Happy Birthday Blog!

Today marks the first "birthday" of my blog. I still can't believe it's been a whole YEAR since I started blogging! To celebrate, I have a special lemon cupcake recipe I will be sharing later in this post.  But first, I want to share some changes I made around the blog to celebrate!

You may have noticed some new features around the blog.  I have a new banner, social media buttons, AND I now have a button you can grab. I had originally created a new header and cover photo for Facebook in different programs, but wasn't entirely content.  I really wanted more uniformity between my different sites, but I was using different tools.  I discovered a great free photo editor, PicMonkey, that allowed me to create the new features for the blog. There are some advanced icons and tools in PicMonkey that require registration and monthly fee, but most of the features were free. I found it very user friendly and was able to do everything I wanted all on that site.  I even made my pic for this post showing my year of blogging in pictures! 

To create more uniformity, I was able to use my new banner and button as my cover photo and profile pic on Facebook. Here's my new Facebook layout:

New Facebook Layout

You may notice my new social media buttons. Those are actually pics of fondant cupcakes I made topped with the fondant social media symbols.  I will be posting a tutorial later this week for creating your very own social media buttons.  It's not difficult to do with the right tools, it just takes a little time. I also have now introduced a button for my Etsy shop. 

Here's a close-up of my new social buttons and blog button:

New Social Media Buttons

New Blog Button

Throughout this past year, a lot has changed with my blog. I can see major differences in writing, layout, recipes, and of course improvements in decorating! Through cake decorating courses, recipe testing, LOTS of practice, and researching tons of successful blogs, I have come a long way in a year. For my first year of blogging, I had some goals I wanted to reach in baking and blogging that I feel I was able to accomplish:
  • Create Facebook page and reach at least 100 "likes" (At the start of February I only had around 80 likes and wasn't sure I would reach this.  Thanks to a lot of new followers from blog hops, I've now reached 132!)
  • Have guest blog post published
  • Be featured in a blog link party (TWO!)
  • Experiment with recipes and create new flavors
  • Complete Wilton classes
  • Open Etsy shop to sell fondant decor
  • Begin selling cakes cakes
  • Gain followers from other blogs
  • Mingle with other bloggers 
I wasn't sure if anyone else would care or even want to read my posts, so I love getting comments and new followers I have never even met.  I still have a long way to go, though.  There have been a few times early on when I even thought about stopping, as I felt few people were interested in or reading my blog.  But, I've kept at it and am slowly seeing an increase in readership and followers.  I may never be one of the most successful bloggers, but I enjoy it and hope that others find some cute ideas and delicious recipes.

That being said, I have some goals for my next year of blogging and cake decorating:
  • Build larger following on Facebook
  • Increase followers on Blogger
  • Utilize my Twitter account more and build following
  • Sell more items on Etsy and other craft fairs
  • Advertise and gain more clients for cake decorating in my area
  • Co-host or host a blog link party
  • Host a successful give-away on the blog
  • Pair up with other blog(s) and do guest posts
  • Develop original recipes
I may or may not reach all those goals, but I hope to continue to see my blog blossom and grow throughout this next year.  Who knows where it will be by its second birthday! 

Let's continue the celebrating with what you came here for - a special cupcake recipe and birthday decor!

These delicious, lemony cupcakes are ones I made for a friend several months ago.  I decorated the treats with some birthday decor, but realized I failed to ever blog about it!  I noticed it a few weeks ago, and decided my blog's "birthday" was the perfect time to share it!

As with many of my posts, I've mixed and matched recipes.  I decided to go for a double lemon flavor - lemon cupcake AND lemon buttercream.  Neither flavor was overly strong, so the combination didn't become too overpowering. The combination made for a great lemon flavor.  The cupcake recipe comes from Martha Stewart's Lemon Meringue cupcakes.

Lemon Cupcake ingredients:
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbs baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter - room temp
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 tbs finely grated lemon zest (about 3 lemons worth)
  • 2 tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Lemon Cupcake Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 325F
  • Line muffin tin with cupcake wrappers
  • Combine dry ingredients in a bowl (flour, baking powder, salt)
  • In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy
  • Add eggs one at a time, mixing completely after each addition
  • Mix in lemon zest and vanilla
  • Add flour mixture alternately with remaining liquids (buttermilk and lemon juice), mixing completely after each addition
  • Fill cupcake liners about 3/4 full and bake for around 20-25 minutes. To ensure fully cooked, stick a toothpick in as it will come out clean when finished.
Instead of the meringue topping, I paired this with a lemon buttercream.  I found the buttercream recipe from my go to baking resource - Wilton's website.

