Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Ben and I have spent some time over the past couple of evenings discussing the virtues of various April Fool's Day treats to make this weekend. 

A couple of years ago we made these TV dinner cupcakes for his after school group:

And last year we made these cakes disguised as sub sandwiches with fries for his after school group.  

So we have a reputation to uphold, clearly. 

I think we've decided, and our ingredient list looks like this:
  • Cake supplies
  • Raspberry puree
  • Cream cheese frosting
  • Tortillas
  • Cinnamon
  • Sugar
  • Sour fruit candy
Fingers crossed...we never really know what we're getting into with these cake projects because the details can be overwhelming and ridiculously time consuming.  Just what we like!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Angry bird bead set

Last week Ben introduced me to Angry Birds.  I've heard all of the hype about it and I've even had the app on my phone for a long time (I'm not sure who did that, actually) but never played.  Ben wanted to download Angry Birds Space, citing all of the reasons that Space was more awesome than Regular. When it became clear to him that I didn't know anything about the game he insisted I play a couple of levels under his tutelage.  We did have a brief disagreement about who the good guys were; I tried to explain that I thought the pigs were sort of sad and passive while the birds were clearly ANGRY but he wasn't having it.  

So we got Space.  And he says it's just as awesome as he thought it would be.  Whatever.  I have enough addictions filling up my dance card and I don't need to add another.  But as I watched him play and he told me all about the characters I started daydreaming about these:

See?  One of those other addictions.

I woke up early - before 5 - on Saturday and couldn't stop thinking about making a little set of Angry Bird beads for Ben. So I got up and made them. Laying there pretending I can go back to sleep is useless.

My favorite is the misunderstood pig.

Ben's favorite bead is the red bird but his favorite character is the black bomb bird.

And here is the whole set, ready to go on Ben's backpack zipper for his post Spring Break return to school.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Lorax cookies

I've seen The Lorax cookies like these on Pinterest and had to give them a try...I mean, cotton candy on top of decorated sugar cookies?

The thing is, they're decorated sugar cookies.  And I have a tough time gearing up to make those because they take So. Long. to make.  Start to finish these took almost five if you're thinking about making them, consider yourself warned.

I used these recipes for the sugar cookies and the icing (but no almond extract in the icing--not a fan) and the cookies spread just a little bit more than recipes I've used before.  But the taste was sweeter, so I was willing to trade off super crisp edges (especially when there would be so much going on the top of the cookies) for better flavor.

We used circle cutters for The Lorax and the Truffula treetops and this cutter for the mustaches (upside down and with a little extra cut out on the top).  I got buckets of colored cotton candy at the grocery store in the seasonal aisle with all of the Easter candy to use as the furry top of the trees and the crazy huge mustache and eyebrows of The Lorax. 

The cotton candy definitely looked pretty cool.  Light, fluffy, fun. 

My favorite picture of the night:

We had cookie sticks to use for the trunks of the trees and planned to add them in the morning to allow time for the icing to dry. 


Apparently if you are going to use cotton candy on top of iced cookies, you need to either be ready to present them right away or maybe wait to add the cotton candy until then.  Because this is what the cookies looked like the next morning:

Wa-waaaaa.  Oh well, five hours hanging out with Ben chatting about various things was still a great way to spend an evening!  Not that we'll be making decorated sugar cookies again anytime soon...

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Homemade marshmallow peeps

Peeps seem to evoke strong reactions; you either hate them or love them and there doesn't seem to be much in between.  I'm a hater, and big time.  Ben, however, quite enjoys them so we decided to see if we could make some at home.

The biggest issue we had with this was trying to form the marshmallow into peeps rather than blobs. In hindsight, I think we would have better luck with the presentation if we had spread the marshmallow mixture in a pan lined with parchment paper and cut out shapes with lightly greased cookie cutters after it set up.  So if there is a next time, that's the route I'll take. 

We piped the marshmallow onto a bed of colored sugar sprinkles in a shallow dish and then covered them with more sprinkles (think glitter projects...catch the extra sprinkles to reuse).  Despite our best efforts to get them to go into the shape of a Peep, we didn't even get close.  At one point, Ben leaned over and whispered to me very seriously, "No offense, Mom, but those look more like Poops."  As usual, he was right.

To be fair, the recipe was for "marshmallow for piping", and maybe not really meant to hold up in character shapes.  I tried using it to pipe letters and that worked beautifully (ignore the issue with the N...that was user error).

Ben took one for the team (the rest of the team utterly refused to participate due to a sincere Peep hatred) and did the taste test.  Here are his ratings on a scale of one to 10 with 10 being the best:

  • Home: 4  (I think that was actually quite generous)
  • Store Bought:  6 (let's face it, they aren't all that pretty either)
  • Home: 9
  • Store Bought:  6
I think the vanilla extract helped the homemade peeps get the win on that part.  

Marshmallow Peeps
Adapted from 

  • 1 pack of unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water to use with the gelatin
  • 1/4 cup water to use with the sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, sprinkle gelatin over 1/3 cup cold water. Allow gelatin to soften for at least five minutes.  Ben saw this and said it looked like applesauce...and he was right, it does!
  • In a small saucepan, combine 1/4 cup water and sugar, and stir over medium-high heat until the sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring, and place a candy thermometer into sugar water; wipe sides of pan with a wet pastry brush if the sugar crystals have splattered up. Boil the sugar until temperature reaches the soft-ball stage (238 degrees). 
    • This will feel like it's taking forever and has to be going on too long, but trust the thermometer.
  • Remove the syrup from heat and add to the softened gelatin. Use your whisk attachment and turn the mixture by hand for a minute while it's cooling down.  Then use the electric mixer and beat the mixture on medium high with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form and the marshmallow mixture holds shape...about 10 minutes. 
    • This will also feel like it's taking too long, but when you pull out the attachment, the mixture should come to a soft peak that blends back into the rest within ten seconds. If it blends in faster than that, put it back and keep beating for another minute at a time until you get the desired consistency. 
  • Put the mixture in a piping bag with a large tip (this is what we did) or you can line a pan with parchment paper, lightly greased and dusted with powdered sugar, for cutting later.  

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Hammered hoops

This set is similar in construction techniques to the silver stick set I made a couple of weeks ago; most of the work could be done at my indoor workspace.  I did have to do part of the work at the garage bench to get all of the hoops soldered, but it was a short stint.

Each hoop is made from 16 gauge sterling wire, soldered into a circle shape then put through the rolling mill to coax them into an oval.  I hammered the ovals for texture and connected them with hammered 16 gauge jump rings.  The 16 gauge worked well in terms of weight; since there were five hoops on the necklace I didn't want to go too heavy.

The necklace is short and works well with scoop necklines--I'll be keeping the prototype.  You know, to test how well it wears.