“all the buzz” cupcakes

Beehive cupcakeI know we’re only a few days off Christmas, but I’m already starting to have Spring fever… which is not good since I live in Ohio and will have at least four more months of cold. Regardless of the weather, these beautiful beehive cupcakes from brightideas.com will make any girls luncheon or birthday party all the buzz. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 cups SNICKERS® Brand Miniatures
  • 1 box (18 oz.) your favorite cake mix
  • 2 cans (16 oz. each) vanilla frosting
  • Yellow food coloring
  • 1 cup orange STARBURST® Brand Jellybeans
  • 1 tube chocolate decorative frosting, with plain tip
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds
  • 2 cups M&M’S® Brand Chocolate Candies
  • Resealable plastic bag
  • 24 paper cupcake liners classic
  • 2 12-cup muffin tins
  • 3 pieces construction paper, in bright, spring colors (orange, pink, green, etc.)
  • Serving tray, optional

Detailed instructions:

  1. Set 24 SNICKERS® Brand Miniatures aside. Chop the remaining candy and set aside.
  2. Line the 2 muffin tins with the paper cupcake liners. Prepare the cake mix, fold in the chopped candy, and bake according to the package directions.
  3. Let the cupcakes cool to room temperature.
  4. In the meantime, tint the frosting with yellow food coloring to the desired shade. Dab a teaspoon of frosting on the bottom of each reserved SNICKERS® Brand Miniatures and place one on top of each cupcake.
  5. Frost the top of the cupcake, covering both the cupcake and candy. This will help support the frosting beehive.
  6. Spoon the remaining frosting into a resealable plastic bag. Using scissors, snip a small corner of the bag. Pipe the frosting in a spiral fashion, starting at the bottom of the hive and working your way up to the top.
  7. Place jellybeans randomly around the cupcake hives, and gently squeeze the chocolate frosting in a zigzag pattern on top of them.
  8. For the bee’s wings, place an almond slice on both sides of each jellybean.
  9. To serve, create flower cut-outs from the construction paper. Place the flowers on a table or serving tray, put a hive on each flower, and sprinkle with M&M’S® Brand Chocolate Candies.

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cookie decorating frenzy

Gingerbread houseWe hosted our annual cookie decorating party yesterday and I have to say it was a hit. Not only did the kids have fun with the sprinkles, but the moms got to catch up over a glass of wine. In the end I think Santa will be quite pleased with his assortment and the creativity that went into his goodies on Christmas Eve. Was wonderful seeing you girls!

And for those of you who are a little more serious when it comes to decorating for Santa, check out how to make a beautifully shaped cookie and flood it with icing.

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goodies as gifts

Peppermint barkSo how many of you can go the season without a little peppermint bark? When I was in corporate America we would get huge tins of it from vendors, so believe me… my family has eaten their weight in it over the years. So when I thought of giving gifts “from the heart” and from the kitchen this year, I thought of peppermint bark. Here are the ingredients from MarthaStewart.com: (This makes about 2 ¼ lbs.)

  • 2 pounds white chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 12 large candy canes
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint oil

And easy steps:

  1. Line an 11-by-17-inch baking sheet with parchment, and set aside.
  2. In the top of a double boiler, melt white chocolate, stirring constantly.
  3. With a chef’s knife or meat tenderizer, cut or pound candy canes into 1/4-inch pieces.
  4. Stir pieces of candy canes and peppermint oil into the melted chocolate. Remove from heat, and pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet; spread evenly. Chill until firm, 25 to 30 minutes. Break into pieces, and serve. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

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light up your Christmas cookies

Christmas Light Cookies

These cookies would brighten any holiday gathering (from brightideas.com) and little hands can help decorate them. Here’s what you’ll need and how to make them:

  • 4 cups M&M’S
  • 1 18 oz. roll refrigerated sugar cookie dough
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1 16 oz. can vanilla frosting
  • 1 14 oz. package red licorice laces
  • Resealable plastic bags
  • Drinking straw
  • Christmas light shaped cookie cutter

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Knead the flour into the cookie dough until smooth.
  3. Roll the dough out to 1/4-inch thickness. By hand, or using a Christmas light cookie cutter, cut out shapes.
  4. With a spatula, gently transfer the cookies to a baking sheet. Using a drinking straw, press a hole at the top of each cookie and place them in the frig for 5-10 minutes. (Chilled cookie dough keeps its form during baking.)
  5. Bake for 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
  6. Separate different colors of M&M’S, and set aside.
  7. Spread vanilla frosting on top of each cookie. Arrange a solid color of M&M’S on top of each cookie.
  8. Let the cookies dry for 30 minutes. Run licorice laces through each hole, connecting the cookies into one continuous strand.

