Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Mini-Cake Magic: Frosty the Snowman and a Christmas Tree


Gifted with Mini-Cake Pans

In July, Ashley, my daughter, gifted me with  a set of four mini-cake pans - a bear, a rabbit, a snowman, and a fir tree. She found the set at a yard sale for $1.00. What a great daughter! I already own two fir tree mini-cake pans, but not the other three. However, she was thinking about how much easier it would be for me to bake mini-Christmas tree cakes three at a time. She knows her mother loves to decorate cakes and how much time is involved in baking them.

Two Magical Mini-Cakes

Frosty the Snowman is wearing his magical top hat and the star-topped Christmas tree reminds me of carolers singing "O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree".  I can't wait to give these two cakes to my family on Christmas Day.

The mini-cake pans

Holiday Applesauce Cake 

I adapted an Applesauce Cake recipe from my vintage Betty Crocker cookbook. This recipe makes about 5 cups of batter, which fills each mini-cake pan with about 2 1/2 cups of batter. Due to personal preference, I did not put raisins or nuts in the cake.

Applesauce Cake Ingredients

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup of sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce - Measure with a dry measuring cup
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup canola oil
2 eggs
1 cup raisins, optional - stir in after all ingredients are well blended
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional


  • Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Grease and flour cake pan(s)
  • Put all of the dry ingredients in a bowl. 
  • Stir until all ingredients are well blended.
  • Add the applesauce, water, canola oil, and eggs to the bowl.
  • Beat on low speed or by hand for about 2-3 minutes, or until ingredients are well blended.
  • Pour batter into the greased and floured pans. (About 2 1/2 cups each)
  • Bake for about 40 minutes. Insert a toothpick in the center of the cake. The cake is done if the toothpick is clean, or only a few crumbs cling to it. 
  • Cool in pans on a cooling rack for 10 minutes.
  • Remove cakes from the pans. Place face down. The rounded tops will cause the cakes to break open if you place them rounded side down. 
  • Place cakes on a cooling rack and cool completely.
  • Place cakes back into pans. Using the pan as a guide, cut the rounded tops flat.
  • Cakes are ready for a crumb coat of icing.

Frosty the Snowman Cake

If you like to play with play dough or roll pie crust, you can cover and decorate a fondant cake.

Seriously, with homemade butter cream fondant, covering a mini-cake is easy.

Follow the "butter cream fondant" link below for the recipe, but make sure you read my changes to the original recipe.

One batch of  butter cream fondant for the Frosty the Snowman cake.

My Changes to the Fondant Recipe

  1. The original recipe calls for 1 cup of shortening which makes the fondant greasy. Use 1/2 cup of shortening for a better product.
  2. Use brown vanilla extract. Your fondant will be ivory instead of pure white

The recipe makes 3 pounds of fondant so I leave the fondant white until I need to color it. I also divide it into 1 pound and 1/2 pound balls that I flatten into rounds. I wrap each round of fondant with two layers of plastic wrap and store them in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator until I need them.

Coloring the Fondant

My preference for coloring is to use Wilton gel food coloring and knead the gel into the white fondant. This can get a little messy so you might want to wear food safe gloves. I don't, but I am careful to keep folding and kneading the gel to the center of my fondant ball until it is incorporated into the fondant.

How I Cut and Placed the Fondant 

  • You will need to have a crumb coat of frosting on your cake that isn't wet.
  • Roll out butter cream fondant to about 1/8 inch thick.
  • I used my clean cake pan as a pattern to help me cut the rolled fondant into pieces of the correct shape and length for the snowman body, face, hat, and scarf. 
  • Place the rolled fondant over the design on the cake pan. (Not the side you pour batter into) 
  • Trim the fondant a little larger than you need with a sharp knife.
  • Place trimmed fondant on snowman body and then face.
  • Gently smooth fondant with your hands and tuck ends beneath the cake.
  • Next, roll out green fondant to about 1/8 inch thick. 
  • Cut 1/2 inch strip for a scarf. I used a fondant roller to cut mine.
  • Place piece for scarf "ends" vertically.
  • Then lay scarf piece of fondant across it. Fold the top end down across the "scarf".
  • Follow the same procedure for the hat that you use for the body.
  • For the eyes and buttons, I used the open end of a cake tip and coupler ring.
  • A small, 3 inch holly leaf cookie cutter was used for the holly sprig. Cut two leaves. Use one full size, and cut bottom 1/3 off of the other leaf.
  • Holly berries are rolled fondant.
  • The mouth is a made from a rolled fondant "string" 

Christmas Tree Cake

  1. Begin with a completely cool, trimmed, and crumb coated cake. 
  2. Using a #195 drop flower/star tip, cover Christmas tree with stars of icing.
  3. Pecans make great "bark" for the tree trunks
  4. Coated candies are ornaments
  5. A baked and piped star ornament cookie tops the tree. 

Christmas Cut Out Cookies

Baking Day

I decided to try some new cookie designs; snowflakes, reindeer, and an elongated star.
First, I made two types of roll-out cookie dough, my best ever sugar cookie dough and chocolate cookie dough. The chocolate dough is from Allrecipes.com. I wanted chocolate dough for the reindeer. Click on the link below.

