Category Archives: Baking Contests

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Amaretto Cherry Chocolate Cupcake A Star Studded Cupcake!

This cupcake is ridiculously decadent, and another Emmy Award worthy cupcake. The combination of chocolate, cherries, and buttercream is a sinful indulgence… one that I highly recommend. This was the third cupcake that I served at the cupcakes and cocktails tasting night. Hidden inside the center of this cupcake are cherry pieces that have been soaked in amaretto. Think black forest like cake, only much better. I’m not a huge fan of cherries soaked in kirsch. These cherries infused with amaretto are the perfect complement for the devil’s food cake.

I wouldn’t dare take credit for this one. This was all my mom’s creation. This is her entry for the Duncan Hines Emmy Award Cupcake Contest. You of course, are familiar with the contest, since you’ve been voting for me daily, right? An emmy worthy cupcake should be elegant, beautifully presented, and over the top delicious. This, without a doubt, is the best entry I’ve seen (the chocolate covered strawberry cupcake is a close second, just my opinion). 

Don’t you love those little edible gold stars sprinkled on top. They sparkle when they catch the light, and are a perfect garnish for these fancy treats. These are also available in silver, along with edible heart shaped glitter in Wilton’s line of cake decorations.

The piping is what really gives this cupcake a fancy look. It really isn’t difficult to do, even if you have never used a piping bag… I promise! To achieve this look, you will need a piping bag (I prefer the disposable ones), a coupler, and a star tip. These can all be purchased at Michael’s or another craft store and will only cost a few dollars.

 We used a large star tip (#21) to pipe the star design because these were jumbo cupcakes. It’s hard to tell in the picture, but these were super-sized cupcake liners. They’re so big, they don’t even fit in a regular muffin pan. They bake right on a cookie sheet. This size isn’t the portion control option, but the perfect size to split with someone you love. If you bake up smaller cupcakes, I’d recommend using a smaller star tip (#16, #17, or #18). Click on the links below for Wilton’s excellent tutorials on piping.

Resources on Piping

If you normally spread icing on your cupcakes, don’t be afraid to branch out into the piping world. I promise, it is not as hard as it looks.

First, read through the step by step instructions on setting up your piping bag (These disposable piping bags, may be a little more money in the long run, but they’re conveinent and making cleaning up easy).

Next, view this You tube tutorial on piping with a star tip, and you’ll have all of the info. you need to get started.

 But wait… before you start piping, click over and vote for this cupcake and for my chocolate covered strawberry cupcake for the Duncan Hines contest~ PLEASE… Yes, we have no problem begging. You can vote for both cupcakes daily! Send us to the Emmys!

 

 

Amaretto Cherry Chocolate Cupcakes

Printable Recipe

24 cherries, sliced in half and pitted

2/3 cup Amaretto liquor

1 Duncan Hines Devil’s Food cake mix

2/3 cup water

3 eggs

1/2 cup oil

1. Combine pitted cherries and Amaretto in small container. Cover and refrigerate, at least one hour and preferably overnight.

2. After cherries have soaked in Amaretto, drain and save Amaretto juice. Set cherries aside. Add the 2/3 cup Amaretto/cherry juice to cake mix. Add 2/3 cup water, 3 eggs and oil and beat and bake according to box cupcake directions.

3. When cupcakes are completely cool remove a 1-inch X 1-inch center circle from cupcake. (Centers can be used later for “cake pops”)

BUTTER CREAM ICING

2 pounds powdered sugar, sifted

1 stick butter, softened

½ cup whipping cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon Amaretto liquor

Wilton edible golden stars (available at Michael’s)

1. Beat butter and sifted powder sugar. Gradually add half of cream. Continue to beat. Add vanilla and Amaretto; gradually add remaining cream.

2. Partially fill center of cupcake with butter cream icing,

3. Add 2 halves of drained cherries on top of butter cream.

4. Add additional butter cream on top of cherries and smooth top of cupcake with butter cream icing. With #17 Wilton star tip, pipe stars on top of cupcake starting around the outside and work toward center.

5. Sprinkle Wilton Golden Edible Stars on top.



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Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Cupcakes… Heavenly!

A few weeks ago, I had a few girlfriends over for a wine and cupcake tasting party.  I baked up four different flavors of cupcakes, and paired each flavor with a wine to bring out or complement the cupcake’s flavor. Cupcakes, wine, and a few girlfriends are a perfect combo for a great night. I have been dreaming up a lot of cupcake flavors, and this gave me the perfect chance to try a few.

Have you read the book The Lovely Bones? My book club read it awhile back. I had mixed feeling about the book, and usually try to avoid books with creepy, child molesting murderers, but there were a few things about the novel that I did like, one part being the author’s depiction of heaven. Each person in heaven is given their own, unique space that reflects what they love in life. If this is truly what heaven is like, I can guarantee you that my space will be filled with these chocolate-covered strawberry cupcakes… so feel free to stop by my heavenly pad if you’re hungry, but let’s not rush it, okay?

My first attempt at these chocolate strawberry cupcakes was based on the Sprinkle’s strawberry cupcake recipe.  I adapted the recipe a tad, and frosted them with my creamy, white chocolate frosting. Finally, I garnished them with chocolate-covered strawberries. My girlfriend, Melissa, loved these. For me, the combination of strawberry cake and white chocolate frosting was divine, but I did have one reservation. I won’t make excuses. All I can say is that I’m a girl raised on cake mix from a box. Many cupcakes from scratch are denser than cake from a cake mix. The dense cupcakes are not my preference. I’m a cake mix girl at heart, and proud of it!

Our cupcake and wine tasting was a success, but even I was a little cup-caked out. That changed when I heard about Duncan Hine’s “Red Carpet Cupcake Challenge”. Duncan Hines is sponsoring the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards this year, and is asking contest participants to submit an Emmy worthy cupcake recipe that uses a Duncan Hines product. My mind immediately flashed back to those almost perfect chocolate-covered strawberry cupcakes.

I’m not sure what the specific criteria the judges will be using, but I have a feeling this might be part of it:

  • widespread audience appeal
  • dressed in formal attire (It’s the Emmy’s for goodness sake. I’d be humiliated if my cupcake showed up on the worst dressed list.)
  • has to taste fabulous… I’m talking standing ovation fabulous!

That’s where Round 2 of my quest to create the perfect Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Cupcake began. It took three more batches of cake batter for me to award it Emmy worthy status. I did feel a little wasteful throwing out so much cake batter, but once I started, I wasn’t about to stop until it was exactly how I had envisioned.

