Monday, November 26, 2012

Cocoa Cone for One - Tutorial

I've done regular cocoa cones for many years adding them to homemade Christmas gifts because they are great fillers, and can add height and bulk when needed. Plus they are easy and fast and fairly inexpensive to make.  For a photo how-to on a regular cocoa cone (click here) and then click on each individual photo for the step by step I made for my eldest daughter.
This year however I wanted to make something different. Something cute and inexpensive to hold just a single serving of cocoa.

Here is what I came up with. I think it's cute, and it's certainly inexpensive. And they can be made year round just by changing the color of icing and sprinkles.
 This is my version of the chocolate dipped ice cream cone that's been around forever. But instead of filling it with ice cream, I filled it with the dry ingredients for making one cup of cocoa.
I forgot to take photos while I was decorating the cones, but basically I just piped around the upper rim of the cone with thick royal icing letting it drip slowly down the outside and added sprinkles. I let these dry overnight.
This can also be done using melted chocolate, but I'm all about finding ways not to throw away leftover cookie icing.
I was going to try and make homemade marshmallows swirled to look like soft serve ice cream as that would make it look even more like an ice cream cone, but I already have enough on my Holiday to-do list without adding more.

For the bottom part of the cocoa cone I used a single serving of cocoa mix, a cheap sandwich baggie (these are more flexible) and a twist tie. 
I drape the baggie over a small glass and carefully pour in the cocoa mix trying not to get too far up the sides. (you don't want cocoa adhering to the plastic above where the twist tie will go).  
Tightly twist the tie around the bag and cut off the excess of the tie as well as the baggie, leaving about an inch.

Shown in the photo above are the ingredients I used to make the top part of the cocoa cone, as well as a sandwich baggie, and a twist tie.
You can substitute about 15-20 mini marshmallows for the marshmallow bits and regular chocolate chips for the mini ones. This is just a general guideline as I'm sure you'll add your own unique touches to these. Depending on the cone size you may have to adjust the ingredient amounts as well.
Note: I suggest doing a practice one to see how it sets in the cone and adjust the ingredients accordingly.
As for the type of marshmallows and size of chocolate chips I'm using I just like the way the bits and minis handled and settled better into the baggie. The marshmallow bits are made by Kraft, and they are much smaller than mini marshmallows. They come in a plastic jar and and they taste and feel like those colored shapes in Lucky Charms cereal, but will soften in the hot cocoa. 

Center a corner point of the baggie over a small glass and drop in a a red candy ball (I used a pretzel m&m),  then add just a pinch of the sprinkles leaving the rest for later. Next add all of the marshmallow bits and very slightly tap the glass to settle everything.

Add the remaining sprinkles over the top of the marshmallow bits tapping the glass to distribute them evenly. Lastly add the mini chocolate chips. Take out the baggie and tightly tie a twist tie to secure, cutting off the excess twist tie and baggie leaving about an inch.

 Take a decorated cone and drop a baggie of cocoa mix into the bottom tucking down the end of the baggie. Add the marshmallow/chocolate chip baggie by placing it into the cone "cherry" side up.
These are now ready to be placed in a cello bag with a ribbon, or another container of your choice. Remember the top baggie is just setting on top, so take that into consideration when bagging these and tie the ribbon close to the top of the cherry to hold it all together.

 Almost ready to go.
I've placed the wrapped cocoa cone into a holiday mug. I adjusted the height by adding tissue paper to the bottom because this mug was so tall, and I wanted the cone to show above the rim. I've also added wrapped chocolate candies, candy canes and a chocolate covered spoon.
This will all be placed in a small gift bag, labeled and then it will be ready to go.
Don't forget to add instructions to your tags.
Something like this: Stir cocoa mix into 3/4 cup of hot water mixing well. Add chocolate chips, marshmallows and sprinkles. Save out the red candy ball to eat while enjoying your hot cocoa.
(Read the directions that are printed on your cocoa mix for the correct amount of water or milk as this might vary from mix to mix).
The cone itself can also be eaten of course. 

