My name is Lisa and I'm a crafty girl with wanderlust working as an engineer by day. My blog chronicles projects in my home as well as pictures and stories from my travels.




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Entries in Cake Decorating (20)


Michigan Tailgate Cake: Beat Ohio

Saturday was the last Michigan football game of the regular season playing against arch rivals, OSU. For the tailgate cake I baked a chocolate cake and iced it with buttercream icing that I tinted maize. I kept things simple and decided to decorate the top with the phase "Beat Ohio".

To make the words I rolled out some blue marshmallow fondant and traced around a bowl to make a circle just smaller than the cake. I then cut away a line across the middle to make the top and bottom lines for the words. I then trimmed away three vertical lines leaving me with eight blocks for my letters. I then cut each block into a letter to spell out "Beat Ohio". I finished up the cake by transferring the fondant letters onto the cake and piping a border of blue stars along the base of the cake.

Kickoff for the game was a noon so we had a short but fun tailgate. As is tradition for the last home tailgate of the year we ate filet mignon provided by Gus and grilled by Frank. Frank also made an awesome crab bearnaise to accompany the steaks.

For the week prior to the game everyone had Michigan pegged as a huge underdog. Ohio was undefeated and ranked #3 in the country while Michigan's season had been lackluster. The game, however, ended up being very exciting as opposed to the blowout that had been predicted. Michigan scored first and at the half it was tied 21-21. Things looked a bit bleak in the second half when Michigan was down by 14 but they rallied and with less than a minute left they scored a touchdown to bring the score to 41-42. Michigan went for a two point conversion but it was intercepted basically ending the game. It was a great game, but I wish that things had worked out a little better for Michigan.

My Duke Blue Devils had an exciting day on Saturday, beating rivals UNC. The Duke-UNC game was at the same time as Michigan-OSU so the whole game I was continuously checking my phone for Duke updates. With the win Duke ended the regular season with their best record, 10-2, and will head to the ACC Championship game this Saturday against Florida State. Go Blue Devils!


Michigan Tailgate Cake: Winged Helmet Cake

On Saturday Michigan played Nebraska and Frank's tailgate theme for the week was Soups and Stews since the weather here has gotten a little chilly. I couldn't figure out a way to easily translate that into a cake so I decided to make a cake inspired by Michigan's iconic winged helmet for the tailgate.

I used a two layer chocolate cake recipe with the Wilton Helmet Pan to make the cake. I used some thinned white buttercream icing for a crumb layer and then used white icing to create a background behind the facemask and ear hole. I sketched out the lines for the wings with some icing and once I was happy with the shape I filled it in with maize and blue icing with a #16 star tip. I finished the helmet off by piping the facemask with some extra whipped chocolate ganache from the chocolate chili cupcakes I had made the day before. The facemask of the Wolverines' helmet is actually blue but I didn't think it would show up very well on the cake if I made it blue plus I think it is a crime to waste leftover chocolate ganache.

The tailgate was a lot of fun. It was a bit chilly but the sun was out most of the day and there was no miserable rain like two weeks prior at the Indiana game. Frank made his cheddar sausage soup which was perfect to keep everyone warm.

The game, however, was not so much fun to watch. Michigan played pretty poorly and for the second week in a row had negative rushing yards. They pulled ahead in the fourth quarter but Nebraska had a touchdown late in the game to seal their 17-13 win over Michigan. Hopefully the Wolverines fare better next week at Northwestern. Go Blue!

On a positive side note, my beloved Duke Blue Devils had a pretty good weekend with the football team beating NC State and the basketball team trouncing Davidson. The football team is now 7-2 which guarantees them a winning record which will be a first since 1994. I watched the basketball game on TV and all I can say is that Jabari Parker is awesome and I am looking forward to a great season. Go Duke! 


Chocolate Chili Cupcakes

Yesterday was the annual chili cook off in my department at work. I just moved into the department this past summer so this was my first year participating. I didn't prepare a chili for the competition but I did want to contribute a dessert so I thought that making some chocolate chili cupcakes would be perfect.

To make the cupcakes I adapted my go-to one bowl chocolate cupcake recipe from Good Housekeeping's Illustrated Cookbook. I've had that cookbook since I was in high school and I still love it as a reference for basic recipes.

I started off by omitting the vanilla from the recipe and then added ancho chili pepper powder, cinnamon and mini chocolate chips. After baking I finished the cupcakes by topping them with whipped chocolate ganache and some red dragees for a little fun.

I think that the cupcakes turned out great with the extra little kick. Some of my co-workers were a little hesitant about them when I told them about the chili powder but in the end they were a big hit with everyone.

