Saturday, December 21, 2013

Cookies, cookies and more cookies #2 (Christmas Edition)

Merry Christmas everybody! Or nearly Merry Christmas, only 3 days to go (or 4 for those who don't count Christmas Eve)! I'm already in holiday mode, even though I still have to go into work on Monday and do a 3/4 day on Tuesday. I may be going in physically, but my mind is wayyy checked out. How bout you guys? Do you start to feel this way around the holidays?

I can happily say I'm done all my cookie decorating, which is why I'm writing the second post in my "Cookies, cookies and more cookies" series (more on that in a bit). Now before you get all jealous and hateful, let me clarify: I'm done all of my sugar cookie decorating... not all of my baking. In fact, I haven't even started any normal cookie baking. All of my time this month has been consumed with cookie decorating for bake sale, orders, and friends and family (more on the first two later). However, I do have plans to do some baking this weekend, and am relieved to say that I am only baking a couple batches, so it shouldn't be too bad!

Back to my "Cookies, cookies and more cookies." Back in September, I decided to start a series featuring decorated sugar cookies that I make. Because I fairly consistently use the same recipe, and I don't offer tutorials on how to decorate the cookies, it wasn't making sense for me to write a post for every single set of cookies. Instead, I figured that a post every few months showing multiple sets would be a better use of my time, and because I post all of my cookie (and other goodie) photos on my Facebook page for my Sweet Inspirations business, I didn't want to duplicate the work I was doing (I have a very busy life right now!). Although I have made multiple cookie sets between September and December, I will wait until the New Year to post those so that this post can focus strictly on Christmas!

If you know me personally or follow my blog, you might think these cookies look a little familiar. That's because I made very similar ones last year. I had no intention of making the same or similar set, but my mother kept harassing me saying that these Nordic Christmas cookies were her absolute favourite, and the fact that they are my most re-pinned item on Pinterest prompted me to reconsider my decision. So I re-made some of the old cookies and added in some more wildlife-themed cookies. I'm very happy with them! I should also mention that I am extremely happy with my Airbrush machine that was a birthday present to me back in October- I love it! It creates such added dimension and interest, which you'll be able to see in my other photos!

Back in November, I was asked to contribute some goodies to a bake sale my mother's work was hosting, in support of the local Women's Abused Shelter. I had already participated earlier in a similar bake sale around Halloween (will post pictures in the future), which was quite successful. I was more than happy to let my creative side loose while knowing that the proceeds would be going to a cause that is near and dear to my heart.

Most people said they liked the reindeer with the icicles the best. Personally, I actually liked the 'Merry Christmas' the best! What's your favourite?

The whole lot of em! It was quite the undertaking, but I loved doing them!

A very good friend of mine ordered a cute Christmas set for her family Christmas. This is the most traditional Christmas set I've done before, and I really enjoyed doing it! A few things I'd like to say about this set/photo. Again, I LOVE my airbrush machine. You can see the effect it has here on the Christmas trees; subtle, but the slight darkening around the edges really adds dimension. Can't get enough of it. Second, I LOVE chalkboard effect cookies! I think that middle cookie really tied in the whole set, and was so much fun to do!

Third of all, this is my first time a) using my newly built DIY lightbox and b) experimenting with my brand new Canon Rebel T3i camera. Merry early Christmas to meeee! I decided to build a lightbox, something I've been thinking about for a long time, because it's extremely difficult these days for me to capture pictures in natural light. Because I work Mon-Fri during the day, by the time I get home, it's dark out. And I'm not always so fortunate to have things to photo on the weekend when I can utilize natural light. So I finally got off my butt and built a lightbox! I'm thinking it could benefit from one more lamp, but that's a purchase for down the road. As for my camera, that's also something I've been thinking about for quite awhile! Up until now, I've taken all my photos with a simple Sony Cybershot point and shoot that is about 7 years old. It's actually done me quite well, and is a great little camera. However, I felt that it was time for an upgrade, and I definitely noticed an immediate difference. I'm so happy with it, and have only just begun to understand how to use it! It's quite exciting.

Lastly, here are the CUTEST cookies ever! Well maybe not ever, but they are pretty darn cute! Earlier in the month I had some time on my hands, so started doodling some cookie ideas that were floating around in my head. This is what the result was! These cookies were brought into my work earlier in the week for a Christmas cookie exchange.

There were about 40 cookies in total that I brought in and I must say (brushing off shoulders), that my cookies were the star of the show. Yes I'm totally that full of myself, and totally chose to work 4 days on these cookies to bring into work so I could knock the socks off of my co-workers. Which really isn't that hard to do, considering most people in general have never seen any cookies like these, so anything would impress them. I'm just happy to say that mine did impress them. As a quick side note again- you can see here how awesome using an airbrush machine is! Don't those chevron and polka dot backgrounds really add something to the cookie? Love love love it.

