Thursday, December 15, 2011

Merry Christmas from Frilly Milly

What better way to say "Merry Christmas" than a colorful batch of glace icing!  I shot this the other day and couldn't help but turn it into a Christmas card.  You've still got 10 days left to go - and I hope each and every one is filled with art, baking, creating, spending time with people you love and most importantly, remembering the true Reason for the season.  Here's wishing you and yours a very blessed holiday.  Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cookies for Santa

Last Saturday my friend joined me for a night of cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies (not gonna lie, totally love them) and holiday baking.  We made peanut butter fudge Gingerbread Men (see previous post) and dozens upon dozens of sugar cookies. Be still my beating heart! :)

We quickly ran to the store to pick up our ingredients, grabbed some dinner "to go" and last but not least, stocked up on cookie cutters!  My local Joann's sells a great 40 piece set (some large, some miniature) for $19.99, but with a 50% off coupon it was just too good to pass up.

We had a great little assembly line going - I would roll the dough, she would cut the shapes and I would transfer them to a cookie sheet.  An hour or so and 5 dozen cookies later...we were ready to start frosting.

I've tried various frosting techniques over the years, but I'm kind of a sucker for a more "polished" look, so when I saw this technique on Our Best Bites' site, I was sold.  Based on our cookie cutter choices, we chose to make red, green, blue, yellow, brown and white icing.  One thing I will tell you is that a little goes a long way with this type of frosting.  You'll look at your bowls with just a large spoonful and think it will never be enough...but you'll be amazed at how far it stretches. Trust me.

The last step in making the icing is to make the piping.  I remember coloring with my dad before bedtime when I was a kid and he would always outline his picture before shading it all in which always made it look so good (especially in comparison to my scribbles!).  In the world of sugar cookies, piping is that outline and the icing is the shading (thankfully now I'm actually able to "stay in the lines" :)).  Put a #3 tip on a pastry bag, fill it up with a thicker version of the icing (see instructions) and begin outlining.  You'll want to get a head start on this process since you need it to dry just ever so slightly before you begin flooding the cookies.  It's fun and it goes pretty fast - even better if you've got a partner in crime that starts the decorating while you finish the piping!

When it comes to the flooding (again, at some point I need to improve at taking step-by-step photos!), I use tiny demitasse spoons and toothpicks.  I scoop a little bit of the icing with the spoon and pour it into the center of the cookie, then drag it to the edge of the piping with the toothpick.  Want berries on your wreath or buttons on your snowman?  While the main color of your cookie is still wet (say the green of the wreath), take a toothpick and dip it into the red and gently tap tiny drops of the icing onto the green.  Seurat's got nothing on you!

And this, my friends, is the final result!
Share them with friends or save them for yourself (I ate one for breakfast this morning), but most of all, enjoy the creative process.  Turn on Christmas music, light up the tree, grab a cup of hot cocoa and frost away!  Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Fudge

I don't know about the rest of you, but fudge is pretty much a staple for me when it comes to holiday baking.  I'm not opposed to any variations (although I think chocolate mint might be my favorite), but when my friend Rachelle specifically requested that we make peanut butter fudge, she didn't have to twist my arm!

I know there are so many variations, but I love this recipe - it only requires 6 ingredients and is finished in 15 minutes or less.  Most recipes, including this one, ask that you pour the fudge into an 8x8 pan to make the standard, thick squares of fudge. I prefer to pour the fudge into a small 10x15 jellyroll pan and then smooth it out as evenly as possible using a large sheet of wax paper.  Once it's cooled and the fudge has completely set, I like to cut the fudge into fun shapes using small cookie cutters.  In the fall I made pumpkin fudge and cut it out into the shape of leaves...

So it was only fitting that in the spirit of Christmas, we turned our peanut butter fudge into Gingerbread Men.

If you want to really get crazy, you can use a toothpick to poke holes for buttons and eyes (and drag it for the mouth), and fill the holes with nonpareils.

One thing you'll find is after cutting out your first round of gingerbread men, you'll have a lot of "scraps" left over.  The great thing about fudge is that it's extremely pliable, so just combine the scraps, roll it out between 2 sheets of wax paper and continue on the cutting process!  Enjoy!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas Pirates

Lately I've had the chance to work on a few Frilly Milly projects (not nearly as many as I would like - but hey, I'm happy to get to "play" at least a little bit!) and thought I would just post a few photos and tips on how to recreate them if you so desire.  The one I'm most excited about is not quite finished yet, but hopefully will be up sometime the beginning of next week if not sooner.