2 cups flour
1-3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa
1-1/4 cups milk
3/4 cups butter
3 eggs
1 tablespoon ancho chili pepper powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1 cup mini chocolate chips (optional) 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
Beat together all ingredients except chocolate chips in a mixer at low speed until well mixed

Gently fold chocolate chips into the batter

Line two twelve cavity muffin tins with liners and fill halfway with batter
Bake for 20 minutes or until inserted toothpick in center of a cupcake comes out clean 

Let cupcakes cool and then ice with chocolate ganache or buttercream icing



Michigan Tailgate Cake: Luau Theme

Saturday was the Michigan Football season opener so of course we were tailgating bright and early. Frank has not missed a Michigan Football game (home or away) since 1999 so if I want to see him it the fall I am out tailgating and cheering with him.

Frank's tailgates are pretty involved with a large number of people and ridiculous amounts of food and a theme, of course. This week was a luau theme so I made a pineapple cake with coconut cream cheese icing. To decorate the cake I used marshmallow fondant to make a Block M and then made a little hibiscus flower to go with the luau theme.

Frank featured foods with lots of pork for the luau tailgate starting with a pork hash with bacon in the morning and a suckling pig and ribs in the afternoon.

With a 3:30 kickoff against Central Michigan, we had a nice long tailgate. Several people wore blue and yellow Hawaiian shirts for the theme and there were a lot of leis as well. It was really great to see a bunch of the other tailgaters that we don't get to often see in the off season.

The game itself was pretty relaxing because Michigan pretty handily dealt with Central winning the game 59-9. Although watching exciting, nail biting games is fun, sometimes it is great to just sit back and watch your team dominate. It was a nice way to kick off the 2013 football season.

Next week Notre Dame!


Cake (and Cupcake) Decorating Kit

Frank's middle niece is ten years old and a pastry chef in the making. She loves to cook and especially loves to bake. She's always asked me a number of questions about cake decorating and even helped me decorate the Thanksgiving cake last year. I thought that for Christmas this year I would put together a beginning collection of her own cake (and cupcake) decorating supplies. 

I didn't like any of the plastic decorating toolboxes that I saw available so I decided that I would make my own. Originally I planned on building my own box, but when I saw the perfect sized unfinished wooden box at Michael's I decided to buy it and just build the interior of the box to hold the supplies.

The first thing to build was a little caddy to hold the gel colors. I had a lot of frustration while building this but I'll outline what worked first and then explain what mistakes I learned along the way.

The box was 8-1/2" deep so I cut a piece of 1/4x4 craft board 8-1/2" long. I then marked center points for drilling my holes by drawing lines 1" from the outside edge, 1-1/4" from the top and bottom edge and then 1" spacing vertically between those lines. To make the holes I first pre-drilled a small hole at each line intersection and then used a 1-1/4" hole saw to drill the holes. I then finished up by building a box base with 1/4x2 craft board (2 pieces at 8-1/2" for the sides and 2 at 3" for the ends), attaching everything with wood glue and brad nails.

What I learned didn't work was mis-measuring the size of the gel color containers, using a 1-1/8" hole saw and then not realizing that the gel colors won't fit until you have already finished building the caddy. Also, trying to line up the hole saw without the pre-drilling the pilot hole led to a mess with the holes not lining up properly. All in all I had to build the little caddy three times before I got it right. That's what happens when you are tired and not thinking things through...

I filled the nail holes of the gel color caddy with wood filler and then sanded it and the box smooth. I wiped everything down with a tack cloth and then gave both pieces a coat of white spray paint with primer. I did this because I wasn't sure if I would be able to evenly coat the area under/inside the gel color caddy with paint after it was assembled.

Once everything was dried I moved onto the area to store the decorating tips. At first I thought of cutting down a dowel but then had the idea to use 1/2" wooden hole plugs that I picked up at the hardware store. I lined them up with the wide side down in two rows along the left side of the box using some wood glue to attach them.

After the hole plugs were in place I put the gel color caddy inside the box, securing it with some wood glue and a few brad nails. I used some more wood filler to cover up the nail holes and fill in the seams where caddy met the box and then sanded everything smooth.

With the box built it was time to finish it. I used a few light coats of white spray paint of the inside and outside of the box.

I decided to add a stripe across the top of the box in purple which is Frank's niece's favorite color. I marked off the space with some painter's tape and then used some purple acrylic craft paint and a foam brush to paint the line. Since the color was dark it took three thin coats to get nice coverage.

I used some foam stickers to add the word "decorate" to the top of the box and it was ready to fill up with cake decorating supplies. I picked out a variety of gel colors and a bunch of decorating tips to put in the box. On the right side I added some 12" disposable decorating bags and some couplers.

I am so excited to give this to Frank's niece (along with some pretty decorating books) and show her some techniques. I hope that she likes it!


