Monday, July 18, 2011

Camping Cookies

Every year, my family and some close friends go camping at this awesome spot in the Stanislaus National Forest which we call Ramsey's. And every year, a couple weeks before the trip, one of our friends has a barbecue so everyone can get together and plan for the trip (or, you know, drink beer, eat good food, and play wiffle ball golf). The barbecue was this past Saturday, and I made these cookies for dessert :)

My dad and uncles all drive their Jeeps down the trail, and some of us hike. Ramsey's isn't a normal campground; there are no showers or toilets, no RV hookups (it would be impossible to get an RV down the trail anyway--there's a reason they drive Jeeps), no hundred other people crammed into sites next to you. It's quite fabulous.

We have a lovely big campfire going the whole weekend. We use it to cook and roast marshmallows, then we stoke it up and just enjoy sitting around the fire talking and telling jokes.

We spread our tents out on various clear, level patches in the forest. We don't have to worry about other campers, because Ramsey's is private property, owned by a close family friend.

And we enjoy the beautiful view of pine trees, and the sound of the river, which we are lucky enough to have bordering our campsite on one edge.

I was going to put in an actual picture of Ramsey's here, but I forgot to add it initially, and Blogger hates me and doesn't want me to move pictures around, so....sorry. Instead, we'll move right along to a close-up of one of my Jeeps:

The Jeeps aren't quite perfect, but they came out far better than I was expecting them to. I'll be making more this week as part of a raffle prize for my dad's 4x4 club, so hopefully I can fix what I don't like about these ones :)

Projects for the coming week: 4x4 Poker Run cookies (more Jeeps!), possibly a Jeep cookie tutorial, and my brother's awesome birthday cake! (I haven't made the cake yet, but I am thinking positively.) See you real soon!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Strawberry Cupcake Recipe

I made these ballet slipper cupcakes for a little girl's 6th birthday last weekend. Half of the cupcakes had ballet slippers, and the other half had the girl's inital, K. She wanted strawberry cake with chocolate frosting, which I liked because then the cupcakes were pink too ;)
I really like strawberry cake, and last year I tried out a TON of strawberry cake recipes. What I discovered is that it is very difficult to make strawberry cake using only strawberries. All of the cakes I tried, whether they called for strawberry chunks, strawberry puree, or strawberry jam, did not taste much like strawberry. The fruit left a vaguely sweet flavor which you could tell was not just sugar, but which was not easily discernible as strawberry. So I thought and thought about how I could make a stronger flavor and eventually decided to add Jell-O. I normally prefer to use only fruit in my fruit-flavored cakes, but sometimes ya gotta do what ya gotta do ;)
The Jell-O definitely helped, and the resultant cake was quite yummy! My only note is that this cake does not rise a whole lot, so you might want to fill your liners just a bit more than you normally would. So, for any of you who have had similar strawberry cake problems, here is my recipe ;) Some of the measurements are kinda weird, I know sixth-cups aren't commonly used, sorry bout that.

Strawberry Jell-O Cupcakes

Bake at 375. Makes 10 cupcakes.

4 Tbsp butter

9 1/2 Tbsp sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1/8 tsp salt

5/6 tsp baking powder

5/6 C flour

1 oz strawberry Jell-O

1/6 C strawberry puree*

1/4 C milk

Whisk together flour and Jell-O powder and set aside. In mixer, cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg, vanilla, salt, and baking powder. Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the milk and puree, and ending with flour. Beat until mixture is smooth.

Bake 18-20 minutes.

*You could probably substitute strawberry jam. However, to make strawberry puree, buy a bag of frozen strawberries. Place them in a strainer over a pot and let them thaw out. Stir/squish them occasionally to try and get as much juice out as possible (but don't squish them through the strainer, you only want juice in the pot, not strawberry chunks). This may take a long time. Once you think you've got all the juice, put the strawberries in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Meanwhile, set the juice over med-low heat on the stove and boil until it's reduced to about a quarter of the original amount. Don't stir, but swirl the pot around once in a while. Combine the juice and strawberries, et voila! Puree! Most people also add a touch of lemon juice, which is supposed to enhance the strawberry's flavor, but I often skip it.

Independence Day Treats

I made some goodies for our neighbor's 4th of July party this year. They ordered two dozen cupcakes and told me to do whatever I'd like :) So, I made a dozen margarita cupcakes (they do like to party), and a dozen of these colorful cuppies. These are super simple to make, and so much fun!

To create the tye-dye effect, divide your batter into as many portions as colors you want, and get dyeing. Then get out some spoons, and start dropping batter into liners! These would be really fun cupcakes to make with kids (as long as you don't mind a little mess) because they could have fun playing the with batter, and the process would go more quickly with some helping hands! For the best color swirls, don't drop all the batter of each color in at once, or you'll end up with something more like color blocks. I mean, unless that's what you're going for.

Anyway...remember the Disneyland cake I made for my friend? You should, it was only the last post before this one. So, like I said, I had a whole extra tier left over. I had already baked the cake and frosted it in buttercream, so I thought I may as well practice my fondant application, and I went ahead and covered it in fondant. Then I thought, oh my goodness, what am I going to do with a 5-inch tall 12-inch cake?? That is a lot of cake, and there are only two of us! The thought of wasting all that cake was painful to me, so again, I thought I may as well practice my decorating, and I turned it into a pretty red, white, and blue cake to take to our neighbor's party.

This was really easy and quick, and it came out pretty cute! Tiny dark blue stars around the base, red stripes, and white stars on top. I hand-cut some letters to make "USA" on top:

The first thing my husband said to me when he saw the picture was that I should have had 13 stars. Totally wasn't even thinking about that. Anyway, after this comment, he expressed the appropriate admiration ;) Since they weren't expecting a cake, our friends were quite surprised and pleased! Unfortunately, the hubby and I were sitting in a fireworks booth all day, so we didn't get to sample any :( But I'm sure it was awesome ;)

Sunday, July 10, 2011


My best friend since forever (and fellow Disney nut) had a birthday barbecue last weekend, and I wanted to make her a totally awesome cake. I had very grand plans for this cake, but I ended up with about two less days to work on it than I thought I would have, so I ended up leaving off a whole tier because I didn't get all the decorations made, and the ones that did get made aren't quite finished off as I'd have liked. But all in all, it still came out very well, everyone at the party loved it, and considering this is only the second cake I've ever covered in fondant, and that it's my first tiered cake, I'm pleased :) And they probably aren't too sad about that missing third tier, because that would have meant a ridiculous amount of leftover cake haha ;)
Aside from "Disneyland," of course, there is no overriding theme to the cake, I just wanted to incorporate a lot of different attractions.
Overall, the cake has a vintage resort entrance sign topper, Mad Tea Party cups, Billy Hill and the Hillbillies, Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Monorail, and Sleeping Beauty Castle.
The topper and the Billys were my favorite elements. The lettering is all hand-painted and I am super, super happy with the way it turned out (except the "d" at the end kept wanting to fall off). The party was actually a joint affair for my friend and her mom; I'm not sure how well you can see it, but the little sign reads "PARK CLOSES EARLY TODAY FOR BETH AND AMBER'S EXCLUSIVE BIRTHDAY BASH."
And here's Billy Hill, with his brothers Billy, Billy, and Billy!
I always intended the castle to be 2D, as it is, but I was planning on adding the drawbridge on the ground in front of it. Ah well. I was also planning on putting a little stage on the floor for the Billys. It's little things like that which I completely ran out of time for. 

And finally, here is the birthday girl with her cake! Happy birthday Amber, I love you!!