Lemon Buttercream ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup Crisco
  • 1/2 cup salted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp lemon extract
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 lb powdered sugar
Lemon Buttercream directions:
  • Cream Crisco and butter together until light and fluffy
  • Beat in vanilla extract, lemon extract, and lemon juice
  • Beat in powdered sugar, adding approximately 1/4 lb at a time
  • Add additional liquid if dry (milk for a lighter lemon taste, lemon juice for a more lemony taste)
To finish up cupcakes, I piped on the buttercream using the 1M tip.  I used the various sized flower cutters I had to create some cute details to lay around the cupcakes.  I also cut out "Happy Birthday" and free hand cut a couple leaves.  To add just a special touch to the cupcakes, I cut out small flowers. Tiny rolled balls of fondant served as the center for the flowers, I added them using gum glue (gum paste or fondant dissolved in water). I just placed these flowers on the icing to give it just an extra touch.

I'd like to end with a big THANK YOU to all my readers for one great year of Sarah Lynn's Sweets!  I LOVE to hear your comments and feedback and hope to see you again for another sweet and delicious year of recipes and decorating! 

Note - If you are interested in co-hosting a blog link party or in guest posts, feel free to leave a comment or email me.

Rose Covered Smash Cake

If you have a small child, or have been to a birthday party for one recently, then you've probably seen the popular smash cake.  A smash cake is a small cake just for the birthday boy or girl to enjoy.  These are usually done for a first birthday, and are a rare opportunity for the child to tear into and make a big mess while everyone happily looks on.  They usually accompany a larger cake, or cupcakes, for the rest of the guests at the party. I've made a couple smash cakes so far, one for a friend's little girl and one for my nephew.  It is so fun to watch the kids get excited about the cake, and get icing all over themselves. When my niece turned 1, she didn't actually have much to do with the cake.  She didn't seem too interested in eating or playing in it.  Just a few months later, though, she was all about tearing into some cake at my graduation party!

Photo sessions with smash cakes are now pretty popular as well.  Today's cake is for one of those sessions.  Some friends of ours have a little girl getting ready to turn one next month!  She is having a garden themed party and I'm excited to be doing the cupcakes and smash cake for that gathering.  I have lots of ideas on how to bring the garden theme into the smash cake using some fondant decor and my Cake Cricut.  For the photo session smash cake, though, I thought simpler might be better.  I am still alluding to the garden theme with roses, but going for a more feminine and special flair to the cake.  The photographer, wisely, has the babies just wear a diaper as they tend to get the tinted icing all over their clothes.  Because of this, I really wanted to make sure the cake was cute and girly for the little girl.

I looked around online to find some ideas, there are a LOT of smash cakes out there!  I decided on a popular technique of covering the cake with simple, yet elegant, buttercream roses. This technique looks very difficult, but is in fact easier than it seems.  The most important detail is getting the right consistency icing and the correct icing tip.

A 6 inch round cake is popular for the smash cake, as you want it to be a good proportion for the child. For this particular cake, you also want it to have some height so that the roses are a good size and you can include a couple through the height.

A few days before making the cake, I started working on a couple special fondant pieces for the cake. First, I worked on covering a cardboard cake board with white fondant and flowers.  I also used a cookie cutter to cut out a fondant "1" and placed it on a cookie stick.

Here's how I covered the cake board:
  • Roll white fondant out to 1/16 in and cut it down to approximate shape needed
  •  Cover the cake board with powdered sugar and water 
  • Lay fondant on top of the cake board and smooth out with a fondant smoother.  Cut off excess fondant leaving some for the sides
  • Apply water along the edge of the cake board
  • Fold the fondant over and smooth down
  • Let dry at least 12 hours
To finish up the "1" and the cake board, I added some fondant flowers.  I rolled out pink and purple fondant to just under 1/16 inch, cut flowers out using the small Wilton flower cutter, and attached them to both pieces using gum glue. (See final pic for the flower details, I forgot to take a picture of just those two components!)

