BEE-DO-BEE-DO-BEE-DO

My mom made another awesome cake, this time for my sister’s birthday.

A chocolate cake with Minions on top!  The Minions are made from iced Twinkies, with licorice, Smarties and Mentos as decoration.  Also banana Runts.

Banana!
Banana!

The cake was delicious and the blue icing turned my mouth blue.  Good times all around.

Learning to Make Springerle Cookies

Isn’t it amazing how cultural identity and family history can be tied into something as simple as cookies?

Anise flavored springerle My mom remembers her Swiss German grandmother making springerle, a traditional cookie in the Bavaria-Austria-Switzerland region known for its puffy shape (“little pillows” my mom called them), intricate raised designs, and anise flavor.  My mom learned several Swiss recipes from her grandmother, but springerle was not one of them.  The “family recipe” died with my mom’s cousin.  The whereabouts of the molded rolling pin used to shape them is unknown.

We have been meaning for years to add springerle to our repertoire of Christmas cookies.  Last year for Christmas, I did some Googling and bought my mom a springerle kit from a lovely little website called Springerle Joy.   We planned to try it well in advance of next Christmas so we could totally screw up the first time.

Imagine our excitement when I got an email from Springerle Joy saying that this fall they would be offering hands-on classes!  My mom signed us up almost immediately.

So last weekend we traveled to Pittsburgh, just a two-hour drive for us in NE Ohio, and met Patrice Romzick, owner of Springerle Joy, who taught us how to make springerle cookies.  It was the best thing we could have done, because with springerles there is no substitute for experience.

The class was only 4 people, so there was plenty of room, and plenty of individual attention.  We started with making dough, which has a very simple recipe: eggs, sugar, flour, and a flavoring.  However, to get the right consistency you sometimes need to tweak the amount of flour you add.  It was raining that day, so we all had to add several extra cups of flour to the dough.

The cookies still rise with out any kind of leavening agent; the trick is to first beat the eggs very very well, until they are frothy and bubbly, then add the dry ingredients quickly to keep all the air trapped in.  The air bubbles expand when heated, making the cookies puff up and lift off the sheet on a “foot.”

Next is the fun part.  We rolled out the dough, pressed the molds in, and cut out the cookies with either cookie cutters or a ravioli cutter.

We were allowed to use any molds that Patrice had in stock…I got a little carried away with the number I picked out.  All her molds are made by a Swiss company called Änis-Paradies; some have been carved in recent years, but others are reproductions of old traditional molds.  I love these because they have been replicated with the cracks and warp of the original still included.  It really makes me feel connected to the old traditions.

The molded cookies have to dry for a day or so before baking, so we practiced baking some that Patrice had cut out the previous day.  She then showed us options for decorating including painting and added some melted chocolate to the back.  They really looked quite professional!

Painting was fun...it involves Triple Sec...
Painting was fun…it involves Triple Sec…

We brought our cookies back home with us and baked them the next day.  Our first batch we had the temperature too high, and instead of rising nicely, they puffed up into domes.  We turned the temp down to around 275 for the later ones and they came out beautifully, although some stuck to the cookie sheet a little.  The really big cookies I let dry another day before baking.

I took a plate into work (lemon, hazelnut, and raspberry flavors) and they were gone in a day.  But any food left in the breakroom is gone in a day, so…

My mom and I were really pleased with the class and how much we learned.  We are ready to try springerle at Christmas this year!

If you want to sign up for springerle-making classes, you can find more info at the Springerle Joy website (the Oct 11 class still has openings!)  You can also browse all of the hundreds of molds and other supplies available for purchase.

Farewell cupcakes

I worked in the university Admissions office during my undergrad, and my boss always complained about what she called “awkward cake parties.”  When an employee left, there was a get-together for the office where they served a sheet cake and everyone stood around and pretended like they liked each other and cared about what the person leaving was going on to do.  Turnover in Admissions is quite high; there were a lot of awkward cake parties.

Friday was the last day at work for a coworker of mine, a dear friend I have worked closely with for almost 5 years.  It was pretty bittersweet, because while I’m happy she’s moving on with her career, I will miss working with her.  Also, I don’t deal well with change.

Luckily, we did NOT have an awkward cake party.  But I did bring in cupcakes, made using a fun trick this coworker taught me.

Not everyone has as big a  sweet tooth as I do; sometimes it’s nice to add a little savory to balance out the sweet.  These are just a basic box mix French vanilla flavor, but I added a couple of tablespoons of powdered vanilla chai mix to give it a little kick.  Adding chai, or other spices, to chocolate mixes also works really well.

The cut strawberries on top are a quick way to give a little color and make it look more “finished.”

 

Star Wars Day

May the Fourth be with you!  Happy Star Wars Day!!

If you’re in the mood to celebrate, here’s some clever cupcakes to inspire you:

A friend of my husband’s brought these to a gaming session a year or so ago and I thought they were delightful…and tasty.  Unfortunately I can’t give credit where it’s due, because I don’t know if he made them or if a friend of his did and he just brought some to share.  Either way, props to the baker!

I will be celebrating by hanging out with my Jedi Master cat (his name is Jolee Bindo) and leveling up my Consular on this TOR Double XP weekend.

Jane Austen Birthday Cake

As I mentioned the other day, my birthday is in late January, so I recently got older.  My mom has made me a birthday cake every year for my whole life, everything from animals to Disney characters to flowers in my favorite colors.  And it’s always Funfetti cake.

This year she really pulled out all the stops on this Jane Austen book cake:

We don’t like using fondant, because while it looks pretty, it doesn’t come close to a good buttercream frosting in terms of taste.  So the inside is box-mix Pillsbury Funfetti cake, the outside is homemade buttercream, and the book titles are fondant cutouts dusted with sparkly colored powder.  I’m trying to convince my mom to do a guest blog post about how she created the whole thing.

She picked these three titles because they are some of the shorter ones in Austen’s published oeuvre, and therefore the easiest to fit on the cake!  “Sense and Sensibility” is not very convenient for this kind of thing…

Of course then I had to tease her because Emma and Mansfield Park are my two least favorite Austen novels.  I jokingly refused to eat the Mansfield Park layer–I guessed that Fanny Price would give me indigestion.