So here’s the deal. I’m not one to ask for help. In fact, I bag my own groceries at the  store. The bag boy or manager always comes running to take over (you think they’d know by now). I guess they assume I’m an unhappy, impatient shopper, but the reality is I like doing it myself ~ Control freak? People-pleaser? Let’s just say, way too much of both!  (Could that be why I’m still single after four years post divorce? Okay, let’s not analyze that one right now.)

Back to the contest… This contest relies on help. The cupcake entries are narrowed down to ten, based on the highest numbers of votes they receive. People can vote for their favorite every day until July 28th. Here I go, with great trepidation (can’t believe I’m about to ask this)… If you think this cupcake is award winning Emmy material, or if you just feel like helping a girl out, you can vote for me again and again and again daily. There I said it! If I win, I promise to throw another cupcakes and cocktails party, and you’re all invited because I’m a people-pleaser, and proud of it!

Vote for me here! Pick Me! Pick Me!

 

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Cupcakes  

(Created by ME!)

 Makes approximately 30 cupcakes

1 box Duncan Hines Classic White Cake Mix

1 box (4 oz.) instant vanilla pudding mix

4 eggs

1 cup water

1/3 cup vegetable oil

½ cup sour cream

2/3 cup pureed strawberries (This requires approximately one cup of whole strawberries prior to pureeing)

A few drops of pink gel coloring ~ optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fill cupcake pan with cupcake liners.

Puree one cup of whole strawberries. Reserve 2/3 cup of the strawberry puree.

Blend cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, water, oil, and sour cream at low speed until moistened. Add strawberry puree.  If you want the cupcakes to come out a little pinker, add a drop or two of pink gel coloring.

Beat at medium speed until well combined (approximately two minutes). Fill cupcake liners two thirds full. Bake immediately for approximately 15 minutes, or when a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack before frosting.

White Chocolate Frosting

(created by, ME)

4 oz. white chocolate baking squares

1 cup butter, softened

3 tablespoons whipping cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/8 teaspoon salt

6 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Melt white chocolate using the double boiler method or microwave. If using microwave, microwave at thirty second intervals and stirring in between until completely melted. Set aside melted chocolate to cool.

Sift powdered sugar in a medium-sized bowl.

Combine butter, whipping cream, vanilla, salt in an electric mixer. Gradually add in powdered sugar until well combined. Frosting should be fairly stiff if piping onto cupcakes.

Pipe or spread frosting onto cupcakes. Top cupcakes with half of a chocolate covered strawberry, just prior to serving. Refrigerate cupcakes if not serving right away.

 

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

 (no idea who is responsible for this fabulous combo)

 

15 small to medium-sized fresh strawberries

Milk or dark chocolate for dipping

White chocolate to decorate

Wash strawberries and dry completely. Cut strawberries in half. Melt chocolate, either using double-boiler or microwave method. Dip strawberry halves into melted chocolate and place on waxed paper to set. Pipe thin lines of white chocolate across strawberry for garnish. Refrigerate until ready to serve cupcakes.

Tips:

  • To get the frosting the consistency that you like, you may need to add a little more cream, or powdered sugar to the frosting.
  • If you want to pipe the swirl, use Wilton’s 1M tip.
  • If you’re piping the swirl, double the frosting recipe.
  • It’s a little tricky to dip strawberry halves. The stems can break if you’re not careful. You’ve been warned.
  • Do not top cupcakes with chocolate strawberries until you’re ready to serve. Otherwise, the juice from the strawberry will start to seep out.
  • If the temperature is very warm outside, your frosting may melt a bit. This is fine and makes it easy to spread (yet impossible to pipe). If you want to pipe the icing, refrigerate the frosting until it firms up a bit.
  • These taste great both straight from the fridge, and at room temperature. Yes, I tried both ways.
  • I made the icing with a (4.4 oz) Lindt white chocolate bar, worth every penny. (YUM!)
  • To make the cupcakes a pretty pink hue, I added two drops of Americolor Rose gel coloring. (Remember, food coloring is your friend.)

Thanks for voting!



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Give-Away~What’s New Cupcake?

My all-time favorite cupcake cookbook is Hello Cupcake, by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson ~ SO many clever ideas that anyone can do. They show how by using a boxed cake recipe, store bought icing, and candy from the candy aisle you can make a good-looking, great-tasting cupcake. If you want to do the scratch cupcake, by all means, they won’t stop you. They’ll even give you a few home-made recipes.  These are the pros when it comes to making creative cupcakes, without too much work.

                                                                                                                                                       Now, they’ve added Book 2 to their cupcake anthology.  It’s put together in a similar format ~ gorgeous photos, easy how-to’s, holiday ideas, a slew of original cupcake ideas, and several easy recipes. This is a great follow-up to the first book.

 This month  for Cupcake Hero Clara asked her fellow baking bloggers to post creations they had made from one of these cupcake books. Since this was a monthly homework assignment, I had to get the new book!

And here’s the cool part… Houghton-Mifflin, the publisher is letting me give one copy of What’s New Cupcake? away! So here’s the deal, you have up to three chances to win…

  1. Just leave a comment telling me your favorite kind of cupcake~ chocolate, red velvet, classic white, Diet Coke, etc.  Don’t forget to leave me your email, so I can be in touch if you win. Your email will not be posted in the comments.                                                                                                                                                           
  2. Tweet this give-away and leave a second comment letting me know.         
  3. Join the Grin and Bake it Facebook group (which I will be updating regularly) and leave another comment letting me know you joined. If you’re already part of the group, that counts too. 

The winner will be selected by Random.org and announced on Monday, May 3rd.

Good Luck!!

UPDATE:  Random.org picked #44

Heather from multiplydelicious.comis the winner!  (Check out her blog, it’s super cute!)

Congrats Heather!

Thanks for playing along everyone!!



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Vanilla Chai Tea-Cup Cakes Perfect for a Little Girl’s Tea Party or for a Mom in Desperate Need of Comfort!

Hallelujah… I am finally caught up. I’ve been drowning in work for awhile, but the worst is over. My house is clean. My hair is freshly cut. What can I say…it’s a good life! Last week, however, not so good. Even in the comfort of my home, things seemed on the brink of havoc. The boy came home upset one afternoon, so I went to see  what was wrong. I think he had reached the point of being over-tired. In our house we refer to that state as being “over-cooked”. I listened and consoled, while unbeknownst to me, the Naughty One was on the couch snacking on my laptop. I wish I was kidding. Looking back, I did hear some noise that may have resembled chomping, but in that moment I decided the boy’s well-being was my top priority. Seriously, what kind of dog eats a laptop? By the time I responded, she had ripped off and maimed “Ctrl”, “Alt”, and “X”. Last year, my previous laptop drowned while sitting overnight directly under a leak from my second story. So to put things in perspective, it’s still a good life ~ minus a few computer keys.