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brrr… brilliant treats

Snowman cupcakesThese cool treats are great for the holidays and for winter birthdays. (Check out our brrr… brilliant birthday invitation.) Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1 can vanilla frosting
  • 1 tube black decorating frosting
  • 1 tube orange decorating frosting
  • 1 14-oz. bag shredded coconut, optional
  • 16 pieces DOVE® Brand Milk Chocolate
  • 16 pieces chocolate malted milk balls
  • 1/2 cup M&M’S
  • Standard cupcake pan
  • Mini cupcake pan
  • 16 standard paper cupcake liners
  • 16 mini paper cupcake liners
  • Resealable plastic bag

Follow these easy steps from brightideas.com:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 16 standard cupcake cups and 16 mini cupcake cups with the paper cupcake liners.
  2. repare the cake mix according to the package instructions. Transfer the batter into each cupcake pan and bake minis for 12-15 minutes and the standard cupcakes for 18-21 minutes.
  3. Remove cupcakes from the oven, transfer to a wire rack, and let cool completely.
  4. Put 1/4 cup of vanilla frosting in a resealable plastic bag; set aside.
  5. Frost all the cupcakes’ tops with the remaining vanilla frosting, and then sprinkle with the shredded coconut, if desired.
  6. Place a frosted mini cupcake on its side on top of each frosted standard cupcake, using the vanilla frosting to attach it.
  7. Make the hats by using the vanilla frosting to secure a DOVE® Chocolate on top of each mini cupcake. Pipe a dot of frosting on top of each chocolate and attach a malted milk ball.
  8. Add details by using vanilla frosting to attach M&M’S® Brand Chocolate Candies as buttons. Pipe the eyes with the black decorating frosting and the noses with the orange decorating frosting.

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the perfect man… the gingerman

Gingerbread ManThere are so many decorating possibilities when it comes to gingerbread men. I’ve demonstrated a very easy technique here (just resealable bags of white icing and black icing with the corners snipped), but really just be creative. Decorating cookies, especially with the little ones, is really more about having fun than anything else.

That said, it used to frustrate me when we would place beautifully shaped cookies into the oven and get blobs back out. Here are a few tips so that you can have perfect shapes to decorate:

Dough thickness – it doesn’t matter if you mix it yourself or use the stick from the dairy case, the key is to roll out your dough so that you have a consistent thickness across your cookies so that they cook evenly.

Cookie size – make sure all of your cookies are approximately the same size or your little ones might burn and your big ones will be gummy.

Dough temperature – it is critical that you slide your baking sheet into the frig for 10 minutes before baking the cookies. The dough needs to be cold to hold its shape; the process of rolling and our hands warms it up.

Don’t overcook – it is so easy to peek at a sugar cookie and think it isn’t done. Don’t guess, time your cookies, and once the oven and pan are warm, you might want to cook later batches even less. My rule, take them out before they brown at the edges, usually 7 minutes.

Cooling racks – many people don’t use cooling racks… I highly advise that you do. Cookies will continue to cook on the pan and you don’t want hard and flaky cookies!

Happy baking!

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rich pecan pie

Nanny\'s pecan pieAnother tradition in our house is pecan pie (being a southern girl and all). There are so many ways to make this pie and they’re all easy. Here’s a “rich” (aka: sugar overload) recipe:

  • 1 cup maple-flavored or pancake syrup
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine
  • 1-1/2 cups pecan halves
  • 1 unbaked 9-inch pastry shell
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • Dash of salt

Steps:

  • Place syrup, sugar and butter in medium saucepan. Bring to boil on medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly.
  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Place pecans in pastry shell. Beat eggs with vanilla and salt in medium bowl with wire whisk until well blended. Gradually add cooled syrup mixture, beating until well blended. Pour over pecans in pastry shell.
  • Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

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nutter butter balls

Nutter Butter BallsI’m a huge fan of Bakerella. For those of you who have never been there, you simply have to go. She has some of the coolest baking ideas. This one is just too fun and really simple. My grandmother makes a homemade Reese’s Cup every Thanksgiving and it takes her hours of prep time. These are just as good and take significantly less time. Here’s what you need:

  • 1 package Nutter Butter cookies
  • 1 8 oz. package cream cheese (softened to room temperature)
  • Chocolate candy coating (chocolate bark or chocolate candy melts)

And here are the easy steps with pictures. Enjoy!

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night owl cookies

owl-cookies

These are sooo fun and could be perfect for a campout party.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 roll (18 oz.) refrigerated sugar cookie dough
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 20 whole cashews
  • 1/2 cup chocolate frosting
  • 1 cup M&M’s Peanut Chocolate Candies
  • 2 cookie sheet pans
  • Plastic wrap paper
  • Resealable plastic bag

And here’s how you make them:

  1. Divide the sugar cookie dough in three pieces. Knead the flour into one piece of cookie dough until smooth, set aside. Combine the remaining two pieces of cookie dough and knead in the cocoa powder until smooth, set aside.
  2. Roll the lighter colored cookie dough into a 1-inch round log about 10 inches long, and move it off to the side. Roll out the chocolate cookie dough on a lightly floured surface to a 10 x 4-inch rectangle. Place the light colored log of cookie dough on top of the chocolate rectangle. Wrap the chocolate cookie dough completely around the lighter colored log. Pinch edges to seal and roll the log smooth. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut the cookie log into 1/4-inch slices. Place 2 slices, side by side, on sheet pans. Press a cashew into cookie at the point the slices touch. Repeat with remaining cookie slices. Bake for approximately 8-11 minutes, or until cookies are just beginning to golden. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  4. Spoon the chocolate frosting into a resealable bag and snip a small corner from bag. Using the photograph as guide, pipe eyelashes and a dot to secure candies. Add the M&M’s for eyes.

Thanks brightideas.com!

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sugar, sugar and more sugar

Halloween sugar cookiesOkay, I know we’re supposed to be doing tables this week, but I couldn’t resist. Today is going to be absolute sugar overload anyway, so why not add a little more with sugar cookies. I developed a love for decorating cookies about four years ago. Candidly I would prefer to save the calories for chocolate so I rarely eat them, but I love to make them and my boys love to help. These are a few of our Halloween cookies that we’ll share with our neighbors tonight. (For tips on how to flood sugar cookies, read this previous post.)

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