Our Favorite Christmas Sweets – Part One

It’s been a while! We’re still high-volume carb pushers, we assure you.

The past few months have been sprinkled with countless nights of sugar storms in our kitchens, baking treats every week (see the photographic evidence). While taking on so many projects, we’ve been off the blog. But fear not, the Sarmie Sisters are back, debuting our return with our favorite holiday recipes.

Over the next few days, we’ll feature our favorite recipes that we love to bake during the holiday season. Each recipe has been successfully kitchen- and taste-tested, rightfully earning a spot in our lineup.

Without further adieu, let’s kick off the list with recipe #1, the “Holly Jolly Cake Pop.” 

Why it made the list: Once you see how easy it is to bake, roll, and dip this elegant treat, you’ll understand why it takes the cake on any pretty party spread.

Holly Jolly Cake Pop
Recipe yields 40 – 50 cake pops

Ingredients:

  • Cake base
    • 1 box cake mix (we like Duncan Hines)
    • 3 large eggs
    • 1 c. water
  • 1/4 c. cake icing
  • Melting wafers (Ghirardelli is the best)
  • Clear sugar sprinkles
  • Holly sprinkles

Additional supplies:

Instructions:

  1. Bake cake as directed on the box, omitting the oil / butter portion.
  2. Break apart baked cake into a mixing bowl and mix with the cake icing until the cake becomes a dough and crumbs are no longer visible.
  3. Using the cookie scoop, scoop out equal tablespoons of dough. Roll each tablespoon into a ball, removing any breaks and seams. Lay each completed ball onto a cookie tray or plate.
  4. Once all of the cake pop dough has been used, move the formed cake balls into the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Using a small bowl or mug, melt a small handful (about 10 melts) in the microwave.
  6. Dip the tip of a lollipop stick into the melted wafer, then poke a chilled cake ball with the coated end. This will allow the ball to adhere to the stick before dipping the ball completely. Repeat for all cake balls. (NOTE: you’ll want to poke through each ball only half-way to avoid breaking the ball or creating tears on the surface.)
  7. Once you have inserted sticks into all cake balls, pop them back into the refrigerator to chill once more to set (this should take about 15 minutes).
  8. White the cake pops are chilling, fill a coffee mug halfway with melting wafers and melt completely.IMAG0478
  9. Remove the cake pops from the refrigerator, and dip one at a time into the melts, tapping off the excess melt. You should have a thin layer of melt fully covering the cake (NOTE: be sure to remove any air bubbles– these lead to holes from which any oil from the cake icing can escape and drip).
  10. While the melt is still wet, sprinkle the surface with clear sugar sprinkles, then affix the holly berry sprinkles onto the top as pictured.
  11. Set each cake pop cake-down onto a flat surface. We recommend wax or parchment paper (NOTE: the above picture shows the upright setting).
  12. Leave cake pops in room temperature to dry– and you’re all set!

Have fun dipping, friends!

 

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Day

It’s May – the month that we celebrate the wonderful mothers in our lives, and the time where many of us reflect on the moment at which we joined the ranks of motherhood. But one in four women experience pregnancy or infant loss (miscarriage, stillbirth, or neonatal death). That’s a staggering number of women, and yet it seems most stay silent about their experiences. We are supposed to be strong, resilient, and unbreakable. Nobody wants to hear about sad things, right? But what if we were brave enough to break the silence? Bold enough to declare, “I am still standing”? Empowered to tell the world, “My baby existed and mattered?” Allow me to share the incredible story of my firstborn, my son, Maxwell James.

In 2011, as I was nearing the end of my pediatrics residency, I saw those two pink lines on the stick that set my heart aflutter. Like so many other first-time expectant moms, I excitedly chronicled my pregnancy in a series of photos and proudly and proudly shared them on social media.


I recemax-2ived regular care from my OBs, took my prenatal vitamins daily, ate healthy, exercised, even forewent my beloved caffeine (as a resident working 80 hours per week, no less!) and avoided all the things I loved that were no-no’s during pregnancy. We kept baby’s sex a mystery to enjoy the thrill of finding out at delivery. I was halfway through my pregnancy when we moved back to Illinois to be close to our families. I started my new job as a pediatrician, passed my board exam, and I continued to enjoy the fluttery kicks from within my ever-expanding belly. I decorated a dreamy nursery in our new home with gray walls, a white tree, and Tiffany blue birds. My sister threw the most wonderful baby shower for us. We had everything we needed– we just needed the baby!