The first project is not really Christmas-y, but I received an order for pirate cupcakes for a birthday party and the leftovers turned into something a little bit festive :).  First...the pirates.

The  cupcakes are chocolate cake with buttercream icing.  I know fondant looks better, but I don't like the way it tastes so I stick mainly with buttercream and just work to make it look as smooth as possible.  I just made 3 different colors of buttercream - the skintone (using copper gel coloring), red ("no taste" red gel) and black (I used a combination of the black gel along with a little cocoa powder to get a rich black).  I apologize for not having step-by-step photos (which would make this so much easier to follow), but I'll try to at least explain each step of the process.

I frosted each cupcake with a #1A tip making a swirl starting along the outside edge and working my way into the center (not building up...just filling in).  From there I took my small palette knife and smoothed out the swirl.  I let the icing crust for about 10 minutes before going back over them with a small square I cut out of a VIVA paper towel (solid white - no print - using the softer side on the cupcake) to get a fondant-like smoothness.

Next, I used a #104 petal tip for the red and starting not quite at the center of the cupcake (with the "head" of the pirate pointed toward me and fat side of the petal tip facing toward the "chin" of the pirate) and made slightly curved stripes from left-to-right layering on top of each other slightly and tapering at the right-hand corner where the "knot" of the bandana would go.  I created a little knot using the same tip.

From there I moved to the black icing with a #3 tip.  I made a long diagonal line over top of the bandana to the base of the chin from left to right.  Small black eye dot on the left, large black eye dot on top of the black line on the right and then facial hair, smiles, etc.  Place a junior mint on the large black dot of the right eye and viola! Your pirate cupcake is complete!

Since I had several cupcakes left over and quite a bit of icing as well, I turned the rest of the cupcakes into Santa Claus!  The only addition was a bag of white icing using a #12 tip.  I used the same method for the hat as I did for the pirate's bandana - except just going straight across rather than curving.  I even had an extra pirate leftover and turned him into a Santa as well (I just have a small picture taken from a phone of that cupcake - but it's worth seeing because it just makes me laugh!).  

So whether it's a Pirates or Christmas party - or better yet, a "Pirates of Christmas" party :), now you have a fun and festive dessert to share!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Vineyard Birthday Party

In celebration of my sweet friend Courtney's birthday, I called up a few of the girls and planned a night out at one of our favorite places, Arrington Vineyards.  I arrived early (or so I thought) only to find the place already crawling with people and only just a few picnic tables left to choose from, but with a spread of land that beautiful, any spot is a good spot!

When you arrive at Arrington you have to park at the bottom of a large, steep hill, so hauling anything beyond a pair of wine glasses is quite the feat!  So although I packed up quite a few serving pieces and accessories into a large tote, I tried to keep the overall menu very simple.  We had croissants with brie, turkey, honey mustard and the option of apple or pear slices (I tried half-n-half and loved them both!), pretzels and hummus, fresh fruit, spinach salad with goat cheese, walnuts, strawberries and a blush vinaigrette (which, sadly, is not pictured since I forgot a decorative serving bowl! Sorry, Ashley!), water, lemonade, and of course, wine :).  I made a small pink champagne cake with buttercream icing and cupcakes to match, but the rest of the items were brought/made by my amazing friends.

Monday, August 22, 2011

New (Old) Finds!

I am a huge fan of cake stands.  I love that you can use them to give height to a table, accentuate a simple or dramatically elegant cake and more than anything...I love the "hunt" to find them! :)  Last week I was on vacation with my family and we went to several antique stores.  The biggest and most exciting was called the Brass Armadillo.  It was not only massive, but extremely well organized and an antique/flea market junkies dream come true!!  As always, I was on the hunt for cake stands and a few other various items, and found two that I not only fell in love with, but were at a price I couldn't beat!

I love the detailed edge and the color of the green, and while the yellow is not typically something I would pick out, I love how low the pedestal is and love how the light plays through it and creates such a neat pattern on the table.  I think it would be perfect for an upside-down caramel apple pie in the fall, don't you? :)

Of course, my favorite cake stand find of all time is my jadeite stand.  It's the "jackpot" of all finds in my book and I almost cried when I found it.  On top of that, the sweet friend I was with purchased it for me as a gift and made it just that much more special.
My final and absolute favorite new "old" find wasn't really so much a find as an inheritance, but after years waiting for me in my grandparents' basement, it is finally in my dining room and I couldn't be happier.  My grandparents bought this piece and the dining room table/chairs that I have while on their honeymoon almost 60 years ago.  I love that it not only has such a great story which makes it priceless to me, but that I love the style so much, I would purchase it in a store in a heartbeat!  Free is certainly welcomed though :).  With a little TLC I hope that it lasts another 60 years!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ruffle Cake Tutorial

