Thursday, December 9, 2010

Kids in the Kitchen

I was such a lucky little kid. I was raised in a family where the women were fabulous cooks and they weren't afraid to let me in the kitchen! In all gender fairness, my dad is a mean grillmaster and I had grandfathers who could cook like crazy. However, the biggest influence on my ability to cook were the women in my life. From my Aunt Connie's recipes that had such inspired lines in them as, "get them drunk enough and hungry enough and they'll eat anything" and "beat the hell out of it" to my Mom's red Better Homes and Gardens cookbook the things I learned to cook were simple, yet amazing.

Chocolate chip cookies have always been a staple of our family. My dad will tell you that there is really no need to BAKE the cookies, the cookies are just a vehicle for dough! However, I've taken to baking them tens of dozens at a time and love having a cookie jar full of them! My family will tell you that the cookie jar is often full of the 'rejects' or the cookies that I don't want others to have! But I would argue that the jar is just as often full of delightful cookies that are NOT rejects! :) I learned to make chocolate chip cookies when I was very young, and am just now teaching Avery how to make them. Patrick used to love being in the kitchen with me, but somehow his love for all things sports has taken over his love for all things baking! He still makes a mean grilled cheese and some very tasty waffles, so at least he won't starve in college! In addition to the chocolate chip cookies I have very fond memories of making little mini apple pies when my mom was making the real pies. I do, however, tend to cheat these days and buy my pie crust pre-made, but back in those days the crust and all were crafted by hand! My mind is also full of Grandpa Trambly's pork chops, Aunt Connie's frog eye salad (and many other fluffy salady things), Grandpa Trambly's homemade french fries (which will, undoubtedly be the #1 cause of any clogged arteries I have later in life), and Grandma Woody's Red Velvet Cake. Like it or not, food is such a staple of family life and cooking is truly becoming a lost art! I am forever grateful that I had these strong role models of cooking in my life because I'm not afraid to try anything in the kitchen. I love that I can make 95% of what I cook without a recipe and without using processed or boxed foods. It's a good feeling to pass this skill on to my own daughter. If you're afraid of cooking or say "I can't cook" I challenge you to bust out a computer, type in your favorite food, accompanied by the word 'easy' into Google and TRY IT! I want to hear about your adventures with new recipes! Tell me all about it in the comments section!

I don't let the kids help me in the kitchen when I'm processing orders, for obvious reasons, but I do like to get them involved as much as possible. Last week Avery and her darling BFF, Grace, had a great time decorating their own cakes. They decorated them using a Bearcat football theme, both believing that their cakes would be the good luck charm that the Bearcats would need to advance in the playoffs! It worked! Perhaps they need to bake again this weekend so that we can win our final game before the National Championship!

Good eats,

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Making a list, checking it twice!

WWWWHHHHHHHEEEEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW! I honestly have NO idea what's happened to November and the first seven days of December. I am significantly shocked that Christmas is just three weeks away. It seems like the Bakers were just all here for Thanksgiving. Then came the rush to get the tree up, decorating done, etc. I downsized significantly on my decorating for Christmas this year and I've been so pleased. We did a smaller tree than usual (our living room ceilings are 20 feet high, so we usually have at least a 10 foot tree). We bought an adorable little Frasier fir from Hy Vee and it's just charming. I think sometimes the holidays become so much work that they stop being fun and we completely lose the point of the season. One of the most wonderful things about this new adventure is that I get to be a part of making the holidays (and other special occasions) nice for others. There is something really wonderful about knowing that my 14 hours in the kitchen have made the holiday season better for a mom who has worked 10 hours, has small children to get ready, and is responsible for baking holiday goodies for a work party. If I can spend my 'work days' doing that for others, well, then this is a pretty darned good job!