That incident required comfort food. One of best things to calm me down is a warm vanilla chai ~ cupcakes help too, cocktails too (but you already knew that). This brings me to the latest experiment in my kitchen, vanilla chai latte tea-cup cakes. 

Awhile back,  someone from Duncan Hines commented on my blog about Duncan Hines’ Birthday Bash contest. I wanted to participate, but with the contest deadline during the crazy work season, I wasn’t sure it would happen. Post dog-eating-laptop episode, I seized the moment and began baking. This recipe became not only my comfort, but also my contest entry. 

 

It’s quite simple in that it starts with a Duncan Hines Butter Golden Cake Mix. The first step is to steep your favorite chai tea bags in milk over the stove. Once cool, you incorporate it into the cake batter. My favorite spices in chai - cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and nutmeg are then whisked into the mix, along with some vanilla. These tea cups were topped off with my favorite buttercream. I haven’t met a kid who doesn’t like this frosting, so this is my go-to kid frosting. This dessert takes comfort in a cup to an all-new level. I love the flavor of these mini tea cup cakes. The crystallized ginger in the cake seals the deal. Truth be told, I could be happy eating the batter and forgoing the cupcakes entirely.

I baked these up in my Ralph Lauren wedding china tea cups, which I love for their simple elegance. I had no idea if they were oven safe, but seeing how my marriage fell apart several years ago, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if one of these tea cups did too. I’ve overcome much more in life than a cracked tea cup. Nothing exploded or melted, so I figured it was safe to make a bunch. Crate and Barrel sells some white oven-safe tea cups that are pretty and inexpensive, if you don’t want to risk your wedding china.

These are perfect for a little girl’s tea party. Let’s be honest, most little ones prefer cupcakes over tea any day. To my girlfriends with little girls, someone plan a tea party and I promise to bring a batch of these!

You can check out all of the other Duncan Hines contest submissions here. Crossing my fingers & hoping Duncan Hines likes my entry!

Vanilla Chai Tea-Cup Cakes

2/3 cup milk

4 chai tea bags

1 box Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Butter Recipe Golden Cake Mix

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons crystallized ginger, minced

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 cup butter, softened (1 stick)

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bottoms of oven-safe tea cups with non-stick cooking spray. Make sure to use tea cups that are heat-proof, up to at least 350 degrees.

In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer over low-medium heat. Add tea bags.

Remove from heat and steep for 5 minutes. Cool completely.

In a separate bowl whisk cake mix, cinnamon, minced ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and cardamom.

Using electric mixer, mix softened butter, eggs, and vanilla until combined.

Add dry ingredients in two batches, alternating with two additions of milk, and beating until combined after each.

Fill tea cups half-way and place on a baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, and until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 12-15 minutes. Transfer tea cups to a wire rack and cool completely.

Standard Buttercream Recipe

1/3 cup white Crisco shortening, softened

1/3 cup stick butter or margarine, softened

4-6 tablespoons cream, unwhipped (you can use half and half or milk)

Pinch of salt

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla

4 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted

Ina a large bowl, using an electric mixer at medium speed, beat together shortening and butter. Add whipping cream, salt and vanilla and continue mixing until smooth (about 2 -3 minutes). Add in sifted powdered sugar, gradually, beat well until smooth and fluffly. To reach the consistency you need, you may need to add more confectioner’s sugar or cream. Add food coloring and blend well. Remember, gel or paste coloring will darken over time.



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More Winning Gingerbread Houses! Edible Artwork!

I’m adding to this post because over the weekend I was visiting one of my fellow twitter-ers or twitter-ees (not sure what the proper grammar would be) blogs. Marian, from Sweetopia is amazing! You must see the gingerbread house she made this year. Here’s a sneak peak at the inside of her gingerbread house. How adorable is that? You have to see the whole house and then check out the twenty Sapphire Gin gingerbread houses she made as part of a holiday order. They have gin inside of them! Thanks for inspiring your readers and fellow bloggers Marian!

 

 

As promised, here are some of our favorite gingerbread houses and a few more winners from the Discovery Science Center’s annual gingerbread competition. They have almost 100 entries, so if you live in Southern California go check them out before January 3rd. Some of the houses we loved for their “WOW!” factor. The “WOW!” houses are beautiful pieces of edible artwork. You look at all of the intricate details and wonder how they were created. We also loved to see the unique designs on the more traditional houses. The house done in all white below is beautiful in its simplicity. The pink house in the bottom right corner of the collage won the children’s category and is as pink as you can get!

The two houses below were two of the “WOW!” houses that won awards. The first is a beach house. The family who created this house tied for our “Most Original” win. The cathedral on the right was done by a woman who has entered the competition for several years. It is amazing to see this in person! Have a great weekend! Come back Monday for another holiday martini. Cheers!



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No Bones About It…This Gingerbread House Rocks! Guess Who’s Doghouse Won for “Most Original”???

Last night Blake and I attended the awards ceremony at the Discovery Science Center in Orange County, for their annual gingerbread house competition. And guess what…WE WON for “Most Original”! (We actually tied with another entry that I’ll share pictures of tomorrow.) A couple of months ago, the science center contacted me after seeing the Grin and Bake It article in the Orange County Register. They invited us to enter the competition, and we went for it. I have to confess, this is the first gingerbread house I have made from scratch. I throw a gingerbread party every year and assemble about 20 houses for the kids, but those are the Costco kits, pre-made! I’ve become an expert at putting those together (my secret tool… a glue gun! It makes the process fast and the houses almost indestructible. My party-goers don’t eat the houses, just keep them out as a holiday decoration.) Could I make one from scratch that was contest-worthy? Let’s just say, I wasn’t very confident!

The Naughty One (pictured on the left), the one who on her terms, responds to the name “Winnie” was the inspiration for our house. This pup would never consider sleeping in a dog house though. No, my boy’s Princess Pup sleeps in my king-size bed and somehow manages to push me to the edge every night. (Do you think Prince Charming will one day mind a dog in the bed? That’s an entirely different issue!) We looked at the past entries on the Discovery Science Center site and didn’t see any dog house entries. We then googled “Gingerbread Dog House” and we were surprised when very few hits came up. So at this point, we had a theme, but still were recipe-less with no idea of what we were doing! In the end, it came together and looked pretty cute. I also found the world’s best gingerbread recipe. This dough is so easy to roll out, holds its shape well, and does not need to chill for hours in advance. It also tastes good!

Here are a few close-ups of how this house came together.

