Christmas in November: Treats (and recipes!) from the Holiday Craftacular

photo(8)Well folks, this year I broke my own rule. I have a strict policy of “No Christmas until AFTER Thanksgiving”. Even as much as I love Christmas time, I do not indulge in Peppermint Mochas nor do I listen to my vintage holiday albums until after I’ve eaten turkey. But this year, when my friend Crystal of Baby Begonia asked if I wanted to be a vendor at her Holiday Craftacular, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

photo(1)Since I’d never really done an event like this, I wasn’t exactly sure how much to make. I wanted a variety, and I wanted to show off how tasty treats can be adorably sweet, but I also didn’t want to go home with 10 lbs. of leftover fudge on my hands, either. I decided to stick with some tried and true holiday favorites, and I threw in one new treat for fun. Fortunately, I guesstimated correctly; I ended up selling everything I made — hooray! But the best part was seeing all the people enjoy the stuff in person. I had a great time and I definitely want to try and do more of these “live” events in the future!

So now for the good stuff … here’s what I made. You’ll recognize these for sure, and I’ve even linked up the past posts in case you’d like to make some this year. (Just wait until Friday, though – okay?)

photo(6)#1 “Elements of the Holidays” Mini Bread Loaves
Inspired by the Periodic Chart of Elements, I think of certain flavors as elements of the holidays. I usually do Gingerbread and Pumpkin Bread, but since my favorite Gingerbread recipe was more labor-intensive than I could pull off under such a time crunch, I opted for making Cranberry Orange Bread instead. These make such nice hostess gifts if you’re an invited guest for Thanksgiving dinner or even if you just don’t want to show up empty handed at the holiday party. I made some Fall themed loaves with brown hounds-tooth fabric I had, attached an orange bow, and voila – they’re ready for Thanksgiving! I also did my signature red and green stripes/polka dots loaves for Christmas.

Learn to make the no-sew packaging yourself, here!
(The post also includes my favorite Pumpkin Bread recipe.)

photo(7)#2 Triple Decker Maple Peanut Butter Pretzel Fudge
Yup, you read that right This stuff is ridiculous. The part I love most is that it’s delicious and pretty. I package huge pieces of it so you can see how rustic the pretzel rods and crushed pretzels look on top, even though it’s so decadent that there’s realistically about 4 pieces per “block”.

Recipe and free download for a tag is here, now go make some yourself!

#3 Festive Holly Berry Cupcakes
These are so. freaking. easy. Use your favorite cupcake recipe and pick up a bottle of these Holly Mix sprinkles by Wilton. Yes, I apply the sprinkles individually with tweezers so I can make them perfect. Really, it’s that easy.
IMG_00139#4 Red Velvet Brownies drizzled with Cream Cheese IcingThese were new for me, but I had to make them, simply because I wanted something red! This is a GREAT brownie recipe – super crackly on top, and gooey on the inside. I used a round cookie cutter to cut the brownies so they’d be a perfect fit inside these red/white striped baking cups I had. But, when I cut them, the tops were so crackly that they weren’t very pretty, so I flipped them upside down and iced the bottoms! Wish I would’ve remembered to take a pic before they were gone. Sorry ’bout it.

This recipe is a keeper. Make your own using this recipe here.

Now it’s time to take a break and gear up for more holiday treat making once the season officially begins! Still trying decide on this year’s goodies. What will you be making?

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Sweet Treats: “Manly” Cupcakes and others inspired by Pie!

One of my dear friends turned 40 last night, and his awesome wife threw him a little “semi”-surprise party on a Tuesday night to celebrate. Although it ended up being a FANTASTIC gathering — it was a little bit, um … spur of the moment. So when she asked me to make cupcakes, I had to get things together pretty fast.

This crew is quite a group of beer aficionados, so right away I knew I wanted to make some sort of beer cupcake. And when I found out his favorite dessert was southern-style Banana Pudding with Vanilla Wafers, I knew I had to incorporate that in, too. So … drum roll please: these are the creations I came up with!

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These cupcakes were very manly — and freaking tasty, too. I’m not even a beer drinker, and I thought these were some of the most chocolatey, moist and delicious cupcakes I’ve ever eaten! The cake not only has a Chocolate Porter infused into the mix, but it has mini chocolate chips as well, which melted inside when baked and really kept the cake nice and gooey. As for toppings, I used crushed chocolate covered pretzels, ’cause really — what goes better with beer than pretzels?