Thirty-five weeks in, I started having some issues that I thought were normal end-of-pregnancy symptoms. I remember crying at the bottom of my stairs because I could no longer put on my favorite boots – my feet and lower legs were so swollen. I got winded easily walking up steps. I had to quit knitting due to worsening carpal tunnel after only completing a tiny white hat. One day at work, I had to stop in the hallway and rest between patients. I felt a little dizzy and sweaty. My blood pressure was elevated. A flurry of nurses and colleagues led me to an empty patient room and made me lay on my side while I called my OB and my husband. Jay picked me up and off we went to the doctor.

I had gained 10 pounds since my last appointment, which was only five days prior. My shins pitted when you pressed them. My blood pressure was still high. I did my obligatory urine test. The OB looked at the data and quickly looked at me, saying he wasn’t impressed with what he saw, so he sent me to the lab for some more tests and said, “Just go on bed rest for the next few weeks. This is all normal.” I remember feeling that it couldn’t be normal, but I reminded myself that I’m not an OB and I should not try to be my own doctor. I trusted that he was right and knew that I could always call if something was wrong.

We went home and I lay in my bed, still dizzy from the events of the day, and mentally prepared myself for a few weeks of strict bed rest. I began to have headaches and upper abdominal pain. I gave it about 30 minutes before I knew I had to call the emergency line. By God’s grace, the doctor on the other end of the call was Dr. Julie Jensen, whom I had come to really trust over the past several weeks. I said, “I just don’t feel right. I don’t know what it is,” and without hesitation, she urged me to come to L&D immediately.

Off we went to the hospital, no hospital bag packed, none of the baby shower gifts put away, car seat not even opened. We weren’t ready if he or she was going to make their grand entrance that night. But we didn’t have a choice. It was a quiet and nervous ride in the dark, and I began to feel that mix of emotions that one gets before they are supposed to meet their baby. Will it hurt? Will he or she look like me or like Jay? Will it be as amazing as I imagine it will be? Oh my God, I’m going to be a mom! We called our parents to let them know that we were on our way in and we would let them know if they should come, too.

Not long after I had arrived, Dr. Jensen determined that I had severe pre-eclampsia. Her solemn face said more than her order: “We have to deliver you tonight. We could do a trial of labor, but I don’t think your baby will tolerate it based on what I am seeing here. The best course of action would be a c-section, but I will let you decide what you would like to do.” I turned to my worried husband, then to the monitor, where I saw my child’s heart rate dropping, then to Dr. Jensen, and said “Please do what you need to do.”

My parents and in-laws had arrived – I cried to them that I wasn’t ready yet, we didn’t even have the car seat in the car, and I was terrified of having surgery. They prayed over me, then they rolled me into the OR. I remember meeting the neonatologist en route and saying to him, “35 weeks – this should be a short NICU stay, right?” He said, “Let’s hope.”

As a pediatrician, I’ve been on the other end of this scenario many times. But absolutely nothing prepares you to be on the other side of that blue partition when things go wrong. You can’t see anything or feel anything, but you can hear it all, and the silence in that moment was deafening. I didn’t hear any crying. Why wasn’t my baby crying? NO. My heart sank. “What is happening? Is it a boy or girl?” “There is something wrong but we don’t know what yet, he is very swollen.” Click. Click. The sounds of the ambubag. The whispered counting during chest compressions. The neo calling for epi. The stifled cries of the nurses and doctors. “Is my baby alive? Oh God, is my baby alive?” I screamed because I already felt him slipping away. “We are doing everything we can for him!” I heard them say. But 24 minutes later, our Maxwell James, the beautiful boy we waited so long for, grew his fragile wings and flew home.

Unless you have experienced the unimaginable, you will never know what it feels like to have your heart ripped out of your body.

What just happened? Why did God let me carry this baby for 35 weeks just to take him back? Was it something I did? Is this real? Is this a nightmare? God, why? Why him? Why us? Why me?