We were going for a mosaic, stone look for the roof and covered it in dog biscuits (but we made the mistake of not getting the Naughty One’s permission). And boy was she mad! She barked incessantly to share her disapproval, as we affixed each biscuit with royal icing one by one – nonstop barking for at least 20 minutes. Since dog houses don’t have windows, I piped a pink scroll design on the outside of the house. In hindsight, I should have done the piping before I put the pieces together. It was tough to pipe onto the house once it was built. (Remember, I really had no clue what I was doing.)

Blake and I then made up a batch of marshmallow fondant and set out to make some dog house decorations, which included a pink Christmas bow on top, a welcome mat that said “Woof!”, a dog bowl filled with Nerd candies, and a toy bin that included a fondant ball, rope, and candy bones. We also made a Christmas list and presents, which we put by the Christmas tree. Wilton makes special markers to write on fondant (edible, of course). I suggested a snowman, and the boy had a better idea… a snow pup, complete with pink ear muffs! We used cookie cutters to make a few signs and also used other miscellaneous candy to decorate the rest of the house.

Come back tomorrow and I’ll post pictures of some of our favorite entries. Wait until you see the competition. Some of the creations were absolutely amazing! This was a great experience for us! The boy went to school beaming and couldn’t wait to tell his class. His pup, on the other hand, is sulking because we wouldn’t allow her to attend the awards ceremony. We’ve promised to buy her the super-sized box of biscuits to repay her!



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Still Have Left-over Halloween Candy? Think Ahead…Gingerbread Candy Decorating List and the Discovery Science Center Gingerbread Contest!

Take a look at this beautiful gingerbread house made by the amazing baker’s at King Arthur’s Flour. They provide a detailed tutorial on how to make this if you’re feeling ambitious. I’ve also included a few more gingerbread pictures in this post for inspiration. (Please note: They are not my original work.)

Shortly after my annual pumpkin carving party, plans get underway for our annual gingerbread decorating party. We started when my boy was two with his best buddy, and it has since grown over the years. My son asked me how many years I plan on doing the party. My answer…FOREVER!

It’s definitely not too early to plan. I was born with the “always have a plan” gene, and so was my son (literally). He arrived on his due date - which is the best any planner could hope for! There is still Halloween clearance candy out there for a fraction of the original cost, so stock up! I buy the gingerbread kits from Costco for the kids, but always add more candy to spark their creativity and add a little variety.

Last year I organized my gingerbread list with candy suggestions for different types of structures (trees, windowpanes, etc.). Check out that comprehensive decorating list. This year’s list at the bottom of the post is organized by candy categories. Both lists are good tools to use in the planning stages. I’ll be posting more about the gingerbread party in the next couple of weeks, including the personalized tool boxes each child is getting, which are loaded with everything they need to decorate their houses.

 

 

 

 

In addition, to my obsessive planning, I’ve been known to be a bit competitve. Discovery Science Center, the kids’ science hands-on museum in Orange County, contacted me last week regarding their annual gingerbread theme and decorating contest. To make a long story short, Grin and Bake it is now participating! From Thanksgiving until New Year’s, the science center teaches kids about the science of cooking through gingerbread. As a teacher and a baker, I cannot tell you how excited this makes me! Kids are born curious and love science, but don’t always recognize the science that takes place in their very own kitchens. The annual gingerbread competition is open to anyone in the area. There’s a category just for kids, and a contest for adults with multiple categories that corporations and individuals can enter. For more gingerbread ideas and details about the event, go check out the Discovery Science Center website.

We’ve decided on the theme for the Grin and Bake it gingerbread house entry. It’s top secret, but here’s a big hint…

Gingerbread Decorating List

  Halloween Clearance

  • M&M’s
  • Snicker’s
  • Starburst
  • Skittles
  • Kit Kat
  • Butterfingers
  • Nestle Crunch
  • Hershey’s Bars
  • licorice
  • Nerds
  • Life Savers (gummies or original)
  • lollipops
  • Laffy Taffy
  • Tootsie Rolls

Hard Candies

  • Spree
  • red hots
  • Pez
  • Jolly Ranchers (can be melted for stained glass)
  • rock candy 
  • mini dot candy

 Cereal

  • Shredded Wheat cereal
  • oats
  • Corn Flakes
  • Cherrios
  • Fruit Loops

 

Seasonal Candy

  • gumdrops
  • peppermints
  • mini candy canes
  • peppermint sticks
  • cinnamon sticks
  • white cotton candy (who even knew?)
  • Andes mints

Misc. Candy

  • jelly fruit slices
  • stick gum
  • Chicklets
  • Caramels
  • jelly beans 
  • thin licorice ropes

 

Misc. Grocery Items

  • Rice Krispies treats
  • nuts
  • ice cream cones
  • graham crackers
  • pretzel sticks & shaped pretzels
  • mini & large marshmallows 
  • shredded coconut
  • powdered sugar
  • sugar cubes


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Upcoming Birthday Cake and Cupcake Hero Contests…Who’s in? Come on, don’t make me beg!

Cupcake Hero is Back!

I’m very excited…Clara of Iheartcuppycakes has volunteered to bring back the baking group Cupcake Hero. I have to say I was never much of a super hero fan, but if I remember correctly I did have a pair of Wonder Woman underoos. (Do they still make those funky things?) And thankfully, my son was born after the Ninja Turtle rage and the Power Ranger phenomenon. He’s a Pokemon fanatic, but those aren’t super heroes, are they? - still trying to figure out what the heck those weird little creatures are!! Oh… but to earn “Cupcake Hero” status – now that’s the ultimate super hero title! I’m not really getting in this to win (the only thing I’ve ever won was a case of macademia nuts when I was eight in Hawaii.) I’m looking forward to meeting more cupcake lovers and hopefully learning a few more things along the way.

Here’s how it works…Each month there is a new ingredient selected for Cupcake Hero. Participants come up with a recipe that uses the ingredient in the frosting and/or cake. What I love about this group is that you don’t have to have your own blog to participate. This opens it up to so many of you creative bakers out there! And I know you’re out there!! You just need to join the Flickr group and upload your photo(s) by the deadline. There are prizes people! Are you in?? See Clara’s blog for more details.

Cookie Magazine’s Birthday Cake Photo Contest

There’s yet another opportunity right around the corner with more prizes, including a brand new Kitchen aid. Now that’s much better than macademia nuts if you ask me. Cookiemag.com is hosting a birthday cake contest with entries due September 14th. All you need to do to enter is upload a photo of your winning cake.

I’ve already come up with my vision and since my birthday happens to be in mid-September, I’ll be making this one for me! I usually spend my days baking for everyone else (Lord knows, I don’t need anymore calories around here tempting me). But this time I’m doing something for myself. You should too!

Check out the Cookiemag.com website to see all of the details.

