Yuletide Greetings!

Are you guys ready to welcome jolly old Saint Nick with open arms for breaking into your house, raiding your cookie jar, and delivering every present on your list?

Yeah, me too. My heart is thumpin' with anticip . . . ation!

I've been baking goodies all month long, in the hopes that my relentless kissing-up will get me back on Santa's Short, but Nice List , and I've got a few more days to go.

Jeepers. I'm almost willing to bet my little scheme will guarantee a nice present under the tree with my name on it. However, if said plan fails, we're all going out the old fashioned way, guns a blazin'!

Of course, I'm kidding. You don't really think I'd heckle the dude in the red suit, and certainly not three short days before Christmas. Besides, I know I can count on my friends' awesome power of intercession, to bail me out. Be you the friends who will vouch for me? Well, be ya?

In the meantime, I'm hoping this will help clear my name...

Everything you see pictured above is gingerbread. I know it's late to post the instructions for this colossal cookie, but it's actually pretty basic, achieved with mostly straight cuts for the rustic sign, ribbons and bow.
The pine boughs and pine cones were rolled into 2½" long sticks, and the pine cones were rolled into slightly-elongated oval shapes. They were all baked, and cooled completely before piping the needles and petals with royal icing, using #4 tip for needles, and #102 for petals.

I used white royal icing for all the "greenery" and once they were completely set, they were airbrushed in the appropriate colors. You could also paint them, following the instructions here.
Once fully dried, the pine cones were lightly dusted with gold petal dust to give them some depth.

The bow consisted of two pieces, each about 4½" long. Each piece was wrapped around (greased and floured) cannoli tubes, and baked. Allowed to cool at least 15 minutes before sliding off the molds.

Here's the recipe for the gingerbread I use. This is an old recipe, which is pretty tasty and also pretty strong, and it's the only one I use for gingerbread houses and even the choo-choo train on the right. I've also used it for making Christmas tree decorations. You hear that Santa baby? I be good.


1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 cup molasses
1 teaspoon salt
4½ cups AP flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon baking soda

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar, molasses and salt, and stir until sugar is dissolved. Set mixture aside to cool.
Sift dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in cooled molasses mixture and blend well. Dough will be stiff. Knead lightly until it just comes together.
Press dough into a thick flat disc. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll  out dough onto a lightly-floured surface to a ¼" thickness. Bake gingerbread on parchment paper lined cookie sheet for 12 to 15 minutes. Cool cookies for several minutes, or until they're firm enough to lift. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Peace and Joy to you, my friends.


Unleash your Inner Jimi Hendrix...

...or Eddie Van Halen...Jimmy Page...Carlos Santana...Thumper?
The crowd roars! Thumper it is.
Without further ado, I give you our newest Guitar Hero: Thumper!

Between Thumper and his sister they have a total of 6 (not all pictured) guitars in their possession.

Oddly enough, that's not what our rocker dude has been favoring lately. Granted, his ability to play an actual guitar is still in the embryonic stages. But, the dexterity in his fingers hovering over the --made in China-- stringless guitar makes this groupie squeal with utter delight. So much so, I baked him a cake.
Motherly? You bet. But, my offerings featured dark chocolate cake, chocolate flames, and a guitar facsimile made entirely of sugar, which he was encouraged to break into smithereens, after his concert performance.

The design was very simple, because the chocolate flames set up quickly, and the cake was simply iced in buttercream. Since the cake was covered with chocolate flames, it did not need to be iced perfectly smooth. Get thee behind me Martha!

Not to mention I only had one day to make this cake. Yes, desperate times call for desperate deeds...done dirt cheap. Any AC/DC fans out there?

You could forgo the buttercream, and use rolled fondant for the cake and royal icing for the flames. I chose buttercream because my dear husband has this silly notion that fondant and royal icing should be relegated to minor household repairs.
I tend to disagree. Besides, I have a feeling that someday, he'll learn to like fondant, and all it's gonna take is a gentle thwack of my cast iron pan upside his mangy little head.

In any event, the cake consisted of 4 layers, 2 - 8" layers, and 2 - 7" layers, all torted. I wanted a bit of a ledge, if you will, to support the massive wall of chocolate flames made to wrap around the cake.
For the flames, I melted 1½ pounds of white chocolate, and tinted it with a small amount of yellow paste food coloring. Using a dessert spoon I picked up a small blob of chocolate and dropped it onto parchment paper. I then used the tip of the spoon to quickly drag the melted chocolate to an irregular point.

