes, because she was eating the icing off when I wasn’t looking. I typically lose sleep when I do a cake because it’s just easier to work at night when the girls are asleep. So why do I do this?

Because I love it.

It’s one of the only things I do for myself anymore. It’s a much needed creative outlet for this hibernating actress. So I learn to fully think out my designs before I start so that I know exactly what I need to do when I get in the kitchen. I research on my phone while I’m nursing, absorbing as much information from YouTube as I can on new techniques I can try. I’ve learned to break the whole process up into steps, and to spread the steps out over days, because it’s going to take me longer than a professional in a bakery. I let go of my desire to tunnel vision, and accept the interruptions. I make extra icing in anticipation of having to fix whatever the 2 year old is going to mess up.

Before this cake, I had never done a basket weave, piped a buttercream rose, or piped a buttercream leaf. This is by far the most technical cake I’ve ever endeavored. But every time I do a cake, I do something new, so that I’m always learning. Sometimes I crash and burn like I did with my mom’s piano cake (which I plan on redoing for her one day). But sometimes, like today, I hit it out of the park.

I really wanted to do a flower themed cake for my mother-in-law because gardening is her passion. She has one of the most beautiful gardens I’ve ever seen and she meticulously plans out each and every flower, tree, and bush. The over zealous part of me wanted to create a basket of different flowers, but I knew I didn’t have the time for it. Different flowers mean different colored frostings, which means more work. Plus, I would have had to learn how to pipe more than one type of flower. In 2 days. No way. I picked roses because they’re so classic and beautiful.

I watched this tutorial video on YouTube, which goes through how to do the basket weave technique, as well as how to pipe the roses. I followed her instructions step by step and was really happy with the results! If you are interested in learning how to make this type of cake, I strongly recommend watching the video.

My mother-in-law just got me a cookie dough recipe book for Christmas. In this book is a recipe for a egg-free chocolate chip cookie dough cake filling, so I knew that I wanted to try it out for her cake. The recipe is really easy. Normally I always add less almond milk when using it to substitute for heavy cream. But since this was going to be a filling for a cake, I wanted to be sure that it was wetter than actual cookie dough, so that it would spread easily. But even still, adding the whole 1/4 cup of almond milk instead of heavy cream like the recipe calls for made it too wet. I ended up adding an additional 1/4 cup of flour until it was the consistency I was looking for. If you don’t have to worry about allergies, then just follow the recipe. But I wanted to throw that out there for my fellow dairy allergy people.

Cookie Dough Filling from The Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook by, Lindsay Landis:

-1 1/2 sticks of butter

-1/2 cup white sugar

-1/2 cup brown sugar

-1/4 cup cream

-1 teaspoon vanilla extract

-1/2 teaspoon salt

-1/2 cup of flour

-1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Prepare it the way you would normal cookie dough: cream the butter (or margarine, in my case) with the sugars; add the dry ingredients; add the milk; stir in chocolate chips. I used regular sized chocolate chips because they don’t make dark chocolate in the mini size. I don’t think it made any difference, but if you’re using dark chocolate and want the pieces to be smaller, just pulse them in a blender first.

I went with my go-to dairy-free moist vanilla cake, and did chocolate buttercream frosting since I needed the basket to be brown anyways. I wanted white roses, but didn’t have clear vanilla extract, so I flavored that icing with peppermint.

First thing is to bake your cakes; you’ll need 2 rounds for this design (mine are 9″). Once the cakes are cooled, dam and fill them (check out this great YouTube video on how to dam and fill cakes if you don’t know how).

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I decided to not level my cakes, because I hate doing it. It’s tedious and they weren’t that bad. After finishing the cake though, I wish I would have taken the time to do it because it made the basket weaving difficult. (You’ll want to level the cakes before filling and stacking.)

Then I dirty iced the cakes to lock the crumbs in. This technique is actually one that I’ve only recently learned, and one that I wish I would have known about years ago. Crumb coating makes a night and day difference when icing cakes! If you don’t know how to do it, watch this video on crumb coating.

Next, you’ll want to score the sides of the cake where you want the vertical lines of the basket to fall. I have a dry wall spackling tool that I used to do this, but the blunt edge of a chef knife would work as well. I spaced mine out too far originally, so I ended up cutting the spacing in half from what you see in this picture. But you get the idea.

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Then just take your time. I used a Wilton tip #47 for texture. The video will explain how to do the technique much better than I could, so go watch it if you haven’t already.

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It really wasn’t difficult after watching the tutorial video. Just take your time and follow your lines, and you’ll be fine.