♥ Happy Decorating ♥

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Decorated Christmas Sugar Cube- Tutorial

I'm still planning ahead for the Holidays and today I'm making royal icing decorated Christmas sugar cubes. They're easy enough to make ahead, and will add a little something extra to the homemade treats I am planning to give to family members this Christmas.

Some designs are easier for me to make as icing transfers rather than pipe directly onto sugar cubes, like these little bows for example.
I've designed and printed out my bow shapes onto a piece of paper with waxed paper secured over the top of it. 
Using a fairly thick, but not quite piping, consistency royal icing I begin filling in just the top part of my bow design using the print out as a guide. I let these sections set up a bit before piping the next sections.

After the tops of the bows are set so they won't run into the next section, I pipe the lower parts of the bows, and again let these set up just a bit.

 The center is added when the other sections are dry enough not to run together. 

I decided to add tails to these even though I didn't draw them on the original design. I'm doing one at a time and again letting them dry in between so they don't run together and lose definition.

After the last tail is piped, I let these dry completely before adhering each one to a sugar cube with a dab of icing.

Another design I prefer to do as icing transfers are these tiny gingerbread men. These are done without letting the sections dry in between because I want the piped sections to blend together seamlessly.
So I don't bore you by doing each step as a separate photo I show all the piping steps here in one photo. (last 4 gingerbread men in the bottom row)
I start by piping a line across where the arms go following the waxed paper covered printout I made ahead. Then I add the legs one at a time followed by the head. After all the gingerbread men are piped I let them dry completely.
Note: If you find your icing is running together too fast, let each piped section set up a bit before piping the next one. Pipe a row or two of just the arms, and then go back and add just a leg and so on.

Once the gingerbread men were dry I painted on the details with a tiny brush and food coloring. These are adhered one at a time to a sugar cube with a dab of icing when the details are dry.

These candy canes were easy enough to pipe right onto the sugar cubes. Using a thicker but not quite outline consistency icing, (I didn't want peaks) I piped red dots into a cane shape leaving space for the white to be added later.

When the red dots were dry I piped white dots in between.

This last design was also piped directly onto the sugar cube using a small leaf icing tip.
This design takes a bit of practice especially if you've never done this technique before.  Using a slight up and down motion while gently squeezing out the icing is only way I can explain how I do this.  Ending the leaf tip can be tricky, but with practice you'll find what works. You stop squeezing and pull away. Too fast and you might end up with a split leaf point. Too slow and the leaf point may elongate and fall over the side of the cube. Like I said, practice. I do practice runs on waxed paper every time before I pipe leaves until I get the look I want and a rhythm going.
These can be done as icing transfers as well.
 Once the leaves are all piped I let them dry before going on to the next step.

After the leaves dried I piped on three red berries to give them sort of a holly look .

 Here are my finished sugar cubes all snug in these cute little candy boxes. I found these boxes with the inserts at a cake decorating store that fit 16 cubes. That looks to me like the perfect amount for gift giving. I've tried to locate them online, but no luck so far. The box comes with a clear top so all I need to add is a bow and I can cross this item off my long Holiday to do list.

  ♥ Happy Decorating

Monday, November 12, 2012

Royal Icing Jewelry Transfers - Tutorial

I like to make "cookie bling" or jewelry icing transfers throughout the year whenever I have some spare time and leftover icing. With the hectic getting-ready-for-the-holidays hubbub coming up fast it's important for me, sanity wise, to have as much advance preparation done as possible.
They're not very hard to make, but they can be time consuming, which is why I make them as time permits throughout the year.
One more thing, a good pair of off set or angled tweezers make this go so much better.

These little gems are called dragees, and depending on where you live they can be very hard if not impossible to find. I won't go into all the reasons here, but because I live in California I'll refer to them as non edible decorations and hopefully avoid be hauled off in cookie cuffs to culinary jail.
horde have various colors and sizes of these to make jewelry bling for my cookies. And because I make them as a transfer and only adhere them to the cookie with a dab of icing they're easy enough to take off  before actually eating the cookie.

Shown here are some sugar pearls and small mint candies that I use to make my cookie jewels as well. The bottom row is how these happen to look right out of the container. The top row shows how they look after I shake them around in pearl dust. Some brands come already pearlized (I'm going to say that's a word even though spell check is telling me it's not).
The larger candies on the right are Wilton mints used for making wedding favors.

