christmas decorating & baking | 2011

DECORATING GINGERBREAD

We split our usual gingerbread decorating fun into two days this year. We made the cookies two weeks ago after crafts and this past weekend we decorated one large house, four mini houses and three sleighs.

The kids transformed these…


…into these:

And this…


…into this:


Lots of candies were used.


No really. Lots of candies were used. Gumdrops were also being snuck when they thought I wasn’t watching.


Something we do while decorating gingerbread houses is to create windows and doors on individual graham crackers. The kids get to work in their own little space on their own individual piece and we don’t have to worry about stuff falling off of the house as it dries. The above graham cracker is Grace’s design and it made me laugh because she just piled candies on top of one another with no icing to adhere them down. You knew when you lifted this one that those little candy balls were rolling everywhere.

I have swept countless amounts of sprinkles and small candy bits from my dining room this past week.


Love Grace’s face here. She was explaining to the other kids why she chose to decorate one corner of the house in all purple lights (see the 5 purple candies in a line?)


Of course, this gingerbread largely remains unedible because it’s so hard but we have fun during the process and we use the pieces are decoration on our Christmas Eve table. Win-Win.

CAKE POPS

I also did a little baking recently. The kids keep asking who I am making all of these cake pops for and I said “I have no idea”. I am not sure if I am actually assembling them onto cookie trays or not, but it seems that even without an end goal in mind, I can’t help making them for the past two days! I finally bought myself a candy melter which was a total last-minute purchase as I stood at the register at AC Moore the other day. Best $30 I ever spent!



Chocolate that stays warm and gooey for the dipping process. Perfect!

Cake pops are soooo easy to make! All you need is a boxed cake mix and frosting!  I made them years ago and hated the dipping process. I despise dipping. I make delicious Oreo Truffles for Christmas and I won’t even dip those. However, armed with some tips, I decided to give the pops one more try this year. This is what worked for me.

Bake your cake according to package directions. You can use any flavor you like. Cool the cake (I’ve actually been leaving mine overnight). Crumble the entire cake. Yes, just shred the whole thing apart. Spoon in about half a can of frosting. ONLY half the can! In the past, I’ve used the full can and it makes the cake balls way too moist. This leads to them falling apart during the dipping which usually leads to me throwing something across my kitchen in a fit of baking rage. So do yourself a favor and for the love of cake balls, only use half the can.

Mix it in with a fork to start. Then you can finish mixing with your hand. It will resemble cookie dough at this point. It looks raw but as you know since you did the prep work, it’s really cooked.

Using my Pampered Chef cookie scoop, I scooped out even amounts of batter. My cake balls were about 1 1/2″ big after rolling. Roll & line them up on baking sheets lined with waxed paper.

Take out your pot of melted chocolate. If you didn’t do that yet, go melt some. I’ll wait.

Ok I am done waiting.

Now the most important trick of all: dip your lollipop stick into the melted chocolate just a bit. And stick it in the cake ball. They will look someting like this arranged on your baking sheet.

I am showing the ones using red chocolate from the day before because the cake balls that paired with the green chocolate were strawberry and while they tasted phenomenal, they looked like raw meatballs on the tray and really, what’s appetizing about that?!

Now pop the whole tray in the fridge so they can firm-up a bit. Give it a good 30 minutes if not a little longer. I had two fall off the stick today but none yesterday. You want them as “glued” to that stick as possible.

Take them out of the fridge and dip! I sprinkled mine with Christmas sprinkles after. The pops covered in red candy melts are vanilla inside. The green covered ones are strawberry. Had I known I was going to decide on a strawberry cake last night for today’s pop-making, I would have covered them in red because strawberry seems to make sense with a red coating. But like I said, it was a last minute decision so these are ass backward cake pops. What can I say.

Emily tried one and said  “Mom, I am not going to tell Starbucks this but, yours are better”.


Next-up I am going to make either chocolate or brownie ones. I am thinking brownie so they can sort of taste like the Starbucks ones (by the way, my yellow cake – red coating pops totally taste like Birthday Cake pops from Starbucks!)

Here’s a cake pop funny: a few days ago I was going through the Starbucks drive-thru and ordered “Two candy cane cake pops please”. The barista said “Oh, you mean the Mint Brownie ones?” and I did a double take at the menu board and was shocked to find that they aren’t called Candy Cane Cake Pops at all. Which is kind of cool because I always thought that was a bit like a tongue twister but seriously, I’ve been ordering Candy Cane Cake Pops for the past 2 or 3 weeks. I love how I just decided on my own name for them and went with it.

Ok back to my cake pops.

So even though I have my handy dandy new melter, melting chocolate and dipping stuff in it is still not my most favorite baking activity. I like for things to be simple yet tasty and even better if they are easy to package. I decided to take a few of my strawberry cake balls, roll them in powdered sugar and place each one in a mini cupcake liner. Then I put them in the fridge. Pop one of those babies in your mouth. Unreal.

These are my Strawberry Cake Ball Truffles. I can feel my sugar count spiking as I type this.


Happy gingerbread-decorating, cake-pop-making to you!

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