Thursday, December 30, 2010

Why having a birthday on Black Friday is awesome

***NOTE: I realize this post is from over a month ago - I just didn't get around to it yet! I'm working my way through all the blogs I missed over holiday craziness!***

It's pretty much the opposite of those poor people who have a birthday right around Christmas. November is late enough in the year people start getting into buying gifts, but far enough away from Christmas, they don't try to combine them. Plus, since everything is on sale that day, my gifts are bigger than they probably should be. If you can't tell, I love presents. I spent the first 10 years of my life as a spoiled brat only child. Apparently, that's something I'm not going to outgrow. I've decided to accept that.

So, this year for my birthday I scored an awesome cake-related present - a Cricut Cake!! I actually opted for the mini even though the Martha Stewart edition was on super sale on Amazon. You know I love Martha. Seriously, I do. But, I read reviews and they were pretty mixed about this thing. Some people think it's "too perfect" (as if there is such a thing!!) and some people called it a waste of money. I thought with the mini I wasn't wasting too much (of someone elses's) money and it takes up about half the space which I really love since I get anxious around too much clutter.

So, after reading tons of reviews and suggestions and message boards, I felt pretty ready to try it out. Look how cute this thing is straight out of the box! (I put my hand in for size reference but keep in mind I kind of have man-hands!)

 It came with lots of information which I didn't really read. There was a DVD which I watched. After that 10 minutes or so, I felt very informed and prepared! The machine came with a "Cake Basics" cartridge and I bought "Holiday Cakes" at the same time so that I could make fun Christmas cakes.

Because I like to live in a constant state of stress, I had agreed to make a 25th anniversary cake 3 days after I received the machine in the mail. Nothing like a timeline to help you learn! Anyway, I dove right in using mm fondant to cut out a "Happy Anniversary". I immediately learned 2 important lessons: First, make sure you check the pressure because mine was set all the way on high and now I will forever have this design in my mat! Secondly, the message boards were right about warm, soft fondant. It will not work, it will just turn to mush like mine did.

So this was my first rushed attempt to make the Cricut work. I promise it will get better. After this attempt, I rolled my fondant out very thin and put it in the freezer. I found a good way of doing this was to roll it on the Cricut mat, then put it to a flat surface (I had a plastic cutting board) and separate the layers by saran wrap. I then kept them stored in my freezer so they are ready to pull out and play with when I have time. Next blog I will show you how it worked after freezing and more of the Cricut Cake learning curve.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Something a little different....

So in the spirit of the holiday season, I tried something a little different - meringues! Who knew they were so easy?! I found a recipe that was simple and got a little creative with it. I know some of the recipes use cream of tartar and other stabilizers but I didn't really find all that necessary. These turned out light and melt-in-your-mouth perfect!

For the record, I had a 3 year old helper decorating these so the candy cane coating is imperfect but that's what holiday cooking is about in our house!

Maybe I should have tried some of the stabilizer ideas for other flavors because here's what it looks like when I tried to make a dark chocolate version. I think the chocolate bits melted the egg whites a little. These were crispy and delicious if not as pretty to look at as the other guys.

I also made some with an eggnog extract that turned into complete ruin in the oven. There are no pictures because it looked too gross to share!

But the best flavor was by far candy cane! I made several batches of these. And, I think this would work with any hard candy so you could do several flavors. Imagine a Butter Rum! Mmmm......OH! Sorry, I might have drooled on the keyboard a little!

And don't let the thin chocolate turn you off. The taste was great. You could add cocoa powder to this recipe and it would turn out just as pretty. As you know I like to go overboard with the chocolate and that's what caused the meltdown.

Anyway, here is the recipe I used for candycane flavored meringues. This made enough to fill my oven and I usually threw away quite a bit too so you can decrease as necessary. The reason I always made 6 egg whites is that's what I had leftover from making cakes conviently enough. You may be able to make this with the Meringue Powder sold in stores, but I haven't tried. Since the eggs are cooked, I think using real eggs are okay, but that's just my opinion. I know some people are scared of eggs. I don't judge you if you don't judge me.

Meringues Recipe (adapted from AllRecipes)


  • 6 egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 peppermint candy canes, crushed


  1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F (110 degrees C). Line cookie sheets with aluminum foil or parchment paper. This is a necessary step as they are pretty hard to get off the sheets and you don't want to use any kind of grease.
  2. In a large glass or metal bowl, whip egg whites and vinegar to soft peaks. Gradually add salt and sugar while continuing to whip until stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes. Spoon into piping bag with large star shaped tip. Pipe into small mounds about 1 inch apart on cookie sheet. Sprinkle candycanes over top of the meringues.
  3. Bake for 60 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow to remain in oven for several hours or overnight to dry out completely.

If you try some flavors I didn't think of, let me know. I'm always interested in new ideas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Things to come and a link-a-long

So I know I've been the worst blogger ever. That's what happens at the holidays - I fall off the Earth as far as communicating. Too much going on in too little time. Add to that some kid illness and I'm officially overwhelmed.

Anyway, I wanted to check in and report that I officially LOVE my Cricut Cake! I'm working on getting some more practice in and some great pictures. Here is a cake I made for a carry-in for some coworkers (one was quitting, one had a birthday) which has a good example of what I can do. It is so easy but I just haven't had enough play time. Expect amazing things to come!

Also, I am participating in a fun idea - a link-a-long where you link to each other's pages. This is a super-fun cheap crafty website. I love cheap! I love crafts! Perfect combo!! Check out Me Making Do for great ideas!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Candy Cane Cupcakes

I know I've been pretty slow posting lately. Welcome to the holidays! It's pretty hectic around here, to put it mildly. But I have definitely been busy baking. I made the first of my Christmas cupcakes - candy cane!

The idea behind it was pretty simple. I used my go-to cake recipe and just tweaked it for these cupcakes. Because it's made for layer cakes, it made a LOT of cupcakes, but it's such a perfect cake I didn't care.

I added a little peppermint flavoring and probably 2/3 of a bag of chocolate chips. I also crushed up the candy canes a little coarsely the first time. You can tell by the picture. The second round, I crushed them fine and it turned the cake mix pink. I actually liked that better. I also used both chocolate and vanilla buttercream. I think everyone liked chocolate best. Imagine that!

Overall, these were a simple cupcake to make but they were a pretty big hit!


I bought a Cricut Cake Mini on Black Friday and have been very busy playing....I mean WORKING with that. Expect quite a few CCM blogs to follow as I learn how use it.