My Life in Birthday Cakes

See that cute birthday girl in the photo above?  That’s me!  At least it was me in 1983. 
 The photo is me celebrating my 5th birthday at preschool, with a birthday cake made by my mom.  This was one of the many “clown cakes” my mom made over the years.  The cake is decorated with cute plastic clown heads placed on bodies made of frosting.  I remember standing in the kitchen watching my mom make these cakes (she made several over the years).  We (kids) would pose in the position we wanted the clowns to be in, and my mom did a pretty great job matching our request.   
My mom is a wonderful cook and baker and almost always made our (me and my two sisters) birthday cakes.  I think this is one of the reasons it’s important to me to make the cakes for my two girls.  I remember how special it was to get to watch my mom make our cakes, and get to add our input.  I recently dug through old photos looking for some of the cakes my mom made for me.  My mom is not a professional chef, but the cakes she made were so special and beautiful to us. 
(Above) Here is my 8th birthday cake.  I’ve always loved rainbows.  Oh, and look… more clowns!
(Above)  My mom bringing me a homemade birthday cake.  I think I was turning 10.
(Above)  Me and another special cake made by my mom (I think I’m turning 11 here).  I think it’s clowns again… my mom actually made several other designs (I remember a 3D panda, a barbie doll dress, and several others) it just happened that the photos I found were mostly the clown ones!
So fast forward a few years… I’m married and have two daughter’s of my own.  My oldest daughter’s 4th birthday was her first “big” party, and the first time I attempted cake decorating.  My daughter had requested a “Princess castle cake”.  I spent several months searching for ideas and watching cake decorating videos on You-Tube.  Then I spent the better part of a day and a half doing my best to fulfill her request. 
Here is Grace with her “Princess castle cake”.
By Grace’s next birthday, I had a little more decorating experience and wanted to try covering a cake with fondant.  So I made my first fondant cake in the requested theme, Hello Kitty.
That same year, I made a Strawberry Shortcake themed cake for my youngest daughter, Joy’s 2nd birthday.
Along with matching strawberry cupcakes…
Last year, it was Grace’s turn for a “big” party again (we do big parties for our girls every other year), and I made a cake and cupcakes to accompany her candy themed birthday (blogged here).
(Photo by Nathan Chilton)
(Photo by Nathan Chilton)
Last month we had a fun ladybug themed party (blogged here) for my “baby” Joy (now 4).  Here is the ladybug cake I made (decorated with sugar cookies made by Sweet Sugar Belle).
I look forward to many more years of making birthday cakes for my daughters.  And I hope they will remember them as fondly as I remember the ones my mom made for me.
As a side note…
I think homemade birthday cakes are very special, but that in no means equates to saying that there is anything wrong with the vast majority of moms/families who buy store bought cakes.  If you enjoy making homemade cakes, great… if not, feel no guilt from me!
Happy Celebrating!

The Glorious Truth

 

(Above- one of my earliest cupcake photos, I was very proud of these at the time)

I’m a perfectionist.  A grade of an ‘A-’ is almost the same as an ‘F’ to me.  I almost never feel pretty enough, thin enough, talented enough, good enough…  I usually assume everyone else has it all together, and since I don’t… I must be doing it all wrong.  Some of these thoughts are just part of my wiring… and many are thanks to the society we live in.  Our entire economic system is completely dependant on everyone being so dissatisfied with their life that we have to always be buying things that will surely help us be thinner, prettier, more organized, more popular, happier.

I think women are particularly hard hit with this… we are all convinced that other women are prettier than us, smarter than us, better wives, better moms… you name it!

I’ve realized overtime that in some small way I may be simply another voice in your head reminding you that you are not good enough… your cupcakes don’t look like mine, your parties don’t look like mine, your photos aren’t as pretty as mine…

Today I want that to stop!

