Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sweet Dreams are made of Pink - Macaron and Marshmallow Tower

It was the marshmallows. That big huge bag of pretty soft purple marshmallows. They were not the right colour for my party table and I didn't end up using them, but they were oh so dreamy and pretty.

I had to use them and although they did not match Sweet's party table they did perfectly match all the left over treats.

I was in a living dream of swirly pink sweets and each afternoon the kids would come home to another version of leftovers.

This macaron and marshmallow tower was just so pretty. I think it was even prettier in real life and it would make the sweetest addition to a dessert table.

The best part about the marshmallows in the tower, apart from the fact they look pretty and are a lovely colour and texture contrast is that they are very cost effective compared to macarons. It actually uses quite a lot of macarons to make a tower, way more than you might suspect so the marshmallows are a great filler.

I will have a free video tutorial up on my youtube channel during the week showing me making this tower. If you would like to subscribe to my you tube channel CLICK HERE.

Shop the shoot note:  

Floral pink and grey bowls and jug in picture Greengate.
Simply Sweet Home Facebook or Email new Australian stockist for details.

The purple puff marshmallows I used are by Fino - I got mine from Big Lolly Click HERE

How to make a macaron and marshmallow tower
Make sure everyone eating from the tower knows there are toothpicks being used and check kids marshmallows before they eat them to ensure sticks have been removed.

Styro foam cone 10cm (4") bottom by 25cm (10") high (available craft stores CLICK HERE)
Ready Roll Fondant
Large Rolling pin
9-10 small macarons (Click HERE for macaron recipe)
up to15-20 regular macarons
up to 40 marshmallows (mine from Big Lolly)
Sugar Flowers (CLICK HERE for instructions to make your own)

Knead fondant, dust workbench and roll out fondant until quite thing. Brush the cone with water and then wrap the fondant around cutting off any excess at the back where it joins and pressing the fondant down it into place on the cone. Use fondant smoothers if you have them otherwise you can use your hands,

I decided to have a smaller macaron layer sideways and then regular sized macarons lying flat side out. Cut toothpicks in half and starting at the top push a toothpick into the cone through the fondant. Stick a macaron onto the toothpick and then repeat the process working your way down in a softly spiraling line as shown in the picture. This will be the front center of your tower so make sure it is adhered in a pretty even line. Push a whole toothpick into the top point of the fondant covered cone.

Starting at the top again attach a layer of marshmallows on either side of the macarons. I used toothpicks in the picture, but you can use royal icing# to adhere the marshmallows as the toothpicks can lodge in the marshmallows when being removed.

#do not adhere macarons with royal icing as the delicate shells will not easily lift off, toothpicks do not stick to the macarons the same as they do marshmallows.

Work a layer of Macarons on each side of the marshmallows. Continue to adhere marshmallows and macarons to the back of the tower. The back of the macaron tower will not be as pretty as the front, but try to work the macarons and marshmallows in a design that looks even.

Finish the tower off with a regular sized maracon at the top of the cone (in the toothpick you popped in the top at the start).

Using royal icing adhere a few sugar flowers to the macarons as decoration.

Linda Vandermeer is a blogger, baker, maker and author of the cookbook ' Sweets on a Stick': More than 150 kid friendly recipes for cakes, candies, cookies and pies on the go!. Published in the US the book is available at most online book stores.

This post is not sponsored and I have received no financial compensation, however I am related to the owner of Simply Sweet Home.

Original Ideas, photography and recipes by Linda Vandermeer do not reuse without permission.  

Monday, August 25, 2014

Tweet tweet super cute bird cake pops free video tutorial

I've got a new free video tutorial up on how to make these super cute bird cake pops. They are actually pretty easy once you see how. I shape the birds, melt the 'chocolate' showing the correct consistency, insert the sticks, chill, dip and decorate.

Click on this link below to watch the video:

The blue bird cake pops in the picture were originally made for Sweet's 6th birthday party CLICK HERE for more pictures.

If you need a link to a recipe try out one of these easy no bake versions:

Oreo cookie truffle pop recipe by Bubble and Sweet
Tim Tam cookie truffle pop recipe by Bubble and Sweet

If you can't find copha try substituting paramount crystals. I use a ratio of 7 parts candy melt to 1 part copha/crystals eg. 70 grams candy melt to 10 grams copha/crystals or 7oz candy melt to 1 oz paramount crystals.

