Monthly Archives: December 2013

Christmas Tree Cupcakes

Again, I have borrowed an idea from someone else and messed up in a couple ways. The idea of making Christmas Trees from cupcakes comes from this website: Christmas Trees. Here are my versions of the trees.

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I messed up in a couple ways, but mostly from not following directions. I started by making my Kentucky Chocolate Cake into the cupcakes, and from experience, that turned out okay. Then, I made my own butter-cream frosting and frosted the cupcakes to be the snow, and stuck the sugar cones into the frosting. I was surprised that these were more stable than I had imagined; I had thought I would have trouble keeping them upright.

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Now I messed up; I didn’t add enough powdered sugar to the frosting to make it stiff enough to stay when it was piped. As a result, it slid down the sides of the trees. You can see the lack of definition and puddling in the bright green color. So, I made a new batch of frosting, colored it green with a drop of brown, and made certain it was stiff enough to stay put when it was piped.

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My non-artistry shows up in my decorating of the trees. I gave each a white star at the top, and then dusted it with the gold disco powder. Then I worked down the sides of the trees. Some I tried to put ropes around, and some I piped stars onto. And one, I even patiently passed those little decorations you buy in the bottles at the store; my patients wore out after doing one tree.

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I think the directions on the website are very good; while they buy Betty Crocker cake mix and frosting, that would be an easy way to go if you don’t want to make mistakes like I did, and you want the basic trees ready to decorate.

Hedgehog Cookies

I try not to mislead people and take credit where the idea is really someone elses. So, I have to start by pointing to the website of “SixInTheSuburbsBlog”. One of the authors made these cute hedgehog cookies; Mindy saw the blog about them and sent me a pointer. I was taken with the image, and decided I would try them. I also read all the comments that had been added to the blog to see what problems existed.
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It would appear that once you have the cookies, there is little problem in finishing the decorations. But, a lot of the comments on the blog had to do with making the cookies; some even said their cookies looked more like road-kill. Having tried to make the cookies, I too was making a lot of road-kill; but I think I finally got the knack- the little guys have a narrow shape and their noses are lifted in the air.
So, here is how I did it.
1. I made my dough using the Ethel’s Sugar Cookie recipe that is on my website. That dough is a Sugar Cookie dough and not a Short Bread dough since it contains egg and leavening.
2. I rolled the dough to 1/4 inch thick, and then used a shot glass to cut out small circles. The shot glass is about 1 1/2 in diameter on the inside, which is the size the circles will be.
3. To form the elongated body, I turned the two sides of the circle of dough under until they met. Now I worked my way up the body to the nose, doing a partial turn-under until I had the little point for the nose. Now we have to get the nose up off the flat of the baking sheet.
4 With a strip of aluminum foil, create a V shaped trough. Start with a wide enough piece of foil (6 inches) so that the continuing folding creates a fairly robust V. I turned each long edge into the center, then did it a couple more times until the V is only about 3/4 of an inch across the top of the V. Turn the V over so that the point is up, and place it down the center of the cookie sheet.
5. Place the shaped dough of the hedgehogs on alternate sides of the foil so that their little noses are resting near the point of the inverted trough. This will hold their noses up while they bake and cool.
6. Before baking, freeze the shaped dough in the freezer for 10 minutes.
7. Bake the frozen shaped dough for about 8 minutes at 400 degrees.
8. Cool the baked dough on the cookie sheet elevated on a cooling rack for 3 minutes before moving them in any way. I cook on silicon mats on my cookie sheets; once the initial cooling on the cookie sheet is finished, I pull the mat onto the cooling rack eliminating the cookie sheet that was between the mat and the rack, and cool for an additional 1 1/2 minutes before lifting the little guys from the mat and placing them on a cooling rack to finish cooling.
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To do the decorating of the little guys, I melted 6 ounces of SemiSweet chocolate chips (using the bain-marie method). The chocolate has to be in a bowl wide enough for your hand to reach in, but narrow enough to allow the chocolate to have some volume. I found that if I held the hedgehog by the nose, and then stroked it through the chocolate back first, that I could get good coverage. As you stroke, the chocolate moves up the side of the bowl and allows you to get the coating up to the critter’s neck. I used a spoon to over cover the dipped hedgehog with chopped up walnut.
While someone said to do the nose and eyes with a toothpick, I am into pastry bags, and so I used a bag with a #3 tip to dot the features. I will admit that I am still somewhat an amateur when it comes to baking. I seem to lift the bag too soon without waiting for the chocolate to stop flowing.

I hope this discussion of the technique helps you have some success with making these cute little guys.

Ethel’s Sugar Cookies

In a previous article, I explained how I came to the conclusion that this recipe that I received from the Decorette Shop gave me the best cutout cookies. After testing all six recipes, I concluded that I got the best results from this one. I want you to have it, and my hints for getting the best cutouts so you can move forward with decorated cookies and get the oh and ah I have with mine.
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Ethel’s Sugar Cookies

(slightly modified by Errol)

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp lemon flavoring
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt

Sift together dry ingredients and set aside.
Cream together shortening, butter and sugar for 2-3 minutes. Add eggs and flavoring and mix until creamy. Add dry ingredients and mix til combined.
Chill dough for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out dough to 1/4 inch thick on lightly floured board. Cut with cookie cutters to desired shapes and place on cookie sheet.
Put cookie sheet with cutout cookies in the freezer for 10 minutes.
Bake cookies for 8-12 minutes depending upon size and thickness.
Let cookies cool on baking sheet elevated on cooling rack for 3 minutes before moving cookies from baking sheet to cooling rack to completely cool.

I found the key to minimizing spread is the freezing of the shapes just before baking as well as this recipe. I tried the 6 recipes and only two kept the initial cookie cutter shape to the degree that I felt the recipe was usable, and I settled on this recipe for my cutout cookies. This is a change since I first tried to learn how to control spread and chose a Short Bread cookie recipe; I think with the directions on freezing the dough before baking, you will like this recipe too.
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