Then I piped a rope detail along the edge of the top of the cake using a Wilton tip #18. The video shows you how to do this detail as well. It really helps finish the look off.

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Then I used a Wilton leaf tip and piped leaves around the outer circumference of the top of the cake.

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Then I said a prayer and tried my first buttercream rose. I used a Wilton tip #104.

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I was holding the tip upside-down, so the petals looked fat. Oops. I dumped that one back in the bowl of icing and did it right the second time. But then it flipped upside-down when I tried transferring it to the cake. Oops. So I carefully scraped it off and tried again.

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My buttercream was too soft, so it was impossible to get the very center of the roses to be as tight as they needed to be, and all of them leaned to one side. But for it being my first go at them, I am damn proud of these babies.

There were some gaps in between some of the flowers because I wasn’t able to lay them as closely as I wanted to. So I just filled them in with leafs and pretended that that was the plan all along. Fake it till you make it!

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My Eggo is Prego: 23rd & 24th Weeks

I warned you all that the 23rd week wasn’t going to happen. We were visiting family in California that week; I would have had to publish that post the day of our Disneyland trip. Not happening! As I also forewarned: both of these weeks were insane! Hopefully you can all follow my spastic mind as I try to rehash all of the many happenings.

Ok, here we go…

23 Weeks

23 Weeks

Wisconsin has decided to baptize me with all weather abnormalities as if it’s trying to scare me off or something. We’ve had what the natives swear is an abnormal amount of rain this June; streets keep flooding and the rivers have virtually no beaches because the water is unnaturally high. On the plus side, we have yet to use our sprinkler system. Having grown up in a dry, mostly hot state, I’m loving all of the free water! After you have to pay a lot of money to water your lawn, you grow to appreciate rain. So while all the natives are complaining, I say– bring it on Wisconsin! You’re going to have to do a lot more than shower me with the blessing of free water every other day to drive me away.

The day this picture was taken, we were on our way to a birthday party for the little boy of an old friend of my husband’s. They had rented a bouncy house, so of course it poured rain. Not just drizzled like what is seen in the picture; literally pouring buckets of rain. As a gift, I made a (pretty awesome, if I say so myself) Lego cake which was covered in fondant, and we had quite the time getting it inside the house because the moment we pulled up, all the heavens opened up and let out a torrent. Tyler and I were soaked through, but the cake made it with only a few droplets on it. Once the rain let up, the bounce house was re-inflated and the kids got soaked jumping and slipping and sliding all over it. It was a lot of fun, and the cake was a hit.

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Two days later, we were on a plane to California. Baby Ary does not travel well, and despite us booking a month in advance, the airline screwed up our seats for both of our flights, so it was a very long day. Ary was literally screaming on my hip when we walked onto the first flight, and so I thought it would be a cinch to get whichever poor soul who was assigned to the seat next to me to switch with Tyler. But low and behold, I manage to get seated to the one guy on this earth who thought it was a good idea to give me a hard time. “Excuse me sir, but would you mind switching seats with my husband so that we can sit together?”, I yell over a screaming Ary. The guy sighs and asks while rolling his eyes, “Well…does he have an aisle seat?” I try to control my face and fail miserably as I contemplate this odd creature that would actually deliberate sitting next to Ary in her fit-throwing state over moving to a possibly non-aisle seat. If it had been me, I would have taken the middle seat sandwiched between obese, sweaty men so long as it was away from someone else’s screaming baby. Once I realized that this guy was serious, I turn around and yell over Ary and across 7 rows to Tyler and ask if he has an aisle seat. “Sorry, but he has a center seat”, I reply to the odd creature. After more sighing and head shaking, he asks, “Well, can he get my bag up there? I’ll switch if he can get my bag up there.” At this point, I almost wanted to sit next to him and make him endure the wrath of Baby Ary for 2 1/2 hours just to piss him off. Luckily, Tyler was able to get his precious bag next to the inferior seat so the guy switched with him. But honestly, who would choose this pissed off baby just to sit in an aisle seat???

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I certainly would not.

Once we finally got to California, we had a great time seeing our family and friends. It was impossible to see everyone that we wanted to, but given that we were only there for a week, I’m so grateful for any time that we got to spend with our loved ones. We went to the LA Zoo, Newport Beach, and Disneyland. Disneyland was at the end of our trip, so the girls were pretty tired. But they still had the time of their lives! Thanks to their awesome parents who waited in line for 2 1/2 hours while they went on rides with the grandparents and Auntie, they got to meet the Frozen sisters. They also scored meetings with Minnie Mouse, Cinderella, Mulan, Snow White, and even got to have a tea party with Alice and the Mad Hatter. When Baby Ary saw Snow White, she went right under the red rope and ran straight to her! It was the most adorable thing in the world. Eowyn is usually so star struck when she meets the characters that she doesn’t talk to them, but by the 6th one (Cinderella), she opened up and actually talked to her! I was so proud that I almost started crying.