Candy melts, cake pop sticks, edible eyes, heart sprinkles and edible pens can be found at most craft or cake decorating shops or see the below affiliate links to amazon:

Linda Vandermeer is a blogger, baker, maker and author of the cookbook ' Sweets on a Stick': More than 150 kid friendly recipes for cakes, candies, cookies and pies on the go!. Published in the US the book is available at most online book stores.

Affiliate links may earn me money and contribute to supporting this blog.

Original Ideas, photography and recipes by Linda Vandermeer do not reuse without permission.  

Friday, August 22, 2014

Make Your Own Ice Cream Party for Bubble's 10th Birthday Party

Well that's it. It's over. I blinked and this year Bubble was too old for a pretty ruffly party (#see disclaimer at bottom). It's ok I'm not bitter I did get 5 years worth of adorable parties out of her.

Party Evolution
6yr Fairy Party, 7yr Mermaid Party, 8yr Princess Party (photo's by Alyce Holzberger),  

Besides, we were never going to have a party this year. We have a big holiday planned so when I booked it in I told the kids firmly 'No parties this year!'

But we all know the parties are really for me, and so I didn't pay any attention to that firm voice. Sadly I also didn't pay enough attention to the passing days.

While I was having my inner debate, would we party or wouldn't we, was I going to cave and pay big bucks for one of those new trampoline-lazer tag superdooper fun places the decision was made. Procrastination was my enemy and my friend 'cause we all know leave it too late and the only time left to book in at one of those party places is early Sunday morning when none of the kids will be able to turn up anyway.

OK decision made do it at home on a budget but the problem was these kids are 10 years old boys and girls. It's a seriously hard crowd to please, I had no idea what to do.

Then while I was shopping I spied a couple of huge bottles of water balloons with 500 balloons in each for $8 and despite the fact it is the middle of winter here another decision was made. We live a few doors down from a park which is pretty quite mostly and it would be a perfect spot for the kids to have their crazy time * see cleaning up note below.

Then the real negotiations started. Bubble was adamant that as there were boys attending the party should not be pink, or pretty or ruffly.

I took a deep breath and decided to go all Disney on her.

Yup I let it go.

We decided to have a make your own ice-cream bar, which was a bit sad for me as no real baking or decorating but good for me too as no real baking and decorating. It was so relaxed in the lead up to the party.

Well pretty much super relaxed until I messaged my SIL about her daughter's birthday party which was about a week and a half away and found out that my niece's party was actually 3 days away and Bubble's party was 10 days away.

Anyhoo it all worked out in the end, Bubble was super happy surrounded by her friends, it was a lovely sunny day warm enough for the water play but cool enough the ice-cream did not melt and everyone seemed to have fun.

Party Food
As I said I was pretty relaxed and mostly everything was store bought with the exception of the macarons and chocolate chip cookies (for making ice-cream sandwiches). 

The most popular stuff was the popping candy and the cream filled wafers.

Store bought Vanilla and Chocolate Ice-cream
Ice Cream Sundae Macarons (recipe/instructions to follow next week)
Popping Candy
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Cream filled wafers
Caramel popcorn
Waffle Cones
Lollipops (take home treat)
Whipped cream in a can
Maraschino Cherries
M and M's
Chocolate, Strawberry and Caramel sauce
Soft drink (Soda)

Party Table Details

Everything on the table was something I already had or borrowed with the exception of a few discount items as detailed below:

Center table/riser - that's my mint green stand covered in red polka dot wrapping paper.
Red and white polkadot buckets for ice-cream from Choice discount/dollar store $2.50 for a set of 3.
Mason jars with straws - from K-mart discount department store for $2 each. I decorated them with washi tape and chalkboard stickers I picked up from another discount/dollar store. I let the kids take these home if they wanted as part of their loot/treat bag.
Glitter Straws - I alternated straws - see how I made the glitter washi tape straws (See post HERE)

Lollipops - $1 each from Kmart. I stuck them in that pink stand I borrowed from my SIL's party and tied with a bit of red ribbon I had sitting around. They were part of the kids take home treats.