Part of the answer came quickly – while we still didn’t have a diagnosis for Max, his purpose was clear when they asked us if we would be willing to donate his tissues (corneas and heart valves). You would think in our state of grief we would be unable to process this information, but it was the easiest “YES” I ever said in my life. I hadn’t even realized that premature infants could be considered for organ/tissue donation. But here was my son—a hero without even taking a breath on this earth.

He was brought to me lovingly wrapped in a hand-knit blanket and hat. They dressed him in a blue hand-sewn gown. He smelled of fresh baby soap. I studied him. His face was so swollen, his eyes were squeezed shut. He had round, pink, cherubic cheeks. His lips were red and full. His tiny pinky fingers were slightly curved, just like his daddy’s. He didn’t look like he was gone – just sleeping peacefully. Our parents and siblings (who came as soon as they heard), faces wet with tears, all took turns cradling his tiny body. The chaplain came in and baptized him. The nurses took pictures for us to keep. They gave us as much time as we wanted with him. I don’t remember how long we had him, but it doesn’t matter – any time would not have been enough, but every millisecond of that time counted and will stay etched on my heart for my whole life.

When we were ready to let go, they gently took him from me and rolled him away to the OR, where they would harvest his heart valves and corneas. During that time, I was on the phone with Gift of Hope, so they could ask me all of the standard questions required of the family of an organ/tissue donor. I was so heavy with grief and pain medication that my sister had to hold the phone up to my ear. What started off as typical demographic questions turned into the absurd. “Did your son drink alcohol?” “No.” “Did your son smoke?” “NO – are you serious? He never took a breath on his own.” I felt the anger rise inside of me. Why are they asking me these questions? I knew she was just doing her job and reading off the form, but I couldn’t help but feel this was a cruel joke.

When the phone call was finished, a nurse dropped off a basket filled with food and a fuzzy blanket. I didn’t know who it was from, but I was so exhausted. Jay moved his recliner to be next to my hospital bed, we covered ourselves with the blanket, and we wept together until we fell asleep. A nurse came in to check my vitals, and she said, “Oh, you got one of Kyle’s blankets, how beautiful!” I looked at the blanket and just then noticed the beautiful embroidery that said “Forever in Our Hearts” in the corner. That night, I met Jill Zuleg, a nurse who uniquely understood my grief.

She sat on the side of my hospital bed, held my hands, and told me the story of her beautiful 16-year-old boy, Kyle, and how he tragically lost his life one year prior when a tree branch fell on top of him from 40 feet above during a game of flashlight tag in the woods. Unimaginable heartbreak turned into healing when Kyle became an organ donor—his gift of seven organs gave five other people a second chance at life. Jill told me that while Kyle was in the OR for organ harvest, though her grief consumed her, she was acutely aware of the tangible things she needed at that moment, which were warmth and nourishment. She made it her mission to supply these needs to families who were experiencing the same thing. Her foundation, Kyle Shines On, makes it possible for her to gift blankets and baskets of food to donor families all over the state of Illinois. We cried together over our losses, but found strength in one another. I was grateful, not only for the gifts, but also to see that despite the tragedy in her life, she was still standing. I was somehow going to get through this.

We didn’t know what took Maxwell’s life until six days after I delivered him, which was also the day I was discharged. The doctors had suspected, but finally confirmed after genetic testing, that our son had alpha thalassemia major (Hemoglobin Bart’s), a disease in which the affected individual is unable to make any functional hemoglobin to carry oxygen to the body. Max’s anemia was so severe that his hemoglobin was 0 on his blood tests. We found out that Jay and I were carriers for the condition (alpha thalassemia trait). It sounds funny, but after hearing this, I was relieved. It meant that it wasn’t something I did, it wasn’t something that would have been caught unless invasive and specific genetic testing was pursued, and it wasn’t something that could’ve been prevented. Most babies with this condition die in utero. Max shouldn’t have made it to 35 weeks. But because he did, he was able to save someone else’s life.

He was born to be a hero.

We buried our beautiful boy in the tiniest white casket on a sunny Saturday morning after a meaningful memorial service at our church. I wailed over his lifeless body and had to be helped with sitting and standing, as I was still recovering from surgery as well as the pneumonia that was detected three days postpartum. Much of that day was a blur, but I still remember the love in that room and the immense support I felt from family and friends.