We almost got to see Rapunzel, but right as we were walking into the line, a Cast Member literally jumped in front of us and said in a snarky tone, “We’re done!” Now we understand that the characters can only be out for so long, and that if they make allowances for one kid then they have to do it for every other one that comes along. But we were 2 feet away from being in line, and there was no one else trying to get in line behind us. We tried to explain to the guy that we were from out of state and that Rapunzel was one of our daughter’s favorites, but the guy was not budging. He wasn’t out right rude, but he spat out his Disney script with an “I don’t give a shit” tone and sent us away to try to explain to our now crying toddler why she couldn’t meet Rapunzel when she was standing right there. We were so focused on distracting her after that, that it wasn’t until right before we left later on that night that it occurred to me to file a complaint at City Hall. The customer service representative that we spoke to was really nice and felt genuinely bad about what had happened to us. She asked how long we were going to be in town, but we were leaving in 2 days. Then she said, “Well unfortunately, it’s too late in the day to schedule a meet and greet. Do you know when you’ll be coming back for another visit?” If we had thought to go straight to City Hall right after the incident, they would have pulled Rapunzel for a private meet and greet for Eowyn! Disney has the best customer service. How I wish we would have thought about it right away! That would have made Eowyn’s life. So, if any of you ever have any problems while at Disneyland, go to customer service right away. As long as you’re nice and respectful, they will take great care of you.

Aside from the Rapunzel incident, it was a really fantastic day. And it would not have happened had it not been for our wonderful friends who signed us in for free, saving us almost $300 in admission costs, which we definitely could not afford.

 

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I ended up making 3 cakes while we were out there. One of my close friend’s son turned one and the person who was going to do the cake flaked on her a week beforehand. She asked if I could do the cake, and honestly I had really wanted to do it from the get go. So even though it was crazy squeezing it in, I’m so honored to have been the one to make the cake for this little guy’s first birthday. My friend and I joke all the time about arranging the marriage of Baby Ary and her son, Declan, so I wanted to be the one to make my future son-in-law’s first birthday cake. The theme was The Great Gatsby, so the cake was art deco inspired. Considering that I was working in a foreign kitchen with different brands of ingredients on vacation, I am damn proud of these cakes. Thankfully one of my best friends came over to the house that we were staying at after spending the day at the beach with us to help me finish it. We started at 9 pm, and she stayed until 1:30 am even though she lived 45 minutes away and had an appointment at 8 am the next morning. I truly have the best friends in the world.

Art Deco Fondant Cake

Art Deco Fondant Cake

Piping Detail on Art Deco Fondant Cake

Piping Detail on Art Deco Fondant Cake

Matching Art Deco Smash Cake

Matching Art Deco Smash Cake

One Happy Birthday Boy

One Happy Birthday Boy

My 24th week started on Disneyland day, so I forgot to get a prego selfie. My mom snagged one of me at the beach 2 days earlier though, so that will have to do.

24 Weeks

24 Weeks

One of my proudest pregnant moments with this one was at the beach. I’ve had this maternity bathing suit since I was pregnant with Baby Ary, but I started this pregnancy 15 pounds lighter than my pre-pregnancy weight with Ary. While I was swimming in the ocean, my bottoms kept slipping down! So at 6 months pregnant, I can proudly say that my maternity bathing suit is too big! My weight has been such a struggle since having kids, and I finally feel like I’m getting a handle on it. After Henderson is born, I’m going to work even harder to finally shed the baby weight that I put on with Eowyn that’s been clinging on for nearly 4 years.

The third cake that I made was an early birthday cake for my mom. She’s turning 50 in August and I have to miss it. I really wanted to surprise her with a beautiful piano cake, because she loves to play. Unfortunately, the fondant was not playing nicely that day, so her cake is on the Pinstrosity level. But again, I was working in a foreign kitchen, and at this point I was literally running on fumes (I gave it to her on our family get together which was the day after Disneyland). It still tasted delicious and she loved it, which is all that matters. For anyone who was under this false illusion that I’m super woman, take a good long look at this:

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I am not perfect. I cannot do it all. But, I always keep trying.

