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Monday
Dec232013

Baker's Dozen: 13 Quick and Easy Christmas Cookies

Look, I'm not going to judge you for waiting til right now to start your Christmas cookie baking. I understand that stuff happens.

What I want to do is enable you to make delicious magic for yourself and all your friends, so I have assembled this list of 13 easy, quick, and highly delicious Christmas cookies. You might not be able to make all of them, but at least choose a couple! 

1. Snowballs: no matter what you wanna call them, they're an easy, classic, and best of all, crowd-pleasing cookie.

2. Nanaimo bars: Seriously. I can't believe you haven't made these yet!

3. Gingerbread Nanaimo bars: the aforementioned everyday classic gets a holiday makeover. Yum!

4. Pistachio cookies: a personal favorite of mine, and a "lost" recipe I revived from family archives.

5. Christmas Kaleidoscope cookies: Taste the rainbow...or, you know, many holiday hues at once.

6. Berlinerkranser: I believe the official translation is "highly tasty cookie".

7. Gingerbread men: or, make them look like characters from a TV show: Gingerbread Mad Men!

8. Candy cane cookies: This is such a nostalgic cookie - give it a try if you've never made them.

9. Jam thumbprints: another classic, these ones are bound to please a crowd. Nutty and with a touch of fruit from the jam, so that means they're health food.

10. Mint candy butter cookies: Great for cookie swaps, or just stuffing in your mouth (let's be honest).

11. Eggnog Nanaimo bars! Seriously. A great accompaniment when you're sloggin' some nog.

12. Baby buche de noel cookies: not to who off, BUT, I contributed this adorable recipe to Food and Wine.

13. Red and green christmas cookies: like black and white cookies...but green and red! Festive!

While you're baking, kill time waiting for cookies to bake by reading about the first published Christmas cookie recipe in America, and the history of the tradition of Christmas cookies.

Season's sweetings! 

Monday
Dec232013

CakeSpy for Craftsy: How to Make Parker House Rolls

File under "not sweet, but TOTALLY SWEET nonetheless": how to make Parker House style rolls at home. These buttery morsels will make your mouth happy, I promise. Find out how to make them here.

Sunday
Dec222013

CakeSpy for Craftsy: Buttercream Versus Fondant

Friday
Dec202013

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links!

Peppermint snowball cookies. Brilliant!

DIY pudding mix. Cool!

I wish I could go to this Modern Bakery show!

How cool is this: a Japanese take on the Blondies recipe from my book, via Ninja Baking.

I'm still rather proud of these stained glass cookies I made.

I like it: eggnog pb cup cupcakes.

I love these "celebration oreos" - homemade!

In case you missed it: cute guys who also decorate cakes.

Scenes from Seattle's Gingerbread village.

Holiday cutout cookies with buttermilk--a classic!

A beloved Queens bakery re-opens. Hooray!

I'm interested: Viennese chocolate pepper cookies.

Yumsies: a collection of creative cinnamon rolls.

Thursday
Dec192013

CakeSpy for Craftsy: How to Make Confectioners' Sugar at Home

It's so easy. Here's how.

Thursday
Dec192013

Felting a Chocolate Chip Cookie is Easier Than You Think

My First Felting Project

Not so long ago, I was contacted by a publisher to see if I would like to post about a new book called Feltlicious: Needle-Felted Treats to Make & Give. And I was all set to be all "I don't know..." when I found it was co-authored by my friend and hero (yes! Both!) Kari Chapin, along with the talented Keri Wessel. Suddenly, I was all "I'm in!".

But then I was asked if I would also be interested in trying out one of the projects from the book. They looked simply adorable: cute foods from pies to breakfast to sweet treats of all sorts. All felted. The only problem? I have never done felting in my life.


A few weeks later, the book arrived, along with several puffs of colored wool. Wait, I had to do it from scratch?

Listen, even though you might think I am very talented as an artist, I do not consider myself crafty. I can't knit, I am not much of a sewer, and don't even get me started on jewelry-making. I always just kind of felt like those are talents for other people.

So when I received the instructions, I kind of let them sit for a while and thought "how much would Kari hate me if I didn't do the post?". 

But no! I couldn't do that. So finally, today, I decided to tackle the project. Here is the instruction sheet. It came along with a big puff of light brown wool (for the cookie body, I assumed), smaller bits of yellow, slightly darker brown, and very dark brown...and white. Now this was getting confusing. 

My First Felting Project

I started reading, and the instructions told me to mix together the big beigey and light yellow puffs. I did so, but then they were all messy. I was confused, but I didn't want to admit to myself that I didn't know what I was doing, so I said to myself "well, let me just see if I can wing it." So, I have never felted before, but I have seen people do it, so I grabbed a needle and started poking the wool over and over.

My First Felting Project

Miraculously, after a while (and at least one pin prick that drew blood) later, the wool came together to form a loose ball. I began to finesse the wool into a slightly flatter shape as I continued to poke. 

My First Felting Project

Once I was satisfied with the shape, I decided to add some chocolate chips. I mixed together some of the medium brown and dark brown wool, and made little mini puffs of wool mixed with both colors.

I felted them on to the cookie shape. Amazingly, I had chocolate chips! 