I intended to video tape the step-by-step process of making my ruffle cake when I made a second one last week, but due to a weekend trip to the lake and several other projects in the mix, I had to finish it in a rush and didn't have time to do a video blog of the process.  I have good news though!  I found a great video on youtube that walks you through the process, so watch, learn and go bake & decorate! :)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Still working on cakes...and other (BIG!) news

One of these days I'm going to get with it and start posting more regularly, I promise!  When parties and events are not my primary job, I tend to get easily overwhelmed and have trouble figuring out how to balance it all.  The GOOD news is, conversations are happening and ideas are when I come back to the blogging world you better watch out - cuz it's gonna be with a BANG! :)  For now, my full-time gig (graphic design) and baking are taking up my time.  Not a lot of baking, just a little bit here-and-there...trying out new techniques (some a win, some a learning experience :)) and playing with ingredient combinations...all that fun stuff!  The cake pictured above was made using the "ruffle" technique.  I honestly had so much fun making it - and am excited that I have a request to do another one before the end of the week!

MEANWHILE, the big news is that I received an email from Amy Atlas' "Editor in Sweets" letting me know that she has chosen my farmhouse brunch as one of her "Links I Love" on the blog!  To be noticed by anyone, let alone Amy Atlas is such a huge honor. HUGE!  And to Perpetually Engaged for the great feature (which the link will take you to) - thank you!!  One of the most rewarding things about styling a party is getting to hear the feedback from other people - and everyone has been so incredibly kind!

So THANK YOU to all of you who keep coming back.  I promise that in a matter of time, you won't keep coming back to the same post day-after-day.  Someday soon that will change!!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Let them eat cake!

I recently finished my first course in cake decorating.  I must say, if you have any interest in baking, it's so much fun and absolutely worth trying.  I still have a lot to learn (2 more classes in fact!), but even the basics have made cake baking/decorating so much easier and more fun!  The first cake I made on my own (outside of class) was for the birthday of a little girl that I babysit.  She was having a "Tangled" birthday party, so I made a cake that went with the theme.  I found the idea for building the tower here, and then built the cake/cupcakes around that.  The second cake (top photo) I had seen on The Pioneer Woman's website and immediately fell in love with the simplicity and elegance of the design.  My technique definitely needs some work, but I have a feeling I'll be trying it again sometime soon!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Just in time for St. Patty's Day!

I actually created these cupcakes for my roommate's birthday, which happens to fall right before St. Patty's Day.  Her favorite flavor combination is chocolate and mint - which is a very fitting color combo for someone born so close to a green holiday! :)  I've been playing around with some ideas for cupcake fillings and flavor combinations, but this is the first one I've actually gotten to test out.  I'm calling this cupcake Triple Chocolate Molten Mint Madness. :)  I made a devil's food cupcake with a semi-sweet chocolate/mint ganache filling (a "molten lava" inside), let it cool a bit after baking and then dipped the top of each cupcake in a dark chocolate/mint ganache.  (I should note that I used very little mint in both the inner ganache as well as the topping since I wanted it to be just a slight hint of flavor and not overkill.  I love mint and chocolate, but mint is a flavor that can easily be ruined if overused.)  Once the ganache had set and was no longer sticky to the touch, I made a mint cream cheese icing that I used in just a small dollop (don't you love that word?! :)) on top of each cupcake.  For the finishing touch, I sprinkled each cupcake with some chopped Andes Mints and viola!  A chocolate mint lovers dream come true!

Happy Birthday, Julie! :)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Wedding Details

I've been working on invitations, menus, place-cards and chummies for a wedding rehearsal dinner taking place in California next week.  I have to admit, that's the stuff I love the most.  I'm just a sucker for anything printed on paper :).  I guess that means I chose the right career when I majored in graphic design!  I also made this sign with the couple's names, wedding date & time that coordinates with the colors/design of their wedding.  It's about 14x14 actual size and I just loved how it turned out.  For as much as I love paper, I love fonts even more!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Farmhouse Brunch Baby Shower

Last month I had the privilege of styling a baby shower for a dear friend of mine.  She was hosting it along with a few other girlfriends and they had already discussed having a brunch due to the mom-to-be's love of breakfast.  We talked about the gender of the baby (girl) and the mother's favorite color (pink) and the style she likes.  From there I went home and began brainstorming on what "theme" to give a brunch.

