Basketball and cakes…

March Madness…it’s here.  Sort of.  Since there are no surviving Kansas or Texas teams, it’s not quite so mad at this house.  But Big Boss will watch the final game anyway while I find something to do.  I watch too…and yell at the refs…and groan when an easy shot is missed, but mostly, I endure.

basketball cake, fondant ruffles, PowerCat, KSU

So while I was in the “enduring” mode, I whipped up a birthday cake for grand #5.  She asked for purple ruffles, a basketball as the second layer and a K-State Power Cat logo on top.  Pretty specific huh?!!  I’ve taught her well.  Oh…and chocolate cake with hazelnut filling!

I have done the ruffles before but the basketball, not so much.  After reading EVERY single post on Pinterest about “spheres”and “basketball cakes”, I put on my big girl britches and started mixing up chocolate cakes.

The bottom tier would be 3 layers, so as to handle all of the ruffles. I chose the half real cake, half styro method for the basketball, which means I cut a styro ball in half and used it as the bottom half of the ball.  That gave the top half more support as opposed to an all cake ball.  And it worked well.  Then the cake half was placed on a cake circle to keep it away from the styro and a layer of buttercream was applied.  After refrigerating it to firm the buttercream up, I smoothed it with paper towels and fondant smoothers and got it pretty much where I wanted it.

I learned tho, that I should have pushed a wooden dowel up thru the bottom of  the styro half first and had it stick out 3″ or so then pushed the cake down over the dowel.  That would’ve been a superior stabilizer for the whole shebang. But I came up with that too late!  My method worked but caused several hundred gray hairs in the transport…for the grandson who drew the short straw to help Meemaw get the thing to the party.  But…he succeeded!!

Anyway, (if you haven’t dozed off by now) everyone advised rolling the fondant out a little thicker to allow the fondant to go with gravity.  And that worked.  I was a bit nervous about covering a BALL but it worked out well!

Then an extruder was used to make the black stripes.  I had learned on my first extruder adventure that the fondant MUST be very, very soft.

The rest of the decorations were easy peasy! And the birthday girl was happy!  There you go!

Kansas State Power Cat, purple ruffles

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Granny’s Sugar Cookies aka Tea Cakes

We all have them. Treasured recipes! They’ve probably been hanging around since we married…or shortly thereafter. Mine are tattered, splotched, torn, stained and marked with notations. I panic if I can’t find mine right away as in my blood runs cold while I frantically try to remember if I have one on the hard drive and if I do, how did I save it?  I know I have backups.  But just where??!!!!

And then I turn one more page and there it is!  Hallelujah!! I am saved with that page turn.  Whew!

What is it, you may ask, that is SO important that can put me in such a state?  Easy answer…Granny’s Sugar Cookie recipe!!

Before I married Big Boss, I had heard tales of her sugar cookies.  I was not impressed.  My mother’s sugar cookies were fantastic…light, crisp, sugary..the melt-in-your-mouth kind of cookie.  How could anyone else’s sugar cookie rival her’s?!

Dubiously, I took the offered cookie from my future mother-in-law.  I sniffed, for one must always smell before devouring.  I checked the bottom of the little round wonder…almost no browning. Check.  I broke the cookie in half as that is the only way to eat a sugar cookie.

Wait. The cookie came apart slowly…with very few crumbs.  That was weird.  It. Was. Soft. Cookies were supposed to  snap, crackle and pop with tiny crumbs going everywhere.  But not this cookie.  It was soft. It was poofy.  It was almost like a tiny little cake.  Ding. Ding. Ding.  TEACAKE!!!  Yessss! That perfectly described her cookie! It melted in my mouth. Then another one melted. And another..well, they were almost impossible to stop eating I tell you!

So I quickly asked for the recipe, took it home to Texas and made a batch.  My dad’s eyes sparkled when he took his first bite.  “Teacake!”, he pronounced, for his word was the final word in All Things of the Culinary Kind. “Just like my mom’s!”, he added.  My mother was curious.  Why would you make a soft cookie? On purpose. And how did she make them soft?

Ahhhh, I had the answers. It was the first time I had a leg up on my mom.  Sweetly I chirped, “Here, I’ll show you.”

And thus began the Great Romance of the Sugar Cookie in my family.  The fame of the cookie spread to my brother-in-law’s house and to his girls.  Church members anticipated Granny’s sugar cookies each time we had a church gathering. (I, however, never made the cookies for those occasions as this was Granny’s Territory! One must know the boundaries of family love and limits. 🙂

One day, about six months after we lost Granny, I found her recipe box.  This was a National Treasure to my way of thinking!  I found recipes that I had never heard of or tasted so that meant Granny wasn’t crazy about them.  Then I found actual recipes that I had given her from my stash!  Wonder of wonders.  But I came to a screeching halt when I found THE recipe…”Mama’s Sour Cream Sugar Cookies” !!!!!!!!  Seriously? Yep.  It was the same exact recipe that Granny had given me years before.  Who knew?!!! She was using her mother’s recipe!