No one is perfect, and that certainly includes me!  Can I make pretty cupcakes?  Yes.. but that’s not the whole picture.   When I post a photo on this blog you don’t see that my kitchen that looks like a bomb just went off… You don’t know that my family had pizza for dinner because I spent all day making pretty cookies…  You didn’t hear me snapping at my little girls to get away from my project.

Please consider that I’m only showing you what I want you to see!  You don’t see the cookies I’ve made that are ugly.  Yes, ugly… I assure you that not everything I touch turns out beautiful!  More than once, I have put an entire batch of cookies or cupcakes right into the trash!  And, not every photo I take magically comes together the way I imagined.  For that matter, when I post two or three photos of a project, those are out of a set of maybe 40 photos.  Not to mention, I often use Photoshop to enhance the lighting, and have even been know to edit out a misplaced sprinkle or two!

So, just for today I want you to see me in a bit more realistic light….

Here I am (with hubby) in my gourmet kitchen…

Don’t we look glamorous?  =)

And here are some of the less than “glorious” treats I’ve made over the years.  Granted,  I don’t take photos of projects I’m really not happy with, so these are sort of the best of the worst  =).  This may be the one and only time I post 100% un-edited photos!

Not exactly photos you’ll see on the cover of a magazine anytime soon, right?  =)

I do hope that my pretty photos (the ones I usually post) are a source of inspiration for you, but I never want anyone to read my blog and feel that they are somehow lacking.  Every person on earth has so many wonderful strengths, please don’t expect that yours should be exactly the same as mine.  And don’t be discouraged by the well lit, cropped, and edited version of my life that I usually show you… it’s not the whole picture!

Baking, party planning, crafting… these should be fun activities!  Allow yourself to enjoy the process, regardless of the end results.

I have spent the past several years baking hundreds and thousands of cookies, cupcakes and treats.  They don’t all come together perfectly, but in the end most of them are eaten, enjoyed and then I get to “practice” some more another day!

From one imperfect person to another…

Happy Baking!

Fudge Mint Brownies {Recipe}

Fudge Mint Brownies… I think the title pretty much tells you all you need to know!

I discovered these brownies a couple years ago, adjusted the recipe a bit and have made them dozens of times.   I’m actually a bit famous for them in my little world  =)

These are dense, rich and so delicious!  They can be cut into small squares and are a great dessert to serve on a dessert table, or bring to a dinner party.

Fudge Mint Brownies

Brownie Layer~

1/2 cup butter, cut into pieces

4 oz. dark chocolate (apx. 80% cocoa, or use half unsweetened and half bittersweet)

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 large eggs

3/4 cup all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

Mint Layer~

3 Tablespoons butter, at room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar

1 Tablespoon heavy cream (or milk)

1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract  (or 1/4 teaspoon creme de menthe and 1/4 teaspoon peppermint)

1 drop green food coloring (I use americolor mint green)

Chocolate Glaze~

3 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (apx. 70 % cocoa)

1 Tablespoon butter

Andes Mints (apx. 1/2 package, or 14 whole pieces, about 2.5 oz.), chopped

Directions~

Preheat oven to 325*F.   Prepare a 9″x9″ (or 8″x8″) square baking pan by lining parchment paper across the bottom and sides of the pan, like a sling.  You can use a little butter on the pan to help the paper stay in place.

Brownies~

In a stainless steel bowl over a pan of simmering water (or double boiler), melt the butter and chocolate.

Once melted, remove from heat and stir in the sugar and vanilla.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well with a spoon.  Stir in flour and salt and beat with a spoon until the batter is smooth and glossy (about 1 minute).  Pour the brownie batter evenly into the prepared pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until brownies start to pull away from the sides and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean.  Remove pan from oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely (about 1 hour).

Mint Layer~

In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat all ingredients until smooth.  Add 1 or two drops of green food coloring (one at a time, you don’t want it too green).  If the frosting is too thick, add a bit more cream (the frosting should be just thin enough to spread).  Spread the frosting evenly over the cooled brownie layer.  Place in the refrigerator for about 5-10 minutes, or until slightly firm.

