Barnyard Cake

Last night we celebrated my niece Elly’s 2nd birthday.  Its so hard to believe she is getting so big! I told her mom I would bring the cake… I wanted to make something special for her.  I decided on a barn cake with barnyard animal cupcakes.  They were a HUGE HIT :)

ImageI’ve had a few requests for step by step instructions on the barn and the animals.  These are a little time consuming but actually pretty easy to do because you don’t need to use fondant or anything.  You don’t need any cake decorating experience for these cupcakes… just a little patience!

For the Barn:

I took the original idea from the Betty Crocker website.  The only real change I made was to add a silo.  They have a really good step by step tutorial video here.

Ingredients:

  • 9 x 13 baked cake, any flavor
  • 2-3 cups of icing, from scratch or from a can (Wilton has a super simple butter cream frosting recipe that I always use)
  • red food coloring (you must use gel color if you want a vibrant red… you can buy this at Michaels or Bulk Barn)
  • graham crackers
  • pretzels
  • coconut tainted yellow and green for the hay and grass (I did this by adding a little coconut and food coloring to a Ziploc bag and shaking it up)

Directions:

Here is a quick step by step (sorry I forgot to take photos along the way!) but the video really is quite good if my instructions are not clear.

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  • Cut the 9 x 13 cake into two pieces: one 8 x 8 in size for the barn, the other skinny piece will be the silo
  • Cut the top two corners off the 8 x 8 square piece to make the shape of the barn.
  • Round the top of the silo with your knife (this makes it easier to add the graham crackers).
  • Cover the cake and silo in a layer of icing to be your “crumb coat”.  This will prevent crumbs from getting into the rest of the icing.  Let stand for 15-20 minutes to harden.  Cover the cake with a 2nd layer of icing over the crumb coat.  Note: Make sure your icing is thin enough to spread easily.  Mine was a little too thick and was a total pain to work with!!
  • Break graham crackers in half and overlap onto the roof of the barn and the silo.
  • Using a tooth pick or a butter knife, drag lines in the barn and silo to resemble wood slats.
  • Press stick pretzels into the icing for the door and windows.
  • Press graham cracker pieces into icing besides the pretzels for shutters.
  • Sprinkle a little bit of yellow tinted coconut around the door and windows for hay.
  • Spread some green icing on the cake board or plate and sprinkle with green tinted coconut for grass.

For the Cupcakes:

This is my go-to chocolate cupcake recipe.  Its quick, easy and the cupcakes rise beautifully.  They are also really easy to spread icing over.  Check them out here.

I’m going to break down each animal so that you know what you will need (most of the candy is from the Bulk Barn).  To prep, make sure you have some white, yellow and pink icing ready.  I bought black Wilton icing in a tube at Bulk Barn because I often find it tricky to make black icing dark enough.

Cow Cupcakes:

ImageWhat you need:

  • White and black icing
  • Black circular candies (I used black licorice) for ears
  • Coke bottle candies for horns
  • Pink mints for the nose
  • Candy eyes (from Michaels) or you could use brown M & Ms

Cow How To:

  • Ice cupcake with white icing
  • Using a Wilton icing tip #32 and a coupler (both from Bulk Barn), make some “fur” on the cow.  Don’t be intimidated! This is super easy to add to a Wilton tube of icing.  You can just spread it if you don’t want to pipe it… although I think piping is easier for this part!

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  • Add candies for eyes, ears, mouth and nose.  You may need to cut the coke bottles to make them a little shorter.
  • I switched the #32 tip to a #3 and added small dots of icing on the nose.

Pig Cupcakes:

ImageWhat you need:

  • Pink and black icing
  • Pink mints
  • Triangle candies (I used sour grapefruit)
  • Candy eyes

Pig How To:

  • He’s pretty easy! Spread with pink icing and add all the necessary candies.

Rooster Cupcakes:

ImageWhat you need:

  • White icing
  • Candy eyes
  • Red and orange jelly beans

Rooster how to:

  • Also easy! Spread with white icing and add all the necessary candies.

Chicken Cupcakes:

ImageWhat you need:

  • Yellow icing
  • Candy eyes
  • Orange jellybeans

Chicken how to:

  • I used a Wilton #18 star tip to make the texture but you could totally just spread on the yellow icing.
  • Add all the necessary candies.