For several weeks, we received an overwhelming outpouring of love from our family and friends. I’ve kept each and every card I received during that time and still pull them out to read every once in a while. I know people were praying for us because there is no way anyone could survive this otherwise.

That “Peace that surpasses understanding,” that people talk about? It’s real. Our world was completely flipped upside down, but somehow, we were still standing because of our faith in God, and the love and support of our family and friends.

I returned to work eight weeks later, unsure of how I was going to manage caring for newborns when I had just lost my own. My sweet colleagues offered to see all of the newborns for me for as long as I needed, but I decided I needed to jump into that pool at some point, so why not now? I dove in headfirst. And wouldn’t you know it – one of my first patients I got to see was a baby named Max, who shared a birthday with my Maxwell. It was the first of many times I would cry on my first day back to work. Many of my patients and their parents remembered my giant pregnant belly only 2 months before, and several enthusiastically asked, “Did you have a boy or girl?” only to be met with a truncated version of the story above. I wasn’t sure how the news would be received, or if it was even appropriate to share such a personal story with my patients and their families, but ultimately, I was always met with a look of concern, compassion, and love. People will surprise you when you share a little bit of yourself. I found myself being able to empathize with others who were going through challenging times. When you dive in, you worry you might drown in your grief, but the truth is, you gain new perspective – only then can you see and feel the depth of love that surrounds you. And you keep swimming.

One year after we lost Max, we moved to a new home, and shortly after, our rainbow came—Ethan James arrived with the most beautiful cry I had ever heard in my life. His name means “strong,” which I think best described our journey to parenthood the second time around. We experienced the pain of an early miscarriage the following year. Fearful of yet another loss, we were not sure if we would have any more children, but then our Ellie Grace arrived, pink and perfect. Both babies were tested for alpha thalassemia major while in utero at 11 weeks. Ethan was found to be a carrier, and Ellie does not have the gene!

(above: my rainbow babies; photo cred. Sheila Barabad)

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(above: my family– the bear in Ethan’s hands belonged to our Max; photo cred. Sheila Barabad).

Ultimately, the worst moment of my life shaped me into the person I am today. I am a better wife, mother, doctor, and person after having loved and lost Max. He taught me that everyone and everything has a purpose, that God keeps his promises, that those who sow in tears will reap in joy, and that heaven is only a heartbeat away. I still have days where the heaviness of loss is so great in my heart that I feel I can’t breathe. But every day, I choose joy. I choose to use my grief for good. I lean on the people who have helped me weather this storm. I will carry him in my heart always. And I will continue to praise Him who chose me to carry him.

To those who are hurting this Mother’s Day – if you are agoldp2n angel mom and have doubted that you can even be called a mother, if you have struggled with miscarriage or infertility but have the heart of a mother, or even if you have lost your own mother and are wishing for just one more hug or to hear her voice – I send you love and light today. You are not alone. Happy Mother’s Day!

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(above – cookies I baked for a fellow angel  mama )

Dr. Priscilla G.
Sarmie Sister Sweets

Oscar Party

For sugar cookie enthusiasts, acquiring a respectable set of cutters for all holidays and special occasions is a must. The smart, economic solution is to get creative with your shapes and find numerous outputs stemming from a single frame. That egg shape you used for Easter can suddenly become Spiderman’s head. Or that circular cutter with the petal edges morphs from flower to ballet dancer. Thanks to the genius of Sweet Sugarbelle , you can purchase a single shape shifter kit whose pieces yield endless possibilities. But this isn’t why we’re posting today… at least, not entirely.

It’s funny how big ideas can come from one small thing. For our most recent venture, everything started with a single cookie cutter, fitting for only one particular occasion– the Academy Awards, a.k.a. “Oscar Night.”

oscar-cutter

Our friend Kerry, a fellow pop culture fan and gifted photographer owns this Oscar statuette cutter. With the ceremony taking place this past Sunday, it seemed a waste to bake a batch of these Oscar cookies without rounding up some good company to share them with. And, really, when else can you use this little guy? The wheels in our heads turned, and a whole party plan came into fruition–because good parties deserve more than just a tray of cookies! Here’s how it all turned out.

