Happy Spring! Rebirth, growth, flowers, extra sunlight – all the good things! Cookies – put a face on it! I just can’t not put a face on things. Addicted to kawaii forever. Addicted to weird and wonderful anthropomorphic animals and happy-faced food items (or sad faced lazy egg food items). I remember getting this hamburger panda stationary in Japan in 2002 and being SO stoked. I have been going a little sugar cookie wild lately, but that’s ok – it is FUN and time-consuming in a relaxing way – each little cookie is different, whether it’s the kawaii face or the drips on a cone. I made this batch for some new pals!
I started seeing my rainbow cookies with a kawaii face as a shaggy dog with rainbow hair – and I can’t unsee this. It’s not a bad image to not unsee.
Drippy ice cream cones! Mine are always dripping like melting cones in the sun. My worst drippy sticky nightmare actually but in sugar cookie form, I just love the drips so much! Sugarfina sent me these golden crispy chocolate pearl candies and they make the perfect ice cream cone topper!
Sugar cookies seem to be having a sweet resurgence – I think it’s because the possibilities and individual styles are endless – and cookie masters like Baked Ideas, Holly Fox and Vickie are proving that sugar cookies can be super cute, aesthetically pleasing and modern!
I’ve got deep sugar cookie piping and decorating fever right now, guys. I blame Vickie, Baked Ideas and Holly Fox for getting me all hyped on the cuteness and also ENDLESS COMEDY POSSIBILITIES that are sugar cookies. Watermelon slices, bananas with faces and a big old goofy TOOTH? Yes. Yes you can.
I will compare last year to hiding in a box. It’s hard to want to get out and be social and meet people when you look and feel like a giant cancer turd. So many of my days were spent lying in bed feeling puffy and grey, hating my bald head so hard, bleary-headache-ill-depressed and just wanting the time to pass so I would feel better, so my hair might come back. Just praying for those hours to go by. 2015 (aka 2015: Shitstorm of Buttsanity) ended and 2016 is looking good. I just came back from a hilarious girls trip to Los Angeles, filled with everything fun – major laughs, Eggslut, cocktails, road trip to the desert, impromptu singing, power shopping, snacks galore, feeling the friendship love. Plus, I finally got to meet Kelly of Studio DIY in person! I wanted to make her something special but a cake was out of the question – too wild to try and bring that on the plane! But colourful crazy sugar cookies?? Yes.
Meeting blog pals in real life is kind of anxiety-inducing! You feel like you know a person because you get glimpses and snippets of their lives online, you might share a sense of humour or love for colour, you might exchange emoticons often on Instagram – but a face to face meeting? I always feel nervous. Blogger blind date! Also, I still feel out of my element with my short, borderline-Ellen DeGeneres hair – it’s not my hairstyle of choice so it’s not quite “me” as I would choose to represent myself. Plus, online, you can frame your life and personality, curate what people see – I mean I feel like I do a pretty honest job of being myself online, but still – you always worry if your in-person self might disappoint someone who is expecting an explicitly online self, you know? HOWEVER – no need to fret of course – the meet-up was FUN! We met up at Sqirl and Kelly was wearing probably the cutest outfit ever. The sorrel pesto rice bowl and ricotta jam on toast was SO GOOD. And we just sat and talked and laughed it up and it was lovely. I’ve decided it’s my goal to meet up now with all my online buddies who I’ve gotten to know. Real Life Friends! Because what is life without connection and friendship! (and tooth cookies).
As you can probably tell I’m light to medium obsessed with sugar cookie decorating these days! Sugar cookies are too much fun. And I am also one of the weirdos who likes to eat them, rock-hard royal icing and all. Yum yum. I’m so happy I carried these cookies like a delicate flower cradled like a newborn baby bird through security from Canada on a plane to America. AMERICA! Hehe. Friendship commitment!
Plus: Here are some excellent sugar cookies that are cruising around the inter web right now!