Chocolate Glaze~

In a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter.  Spread over the mint filling, then top with chopped Andes mints.  Refrigerate for about 30 minutes, or until the chocolate glaze starts to dull.

To Serve~

Remove brownies from the pan by lifting the ends of the parchment paper, and transfer to a cutting board.  With a sharp knife, cut into apx. 1-1 1/2 inch squares.  For best results, rinse off the knife in hot water, then wipe dry after each cut.

Brownies can be stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, best served at room temperature.

Makes about 25-30 small squares.

Recipe adapted from Joy of Baking.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes {Recipe}

Chocolate and peanut butter… a marriage made in heaven!

I recently found some cute tiny sized Reese’s peanut butter cups at the store and thought they would look perfect on cupcakes.  I mean how could topping a cupcake with pieces of candy ever be a bad idea?  I used my favorite Chocolate cupcake recipe and topped it with about the most delicious frosting ever!  If you don’t like chocolate and peanut butter together, I can’t help you… but if you do, make sure you have a big glass of milk on hand and go make these!

Chocolate Cupcakes

(makes 24-27 standard sized cupcakes)

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa (best quality available)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (best quality available)
1 cup boiling water

Directions-
1.  Line muffin tin with paper liners. Heat oven to 350*F.
2.  In a large mixing bowl, stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
3.  Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Beat on medium speed for one minute.
4.  Stir in boiling water (the batter will be thin, don’t worry, this is right).
5.  Fill liners 2/3 full with batter. (I usually put the batter into a large measuring cup with a pour spout, and     then pour the batter into the liners.)
6.  Bake cupcakes for approximately 22-24 minutes.
7.  Cool completely on wire rack before frosting.

Peanut Butter Frosting

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 cup smooth peanut butter (chose a natural peanut butter, with no added sugar)

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese (cold, directly from fridge)

4 cups powdered sugar

1 tablespoon heavy cream (or milk)

Beat the butter until smooth.  Add the cream cheese, and continue to beat until smooth and fully combined with the butter.  Add the peanut butter and beat until well combined. Slowly add the powdered sugar and continue to mix until the frosting is smooth. Add in the cream, and beat another 30 seconds.  Frost cupcakes.

Frosting Recipe by Glorious Treats
Cupcakes Recipe Adapted from Hershey’s

Enjoy!

Thanks for a Glorious Year!

One year ago this week I posted the first post on this little blog.  That first post wasn’t just a whim, I’d been thinking and planning of starting a blog for at least 6 months, but didn’t want to begin posting until I had a clear plan.  I started with my “blog binder”, which I still look to several times a week.  This binder is where I write my ideas, plan posts, and keep records.  Although I began this blog with some plans, as with most things in life, the plans have changed and been adjusted along the way.  I am still learning all the time… about blogging, food, photography, and balancing my time (between blogging/ homeschooling/ housekeeping/ living).  This blog has reached and surpassed many of my expectations, and I really appreciate each of you who have been reading, commenting and encouraging me along the way.
I have lots of plans (in my trusty binder) for fun (and sweet!) things to come, but today I want to take a little time to express my heartfelt thanks to those of you who have joined me on this sweet journey.  I really appreciate each and every person who reads this blog!  I love reading each comment (I promise I see each one, even if I don’t always have time to reply).
I want to express special thanks to a few of the gorgeous blogs that have shared my work, included me on their blog rolls, and have offered encouragement time and time again…
And heartfelt thanks to some of my personal friends for being such amazing cheerleaders… 
My dear husband James, Amy Middleton, Tara Loorz, Lacie Robertson, Joy Adams, Cecilia Midgette, Shelly Lange, Kathy Mullisen, Heather Serpa, Carolyn Holcomb, Jeanna Robertson, Sharon Flath, Sharnel Dollar, Callye Alvarado, Maryann Rollins. 
And MANY others who have offered encouragement, commented frequently, and been more than willing to eat all of my baking “experiments”.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Here’s to another Glorious Year!