Our week in California went by like a whirlwind. We had a wonderful time, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t happy to go home. We crammed so much into those 8 days, that we’ve spent this last week just trying to catch up on sleep. But I am eternally grateful to my grandmother, who paid for our airfare to come out; my dad and step mom who hosted all of our craziness, let us eat all of their food, and allowed me to turn their kitchen into a bakery; and my mom who treated us to many a lunches and a day at the Zoo. I am very happy to have had that time with all of you.

But of course, Friday was the 4th of July, so we had to crawl out of our post vacation hibernation to celebrate. My in-laws rented a boat and we invited some friends, and had a good old fashioned American 4th. We ate hamburgers for dinner and watched an awesome fireworks show from the middle of the St. Croix River. Of course, I had to make a cake, but I opted for cupcakes this time since it would be cumbersome to serve slices of cake on a boat.

Red, White, and Blue 4th of July Cupcakes

Red, White, and Blue 4th of July Cupcakes

The girls had so much fun watching the fireworks with their friends and it was such a treat to kick back on a boat for half a day. Because of the high waters, there was a no wake rule enforced, so no one could go faster than about 6 mph. That made it a long day, because it took us about 2 hours each way to drive from the port to the fireworks show. But when we were heading back after the fireworks were over, both the girls fell asleep and it was so peaceful to be cruising under the stars in the chilly night air. It was one of the best 4th of July celebrations I’ve ever had.

With all of the happenings the last two weeks, I really haven’t had a chance to focus on poor Henderson at all. Baby #3 has just been going along for the ride. I can say though, that Henderson loved the World of Color show at California Adventure. Baby was moving around from the beginning to the end! Maybe we have yet another dancer coming our way. I’m seeing a lot more of the movements, although I’m always alone when it happens so poor old Dad hasn’t felt or seen anything yet.

Here’s to a week filled with a whole lot of nothing, because this Mama is tired! Oh wait, I have to potty train Baby Ary. Shit.

 

Baby Stats for Week 23:

-Baby is about the size of a large mango

-Blood vessels in the lungs are developing

-Baby’s sense of hearing is sharpening

 

Baby Stats for Week 24:

-Baby is about 1 1/3 pounds and 12 inches long (about the length of an ear of corn)

-Baby’s brain is developing faster now

-Capillaries are forming under the skin and inside the lungs

-Surfactant (a substance which helps the lungs to expand) is beginning to develop

-Baby’s nostrils are starting to open up this week, so baby will be doing practice “breathing”

-Vocal cords are functioning now, so I’m likely to begin feeling hiccups soon

My Eggo is Prego: 22 Weeks

22 Weeks

22 Weeks

In keeping with the trend of this month, this week was quite busy. June ended up being PACKED, and it’s not going to let up until after the 4th of July.

This week started on Father’s Day (don’t worry; I put makeup on in the car after we took this picture). We drove to a town 2 hours away to spend the afternoon with family. My husband’s grandpa turned 80 on Tuesday, so it was a combination Father’s Day/Birthday celebration. We went to the same restaurant that we always gather at and feasted on their delicious family style fried chicken dinner. I (of course) made a birthday cake. Since it was for the big 8-0, I thought it would be fun to make the cake look like a newspaper and put headlines and facts from the year he was born. Unfortunately, Hitler, Stalin, and Mao were all coming to power the year he was born, and the U.S. was in the middle of the Great Depression, so it was a bit hard to find “happy” headlines to include. Although nothing says ‘birthday cake’ like slapping ‘HITLER DECLARES HIMSELF FUHRER’ on it in big, bold letters.

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The restaurant had live music on their patio, so Tyler and the girls did an impromptu Daddy/Daughter dance after dinner. Moments like these are the stuff of life. I will never forget those 2 minutes where everything around us disappeared, and we were filled with pure happiness because we were together, just living on love. It’s moments like this that make life worth it.

The next day, one of my friends from California came to spend the week with us. I’ve been friends with this girl since first grade! She’s our first California visitor who has come during decent weather, so of course Wisconsin decides to make it rain the entire time. Luckily she was a good sport about it. We still had fun just hanging out together. Two of the days held in the rain until evening, so we were able to take the kids to the river and explore the downtown area a bit. My mother-in-law (who is a Stella & Dot stylist) had another jewelry party so we left Tyler with the kids and had a girl’s night out. I let my friend drink my glass of wine, considering I’m pregnant and all. It’s always nice to have an adult evening, and especially so if it includes gorgeous jewelry (if you’re interested in buying any jewelry, I’d recommend heading over to my mother-in-law’s website; I just love Stella & Dot’s stuff!) We also made it to the Mall of America, which is always fun! My friend loves shopping, so it was love at first sight for her. We took the kids to the Nickelodeon Universe theme park that they have there, so they had a blast. The week flew by though; it seemed like I had just picked her up from the airport, but then there I was dropping her off again! I am so grateful that she spent her vacation with us.