White dispenser - this is actually a cutlery holder I've had for a while - I picked it up at Mollegaarden HERE. Then I stuck on some of those chalkboard stickers.
Strawberry treat bags - Oh my how cute are these, they are from Paper Glitter CLICK HERE
White Cake Stands - the stands used were existing ones I have had for quite a few years
Chalkboard stands - $3 for a set of 3 from Shmick available at some discount stores or online
Red and white polkadot bowls - Greengate
Gold spoons - Christina Rae
Red baskets, hanging lanterns and gingham placemats borrowed from SIL similar available party or discount stores

Party Games

Photo booth - We started the party off with a homemade photo booth using an instant/Polaroid camera and dress ups we already had. Although it was fun it was a bit less successful than I thought it would be.  Maybe it's more of an end of the party thing, it took everyone forever to pick what they wanted to wear. It was good however to keep the kids occupied while everyone else was turning up.
Make your own Ice-cream bar - I'm calling this an activity as they kids got to make their own sundae or ice-cream soda or ice-cream sandwich or pretty much whatever.The kids enjoyed this, apparently whipped cream in a tin is big with 10 year olds.
Water Balloon tag at the park. Mr Sweet spent about 4 hours filling water balloons. The kids spent about 10 minutes using them all up. But then they kept playing at the park so it was all good.
*Water Balloon clean up. We gave everyone a bag and told them the one with the most used water balloons would win a prize. Yes we really did that, the kids knew it was clean up but they were super good natured about it and we cleaned the park up in no time.
Lunch -  we headed back home and the kids had lunch of sushi and sandwiches.

#disclaimer I make no promises that it is really, really over I am an eternal optimist.

Linda Vandermeer is a blogger, baker, maker and author of the cookbook ' Sweets on a Stick': More than 150 kid friendly recipes for cakes, candies, cookies and pies on the go!. Published in the US the book is available at most online book stores.

Original photography by Linda Vandermeer do not reuse without permission.  Note some of the previous party photographs in this post were taken by other photographers, please do not reuse those photos.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Baking hack Marshmallow Booster for domed cakes

Some times I make mistakes.

OK, OK I know I make mistakes all the time. But sometimes I make mistakes that require me to come up with a solution that ends up being kinda cool and worth sharing with everyone.

Like last Sunday, when I baked a packet mix cake and did not follow the instructions properly because I used a smaller tin, split the mix into 2 cakes and was lazy and did not line the tin as directed.

In my mind I was thinking that if I used two 6 inch tins I would end up with a lovely tall cake instead of a regular 8 inch flat cake. But at least 2 of those things I did wrong can result in the cake cooking quicker than usual which can mean overly domed (peaked) cakes.

And that is what happened, it was my fault - I know it - no use getting upset over it.

But I didn't want to cut off the tops to level the cakes, it was just too much to lose and it was too big a space to just fill with plain ganache, so I came up with this marshmallow booster cake hack idea.

I placed the cake flat side down on my cake stand, put a thin layer of chocolate ganache over the domed top of the cake and then stuck a ring of marshmallows around the edge of the cake. Then I filled in the rest with ganache* and squished them together with the other cake flat side on the top. I chilled the cake for a bit and then covered the sides and top with the remaining ganache using a kitchen knife.

*to make ganache melt 2 parts chocolate to 1 part cream (so for example 200g (8oz) chocolate to 100g (4oz) cream) in the microwave at high heat for a minute leave to rest and then whisk until smooth. Heat another minute or 2 if the mixture is not smooth and then whisk again.

I decorated the top with some raspberries but you can do what ever you like.

It was a pretty good save if I do say so myself, the marshmallows are more economical than chocolate and not as heavy and dense, plus to the kids it seemed like I was doing something exciting.

Hope you enjoyed my cake fail. We all did :)

Linda Vandermeer is a blogger, baker, maker and author of the cookbook ' Sweets on a Stick': More than 150 kid friendly recipes for cakes, candies, cookies and pies on the go!. Published in the US the book is available at most online book stores.

Original Ideas, photography and recipes by Linda Vandermeer unless otherwise stated do not reuse without permission. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

All that glitters party straws - DIY budget party craft

Bubble's birthday party was last weekend. It was a fun budget birthday organised in under 2 weeks which I will be sharing as soon as I sort out the photo's.

In the meantime here is a quick bit of diy decorating that I did for her party. It's so pretty you could even use it for a grown up party.

I made up a bunch of gold glitter straw flags for the party which looked pretty fabulous considering they cost a few dollars for the whole lot.

Yup $2 for a pack of those cute chevron straws and $1* for a roll of gold glitter tape. Plus next to no time.
*I had a quick check online and the gold glitter tape I found was more expensive that the one I picked up at the discount store, so shop around or happily pay a little more and support local businesses your choice :)

Gold Glitter flag instructions

So pretty much all you do is cut a short length of tape, fold it in half to make a crease, take off the plastic backing, place it around the straw so that the fold you have made aligns along the straw to make sure it is even and then press the sticky sides together. You can leave the flag with a flat even edge, or if you like take a sharp pair of scissors and cut a little V away as shown in the picture. So easy peasy I know I didn't even need to put the written how to but it makes me feel like I'm doing something ;)

I'm not the first person to do this, my SIL did this glitter tape at my niece's birthday party plus last year I did pretty much the same thing but used floral tape instead of glitter. But it is soooo pretty I had to share the pictures.