Now for the smash cake! I used my go to doctored white cake mix recipe (given in the Cookies and Cream post) and my vanilla buttercream. Here's my tutorial on making the rose covered cake.
  • Start by cutting cake in half, filling with the purple buttercream (or whatever color you are using), and then replacing the top half. I filled the cake with buttercream so there is more surprise icing when she digs in the cake.  
  • Cover the cake in a thin layer of icing - this is just so no cake will show through in any holes between the roses.  It doesn't need to be completely smooth, just get a good covering.
  • Fill your piping bag with the 1M tip and plenty of medium consistency buttercream
  • Start with the bottom of the edge and pipe a star. Circle the tip around the star while applying consistent pressure. You want to hold your piping bag at a 90 degree angle from the cake.
  • Continue this process all around the side of the cake and then move to the top.  Start in the middle on the top.
  • Fill in any gaps with a dot of piped icing. If there is a large long gap, fill in with a line of icing piped in the direction of the rose.
  • If icing is not stiff enough and seems to droop, put in refrigerator to help it set up.

Here's a pic of the cake with the "1" on the stick.  I didn't want to put it in, since it would be traveling, and risk it falling down on the roses.  Can't wait to see how the smash cake pictures turn out!! 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Today's post is another fondant cupcake topper tutorial.  It's the third in a series of similar type toppers including Disney's Cars and Thomas the Tank Engine. All the sets are great for your child's birthday party.  This week I'm bringing you toppers for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.  I created this simple topper that would be special for a party for your favorite TMNT fan!

Tools needed:
  • White fondant (you could also buy colored fondant if you didn't want to tint it)
  • Red, orange, green, blue, and purple food coloring (or at least primary colors)
  • Fondant roller
  • Paint brush
  • Black edible marker (available at most craft stores or online)
  • Gum glue (1/4 cup water with small balls of fondant or gum paste dissolved in it)
  • Spatula
  • Large Wilton round cutter (or any round cutter around the size of a standard cupcake)
  • Start with a ball of fondant approximately 2.5 inches in diameter
  • Work green coloring through the fondant to achieve a uniform color
  • Roll the fondant out to around 1/16 in
  • Using a large round cutter, press out the shapes for the turtles.  A 2 1/2 in diameter ball of fondant yields 12 toppers.

  • Tint a small amount of fondant the desired color of the mask (purple, orange, red, and blue)
  • Roll the fondant out to around 1/16 in
  • Using a long spatula (or Exacto knife), cut out the shape for the mask.  I did a straight piece with another piece angled up or down.  You can either do the mask as one piece, or two pieces.
  • Paint gum glue on the back of the mask and attach to the main green piece.
  • Cut out two eyes using the #12 tip and attach (using gum glue) to the mask
  • Using an edible marker, draw in details of the eyes and mouth.
  • Repeat the process for each turtle, changing masks colors if needed.  

Mini Apple Pies with Cinnamon Roll Crust!

If you've read my blog much, you know I have shared a lot of treats so far including various cookies, cupcakes, cakes, sweet and salty snacks, and even some hot drinks.  But, one sweet that has been largely missing has been pies.  My one previous attempt at a pie wasn't that great, and I just haven't tried again until tonight.  Going back and reading the post about my apple pie, I noticed I failed to mention the crazy events and blunders that went into making that pie. I think it's best to share the good and the bad, so here's my pie story (a little late).

In my defense, I think I took on a little more than I could handle that evening.  It was only a couple weeks until our wedding and we had just started moving stuff into our new house.  I had the evening to myself, as Tyler was out at the ballpark with some of his groomsmen.  I decided to attempt not only an apple pie for Father's Day, but also caramel apple pie cupcakes for the guys...  Let's just say that's a LOT of coring and cutting up apples!

To start with, I forgot the step where I PEEL the apples...  I mean that's not terrible, but usually preferred for apple pie. There was just SO much work between the lattice crust, apple pie filling, cupcakes, and caramel buttercream.  Once I had already cut up all the apples and was starting to prepare the cupcake batter, I realized the beaters were no where to be found.  Somehow we lost them in moving stuff from my apartment, so I got to do everything with a whisk.

My other problem was I decided the recipe must have called for too many apples. Not sure why I thought I knew more than the recipe, but it just seemed like there was no room for all the apples.  I couldn't figure out how I could get the crust on with any more apples piled on. As the apples cooked down, though, I quickly saw why the recipe called for that many apples. There was a definite lack of filling in the pie.  To make matters worse, I was deep in baking when I got a call from Tyler saying a fly ball smashed a hole in his front windshield. He had just had to replace a flat tire AND still had a dent from getting backed into. Let's just say it was a bit stressful that evening.