The girls and I at the river

The girls and I at the river

My friend with the girls on the carousel

My friend with the girls on the carousel

We’ve only been in Wisconsin for 8 months, so there are some things that I’m still adjusting to. Like not having toilet seat covers in public restrooms, for instance. This week opened my eyes to two different things:

  1. Don’t go to “the beach” and expect it to actually be there. Growing up in Southern California, the “beach” is always the beach. Here, the “beaches” do not run the entire length of the rivers; there are small sections of sand here and there. And apparently when you’ve had a horrible winter like the one we just had, it means that the “beaches” remain flooded much longer than they are supposed to. Imagine our shock as 2 California girls to find this when we decided to go to “the beach”: wpid-20140617_141215.jpg
  2. Bug spray needs to be put into your monthly budget come June. The mosquitoes and other flying insects intensify with the humidity. I found this thing in our garage the other day. I was completely disturbed because I’d never seen anything like this, so I did what any other rational adult would do: I took a picture of it, ran screaming into the house after failing to kill it, and then posted it on Facebook asking if anyone knew what it was. I thought for sure that it was native to the Midwest, but a bunch of my SoCal friends knew what it was. Apparently if I would have gone camping ever in my life, I would have seen one. But I don’t camp. I’m just happy to hear that they eat mosquitoes and not people. They’re called ‘crane flies’, in case you’re ignorant like me.

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The pregnancy continues to do well. Henderson kicks and moves more and more every week. Sleeping is difficult, but that’s to be expected when you have another person moving around your insides all night. This was my last week of the fifth month; it’s getting real now, guys!

 

Baby Stats:

-Baby is about a whopping 1 pound and measuring around 11 inches, about the size of a spaghetti squash

-The lips, eyes, and eyebrows are becoming more distinct

-The eyes are formed, but the irises still lack pigment

-Tiny tooth bubs are developing underneath the gums

-The pancreas is still steadily developing

 

I’ll leave you with an adorable family selfie. Here’s to another busy (but fun) week!

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Dinosaur Cupcake Cake Tutorial

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I offered to make a dinosaur cupcake cake for the daughter of one of my friends back in May, and decided it was the perfect opportunity to do my first baking post on my blog. My friend wanted both chocolate and vanilla cupcakes incorporated, and I also ended up using both vanilla and chocolate frostings in the design. I will be including the recipes for both cakes and frostings, but will give each recipe it’s own post. Otherwise this would be the longest blog post in the history of blog posts.

Click here for my vanilla cake recipe. Click here for my chocolate cake recipe.

**The other recipes are still on my to-do list. I wanted to get this post published, because it’s been sitting in my ‘drafts’ folder for weeks and I’m sick of sitting on it. Check back for the chocolate and vanilla buttercream recipes later.**

You will need a total of 20 cupcakes to make the dinosaur, a lot of chocolate frosting, a very small amount of black frosting, and an even smaller amount of white frosting. As you can see from the picture, I added “grass” cupcakes around the dinosaur. In retrospect, I wish that I would have used mini-cupcakes for the grass because, as you can see from the picture, there are empty spots where I couldn’t fit a regular sized cupcake. Or you could always pipe the grass directly onto the cake board, which would really be the only way that you could be sure to fill in every nook and cranny. Let me just state here and now that I am by no means a professional cake decorator, nor do I aspire to be. I’ve never even taken a decorating class. This is my hobby. I’m completely self taught, and therefore make a lot of mistakes because I’m making this up as I go along. But I learn from my mistakes, and get better with each cake I do.

Once you have your cupcakes baked and cooled and your frostings tinted and ready to go, lay out your cake board. I used an 11 x 14 size, but wished I had gone one size up because it was a little difficult to get all of the necessary cupcakes to fit on the board. Live and learn.

A quick tip–when you’re not using your frosting, keep the bowl covered with a damp paper towel so it doesn’t dry out. Be sure that the paper towel is not dripping though, because the extra water will ruin the consistency of the frosting.

The first step is to lay out the cupcakes in the desired shape (in this case, a dinosaur). I based my dinosaur shape off of this pin that I found on Pinterest. I went with a T-Rex because if you’re doing a dinosaur cake, you should pick the most badass dino out there. Plus, the shape is easy to translate into cupcakes.

