Baking a Difference with Icing Smiles

icingsmiles150

I am so excited to be a volunteer for the Icing Smiles organization. If you don’t know about Icing Smiles, please read on and learn how volunteers are Baking a Difference.

Icing Smiles is a nonprofit organization that provides custom celebration cakes and other treats to families impacted by the critical illness of a child. Icing Smiles goal is to create a custom cake for an ill child, or their sibling, that provides a temporary escape from worry and creates a positive memory during a difficult time.

Icing Smiles has a network of caring Sugar Angels (volunteers) that are made up of professional and hobby bakers, cookie decorators, drivers and other administrative professionals such as Information Specialists and State and Development Representatives.  If you would like to volunteer your skills, check out the Create a Smile page.

I am a volunteer cookie decorator and Development Representative.  As a cookie decorator, I can’t wait for my first “Call to Action”.  As a Development Representative for the State of Michigan, my plan is to reach out to Children’s Hospitals, Ronald McDonald Houses and other non-profit organizations that serve critically-ill children in the state.  Icing Smiles partners with these organizations so they can easily share information about our services with eligible families.  In addition, I will be reaching out to potential bakers in search of volunteers.

If you would like to share your skills and be a Sugar Angel, please go to Icing Smiles to learn more.

Look whooooo’s one!

What does the owl say?  Whooooooooooo, whoot, whoot, it’s Sophia’s first birthday!  Here is the set of birthday cookies for my second cousin, little Sophia and her mom and dad.

First birthday cookies

I am really happy with the way all the cookies came out but the monogram “S” cookies surprised me!  I had no idea I could make a letter look so clean and neat.  The technique came from this post from The Sweet Adventures of Sugar Belle.  I followed her technique for perfect monogram cookies and she was right they were perfect!  In my next post, I will show you the simple little decorating “tip” that I used to make the “S” on the cookie.

The owl was so fun to make.  As usual, I ran out of time and didn’t add the owl’s eyelashes or darker eyeballs.  The inspiration came from this post from Simply Sweets by Honey Bee.

The flowery “1” cookies were easy to make using the wet-on-wet technique.  It is amazing how a cute little flower can add so much fun to a cookie design.  I learned the technique from Pam at Cookie Crazie when she made these cute number “2” cookies in her post on Girly Birthday’s.

These ladies and many more have taught this Cookie Rookie everything she knows.  Thank you Cookie Queens!  Check out their work, you will be amazed.

Thanksgiving and Christmas Cookies of 2013. Where are they now?

Do you remember when…

  1. Flour, sugar and butter took over your counter-tops?  
  2. Red, green and white sanding sugar sparkled on the floor?
  3. An ominous powdered sugar cloud hovered over your KitchenAid mixer from November to December?

Ahhhh… those were the days.  Well, they haven’t completely ended because I am still finding sanding sugar on the floor which tells me my efficiently-engineered Dyson is losing its suction!  And the powdered sugar, let’s not even talk about how it has settled into the seams of my hardwood kitchen floors like grout!  It’s all worth it because fun and pretty cookies made family and friends smile and tummies happy.

This is how the cookies looked in 2013.  Thanksgiving cookies were my favorite.  I learned how to make the pumpkin pie slices from The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle, the turkeys from Bake at 350 and the pumpkins and acorns from Cookie Crazie.

Thanskgiving2013

Here is tray of the pumpkin pie slices, they are my favorite and were so much fun to make.  Thanks again to The Sweet Adventures of Sugar Belle!

PumpkinPieCookies

The Christmas cookies were fun but I quickly ran out of time and felt rushed.  Better planning and making/freezing cookies ahead of time will help me out tremendously next year.   I learned how to make the mittens from Sweetopia, the trees from Bake at 350, the reindeer, holly and gingerbread men from The Sweet Adventures of Sugar Belle.  

Christmas2013b

Christmas2013a

So, where are the cookies now?  What do they look like in 2014?  We will never know…

Christmas Over

Do you have any cookies left?

Happy New Year!

Wilton Cake Decorating Course 1

Have you ever wondered what goes on in a Wilton Cake Decorating class?  Even though I am a proud student of the University of Cookie blog, I thought it would be a good idea to participate in some hands-on training.

Since there aren’t many classes that focus on cookie decorating, I decided to take the Wilton Method Course 1: Decorating Basics classes.  There is a great local shop called Sugar Art Cake and Candy Supplies that offered the three-session class.  The store provides students with a supply list after you sign up and pay for the class.  Here is what students need to bring to the first class:

  • Wilton Course 1 Decorating Basics kit.
  • Six plain, flat, sugar or butter cookies for practice (Most students, including myself, brought sugar cookies from the bakery section of the grocery store.)
  • 1 lb can Wilton ready-to-use decorator icing.
  • A box or tupperware-like container to take home your practice cookies.
  • Apron (Should of brought mine as icing gets everywhere on your clothes.)
  • Pen and paper to take notes.
  • Scissors to cut the tips of plastic decorating bags.
  • Sticky notes (Did not use these in the class.)
  • Damp cloth (Some students brought Wet Naps or Wet Ones – great idea!)
  • 1 gallon size plastic food storage bag to carry home used tools.
Course kit and lesson plan

Course kit and lesson plan

Many students had bought the accompanying Lesson Plan book.  The book was not listed on our class supply list but was highly recommended by our instructor.  I ended up purchasing the book after the class and am glad that I did.  The book contains the recipes, pictures and supply lists of our upcoming projects.  Very important!