Party like a unicorn! What would a unicorn party look like? Rainbow milkshakes, piles of perfect pastel meringues, a BONKERS UNICORN CAKE in its unicorn likeness … because everyone likes to eat something that looks like themselves, it’s fun, it’s frolicky, it’s cannibal-y … Yep. Today we have a casual times gingerbread A-frame house. I’ve always loved an A-frame house. So snowy-Germanic-romantic, so ski-lodgey good. So here goes. Ginge house. Let’s do it. I used this Martha Stewart gingerbread house recipe, except I omitted the cloves (I loathe cloves! Doesn’t that sound like someone who has a lisp saying I love clothes?) and black pepper. The recipe will make enough for 3 of these A-framers, whose sides are 5 inches tall. You can find templates for the A-frame house here! Make your dough, chill it for at least an hour, roll it out and use a sharp knife to cut out your house. Don’t forget to bake your unicorn cookie, or any other cut-out cookie extras you want to help adorn your house! Bake and let cool completely. Make a batch of royal icing for your house “glue.”
Hot Tip #1: Ice your designs on your house BEFORE you assemble. You’ll have more control working on your designs while they’re flat. Use a very small open circle tip to pipe dots and lines!
Hot Tip #2: Frost some royal icing glue all up on a cake board and stick down your A frame sides. You MUST hold them in place for at least 5 minutes or so until the icing starts to set; wait at least 30 minutes until totally dry before adding the rectangular sides.
Add the sides with a delightful amount of royal icing adhesive! The beautiful part about royal icing – it LOOKS LIKE SNOW which makes your house extra darling, extra Wintery and snowy cute.
Hot Tip #3: If, like me, even though you made your house from a template, the roof isn’t exactly perfect, use some of those extra cookies you baked off to add a cool-guy special solar-paneled roof. Hehe.
Hot Tip #4: Swap out your piping tip for a mini open star tip for that ruffly snowy look!
Swag up the sides. Swag it. Practice this on a piece of parchment paper first if you want, or just go for it! Casual gingerbread house times!
Hot Tip #5: Outline your unicorn with the royal icing fitted with the small open circle tip; make a small bowl of “flood” icing by adding a few drops of water to the icing until the icing is of flooding consistency. If you overdid it with the water, simply add more icing sugar to thicken it up a bit. I applied the flood icing with a spoon and then used a wooden skewer to gently coax the icing out to the edges.
Candy decorating time!
Let your iced white unicorn completely dry. Then, using edible markers, add a face, stripes for the horn and sweet flowing hair. Or, you can pipe all of that on. My unicorn sort of looks like a polar bear with a stick on its forehead and a purple wig. I am okay with this.
Happy unicorn gingerbread house making, my friends! PS SHOW ME YOUR GINGERBREAD~ ! Leave me a link in the comments! I am seriously excited about ginge houses this year.
I’m also DEEP into Buche de Noel! I soooo wanted to try and make one this year but time is dwindling and I don’t think I’ll be able to. (BUT LOOK AT KELLY’S AMAZING TIE DYE YULE LOG CAKE!) One day, Buche. One frigging day. xo Lyndsay
You know when you glomp onto a new idea and you just want to learn everything about it and try to figure out what it’s all about, hokey pokey style? In October I got mildly obsessed with royal icing sugar cookies. I’ve made these horridly time consuming things before. But this time – I turned my frown upside down and tackled royal icing sugar cookies with a new attitude – that slow and repetitive doesn’t have to mean painful. It can in fact be relaxing, meditative. That is, when you’re not cursing royal icing’s name for stiffening up or being too loose-y goose-y.
These cookies, they look pretty cool, right? Like I know what I’m doing? I like to think I know a little bit more of what I’m doing, now that I read Patti Paige of Baked Ideas‘ book You Can’t Judge A Cookie By Its Cutterfrom cover to cover and obsessed over Sweet Ambs’ YouTube videos for hours straight until I went bleary eyed. Then, cookies baked and cooled, royal icing whipped and coloured and portioned, I went to town on these ice cream cones. It was so fun, and low key, and dare I say peaceful making these cookies. Plus, they’re cheaper to mess around with than macaron-making – something else I want to practice at.
Sweet resources for getting wacky wild sugar cookie zone inspired:
Every day is national cake day in Coco Cake Land!??? Could you imagine. I don’t think I could actually handle a world that looked and felt like rainbow unicorn candy cake land every single DAY. Some days you need to mope and cry and feel pain to evolve and grow. Then other days you need to log roll naked down sugar mountains and throw a rainbow candy cake party.
I LOVE the look of this sweetly wild and artful cake. HELL NO those are not gum balls. No one wants to bite into a delicious forkful of cake then be chewing up some icky gum afterward, all minced together with cake crumbs. NO. These beautiful, crispy shelled colourful balls are Ice Cream Sundae Malt Balls from none other than the sweetly stylish luxury candy-heads at Sugarfina. They are my perfect cake topper, and cupcake topper, for their perfect rainbow ball cuteness.