I mentioned in my last post that a new flavor had been born to the family. Unfortunately I didn't remember to snap any 'baby pics' of this one, but it was born because of my pregnant sister-in-law's penchant for cordial cherries. I DO NOT understand the love of chocolate covered cherries by they are a real favorite of Anne's. So the 'Queen Anne' cupcake was created! It's a very simple chocolate cupcake filled with cherry filling (cherries in heavy syrup), topped with whipped chocolate ganache and topped with a Queen Anne cherry cordial. Apparently they were yummy, but since I absolutely do not love chocolate covered cherries, I stayed away! Maybe I should make all food in my world chocolate covered cherry flavored and then I'd look more like Jessica Simpson rather than Julia Child! ;)

It has been a tremendously busy week at the bakery and I don't see things slowing down any time soon! I keep a book and a calendar of all of my orders, but I'm always terrified I'm going to forget someone or something. I can't imagine being Santa! No wonder he checks his list twice! I think I check my book and calendar at least twenty times a week!!! Here are a few of the things I had the privilege of making last week...

This fun cake was for little Allison's first birthday. Allison had a farm themed birthday, so her mom chose this fun cake design. The top part of the cake is a jumbo cupcake decorated to be a barn. This served as Allison's little 'mini' cake for her to do with as she pleased.

These fun jumbo cupcakes were created for a little guy and girl who were both celebrating their first birthdays. The jumbo cupcakes are covered in black fondant and the ears are made with black fondant and buttercream.

I had the opportunity to get a bit of an education this week. Prior to Monday I had never heard of Chuggington. Apparently Chuggington is the new Thomas the Train. I had to do a quick study of the Chuggington characters in order to make the cake for Cash's 3rd birthday. I was worried about the figures not being exactly like the actual characters until I walked into Cash's house and he said, "CHUGGINGTON!" WHEW! Making actual characters can be so stressful because you can't quite ever get them exactly right. I think Cash and his mom were pleased, and I was happy to get my Chuggington education!

Another adorable 3 year old celebrated his birthday with a Just Like Mom's cake and cookies. Kort is a Handy Manny fan so I created this fun tool belt cake for him. I got to have fun creating some tool cookies, as well. I would do some things differently on these cookies the next time I make them, but they worked out just fine for this particular cake! I hope Kort enjoyed it!

I'm off to catch some ZZZs before another long day of baking and frosting. Tomorrow I'll show you some pictures of my adorable assistant bakers!

Good eats,

Saturday, November 27, 2010

So Much to be Thankful For!

Happy Thanksgiving weekend! I'm not really sure there's anything much better than family. As an only child I always looked forward to the large family dinners we had with my mom's family in central Nebraska. We would gather and eat too much, laugh, and have fun with cousins. As I got older, my cousins (who were substantially older than I) moved on to their own lives and the family dinners changed. I missed those times tremendously until I had the opportunity to meet my husband's family.

The first time I met them I knew they were a bit like a Hooters slogan, "delightfully tacky, yet refined". They're all well-educated and intelligent, and yet they have a zest for slightly crude humor and laughter at each others' expense. However, you won't find a more loving, kind, committed, open-minded group of people anywhere. I feel so blessed to have them all as part of my life.

As I write this, 19 of them have descended upon my home. Most of us have changed into our 'holiday pants' and are enjoying the Oklahoma State/Oklahoma football game. There is also a contingent bathing the two adorable nephews from Minnesota who are awaiting the birth of their new baby brother or sister, there's an uncle blowing up air mattresses, and there are children making a hide-and-seek-in-the-dark game in our basement. There's a newly engaged 'aunt' and Uncle, and a grandfather who drove 2 hours after a day of traveling via airplane just to share a meal with his kiddos. It's the sound of family, and it's wonderful. As an only child I feel so fortunate to have married ALL of them, warts and all. They accept me (well, mostly) for exactly who I am and support the crazy endeavors I find! I love them all, as well as my Dad and Leslie who are awaiting our arrival in Florida, my Mom who is able to be here to share in this insane Baker feast, and of course all of my cousins and their beautiful families who are sharing the holidays far away from here.

All that family sleeping in my house has to eat, and EAT we have! In addition to the beignets, sausage croissants, dip, homemade egg nog, all matter of alcoholic beverages, cookies, turkey fixings, pies, cheesecakes, and 'foo foo' drinks, a new cupcake has emerged! Tomorrow I'll tell you all about it! For now, enjoy this adorable view of the current baby of the family enjoying the latest flavor.

Many thanks to YOU, faithful blog readers!

Good eats,

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Successful Hunt

This weekend I got the fantastic opportunity to be a part of the Maryville Holiday Hunt. The Hunt is a terrific gathering of true artisans who sell their artwork and other handcrafted items. It was a pleasure to be selected to join the group!