My guess is that it was not only “Mama’s” but her mother’s and her mother’s…yeah, a bona-fide family treasure!

I’m pretty sure that when the original recipe called for “sour cream”, it was the kind that comes straight from the cow…you know, the clabbered kind.  As opposed to the store-bought-in-a-plastic-carton kind.  But it works to this day.

Our three boys grew up on these cookies.  Two out of three insist on a glass of milk alongside the delicacy. For dunking.  (The middle boy wasn’t that crazy about sweets!  Go figure.) As they were taught by Big Boss. He also wants cake with no icing but lots of cold milk poured on top of said cake.  No comment.

I didn’t get any sugar cookies made this past Christmas.  I  plan to redeem myself on Valentine’s Day.  Which is tomorrow.  Which means…I’m behind!

Sour Cream Sugar Cookies aka Granny’s Cookies

1 cup sour cream

1 cup shortening (Lately, I’ve been using the pre-measured butter flavor shortening.)

2 large eggs

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla (You could also use orange or lemon flavoing.)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

Pinch of salt

5 1/2-6 cups all-purpose flour

NOTE: Do NOT double this unless you have a huge, professional mixer!!  One recipe at a time even in 6 quart models. Ask me how I know this….

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Free tip: line up all of the ingredients and as you add them to the mixing bowl, push them back up against the wall. That way you’ll know beyond a shadow of doubt that you DID put the salt in?!! This is an important for us…mature ladies. Just sayin’.

Cream the shortening and sugar until fluffy.  Add the eggs, vanilla and sour cream and mix till blended. Add the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda 1 cup at a time and blend in well.

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Tip #2: got this idea from The Aunt. If you have a deep drawer located near your mixing station load it with staples in sturdy storage bins. I keep my brown sugar, all-purpose flour, sugar and self-rising flour in mine along with plastic 1 cup measure and biscuit cutters. Also a large sack of pancake mix..that goes into the fridge during the summer months.

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One half of the dough is piled onto plastic wrap. After I seal it, I mold it into a ball.

Roll into a large ball and cover with plastic wrap to refrigerate for at least 1 hour.  This also freezes well at this point. Note: I usually divide my dough up at this point so it will cool faster.  The refrigerator freezer cools them down even faster!!!

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Dough, ready for the fridge.

Cut into half and roll out on a well floured surface…in my case, on bread board! When dough is about 1/4 to or a little thicker, cut with cookie cutters and place on shiny cookie sheet that has been sprayed with baking spray or rubbed w/shortening.

Bake at 375° for 6-8 mins.  This is where the softness of the cookie comes in.  Over-baking them will create a crunchy cookie.  Finding the exact timing will be your experiment.  Mine usually take around 6 1/2 mins. in my convection oven.  The regular ovens take about 7 mins. You will find your perfect timing!

When they’re done, take them out of the oven and let them cool for 5 mins or so.  Then gently lift them with a spatula and set on a wire rack to cool.

As soon as they have cooled down, put the cookies that you havent eaten yet 🙂 in an airtight container/bag.

The decorating is up to you!!!

Now I must away to the spa!   You can hate me now.  🙂

More cookie adventures coming up…

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Muffins Rock!

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Years and years ago, a friend made me some marvelous muffins. And also gave me her recipe. It was one of those recipes that you can mix up, cook a batch for breakfast, store the leftover batter in the fridge, then bake a fresh batch the next morning.

In theory, it works great. For this bunch, I baked the entire batch and they were standing around waiting for MORE in about 15 minutes. Or less.

But, in our Empty Nest period, I find this works now. Oh wait. There are 11 grandkids now standing around.  Waiting for food.

Anyway. This is probably my favorite muffin. Why? It’s jam-packed with all kinds of wonderful healthy goodness…wheat bran, wheat germ, oat bran, pecans, dates…and I sneak in flax seed (milled) sometimes. You can sub walnuts for pecans…you can sub in raisins or any dried fruit for dates.

And, as usual, these are FANTASTIC with a fresh cup of coffee!!!!

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Date Nut Muffins

5 cups flour
2 cups wheat germ
2 cups All Bran cereal
2 cups 40% Bran Flakes (I’ve used Total in a pinch)
2 cups chopped dates (you can buy them already chopped…do it!)
2 cups chopped pecans
5 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup oil
4 eggs
1 quart buttermilk
2 cups water

Pre-heat oven to 400. Spray muffin tins with cooking spray.

Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix the wet ingredients in a medium bowl. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix well by hand.

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Fill each muffin cup full. Bake 20 minutes. But…watch them carefully as 15 may be all they need. You can also bake these in the microwave using a Pyrex cup/bowl. You’ll have to experiment on the timing as it’s been a loooong time since I used this method and microwave ovens cooking strength has changed. Use baking spray to coat the dish.

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Crispy, Crunchy Sugar Cookies

Heart cookies are Granny's Sugar Cookies, link below. Round cookies are the subject of this post!

Heart cookies are Granny’s Sugar Cookies, link below. Round cookies are the subject of this post!

For Annie, a cookie recipe I got from my Aunt May years ago…WARNING: these things are addictive.  I have to hide them from myself.  And a granddaughter!

Plus, a bonus recipe link for the soft cookies.

Soft cookies rule here.  Always have.  Although the concept was a new one for me when I met Big Boss.  His mom made soft cookies.  Always.  And they were good!

My mom made crispy cookies.  I thought that was the way cookies were supposed to be.  He thought his mom’s soft cookies were the way cookies were supposed to be.

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Are you seeing a newlywed problem?  Nah, not really.  I bake them both ways.  And now, I really prefer some cookies soft. Like his mom’s Sour Cream Sugar Cookies.

The crispy version of the sugar cookie is about as different as you can get.  It’s one of my aunt’s recipes.  I could eat a kazillion of these.  It’s hard to stop.

This cookie is very “short”…not the opposite of tall…but crunchy, crispy, light, sort of like shortbread. That’s why I love it.

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May’s Sugar Cookies

4 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup butter or butter flavored shortening

1 cup oil

1 cup sugar

1 cup powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream the sugars and butter together. Add cooking oil.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients slowly.

Roll into small balls, about 1 Tablespoon. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet…do 12 at a time. Then grease a drinking glass (or whatever) on the outside and bottom, dip into a cup of sugar and press into each cookie ball, flattening the ball out.  (The sugar keeps the dough from sticking to the glass.)

Bake at 375° for 10 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.

The edges should be a little brown…really crispy!  That’s my favorite part…the edges.

You can add some chopped pecans also.  You expected me to add pecans, right?  😀

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Pumpkin Muffins for Annie

I was cruising through Facebook yesterday…like I had nothing else to do! There I found a request from a friend for a recipe for pumpkin muffins. I just happened to have a yummy pumpkin muffin recipe!

Years ago, while recuperating from a surgery, a buddy stopped by with fresh muffins! Oh joy! And they were still warm!! Better yet, I had butter that just begged to be plopped onto a nice, warm muffin. So, I ate one.

End of story.

Almost. I asked for the recipe and have been making these sweethearts ever since.

So, Annie, get those measuring cups out, warm up the oven, tie that cute little apron on and let’s get cooking!!

1 cup flour
1 1/2 cup quick oatmeal
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pumpkin

Measure all dry ingredients into large bowl. Measure all wet ingredients into medium bowl. Pour wet into dry and stir til blended. Pour into a greased muffin pan filing to 2/3 full. Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes.

I always double the recipe and either share or freeze. That is…after I eat a couple or so!!

Sorry. No pics today. No time to make these puppies, photograph and post…Annie needs this STAT!!!

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4th of July goodies…from last year

Strawberries are a staple around here.  Big Boss eats them with his cereal every morning.  I eat them not every day but they make a great snack.  I eat mine minus the dip in the sugar, using a packet of Splenda instead.

But these turned out so pretty last year, I decided we need to revisit them….

 

One tray complete, one to go....

One tray complete, one to go….

If you live out in the country, it might be too late.  But city folk will be good to go should you decide to accept this challenge for your July the Fourth party/gathering/celebration.  🙂

I saw these little patriotic jewels online a while back, made a mental note and much to my…and probably everyone’s else’s…surprise, I remembered it.  I didn’t pin it at Pinterest for some weird reason but hey, I remembered!!!!

Way easy!!

Let’s name this “Sousa Strawberries”…as in John Phillip?  You know…the guy who wrote all of those wonderful patriotic tunes a long time ago?  Or maybe “Key Berries” after Francis Scott Key.  You remember him right?

Wash berries thoroughly and drain on a paper towel.  Gently dry each strawberry with another paper towel.

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If you have time, let them air dry for 10 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, in a small Pyrex bowl…I use those handy-dandy 1 cup measuring bowls that Pampered Chef makes…pour in a handful of white chocolate.  I used the Pure White wafers from Hobby Lobby.  Zap them for 30 seconds on high. Stir and zap them again for 20 seconds. Stir until smooth.  Let it cool until it’s warm.

Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper or use styro plates to place the strawberries on while the chocolate hardens.

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Dip the strawberry in the melted chocolate, covering 2/3 of the berry with chocolate. Let it drip a bit then place on your plate/sheet. Repeat.  Melt more white choco as needed as there is no set amount to use.

Let the choco-berry harden, then redip them 1/3 of the way or halfway up the already dipped part.  Does that make sense?  It really doesn’t matter…just so you have the red part of the berry showing, a white part and a blue part.

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Now for the blue part…when you’ve dipped the berry for the second time in the white chocolate, have some blue sugar in a second little bowl..about 3/4 cup.  Make a little indentation in the middle of the sugar and roll the berry around kind of on its sides and squish the choco into the sugar.  Think of a top spinning??

And you’re done.  Well, you are after you’ve dipped all the berries and rolled them in the sugar and let the whole shebang cool and harden.  Yummo!!!

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I’m serving mine with real whipped cream although in the pics, I used Cool Whip because I didn’t have time to make the whipped cream at that very second.  I had to hurry and get a water sprinkler system reprogrammed then hustle home to help get vehicles out the wheat fields.

Yep, we’re almost done with wheat harvest!  Now I get why everyone here always celebrate in a big way on the Fourth of July.  Harvest is usually OVER!!! YeeeeHawwww!!!!

OH, and if you don’t want to hand over 2-4 bucks for colored sugar..and I don’t and also don’t want to drive 80 miles for it…

Put sanding sugar or Sprinkle Sugar…the diff is the sanding sugar is a little larger granule of sugar than regular sugar…the Sprinkle Sugar is even larger.  I didn’t try regular but prefer the sanding, in case you want to know.

Put a cup or so of sugar into a plastic bag that seals.  Drop some food coloring or color gel..whatever you have into the sugar. Seal the bag and squish out the air.  Knead the sugar around until the color is even.  I used 3 drops of my Wilton Royal Blue.  Easy peasey!

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1,781 Shades of Grey

Learned something new lately.  Grey is not easy.

Pale grey icing fresh flowers wedding cake

There you have it. I was living in a dream world where you just put a dab of color in white icing, and VOILA, you have the perfect color.

So when a sweet, dear, old friend asked me to make a special cake, I said YES!! (But but…you said NO more weddings! This was an exception.) She wanted simple, not huge and pretty….maybe with fresh flowers. Sounds great right? And she thought a pale shade of grey would be nice for the cake frosting.  I did too!  Grey!?! I had never done a grey cake!  This is going to be fun, I thought!

Well, let me just say, my spare fridge is full of grey icing. (Anyone need a blueish cake?)

Yes, friends. Grey is NOT easy. What?, you declare, just add a bit of black to white and you have grey. I wish.

First round looked baby blueish.  Second round was even worse.  The more black I added, the bluer it got.

Maybe it needed a bit more white icing?!  Nope. How about a touch more black and maybe a bit of brown?

Wedding cake strawberry filing

Well, that didn’t work.  What to do. What to do.  OK maybe I was being paranoid, but more black seemed to be the only answer.  Nope. Now it was REALLY blue.  Argggh.

Time to call on the experts so I messaged my go to lady, Sharon Zambito.  Thankfully, she answered quickly saying, “wow, grey is tough”! Oh yay.  “Add a tiny bit of red or orange!”  Looking on Cake Central’s Urgent Care Center (ok, I just made that name up) several cake ladies suggested NOT using Wilton’s black.

With a full pail of a LOT of blueish icing that couldn’t be used, I decided to make a fast trip to the closest Hobby Lobby and get a new black and more powdered sugar. I jetted back home with a plan in hand and a different black.  Hope sprang fresh in my cakey heart!

Sure enough, the new batch looked greyer…still a blue hue to it, but not like the first batch.  So I threw it on the cakes, smoothed it and chilled it.

Decorating went smoothly the next day.  I hauled the three cakes up to the reception hall.  Where, in the kitchen, there were blue fluorescent lights that turned the cakes…you guessed it…BLUE!!!!  I was close to throwing a wall-eyed hissy fit but I gathered what was left of my self-control and moved the cakes into the main room where there were….YELLOW lights.  And the cakes turned grey.

Moral of the story?  Grey ain’t easy in any light but make sure your venue lights are NOT blue.  Trust me on this.  And that little dab of red made all the difference.  Hallelujah!!

I was happy.  The bride was happy. And we’re living happily ever after!!

BTW…does anyone need a grey/blueish cake?

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