Can you see the T-Rex?

Can you see the T-Rex?

Once you’re happy with the shape, SECURE THE CUPCAKES TO THE BOARD. This is a very important step. It would be a crying shame to do all this work just to have the cupcakes fall off the board during transit. Frosting is a cake decorator’s glue. Just put a dab on the bottom of each cupcake and place back on the board. Once that frosting hardens, those babies aren’t going anywhere.

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After all the cupcakes have been secured, the fun part begins. The trick to cupcake cakes is making the cupcakes appear to be one surface from the top. To do this, you have to carry your piping from one cupcake to the next. I went with a swirl design because quite frankly, it’s just the easiest to accomplish this seamless look. I chose to go with the Wilton tip #18, which looks like this:

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Oops–skipped a step. If you do not know how to properly insert a coupler into your icing bag, you unscrew the ring and push the coupler as far down the icing bag as you can.

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Then you’ll want to trim the bag where the bottom most groove hits (notated by the black arrow). After the bag is trimmed, gently push the coupler down until it fits snugly at the bottom, put the icing tip on, and secure it with the coupler ring.

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Fold the icing bag down halfway, and fill it with your chocolate icing, being careful not to allow too many air bubbles in. Don’t fill the bag more than halfway because if it’s too full, it will spill out of the top while you’re piping and make a big mess. Do your best to burp out any air bubbles, and twist the top shut tight.

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I decided to make my dinosaur brown instead of green like the picture of my inspiration cake, because I’ve seen Jurassic Park a million times and know that T-Rexs are brown. Plus I hate coloring frosting, and avoid it at all costs. Plus chocolate frosting is amazing.

To do the swirl design, start on a cupcake on the edge (ex: the one that will have the dino’s eye or mouth). Pipe a dot in the center of the cupcake and let it rise, and without releasing pressure, begin to swirl the frosting around that initial dot. Continue to swirl around until you reach the outer rim of the cupcake. You have to be aware ahead of time of which cupcake you are going to next so that you can continue the line from one cupcake to the next.

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As you can see from the picture, the next cupcake’s swirl will start from the outside and work in. Don’t try to connect this cupcake to another cupcake, because you’ll mess up the swirl design. You can only connect two cupcakes to each other. Then you have to fill in the gaps afterwards.

There was a section that got away from me while I was trying to fill in some of these gaps.

Ugly piping

Ugly piping

I took my flat icing spatula and carefully removed the offending sections.

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Then I tried again. I did straight lines from one cupcake to the next to fill in the gap, and made new swirls along the edges of the ones that needed it, doing my best to tuck the ends of the swirls in.

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The frosting “bridges” over the bigger gaps ended up collapsing on me, so I finally wised up and piped frosting down into the gap, filling it from the cake board all the way up, and adding swirls on top of it to make it look like it all flowed together. Of course, I did this fix literally minutes before we left, so I didn’t get a picture of it. But trust me, it looked a lot better. Learn from my mistake, and fill the holes up with frosting. It’s messy when you’re serving those sections but it looks so much better as a cohesive piece.

The Dinosaur after finishing the chocolate frosting layer

The Dinosaur after finishing the chocolate frosting layer

Now it’s time to add the details so that other people can tell that it’s a dinosaur. The detailing for this was actually pretty easy: one eye (since this is meant to be a profile shot), a mouth, claws on the foot and hand, and spine detailing.

I used the #7 Wilton tip for the eye.

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I then piped the outline of the eye, and filled it in. Easy peasy.

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For all of the black frosting details (the pupil of the eye, the outline of the mouth, the claws, and the spine detailing) I used a #3 Wilton tip.

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Tinting homemade frosting to black has proven to be very challenging for me in the past. I’ve only ever tried Wilton’s black icing tint, and honestly I don’t like Wilton’s icing tints. The colors don’t always turn out the way I hoped and they almost always give a funky taste to the frosting. I’ve used AmeriColor before, and I much prefer that brand. But I have to order it online because I can’t find it in any stores where I live. I didn’t have time to order any before this party, so I made life easy on myself and picked up a pre-made black icing from the grocery store and used that. I tried sticking the container itself directly in the piping bag, but it was too hard to squeeze. So I just squeezed it from the container into my bag. It tasted much better than the Wilton stuff and the color was a perfect black, unlike the purple-ish black you get with Wilton.

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For the mouth I piped a large V on one of the cupcakes, and then piped some short, straight lines in white (also using #3 Wilton tip) for the teeth. Easy.