My grandparents were farmers and when I think about the BEST brunches (not necessarily the most beautiful, but certainly the most delicious!), I immediately think of good old-fashioned comfort food.  Grandmother's buttermilk biscuits, homemade preserves from her garden, the smell of thick bacon in her iron get the idea :).  So...with that thought in mind, a Farmhouse Brunch it became!

There were a few items I knew I wanted.  The first was milk bottles.  I'm sure many of you have already discovered this, but the glass Starbucks frappuccino's that you buy at the grocery store look just like little milk bottles when the wrapper is removed.  Just my luck, the friend that was hosting the shower happened to work with a guy who drinks them on a regular basis and was happy to donate them to the party.  A good soak, scrub and dishwasher cycle and they were good to go!  The other item was not quite as easy to come by and was something I finally found sitting outside of a salvage shop.  It was a brown wooden mirror then, but for $25 it had great potential.  Two cans of white spray paint, one can of chalkboard paint and $6 later it was a chalkboard!  I will share pictures of that process in another (much less exciting) post.  For now, enjoy the pictures from the party!  I hope you like it!

Due to the narrow "depth" of the room, we were never able to get a great wide-angle shot of the whole table without cutting something off.  So, here's one last picture of the full spread (I apologize for the "chopped top").  Would love to hear your feedback!  Thanks for stopping by!

(images courtesy of Lauren Blair Photography)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My $7.50 Antique Store Find

You know what I love about flea markets and antique stores?  The anticipation that regardless of what you see when you first walk in or how junky or fancy the place might look, you never know when you're going to find a hidden treasure.  Last weekend I visited Paducah, KY with a friend and am pretty sure I wore my shopping companions (and dog! :)) out by slowly walking through every single antique/junk store in downtown Paducah.  I was looking for a milk glass cake stand, but ended up walking away with just one purchase that day...this adorable set of salt & pepper shakers.  I love them for many reasons - first, because they're green (I'm a green fanatic :)), second because they're big & chunky, and most of all because they have the words embossed in the glass...the most important selling point (other than the 50% off $15 price tag :)).  I wouldn't say it's my all time favorite antique store find (that was an amazing hand-stitched quilt in pristine condition), but they certainly make me smile!

What are some of your favorite flea market/antique store finds?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A New Take on Conversation Hearts

If you're like me, you love the idea of conversation hearts, but notsomuch the chalk-like consistency and flavor.  BUT, I love the concept of the candy.  I love using them to fill in the blanks on a  homemade Valentine card or for a fun "vintage looking" decoration at a Valentine party.  Although it may save me a few calories to just use them as decoration and not eat them, I'd still rather have something that combines both purposes because, c'mon, who doesn't love sweets?! ;)

That's where this absolutely fabulous tool comes in handy!!  Williams Sonoma has created Message-in-a-Cookie-Cutters.  Beyond brilliant!  I don't own them myself (yet!), but it is definitely an item on my wish list!  Not only does the set come with three different shapes that can be used for any occasion, but there is no limit to what you can say (other than the actual space that the cookie allows)!  On top of that - create any cookie or flavor you want!  No more chalkiness (is that even a word?).  I'm thinking maybe an almond sugar cookie, or something lemon...maybe if you're really feeling creative you could make a different flavor of cookie dough for each color of cookie!  Strawberry, blueberry, lemon, pistachio...add a little food coloring to each and viola!  Now those are some conversation hearts that will get people talking! ;)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Introducing: Chummies!

For those of you that faithfully follow Frilly Milly, thank you!  I know I haven't done a great job keeping up in the past few months, but trying to juggle a "real" job, life and parties/events...well...sometimes I get a little overwhelmed :).  I have some things coming up around the corner that I promise to blog about soon, but for now I wanted to introduce you to one of my latest endeavors...Chummies!

I haven't set up an online ordering of any kind quite yet, but if you are interested in ordering chummies, just shoot me an email and let me know!  I'm still working on gift packaging for chummies-by-the-dozen, but right now you can purchase a variety of designs in the silver tin shown above for $8/tin (plus s&h...unless you are local to the Franklin/Nashville area).

What are chummies?  Well, by my own definition they are a "delicately decorated hand dipped sweet" - or in this particular case, a chocolate dipped oreo with a decorative topping.  A standard chummy is just made with a regular oreo, but I can also do any variety of oreo flavor (or double stuff!) for an additional cost.  The design pictured is for a Superbowl event, but imagine sending a box to your friends for Valentine's day, a birthday, a "congratulations on your new bundle of joy!" new baby gift, or even a simple "just because".  The possibilities are endless!

Tell your friends about chummies today! :)