We put together personalized Hollywood Walk of Fame personalized coasters for all of our guests:

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Then, we baked the statuette cookies in mass quantities, dipping the bases in chocolate, and painting gold shimmer on the surfaces:

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To add variety and a touch of posh, we finished the sweet table with gold-dotted vanilla bean cupcakes, chocolate French macarons, champagne Jello shots, and some tuxedo-donning strawberries:

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With the sweets operations running smoothly, we also needed savory food (like pizza, popcorn, mini Oscars-in-a-blanket; get it?), Hollywood-worthy libations, and fun activities celebrity A-listers would want in on.

Enter: our fashion-forward friend Laura Melzer, whose bartending skills came in handy when sorting out our drink menu (check out her blog!). End result? Five signature cocktails that deserve an encore presentation.

– The Red Carpet (a nod to the classic Cosmopolitan)
– The Old Hollywood (an Old Fashioned w/a twist)
– The Black Tie (Guinness + chocolate icecream)
– The Oscar (a mod French 75)
– The Acceptance Speech (a Laura Melzer original, crafted with green tea-infused vodka)

oscardrinkmenu

drinkmaster

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Kerry’s camera wizardry came in handy shooting snaps of our party (see all pics in this post), including setting up a green screen:

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It’s like we were on the red carpet!

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As for games, we customized a OSCAR-themed bingo board, a “Who Wore It” picture quiz, and an award predictions game involving a small money pool.

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In the end, a great time was had by all:

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What we learned: the best recipe for an unforgettable get-together is a fine mix of the many unique talents friends bring to the table.

 

 

 

 

 

A Deft Hand, from Swaddling to Icing

Is there something in the water? It must be raining babies! We’ve been busy in the kitchen, which is why we’ve been a little slow on the blogging front. Last month, we took on seven baby shower projects, helping glowing mamas-to-be welcome their precious little ones into the world.

Baby showers are some of our favorite undertakings. Though we Sarmie sisters have been baking together for over 20 years, it was Cilla’s baby shower (for daughter Ellie) that got us thinking about sharing our work– that’s how our Instagram account was born, as was our first foray into fondant toppers:

stork.jpg

Every baby shower host who asks us for sweets is bursting with ideas and themes for the celebration, and it’s our job to help bring their creative visions to life. In the age of Pinterest, people have really stepped up their game with baby shower themes. We’ve worked on some unique requests, including:

whale / Vineyard Vines vibe

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zoo babies

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and woodland creatures, to name a few.

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Our most recent project was a Winnie the Pooh-themed shower for a baby girl named Melody Grace. We absolutely loved the planning process, from text threads with the caterer, Shari of Catering 59 , and grandma-to-be, to adding elements of nostalgia with modern whimsy. The outcome was a labor of love, handcrafted with joy in anticipation of baby Melody. Cilla’s signature calligraphy and Geels’ painted elements supplemented Shari’s 100-acre-wood atmosphere, complete with rustic signage, watering cans, and a plethora of “hunny bees”. And her soup / salad / baked potato bar was the perfect meal to warm our rumbly tummies on an otherwise chilly January evening.

Here’s a quick look at what we put together:

A guest sign-in poster, which will make a great keepsake to put in the nursery

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Buntings cascading over the new parents’ own baby blankets and the sweet table

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A sweet badge for the “Mommy to Bee” (thanks, Cricut!)

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And a little woodsy sign to accompany the sweets.

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Oh yeah, we made sweets:

Chocolate cupcakes topped with vanilla buttercream rosettes

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Vanilla pound cakes with buttercream beehives

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Marshmallow pops

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A red velvet cake shaped into a honeypot

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And, of course, our sugar cookies.

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These cookies always tend to be the stars of the show, and with good reason. Much like child-rearing, icing a single cookie takes plenty of patience and a gentle hand. Wanna learn how?

Check out our most recent video summarizing the process!

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Sister Solidarity (and Dragons)

Today marked a proud and momentous occasion in history: a multi-national women’s march in peaceful protest of human rights. In true Sarmie Sister fashion, we baked about it.

