Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Off we go into the wild blue yonder...

It's that time again... USAFA graduation time. I think this year there were 990 + cadets that graduated and became 2nd Lieutenants in the United State Air Force. A proud time indeed for the graduates and their families. I have only had the privilege and opportunity once to attend an Air Force Academy graduation, and it was amazing! Of course, my favorite part was the hat toss at the end and then watching the Thunderbirds fly over. Last year because of budget cuts, they cut the flyover... very disappointing. I was glad to see that this year they were back! Residing here in Colorado Springs, I always end up designing several AF cakes throughout the year for promotions and retirements, but at this time of year, I especially enjoy designing cakes for the new 2nd Lieutenants. When I originally started designing these cakes, everything was done with patterns pressed into the icing and filled with buttercream. The details became so much more precise and clean when I got my Cricut Electric cutter. But now... oh my gosh... with my new Zing electric cutter, I can cut out so much better details, especially with the lettering, than I ever have before. Thank you Klik-n-Kut for a great piece of equipment! And congratulations to all of the 2014 USAFA graduates!

One of the first AF seal cakes that I designed-all in buttercream... not bad, but not as precise and clean as this..
I use Tappits to cut out the letters outside of the seal.
Again, before cutter-nice, but not as precise as this...

One more... AF bars in buttercream...
AF bars in gumpaste with cutter
My Zing cutter makes it all possible. I LOVE my Zing!

Some of my other favorite AF cakes...

AF flag cake... one of my most popular retirement cakes
These are the planes he piloted... all edible images
USAFA Chapel for retiring chaplain

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Pretty in Pink

I was asked by a friend to design a cake for a baby shower today. The mom-to-be loves lace and pearls and of course, lots of pink since she is having a girl. Pale pink fondant with lace and pearls... yeah, I can do that. I was excited to use my new "Sugar Dress" product for making the lace. Wow... so much easier than "Sugar Veil." That's the subject of another blog post. I brushed the fondant pearls with plenty of pearl dust so they looked like real pearls, and then placed on some beautiful gumpaste flowers along with a shimmery bow. . . very pretty. I'm still practicing making gumpaste flowers, but each one turns out a little better. When I started decorating cakes 37 years ago, I learned how to decorate everything with buttercream and royal icing, including flowers. So, this old gal is learning new techniques everyday with fondant and gumpaste. I'm actually having fun with it too. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Tender moist juicy chicken... every time!

I know that most of my posts are about sweets, but once in awhile I'll post something about a wonderful savory item... this is for those of you who want a simple chicken recipe without all the fuss. It's quick, easy, and flavorful, and part of a nice meal if you are watching the calories, like I am. 

Easy Moist Chicken Breasts

2-4 chicken breasts (I like the Kirkland brand from Costco)
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup flour
Seasonings (I like thyme and garlic rosemary seasoning)
2-3 tsp. olive oil

Pound your chicken breasts to a nice even thickness. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. You will need some type of saute pan with a tight lid. Heat the pan on medium high heat. Combine the flour and seasonings in a zip lock bag. Add the olive oil to the pan. Lightly dredge the chicken breasts in the flour and add to the heated pan with oil. Saute chicken for 1-2 minutes, until nicely golden brown. Turn the chicken over, put the lid on the pan, and turn down the temperature to low. Set your timer for 10 minutes. DO NOT PEEK! When the timer goes off, turn off the temperature, and set the timer for another 10 minutes. Again, DO NOT PEEK! This time, when the timer goes off, open the lid and see your chicken breasts cooked to perfection. Yum!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Making Carissa's "Frozen" Cake

What little girl is not in love with Disney's "Frozen" right now? My granddaughter Carissa turned 5 today. One of her gifts from Mom and Dad was the "Frozen" DVD, so I decided to make her a "Frozen" cake with Olaf as the central figure. I started making the pieces a couple of days ahead, and assembled everything this afternoon. The flavor was vanilla with fresh strawberries and strawberry mousse. I didn't want to refrigerate it because of the fondant and isomalt pieces, so I assembled it just before we needed it.

First of all, what winter cake is complete without snowflakes? I had a few left over from Carissa's preschool cupcakes from last week, so used those plus made a few more. White chocolate is perfect for piping snowflakes. Just copy a bunch of snowflakes on regular paper, tape them onto a board and cover with waxed paper. Then just pipe over the patterns and let set up. Very easy. I made a few snowflakes also with a First Impressions blue silicone mold. They were very difficult to make, as the mold is very shallow and intricate. I tried using gumpaste, fondant, modeling chocolate, 1/2 modeling chocolate with 1/2 gumpaste or 1/2 fondant. I tried putting the molded snowflakes in the freezer before unmolding them. Some of them turned out beautifully, but several just fell apart when trying to unmold them. Not the most favorite mold I've used. 

Next I made Olaf. I looked for 3-D pictures online, and then just patterned Olaf after the pictures. He was made from 1/2 modeling chocolate and 1/2 fondant, His arms and hair were piped out of dark chocolate. Pipe plenty extra because most likely you will need them if one breaks while you are assembling him. I also made a few snowballs out of the same 1/2 and 1/2 mixture, and then rolled them in sanding sugar.

Next I made the ice pieces and a few curly cews from isomalt. If you've never used isolmalt, you must try it. The results are amazing. It's not hard to use once you learn how. You can go to the CakePlay website and watch their video tutorials. CakePLay Isomalt To give it a "crinkly" look, I bunched up a piece of aluminum foil, then smoothed it out and sprayed it lightly with cooking spray, then spread the melted isomalt out thinly on the foil. 