The cupcakes were a hit, but the pie was clearly not up to par. But, my dad appreciated the attempt at the pie. He is sadly not a big fan of cake and loves pies.  All in all, the taste was decent, there was just not enough filling and the apples were a little crunchy.  The whole experience kind of steered me away from trying pies again, until I got on Pinterest yesterday and saw this...

My mouth was watering just looking at it, I love cinnamon rolls.  I decided it was definitely time to try out pies again.  Looking around a little more, I found a recipe from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody using the cinnamon roll crust, but making mini pies. I decided to try this as a way to ease myself back into pies.  Not only was it quicker to bake, the small serving size makes you feel a little less guilty eating it. Plus this recipe only makes 6 minis, so I don't have an excessive amount of them laying around the house and tempting me.

So how did apple pie attempt #2 go?  Well...I'm still not going into the pie business anytime soon.  First of all, I forgot to cut holes in the top. (Really?!) Because of this, and the fact I didn't get a good seal on the sides of the crust, some of the filling leaked out the sides.  The second issue was the apples were still a little crisp, I'm not sure if it was the type of apple I was using (Gala), or if I should have just cooked them a little longer. I took them out when the crust had browned and looked golden (around 25 minutes). But, despite the slight crunch, the apple pies were a big hit!  These pies may be mini, but they are packed with flavor.  I'm not usually a fan of the crust, but this cinnamon roll crust is delicious!  With a little ice cream and caramel sauce, these pies are quite the treat! If I could just figure out how to fix the apple crunchiness, these would be perfect.  I'd love to hear suggestions from any of you apple pie bakers out there!

Mini Cinnamon Roll Apple Pie Ingredients (6 mini pies):
  • 1 box ready made pie crust (2 crusts)
  • 4 1/4 tsp cinnamon (4 for crust, 1/4 for pie filling)
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 3-4 medium apples (original recipe called for Honey Crisp)
  • 4 tbsp melted butter (2 for crust, 2 for pie filling)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
Mini Cinnamon Roll Apple Pie Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 425F
  • Unroll one of the ready made pie crusts
  • Melt 1 tbsp butter and brush on the pie crust
  • Sprinkle with 2 tsp cinnamon
  • Spread out the cinnamon
  • Roll up the crust tightly
  • Cut the rolled up crust into 1/2 inch pieces
  • Press the pieces together and flatten down with rolling pin to about 1/16-1/8 inch.
  • Cut out 3 round pieces of crust using a large round cookie cutter or top of a glass (anything larger than the opening of the muffin tin)
  • Repeat the process for the other pie crust
  • Spray the muffin tin
  • Press the cut out crust circles into the muffin tin
  • Peel and core 3-4 medium size apples
  • Cut up apples into small pieces
  • Toss apple pieces in bowl with the 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, and 2 tbsp butter and mix well
  • Split the mixture between the 6 crusts
  • Using remaining crust pieces, cover the top of the pies and pinch together with the bottom piece to seal them up
  • Cut holes in the top of each pie
  • Bake 25-30 minutes
  • Top with ice cream and caramel, if desired, and enjoy!

Hope you enjoy this delicious treat! Check back later this week for a couple new posts in the works - a tutorial on Teenage Mutant Ninja turtle fondant toppers and one for a buttercream rose covered smash cake! If you are a blogger, make sure and leave a comment with your blog as I'd love to check it out.  You can also connect with me via my Facebook and Twitter accounts for the blog.
Pi Day Pie Party

Black, White, and Pink All Over - The Party!

What a weekend! My husband and I enjoyed a long weekend at home with our families. The visit was primarily for my niece's 5th birthday party. The weekend was a blast and went great (minus one almost disaster - more on that later). If you've been following my Black, White, and Pink All Over series, you know a lot of work has gone into the party food already! Today's post gives you an overview of the party decor and food, as well as tutorials that bring together all the components I've been talking about.

My sister is wonderful at decorating and party planning - every detail was cute and girly! We make a good team, I do the food and she handles the decor. The weekend was filled with two parties - a family party and a tea party for her friends. I'll start with the family party recap and tutorials.

Family Party

First up was a family party for my niece. For this party, I made a tiered cake. It was a big hit! We also had the pretzel snacks I wrote about, white chocolate dipped strawberries, cake balls, chips, and peanut butter crackers. Here's some pics of the decor and food. My sister had a table set-up to do a tea party for Alexis and her cousins.