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Category Archives: Baking Contests

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Amaretto Cherry Chocolate Cupcake A Star Studded Cupcake!

This cupcake is ridiculously decadent, and another Emmy Award worthy cupcake. The combination of chocolate, cherries, and buttercream is a sinful indulgence… one that I highly recommend. This was the third cupcake that I served at the cupcakes and cocktails tasting night. Hidden inside the center of this cupcake are cherry pieces that have been soaked in amaretto. Think black forest like cake, only much better. I’m not a huge fan of cherries soaked in kirsch. These cherries infused with amaretto are the perfect complement for the devil’s food cake.

I wouldn’t dare take credit for this one. This was all my mom’s creation. This is her entry for the Duncan Hines Emmy Award Cupcake Contest. You of course, are familiar with the contest, since you’ve been voting for me daily, right? An emmy worthy cupcake should be elegant, beautifully presented, and over the top delicious. This, without a doubt, is the best entry I’ve seen (the chocolate covered strawberry cupcake is a close second, just my opinion). 

Don’t you love those little edible gold stars sprinkled on top. They sparkle when they catch the light, and are a perfect garnish for these fancy treats. These are also available in silver, along with edible heart shaped glitter in Wilton’s line of cake decorations.

The piping is what really gives this cupcake a fancy look. It really isn’t difficult to do, even if you have never used a piping bag… I promise! To achieve this look, you will need a piping bag (I prefer the disposable ones), a coupler, and a star tip. These can all be purchased at Michael’s or another craft store and will only cost a few dollars.

 We used a large star tip (#21) to pipe the star design because these were jumbo cupcakes. It’s hard to tell in the picture, but these were super-sized cupcake liners. They’re so big, they don’t even fit in a regular muffin pan. They bake right on a cookie sheet. This size isn’t the portion control option, but the perfect size to split with someone you love. If you bake up smaller cupcakes, I’d recommend using a smaller star tip (#16, #17, or #18). Click on the links below for Wilton’s excellent tutorials on piping.

Resources on Piping

If you normally spread icing on your cupcakes, don’t be afraid to branch out into the piping world. I promise, it is not as hard as it looks.

First, read through the step by step instructions on setting up your piping bag (These disposable piping bags, may be a little more money in the long run, but they’re conveinent and making cleaning up easy).

Next, view this You tube tutorial on piping with a star tip, and you’ll have all of the info. you need to get started.

 But wait… before you start piping, click over and vote for this cupcake and for my chocolate covered strawberry cupcake for the Duncan Hines contest~ PLEASE… Yes, we have no problem begging. You can vote for both cupcakes daily! Send us to the Emmys!

 

 

Amaretto Cherry Chocolate Cupcakes

Printable Recipe

24 cherries, sliced in half and pitted

2/3 cup Amaretto liquor

1 Duncan Hines Devil’s Food cake mix

2/3 cup water

3 eggs

1/2 cup oil

1. Combine pitted cherries and Amaretto in small container. Cover and refrigerate, at least one hour and preferably overnight.

2. After cherries have soaked in Amaretto, drain and save Amaretto juice. Set cherries aside. Add the 2/3 cup Amaretto/cherry juice to cake mix. Add 2/3 cup water, 3 eggs and oil and beat and bake according to box cupcake directions.

3. When cupcakes are completely cool remove a 1-inch X 1-inch center circle from cupcake. (Centers can be used later for “cake pops”)

BUTTER CREAM ICING

2 pounds powdered sugar, sifted

1 stick butter, softened

½ cup whipping cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon Amaretto liquor

Wilton edible golden stars (available at Michael’s)

1. Beat butter and sifted powder sugar. Gradually add half of cream. Continue to beat. Add vanilla and Amaretto; gradually add remaining cream.

2. Partially fill center of cupcake with butter cream icing,

3. Add 2 halves of drained cherries on top of butter cream.

4. Add additional butter cream on top of cherries and smooth top of cupcake with butter cream icing. With #17 Wilton star tip, pipe stars on top of cupcake starting around the outside and work toward center.

5. Sprinkle Wilton Golden Edible Stars on top.



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fgawk a

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Cupcakes… Heavenly!

A few weeks ago, I had a few girlfriends over for a wine and cupcake tasting party.  I baked up four different flavors of cupcakes, and paired each flavor with a wine to bring out or complement the cupcake’s flavor. Cupcakes, wine, and a few girlfriends are a perfect combo for a great night. I have been dreaming up a lot of cupcake flavors, and this gave me the perfect chance to try a few.

Have you read the book The Lovely Bones? My book club read it awhile back. I had mixed feeling about the book, and usually try to avoid books with creepy, child molesting murderers, but there were a few things about the novel that I did like, one part being the author’s depiction of heaven. Each person in heaven is given their own, unique space that reflects what they love in life. If this is truly what heaven is like, I can guarantee you that my space will be filled with these chocolate-covered strawberry cupcakes… so feel free to stop by my heavenly pad if you’re hungry, but let’s not rush it, okay?

My first attempt at these chocolate strawberry cupcakes was based on the Sprinkle’s strawberry cupcake recipe.  I adapted the recipe a tad, and frosted them with my creamy, white chocolate frosting. Finally, I garnished them with chocolate-covered strawberries. My girlfriend, Melissa, loved these. For me, the combination of strawberry cake and white chocolate frosting was divine, but I did have one reservation. I won’t make excuses. All I can say is that I’m a girl raised on cake mix from a box. Many cupcakes from scratch are denser than cake from a cake mix. The dense cupcakes are not my preference. I’m a cake mix girl at heart, and proud of it!

Our cupcake and wine tasting was a success, but even I was a little cup-caked out. That changed when I heard about Duncan Hine’s “Red Carpet Cupcake Challenge”. Duncan Hines is sponsoring the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards this year, and is asking contest participants to submit an Emmy worthy cupcake recipe that uses a Duncan Hines product. My mind immediately flashed back to those almost perfect chocolate-covered strawberry cupcakes.

I’m not sure what the specific criteria the judges will be using, but I have a feeling this might be part of it:

  • widespread audience appeal
  • dressed in formal attire (It’s the Emmy’s for goodness sake. I’d be humiliated if my cupcake showed up on the worst dressed list.)
  • has to taste fabulous… I’m talking standing ovation fabulous!

That’s where Round 2 of my quest to create the perfect Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Cupcake began. It took three more batches of cake batter for me to award it Emmy worthy status. I did feel a little wasteful throwing out so much cake batter, but once I started, I wasn’t about to stop until it was exactly how I had envisioned.

