2013 in Review

Can you believe 2013 is almost over?! Today is the day to reflect on the past year and all the things that happened. My 2013 was an interesting year. We had moved at the end of 2012 after my husband lost his job (long story - read about it here). The first few months of 2013 all kind of blend together. The months were filled with days of endless job hunting for myself. I distracted myself from the frustrating search with tons of baking, cooking, fondant work, and blog work.

Here's a brief look at my year, at least in terms of cake decorating and blogging. Throughout the year there have been certain posts that have been the most popular on Pinterest (TMNT cupcake toppers, marshmallow fondant, pizza spaghetti). But this round-up is filled with my favorite posts from the year. My favorite recipes and cakes that I made in 2013.

January - Penguin cake toppers

In 2013 I did a LOT of fondant work for various cakes and cupcakes. My favorite piece, though, was one I made in January. I have always loved penguins, so I made a cute penguin topper in preparation for a special Valentine's Day cake. I loved how the little penguins turned out. You can read about the "Love Birds" topper, as well as the special cake.

February: All Things Zebra

One of my favorite things to do in cake decorating is making something for my niece and nephew. In February, my niece turned five! She was all about pink and zebra print. I made her a special two tiered zebra print and hot pink cake, complete with fondant bows. The cake was even zebra print! We finished it off with some pretzel chocolate candy made from Hershey Hugs, pretzels, and M&M's. The hugs melt and make a zebra print design! You can check out all my ideas and party food in my Part 1 and Part 2 of the series.

March: Garden Party

Another month, another fun birthday party to decorate cakes for. I actually did a ton of smash cakes throughout the year, but this was one of my favorite parties I decorated for. It was for a garden themed party for a one year-old. I made an adorable smash cake, as well as flower cupcakes. You can read all about the party cakes in the Part 1 and Part 2 of the series.

April: Take 5 Candy Bar Trifle

I did some cake decorating in April, but one of my favorite posts from April was my Take 5 Candy Bar Trifle. This was an idea I came up with on my own, and I liked how it turned out! If you haven't had a Take5 candy bar, you are missing out. The delicious candy bar contains some of the tastiest ingredients - pretzels, peanuts, peanut butter, caramel, and chocolate. Each of those flavors is represented in the trifle.

May: Burger and Potato Flanks

In 2013, I started working more on my savory repertoire and recipes. One of my favorite recipes we worked on was a Food Network inspired meal of Bobby Flay burgers and Guy Fieri potato flanks. Yum! The meal is easy to make, but packed with flavor.

June: White Chocolate No Bake cookies

I love no bake cookies! Not only are they easy to make, but they are so delicious. I didn't think anything could improve the cookies, that is until I tried the cookies with white chocolate in place of the chocolate. To me, white chocolate is so much better than milk chocolate (I know I'm weird). I wasn't sure how the cookies would turn out with the white chocolate, but the end result was delicious! In fact, I think I will definitely make them this way again.

July: Mickey Mouse Apple Pie

My family loves that I am into baking and cake decorating, I make and decorate cakes for all their birthdays. Well all except for my dad - he doesn't like cake!!  I decided to make him his favorite pie, though, for his birthday. I still personalized it by adding a Mickey Mouse twist. He loves all things Disney!

August - Ladybug Cupcakes

I made and decorated a lot of cupcakes in 2013, but one of my favorite cupcake themes I worked with was the ladybug theme. I made three different versions for a birthday party. Half were topped with red buttercream with chocolate chip dots, the other half were topped with fondant lady bug toppers. The third type was a special cupcake for the little birthday girl. It was decorated with buttercream to look like a cute little ladybug!

September: Crochet Cake

September brought a couple more cakes, this time for adults. Both my husband and my mother-in-law have birthdays in September and I enjoyed making cakes for them. My favorite was my crochet cake I made for my mother-in-law. I used a $5 Play-Doh tool to create strings of fondant to form the yarn balls. You can read about the cake here, and using Play-Doh tools with fondant here.

October: Banana Foster Milkshake

In 2013, I got an ice cream maker and started experimenting with different frozen treats. One of my absolute favorites has to be this delicious bananas foster milkshake. Caramel. Bananas. Cinnamon. Ice Cream. What more could you want?!

November: Snickerdoodle Cookie Cups

These DELICIOUS snacks are perfect for Fall and Thanksgiving! They are snickerdoodle cookies filled with a yummy pumpkin cream cheese icing. Nothing quite says Fall like the flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin!