The Hunt began with the baking of about 355 cupcakes, all to be created as signature flavors. Needless to say, the kitchen was COMPLETELY taken over with the goodies. Super Husband and the kids feel totally annoyed that they don't get to 'keep' any of the creations I make...they all end up leaving the house! However, I think they were all relieved to see this batch go!

I had a gorgeous spot in which to display my cupcakes. I brought in my NEW cupcake tower (thank you SOOOO much to my 'second husband, Mark' for transporting the mammoth stand for me) and filled it up! I loved the way the cupcakes looked on the stand when they were displayed. The stand is really versatile. I love the fact that the side boards on each tier are removable so that the boards can be covered with fabric, ribbon, etc. It would be great fun to use coordinating fabrics for brides, etc. I can't wait to get to bring the stand out for a wedding!

I also had a display area with my laptop (referred to as my fifth appendage) and displayed a slide show of my cookies, cupcakes, and cakes. I was in charge of a children's activity, as well, so I created sugar cookie decorating kits for the kiddos. They looked so pretty displayed on my smaller cupcake stands. Of course, my logo and bakery boxes are all pink, so my area looked a little like an exploded Pepto Bismal bottle, but I thought it was fun, light, and festive!

I sold out of my cupcakes and made some really fun appointments and contacts for future baking jobs. I'm really looking foward to continuing to try out new flavors and techniques!

In addition to the Holiday Hunt goodies, I had the MOST fun opportunity to cater cupcakes to a really great guy's SURPRISE birthday party! It was sooo much fun to work with Kevin's wife, Patty, to coordinate the big surprise. Kevin is an avid hunter and doesn't particularly love cake, but he does love, love, love Scotcheroos. So, naturally I thought he needed to combine both of those loves and the Scotcheroo deer sculpture was born!

I had so much fun sculpting this goofy little deer. I everything is made out of Scotcheroos. The antlers are covered in white fondant and are shaded and etched with black food coloring in order to make them look more realistic. The deer head itself is truly a Scotcheroo. The deer is covered completely in chocolate with fondant accents. I hope it was as tasty as it was goofy!

My final decorating feat for the week (and boy, what a baking week it was) was little Miss Reagan's baptismal cake. This was a very simple, girly white cake with pink accents. The bow is pink fondant and the bow at the bottom is an actual fabric bow. When I delivered this cake I was so pleased to see Miss Reagan was also decked out in pink and white and had a very similar pink bow in her hair. What a sweetie!

The giveaway is continuing! Don't forget to leave comments and become a blog follower to be entered in the drawing to win the book 'Cupcake'. You can see the book and a description of the book in the previous post!

Have a WONDERFUL Thanksgiving! I'm rolling out a BRAND NEW cupcake for my adorable pregnant sister-in-law...stay tuned!

Good eats,

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cupcakes get Cultured!

There is actual literature about CUPCAKES!!! Do you believe it? Cupcakes have gone from being delightful little 'lazy man's' food to a gadzillion dollar industry! Apparently cupcakes are soooo popular that the world of children's literature has even joined the cupcake craze! I think having literature written about a food automatically makes it cultured and refined, right? Well, I guess you'd have to exclude the children's book, 'It Was Disgusting and We Ate It', but my two new favorite books are surely refined!

The first is 'Cupcake' by Charise Mericle Harper. This is an adorable story of a vanilla cupcake feeling very inadequate next to his more 'foo foo' flavored peers. It's an adorable book about just loving who you are. It's becoming one of Avery's favorites!

The second is 'Tina Cocolina Queen of the Cupcakes' by Pablo Cartaya and Martin Howard. This is another story about finding yourself amongst the crowd and believing in your own individuality. This one has more of a 'pageant' feel, but without the sometimes negative aspects of pageantry.

I highly recommend that you pick up these two books for your favorite guy or gal! Heck, pick up the book, order some cupcakes and've got a complete birthday gift!

I'm feeling lonely and wondering if anyone is out there! I'm giving away one copy of 'Cupcake' to a lucky blog commenter! I'll take names of any of you who make comments between now and Thanksgiving Day. Each comment you make entitles you to an entry into the drawing for the book! Keep me motivated with your terrific comments! Also, become a blog follower and you'll get one DOUBLE entry for the prize!

