A Tale of Two Parties, Each Involving Cookies with Royal Icing

I recently helped host two parties, both for babies. One was an early celebration for my granddaughter’s first birthday. The color scheme was pink and white. All. The. Way. My family had been waiting a long time for a little girl since I grew up in a house with six brothers, then raised three sons and loved-on one grandson. It was always “Judy and the boys.” But not anymore.

The other party was a baby shower for the daughter of one of my besties, LouAnn.  The color scheme was sky blue and white, with a few cherished googly eyes thrown in for fun.

Both parties were designed with love and whimsy. For the baby shower, co-host Nan, decorated white pumpkins with ribbons. I had never considered bedecking pumpkins in this way, but when I saw hers, I was suddenly ALL IN on party spirit. Nan’s natural enthusiasm for life has a way of doing that to you.

She inspired me to make pretty pumpkins for my baby girl’s party. I bought white pumpkins and spools of ribbon to match the delightful print of the table runner my daughter-in-law, Meera, had purchased. Thanks to Meera, I am now obsessed with the color and pattern of this line of paper products from The Rifle Paper Company.

When I went to decorate the pumpkins, I got a heaping case of startitis and texted Lou Ann to ask if I could bring the supplies to her house and let her work her magic on them. She whipped these up on her kitchen counter while her dinner cooked. I love them! They make me smile.

Lou Ann is one of those creatives who gets in this peaceful place and calmly creates beautiful objects. It is as much a pleasure to watch her work as it is to work alongside her. Long-time readers of Judy’s Chickens may remember the  post I wrote on how she used greens from my yard to make a stunning winter floral arrangement.

Individually Wrapped Frosted Cookies for Party Favors

One of the tasks I took on for both parties was to make frosted cookies for party favors. I invited Nan and Lou Ann to come over for the morning day to help me out. I had never successfully negotiated how to use royal icing and a piping tool to decorate cookies. They were pros. A lot of what they taught me is explained more succinctly than I could ever express in the blog, Sally’s Baking Addiction.

You will need a disposable piping bag and a #2 or #4 piping tip. A Ziploc bag works fine if you run out of piping bags.

Gel food coloring has more color pigment than regular liquid food coloring, so you need less and the colors are truer. The girls taught me to poke a hole through the foil lid with a toothpick and use the toothpick to add color. We made three bowls of icing: white, sky blue, and pink.

They showed me this nifty way of filling a piping bag.

First, they piped an outline onto the cookie to create a nice edge.

After the outline dried, they used a miniature spatula to fill-in the interior space with icing. You may need to thin the icing with water, first. This filling-in process is called flooding in the icing world.

In addition to piping supplies, Nan brought this awesome adjustable rolling pin that keeps the dough thickness consistent when rolling out cookies. This leads to more even baking.

How to Make Royal Icing

Ingredients:
3 ounces (6 T) pasteurized raw egg whites 3 tablespoons meringue powder
1 pound (4 cups) confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
Water for thinning icing, as needed
Gel Food Coloring
Piping bags and tips

I mixed all the ingredients in a mixing bowl. I made the first batch with vanilla extract and the second batch with lemon zest. Both were good. You can store leftover icing in the freezer.

After we made the blue and white cookies, Lou Ann got busy on the dresses.

When she added the pink, I melted.

After the girls left, I decorated a few cookies for my grandchildren. I pushed the easy button on those and used a pastry brush to slather on the frosting without piping an outline first. Still cute, especially when I added the fun sprinkles from The Kitchen shop in Nashville. I purchased the cookie cutters and the adjustable rolling pin from there, as well.

I was babysitting that day, so in between all the rolling, baking, piping, flooding, and laughing, we women of the kitchen took turns holding my darling granddaughter.

Long before I learned about royal icing and piping, I frosted cookies another way with my grandson:

“Dog!” says my grandson.

A Few Other Party Touches:

Leave it to Nan to come up with a specialty drink for a party. She loved this cocktail when she had it in Las Vegas and figured out how to reproduce it.

These asparagus roll-ups were the best I have ever tasted. Liz, another host for the baby shower, created them. She used a combo of Boursin and Parmesan cheese in the spread.

My DIL ordered this delicious and gorgeous strawberry cake from Baked on 8th.

My sons’ generation refers to a baby’s first birthday cake as a “smash” cake. Baked on 8th makes those as well. This one has strawberry frosting and was out of this world. The blue high chair was used by my husband’s father. We continue to use it with love and careful attention — it may not be up to today’s safety codes.

My future DIL (!) Lily, ordered the flowers from the Green Hills Kroger. Ever since Lead Floral Designer, Liz Blalock joined their staff, the floral department has blossomed with beautiful arrangements.

The two parties were back to back events. Each was very different, but both were filled with many delightful moments, now memories, enhanced by the special touches of all who were involved in planning and hosting. After each event was over I had that joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. Corny, but Oh so TRUE!

Related Posts

Winter Floral Arrangements Using Greenery from the Yard

 

 

How to Make Birdhouse Gourds for Fall Decorating

 

 

Old-Timey Vanilla Bunny Cake

 

 

 

Chocolate Birthday or Valentine’s Day Cake

 

 

WWMD? A Bucket of Spring Veggies as a Centerpiece

 

 

Group Project: A Shibori Dyed Quilt

 

 

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© 2014-2019 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Lily’s Red Velvet Cake

I enjoy making special cakes for loved ones on their birthdays and was only too happy to make a Red Velvet Cake for my son’s girlfriend when she turned 21. I browsed through several cookbooks looking for good recipes. My first three attempts were unappealing, but after working on creating a good recipe, I came up with this version that is both delicious and gorgeous. Now, I look for occasions to make this cake as it has become my new favorite.