So here’s the deal. I’m not one to ask for help. In fact, I bag my own groceries at the  store. The bag boy or manager always comes running to take over (you think they’d know by now). I guess they assume I’m an unhappy, impatient shopper, but the reality is I like doing it myself ~ Control freak? People-pleaser? Let’s just say, way too much of both!  (Could that be why I’m still single after four years post divorce? Okay, let’s not analyze that one right now.)

Back to the contest… This contest relies on help. The cupcake entries are narrowed down to ten, based on the highest numbers of votes they receive. People can vote for their favorite every day until July 28th. Here I go, with great trepidation (can’t believe I’m about to ask this)… If you think this cupcake is award winning Emmy material, or if you just feel like helping a girl out, you can vote for me again and again and again daily. There I said it! If I win, I promise to throw another cupcakes and cocktails party, and you’re all invited because I’m a people-pleaser, and proud of it!

Vote for me here! Pick Me! Pick Me!

 

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Cupcakes  

(Created by ME!)

 Makes approximately 30 cupcakes

1 box Duncan Hines Classic White Cake Mix

1 box (4 oz.) instant vanilla pudding mix

4 eggs

1 cup water

1/3 cup vegetable oil

½ cup sour cream

2/3 cup pureed strawberries (This requires approximately one cup of whole strawberries prior to pureeing)

A few drops of pink gel coloring ~ optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fill cupcake pan with cupcake liners.

Puree one cup of whole strawberries. Reserve 2/3 cup of the strawberry puree.

Blend cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, water, oil, and sour cream at low speed until moistened. Add strawberry puree.  If you want the cupcakes to come out a little pinker, add a drop or two of pink gel coloring.

Beat at medium speed until well combined (approximately two minutes). Fill cupcake liners two thirds full. Bake immediately for approximately 15 minutes, or when a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack before frosting.

White Chocolate Frosting

(created by, ME)

4 oz. white chocolate baking squares

1 cup butter, softened

3 tablespoons whipping cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/8 teaspoon salt

6 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Melt white chocolate using the double boiler method or microwave. If using microwave, microwave at thirty second intervals and stirring in between until completely melted. Set aside melted chocolate to cool.

Sift powdered sugar in a medium-sized bowl.

Combine butter, whipping cream, vanilla, salt in an electric mixer. Gradually add in powdered sugar until well combined. Frosting should be fairly stiff if piping onto cupcakes.

Pipe or spread frosting onto cupcakes. Top cupcakes with half of a chocolate covered strawberry, just prior to serving. Refrigerate cupcakes if not serving right away.

 

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

 (no idea who is responsible for this fabulous combo)

 

15 small to medium-sized fresh strawberries

Milk or dark chocolate for dipping

White chocolate to decorate

Wash strawberries and dry completely. Cut strawberries in half. Melt chocolate, either using double-boiler or microwave method. Dip strawberry halves into melted chocolate and place on waxed paper to set. Pipe thin lines of white chocolate across strawberry for garnish. Refrigerate until ready to serve cupcakes.

Tips:

  • To get the frosting the consistency that you like, you may need to add a little more cream, or powdered sugar to the frosting.
  • If you want to pipe the swirl, use Wilton’s 1M tip.
  • If you’re piping the swirl, double the frosting recipe.
  • It’s a little tricky to dip strawberry halves. The stems can break if you’re not careful. You’ve been warned.
  • Do not top cupcakes with chocolate strawberries until you’re ready to serve. Otherwise, the juice from the strawberry will start to seep out.
  • If the temperature is very warm outside, your frosting may melt a bit. This is fine and makes it easy to spread (yet impossible to pipe). If you want to pipe the icing, refrigerate the frosting until it firms up a bit.
  • These taste great both straight from the fridge, and at room temperature. Yes, I tried both ways.
  • I made the icing with a (4.4 oz) Lindt white chocolate bar, worth every penny. (YUM!)
  • To make the cupcakes a pretty pink hue, I added two drops of Americolor Rose gel coloring. (Remember, food coloring is your friend.)

Thanks for voting!



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hello cupcake dogs

Give-Away~What’s New Cupcake?

My all-time favorite cupcake cookbook is Hello Cupcake, by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson ~ SO many clever ideas that anyone can do. They show how by using a boxed cake recipe, store bought icing, and candy from the candy aisle you can make a good-looking, great-tasting cupcake. If you want to do the scratch cupcake, by all means, they won’t stop you. They’ll even give you a few home-made recipes.  These are the pros when it comes to making creative cupcakes, without too much work.

                                                                                                                                                       Now, they’ve added Book 2 to their cupcake anthology.  It’s put together in a similar format ~ gorgeous photos, easy how-to’s, holiday ideas, a slew of original cupcake ideas, and several easy recipes. This is a great follow-up to the first book.

 This month  for Cupcake Hero Clara asked her fellow baking bloggers to post creations they had made from one of these cupcake books. Since this was a monthly homework assignment, I had to get the new book!

And here’s the cool part… Houghton-Mifflin, the publisher is letting me give one copy of What’s New Cupcake? away! So here’s the deal, you have up to three chances to win…

  1. Just leave a comment telling me your favorite kind of cupcake~ chocolate, red velvet, classic white, Diet Coke, etc.  Don’t forget to leave me your email, so I can be in touch if you win. Your email will not be posted in the comments.                                                                                                                                                           
  2. Tweet this give-away and leave a second comment letting me know.         
  3. Join the Grin and Bake it Facebook group (which I will be updating regularly) and leave another comment letting me know you joined. If you’re already part of the group, that counts too. 

The winner will be selected by Random.org and announced on Monday, May 3rd.

Good Luck!!

UPDATE:  Random.org picked #44

Heather from multiplydelicious.comis the winner!  (Check out her blog, it’s super cute!)

Congrats Heather!

Thanks for playing along everyone!!



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chai yellow 288217

Vanilla Chai Tea-Cup Cakes Perfect for a Little Girl’s Tea Party or for a Mom in Desperate Need of Comfort!

Hallelujah… I am finally caught up. I’ve been drowning in work for awhile, but the worst is over. My house is clean. My hair is freshly cut. What can I say…it’s a good life! Last week, however, not so good. Even in the comfort of my home, things seemed on the brink of havoc. The boy came home upset one afternoon, so I went to see  what was wrong. I think he had reached the point of being over-tired. In our house we refer to that state as being “over-cooked”. I listened and consoled, while unbeknownst to me, the Naughty One was on the couch snacking on my laptop. I wish I was kidding. Looking back, I did hear some noise that may have resembled chomping, but in that moment I decided the boy’s well-being was my top priority. Seriously, what kind of dog eats a laptop? By the time I responded, she had ripped off and maimed “Ctrl”, “Alt”, and “X”. Last year, my previous laptop drowned while sitting overnight directly under a leak from my second story. So to put things in perspective, it’s still a good life ~ minus a few computer keys.