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The claws were just triangles that I piped and then filled in. Easy.

Hand claws

Hand claws

Foot claws

Foot claws

I did all of the decorating work for this cake the morning of the party, so I was really pressed for time (we ended up being half an hour late to the party). In the moment, it seemed best (and by best I mean easiest) to just continue using the same tiny icing tip to pipe the spine detail rather than take the 30 seconds to switch it out for one with a larger opening. In truth, I’m not entirely happy with how this part turned out. It would have looked much better if the lines were bigger. Live and learn. I just piped a zig-zag going from one end to the other over and over again until it was completely filled in.

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And voila! Your dino is done.

On to the grass cupcakes. Like I mentioned earlier, I hate coloring frosting. It’s hard to get the color just right, and for whatever reason, it tends to separate on me (meaning that the frosting has white streaks through the color). Food coloring never streaks on me, and never gives my frosting a funky taste. But it’s tricky using it with frosting because of it’s liquid form; it will quickly make your frosting runny. So even though I knew I would get a better grass color using proper frosting tint, I chose taste over color and went with food coloring. So my grass was far from the perfect green, but it was still green and it tasted good. To pipe these I used the Wilton grass tip #233.

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The face of the cupcake shows through the grass piping, so you have to ice a thin layer with an icing spatula before you start piping.

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Starting from the outside, I piped little “tuffs” of grass in a circle around the cupcake, working my way in. Start your tip right on the cupcake and quickly pull up, releasing pressure fairly quickly. I never worry about every tuff looking exactly the same because it’s supposed to be grass for goodness sake. Don’t over think it.

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Once all of your grass is done, secure those cupcakes on the board, doing your best to fill it in.

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And just like that, you have an awesome dinosaur cupcake cake! And honestly–it’s not that hard. But it is sure to impress your guests! Mine was a hit at the party : )

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I know what you’re wondering: how did I manage to get all of this done with the kids? Answer: let them terrorize the house while I plugged away working.

Baby Ary sitting in my cookie cutter drawer.

Baby Ary sitting in my cookie cutter drawer.

You’ve gotta pick and chose your battles, folks.

My Eggo is Prego: 20 Weeks

20 Weeks--Halfway There!

20 Weeks–Halfway There!

I’m finally at the halfway point! This pregnancy has flown by for me. Probably because of the other two tiny humans that consume all of my time.

Speaking of time flying by, this week went by fast. Try to keep up:

Last Sunday was the hubby’s 30th birthday! He’s officially old. I made him a Boba Fett cake, because he’s a huge Star Wars nerd and that’s his favorite character. It was banana flavored cake with salted caramel buttercream frosting and marshmallow fondant, all of it made from scratch. So. Much. Work. But so utterly worth it. I did my best to photograph the whole process of me pulling this cake out of my butt and plan on doing a special post on it.

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We went to the Mall of America with his parents to celebrate, feasting at Tony Roma’s for an early dinner. Then Tyler and I went to the Star Trek exhibit that they have there, while Mimi (Tyler’s mom) took the girls into the Barbie Dream House Experience (Tyler’s Dad watched the stroller and bags, as he was interested in neither of those things lol). So we kind of snuck in a mini date, which was really nice.

Tyler and I being nerds at the Star Trek exhibit

Tyler and I being nerds at the Star Trek exhibit

The girls LOVED Barbie's Dreamhouse. Eowyn was particularly excited about the dolphins in Barbie's toilet.

The girls LOVED Barbie’s Dream House. Eowyn was particularly excited about the dolphins in Barbie’s toilet.

I had one of my first “grown up” experiences: we had to pick out tile for our master bathroom shower. There’s a water leakage problem, so the whole shower has to be gutted. I felt kind of silly looking at tile selections. I’m fully aware that I’m an adult, and married, and a mom and all that. But sometimes I can’t help but feel like a college kid, and at a complete loss as to why someone is asking me about tile. I almost want to say, “Heck if I know; go ask the adult”. Then I remember that I am that adult! I think this is the beginning of what my parents have been talking about my whole life about how they still feel like their 20-something year old selves stuck in an older body. Basically what I’m saying is that I’m getting old. And it’s weird.

