Mini Gingerbread Houses

As a family tradition, Marc and I made our own gingerbread house every year and decorated it together.  When Mason turned 2, the realization hit me that he could probably do this with us.  Duh! So starting that year I began a yearly playdate for the mommies group for all the kids to come over to make gingerbread houses together.  But the normal full size houses would be too much work for me to do, so I shrunk my design and made mini-houses.  I made one for each of the kids to decorate on their own.  It’s been a big hit (and a lot of work) every year!  Everything you need to know is below: the instructions, recipes and free templates.  Here are the instructions:

Using the gingerbread recipe below, mix the gingerbread, roll it out and cut the pattern pieces as indicated. (Since I do this every year, I laminated my template pieces so they can be wiped off and re-used.)  Bake the pieces per the instructions and allow to cool.  The picture below is for several houses, so don’t panic.  I do them in bulk!  The normal batch size below makes 1 regular house or 2-3 mini-houses depending on how thin you roll the dough.

After they are cooled, I make one batch of the royal icing per the instructions and assemble the houses and allow them to dry and harden overnight.  When the kids arrive the next day to decorate them, I make 2-3 batches of the icing and put a small portion in a paper cup for each of them to use with a plastic knife.  They each bring their own decorations and use the additional icing to add them onto the house.

Mason making his house:

Here is a photo gallery of several of the kid’s decorated houses over the last two years.

Here are the recipes!

Gingerbread
1 stick of butter at room temp
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Molasses
1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
1 Tablespoon Ginger
1 Tablespoon Ground Clove (I don’t like clove, so I leave this out.)
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
2 Cups Flour
2 Tablespoons Water
Preheat the oven to 375.  Mix all the dough ingredients except the flour and water until creamy.  Add the flour 1 cup at a time and mix it in a standing mixer or by hand until all the flour is incorporated. Add the water and mix it well.  Roll the dough out on a floured surface to 1/8 inch thick.  Cut the required pieces (2 front, 2 side, 2 roof, 2 small chimney pieces and 1 each of the remaining two chimney pieces). Bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes but watch them closely so the small pieces do not burn.  This recipe makes 2 small houses or 1 regular size house.

Royal Icing
3 3/4 Cups Powdered Sugar
2 Large Egg Whites
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
Mix the ingredients together with a hand mixer, adding 1 cup of sugar at a time until all the sugar is used and the mixture is very shiny (mix for about 6 minutes after all sugar is added).  Once the icing is ready, you must work fast to use it because it hardens over time.  If you need to keep it for a bit of time, cover it with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator but it does not last long.

I got the cutout pattern from:
http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/how_to_make_a_gingerbread_house/
I do not use their recipe because I had my own, but I used their pattern.  For the mini-houses, I used my scanner to reduce the size by 50%.  Attached are the patterns for full size and for mini houses.  You can click on the photos and save to your computer or use the easy download buttons below.

Regular sized Gingerbread House Pattern Downloads (3):

Below is the mini version of the pattern, note that the printed dimensions on the pieces are no longer accurate because it was reduced by using a copy machine.

Mini Gingerbread House Pattern

Mini Gingerbread House Pattern

Mini Gingerbread House Download:

Black and White Party

I wanted to have a small get together with friends for an adult’s birthday party and was running short of ideas.  Lot’s of kids ideas out there…not so many for adults.  I thought of the annual party Kyle Richards from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills gives each year called “The White Party”.  Well, I don’t have that kind of money or time, so this was going to be much more low-key.  In researching the party, I found the original idea was from Al Capone in the 20’s and was a Black and White party.   So here is my version:

Black and White Party

The cake:

The cake is just two layers of regular cake (whatever flavor you choose) covered with a simple layer of marshmallow fondant and black stars.  I used a cookie cutter for the stars in fondant that was colored black.  I found black and white themed candles and put them on the stars.  Super simple!

 

Rubik’s Cube Cake

I made this cake for my brother-in-law’s birthday because he is fond of Rubik’s Cube and he is particularly skilled with it.

Rubik's Cube Cake

This cake is actually very easy to make.  However, to make it easy requires special equipment.  I used a battenburg cake pan and filled it with the different colors of white cake mix that I needed.  The original idea I saw was at this site, but I found it much easier using the cake pan:
http://www.instructables.com/id/Rubiks-Battenburg-Cake/

I bought this pan at:
http://fantes.com/cake-pans-sheet.html
Look about 3/4 of the way down the page.

I used a leveling knife to chop off the top.

I used blackberry jam (as suggested in the original post) to stick the cake pieces together and then wrapped it in marshmallow fondant.  I used a little water and my fingers to pinch the edges together to be smooth.

One thing you really have to be careful of is to make sure you remember in which direction the sections run.  If you cut the cake open for display in the wrong direction, (lengthwise instead of a cross-section) it doesn’t look right at all and I almost did that and ruined it!  So be careful!