Sheep Cupcakes (my personal favorite):

ImageWhat you need:

  • White icing
  • Mini marshmallows
  • Candy eyes
  • Brown M & Ms (for the nose)
  • Pink triangle candies (same as the pig) for ears- I cut them in half for the sheep

Sheep how to:

  • Ice cupcake with white icing.
  • Press mini marshmallows all over the cupcake.
  • Add all the necessary candies.

Taa Daa!!!!! You are done! Yes… a bit of work, but they turn out SO CUTE:

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Ok… I know this is a super long post already but to make things easier, here is a master shopping/prep list:

  • Baked 9 x 13 cake and 24 cupcakes
  • Approximately 5 cups of icing (its always better to have a little too much than not enough)
  • Red Wilton gel color
  • Graham crackers
  • Coconut
  • Stick Pretzels
  • Green, yellow and pink food coloring (or gel color if you have it)
  • Black Wilton icing tube (plus tips and coupler if using)
  • Round black candies (12)
  • Coke bottle gummies (12)
  • Package of candy eyes from Michaels (or brown M & Ms)
  • Pink mints (12)
  • Triangle pink candies (12 or so)
  • Red and orange jelly beans
  • Mini marshmallows
  • Brown M & Ms (for sheep noses)

Good Luck :)

Email me if you have any questions!

Happy Birthday Elly Belly!! xoxoxo

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The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies (according to me)

I have tried a lot of chocolate chip cookie recipes.  If you Google “chocolate chip cookie recipes” you are going to get pages and pages of cookie recipes, all claiming to be the most delicious.  I don’t think you can really label a chocolate chip cookie recipe as “the best” because everyone is going to feel very differently about one particular cookie.  I mean, there are big cookies, little cookies, soft cookies, crunchy cookies, flat cookies, puffy cookies… I personally like soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies that are slightly brown on the bottom with lots of chocolate and buttery flavor.  Someone else might not agree.  That is why I’ve labeled this post The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies (according to me).

So how do you make cookies fluffy and soft? Well, it all comes down to this:

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FAT.

There are a lot of factors that go into the perfect cookie.  You need the right amount of flours and sugars, but the type of fat you pick matters too.  I’m a bit of a purest, so I always make my cookies with butter.  Margarine tends to have a bit of a processed taste.  Same goes for shortening.  Definitely don’t use oil.  Your cookies will turn out… well… oily.

Here is the best recipe i have found so far from one of my favorite blogs, Annie’s Eats.  You will not be disappointed! I also threw in some really yummy cinnamon chips that I picked up on our shopping trip to Syracuse.  YUM.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 12 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled until just slightly warm (Note: THIS IS A VERY IMPORTANT POINT- if the butter is too hot your cookie dough will be too greasy.  I had to put my dough in the fridge for about half an hour because my butter was too hot when I added it to the dry ingredients)
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

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Directions:

  • Adjust oven racks to upper and lower-middle positions. Preheat oven 325°. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  • Whisk dry ingredients together in a medium bowl; set aside. With electric mixer, or by hand, mix butter and sugars until thoroughly combined. Beat in egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add dry ingredients and beat at low-speed just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
  • Roll a scant half-cup of dough into a ball. Holding dough ball in fingertips of both hands, pull apart into two equal halves. Rotate halves 90 degrees and, with jagged surfaces facing up, place formed dough onto cookie sheet, leaving ample room between each ball.  Note: pulling the cookies apart this way helps make them evenly cooked.
  • Bake, reversing position of cookie sheets halfway through baking, until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges start to harden yet centers are still soft and puffy (approximately 11-14 minutes). Do not over bake.
  • Cool cookies on sheets until able to lift without breaking. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

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So there you have it… perfectly soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies.  Enjoy!

Source: Recipe adapted from Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies by Annie’s Eats

Easter Yummies

With Easter just around the corner, I wanted to post a few of my previous Easter desserts that have gotten rave reviews! We don’t have any big plans for Easter this year so there probably won’t be anything new coming out of my kitchen (sad face).  That being said, enjoy some old favorites and have a wonderful Easter weekend!