Shopping notes:

Gold Glitter tape in pack of 4 from Big W discount department store Australia (pack of 4 glitter tape $4)
Pink Chevron Girl straws Shmick CLICK HERE
Pink polkadot and floral fabic tape from Choice discount stores Australia
Pink twine Greengate
Scissors - similar available on Ebay

Linda Vandermeer is a blogger, baker, maker and author of the cookbook ' Sweets on a Stick': More than 150 kid friendly recipes for cakes, candies, cookies and pies on the go!. Published in the US the book is available at most online book stores.

Original photography by Linda Vandermeer do not reuse without permission.  

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sweet Strawberry Cookies

My niece had an adorable Strawberry themed birthday party on the weekend and I made up some cookies to go onto the party table.

Strawberries are so yummy and cute, I don't even know why I haven't had my own Strawberry party yet. Did I mention it was adorable? A-dor-able!

Plus there are so many cute things you can pick up for a bargain to match a strawberry theme. Hello red polka dots or pink and lime gingham. Plus ready made strawberry piƱata's for decoration, oh my goodness it's a strawberry theme party decorators dream at the discount stores.

Anyway, like I said I was making the cookies plus some macarons, so about 10 days before the party I rang up my Sister in law (SIL) and said 'Hey I think I'll make the cookies this weekend because they keep really well and then I can just make the macarons the Friday before'.

Y'all know because macarons are best when they have sat in the fridge for at least a day so I was thinking I had it all planned.

So I heard a moments silence, and then my SIL let me know the party was actually in 3 days time, and that my own daughter's birthday party was the one in 10 days time (yup forgot my own daughter's party date...... more on that revelation in another post).

Eeeek! Anyhoo people that know me are probably not very surprised with this story.

So I started making cookies as soon as I hung up the phone and came up with this cute set to match the rest of the party.

Luckily I was able to quickly get some edible frosting sheets from Caketopia in pink and lime gingham which pretty much made decorating so much faster, and easier, and did I say faster 'cause that was really important.

Seriously people edible frosting sheets - try it, the ones I got from Caketopia were so easy to use.

The bigger plaque cookies were not exactly what I wanted, I was hoping to do pink and white royal icing stripes, but seeings as I was working on a new super short timeframe I was pretty happy with how they ended up.

Scroll down below for the step by step instructions on how to make your own strawberry cookies.
Plus if you like my strawberry cookies you might like these from some of the blogs I follow:

3D Strawberry Sugar Cookies - by Munchkin Munchies
Pretty summer Strawberry Cookies (on a square cookie) by Sugarbelle
How to make simple Strawberry Shortcake cookies by Sugarbelle (includes cookie cutter hack)
Shortbread Strawberries (with Kawaii faces) by Butter Hearts Sugar
Simple Strawberry Cookies by Bake at 350

I've also popped up a free video tutorial of me making the strawberries cookies here:

Sweet Strawberry Decorated Cookie
The cookie dough recipe made up at batch of over 30 cookies. If you like you can add raspberry flavour to your red fondant to improve the taste - I did.

Strawberry shaped cookie (CLICK HERE for my favourite vanilla cut out cookie dough)
Strawberry shaped cookie cutter
Fondant (Red, green, white and yellow) either buy already coloured or buy white and colour with gel food colours^
cornflour (cornstarch)
clean brushes and water
sharp knife
small plastic rolling pin
small blossom cutter - mine is an ejector cutter
small fondant ball tool
dresden tool
non stick foam

^fondant dries out quickly, when not in use store in an airtight container or ziplock bag. To use fondant knead until pliable and smooth and roll out on a workbench dusted with cornflour (cornstarch). 

Knead the red fondant until smooth and pliable. Dust workbench with cornflour (corn starch) and using the small plastic rolling pin roll out fondant until quite thin then using the strawberry cutter cut out a fondant shape.

Use the sharp knife to cut off the top section which resembles the leaves/stalk.

Brush a small amount of water onto the cookie and adhere the red fondant shape to the cookie, use the rolling pin to roll/push the fondant into shape if it is a little smaller than your cookie.

