Due to yesterday’s post, some of you may now have an image of me being an effortless Martha Stewart type, whipping around the kitchen cool as a cucumber with a smile on my face, puppies scurrying around my feet as I magically concoct these confections.
Except I don’t have any puppies. So scratch that image right off the bat.
Oh, and the whole cool-as-a-cucumber thing? Nope.
Truth is, this weekend was the first time I attempted ANY of that stuff. I have never decorated a cake in my life. I have never employed that method of decorating cookies. I was flying by the seat of my pants going off the recipes I taped on the front of the microwave so I could see them easily as I worked without taking up any precious counter space.
Though I still managed to miss a step. Hence the powdered sugar bomb I set off in the Kitchenaid mixer.
The cookies were relatively stress-free, actually. There was somewhat of a learning curve for beginners like myself, so I’ll share that:
When you add the powdered sugar to the mixer for the icing, mix it on low at first. LOW. Trust me. Or, y’know…POOF. No, I do not have a picture of that moment. Sorry to disappoint you. But yeah, don’t miss that step in the instructions. You can crank it up once it’s all incorporated, like the instructions say to, but only after it’s all taken on a liquid form. Otherwise…well, POOF!
When she says to let the mixer beat it for five minutes, she means it. I had to set a timer and walk away to resist the temptation to stop the mixer and check the consistency of the icing every 60 seconds.
When making the “flood icing”, it’s really true that you have to add water in teeny tiny itty bitty excruciatingly small increments. As the icing gets thinner, even just a drop – a literal drop, not a nonspecific squirt from the faucet – of water makes a big difference in the consistency. And if you add too much water, ain’t no comin’ back from that. You can’t just thicken it up with more icing. You have to scrap it and start over. It’s true.
Don’t be afraid of the “flood icing”. Pour it on those cookies!!!! I figured out a few cookies in that too much was better than too little. Makes it easier to spread around with the toothpick. And it dries smoother.
The Americolor gel food coloring is strong stuff. Which is good. But it is easy to go overboard, so if you want your colors on the pastel side, I’d suggest dipping a toothpick into the bottle and dabbing the little bit on the tip into the icing, whisking well, and repeating if it’s still too light.
Don’t touch the icing, even if it looks dry. Looks are deceiving. Don’t ask me how I know this. Okay, I know, you’re asking. I found out through experience. So just leave the cookies alone until the icing is set. 24 hours is good. Then you can do as you wish with them. I put them in pretty cellophane bags Valerie had found.
All in all though, the cookies were a success. I will definitely do these again. Hopefully for Easter. Easter egg cookies!!!
Now, that chocolate method I was so excited about. It sounded and looked super easy online. Ha! Yeah right. Things are rarely as they seem.
First, the dark chocolate was way too thin. The letters turned out fine in the end, but it was very difficult to write them. I kind of just had to do it as fast as I could and pray it came out all right.
The colored chocolate started out okay. Once it cooled a bit and started to thicken up, I started getting really good at making the flowers. HOWEVER. The tutorial neglected to mention that the chocolate likes to harden in the decorating tip. I had to remove and scrape out each tip with a toothpick probably three times before I was done. Frustrating. So I probably won’t be doing that again. Unless there’s a special kind of chocolate that doesn’t do that.
Or I could just call Karina and arrange a cake decorating lesson. Which I am probably going to do once things normalize around here a little bit.
I also had this grand vision of chocolate-covered strawberries with swirls of colored chocolate surrounding the cake. Um, no. I am not skilled enough with a pastry bag yet to do this. Two strawberries in, I scrapped that idea. You gotta know when to let things go sometimes. So I drizzled (well, glopped really – the consistency was weird) some plain white chocolate on the strawberries and called it good.
The cake, now. The biggest lesson I learned from the cake was this:
When results count, it’s not time for experimentation.
See, I live at high altitude. Cakes fall sometimes. The cake I attempted from the original recipe did not have high-altitude adjustments, but I figured as long as I didn’t stomp around the kitchen while it baked, we’d be fine.
See Exhibit A:
It was a pretty heavy cake, which is why I think it collapsed in such a dramatic fashion. Our thinner air couldn’t stand up to the heavy cake, and thus it went from cake to crater. After some internet surfing and asking a few night-owl friends who were still awake for help, I ended up going with a boxed mix. It was safer. And honestly, still delicious. Maybe someday I’ll experiment with cake from scratch again, but for now, if I do another cake in the future, I’m goin’ with the box.
And that, my friends, is all. I am now addicted to decorating cookies, and itching to learn more about decorating cakes. All of this is ironic considering I don’t usually eat wheat or sugar. I just like baking and decorating apparently! And I get almost as much pleasure out of watching people eat my creations as I do out of eating them myself.
The creations. Not the people. Just to clarify.