Well that's it for this year's round of decorated Christmas cookies. If you have any questions on decorating sugar cookies, I would be more than happy to try and answer your questions or direct you to somebody who could. I love hearing when someone has tried out something new and special, it really makes my day.

Sending you warm Christmas messages! Pin It

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes

Less than 8 days to go until Christmas! Yippee, I can't wait! Although I must say, as excited I am for the holidays, and even moreso for some time off of work, this time of year sure is exhausting! I haven't been this busy all year, and while I'm doing things I love, like decorating, baking lots and lots of goodies, Christmas present shopping and wrapping, and visiting friends, it leaves me pretty spent by the end of each evening! I'm not complaining, just looking forward to a little break! How bout you all, do you find the Christmas season to be fun, relaxing, enjoyable, stressful, sad? I think for most people it's a combination of joy and stress; I just hope there's more joy than stress!

I've used this chocolate cupcake base from Annie's Eats multiple times, and it has consitently provided good results. If you're interested in baking these cupcakes and/or seeing what else I've made with this recipe, check out my Black Forest Cupcakes and Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes with Truffle Filling. I altered the recipe very slightly by adding 1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract (and 1 less teaspoon of vanilla extract) and a good handful or two of peppermint chips (seen in photo on top of frosting), but if peppermint isn't your thing feel free to omit them.

I actually made these cupcakes a year ago and was a little skeptical at first about pairing chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese icing; however, the combination of the tangy sweet icing, dark chocolate glaze and chocolate pepperminty cupcake sent me over the moon. They turned out to shoot to the top of my cupcake list! I'm happy to be finally sharing these cupcakes now, and I hope that you find the opportunity to make them sometime in the near future, provided you're not too busy with Christmas decorating/shopping/baking/whatever else comes with this busy and glorious season!


For Cupcakes:
Refer to my post on Black Forest Cupcakes for recipe and instructions.

For Ganache:
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons heavy cream

For Frosting:
8 oz. (1 package) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1-2 teaspoons peppermint (not mint!) extract
3-4 cups powdered sugar (depending on preferred stiffness)

To make ganache, put chocolate chips in a small glass bowl. Place heavy cream in a microwave safe glass and microwave until it begins to boil. Pour cream over chocolate chips, stirring quickly until chips have melted. Dip cupcakes into mixed chocolate and shake off excess. Allow to cool and harden, at least a half hour to an hour.

For the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter together using the paddle attachment of a stand or hand mixer. Scrape down the bowl once or twice to ensure no chunks of cream cheese are left. While beating, add the peppermint extract. Add powdered sugar, starting with 3 cups initially, on low speed and increasing to medium-high for 2 minutes, until frosting is light and fluffy. If frosting is not stiff enough, add an additional 1/2 cup of powdered sugar at a time, until desired consistency is reached.

Fit piping bag with decorative tip, and pipe frosting over cupcake. Top with desired garnish, such as peppermint chips and/or festive sprinkles. Pin It

Monday, December 2, 2013

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes

Christmas is a wonderful, magical time for some people. I'm certainly one of those. I love the decorating, the music, the buying gifts for people in my life, the snow (as long as I don't have to drive in it), but most of all, I love seeing and spending time with family. I look forward to the days of just being with each other, relaxing, playing board games and eating delicious food. I can't wait!

However, Christmas can be a really tough holiday for some individuals. I work in the field of Addictions and Mental Health, and my job has forced me to witness the heartbreak and sadness that sometimes comes with the Christmas season. For some, it can be the darkest time of the year due to stress, pressure and expectations that come with the holidays. It can be a reminder of lost family and friends, either because people have passed away or relationships have disintegrated over time. It can trigger break downs in mental health, relapses or increases in substance use and more. Sadly, the Christmas season is the busiest time of the year for professionals in my field of work, and so I do what I can. Christmas isn't about getting gifts, it's about giving love and care to others. These cupcakes are 1 part of my donation to a bake sale, where proceeds will go towards the local Abused Womens Shelter in town.

These cupcakes are really yummy. They're a little dense, but they taste exactly like Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal- I'm sure they taste like Snickerdoodle cookies as well, I just have never had those so I can't attest! They are warm and cinnamoney and perfect for the cold season. Enjoy!

Yield: about 28 cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk

For the frosting:
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons heavy cream

For garnish:
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners. Combine the flours, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl; whisk to combine.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Blend in the vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat each addition just until incorporated.

Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake liners, filling each approximately 3/4 full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes. Allow to cool in the pans about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the powdered sugar to the bowl and mix on medium-low speed until just incorporated. Sprinkle in the salt and vanilla extract, and beat on medium-high until smooth. Mix in the heavy cream on low speed until just incorporated; then, increase the speed to high and beat until light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl as needed, for about 4-5 minutes.

Fill piping bag fitted with decorative tip (I used a Wilton 1B) and frost cupcakes as desired. For the garnish, mix cinnamon and sugar together until completely combined; sprinkle on top of each frosting swirl to complete.

Source: cupcakes from Annie's Eats Pin It