Cherry Almond Cupcake

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

This is the one season of the year when we can lay aside all gnawing worry,

indulge in sentiment without censure,
assume the carefree faith of childhood,
 and just plain "have fun."

 Whether they call it Yuletide, Noel, Weinachten, or Christmas,

people around the earth thirst for its refreshment as the desert traveller for the oasis.

 ~D.D. Monroe

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hey! Let's Talk Turkey...

I was recently asked to help a Brownie troop earn their "career badges". So these Brownies learned about cake decorating by creating thier own little turkey cupcakes. We all had loads of fun making these, but they didn't last long. As soon as the finishing touch was on, they asked permission to eat them. Below are the instructions to make your own turkey cupcakes.
Supplies Needed

White and Chocolate fondant
small amount of yellow fondant

Fondant roller/ board

3" Garret Frill Cutter (raise middle cutter)

1" frill cutter



dozen cupcakes

Chocolate Buttercream

Red and Yellow Buttercream

Piping Bags equipped with couplers

#14, #9 piping tips

Knead 2 parts white to 1 part chocolate fondant together, but do not fully incorporate colors.

Roll out to about 1/8" thick and using the frill cutters, cut out 6 large and 6 small.

Center the small cutout over the large, then cut in half, as shown, creating the tails.

Using side of spatula, make indentions over the tails.

Set aside to firm up.

Roll out a 1" size ball of chocolate fondant into a sausage and fold the end over to create the head.

Insert a toothpick into the other end and set into styrofoam.

Roll out a small amount of white fondant and cut two circles, using the #9 piping tube.

Roll out two tiny balls from chocolate fondant and place over white to create eyes.

With a 1/2" ball of yellow fondant, make a cone for the beak.
Afix eyes and beak to the head of the turkey.

Using the red buttercream with the #9 piping tip, pipe the turkey's wattle under the beak and to the top of one side of the beak as shown.

Pipe decorations onto the tail with the red and yellow buttercream using the #14 tip.

Crumb coat the cupcakes. Using the #14 tip, pipe chocolate buttercream stars over the cupcake.

Set tail in place and build up stars on the back side to afix into place, then push head into cupcake.

Last, pipe wings over the sides, using chocolate, yellow and red buttercream.

Here is the "glammed up" version.

Instead of colors, simply use chocolate buttercream , gold dragees for the eyes and tail, and highlight the wattle with gold luster dust.


Tutorial and Photos by Jacque Benson, 2009, all rights reserved.

Tutorial may not be reproduced without written permission from the author.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Trip to the Museum

<div>FW Museum Illus. by T. Gilleon
One of the highlights of my life, both as a child and as an adult, was and is a trip to the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. No matter how much time one spends at this museum, there is always more to see.

Aside from the many fabulous interactive exhibits, vistors can view the galaxy in Noble Planetarium or see the latest film in the Omni Theatre. I have always walked away from this museum with such a sense of wonderment of the world, both past and present, around me.

The FW museum was established in 1941 and was the first Children's museum in Texas. It is an independent, non-profit institution relying solely on the support of the community.
Recently, the museum had been going through changes.

image from Legorreta + Legorreta- architect's drawing
It is being remodeled and enlarged, with the addition of a wonderful Lantern, lit 24/7, that will be the new entry point. As the remodel nears completion, the excitement is really gearing up as well.

Recently, the staff and their families were given a big "Thank You!". The museum threw an Employee Appreciation Party, and I was afforded the honor of making a Museum Replica cake for the celebration!! It was a fun and wonderful project!

This is the Lantern Entry which will be lit 24/7.
It was chocolate cake, ganache filling, iced in chocolate buttercream and topped with lighted poured sugar

A View of the Energy Exhibit with a cantelivered roof.
 The windows are poured sugar- the landscaping made of sugarpaste. The cakes were different flavors and fillings, iced in buttercream with decorative overlays of white chocolate fondant.

A sugarpaste relica of the Climbing Turtle on the Museum grounds.

A bird's eye view of the cake taken by a very kind gentleman who was several feet taller than myself and offered his help!!

So, for a memorable and very fun day, schedule a visit the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.
It's a sweet experience!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Halloween Hoot Owl Cookies

When I was a little girl, my fondest memories are of my mother happily baking in the kitchen. And in the Autumn and Winter, she was baking every chance she could get. I remember once coming home from "trick 'r treating" to the smell of homemade yeast donuts. Ooooh if you ever tasted my mother's donuts, it would ruin you for life on the donut shops!