That incident required comfort food. One of best things to calm me down is a warm vanilla chai ~ cupcakes help too, cocktails too (but you already knew that). This brings me to the latest experiment in my kitchen, vanilla chai latte tea-cup cakes. 

Awhile back,  someone from Duncan Hines commented on my blog about Duncan Hines’ Birthday Bash contest. I wanted to participate, but with the contest deadline during the crazy work season, I wasn’t sure it would happen. Post dog-eating-laptop episode, I seized the moment and began baking. This recipe became not only my comfort, but also my contest entry. 

 

It’s quite simple in that it starts with a Duncan Hines Butter Golden Cake Mix. The first step is to steep your favorite chai tea bags in milk over the stove. Once cool, you incorporate it into the cake batter. My favorite spices in chai - cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and nutmeg are then whisked into the mix, along with some vanilla. These tea cups were topped off with my favorite buttercream. I haven’t met a kid who doesn’t like this frosting, so this is my go-to kid frosting. This dessert takes comfort in a cup to an all-new level. I love the flavor of these mini tea cup cakes. The crystallized ginger in the cake seals the deal. Truth be told, I could be happy eating the batter and forgoing the cupcakes entirely.

I baked these up in my Ralph Lauren wedding china tea cups, which I love for their simple elegance. I had no idea if they were oven safe, but seeing how my marriage fell apart several years ago, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if one of these tea cups did too. I’ve overcome much more in life than a cracked tea cup. Nothing exploded or melted, so I figured it was safe to make a bunch. Crate and Barrel sells some white oven-safe tea cups that are pretty and inexpensive, if you don’t want to risk your wedding china.

These are perfect for a little girl’s tea party. Let’s be honest, most little ones prefer cupcakes over tea any day. To my girlfriends with little girls, someone plan a tea party and I promise to bring a batch of these!

You can check out all of the other Duncan Hines contest submissions here. Crossing my fingers & hoping Duncan Hines likes my entry!

Vanilla Chai Tea-Cup Cakes

2/3 cup milk

4 chai tea bags

1 box Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Butter Recipe Golden Cake Mix

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons crystallized ginger, minced

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 cup butter, softened (1 stick)

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bottoms of oven-safe tea cups with non-stick cooking spray. Make sure to use tea cups that are heat-proof, up to at least 350 degrees.

In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer over low-medium heat. Add tea bags.

Remove from heat and steep for 5 minutes. Cool completely.

In a separate bowl whisk cake mix, cinnamon, minced ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and cardamom.

Using electric mixer, mix softened butter, eggs, and vanilla until combined.

Add dry ingredients in two batches, alternating with two additions of milk, and beating until combined after each.

Fill tea cups half-way and place on a baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, and until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 12-15 minutes. Transfer tea cups to a wire rack and cool completely.

Standard Buttercream Recipe

1/3 cup white Crisco shortening, softened

1/3 cup stick butter or margarine, softened

4-6 tablespoons cream, unwhipped (you can use half and half or milk)

Pinch of salt

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla

4 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted

Ina a large bowl, using an electric mixer at medium speed, beat together shortening and butter. Add whipping cream, salt and vanilla and continue mixing until smooth (about 2 -3 minutes). Add in sifted powdered sugar, gradually, beat well until smooth and fluffly. To reach the consistency you need, you may need to add more confectioner’s sugar or cream. Add food coloring and blend well. Remember, gel or paste coloring will darken over time.



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More Winning Gingerbread Houses! Edible Artwork!

I’m adding to this post because over the weekend I was visiting one of my fellow twitter-ers or twitter-ees (not sure what the proper grammar would be) blogs. Marian, from Sweetopia is amazing! You must see the gingerbread house she made this year. Here’s a sneak peak at the inside of her gingerbread house. How adorable is that? You have to see the whole house and then check out the twenty Sapphire Gin gingerbread houses she made as part of a holiday order. They have gin inside of them! Thanks for inspiring your readers and fellow bloggers Marian!

 

 

As promised, here are some of our favorite gingerbread houses and a few more winners from the Discovery Science Center’s annual gingerbread competition. They have almost 100 entries, so if you live in Southern California go check them out before January 3rd. Some of the houses we loved for their “WOW!” factor. The “WOW!” houses are beautiful pieces of edible artwork. You look at all of the intricate details and wonder how they were created. We also loved to see the unique designs on the more traditional houses. The house done in all white below is beautiful in its simplicity. The pink house in the bottom right corner of the collage won the children’s category and is as pink as you can get!

The two houses below were two of the “WOW!” houses that won awards. The first is a beach house. The family who created this house tied for our “Most Original” win. The cathedral on the right was done by a woman who has entered the competition for several years. It is amazing to see this in person! Have a great weekend! Come back Monday for another holiday martini. Cheers!



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g-house-framed

No Bones About It…This Gingerbread House Rocks! Guess Who’s Doghouse Won for “Most Original”???

Last night Blake and I attended the awards ceremony at the Discovery Science Center in Orange County, for their annual gingerbread house competition. And guess what…WE WON for “Most Original”! (We actually tied with another entry that I’ll share pictures of tomorrow.) A couple of months ago, the science center contacted me after seeing the Grin and Bake It article in the Orange County Register. They invited us to enter the competition, and we went for it. I have to confess, this is the first gingerbread house I have made from scratch. I throw a gingerbread party every year and assemble about 20 houses for the kids, but those are the Costco kits, pre-made! I’ve become an expert at putting those together (my secret tool… a glue gun! It makes the process fast and the houses almost indestructible. My party-goers don’t eat the houses, just keep them out as a holiday decoration.) Could I make one from scratch that was contest-worthy? Let’s just say, I wasn’t very confident!

The Naughty One (pictured on the left), the one who on her terms, responds to the name “Winnie” was the inspiration for our house. This pup would never consider sleeping in a dog house though. No, my boy’s Princess Pup sleeps in my king-size bed and somehow manages to push me to the edge every night. (Do you think Prince Charming will one day mind a dog in the bed? That’s an entirely different issue!) We looked at the past entries on the Discovery Science Center site and didn’t see any dog house entries. We then googled “Gingerbread Dog House” and we were surprised when very few hits came up. So at this point, we had a theme, but still were recipe-less with no idea of what we were doing! In the end, it came together and looked pretty cute. I also found the world’s best gingerbread recipe. This dough is so easy to roll out, holds its shape well, and does not need to chill for hours in advance. It also tastes good!

Here are a few close-ups of how this house came together.