Michigan Tailgate Cake: Simple Football Cake

On Saturday Michigan played Northwestern and the tailgate theme was Chicago, since Northwestern is in Chicago. I wasn't really sure how to translate that into a cake and I had some extenuating circumstances so I just made a generic football cake instead of something fancier.

This week's cake was a bit of a cop-out for me. I had some late nights at work so I was planning on whipping something up on Friday night. Unfortunately, there was a huge traffic jam in town as I was trying to get home that night due to some road closures so it ended up taking me nearly an hour and a half to go the last two miles to my house. It was annoying but the real problem is that due to my frugal ways, I drive a little hatchback that happens to be a stick shift. Holding in the clutch for that long was just miserable and since we were creeping almost the whole time I didn't have much chance to put the car in neutral with the parking brake. By the time I got home my left leg was so sore I was having some trouble standing and there was no way I was baking. That was the first time I wished I didn't have a manual car.

So instead I woke up early on Saturday (6:30 am!) and whipped up this simple football cake. I have a Wilton pan that is shaped like a football so I baked a chocolate cake in it, popped it in the freezer to cool it down quickly and iced it with chocolate buttercream frosting. I used a star tip to pipe the laces and then wrote "Hail to the Victors" on the cake. It was super simple, but sometimes you just need to get things done quickly. Plus it still tasted delicious so I don't think anyone really cared. 

For tailgate food Frank made Portillo's style sausage and Italian beef sandwiches which were awesome. He also made waffle fries and a wonderful sausage chowder which I especially loved.

The weather was unseasonably warm (mid-60s in November? I'll take it!) so it was a great day for tailgating and watching the game.

The game was up and down and towards the end it looked like Michigan had really squandered their chance to win. With barely any time left and an unbelievable catch to move the ball down the field, Michigan made a field goal to tie up the game at 31-31 and send it into overtime. In OT Michigan managed to score a touchdown and stop Northwestern making the final score 38-31 for a Michigan win. Looking back I really don't see how Michigan pulled out that game, but we'll take it!

How was your weekend? Did you get up to anything fun?


Michigan Tailgate Cake: Bacon Theme

Yesterday Michigan played Michigan State at home and our tailgate theme was bacon. I decided in keeping with the theme that I would make a Maple-Apple-Bacon Cake that I have made a few times before using a wonderful recipe I found on the NPR website. I know that the bacon in the cake sounds a little strange but it really is quite delicious.

I did a few things slightly differently, however. Instead of baking it in an 8" square pan I split the batter between two 8" round pans. Also, instead of the maple glaze I made a maple cream cheese frosting.

To assemble the cake I leveled the top of one of the cakes and placed it onto my cake stand. I used a pastry bag to top the cake with the maple icing, smoothing it out with a knife. I then placed the second layer on top and added my decorations.

To make the Michigan bunting I made a design of yellow letters on a blue background in PowerPoint and then printed it out.  I cut out the flags, folded them over and attached them to a string with a little tape, just like I did with my birthday bunting card. I tied the ends of the string to two 1/4" round dowels and stuck them in the cake.

The "Go Blue!" and "Beat Sparty!" flags were made in the same way (i.e. designed in PowerPoint, printed and then cut out) and then I wrapped them around long skewers and added them to the cake.

The cake got a lot of rave reviews from people, many of whom did not even realize there was bacon in it until I told them. It was polished off and selfishly I was a little disappointed that there was none left over for me to take home.

Continuing on with the bacon theme, Frank made several bacon explosions and a porchetta while other contributions included pea meal Canadian bacon from the Canadian contingent of the tailgate as well as sausage wrapped in bacon and water chestnuts wrapped in bacon. Needless to say it wasn't the healthiest tailgate but everything was delicious.  

The weather also held up. Last week was cold, windy, rainy and miserable but this week it was overcast, but not too chilly and the sun even popped out a few times. The game had a 3:30 p.m. kickoff and Frank likes to be at the tailgate at 7:30 a.m. so decent weather is key to having a good time.

The skies stayed cloudy for most of the game, but luckily there was no wind or rain and I was comfortable bundled up for the game.

The game itself was a nail biter with five lead changes. In the last few minutes it looked like Michigan had blown their chances to win but with five seconds left, Brendan Gibbons kicked a field goal to win the game 12-10. Free yellow pom-poms had been passed out at the game and everyone in the stadium went nuts waving them. Michigan State had won the four previous games between the two schools so it was great to beat them.

The win marked another big milestone for Michigan, namely the program's 900th win making it the first NCAA college football team to do so. Having the win occur at home and over Michigan State made it especially sweet. After the game the scoreboard played a show highlighting the 100th, 200th, and so on victories culminating with the 900th that had happened that day.