 Wilton multi colored candies are on the bottom left, followed by black then pink sugar pearls.
Again the top row shows them after a shake in pearl dust.
Some brands of sugar pearls or candy don't seem to take too well to the dusting process, so I do a test run first. Also if they're handled too much the pearl dust can rub off on your fingers, so I like to use tweezers when putting together the jewels.

To make this jewel design I start by placing a drop of royal icing on a piece of waxed paper taped over a grid pattern. The grid helps me make sure I have enough room to work, by keeping them spaced apart so I won't run into the previous design and destroy all my hard work.
I set a dragee into the dot of icing letting some squish out a bit. The offset tweezers let me place them easily.

Into the excess icing I'm placing 4 tiny dragees in a square pattern around the center.

Adding more icing I place sugar pearls in between the tiny dragees. (Top of the photo)
The lower jewel in the photo is a finished one that still needs to dry.
Notice that I place just enough icing to adhere the sugar pearl I'm currently placing to the others, but not so much that it spreads out. I think it gives it a more realistic  "jewelry" look.

At the top of this photo is the beginning of another design. It starts out the same way, only this time the tiny dragees will go all the way around the center sugar pearl. You can stop at this point for a small jewel, but I'm going to add another circle of pearls.

Adding more icing as needed I surround the tiny dragees with more sugar pearls. And that finishes up that design.

This next design is one of my favorites. You start the same way as with the two lower left jewels in the photo. The next step is to place a drop of icing above each tiny dragee and add a sugar pearl. I'm adding one in this photo.

 I'm adding the third one here.
Remember to add drops of icing as needed so each bead will adhere to the ones next to it and the whole thing will hold together when dry.

This is the last pearl for this design. These all will need to dry for least 12 - 24 hours or more depending on humidity.

These are just a few of the easier multi use design shapes I use over and over. They can be easily altered by changing the color and the size of the pearls and dragees.
Using black icing instead of white will give the jewels a more dramatic look.
In the past I've added these jewels to molded fondant shapes, as well as placing them as accents for added bling and sparkle to jazz up what could be just a plain cookie.
Note:  The dragees will discolor or tarnish over time if left out in the open, so if you are making these up for future use, keep them in an airtight container once they dry. I actually pipe one design over and over until I have a sheet of them, then leave the finished and dried jewelry on the waxed paper. I place the whole sheet in a plastic "zipper" type baggie and store these stacked between a layer of bubble wrap and place them in an airtight container. When I need them I just peel them off the waxed paper and "glue" them to my cookies with a dab of icing.

Happy Decorating

Monday, November 5, 2012

Birthday Queen Cookies

I had the privilege to be part of a cookie exchange where each participant made cookies for another one's birthday. Well, the recipient I was assigned to was Dawn (Kneadacookie). No pressure.
NO PRESSURE!!! Yeah there was pressure!!!! Not only have I been a fan of her work since I first saw it on Cake Central back in 2007, she actually owns a bakery where she makes cookies and other bakery goods for a living.
Anyway, after months of wondering what I was going to make her, I finally got to work and
designed the following Birthday Queen themed cookies.

Royal Banner

Birthday Queen
I'm embarrassed to say I actually sent her the wrong cookie. I accidently sent a cookie that was unfinished, lacking the darker outlines for the facial features and the ribbons. I don't think I gilded the crown accents either.
I didn't notice that fact until I'd boxed them all up and sent them out. I found this cookie the following day still sitting where I had photographed it. The only thing I can say in my defense is that I finished boxing them up at 1:30 in the morning so my husband could take them to the post office.
I'm so sorry Dawn. Here is the Cookie Queen you should have gotten.

Special birthday plate cookie

Petit four cookies

Mini crown cookies

And for those of you wondering who sent me cookies. Here they are. These are cookies made for me by Pam also known as CookieCrazie, another cookie designer I have admired for years. I got to see these beauties up close and personal when I received them back in July for my birthday. What a treat! Thank you again Pam.

Happy Decorating