I iced the cake with vanilla buttercream and then covered it with blue and white marbled fondant. I love the look of marbled fondant. Here is a good video on how to marble fondant. She also uses "The Mat" to roll out her fondant like I do. How to Tie Dye Fondant

After the fondant was on, I started assembling the pieces on the cake... here's where you can use your creativity. The last thing I did was cut out Carissa's name with my Tappits and white modeling chocolate, and then sprinkled the entire cake with clear edible glitter.

Carissa's reaction to the cake was priceless. She couldn't stop laughing at Olaf! It made all of my work worthwhile. Happy Birthday Carissa!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Update on Whipped Cream Icing

If you are a regular follower of my blog, you know my dilemmas of coming up with good ways to stabilize whipped cream to use for icing cakes. Well, once again I have changed my method. This time, I think it's a keeper because it not only tastes terrific, is readily available, and holds up well, but is also very cost effective... all using the real stuff. Yum. So here's the method... for every pint of heavy whipping cream, add 1 Tablespoon instant vanilla pudding, 1/3 cup powdered sugar, and vanilla to taste. Whip in chilled bowl until stiff peaks form. Voila... incredibly tasting whipped cream icing for your next cake.

I get the 1/2 gallon from Costco since I go through a lot of cream. I also use it in 
my buttercream icing. You can just use the inexpensive store brand for the pudding.

Look at this yummy fluffy whipped cream, perfect for icing this strawberry shortcake specialty cake... rich buttery yellow cake with 3 layers of whipped cream and fresh strawberries... gotta love it!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sometimes you feel like baking... sometimes you don't...

Have you ever been in the mood for cookies, but don't really feel like baking? Or maybe it's in the middle of the summer and you just don't want to turn on your oven because it's too hot. One of our family's favorite "go to" recipes when we want something sweet and quick has always been NO BAKE COOKIES. There are several different versions... chocolate without peanut butter, chocolate with peanut butter, and peanut butter without chocolate. My friend Sarah asked if I had a good no bake  cookie recipe, and of course I did, so Sarah, this post is for you. 

Here's our family's favorite recipe... it has cocoa and a little coconut... because we LOVE coconut.

Leavitt Family Favorite No Bakes

Mix the following ingredients together in a bowl and set aside:
3 cups rolled oats
5 Tablespoons cocoa
1/2 cup coconut

Bring the following ingredients to a rolling boil:

2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk

Boil for 1 minute and combine with dry ingredients. Drop by teaspoons onto wax paper or parchment paper and let set until firm. I like to use a small cookie scoop. 

Chocolate Peanut Butter No Bakes

Bring the following ingredients a rolling boil:

1/2 cup butter
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup cocoa

Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and add:

1/2 cup peanut butter
2 teaspoons vanilla

Stir until peanut butter is melted, and then add:

3 1/2 cups oats

Drop spoonfuls onto wax paper or parchment lined baking sheet. Allow to cool until set. Some people also like to spread the mixture into a pan, cool, and then cut into bars.

This last recipe is for those who love peanut butter, but want to leave out the chocolate.

Peanut Butter No Bake Cookies

2 cups sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
1 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups rolled oats

Mix together sugar, butter, and milk. Bring to rolling boil and then boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter and vanilla, stirring until peanut butter is melted. Stir in oats, and drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper or parchment paper.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Yes, you can eat the "wrapper!"


When I want a really special little finger dessert, one of my "go to's" is always my mousse filled chocolate cups. Very pretty AND tasty... and you can even eat the wrapper! Sometimes, it will take your guests awhile before they realize that the wrapper is chocolate. 

So here's the process. Get out your mini muffin pan, and line it with mini muffin wrappers. Melt your favorite chocolate, dark or light. I usually melt mine in the microwave, being careful to stir it at 30 second intervals so it won't burn. Pour your chocolate in a squirt bottle, and then squirt a generous amount of chocolate into each wrapper.  Using a paint brush, paint the insides of the wrappers with the melted chocolate. Make sure the sides have adequate chocolate or they will break when you try to remove the wrappers. After all the wrappers are painted, stick the muffin pan in the freezer for several minutes. When they are nice and firm, take them out and CAREFULLY remove each wrapper. At this point, you can stack them together until you are ready to fill them with the mousse. 

Here's a simple mousse recipe that you can make just about any flavor you want. You can leave it plain for a vanilla mousse, or add things like peanut butter, cocoa, mint, raspberry (my favorite), strawberry... let your taste buds go wild! 

Cream Cheese Mousse

(1) 8 oz. package cream cheese
About 1 - 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (I never really measure it, just put enough in so it's the sweetness that you like)
1-2 tsp. vanilla (or other flavoring) (Again, use your judgement for the flavor you like)

Put these ingredients in a mixer bowl and beat until smooth and fluffy. Then add:

(1) 8 oz. tub of Cool Whip (you can add more if you like)

Beat until nice and fluffy. Be sure to scrape the bowl on the bottom to get all of the cream cheese mixed in. Now you can fold in any other ingredients that you want. If I'm making chocolate or peanut butter mousse, I usually add the cocoa or peanut butter into the cream cheese mixture before adding the Cool Whip. 

The next step is to get out a large decorating bag and a large round or open star tip. Fill your bag with the mousse and pipe it into your pretty little chocolate cups. Now sit back and wait for your guests to be impressed!

Keep them cool until just before serving.