On another football front, my alma mater, Duke, beat North Carolina yesterday bringing their record this year to 6-2. Not only is it nice to beat our arch rivals, but this makes the team bowl eligible for the first time since 1994. In recent decades Duke notoriously does not have a strong football program so this is pretty huge.  Frank asked me who I would root for if Michigan and Duke played in a bowl game. I told him that my Michigan fandom comes with a Duke exemption and that I will always cheer for Duke over all others. A girl has to do what a girl has to do. Go Duke Blue Devils! and Go Michigan Wolverines! (when they are not playing Duke!)


Michigan Tailgate Cake: Hail To The Victors

This week Michigan played Illinois for homecoming and the tailgate theme was Brazilian Steakhouse. I wasn't really sure how to translate that theme into a tailgate cake so I decided to make a cake with the first line of the chorus of the Michigan fight song across the front.

I started by baking a chocolate cake in two oval pans and then whipped up a double batch of buttercream icing, tinting it blue. Once the cake had completely cooled I leveled the layers by cutting off the crowns. I stacked the layers with some icing in between and then added a thin crumb coat of the blue icing over the whole cake.

After the crumb coat had dried I iced the cake with the blue icing and smoothed it over the cake. With the base of blue icing on the cake it was time for the fun part, decorating. I used marzipan that I tinted yellow to make the word "HAIL" and put that across the front of the cake. I also made a large block M and used skewers to make it stand on top of the cake. I added a little cocoa powder and copper tint to some more marzipan and made a little football to prop up in front of the block M.  

As a final step I made another single batch of buttercream icing, tinting half of it yellow and leaving the rest white. I put both colors in piping bags and piped a star border around the base of the cake in yellow. I used the white to add "to the victors" and add some laces on the football. 

Although the tailgate was a lot of fun, it was cold and toward game time it started raining. At the tailgate we were under tents, but we were completely exposed to the elements in the stadium. Being soaking wet and cold made watching the game a bit miserable but drinking a bunch of hot chocolate definitely helped.

Luckily the Wolverines dominated Illinois and when the score was 31-0 in favor of Michigan we decided that victory was ensured and it was okay to leave, watching the rest of the game back at the tailgate with the satellite TV under the tents. In the end Michigan won 45-0 for a decisive win. Bring on Sparty!

Do you root for any college teams? How did you spend your weekend?


Michigan Tailgate Cake: All American Theme

Yesterday was the home opener for the 2012 Michigan Football season. We played Air Force so the tailgate theme was "All-American".

After a long and stressful work week I decided to make a simple design for the cake, taking an American flag and modifying the white star field on blue to be a maize and blue Michigan logo.

I made a chocolate cake using Beatty's Chocolate Cake recipe from Ina Garten. I baked it in a sheet cake pan and then cut it in half to make a two layer, rectangular shaped cake.

Next, I made up a double batch of buttercream icing. I used a Wilton #789 decorating tip to ice the cake, smoothing it with a large offset spatula.

With my cake iced, I turned to making my flag design on the cake. Although fondant looks prettier and is easier to work with I decided to use rolled buttercream because it tastes yummier. I made up a batch and tinted some of it red and some of it blue. I rolled out the blue first, cut out a rectangle and placed it in the top left of the cake. I then rolled out the red, cut it into strips and layered it onto the cake to make the stripes of the flag.

My final step was to tint some of my leftover buttercream from icing my cake a maize color. I used a flat basketweave tip to make a block M shape on the blue rectangle and then used a small spatula to smooth together the seams.

Although I always notice the imperfections on my cakes, I think it turned out pretty cute and most importantly it tasted delicious. The icing on the cake (if you excuse my terrible pun) was that Michigan beat Air Force. It wasn't a pretty win, but after the loss to Alabama last week we'll take what we can get. Go Blue!


Happy Birthday Song Cake

This past week was Frank's birthday so I thought that I would share the cake I made for him last year.

I made a chocolate cake using the recipe for Beatty's Chocolate Cake and then made a chocolate ganache filling between the layers. To cover the cake I made rolled buttercream icing in chocolate and vanilla. I rolled out the vanilla, cut a strip of it and placed it across the middle of the cake. I then did the same for the chocolate and used it to cover the top and bottom.

With a base of icing on the cake I set about decorating it. Using icing that I tinted black, I piped five parallel lines across the cake to make a music staff. I looked up the sheet music for the happy birthday song online and then piped the notes for the song onto the music staff, writing the words "Happy B-Day Dear Frank" under the corresponding notes.

To finish off the cake I added a little color by tinting some icing blue and using it to add a border above and below the music and then piped blue stars along the base.

Trying to use rolled buttercream to cover the cake instead of fondant was quite a challenge, and it wasn't as smooth as fondant, but it tasted really wonderful. The rolled buttercream is so soft that it really wasn't feasible to deal with very large sections and the only way I was able to manage it was doing in the three sections that I did. The taste made it worthwhile though, and it is definitely something that I'll have to try again.