I'm off to bake! This is a BIIIGGG order week!

Good eats,

Monday, November 15, 2010

Baking's a HOOT!

First and foremost....I promised you pretzely goodness and you shall receive! This......

is the new 'baby' that joined the Just Like Mom's family this week! This yet-unnamed cup of yummy goodness is chocolate butter cake filled with caramel, topped with peanut butter buttercream and crusted with pretzels. HEAVEN! If you've ever had a Take 5 candy bar and LOVED it this cupcake is FOR YOU! It's the perfect combination of sweet and salty. It's sure to become a fan favorite!

I had a hoot of a time baking a first birthday extravaganza for my ADORABLE neighbor, Ryan. She had an owl themed first birthday party that was, hands-down, the most adorable first birthday party I've ever attended! Here are the goodies from her soiree!

This is Ryan's 'smash' cake, or the little cake she got to tear into! Aren't first birthdays awesome! After you turn one no one allows you to just smash your face and fingers into anything! Perhaps we should change that and allow any and all birthday guests of honor to defame their cakes. I'll contact Congress!

Another view of Ryan's smash cake.

This was Ryan's 'big' cake that was used to serve. I am really pleased with the color combinations on this cake. It turned out beahooootiful!

This was my favorite part of the entire creative process! I had SO much fun creating these owl cookies. I absolutely love what royal icing allows me to do with cookies. What fun. I'm thinking about just baking these up for myself on some dreary winter afternoon. Don't they just make you feel compelled to smile?

I also got to have some cupcake love for this party. These are simple white cupcakes with fondant owl toppers and pink and pale green frosting. Yum-o!

I, of course, had to include a picture of my Avery with her namesake Ryan Avery. Don't you just want to squeeze their cheeks! What cuties! I'm sure someday Avery will be teaching Ryan how to sneak out of the house. For now, at least' we can just revel in their cuteness!

Another birthday boy, Merritt, celebrated his 16th birthday this week with a Butterfinger themed cupcake. The 'Nobody Betta Lay a Finga' cupcake is dedicated to Mr. Merritt! This cupcake is a chocolate buttercake filled with Butterfinger filling and topped with ganache and a Butterfinger bar!

I thought I'd take a picture of the inside so you can see just how far the cupcakes are filled. None of this frilly 1/2 full stuff! These are cupcakes for REAL people! Fill 'em up!

Finally, Miss Bailey was also celebrating her 16th birthday! She requested 'girlie' pink Pride O' The Bride cupcakes and some fun basketball cookies for her fellow Spoofhounds (hence the pawprint on each basketball).

This week will be a baking frenzy. I have 600 cupcakes to make, one scotcharoo sculpture, and at least 200 cookies. Whew! Luckily my mom has agreed to come in and act as a reinforcement sous chef. I'm thinking that the payment will be in wine!

Good eats,

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

All this baking is getting in the way of my blogging!!

Really? No blog post since October 27? YIKES! I suppose too much baking and not enough blogging is the sort of balance I should be hoping for!

I have had so much fun in the last couple of weeks with new cake and cupcake creations. I've been asked many times recently if I have recipes I follow or a book I get my ideas out of. The truth is an absolute NO to both questions. I probably should have recipes, but I prefer to just tinker around with flavors and different combinations until something yummy comes out! I take much of my inspiration from conversations I have with friends and family about the types of flavors they enjoy. I had a friend mention that she really loves Oreo cookies, so an Oreo flavor was born. My mom adores carrot cake and applesauce spice cake, so those cupcakes were born! I'm most thrilled about a flavor I'm working on that involves pretzels! I won't give any more away than that! But be looking for that flavor to be revealed soon!

Last week I had the opportunity to create a chocolate buttercream cake for a dear friend's mother-in-law's 80th birthday. There were going to be lots and lots of children celebrating with this lucky grandmother, so I opted to do buttercream rather than a full fondant covering. I have been experimenting with a new buttercream smoothing technique, so this was a good place to try it out. It wasn't 100% perfect, but I loved the way the remainder of the cake turned out! The cake was chocolate butter cake with truffle filling and deep chocolate buttercream icing! YUM-O!