Chocolate Dough Recipe

 After the dough was chilled, the rolling, cutting, baking, and cooling began.  Finally, it is time to decorate cookies. The reindeer cookies are first, because I downloaded a picture that I would be following. Also, I was fairly certain they would take the most time to decorate. Which was true. 
After the reindeer were done, I liked the look so well that I decided to just pipe designs on the sugar cookies. In the picture above, you can see the snowflake pattern that I piped straight onto an unfrosted sugar cookie.

Reindeer piped with a #3 piping tip and a red M&M for a nose.
For the eyes, I colored a small amount of thin icing black and
applied a drop to the center of the eyes with a toothpick.

Sallee's Sugar Cookie Recipe

Makes about 3 dozen 2.5” – 3” cookies  


  • 2 medium or  large mixing bowls
  • measuring cup for dry ingredients
  • measuring spoons
  • electric mixer with dough hooks
  • flour sifter
  • wooden spoon
  •  rolling pin
  •  waxed paper
  •  spatula
  •  baking sheet(s)
  • cooling rack(s).


  • 1/2 cup salted butter, softened             
  • 1 cup sugar                              
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract                     
  •  3 cups flour, sifted              
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder                    
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


1. Do not substitute margarine for all of the butter. It makes a big difference in how your cookies taste. Instead, use half margarine and half butter for a great tasting, but more economical cookie.

2. This recipe can be doubled successfully. However, the vanilla extract needs to be adjusted to 1 1/2 teaspoons, not 2 teaspoons.

Directions for Dough

  • In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy. 
  • Beat in egg and vanilla until well blended. 
  • In a separate bowl, stir together sifted flour, baking powder, and salt. 
  • Add the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture, in small amounts, and beat until dough is mixed well, but not forming a ball. 
  • Now you will use your hands and start kneading the dough in the bowl until it comes together and forms a smooth ball.
  • Be patient. 
  • Divide the dough into 2-3 portions and shape each portion into a flat circle. 
  • Cover and chill for 20-30 minutes before rolling out.

The Cookie Cutters - star, reindeer and snowflake
The reindeer cookie cutter is an upside down gingerbread man. 

Directions for Baking

  • Preheat oven to 350°F 
  • Roll one portion of dough out on waxed paper to about ¼ inch thickness. 
  • If dough tries to stick to your rolling pin or hands, put a very small amount of flour on the rolling pin. 
  • Cut your cookies and space evenly them evenly on an ungreased baking sheet. 
  • Bake for 8 – 10 minutes. 
  • Cool cookies on baking sheet for 1-2 minutes before removing to cooling rack. 
  • Cool cookies completely before frosting.

First, do not use dark baking sheets; they will over brown the bottoms of your cookies.
Next, make sure your baking sheets are cool before you put another batch of cut cookies on them to bake. Hot cookie sheets will affect the baking time. 

Snowflakes in blue with a #3 piping tip

Decorating Frosting Recipe

I find myself searching for the perfect frosting on a regular basis. This year was no different, but I knew that I wanted frosting that would be glossy, not too sweet, and pipe easily. I combined two recipes that I like into the one below. It is egg white free and doesn't require any type of egg white powder. It tastes great, pipes well, and sets within twenty minutes. Cookies need to set overnight before packaging


  • soup bowls for making each color of frosting
  • dry ingredient measuring cup
  • measuring spoons
  • Plastic decorator bags
  • 2 - 4 couplers and rings for the decorator bags
  • #3 decorator tip for piping icing


  • 1 - 1 1/2  cups powdered sugar            
  •  ½ teaspoon clear, or brown vanilla extract       
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice                        
  • 1 -2 Tablespoons milk or water
  • gel or liquid food coloring

1. Use a thinner frosting to frost cookies completely. Make frosting thinner by using 1 cup of powdered sugar with the liquid ingredients. The frosting will dry to a glossy shine and can be touched lightly after twenty minutes.
2. Add liquid coloring to the powdered sugar and vanilla before you add any milk. 
3. The amount of liquid you use will vary so don't add all of your liquid at once.
4. Humidity, gel coloring, and liquid coloring will all effect the frosting consistency. Don't panic, just add a little more powdered sugar to get the consistency you want.

Directions for Frosting

  • In a soup bowl, combine powdered sugar, food coloring, vanilla, and milk, a little at a time until it is a nice consistency for piping. 
  • Stir until all ingredients are mixed well and your color is consistent. ( I mixed mine with a whisk and it turned out nice, smooth, and the color was even.) 
  • Repeat the above procedure for each color of frosting that you want.
  • Cover your frosting with plastic wrap until you are ready to fill your decorator bag and pipe your designs.

Pink and white stars.
 I piped the white without using a piping tip,
just fill your decorator bag with frosting,
then snip the end open and pipe the frosting on.
The pink was applied with a #3 piping tip

Christmas tree cookies
Blue coated candy star.
 I piped the green frosting without using a piping tip,
just fill your decorator bag with frosting,
then snip the end open and pipe the frosting on.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Baking: M & M Pretzel Kisses

A seriously addictive combination.