December: Italian Cream Cake

One of my favorite recipes of the year has to be the Italian Cream cake I made for Christmas. This is a cake my family always had every year at Christmas, and it was made by a special lady. We hadn't had one for the holidays since she passed away. My mother-in-law gave me the recipe she had, though, and I was able to continue the tradition. The cake isn't just nostalgic, it is also delicious!

Well that was my 2013 in a nutshell, at least for my blog. I hope you enjoyed the recipes and tutorials I shared this year. Make sure and check back to see what all 2014 has in store!

Hope you have a very sweet 2014!

Last Minute Gift Ideas

It's Christmas Eve! I love this time of year and am so excited to spend time with family this week. Today is my final post in my 12 Sweet Posts of Christmas series! Sniff sniff! Make sure and check out all my holiday ideas here

Let me ask you a question...who still needs to buy a gift today? Anyone? I've been out shopping on Christmas Eve before, trust me there are a lot of people shopping today! Sometimes there's that one person on your list that is so hard to buy for. I had a few of those this year! It's not that they are picky (in my case), it's just hard to get that thoughtful gift they will really enjoy.

If you are in this predicament, I have a few suggestions. These will even save you from getting out in the mess today! So sit back, drink some hot cocoa, and get some gift ideas.

Gift music, movies, or TV shows through iTunes
You can gift a cd, movie, song, or TV show to someone through iTunes. You simply select it as a gift and print out the code it gives you. The recipient will use the code to redeem their gift on their iTunes account. You can also just gift store credit.

Gift a popular app
There are some cool apps out there, but sometimes people tend to just use the free ones. App prices can add up quickly, so I try to usually get free versions of apps. Since these can seem like more of a splurge, why not gift someone an app they will love? I'm not as familiar with the Android App Store, but the Apple one is easy to navigate. You can browse lists of top paid apps by category. My wish list? The full version of the Martha Stewart Craft Studio.

Gift a magazine subscription
Magazines can be another splurge item. They aren't always something people will do for themselves. So why not go online and purchase a magazine subscription that suits your family member/friend's taste? Whether it's Sports Illustrated, Food Network, Vogue, or something else - it's sure to be a hit!

Gift an online membership or subscription
Why not surprise your loved one with a service or subscription online? Some popular choices at varying price levels are Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime (free 2 day shipping and online content including movies and tv shows), PicMonkey Royale (for the blogger in your life), subscription to an online newspaper such as NY Times, or Pandora One (no ads, extra skips).

Plan a special outing
The best gift you can give is your time. Why not plan a special outing as a gift? Some ideas include a concert, trip to a museum, spa outing, bowling, movies, day at the zoo, comedy club, or a shopping trip. The outing and memories will be a gift that lasts a long time!

Make something
One of my favorite gifts I gave my husband once was a scrapbook filled with calendar pages. I filled each month up with date ideas. The pages were decorated with details of the ideas I came up with. He loved the gift and it was fun to plan out fun things for us to do together throughout the year.

Hope you got some inspiration to complete your shopping list!


White Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel fudge

We are down to the final two posts of my "12 Sweet Posts of Christmas" series! I've shared some tasty treats, decor ideas, and crafts for you to help make your Holidays bright and festive. Make sure and check out my previous ideas. 

Today's treat is simple to make, it's delicious and makes a great gift to share with others. This fudge takes less than 10 mins to create, and you just use the microwave! I love fudge, but I've never tried to make it before. 

My favorite type of fudge is white chocolate or peanut butter. I decided to try to make white chocolate, but wanted to make it extra special. I started thinking about what goes best with white chocolate, pretzels and peanut butter came to mind. I decided to make white chocolate fudge with pretzel pieces and white chocolate Reese's.

This fudge is amazing, I love it so much!! I had to stop myself from eating lots of it, it is that delicious. This recipe is beyond simple, and takes no time at all. The longest part is just letting it chill in the freezer. Even though the holidays are almost here, this candy doesn't take long to make, so it's a great late minute treat to prepare for friends and family.

