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,