My darling little friend, Eliana, was on hand to help me with this cake. She arrived at my house dressed in her CUPCAKE outfit and it was even BROWN AND BLUE! She's such a themey little helper! I couldn't avoid the picture!

A new cupcake was also created this week! The 'Tracy's Tasty' joined the Just Like Mom's family! This cupcake is named after Matt's Aunt Tracy who makes a family-famous chocolate mint cookie. We adore the flavor combination and I knew a cupcake version was a must. The cupcake is chocolate butter cake with a chocolate mint ganache filling topped with whipped ganache and diced Andes mints! Don't you think you need some for your holiday parties?

I've also had many people ask me lately why I decided to start my business. Truly it's all because of this.....

...this is truly the cookie that started it all. I have always made a pretty killer chocolate chip cookie. I've been told time and time again that I should sell them. I have several secret ingredients that I use in my cookies that make them work. After realizing that I bake approximately six dozen chocolate chip cookies in an average week, I thought "what the heck?" and the business was born.

Finally, I'm an obsessed organizer. In fact, I probably have an unnatural attachment to my label maker. However, after years of digging through a Rubbermaid container each time I wanted to locate a cookie cutter, I had had enough and off to the hardware store I went!

This is the cookie cutter organizational wall in progress. I LOVE pegboard and all it can do. It's hard for me to leave open space for the cutters that will continue to join my collection, but I suppose it does give me permission to add! If you come across any funky cookie cutters, shoot me a message with where I can find them! My current favorite 'weird' cutter is a buffalo! You never know when someone will call and ask for a buffalo cookie!

Good eats,

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A new blogging view....

Wow. What creative and amazing friends I have. I have just spent the better part of the day with my dear friend, Amy, doing a redesign on my den. WOW, WOW, WOW!! I tell my uber creative friends, Sonja and Amy, repeatedly that I'm their go-to girl for food art, but when it comes to the nitty gritty of making my home look beautiful it's up to them! I generally have pretty decent 'Pottery Barn-meets yard sale- meets Target' styling ability, but those little design touches that make a room fantastic have to come from my lovely decorator friends! Amy got the 'privilege' of doing this re-design and Sonja will be called upon next week for the re-working of a wall in the living room! How great is my life that I GET to alternate between two such amazing people!

It's amazing how people like Amy and Sonja can take things I already have, rearrange them, and make them look lovely. I have LOVED my red walls (red is my very favorite color) since we painted them two years ago, but I didn't think my arrangement of furniture did the color justice. Now, I love it even more. The only things I added to this room were Sonja's cast-off black computer armoire, a few plants, two floating shelves, and cubbies for the business files....voila!

I am happy to report that I can now use my laptop at my den desk rather than having the desktop computer take up the desk. It's a much more inspiring view to work in a beautiful room, surrounded by lovely things, than it is to blog on the kitchen counter (not that that's not an inspiration in itself), or hunched over the laptop in bed (again, not the kind of inspiration I probably want in the bedroom!)

So, perhaps the posts will come more frequently when typed from my new view and perhaps they'll even be more well-written and witty than they have been in the past!

Tomorrow I'm going to show you some fantastic pictures of Halloween cookies that I'm creating for my 'special' trick or treaters!

For now....

Good eats,

PS...Not sure Super Husband was thrilled about being photographed in his exercise clothes, but as long as I wasn't disturbing the reading of Flying magazine, all was good!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

108 Cupcakes, 79 cookies, 2 cakes....all in a week's work!

Wow. I can't believe it's actually been 18 days since my last post. I have been feverishly baking. Just last week, alone, I baked, frosted, filled, and delivered 108 cupcakes, 79 cookies, and two cakes. WHEW! I'm not sure my oven was off at any time except for when we were all asleep! It was FANTASTIC!!!! I cannot believe how joyful it feels to be baking and creating. There is nothing more satisfying than making people smile as beautiful baked creations are delivered to their special event. It's truly the most fun job in the world!!