We got to have our ultrasound of Henderson this week! We took the girls with us, because we thought it’d be a fun experience to share with them. Eowyn was so excited when I told her that we were going to go see the baby. Well, at first she thought that we were going to see the baby in person (I.E. It was finally going to “pop” out of my tummy). Then I had to try to explain the process of ultrasound to a 3 year old; still not quite sure how well that went. She was all into watching the baby move around on the screen and identifying all the body parts (except of course the part; we still don’t know the sex). Baby Ary on the other hand, started crying very loudly the second the doctor came in the room. She cried through the first half of it, which made listening to the doctor almost impossible. She’s too little to understand much of anything as far as the new baby is concerned, so the whole experience went completely over her head. But it was still nice to be able to have that experience as a family. So far, Henderson looks great! Everything is developing as it should, and he/she is looking mighty cute:

Another beautiful baby in the making!

Another beautiful baby in the making!

Tyler had the idea to have the doctor freeze one of the ultrasound pictures on the screen so that we could gather around it and take our first family photo with all 5 of us. So glad we have this!

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Baby Ary is not impressed

My glasses finally got added to the long list of stuff that’s been desolated by Baby Ary. It started as a small crack that was only slightly irritating, so I let it go for about a month. But then the crack grew and it was literally covering half of my left eye. It was just about the most irritating thing in the world, so Tyler and I finally went in to get our eyes checked. It’s been 3 years since our last eye check up, and it’s been at least a year and a half since either of us has had any contacts. So we got some contacts and I ordered new lenses for my glasses. Much needed, and long overdue.

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We’ve become friends with our next door neighbors, as they have a little girl who is the same age as Eowyn and a little boy who just turned one. In the spirit of friendship, I offered to make a cake for the party which was on Saturday. She asked for a Thomas the Train cake, and I’ve got to say that I’m pretty proud of my creation. Everyone at the party was really impressed, and a few of them asked me if I was a professional. I had to stop myself from laughing! My cakes are good, but not near the professional level. That’s not me being hard on myself; I just know that there are certain detail errors that all of my cakes have, and it’s those tiny details that set the professionals apart from the amateurs. But it was still nice to hear such positive feedback from strangers, as it was a lot of work. As with the Boba Fett cake, I plan on doing a post on the process of putting this one together too.

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As a present, I came up with the idea of constructing a Thomas the Train out of a cardboard box. Toddlers and young kids in general are notorious for playing with the box that the expensive toy came in more than the toy itself. Especially one year olds. So I thought, why not give the kid what he really wants? I think it came out super cute.

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Funny story:

So my mother-in-law made a fairy garden with Eowyn for me for Mother’s Day. Along with the flowers, there is a fairy, a banner, and a bird’s nest inside. The other day, I noticed that there were live baby birds inside our nest! I posted a picture of them on Facebook because I thought it was so crazy that a bird came and laid eggs inside our fake nest. My mother-in-law calls me after seeing my post saying, “I can’t believe that a bird laid eggs in that nest you put in!” I was completely confused, because I thought that she had put the nest in. Turns out that it was a real nest all along, and we both assumed that the other had put it in there! You have no idea how many times Baby Ary took that nest out of there before the eggs had hatched! How traumatizing would it have been if she had dropped it and the eggs had broken?? Since I thought it was fake, I was never careful when I watered the plants; I just sprayed water over everything! We almost committed bird genocide on accident.

Our Baby House Swallows

Our Baby House Swallows

I have been craving Mexican food this week. Tacos are my favorite. I made myself these beauties for lunch the other day out of leftover homemade Spanish rice, homemade salsa, and avocado. DELICIOUS.

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The most exciting news for this week: I LIKE COFFEE AGAIN!!!! I had my first cup of coffee Saturday morning, and it was the best thing ever. With Eowyn, I didn’t start liking coffee until I was 7 months pregnant. With Baby Ary, it was 6 months. This baby is now my favorite, for it has given me back my coffee at 5 months. Good on you, Henderson.

Hello my old friend. Oh, how I have missed you!

Hello my old friend. Oh, how I have missed you!

Are you tired yet? I sure am!

 

Baby Stats:

-Baby is about the size of a banana, weighing in around 10 1/2 ounces and measuring around 10 inches head to heel

-Baby is swallowing more, giving his/her body good practice at digestion.

-Because of all the extra swallowing, baby is starting to build up meconium in the bowels (I know, lovely fun fact)

 

Overall, I’m finally getting my energy back (which is evidenced by everything I did this week). I no longer “need” to nap with the girls every day, which is great because it’s nice to have a break in the middle of the day. It allows me to recharge so that I’m not so grumpy for the second half of the day.

All I’ve got to say about this week, is Martha Stewart ain’t got nothing on me! I’m going to go ahead and give myself a gold star for rocking the domestic life.

 

Happy Sunday, everyone!