My First Felting Project My First Felting ProjectMy First Felting Project 

Hooray! 

And of course, since I am me after all, I decided to add a little of my own personality to the craft and added a litle felted face with the remaining dark wool. Happy cookie!

My First Felting Project

Make something cute! If I could do it that easily, you can too! I'm not even crafty! Buy the book here: Feltlicious: Needle-Felted Treats to Make & Give.

Wednesday
Dec182013

Bring Us Some: Figgy Pudding Recipe

Make "bring us some figgy pudding" a reality this holiday season with this delicious Figgy Pudding recipe I made for Serious Eats. 

Tuesday
Dec172013

Well Bread: Gingerbread Nanaimo Bars for Serious Eats

Huzzah! Gingerbread Nanaimo bars! Gingerbread is made awesomer, and Nanaimo bars are made more festive, all in one tasty three-level package. Find the recipe on Serious Eats!

Tuesday
Dec172013

Fallen Cupcakes: Why it Happens, How to Fix It

Fallen cupcakes

I know, I know. When you saw that picture, you probably thought "ouch". Cos we've all experienced the curse of fallen cupcakes (or cakes), right? 

But here's the good part: if your cakes constantly fall, there may be a good reason for it. Here are some common causes: 

Here are some possible causes: 

Insufficient moisture: Did you just dip the cup into the bag of flour before dumping it in the rest of the batter? The flour may have been tightly packed, and you used more than you needed to. Be sure to properly measure and sift your flour (don't say "close enough"!). This may cause the cupcakes to fall during baking (while still in the oven).

Too much moisture: Yep--too much moisture can be bad, too. If your cake rises rapidly in the oven, has been tested for doneness, but then falls a few minutes after being removed from the oven, it could be a result of too much moisture. This is a common problem in humid conditions, where the flour may pick up excess moisture from the air before it’s added to the mix. Keep flour in an airtight container if you live in humid conditions. Note: If the cake falls in the center but is completely baked through, you may still be able to use it by leveling the cake to the lowest point.

Under-baking: The cakes looked done, but immediately after removing from the oven, the middle sinks and is slightly sticky inside. To ensure doneness, insert a cake tester or skewer in the center of the cake before removing icakes from the oven. If it comes out mostly clean, you’re done.

You opened the door of the oven early in the baking process: You shouldn’t open the door of the oven until the cake is more than halfway baked. And even then, it’s problematic if you keep opening the oven door every couple of minutes to check. (It’s tempting, I know!) By opening the oven door, you can interrupt the reactions that are kick-started by heat, which cause a cake to rise correctly.

If my cakes fall, can I still use them? It's possible that you can--it depends on what you're going for. I personally have found that if I spoon a filling of sorts in the hole, such as ganache, it generally can level the surface of the cupcake and make it suitable for frosting. Or you could stick a candy in! Why not? Even if they're ugly I betcha they still taste good. 

Fallen cupcakes

Want more causes for common cake baking pitfalls? Check out my recent post on the subject on Craftsy.

Sunday
Dec152013

Tubular: Easy Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies Using Refrigerated Sugar Cookie Dough

Cookie tree

Somehow, it's happened: you find yourself in need of a batch of homemade cookies, STAT. It might be for the cookie swap you thought was tomorrow, not today, or the school party you totally forgot, or maybe you just want to whip up something sweet in record time.

Green cookies

As these cookies prove, a time crunch need not mean that you sacrifice all the fun of baking--they are actually made from "doctored" refrigerated sugar cookie dough. They're assembled in less than five minutes and baked in about 10 minutes--even with cooling time, the process of going from mere ingredients to "let's party" all happens in about 30 minutes. 

ALL YOU NEED:

Green cookies

All you have to do? Mix that dough with mint and chocolate chips (they're easily found in the baking aisle this time of year), a teaspoon of peppermint extract and maybe a few drops of green food coloring. Roll into balls and bake as specified on the package. They bake up like a minty, buttery, sweet Christmas miracle!

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies Using Refrigerated Sugar Cookie Dough

Makes about 24

  • 1 tube refrigerated sugar cookie dough
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1 cup mint and chocolate chips, mixed together
  • 4-5 drops green food coloring

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, break up the refrigerated cookie dough by hand. Add the food coloring and peppermint extract. Combine well.

Make them green

Add the morsels, mixing by hand to knead them evenly but gently throughout the dough.

Green cookies

Divide the dough into 24 equal parts. (First divide in two, then those two pieces into two to make four, then break each of those parts into three pieces, then divide those in two. You'll have 24. Don't get confused.)

Roll each piece into a ball and place on the baking sheet, well spaced. Green cookies

Bake for 8-11 minutes, or until soft in the center but lightly browned on the edges. I don't know how to say it other than this, but the middles might not look 100 percent set. They will bake a touch more when you remove the cookies, though, so it's ok.

Green cookies

Note: At this point, instead of baking, you can freeze the dough balls on the sheets if you prefer not to bake right now (if you want to do it in the morning, say). Just don't forget to turn off the oven and remember to preheat it again before you bake. 

Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 6 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Use a spatula for the transfer; if the cookies seem too soft, wait another minute or two before transferring.

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