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Digestible declarations disappear upon consumption, but it’s our hope that these words echo to the generations who follow us. We applaud the millions who spent their Saturday roaming city streets in the name of dignity and respect for all humans.

In honor of the women’s march, we thought we’d share a bakeoff-winning recipe with a strong presence– one inspired by Game of Thrones’ Danaerys Targaryen, a nasty woman in her own right. We present our “Mother of Dragons” cupcakes, a chocolate sponge filled with ancho chili ganache, salted caramel, and adorned with vanilla bean buttercream flames and a piped chocolate dragon. Enjoy a touch of heat, paired with the emblem of the Khaleesi herself.

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Admittedly, this recipe requires plenty of steps; but then, so did today’s march (see what we did there?). For these cupcakes, our base chocolate cake recipe is adapted from the tried-and-true King Arthur Flour recipe, with a few tweaks. Without further adieu, here’s the recipe:

Mother of Dragons Cupcakes
Yields approx. 24 cupcakes

Special Items Needed:

  • Candy melts
  • Food color spray in orange and red (we use Wilton Color Mist)
  • Wax or parchment paper
  • Chocolate wafer cookies
  • Dragon wing, tail, head template (draw your own or print 1″ copies)

Chocolate Cupcakes:

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon ancho chili powder
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup coffee
  • 4 large eggs

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the cupcake tins with paper liners.
  2. Sift the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl.
  3. Mix in the butter at low speed until smooth, then spoon in the oil.
  4. Stir the vanilla, buttermilk, and coffee together in a liquid measuring cup, then the liquid to the batter. Mix for at low speed, stopping to scrape the sides until combined and smooth (should take one to two minutes).
  5. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well at medium-high speed between additions.
  6. Scrape the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl, and mix for one minute more.
  7. Spoon the batter in 1/4 cup portions into the cupcake liners.
  8. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes. The cupcakes are done when the top springs back when very lightly touched in the center.
  9. Place on a rack to cool.

Ancho Chili Ganache:

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/4 teaspoon ancho chili powder
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Place chocolate into a mixing bowl. Sprinkle with ancho chili powder
  2. Over low / medium heat, scald the heavy cream. You should see bubbles on the edges of the surface. Do not boil.
  3. Pour hot cream over chocolate and let sit for a minute.
  4. Using a whisk or fork, gently mix the chocolate and cream until shiny and smooth.

Salted Caramel Filling:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

Directions:

  1. Heat granulated sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly (but gently) with a high heat-resistant rubber spatula.
  2. Watch closely until the sugar turns into an amber-colored liquid. Be careful not to burn.
  3. Once completely melted, drop the butter into the pan. Don’t be alarmed if the mixture bubbles rapidly,but be careful not to burn your hands.
  4. Stir the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted.
  5. Slowly drizzle in heavy cream while stirring.
  6. Allow the mixture to boil for one minute.
  7. Remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon of salt. Allow to cool down before using.

Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting (dyed yellow for design)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 5 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 3  Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
  • 2 drops yellow gel coloring
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the butter, salt, and shortening until pale and voluminous. This will take about five minutes.
  2. Add sugar one cup at a time and mix, alternating with a spoon of heavy cream (NOTE: add cream as needed).
  3. Once the mixture is nearly smooth, add the vanilla and continue whipping until smooth and airy.
  4. Add yellow food coloring and whip until desired hue is achieved.

Instructions for final assembly:

  1. Using either a cupcake corer or butter knife, cut a well into each cupcake. Pipe the ganache into the center, followed by the salted caramel (see below):

    khaleesi3

  2. Pipe the butter cream on top of the cupcakes in teardrop shapes to resemble little flames.
  3. Lightly spray the tips of the buttercream “flames” with color spray until desired flame effect appears.
  4. Heat the candy melts. Place template images of wings and dragon body underneath the parchment paper so template is visible. Pipe chocolate onto parchment, tracing the images. Allow to harden.
  5. Place the wafer cookie into the center of the cupcake so a half-moon protrudes from the center. Arrange the dragon body parts around the wafer to assemble the dragon.

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Hope this recipe empowers you to take on something ambitious!

