Sunday, December 16, 2012

 Happy Sunday and, as we say here in our home MERRY CHRISTMAS! As is with many offices, we have a Christmas gathering. We each bring something to share and have a lovely time hanging out all afternoon and catching up. My donation was the cupcake Christmas Tree. I'll go more into that later on but first...
 Let me share what others brought! This is a photo of our "starter" table with just a few treats set out on it. As you can see, it doesn't take much to make the food look yummy! A start shaped plate, a crystal bowl, some wire trees and a red tablecloth set the mood and spotlight the food!
 This wonderful danish was filled with raspberry puree and topped with buttercream glaze and then cut up into little 2-bite pieces. Easy for each person to add to their plate but not too much of any particular item. It's fairly easy to do. Start out with a sweetened dough base, like you would for cinnamon rolls, and roll it out into a HUGE rectangle. Spread with the raspberry puree. Now carefully fold one in to the center and fold the other end so that it just laps over the other edge to create a seal. Now use an eggwash to make the top bake up nice and shiny. Take buttercream frosting and thin with a bit of milk. Once the danish is completely cool, drizzle with this thin frosting. Let set up so that it crusts just a bit then slice with a big knife before setting out onto a plate.
 You do NOT need to know how to bake to make a lovely donation to your potluck dessert bar! Packaged mini candy canes for people to take home and light and dark chocolate covered cherries are wonderful for the whole crowd!
 And there are always cookies! These came out of a tin. That's right, not homemade. But really good cookies all the same. Don't cheap out if you are headed to a holiday party. Yup, it might cost twice as much as those Oreo's but it's the holiday...splurge! 
 But if you do bake then there is nothing like an old fashioned Gingerbread Man! Real homemade gingerbread, rolled thin so that they were a bit crunchy along with the soft centers. They used raisins for the eyes and buttons but you could use dried cranberries or blueberries or even mini chocolate chips. And that delightful grin? A little bit of lemon zest tucked into the unbaked dough and baked right into the cookie face! YUM!
And speaking of YUM! Not every offering needs to be sweet. In fact, with a whole bunch of sweets on the table something to cut that sweetness is not only a good idea but much appreciated. This is homemade Challah bread. She was upset because it was more "dense" than she liked...using a different type of flour to make it healthier...but I have to say it was wonderful. Served with softened butter it was just the right type of bite to offset the sweets.
Of course there was coffee...I mean, I was there so there was coffee...always. LOL! We offered sugar, sugar substitute and creamer for those who wanted it but we started out with a really good coffee to begin with. As hostess you want to make sure you always have the best you can afford for your guests to drink if you are having a potluck type of event. Your drink is your anchor. It can either add a bit more pleasantness to your party or make people wince. My aim is to never make my guests wince. The coffee was a hit, we made several pots of it over the course of the day, but we also had punch. I meant to take a photo of the punch and never, somehow got around to it. Yes, it was a very fun party!

I know that this is a cake blog so just a few moments about that cupcake tree we featured at the beginning. To start out with I didn't have a base big enough to hold the cupcakes in tree formation so I had to "make" one. I used a rectangular stoneware base and covered it in parchment. Now here was the tricky part. I was using parchment, which is nonstick, on a pizza stone, which is nonstick, and trying to cover it with tape...yeah, that didn't work so well. I ended up using duct tape (that stuff really does stick to anything!) to make the parchment cover the stoneware. Then I set out the cupcakes in the tree formation. I picked out which ones I wanted to be the "ornaments" and moved them off to the side. Then I "flat frosted" the green ones and sprinkled them with some white sanding sugar. I then flat frosted the ornaments with white frosting and sprinkled on the different colors of sugar, covering the top of the tree ornament with gold sugar. I tucked the ornaments back into the tree and then flat frosted the two white cupcakes for the "trunk", sprinkled them with mini chocolate chips that I then pressed down into the frosting, and put them into place. The last thing I did, and it wasn't necessary, just something I wanted to do, was to add the dragee garland. Yes, you have to place them one at a time to criss cross the tree but there is another way to do garland...just fill a piping bag that has a small star tip on it with any color, except green, frosting that you'd like your garland to be and then just pipe stars in a criss cross fashion. A much less labor intensive process than what I did but I was out of buttercream at this point and didn't want to make a whole new batch for just garland! 

The next couple of weeks I have off. This doesn't mean I won't be baking, it just means I'm not sure what I'll feature here on the blog yet. We always make cupcakes for the "Seniors" that we know so I have to come up with something...I'll share with you what we do!


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