Thursday, December 22, 2011

How to Make Christmas Cupcakes in a Jar

Last night* I put my cupcake in a jar planning to good use and made just over two and a half dozen cupcakes in jars to give out as holiday gifts. Overall, this project was not terribly difficult, but it did have many repetitive steps and could be considered tedious at times. Believe it or not, I prefer making complicated decorated cakes to making cupcakes or cookies or really doing any project that involves a lot of repetition. Thankfully my husband stepped in and helped me with the process of decorating the jars. Having company always makes a repetitive project more fun!

The good news is that these carrot cake cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, adorably packaged in jars, were very well received as gifts. Seeing others delighted at something I, or in this case we, made always makes a project worthwhile for me.

Here are the steps I took to complete this project:

1) Prepare your jars.
I used 8oz Ball Regular Mouth Quilted Crystal Jelly Jars. I purchased mine at my local Publix grocery store for about $9 per case of 12. To prepare them for this project, I washed them in hot soapy water and rinsed them well. Then I laid them out on paper towels to dry.

2) Bake your cupcakes and make your frosting. I do not have any pictures of this part of the process. I chose to spray the muffin tins with non-stick spray and bake the cupcakes without using paper liners.

3) While the cupcakes are cooling, decorate your jars.

I used some Christmas scrap booking card stock I had previously purchased for 75% off at a Michael's after Christmas sale to decorate my jars. With my husband's much appreciated help :), I traced the center circle of the jar cover on to the card stock and cut them out. I then hot glued the card stock circles to the tops of the jars. The finished products looked like this:

4) Cut the cooled cupcakes in half. Place the bottom half of the cupcake in the jar. Using a large piping tip on your piping bag, pipe some of your frosting of choice on top of the cupcake bottom. Then add the cupcake top. You may have to squish it in a bit to make it fit. Finally, pipe some frosting in over the cupcake top and add your festive decorative sprinkles of choice.

5) Place the cover on your jar and add the wooden spoon. I used this Martha Stewart baker's twine I purchased at Michael's to secure the wooden spoon.

I tied the twine around the glass jar just under the lip of the metal jar cover. However, as both my husband and I handed out the cupcake jars out to our coworkers we discovered that the twine loop and the spoon was slipping off the jar. We solved the problem by pushing the twine loop back up the jar and up over the metal jar top. To make sure the spoons are securely secured I would recommend taking this approach from the beginning and tying the loop tightly around the glass jar just under the metal jar top and then pulling it up over the bottom lip of the jar top. This will ensure that when you slip the wooden spoon under the twine loop it is fastened securely.

And that's it! Enjoy handing these cupcakes in adorable decorated jars out to your friends and family!

*I began writing this post the day after I completed this project and I am attempting to publish it dated for that day 12/22/2011.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookies: Holiday Baking Contest Entry

Though I highly doubt any of you out there are waiting on baited breath for me to reveal my entry in the recent PattyCakes Holiday Cake Competition, I thought it was time I spilled the details. So drumroll please...I made Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookies with a white chocolate cream cheese glaze. The cookies are decorated with some red sanding sugar.

I first learned of the PattyCakes competition last year, but I was due with my son, Trevor, in a few months and I wasn't up to entering. This year I decided I would put myself out there and enter my first competition!
The competition featured Holiday Cakes but also had a "Down Home Dessert Cafe" category, which is what I entered. I struggled with the decision as to what I should make and thought I would enter these, but in the end  I decided to try a red velvet cookie. Red velvet is a staple of the holiday season, but I thought in cookie form, the red velvet would be a bit more unexpected. I finished the cookies with a cream cheese and white chocolate glaze and dipped them in a bit of sanding sugar.

I did not place this year, but I was proud of myself for following through and showing up to compete. With two small children, a husband, and a part-time job in the mix I don't always take the time to nuture my passions. Going to the contest let me spend a few hours among people who are just as passionate as I am about baking and caking and it was wonderful to experience that.

I also got to spend some time with one of my best friends Michele who lives right around the corner from where the competition was held. Michele is special to me for many reasons, but it was particularly fitting that she should be able to attend my first baking competition with me. Sometime back in 2005, I believe, Michele got tired of hearing about me mixing up giant batches of cake or other baked goods with a hand-held mixer. She got all my friends together and they chipped in and surprised me with a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer for Christmas that year. It still brings tears to my eyes to think about my friends, in their early twenties and just starting out in life, to help me out that way. I am especially thankful to Michele who, for whatever reason, believes in me. When she gave me the mixer she said, "I expect great things from you." I have never forgotten it and I intend to live up to those big expectations!

So, this post ended up being about a lot more than the red velvet cookies. However, I did think the cookies tasted good. They were chewy and not too dense and the glaze and sanding sugar added a little extra something. Packaged in a holiday cupcake wrapper and a small clear cellophane bag, as I had them at the competition, they would make a nice gift to take to a Holiday gathering.

Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookies

makes 12-15 cookies

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon red food coloring
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375.

Cream butter and sugars together until fluffy in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add egg and vanilla and combine until smooth. Beat in red food coloring. Stir in cocoa, flour, baking soda and salt until just combined, scraping down the sides when needed. Fold in chocolate chips.

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop out 1-2 tablespoons of dough and set on baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

White Chocolate Cream Cheese Glaze
a KT Kakes original

Over low heat melt 2 4oz bars of Ghiradelli White Baking Chocolate and 4oz of Cream Cheese. Stir until melted and smooth.

Finish the cookies by dipping in sanding sugar the color of your choice.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Pig Smash Cake and Cupcakes: Custom Cakes

 I was so excited to make this pig smash cake and pig cupcakes for a little girl's first birthday. Her Mom had chosen "This Little Piggie" as the theme which I think is just such a cute idea for a baby girl's first birthday.  Everything was just so pink and girly and fun to make!

Here's a close up of the smash cake. I thought she needed some pretty eyelashes and a bow :) The smash cake and cupcakes are white cake with vanilla buttercream frosting and fondant accents.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Holiday Whoopie Pies- Baking Contest Reject

These festive whoopie pies have a little of everything. The cookies have a rich chocolate flavor, the creamy filling has the warm taste of peppermint, and the crushed peppermint gives them a bit of crunch. On paper, or on my blog, they sound like the perfect holiday treat, and yet they left me sorely disappointed.  

I had selected this recipe (part of it is Paula Deen's- the filling- and part of it is my Mom's -the cookie) a month or so ago for a Holiday baking contest. I was very excited about the possibilities of combining a traditional holiday family recipe with some of my favorite flavors; chocolate and peppermint. In the end though, I found these whoopie pies to be much too sweet, and I like sweet things.

Needless to say, these will not be my entry in the baking contest, which is tomorrow. Luckily, I had another idea in my apron pocket. More on that later.

These are not the tastiest cookies in the world, so I'll spare you the recipe. I still had to post about them though because they sure do look pretty, don't you think?