 Today, I am making M&M Pretzel Kisses following a recipe I found at All Kinds of Yumm. Festive treats that are quick and easy. Yep, that is what I am looking for this close to Christmas.

Recipe: All Kinds of Yumm: M&M Pretzel Kisses

Mini-pretzels waiting for a chocolate
Fresh from the oven and topped
with candy. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

My Newest Blog Find

Sleet, snow, freezing rain and the flu. What a combination!

Last week, during horrible weather, I had to drive to my youngest daughter's house. She was ill with the flu and needed Mom to help her with her eleven month old son. Guess what? No wi-fi, no internet, no satellite TV is to be found at her house. My mobile, nonsmart phone was the only way I could log online. Darn! However, I managed to find a great blog while scrolling through food pictures at Pinterest.

Cooking Classy - With a Sprinkle of Fancy is an incredible blog. Jaclyn is a twenty something mom who also loves red velvet sweets of all types. Her blog features great pictures of mouth-watering appetizers, main dishes, sides, and holiday treats. Check out this great blog and I hope you like it as much as I do.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Ultimate Breakfast Comfort Food - Cheesy Sausage and Potato Breakfast Pie

Topped with tangy Colby Jack cheese, layered with fried, slightly sweet potato slices, the porkalicious flavor of mild country-style sausage and held together with eggs. Breakfast doesn't get any better than this. As far as I am concerned, this dish is the ultimate breakfast comfort food. 


  • 1 pound mild, bulk pork sausage
  • 1 cup shredded Colby Jack cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion, optional
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced crosswise into 1/8" rounds (I use a mandoline slicer)
I do not add salt to this dish. Sausage is salty and adds enough flavor for me. However, if you absolutely must add salt - use 1/4 to 1/2 tsp.

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place 2 Tbsp. of  butter in a 10 inch quiche pan or deep dish pie pan. Place pan in the preheated oven until the butter is melted. Remove pan from the oven and set aside.
  • Put 1 Tbsp of canola oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Put sliced potatoes in skillet and cover tightly. Cook for about 7-10 minutes. Using a spatula, gently turn the potato slices. Then, replace the lid on the skillet and cook until the potatoes are tender. 
  • While the potatoes are cooking, place sausage in a large skillet. Cook over medium heat until evenly brown. Crumble and drain in a colander.
  •  Spread browned sausage into the bottom of your quiche or deep dish pie pan.
  •  Layer cooked potato slices on top of the crumbled sausage.  
  • In a medium bowl, beat eggs with milk, garlic powder,and  pepper. Pour over layered sausage and potatoes.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 12 - 15 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • Sprinkle with 1 cup of Colby Jack cheese. 
  • Cool for 10 minutes, then cut into slices.
Yield: 4-6 servings, depending upon how big your appetite is.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Cookie Cutters Aren't Just for Cookies

Home cooking can be presented artistically using cookie cutters. Pie crust leaves make this pie almost too pretty to eat. Just roll out your top crust, pick your favorite cookie cutter, and scatter your "pie crust cookies" across the top of your fruit pie. How simple is that?

The biscuit in the picture looks like a flower and I used homemade bacon crumbles to top the gravy.  Pretty can be simple. Listed below are some other ways to use cookie cutters to add that wow factor to your home cooking.

Scalloped Biscuit

      1. Biscuit Cutters

Using a large, metal cookie cutter to cut biscuits increases the eye appeal factor and it doesn't take any longer to make the biscuits.

Festive Floral Pancakes

      2. Pancake Molds

Spray a large, metal cookie cutter with pan coat, place it on a griddle, pour pancake batter into it. Let the batter get bubbly, flip the cookie cutter over using tongs. You may have to gently push the pancake until it contacts the griddle again. Use 3 or 4 different cookie cutters to create variety.

     3. Melon Shapes

If your getting tired of melon balls, this idea is for you. Slice your melon crosswise, then take cookie cutters and cut shapes out of the melon slices. I like to use floral shapes for this.

     4. Quick Cookies

Purchase two or three dollar packages of soft cookies at the dollar store. When you get home, take a cookie cutter that's almost the size of the cookies and cut each one into the desired shape. Place vanilla icing in a zip top sandwich bag, snip the corner, zig zag icing across the cookies diagonally. End result? Beautiful decorator cookies that look like you worked for hours making them.

    5Upscale Bar Cookies

Bake your favorite bar cookie recipe, let them cool, then cut out shapes with the cookie cutter of your choice. Metal cookie cutters work best.

    6.  Rice Cereal Treats

Make a batch of  crispy, rice cereal treats. Keep the mixture warm. Spray a large, metal cookie cutter lightly with pan coat, and pack it full of the cereal mixture. OR you can pack the mixture into a pan, let cool, then cut shapes out of it. I have done this both ways. If you pack the cookie cutter, it will take a little longer, but you don't have to deal with crumbs.

I hope you enjoy using these ideas at your house; being creative can be quick. Happy cooking!