For this cake, I also crushed up one of the pink malt balls into smaller pieces to create some texture/sprinkles. Three vanilla cake layers tinted with pretty gel food colour, frosted with a mixture of turquoise and sky blue tinted buttercream and a contrasting electric pink tinted buttercream.
Just kind of a happy inducing colour palette! Happiness is what the world needs these days. I need it too. This is nice though: I am Yahoo Food’s blogger of the week! I did an interview with Rachel talking about how I learned to bake and how baking and the online community helped me get through my many terrible months of breast cancer treatment.
Geez, those pretend guests made such a mess! I had a lot of fun shooting this pretend party and making this rainbow candy cake. More and more, I’m feeling like I’m getting back in the game and it’s a nice feeling! ^__^
There is MORE CAKE MAGIC on the internet, and I’ve rounded up some beauties for National Cake Day:
Courtney of Fork To Belly has such fun energy in her posts and ideas, and when I saw her Gudetama Cupcakes I got seriously pumped! A delightfully bizarro Japanese illustration of sad lazy eggs in cupcake form!
Have you seen My Neighbor Totoro? Equal parts super cute, creepy and weepy-making, it’s a Japanese animation starring two little sisters who get swept up in a sweetly kooky fantasy world as they cope with their mother’s illness. The star of the beloved film is a big, puffy, furry and grey magical creature, Totoro! So it’s self-proclaimed TOTORO WEEK once again, too! This year, along with my sweet pal Steph of I Am A Food Blog, we are joined by some other Totoro-loving cuties online – a growing list of links below. I decided to give some buttercream loving to Totoro’s furry BFF – Blue Totoro. Of course you can always make him grey instead of blue, or you can make this My Neighbor Totoro cake tutorial from last year’s T-week alongside the blue guy for a real Totoro cake feast!
My Neighbor Totoro Cake Tutorial
You will need:
1 recipe for your favourite cake, or 1 boxed cake mix
A piping bag fitted with a multi-opening tip (also known as the grass tip)
4 inch ball of light blue fondant (tinted to match the buttercream colour)
3 inch ball of white fondant
1 inch ball of black fondant
2 wooden skewers
Optional: a bubble tea plastic straw or dowel
Bake and cool the 6 inch round cake and half sphere cake until completely cool. Level and frost the top of the flat cake and place the sphere cake on top as shown.
Insert bubble tea straw into the center of the cake, pushing down until you reach the bottom cake; snip off excess straw. This step helps with keeping the cake straight while frosting it but it’s not completely necessary.
Using an offset spatula or butter knife, frost the entire exterior of the cake.
It doesn’t need to be completely smooth or perfect because you will be piping “fur” on top!
Make the fondant pieces – take a small piece of the white fondant to create circle eyes. I roll it out with a rolling pin and use a piping tip as a mini cutter. Roll the rest of the fondant out and shape it into a half-circle for Totoro’s tummy. I used a pizza cutter to trim it. Take the black fondant and make two black circles for Totoro’s eyes, and a little arrowhead shape for his nose. Using the blue fondant, make three little rainbow shapes for his tummy. Use the remaining fondant to mold two pointy ears; insert into wooden skewers and trim skewers as necessary to fit the cake.
Start by placing the white “tummy” on the bottom of the cake.
Begin to pipe fur around the edge of the white tummy; continue piping until the entire cake is covered!
Once the entire cake is covered in fur, place the eyes, nose and ears into the top! Heyyyyy budddddy! It’s like bringing Frosty the Snowman to life.
Caught from a slightly side angle! Still stunned.
Sorry my friend. I had to slice in. Your cake layers are such a pretty blue-green hue, too.
I want to thank Steph for encouraging me to do Totoro Week again. Working on this cake gave me a little jolt of fun and made me excited to make something – it’s nice to feel a little normal instead of like a weirdo/cancer-y. Steph, you have been such a sweet friend to me through these last 8 months, from that huge beautiful bouquet of flowers after my surgery to making me MIFFY SPAM MUSUBI when I was seriously down in the dumps after my chemo treatment. You are thoughtful and lovely! *Sniff*! Happy Totoro-making, everyone! xo Lyndsay
I know I’m brutally late to the macaron party. I’ve been aware of their adorable little meringue hamburger-like presence, and have eaten many over the years, and made a few ugly batches right around 2008 when I was nose-deep into my Martha Stewart Baking Handbook. But out of the blue, I got obsessed with these little wispy sweet crispy chewy bastards – french macarons – and I wanted to make them for my mom’s upcoming 70th birthday party. So the deep-googling and the reading began: how to make macarons! I wanted mine to look like the ones I saw in so many beautiful Instagrams. I was feeling determined, and I needed a good distraction – macaron mania was perfectly timed.