This party went great minus a slight disaster beforehand. We were preparing the pretzel snacks and my niece and nephew wanted to help so badly. I was trying really hard to keep them away from the stove (as well as my cake), but let them help out. In the process of all the craziness, a Hershey Hug was dropped on the floor and their small dog pounced out of nowhere and consumed it in one quick move. After a call to the vet, it was clear there was a chance this could be very dangerous to the dog and we had guests coming in a few hours. Thankfully my husband took the dog and they were able to get it out of his system. He's back to normal now - crisis adverted! My niece and nephew were very worried about him!

Back to the cake! So, if you've read the previous entries in this series, you know I already made the big topper bow, side bow, and curly letters. All I had left to to do was bake (and bake and bake), ice the cakes, and a few other details. Here's the tutorial for the cake!

Tiered Zebra and Pink Cake:
  • A couple days before baking, I dyed fondant pink and rolled out balls for the bottom layer. I placed them around the cake pan to see how many I needed.
  • The night before the party I started baking.  First I baked an 8 inch cake 3 inches tall. This cake is zebra print when cut into. I previously wrote up a tutorial to make zebra print cake. Here's a pic of what it looks like cut into.
  • While that cake cooled, I started baking a 6 inch round cake 3 inches tall. This cake is a white cake I made in case anyone was allergic to, or didn't want, chocolate.
  • I placed the smaller cake on a 6 in cake board.
  • Next I made two servings of my buttercream.
  • I iced and smoothed out the icing on the larger cake.
  • Using a mixture of light pink and electric pink, I colored the remaining buttercream.
  • I iced and smoothed the icing for the smaller cake.
  • I rolled out black fondant to about 1/16 in and cut strips 3/4 in wide.
  • I cut the ends to a point and alternated whether the strips pointed up or down.
  • Since the buttercream was still sticky and hadn't completely crusted, I just stuck the strips on without using gum glue.
  • Before crusting, I pressed the curly fondant letters I had made on the front of the smaller cake.
  • I attached the pink balls along the bottom of the zebra cake. I needed a little gum glue (drops of fondant or gum paste in water). I painted a conservative amount on each ball with a paint brush before sticking them into place.
  • I left both cakes out uncovered overnight to dry.
  • A couple hours before the party, I finished assembling by first cutting dowel rods to have 5 pieces the height of the bottom layer of cake.
  • I inserted four dowel rods in a diamond shape at the edge of where the 6 in cake would be. (I used a cake board to estimate this.)
  • I placed the last dowel rod in the center of the cake.
  • I placed the small cake on top of the bottom layer.
  • I rolled out black fondant to a thin rope to put around the bottom of the top layer of the cake.
  • Finally I placed the two bows on using a little fresh fondant to stick them on!

Alexis, and all the family, loved the cake! If you are wondering where the candle went, we actually let her blow out a candle on a cupcake - which of course had zebra print, pink, and edible sparkles!

Now let's take a look at party #2! 

Tea Party
My sister found a great venue for this party. It's a community center that had a perfect vintage tea party atmosphere. She again decorated in all zebra print and pink! This party was for 6 of her my niece's friends, and their dolls. Alexis LOVES American Girl, as her mother and I did when we were little. Alexis has several dolls and brought them for the girls to play with, as well as the ones they brought. For this party we had all the snack food from the precious party, as well as special cupcakes. My sister found adorable American Girl cupcake holders for the party. Here's some pics of the party decor.

This party had a lot less work on my part, but here's how I did the cupcakes.
  • A couple days before the party, I cut out fondant stars from the electric pink Wilton Sugar Sheets. I used my Cricut Cake to cut these. The girls were fascinated they were edible, as they assumed it was paper.
  • I rolled out fondant letter of each kids initial using the curly letter technique.
  • The letters were attached using a small amount of gum glue. These need to dry at least 12 hours.
  • The morning of the party, I baked my cupcakes and made buttercream. I had found the adorable zebra print and hot pink cupcake wrappers on Amazon.
  • Once cooled, I piped the buttercream on using the traditional 1M tip.
  • I sprinkled on some edible silver sugar sparkles on the cupcakes.
  • After transporting the cupcakes to the site, I placed the stars on the cupcakes. The stars are pretty fragile, so I didn't want to risk them breaking.

Hope you've enjoyed this special series on zebra print/pink decor and sweets! It had a blast working on it, and I think Alexis had a great time this weekend!

Thanks for checking out this series of posts! Next up, I have a rose covered smash cake in a couple weeks, and then sweets for a garden themed first birthday party. I also have some other special treats I'm excited to try and share! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Facebook for additional pics and updates!