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Fudge ingredients (24 pieces of 1 1/2 in square fudge):
  • 2 cups white chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 8 mini white chocolate Reese's
  • 1/2 cup pretzel sticks
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbs water
White Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Fudge instructions:
  • Line cookie sheet with parchment paper, or wax paper
  • Chop up pretzels into small pieces
  • Break up mini Reese's into small pieces
  • Combine water, sweetened condensed milk, white chocolate chips in microwave safe bowl
  • Melt chocolate on high power in 30 sec intervals, stirring after each
  • Mix in vanilla
  • Fold in chopped up Reese's and pretzels
  • Pour onto prepared cookie sheet, spread into 9x6 inch rectangle
  • Chill for 30-45 mins, until firm
  • Cut fudge into squares 

Hope you enjoy this tasty, unique fudge! You can really taste the pretzel and peanut butter in each bite, and of course the rich white chocolate.

Below are the previous posts of the series, check back tomorrow for the final post. Happy Holidays!!

Previous entries:

Monkey Bread Muffins

Just a few more days until Christmas, I am getting excited! I love this time of year. I've done a lot of baking so far, and am sharing my ideas in my "12 Sweet Posts of Christmas" series. Not all have been edible treats, but they are all fun ideas to make your holidays festive and sweet! It's been a busy few days, so I got a little behind on my posts. But I'm finishing up my series with some last minute ideas. Check back tomorrow and on Christmas Eve for posts #11 and #12. 

Today's treat is a delicious dish that would be perfect for your family on Christmas morning! It's great anytime of the year, but cinnamon and caramel Monkey Bread is a perfect way to celebrate with loved ones. I absolutely love monkey bread, I mean what's not to love? Caramel? Yum! Cinnamon? Delicious!

Sausage Ball recipe

It's 5 days until Christmas, are you ready? If you are still looking for ideas for food, activities, or decor, then check out some of my ideas I've shared in my 12 Sweet Posts of Christmas series, so far. Here's a list of all my ideas, in case you've missed anything:
Today I have a great recipe for a Holiday appetizer. It'd be great for Christmas, or New Years. These sausage balls are delicious, and so simple to make! It doesn't feel quite like Christmas without them. Both my mom and my mother-in-law have always made them for the holidays.

Sausage Ball ingredients:
  • 1 lb sausage
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3 cups Bisquick
Sausage Ball instructions:
  • Preheat oven to 375F
  • Mix together shredded cheese and sausage with hands
  • Again using your hands, mix in Bisquick until completely combined with sausage and cheese. It will take a while for it to get completely combined.
  • Place parchment paper on cookie sheet
  • Roll sausage mixture into 1 inch balls and place on cookie sheet
  • Bake 18-20 mins
You can even make these sausage balls in advance, just refrigerate until serving. At your dinner, or party, just serve them in  a crockpot on the warm setting. A trick I recently heard about was to line the crockpot with slices of bread to keep them from drying out! I tried it out at our work lunch yesterday and thought it worked well. It did seem to take a little while for them to get to a warm temp, but they didn't get dried out in the crockpot.

Italian Cream Cake for Christmas

It's post 8 in my 12 Sweet Posts of Christmas! Be sure and check out my series here.

Can you believe Christmas is now less than a week away?! I am almost ready, I just have a couple last minute gifts to purchase. This week has been insanely busy as I've been finishing up things at work before taking off next week, addressing the last few Christmas cards, shopping, and preparing for our work party. We are having a bake-off at work, as well as a brunch. So I've been preparing and prepping all week. I'm so excited about my submission for our bake-off! It's a cake that is not only delicious, but has a long tradition with my family.

My obsession with cakes began long before I ever cracked my first egg. When I was little, cake was my dessert of choice. There is a lady in my parent's church who makes the best cakes. She baked so many of my birthday cakes growing up, along with cakes at basically any wedding around, or church event. As a kid, weddings showers aren't always the most fun to attend, but I was known to willingly go as long as I knew I was going to get "Martha Terry cake."

Her mother, though, made a very special cake as well. Each year for Christmas, she would make us an Italian Cream Cake. It was her tradition, without fail each Christmas we would get one of these decadent cakes. I remember thinking how beautiful and fancy it looked. They were always tall cakes with a cream cheese icing smoothed out and covered with chopped pecans. The taste was pretty great too! I'm not a huge fan of coconut, but it really works in the cake. She passed away a few years ago, and we hadn't had one since! That is until my mother-in-law made one, the recipe was spot on. I knew I had to try this recipe out and keep the Christmas Italian Cream Cake tradition alive.