This recipe for Hoot Owl Cookies is a refrigerator cookie. Mom used to make these around Halloween.
It comes from an Old Pillsbury Family cookbook, but I have adjusted the recipe a bit.

2-1/2 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine salt
3/4 cup butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp madagascar vanilla
1/4 teaspoon Caramel Lorann Oil
1-1/2 squares unsweetened baking chocolate, melted and cooled
1/4 tsp baking soda
For decorating
Semi-sweet or Milk chocolate Chips for eyes
White Chocolate Chips or Cashews for beak

In a bowl, Sift flour with baking powder and salt. Set aside. In mixing bowl, cream butter with electric mixer at med speed , beat until creamy smooth, then gradually add brown sugar, incorporating well. Add egg, vanilla and Lorann Oil and mix well. Stir in flour mixture, adding 1/4 cup at a time until well mixed.

Divide cookie dough into thirds, and remove 1/3 dough. Stir baking soda into chocolate, then add to the 1/3 dough, mixing well. Cover and chill until the dough can be easily handled.

Divide the plain and chocolate dough in half. Return half of the dough to refrigerator.

Roll the plain dough to a 4-1/2 x 10" rectangle on lightly floured wax paper. Roll the chocolate dough into a 10" long roll. Place the chocolate roll on the center of the rectangle


Lift the sides of the of the wax paper to roll cover the chocolate roll with the plain dough.

Wrap the wax paper around the dough and chill. Repeat process with remaining cookie dough.

Chill dough well, for at least two hours. I usually prepare the night before and allow to chill overnight for easier handling.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the firmly chilled roll into 1/8-1/4" slices.

Place two sliced cookies touching in the middle on a greased cookie sheet or Silpat mat.

This creates the owl face with two eyes.

After all the cookies are placed on the cookie sheet, they will have softened. Pinch the top corners of the cookie to make ears.

If you want to make a Menacing Owl, push the top of plain cookie dough forward over chocolate dough eye, as shown.

Place one chocolate chip on each eye. You can place them with the point up, but I also like to push the pointed end of the chocolate chip into the cookie to create a flat pupil to the eye.

The original recipe calls for a cashew nut for the owl's beak. This is quick and easy, and once the cookies are baked and cooled, they will be ready to serve. But because nut allergies have become prevalent, if I am baking for a group other than my family, I wait until the cookies have cooled and add the beak later, using melted white chocolate.

Bake the cookies in a 350 oven for 8-12 minutes until lightly browned on the sides. Remove from oven and place cookies on a cooling rack.

When the cookies have thoroughly cooled, melt about 1/2 cup of White Chocolate chips. Spoon melted chocolate into a plastic pastry bag with a #8 tip.

Pipe a bead on the left side of bottom center, as shown. Repeat same step on the right side, the pipe over the middle, pulling down to the bottom creating a beak.

Allow the chocolate to completely cool and firm up.

You can make these look like cute Hoot owls, or if I make them look menacing,
my husband calls them Horned Owls.

To each his own.

Hey, it is Halloween after all! We can become anything we want on that day!!

Happy Hauntings!

The creator of this recipe is Natalie R. Riggin
It was the 2nd Grand Prize Winner in the Pillsbury Bakeoff in 1956

The link to the original recipe

Thank you Natalie. This has been a family favorite for years!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Trip to the Oklahoma State Sugar Arts Show...one woman's perspective

Every year, cake decorators from around the world converge upon Tulsa, Oklahoma to participate in the Oklahoma State Sugar Arts Show ( OSSAS ). This year, I was fortunate to be there and compete. I competed in the show in 2006. It was not only my first cake competition, but my first time to visit the OSSAS. Being a complete newbie in 2006, it was such an overwhelming experience and much of it is a blur in my memory.

This year, knowing exactly what to expect, I was more fully able to appreciate the experience. I spent much time admiring the incredible entries of so many creative and talented decorators. I snapped photos until the battery in my camera died. I didn't get photos of all the entries, and unfortunately am still looking through discs ( yes, I said discs--compact discs---that my ancient camera requires) trying to find photos of cakes that I was sure I had captured, but haven't located.

Here are a few of the photos I do have and would love to share...just a teeny weeny part of this incredible show!