Btw, roughly calculating the height of the assembled cake before making the flames --like I did-- is strictly prohibited. Please, carefully measure your torted and stacked tiers to determine the size needed for the flames on your cake. Keep in mind that at least half the flames should extend a bit beyond the height of your cake.

Once the chocolate flames were firm, I lightly airbrushed their edges in red. Don't worry if you don't have an airbrush. Brushing the flames with petal dust in the appropriate color will give you the same effect.

The pattern for the guitar was drawn freehand onto poster board, and cut out with an x-acto knife. The pattern was then placed onto thinly rolled pastillage (pastillage is a sugar based, modeling medium that dries faster and stronger than gum paste) and cut out. Once dried, the guitar was also airbrushed.

Again, if you don't own an airbrush, simply paint the guitar with paste (or powder) food coloring combined with clear alcohol, such as Gin, Vodka or Everclear. Lemon and Almond Extracts also work very well.

Because Thumper does not appreciate biting into a piece of chalky pastillage, the letters were cut out of green Tootsie Rolls, using mini-alphabet cookie cutters. Incidentally, you could use any malleable candy available in your area, such as Edo Candy Dough or Starburst candies.

The following chocolate cake is the birthday boy's favorite*

Chocolate Sour Cream Cake

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 cups granulated sugar
1½ cups cake flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup hot strong brewed coffee**
½ cup sour cream
½ cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 - 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper. Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler, over simmering water. Or melt in the microwave, checking and stirring often, until almost melted. Remove and set aside, the residual heat will melt the chocolate completely by the time you're ready to use it.

Sift the sugar, flour, baking soda and salt together into a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the hot coffee, sour cream and vegetable oil until blended.
With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the coffee mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until blended. Stop to scrape down the bowl several times while mixing.
Add the lightly beaten eggs, one at a time, and mix on medium-low speed until smooth, 10-15 seconds. Scrape the bowl each time. Add the melted chocolate and mix until combined.

Divide the batter evenly between prepared pans and place them on the center rack of the oven.
Bake until a tester comes out dry, 35 to 38 minutes. Cool the layers in the pan for about 15 minutes, remove from the pans and cool completely on a rack before icing the cake.
Yields: 12 to 16 servings. Adapted from Rosy's Bakery All-Butter, Fresh Cream, Sugar-Packed Baking Book.

* I prepared two separate batches for the birthday cake.
** I used instant espresso, Medaglia D' Oro.

Well, looks like visiting hours are over. Crank up your ovens, my friends.


Hey gang, it's awards time.

I've been busy battling Old Man Winter, and guess who's about to raise a white flag.
It's been snowing since Sunday afternoon. It is now Monday, and I'm ready for Spring.
This is what awaited me as I stepped out in the front porch this morning. Incidentally, that is not a picture of my cat. I stole it from one of my favorite sites, I can has cheezburger?

Oh, merciful Heaven, how much more of this fluffy, white stuff must a mere mortal endure!?

I'd like to take a moment (while I freeze my assets off waiting for Spring) to thank dear Jain from Once in a Blue Moon Iris for honoring me with the Brillante Weblog Premio 2008.

Thank you Jain! Please, check out Jain's lovely blog.
And now, allow me the honor to pass along this award to the following bloggers:

The Village Voice, whose creative blog is filled with her artistic photography, wonderful travels, equally wonderful recipes and inspiring quotes. If we lived next door to each other, I'd be the Kramer (Seinfeld's intrusive neighbor) in her life. Please, visit her amazing blog.

Just the Right Size. Kathy has a penchant for good food, good wine and good humor...better than ice cream [G].

Food Box, here you'll find beautiful pictures of wonderful food and travels. Pure eye candy.

Y - Why ask Y? Because she's a baker extraordinaire. Check out her yummy blog.

Cooking my Life Maureen is a delightful writer, her blog covers everything from her cooking and travels, to her crafts. She carries a big (glue) gun, and she knows how to use it.

Happy Loves Strawberry If you like cookies, cakes and a myriad of treats with a nod to healthier ingredients because you want to make your momma happy, then Indigo's blog is for you.

Artsy Foodie. Alexa's site focuses on healthy fare. A look at her pictures and recipes prove that healthy can also mean delicious, in the right hands.

Here are the rules for the recipients:

1. The award may be displayed on a winner’s blog.
2. Add a link to the person you received the award from.
3. Nominate up to seven other blogs.
4. Add their links to your blog.
5. Add a message to each person that you have passed the award on in the comments section of their blog.