While doing research on the red velvet cake, I learned The Adams Extract Company, makers of food coloring and flavor extracts, is credited with making this cake popular during the Great Depression. As a marketing strategy, the company placed point-of-sale tear-off recipe cards of their food coloring products in stores. The idea to make a red cake took off from there. Red Velvet Cake is basically Devil’s Food Cake with food coloring.

Cake Ingredients:
DSC_0084
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup canola oil
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature (not low-fat)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) red food coloring
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
½ cup freshly brewed, plain, warm coffee
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Mise en Place:
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Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350º. Center a cooking rack in the oven.

Prepare Cake Pans with Liners:
Grease two 8-inch or 9-inch cake pans with cooking spray or butter. Dust insides of pans with flour. Tap pans upside down over a trash can to remove excess flour.
DSC_0043 Red Velvet cake

The pans need to be lined with parchment paper (waxed paper will work) as extra insurance the cake will not stick to the bottom of the pan. Even when I grease the living daylights out of cake pans, some cakes still want to stick to the bottom. This is one of them. Liners guarantee they will drop out easily.

How to Make Liners for Cake Pans:
Draw an outline of the cake pan on two sheets of parchment paper. Use scissors to cut out the paper disks. If you trim to just inside the line, your disks should fit nicely inside the pans. Place a liner in each pan. No need to grease the liners.
 Red Velvet cake

Make the Cake Batter:
Beat together the oil, sugar, and eggs for three minutes on medium speed.
DSC_0090

Add the rest of the wet ingredients to the mixing bowl: buttermilk, vanilla, food coloring, vinegar, and coffee. Mix on medium-low speed for one minute. The batter should appear smooth. Beware, any speed higher than medium-low will splatter red batter all over you and your kitchen!

Red Velvet cake

In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients: the flour, chocolate, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Spoon in 1/3 of this at a time into the mixing bowl and mix just until flour disappears on low-speed. You do not want to awaken the gluten in the flour by over mixing the batter. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as you mix. Repeat two more times, using 1/3 of the dry ingredients each time. Mix until dry ingredients are fully incorporated into the batter.

If you would like to make cupcakes instead of a cake, I would add ½ cup of chocolate chips to the batter at this point. Yum!

red velvet cake  Red Velvet cake

Pour batter evenly into the two prepared pans.
Red Velvet cake

Place cake pans on the middle rack of the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Use a knife to check the center of cakes for doneness. If the knife comes out clean, the cake is done. If not, set the timer for five more minutes and recheck. Be sure to test each cake pan. When done, remove pans from oven and cool for 5 minutes.
Red Velvet cake

Run a knife around the edges of the pans to release the cakes from the sides. Turn pans upside down on a wire cooling rack and peel off parchment paper. Invert cakes and cool to room temperature. At this time, you could store them in plastic bags until ready to use, or go ahead and frost them.
Red Velvet cake Red Velvet cake

Butter and Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:
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1  8-ounce bar cream cheese, softened
½ cup  (1 stick) butter, softened
1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3¾ cups (1 pound box) confectioners’ sugar
2-3 tablespoons whole milk

Instructions:
Beat butter and cream cheese together in a mixing bowl on medium-high speed until smooth.
frosting Red velvet cake

Add sugar and beat until fluffy.
frosting Red velvet cake

Add vanilla and beat 30 seconds more. Add milk, one tablespoonful at a time, to thin frosting to desired spreading consistency.

frosting Red velvet cake
How to Frost a Cake
IMG_5417
Line the edges of a cake plate with parchment paper, or plastic wrap, to protect the plate from drops of frosting.
Red velvet cake
Place first cake layer down. Scoop up about 25% of the frosting and spackle it across the top with a long metal icing spatula.
Red velvet cake Red velvet cake
Place the top cake layer, smooth side up, over the frosted layer. Place half of the remaining frosting on top and use it to frost the sides of the cake.
Red velvet cake Red velvet cake
Next, spoon the rest of the frosting on the cake and frost the top layer of the cake.
Red velvet cake Red velvet cake
Remove parchment paper liner from cake plate while frosting is still soft. Let frosted cake sit for an hour or two so the flavors can blend. I like to chill all cakes with cream cheese frosting before serving, but that is a personal preference.

Recently, I needed an elegant cake that would serve 20 people. I decided to make a taller version of my red velvet cake by preparing one and a half cake recipes. This gave me three 9-inch layers. I increased the frosting recipe by half. The cake looked beautiful and regal on the dessert buffet.

Triple Decker Cake Ingredients List
(I’ve done the math for you, and for me)

3¾ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoon baking powder
1½ teaspoon baking soda
4½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups sugar
1½ cup canola oil
3 large eggs, room temperature
1½ cup buttermilk, room temperature (not low-fat)
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ ounce red food coloring
1½ teaspoon white distilled vinegar
¾ cup freshly brewed, plain, warm coffee

IMG_5377

I LOVE this cake!

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Related Posts:
Marion’s Crazy Good Pumpkin Bread with Chocolate Chips
Ellen’s Most Moist Zucchini Bread
Mrs. Walker’s Cranberry Nut Pie

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© 2014 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.