We were going for a mosaic, stone look for the roof and covered it in dog biscuits (but we made the mistake of not getting the Naughty One’s permission). And boy was she mad! She barked incessantly to share her disapproval, as we affixed each biscuit with royal icing one by one – nonstop barking for at least 20 minutes. Since dog houses don’t have windows, I piped a pink scroll design on the outside of the house. In hindsight, I should have done the piping before I put the pieces together. It was tough to pipe onto the house once it was built. (Remember, I really had no clue what I was doing.)

Blake and I then made up a batch of marshmallow fondant and set out to make some dog house decorations, which included a pink Christmas bow on top, a welcome mat that said “Woof!”, a dog bowl filled with Nerd candies, and a toy bin that included a fondant ball, rope, and candy bones. We also made a Christmas list and presents, which we put by the Christmas tree. Wilton makes special markers to write on fondant (edible, of course). I suggested a snowman, and the boy had a better idea… a snow pup, complete with pink ear muffs! We used cookie cutters to make a few signs and also used other miscellaneous candy to decorate the rest of the house.

Come back tomorrow and I’ll post pictures of some of our favorite entries. Wait until you see the competition. Some of the creations were absolutely amazing! This was a great experience for us! The boy went to school beaming and couldn’t wait to tell his class. His pup, on the other hand, is sulking because we wouldn’t allow her to attend the awards ceremony. We’ve promised to buy her the super-sized box of biscuits to repay her!



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Still Have Left-over Halloween Candy? Think Ahead…Gingerbread Candy Decorating List and the Discovery Science Center Gingerbread Contest!

Take a look at this beautiful gingerbread house made by the amazing baker’s at King Arthur’s Flour. They provide a detailed tutorial on how to make this if you’re feeling ambitious. I’ve also included a few more gingerbread pictures in this post for inspiration. (Please note: They are not my original work.)

Shortly after my annual pumpkin carving party, plans get underway for our annual gingerbread decorating party. We started when my boy was two with his best buddy, and it has since grown over the years. My son asked me how many years I plan on doing the party. My answer…FOREVER!

It’s definitely not too early to plan. I was born with the “always have a plan” gene, and so was my son (literally). He arrived on his due date - which is the best any planner could hope for! There is still Halloween clearance candy out there for a fraction of the original cost, so stock up! I buy the gingerbread kits from Costco for the kids, but always add more candy to spark their creativity and add a little variety.

Last year I organized my gingerbread list with candy suggestions for different types of structures (trees, windowpanes, etc.). Check out that comprehensive decorating list. This year’s list at the bottom of the post is organized by candy categories. Both lists are good tools to use in the planning stages. I’ll be posting more about the gingerbread party in the next couple of weeks, including the personalized tool boxes each child is getting, which are loaded with everything they need to decorate their houses.

 

 

 

 

In addition, to my obsessive planning, I’ve been known to be a bit competitve. Discovery Science Center, the kids’ science hands-on museum in Orange County, contacted me last week regarding their annual gingerbread theme and decorating contest. To make a long story short, Grin and Bake it is now participating! From Thanksgiving until New Year’s, the science center teaches kids about the science of cooking through gingerbread. As a teacher and a baker, I cannot tell you how excited this makes me! Kids are born curious and love science, but don’t always recognize the science that takes place in their very own kitchens. The annual gingerbread competition is open to anyone in the area. There’s a category just for kids, and a contest for adults with multiple categories that corporations and individuals can enter. For more gingerbread ideas and details about the event, go check out the Discovery Science Center website.

We’ve decided on the theme for the Grin and Bake it gingerbread house entry. It’s top secret, but here’s a big hint…

Gingerbread Decorating List

  Halloween Clearance

  • M&M’s
  • Snicker’s
  • Starburst
  • Skittles
  • Kit Kat
  • Butterfingers
  • Nestle Crunch
  • Hershey’s Bars
  • licorice
  • Nerds
  • Life Savers (gummies or original)
  • lollipops
  • Laffy Taffy
  • Tootsie Rolls

Hard Candies

  • Spree
  • red hots
  • Pez
  • Jolly Ranchers (can be melted for stained glass)
  • rock candy 
  • mini dot candy

 Cereal

  • Shredded Wheat cereal
  • oats
  • Corn Flakes
  • Cherrios
  • Fruit Loops

 

Seasonal Candy

  • gumdrops
  • peppermints
  • mini candy canes
  • peppermint sticks
  • cinnamon sticks
  • white cotton candy (who even knew?)
  • Andes mints

Misc. Candy

  • jelly fruit slices
  • stick gum
  • Chicklets
  • Caramels
  • jelly beans 
  • thin licorice ropes

 

Misc. Grocery Items

  • Rice Krispies treats
  • nuts
  • ice cream cones
  • graham crackers
  • pretzel sticks & shaped pretzels
  • mini & large marshmallows 
  • shredded coconut
  • powdered sugar
  • sugar cubes


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Upcoming Birthday Cake and Cupcake Hero Contests…Who’s in? Come on, don’t make me beg!

Cupcake Hero is Back!

I’m very excited…Clara of Iheartcuppycakes has volunteered to bring back the baking group Cupcake Hero. I have to say I was never much of a super hero fan, but if I remember correctly I did have a pair of Wonder Woman underoos. (Do they still make those funky things?) And thankfully, my son was born after the Ninja Turtle rage and the Power Ranger phenomenon. He’s a Pokemon fanatic, but those aren’t super heroes, are they? - still trying to figure out what the heck those weird little creatures are!! Oh… but to earn “Cupcake Hero” status – now that’s the ultimate super hero title! I’m not really getting in this to win (the only thing I’ve ever won was a case of macademia nuts when I was eight in Hawaii.) I’m looking forward to meeting more cupcake lovers and hopefully learning a few more things along the way.

Here’s how it works…Each month there is a new ingredient selected for Cupcake Hero. Participants come up with a recipe that uses the ingredient in the frosting and/or cake. What I love about this group is that you don’t have to have your own blog to participate. This opens it up to so many of you creative bakers out there! And I know you’re out there!! You just need to join the Flickr group and upload your photo(s) by the deadline. There are prizes people! Are you in?? See Clara’s blog for more details.

Cookie Magazine’s Birthday Cake Photo Contest

There’s yet another opportunity right around the corner with more prizes, including a brand new Kitchen aid. Now that’s much better than macademia nuts if you ask me. Cookiemag.com is hosting a birthday cake contest with entries due September 14th. All you need to do to enter is upload a photo of your winning cake.

I’ve already come up with my vision and since my birthday happens to be in mid-September, I’ll be making this one for me! I usually spend my days baking for everyone else (Lord knows, I don’t need anymore calories around here tempting me). But this time I’m doing something for myself. You should too!

Check out the Cookiemag.com website to see all of the details.

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