This week I had the pure enjoyment of taking goodies to three birthday parties! What fun! Birthdays are such fun. There are never ending possibilities for cake creations. The first birthday party was for a very fashionable young lady with a passion for zebra print and hot pink! She requested a zebra cake with Oreo filling-YUM-O!! I created a classic white cake with an Oreo buttercream filling. The cake was so darned cute! I just wish I'd have taken a picture with my camera! Instead, I took one with my cell and I absolutely cannot figure out how to download the picture!! However, later in the week this great little gal requested zebra cupcakes for her 'friend' party. I had a very fun time creating these yummy Oreo-filled cupcakes decorated to resemble zebra print.

The second birthday was for one of my favorite 22 year-old people! Miss Lindsay also wanted the zebra/Oreo combination. Once, again, I realized too late that my camera battery was dead! UGH! picture, currently, but Lindsay's mom assures me that there is a picture forthcoming! It was so fun to 'repeat' the zebra cake from the previous day. I learned so much about how to contour the black fondant so that the zebra print would be just enough to make the cake look 'zebraish' and not 'zebra tacky'. Hee hee! I had an absolute ball making both of these cakes. They were small cakes which allowed for lots of time to really attend to detail and enjoy the process. Thanks, Lindsay and Claire, for allowing me to be a part of your celebrations!

I also got to be a part of my favorite Husker's birthday. Mr. Carson was turning seven and really wanted to celebrate with a Nebraska Cornhusker cupcake. (Did I mention that I LOVE this kid???) Carson requested strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate cupcakes. I wanted to kick it up a little, so I also created some sugar cookie footballs to place on top of the cupcakes. Each kiddo at the party received a 'two for one'...a cupcake AND a cookie!! Sorry parents, the kids were probably very highly sugared when they left the party! I had so much fun working on these cupcakes...especially since I got to make 24 bright red letter Ns! WHOO HOO!!

The third, and final, birthday celebration of the week was for sweet Morgan. Morgan is a freak of nature in that she doesn't love chocolate. WHAT is up with that??? Just kidding, Morgie! Morgan is a hip, cool cat of a kid who was having a huge bonfire party for her 17th birthday, and asked me to be a part of the festivities. I created three new flavors for her party.

The 'Holy Heath' was born out of Super Husband's love of Heath candy bars AND out of his very direct request for a cupcake with caramel filling. So, the Holy Heath was born! This cupcake is a chocolate butter cake base with caramel filling, topped with whipped chocolate ganache, toffee bits, and a miniature Heath candy bar. YUM!!

The second flavor I created was per Miss Morgan's request. Morgan wanted something 'cheesecaky'. I thought strawberries and cheesecake sounded fabulous together, so the 'Strawberry Fields Forever' (thanks Beatles) was born! This cupcake is a strawberry cake base, filled with cheesecake and topped with vanilla buttercream. It is soooo rich, but so pretty to look at!

Finally, I wanted to replicate one of my favorite summer drinks in a cupcake. I absolutely love Raspberry lemonades from Sonic. The 'Raspberry Beret' is a lemon cupcake with raspberry buttercream icing. It's tangy and tart, sweet and sassy, but unlike it's Sonic relative CANNOT be delivered on rollerskates!!

I've had lots of fun perfecting Royal icing for cookies this week, and can't wait to try out my new Halloween cookie cutters tomorrow. I created some fun Bearcat football cookies for a trip to an away Bearcat game this week. They were gobbled up quite quickly! I was lucky to get a few shots before my 14 year-old nephew absconded with the goods!

I had one more fun flavor experiment this week. I am very intrigued with the combination of regular cake batter and the infusion of fresh fruit. I had a blast creating 'The Great Berry' (named after Matt's uncle, Barry, who is affectionately referred to as Great Barry). The Great Berry is a true berry cupcake infused with raspberries and strawberries and topped with vanilla buttercream. It's a pretty little cupcake with a refreshing and light taste and texture.

I am SOOOO excited that I can now deliver my little pieces of art in artful and funky packages. I found a wholesaler for my fun pink polka dotted boxes. I love the way they look and create a very professional presentation. You can see them behind several of the cupcakes in the pictures!

Be looking for a Facebook page for Just Like Mom's launching on Tuesday of this week. Become a fan and receive 10% off your order!!

It's off to bed now. I can't wait to share more creations with you in a few days!!

Good eats,