Last Christmas I had every intention of making one of the Christmas night. Unfortunately, half my family ended up getting pretty sick that day, and the rest of us didn't feel real great. I decided it probably wasn't the best time to try it. But this year, I finally accomplished the goal of making one. I tested out the recipe and made one for them a couple weeks ago. The verdict - they loved it! It's a very delicious, but also nostalgic cake. I decided to make one again for our work bake-off today. Fingers crossed!!

Here's how I made this rich cake:

Italian Cream Cake ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup butter (softened)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 oz flaked coconut
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
Italian Cream Cake instructions:
  • Preheat oven to 350F
  • Cream together butter and shortening until smooth
  • Slowly add in sugar, a little bit at a time
  • Separate eggs and add in the yolks (set the egg whites off to the side, they will be used soon)
  • In a separate bowl, combine flour and baking soda
  • Mix flour mixture into cake batter alternately with the buttermilk, begin and end with flour
  • Stir in vanilla
  • Stir in coconut and pecans
  • Beat egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff
  • Fold egg whites into cake batter
  • Bake in greased cake pans - the original recipe calls for baking in 3 8 inch (1" thick) cake pans for 25 mins. I baked in thicker 6 inch cake pans (2" thick) and it took more like 40 mins.
While the cake is cooling, get started on the tasty cream cheese icing.

Cream Cheese Icing ingredients:
  • 8 oz cream cheese (softened)
  • 1/4 cup butter (softened)
  • 1 lb powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Chopped pecans (to taste)
Cream Cheese Icing directions:
  • Cream together butter and cream cheese until smooth
  • Slowly mix in powdered sugar, little bit at a time
  • Mix in vanilla
  • You can add in pecans here if you like, but I like adding the icing without the pecans and then using them as garnish.
  • Smooth out icing between layers of cake
  • Add on icing to cake
  • Smooth out
  • Finish off by adding chopped pecans around the side of the cake, and sprinkled on top

Cookie Gift for Christmas

It's been a few days since I've shared a new post for my "12 Sweet Posts of Christmas" series! We had a very busy weekend, but I'm starting to catch up with everything I need to have done. I have more holiday baking, Christmas shopping, and a few more Christmas cards to fill out. I'll also be getting back on track with my Christmas series, I'm excited about new posts I have coming up. I just tested out a cake recipe this past weekend and will be sharing it on the blog soon! 

This week is our Holiday party at work, and we are doing Secret Santa. (If you work with me, you might want to stop reading now...) We are supposed to do a few gifts during the week, and then a final gift at the party. I decided to make some chocolate chip cookies for my Secret Santa and wanted a cute way to package up the cookies. After thinking of some ideas, I'm pretty excited about how the packaging turned out!

I decided to use an idea I had seen before online. I repurposed an old Pringles can for the base of the gift wrap. I prepared the can for the cookies by first washing it out completely. After it finished drying, I wrapped the can in some Christmas paper. I filled the can up with cookies (once they cooled), and then tied the can with some ribbon to finish it up.

We were a bit busy this weekend, so I actually filled the can with some chocolate chip cookies made from store-bought dough (shhhh!). I'm hoping my Secret Santa enjoys the gift! This is an easy way to spread some Holiday cheer and would be a perfect quick gift for friends, co-workers, neighbors, and family! There are tons of cookie ideas out there for the Holidays. Below are brief descriptions, and links, to a few cookies I've previously made and shared on the blog. I have other cookies as well, but I think these three would be great for the Holidays!
  • Andes Mint cookies - traditional chocolate chip cookie recipe replaced with chopped up Andes Mints
  • White Chocolate No Bake cookies - These cookies are a twist on no-bake cookies, replacing cocoa with white chocolate. The white chocolate flavor is a great compliment to the oatmeal and peanut butter.
Thanks for reading, be sure to share on Pinterest, Facebook, or Twitter! I'd love to hear about what unique items you have used for gift wrap! Make sure and check back for more Holiday themed posts.

Collage Decor from Christmas Cards

Today I'm sharing the next installment in my "12 Sweet Posts of Christmas," make sure and check out my other posts as well. Are you ready for the holidays yet? I'm not even close to being ready. I still need to shop, wrap gifts, bake, and finish my Christmas cards. Shew! I attempted to do my cards all in one evening, but finally stopped when I realized I had written the wrong last name for my aunt...I think I needed a break! I always underestimate how long it is going to take to finish my cards. 