 

 

 

Dream Big, Little One

There’s something special about baking for children. When taking on these projects, one of our favorite parts of the creative process is talking to mothers gushing enthusiastically about their beautiful babies. Even if we haven’t met the celebrant, we catch a glimpse of the hopes and dreams parents have invested into each child. We learn what interests their kids and how each one has developed a personal and unique style. We see parents letting their child’s imagination run wild with possibility.

We’re all for letting children be who they want to be, and that often translates into how we personalize treats. If your little girl aspires to be a superhero like the kids of PJ Masks, why not celebrate her courage and desire to do good?

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And if she gravitates toward the dreamy world of Disney princesses, celebrating her inner beauty and sweetness will show her the magic of being a positive and influential force among her peers.

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Speaking of inner sweetness, we’re happy to share our recipe for princess brownie pops.

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While we generally try to make all components edible, we couldn’t pass up the perfect little princess printable templates (courtesy of Etsy vendor chicaandjo) we used on these pops and the cupcakes. Once you have these, it’s smooth sailing on the assembly front. Now for the recipe:

Princess Brownie Pops
Yields approx. 25 – 30 pops

Items needed:

  • Lollipop sticks
  • Candy melts or almond bark
  • Styrofoam board (optional) or waxed paper-lined cookie sheets

Instructions:

  1. Make our favorite brownies and let them cool. If doubling recipe, cook for 30 min.
  1. Crumble brownies with a stand mixer using the paddle attachment (or by hand in a large bowl). The brownies should be moist enough to bind together without the addition of icing as you do in traditional cake pops. You should get a consistency similar to dough.
  1. With a cookie scoop, scoop balls of “brownie dough” and hand roll them until smooth. At this point, you could make them into round balls, or create any shape you’d like.
  1. Place brownie balls into fridge and let chill for at least 1-2 hrs (or overnight if you can!)
  1. Take brownie balls out of the fridge. Melt small amount of candy melt, place end of lollipop stick into melts, and push about halfway into brownie ball. Repeat for each ball. Let them sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes.
  2. Melt candy melts or almond bark in the colors of your choice (we prefer Ghirardelli candy melts or ChocoMaker, which you can find at WalMart. Wilton melts come in wonderful colors, but the consistency of the melts is variable. They can be thinned out with shortening). Dip each brownie ball into the melts, covering thoroughly, and tap the lollipop stick on the side of the bowl to let excess drip off.*If you are making princesses with skirts as we have done here, or pops that are meant to stand with the brownie side down, put the dipped brownie pop, ball side down, onto a cookie sheet covered with waxed paper.

    *If you are making round pops, place the brownie pop, stick side down, into a styrofoam board.

    *If you are decorating with sprinkles, be sure to put them onto the dipped pops immediately after dipping (while melts are still wet).

    *If you are adding stripes of candy melts onto the dipped pops, let them dry first, then drizzle more melts over them.

  3. For the princess toppers, download the princess template, print the images onto white card stock, cut them out, and tape them to the lollipop sticks after the candy coating dries completely.

Happy baking!

 

 

Statement Pieces

Sending a message with food is nothing new. A heart-shaped cake can be a profession of love. A piping hot bowl of soup can say ‘welcome’ at the first waft of steaming broth. We were once asked to mass produce an edible invitation to a “cookie throw down” event–one guess as to what food item we used as our platform (because obviously).

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Whatever message you’re trying to convey–an apology spelled out in pepperoni atop a pizza, for instance– there’s something disarming about using a platform as comforting as food to do it.

When tensions surrounding the centuries-old debate concerning vaccinations peaked in the past week on social media, we felt compelled to chime in. Vaccines, after all, are a matter of life and death, and it’s Cilla’s job as a pediatrician to keep children healthy.  Not surprisingly, strangers hurling insults left a bad taste in our mouths. If social media exchanges have taught us anything, it’s to not feed the trolls. But with so much negativity, why not approach the conversation with some positive (and literal) food for thought? With that, we submit a simple PSA:

vaccines_save_lives_watermark

Now that’s one smart cookie.

In case you’re interested, here are some links with scholarly studies that address common concerns about vaccinations and their administration:

For more information, please consult your physician (not some hokey website with too many capital letters. Please.).

Thanks for listening!