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Want to make your own, but short on time like I was? It’s OK – you can use a box mix! I found this easy recipe from Duncan Hines and made some tweaks to it, and it was fantastic. I also used a Chocolate Porter instead of the Guinness Stout. And seriously – if you are in a time crunch, don’t feel guilty about using a box, just make sure if you are using one, its Duncan Hines.

Make your own!

Cake:

  • 1 (18.25 oz) box dark chocolate cake mix
  • 1 (12 oz) Guinness Extra Stout (or Chocolate Porter)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup mini-chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Place cake mix, beer, oil and eggs into a large bowl and mix together. Fold the chocolate chips into the batter. Fill cupcake liners 1/2 full. Bake 18-22 minutes or until cupcakes spring back when lightly pressed with finger. Cool on racks.

I also borrowed from this awesome post on the Bake at 350 blog when it came to styling them. Like she says, keep them manly – don’t use piping or swirls. And she topped them with the chocolate covered pretzels, which was pure genius.

You can use her recipe for beer frosting too on the post, or you can cheat like I did and use cream cheese frosting. It was a hit.

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The Banana Cream Cupcakes were also a cheat. I used Duncan Hines Yellow Cake mix, and made the cupcakes according to the package directions. Then, I used a cupcake corer to remove the middles and I filled them with Banana Pudding and Pie Filling. Use your favorite vanilla icing to frost them. Then, I smashed ‘Nilla Wafers to sprinkle the tops with and stuck a whole one right on top. Let me tell you, I can say with confidence these were the yummiest cupcakes I’ve ever made.

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Crafty: Baby Shower Cupcakes + Favor Boxes

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I had the privilege of making cupcakes and favor boxes for a baby shower yesterday —one of my very favorite kind of projects! The hosts chose a “little man”/necktie theme, and wanted cupcakes for both the party and to take home as favors. When they told me baby-to-be’s name was going to be Lincoln and they wanted to incorporate an Abraham Lincoln quote into the favors, I was inspired!

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The boxes were pretty simple. I bought individual kraft brown cupcake boxes and inserts from a local cake supply store, designed the artwork for the quote for on the back, the two circles on the sides and the tie for the front, and printed on kraft brown cardstock. I was able to tuck the top of the tie into the closure tab of the cupcake box on the front.

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I just used the various scrapbook papers I had available for the cupcake toppers — the hosts requested blue, lime green, yellow and orange — and cut little neckties. I used my 1-in. scalloped circle punch to use as a backing and tape to a toothpick.

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All in all, pretty simple stuff — I do love a baby party!

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Sweet Treats: Happy Cupcakes

Today, a sweet little girl turned one, and I was lucky enough to watch her celebrate. Of course, I was even happier that I got asked if I’d make the cupcakes for the event. My answer was an emphatic and anxious YES!

I kept things pretty simple (it was a toddler party, after all) and went with white cake + white frosting. I’m kind of obsessed with the red/aqua/lime color combo as it’s bright, cheery, modern and youthful all at the same time. So, when I found adorable polka dotted cupcake liners these three key colors, I knew they’d be a sweet match when paired with my usual arsenal of striped and polka dotted scrapbook papers.

Wanna make some too? All you need are a few simple items:
cupcakesupplies

1. Set of 100 Spring Cupcake PapersCrate & Barrel, $6.95 / 2. Jumbo Confetti Sprinkles in Aqua, Green and Red (not shown)Wilton, $4.49 / 3. 1″ Scalloped Circle Craft PunchMartha Stewart, $9.99 / 4. 2″ Round Circle Squeeze PunchFiskars, $16.99 / 5. Contrasting and Coordinating scrapbook paper and number stickers

Sweet Treats: Making it work when results aren’t what you planned for!

One of my favorite toddlers recently turned two, and I was asked if I would help with the birthday girl’s party sweets. I was feeling really ambitious and thought I’d try something like these adorable ice cream cone cupcakes at Bergdorf Goodman, but I was a little too ambitious! We got the cupcakes to bake quite well in the cones, but no matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t get them to be even sizes, and some were straight-up crooked and just wouldn’t stand up!

Sample only – use link to download

So, I channeled my inner Tim Gunn and decided we’d make it work. Afterall, cupcakes in the ice cream cones are so easy for a toddler to hold themselves, and with independence at a real high at this stage – whatever makes it easier for them to do things by themselves is a win. I decided to turn the cupcakes upside down and place them in color-coordinating baking cups to match the party theme, use a little ribbon to jazz up the “handles,” and I made little tags and stick them into the top. Voila! We pulled it off, and the guests had no idea the new upside-down treats were a happy accident!

Would you like to download the tags to print yourself? Download here. Just cut out and tape to a toothpick – they’re super easy!