There were 16 ladies in the class ranging from a 15 year-old to a lady in her early 70’s.  We started out by learning about bags, tips and couplers.  We set up our decorating bags with the #12 tip and filled it with the Wilton icing.  The icing is super stiff in consistency.  Stir in some water when the icing is in the can.  Otherwise, it will be almost impossible to squeeze the icing out of the bag.  We learned that there are three things that make for a successful cake decorations.

  1. Consistency of the icing
  2. Position of the bag (angle)
  3. Pressure on the bag as you are squeezing out the icing
Wilton cake decorating practice board

Wilton cake decorating practice board

The decorating kit comes with a very cool practice board and practice sheets.  The practice sheets sit underneath a plastic cover so that you can practice making stars, rosettes, dots and lines to your heart’s content.  When you are done, scrape off the decorations and start over.

We then practiced making stars and dots on our sugar cookies.  I didn’t take any pictures of my beautifully decorated cookies (okay, I am lying my cookies looked awful!)  I realized that cake decorating is more difficult than I thought.  Let’s just say that I need a lot more practice.

Next week, we are bringing a fully iced cake, piping gel, gel coloring and three cups of Wilton recipe buttercream icing to class.  The Wilton recipe will be included in my next post.  Be prepared… it is basically one cup of vegetable shortening (a.k.a. Cricso) and 2 lbs of powdered sugar.  More on that later… but there were some gasps in the classroom when the recipe ingredients were read off.

How do you make your buttercream frosting?  Butter or vegetable shortening or a mixture of both?

Is there a Cookie Doctor in the House?

I wanted to bring my doctor and his staff at the University of Michigan Hospital a set of medical cookies. My inspiration came from Pam at CookieCrazie and her set of Get Well Medical cookies.  Unfortunately, I ran out of time before my appointment and these cookies never made it to the office.

After receiving my order of cookie cutters from Cheap Cookie Cutters, I designed the following cookies on paper.

  • Lab coat
  • Bandage
  • Heart
  • 3.5 Rectangle for a prescription
  • Pill bottle

Drawing the cookie designs on paper helped me put my ideas to practice.  This was the easy part…

Medical cookie designs

Medical cookie designs

I learned a lot during my first full blown decorating session.  At many times, I found myself asking if there was a Cookie Doctor in the house?  

Here is my top ten list of Cookie Rookie DO’s and DON’Ts:

  1. Do plan ahead by drawing your designs and listing the colors you will need.
  2. Do mix and bag all your colors before the decorating begins.  See #3
  3. Do have enough tips and couplers for each color in both piping and flood consistency.  See #2
  4. Do not underestimate the amount of time needed to decorate all the cookies.
  5. Do not move freshly decorated cookies from surface to surface.  Cookies were damaged in this process.  See #6
  6. Do have enough trays.  Move the entire tray not each cookie to the drying area. See #5
  7. Do not let a iced cookie dry over 30 minutes if you are poking holes or making indents (see band-aid and pill bottle caps below.)  After one hour of drying, my poking and prodding caused rough edged holes and cracking. Doctor needed in the kitchen STAT!
  8. Do not try to fix a really bad mistake.  Instead scrape off all the icing and start over.
  9. Do use fine-tipped food color markers instead of regular-tipped for handwriting (see prescriptions and pill bottle labels below.)
  10. Do have fun!  It’s still a delicious, fun cookie and your just learning.  You will get better.  Doctor’s Orders!

Medical Cookies set

Please share your DOs and DON’Ts of cookie decorating by commenting below.

Confessions of a Cookie Rookie

I have been diligently using my Michaels coupons to save 40% on cookie decorating tools.  Tips, bags, and couplers! Oh My!  Don’t throw your savings in the trash.  I put my very limited supply of #2 and #3 tips in the sink to be washed.  They are so little and they look like my sink!  Well… they went down into the garbage disposal and ended up like this crime scene photo below. Shield your eyes, the picture is not for the faint of heart.

Tips after a ride in the garbage disposal

Tips after a ride in the garbage disposal

Lesson learned:  put tips in a small white bowl on the side of the sink to be washed separately. Hopefully, I won’t have too many cookie rookie posts.  Count this as a cookie rookie mistake #1. Please share your cookie rookie mistakes with us.

New Cookie Decorator

I am a new student of the University of Cookie blog and am excited to learn and develop my skills. As a freshman at U of C, my knowledge and inspiration comes from professor bloggers such as Bridget of Bake at 350, Callye of The Sweet Adventures of Sugar Belle, Marian of Sweetopia and Shelly of Cookies & Cups. Please see the list of blogs and websites that I follow on the right for many more talented bakers and decorators.

I love to bake and make people smile, especially my family and friends.  Recently, we had a send-off party for my college freshman niece.  Here is her picture with the Michigan State University Sparty decorated cake and “S” Spartan block cookies that I made.  The cookies are covered in fondant and the cake decoration was made with the same fondant.  The cookies were outlined in royal icing.  This was my second attempt at cookies.

Sparty cake and S cookies

Sparty cake and S cookies

Two weeks earlier, I made another set of “S” cookies for SpringHill camp workers that stayed at our church for a week.  Again, the cookie was covered in fondant and outlined in royal icing.  My S’s were not all uniform in shape and I made the royal icing way to stiff but it all worked out.  As Bridget said her her post about drying royal icing, “decorated cookies are always cute.”

Springhill Camps

Springhill Camps Cookies

Thanks for reading my first post.  I am learning, so please be patient with my photos and cookies.

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