Knead the green fondant, dust the workbench and roll out the fondant. Cut out another strawberry shape, you only need the top third of the shape so you only need to cut that much out.

Using the sharp knife cut the stalk and leaves of the strawberry as shown in the picture.

Brush a little water onto the top of the cookie and a very small amount onto the very top of the red fondant and adhere the green stalk and leaves to the cookie.

Using your fingers roll out a long thin strip of green fondant to make a vine, I like mine to taper at the end, place it onto the cookie twisting it until it resembles a curly vine and press into place, if the fondant  has not dried it should stay in place, if the fondant is a little dry use a tiny amount of water in one or two spots to stick the fondant in place. Remember when you press the blossoms in at the next step they will also help secure the vine. Cut any excess off where the vine meets the leaves at the top with the sharp knife.

Make the small 'strawberry' blossoms. Dust the workbench and roll out the white fondant, use the ejector cutter to cut out 2 small blossoms. Place the blossoms onto the non stick foam pad and press the ball tool onto each of the petals to make the petals thinner and cupped in shape. Pop the 'strawberry' blossoms onto the cookie on the fondant vine as shown in the picture, one at the top and one half way along and press into place. *Roll a small amount of yellow fondant into a ball and press into the center of the blossom.

(I actually have a whole tutorial on making simple sugar flowers CLICK HERE)

Using the knife or a fondant tool, press indents into the red fondant where you would like to place strawberry seeds. *Roll tiny pieces of yellow fondant into seeds and press into place with a fondant tool.

*Note the blossom centers and seeds can also be made by piping yellow royal icing.

Decorated cookies can be made a week in advance and stored in airtight containers.

Linda Vandermeer is a blogger, baker, maker and author of the cookbook ' Sweets on a Stick': More than 150 kid friendly recipes for cakes, candies, cookies and pies on the go!. Published in the US the book is available at most online book stores.

Original Ideas, photography and recipes by Linda Vandermeer unless otherwise stated do not reuse without permission. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Orange is the new Chocolate Cookies

O'range you glad you saw this recipe. Well maybe not yet but if you bake up a batch of these cookies I'm pretty sure you will be.

That is if you like chocolate and orange together which we most certainly do in this household.

This month you won't be finding any of those plain ole' vanilla chocolate chip cookies in our jar. Nope Orange is the new chocolate around here.

These cookies are flavored with  a combination of juice, extract and zest which results in a lovely fragrant slightly chewy cookie.

They are perfect for an afternoon snack and if you manage not to eat them all at once I think the orange flavor becomes a little improved by the next day.

Or maybe it's just when they are warm with the chocolate chips still melted I just focus on the melty chocolate yumminess. I'm not that sure, pretty much my opinion is easily swayed like that when sweets are involved.

Anyhoo the recipe for these orange chocolate cookies is below, but if you like chocolate chip cookies like I like chocolate chip cookies try out these other recipes on this blog, recipe links below picture:

Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies (makes approx 24 cookies depending on cookie size)

1 1/2 cups plain flour (all purpose flour)
1/4 tsp bi-carb soda (baking soda)
1/4 tsp salt
115g (4 oz) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 cup caster sugar (superfine use regular white sugar if superfine not available)
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 large egg at room temperature
1 Tbsp orange juice
1 tsp grated orange zest
1/4 tsp orange essence
1 cup chocolate chips (any type)

Preheat oven to 160 C. Line 2 trays with baking paper (parchment paper).

Sift together the flour, bicarb soda (baking soda) and salt.

In a large bowl cream together the butter and both sugars at high speed for a few minutes.

Scrape down sides of bowl, reduce the speed to medium low and mix in the egg, then add the orange juice, zest and essence and mix until combined.

Add the sifted flour mixture and mix at low speed until the mixture has just combined.

Using a spatula or large spoon mix chocolate chips until evenly distributed.

Spoon dough onto the prepared trays about 1 1/2 Tbsp (2 US Tbsp) in size and flatten slightly.

Bake for around 12 to 15 minutes until the cookies start to turn golden, the middles of the cookies will look set and no longer be shiny. Remove from oven allow to rest on trays for around 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for at least 3 days. 

Linda Vandermeer is a blogger, baker, maker and author of the cookbook ' Sweets on a Stick': More than 150 kid friendly recipes for cakes, candies, cookies and pies on the go!. Published in the US the book is available at most online book stores.

Original Ideas, photography and recipes by Linda Vandermeer do not reuse without permission.