The theme of the Wedding Cake Competition this year was "Sea and Shore". The entries for this were stunning and exquisite. The Winner of the Grand Prize was Mercedes Strachwsky. This photograph just doesn't capture the magnificence of this cake! It had a coral reef with unbelievable detail, beautiful mermaids on the sides, a lovely and perfect color palette, dainty piping and a fabulous design flow. It was hard to take my eyes off this creation because there was so much to see. A Prize well deserved!

The first runner up ( and honestly, I don't envy the judges job. It must have been incredibly difficult!) was the creation of Robin Van Hoozer. From the hand modeled sugarpaste mermaids, the pearl swirls and the detailed lighthouse on top, it was the epitome of perfection and incredible to see!! Truly beautiful!

Here is a closeup of one of the exquisite mermaids.

Another fabulous entry was the cake by Dawn Parrott. It, also, had a detailed coral reef, beautiful sugarpaste details and incredibly fine sugar stringwork, which unfortunately cannot be seen in this capture.

Another beautiful wedding cake was created by the very talented Dena Bryngelson. The inlaid sugarpaste mother of pearl on the base was beautiful, as was her painted sugarpaste shells and exquisite stringwork.


And besides the Wedding Cake Competetion, there are more cakes from every aspect of the cake decorating world. From children to the masters, cake decorators are able to express their wonderful creativity in the many divisions and categories of this show.

Again, I was unable to get photos of all the amazing entries, but want to share a few.


This cake, looked like a hanging chandelier won a first place ribbon, and was created by Master Sugar Artist, Kim Payne.

Ruth Kirmser took home a ribbon with this beautiful sugarpaste doll. Ruth's sugarwork is always so detailed and beauty unsurpassed!

Erin Solerno travel all the way from Milwaukee to enter her adorable creation. Erin and I are Flickr Friends, and it was such a joy to meet her in person. She is gorgeous!!

I wish I could have gotten a photo from the back. What you cannot see is the tiny place setting inside this little sugar domicile. The detail was incredible. Erin won a ribbon for her artwork!

Another ribbon winner was Tammy Strobel. She also won Best of Show in the SugarWonders Cake Competition for this adorable entry.

This year, I was able to travel with my dear friend, Susie Hazard. Susie is a perfectionist to the 'nth degree, and it really shows in her entry this year. Susie won a ribbon for this creation!

The pearl cake board is amazing as is the tiny hand modeled sugarpaste roses made from a teeeeeeny five petal cutter. They were breathtaking!

As you can see in the former picture, there is a sign in the background with the warning "Do Not Touch Me". It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to not touch someone else's entry, whether an admirer or another competitor placing thier own entry on the table. Unfortunately, some one ignored this sign and broke several of the delicate petals on some of these tiny roses. Sadly, they cannot be repaired.

Here is a closeup of Susie's incredibly detailed work.


Finally, I was fortunate to be able to enter this year. Interestingly enough, the idea for this cake began to emerge from the theme of the 2008 Wedding Cake Challenge "The Language of Flowers". Hoping to be able to participate in 2008, I had started thinking of the Language of Flowers. It was then that I re-aquainted myself with Mary Cicely Barker's "Flower Fairies". Her beautiful illustrated works were a joyful memory from my childhood. Although, I was unable to make the 2008 show, the idea of the "Flower Fairies" stuck with me.

Deciding that it would be so much fun to recreate Ms Barker's Fairies, I wrote the publisher to ask permission to use the intellectual property of Mary Cicely Barker. I was elated when they granted permission.

When I saw that one of the categories was called "Off to the Races" -( Hat cakes that women have sported at the races throughout the years), I found the perfect opportunity to recreate these little creatures.

I decided that I would let them decorate the floral adorned hat cake.

Here is the Hat Cake for the "Off to the Races" category. And a few closeups of the flowers...

And the "Flower Fairies" closeup.

The Flower Fairies

Inspired by The Flower Fairies by Cicely Mary Barker

Frederick Warne & Co. is the owner of all rights, copyrights and trademarks in Cicely Mary Barker's Flower Fairies character names and illustrations.

Used With permission of Frederick Warne & Co.

I think the Flower Fairies really must be magical. This entry won two blue ribbons. I am truly honored.


The Oklahoma State Sugar Arts Show is an incredible experience. Whether you are a cake decorator who wants an opportunity to create art, or someone who just appreciates art; you should take the time next autumn to participate in this incredible event.
"God gave us our memories so that we might have roses in December." ~J M Barrie