Cadbury Creme Egg Cupcakes

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Cadbury Mini Eggs Chocolate Waffles

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Cadbury Mini Eggs Cheesecake

Check out this yummy fudge… definitely on the list for next year.

milk fudge

Malted Milk Fudge by Lemon Tree Dwelling

Also, how great is this idea?! Not sure why I never thought of this.

eggs

Enjoy!

Red Velvet Cookie Bars

This year I had the privilege of leading a Bible study through Athletes in Action at Queen’s University.  I have run a group for 3 years now and every year it gets even better.  I’ve been so blessed to have these ladies in my life.  Last Monday was our last meeting before exams so I decided to make a special dessert… red velvet cookie bars.  Yep, they are as delicious as they sound.  We also decided to have a plaid theme… in case you were wondering :)

These ladies are super cool and I’m going to miss them very much! Image

Ok, now about the cookie bars.  Not quite a cookie, not quite a cake… a hybrid of red velvet goodness!!  The cream cheese frosting definitely makes them extra awesome.  I topped these bars with little sugar crystals to make them pretty but you can top them with whatever you want.

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Ingredients:

  • 3⅓ cups flour
  • ¼ cup unsweet­ened cocoa
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon bak­ing pow­der
  • 1 cup but­ter, softened
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons (one 1-ounce bottle) red food coloring (Note: I used cake decorating food colouring from Wilton and only needed a small squirt of the stuff)

For The Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 2 8 Oz cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

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Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9×13 inch pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.
  • In a mixing bowl, cream together 1 cup butter softened and sugar until light and creamy. About 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, vanilla, and food coloring until combined.
  • Add the flour mixture until a soft dough forms. Press into the bottom of the 9×13 inch pan.  (Note: the dough is a little sticky but is definitely easier to press down with your fingers than a spatula at first.)
  • Bake for about 20 minutes until the edges start to pull away from the sides and a toothpick entered into the center comes out clean.
  • To make the cream cheese frosting, Beat together the cream cheese and butter until well blended. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat together until smooth (approx. 2 minutes on medium high speed).  Make sure the bars are completely cooled before you frost them to avoid a sticky cream cheese mess!

Enjoy!

Source: Recipe adapted from Red Velvet Sugar Cookie Bars by the Recipe Critic

Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes

Do you want your entire kitchen to smell like the inside of a Cinnabon store? No point in answering that question really… the answer is usually always YES.  I’ve been on a total cupcake craze lately.  I don’t know what it is… they are just so fun to make.  and cute to look at.  and delicious to eat.  These treats are a little labor intensive but really, really worth the effort.  Just imagine warm vanilla cupcakes with a brown sugar/cinnamon swirl topped with an ooey-gooey coffee flavored cream cheese frosting.  Hungry yet?! :)

Thanks for sharing this recipe with me Gwennie!

Recipe yields 12 cupcakes

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Ingredients:

For the Cinnamon Swirl:

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter (melted)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

For the Cupcakes:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Frosting:

  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon coffee extract
  • 3 cup powdered sugar (add more or less to make it a stiffness that you like)

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Directions:

To make the filling:

  • In a small bowl, stir all of the ingredients together until combined. Set aside.

To make the cupcakes:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180 C). Line a muffin pan with cupcake papers; set aside.
  • In a large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter, yogurt, eggs, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Scrape the bowl, making sure there are no streaks of flour remaining (do not over mix).
  • Place 1 1/2 tablespoons of batter in each of the paper liners in the prepared muffin pan. Make a small well in the middle of each cup of batter with a toothpick, Stir the filling to make sure the butter is combined, then spoon a scant 1 teaspoon of the filling into each cup. Use a toothpick to swirl the filling and batter together.
  • Add another 1 1/2 tablespoons of batter to each cup and repeat the filling/swirling process.
  • Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting:

  • Mix butter, coffee extract and cream cheese on medium speed until well combined (approximately 30 seconds).
  • Slowly add powdered sugar a little at a time and mix until frosting is light and fluffy (approximately 2-3 minutes).

Enjoy!

Source: Cinnamon Roll Cupcake recipe adapted from Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes by Bakingdom