The first thing I sought out was a good recipe. I read through my baking books and then went to the internet for some more goods. I ended up finding the EXTREMEO informative Brave Tart blog and her recipe. I made it once, and they looked terrible. Some with cracked tops and only some with cute little “feet” – that’s what they call the ruffly part of the macaron shell. So I made it again, asked for help online on Instagram and received so many nice tips, sought out video and read some more. I ended up making them four times until I finally got the hang of it.
To break it down, here is what worked for me:
1. Make sure to whip the daylights out of the meringue. If it seems like it’s getting so stiff it’s taking on a life of its own, that’s ok: just roll with it – I remember being surprised at the final odd texture. Set the timer for each stage and let ‘er rip. For a Kitchen Aix Mixer, try: speed 4 for 3 mins, speed 7 for 3 mins, speed 8 for 3 mins and speed 10 for 1 min.
2. After measuring my ingredients using a digital scale, I tried both sifting the almond flour and icing sugar, and I also tried throwing it all in the food processor – the food processor worked great!
3. I dumped the almond flour/icing sugar mixture right on top of the beaten meringue. Then I fluffed and folded. It’s best to watch a few videos on how to fold in the flour – or, Dorie Greenspan describes it as “mix and mash” which I found myself saying in my head while I folded. Her description of the process is great, and you can find it here on Food52.
3. I used a circular cookie cutter and quickly made circle stencils on parchment paper so I could easily pipe to the right size. NOTE: make sure to make the stencils on the BACKSIDE of the parchment paper so you don’t bake pencil marks into your macarons. I don’t have a silpat but I would like to get one now – however, I found parchment paper to work fine!
4. I piped holding the bag upright and just blobbing out the batter. I tried piping the “from the side” method and I ended up with some oblong uglies. Top-dogging it seemed to work just fine for me.
5. Smack dat pan: After you pipe the macaron batter onto your parchment paper circles, hold the pan with two hands on either side and drop it down onto a countertop. It is thunderously loud but it helps to minimize air bubbles.
6. I let my macarons sit out after piping in different increments, from 15 to 30 minutes to 2 hours. For me, it made no difference to the final product. What made a difference is FINDING THE HOT SPOTS in my oven and outsmarting them by simply baking ONE SHEET at a time in the middle rack. One sheet to the wind. It takes a little more time to bake them all , sure – but it may save you from crying over cracked macs. (thanks to some of my Instagram followers for that tip!)
7. Find what temperature and time works for your oven and macarons – mine was 325 degrees and baking them for 8-10 minutes, turning the pan halfway through the baking time.
You can get caught up in being supremely anal about whether something is the “right” or “proper” technique or not – but really, we’re just trying to make a lovely little special pal dessert so I think it’s better not to sweat the “that’s not legit or proper” way to make something. Try making them a bunch of times until you get the feel/hang of it, as every oven is different, everyone lives in different climates and the more you practice … YOU GET BETTER!
Wonderful and free smack that mac resources:
Brave Tart’s Macaron Mythbusters post and RECIPE. I followed her recipe, using a scale. I also scraped the contents of a vanilla bean into the batter, and added gel colour for the last minute of beating my meringue.
This nice gal of Macaron and Mint‘s Youtube video! I found watching videos helped to see the texture and “flow” of the batter. She also told me this and I followed it to a T: Kitchen Aix Mixer: speed 4 for 3 mins, speed 7 for 3 mins, speed 8 for 3 mins and speed 10 for 1 min.Totally worked for me.
Dorie Greenspan has a wonderful way with words and describing actions: check out her Parisian macarons post here.
Practice, practice and practice some more! I’m excited to keep on making macarons and continuing to improve. I hope this post gives some hope to those who have thrown in the macaron towel! If you have some more great resources, let me know in the comments, and show me your macarons – leave me links! Happy baking, everyone! xo Lyndsay