 

Lightening McQueen Cake

So I will admit, this is not the best Lightening McQueen cake on the internet.  This was actually my first attempt at making a molded cake or character cake, so for a first try, it’s not half bad!  The pics aren’t that great either, it was late and I was tired!

The cake is a mix of chocolate and vanilla. The bottom is made from a 13×9 pan in one layer of vanilla and one layer of chocolate.  I used a leveling knife to trim the layers and I used that cake scraps to shape the top of the car.  I froze the cake and just used a snakk knife (and one of my son’s Lightening McQueen toy cars as a guide) to shape the cake.

I put a thin layer of plain white marshmallow fondant over the top of the car for the inside of the windows.  Then a second layer of red over the entire car.  You can use as much powdered sugar as you need because it will absorb into the fondant.

The “fin” or back of the car was made by using icing to stick a small rectangular piece of cardboard to the back.  The tires are made out of little round chocolate donuts covered in black fondant.

The decals and such were made with cutouts of various colors of fondant.

The fondant recipe I used is as follows:

Marshmallow Fondant
4 Cups mini marshmallows (1/2 of a 16 oz bag)
4 Cups Powdered Sugar
2 Tablespoons of Water
Put the marshmallows in a microwave safe bowl and add the water.  Heat for 1 minute until the marshmallows expand.  Stir them with a rubber spatula until melted and smooth.  Add the powdered sugar about 1/2 cup at a time until you are unable to stir.  Transfer to a sugar dusted workspace and kneed in the remaining sugar.  Not all of the sugar will always be needed.  If it starts getting too dry, stop.  You can store it by wrapping it in plastic wrap and keeping it in the refrigerator for a day.

Happy Third Birthday Mason!

 

Birds Nesting- Baby Shower Cake and Cupcakes

I gave a baby shower for my best friend and this post is to show off my work on the cake and cupcakes.  The cake was a standard lemon cake (my friend’s favorite) baked in two layers. The cupcakes were mixed flavors of lemon with fresh blueberries, lemon with fresh strawberries and lemon with mixed berries (blackberry, blueberry and raspberry).

Birds Nesting Baby Shower Cake

The steps to recreate the cake:

  1.  Bake two round layers of cake (these are one 6″ and one 8″ round).  When they are cooled, I suggest using a leveling knife to make sure they are flat on top.
  2. For the cookie decorations: melt white chocolate or chocolate bark in the microwave.  Divide it in half and make two colors by using a few drops of food dye.  I chose pink and plain (just left the white chocolate in white).  I used one bag of white chocolate bark and one box of cookies for this size cake.
  3. Dip your cookies into the chocolate and place them on a cookie sheet to solidify.  I used Kroger Honey Graham Sticks, but other types of cookies shaped in cylinders or short and flat would work.  Dip one half of the cookies into one color and the other half of the cookies in the other color.  Then using a pastry bag (or I just made a disposable bag out of wax paper) drizzle the opposing color over the cookies and allow to dry again.  Set them aside until the rest of the cake is ready.

4. Layer the cake and ice it like normal.  I chose cream cheese flavored icing for the color match.  Ice the whole cake, including the sides.
5. Place the cookies around the edges of the cake, alternating the colors, by sticking them to the icing.  I finished it off by wrapping it with a small ribbon, but that isn’t necessary.  I sprinkled the top and middle layer with glitter sprinkles (I used Cake Mate brand Sugar Pastels and Shimmer White Sugar).
6. For the decorations on top, I cut out two bird shapes from heavy scrapbook paper and glued toothpicks to the back of them and let them dry before sticking them in the top.
7. For the bird nest, melt a handful of chocolate chips in a bowl in the microwave (I chose butterscotch chips for the color).  It takes 1 minute and then stir.  Choose white chocolate for white, dark for black and milk for brown.  Add in a handful of Chow Mein Noodles and mix them together.  I don’t have exact measurements but there are several recipes for these on the internet.  I just made it up as I went so I didn’t measure.  I’m bad about that.  It doesn’t take much of the noodles and chocolate to make several small ones.  I used about a cup of each (I think) to make 12 cupcake topper nests. Place about a tablespoon of the mixture for each nest on wax paper to harden.  Be sure to somewhat shape them into round nests with a slight indention in the top.  Use jelly beans or Easter egg candies in the nest.  I dipped the jelly beans into some of the left over melted chocolate to get them to stay in place for transport.
8. For the coordinating cupcakes, I placed one nest, and one cut out bird on each.  I used a star tip to add a bit of flair around the edges before I placed the nest on top.

Hope you like them!

Here is a close-up of the bird cut-outs and also I found an idea to paint baby food jars for mini flower vases.