It always seems like they take a while to finish, but then no one knows what to do with them once Christmas is over! This year, I decided I wanted to find a way to preserve them for a little longer. I've seen tons of crafts and projects using old Christmas cards, including ornaments and tags. I decided to try something a little different with my cards from last year, though.

Simple Sweet and Salty Candy

Welcome to my next post in my Christmas series! So far, I've shared a bucket list printout, holiday decorating ideas, an easy way to sweeten up hot chocolate, and recipes/tutorials for a gingerbread house. I'm having a blast working on, writing, and sharing these posts. I love this time of year!

This year I want to make some candy to share with friends and family for the holidays. I had been trying to figure out what I should make, and then happened to watch an episode of Trisha Yearwood's Food Network show. On the show she made candy by baking a brown sugar/butter mixture on crackers, and then covering them with chocolate chips. I LOVE the sweet and salty flavor profile, so I had to try this candy out.

Gingerbread House - Recipes and Decor

I hope you are enjoying this special Holiday series. If this is your first time visiting, I am spending the month of December sharing Holiday recipes, tutorials, activities, and more. So far, I've shared a Winter-themed bucket list, a post about decorating for the Holidays, and an easy way to sweeten up hot chocolate. Make sure and check out any of these posts, if you missed them.

Today I am sharing my favorite post so far in the series, it's all about gingerbread houses! This weekend my husband and I got into the festive spirit and worked on our annual gingerbread house. It's something we've done before and love doing together.

Heart Warming Cocoa

Are you ready for the Holiday season? I can't believe it is already December, Christmas and New Year's will be here before you know it. I love this time of year and am celebrating all month with my "12 Sweet Posts of Christmas" series this month. From now until December 24, I will be sharing posts celebrating Holiday food, crafts, and festive activities. So far, I've shared a Holiday Bucket list, as well as a post all about decorating for Christmas.

Today I'm sharing an easy way to make your hot cocoa even sweeter!

This time of year, I love a warm mug of hot cocoa. I don't know about where you live, but we are having some real wintry weather today. I decided a warm cup of dark chocolate cocoa was just what I needed to warm up. I've seen the idea of heart shaped whipped topping all around Pinterest in years past, I've always wanted to try it out. It's an adorable way to spruce up a hot cup of cocoa.

It's simple to make these whipped topping hearts, and you could make them in any shape you want. To start with, you need to freeze some whipped topping. I spread out a thin layer of topping onto parchment paper. I then placed that into a sealable bag and froze it. 

After getting my cocoa ready, I just pulled the frozen whipped topping out of the bag. I used a heart shaped cookie cutter to get the shape. I carefully pealed it up with a spoon and placed it in the cocoa. I think a snowflake cookie cutter would also be adorable for the winter!

Make sure and check back in a few days for a post all about Gingerbread!

12 Sweet Posts of Christmas: Holiday Decorating

Welcome to my new series, "12 Sweet Posts of Christmas!" From December 1-December 24 I'm sharing 12 fun Holiday themed posts. They will range from Christmas to winter themed, and include recipes, crafts, and activities. If you missed it, I kicked off my first post last Sunday - my Winter Bucket List.

I'm excited about my next post, Holiday decorating! This past Monday my husband and I started decorating our place. We are still renting, so we don't have a lot of space and haven't wanted to spend a ton on decorations. But, I'm really happy with how our place looks now!

Christmas Bucket List

Today I am kicking off my "12 Sweet Posts of Christmas" series! I'm so excited to share 12 posts featuring Holiday and Winter themed recipes, crafts, gift ideas, and round-ups. I hope you come back and check out all the posts. I don't have all the projects completed yet, so I don't want to say for sure what they will be. But here are some sneak peaks of things I want to include.
  • Snowmen themed post
  • Festive warm drinks
  • Christmas cookie recipes and ideas
  • Handmade gifts
  • Gingerbread themed post
  • Holiday cake ideas/recipes
  • Plus a lot more!
Today I am kicking off my series with a fun graphic for your blog, or to print and frame for decor. It's more than just that, though, it's also a reminder to get out and enjoy this special time of year. It's easy to get caught up in the long lines and endless to-do list that the Holidays can bring. With the industry I am working in, things get more hectic around this time of the year. It's easy to get overwhelmed by all the hustle and bustle and completely miss out on all that this time of year has to offer. That's why I created a Christmas bucket list.