Sweet Sandy B. Bakes

If we are ever to enjoy life, now is the time. Not tomorrow or next year... Today should always be our most wonderful day...

So, let's eat cake!

Notes on my adventure as a mom and baker and life as Sweet Sandy B...

Friday, June 25, 2010

After much ado- individual Raspberry Cobblers

I've been holding out, I know I know.
After Top Chef was over and Kelly won (Angelo was in the worst team for the elimination challenge- yes! but his team won the quick fire. again. ugh. oh, and Jacqueline was eliminated- ho hum) I was about to start working on this recipe. Then remembered that I didn't have to work the next day and could just do it in the morning and eat these for breakfast! I happily went to bed, and dreamt wonderful stay-at-home-ex-wife dreams. :)

So, Thursday a.m. as the kids were eating their pancakes I set to work on these little bits of magic.

**I must warn you first- this recipe was a FAIL in the beauty department, but tasted amazing. I will comment at the end on how to possibly make these successful when you make them because I have yet to bake them again. I've been busy!**

You will need:

2 cups milk
2 cups self rising flour
2 cups sugar
2 sticks melted butter
2 cups fresh raspberries
1 tsp vanilla
extra sugar for sprinkling

oven should be at 350.

First, combine flour and sugar, then whisk in the milk (because I like my desserts extra rich, I went with heavy whipping cream... yah. i'm fat like that)

then, whisk in the melted butter and the vanilla (I always say the more vanilla the better, so I put in 2 tsps instead of just the one)

and this is what it looks like all combined:

Now you will grease the muffin tins- whichever way you want to grease.flour. this recipe will fill 24 cups. I tried to overfill the cups and got about 18 cups filled. this was a HUGE mistake. DON'T do this.

Fill each muffin tin with ONLY 1/4 cup batter. DO NOT OVERFILL (this picture is of OVERFILLED CUPS. this is BAD)

Then, sprinkle raspberries into each cup, and then sprinkle w/ sugar.

Put in the oven for 45 minutes-50 minutes until they are golden brown and crisp around the edges. Let them cool slightly, then invert onto a cooling rack. I don't have a picture of this because i made a GIANT mess of the muffins. I overfilled and the batter went EVERYWHERE. Nothing to invert on a cooling rack. But this is what I salvaged:

Which, you can serve warm w/ something sweet- like ice cream or fresh whipped cream. yum...

Now, this doesn't look pretty and not at ALL what the recipe picture looked like. The idea is that these will still look a little rustic, the raspberries would sink to the bottom and after inverting you would get this beautiful pineapple upside down cake type thing going on.

SO I just scooped out the batter and put them into cute ramekins and will warm them up and serve w/ the whipped cream.

These are my thoughts for next time
2 sticks of butter is just way too much. My lips were seriously coated with butter fat when I took a bite. Don't get me wrong, I love butter. But this was just too much. maybe 1.5 sticks of melted butter.
Also, I always have a hard time w/ self rising flour. Make sure you use fresh flour. That still didn't help me this time, but I like to think that if I filled the cups with ONLY 1/4 cup of batter, this would have solved the problem. We will see next time.

try it out and if you have better results, let me know! I need to go buy more raspberries and give it a go this weekend.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

really, nothing (oh WAIT, ARIEL!!!)

I'm starting to feel guilty that I'm not posting recipes as often as I was when I first started... In January and February when my fledgling dream was a whisper in my mouth I was testing the water and just putting everything on here because I wanted to be able to look back when I needed a reminder on how to carve a Cars cake.. And remember what the whipped egg whites were supposed to look like.

But slowly but surely (well not that slowly) I've been getting more busy with orders. So on top of driving 2.5 hours/day for work, working, being a mom, working out and baking orders, the time dwindled for fun experimenting. When I officially quit my job 2+ weeks ago, I dreamt of all this wonderful TIME I was going to have and what I would do with it. I started trolling for recipes and drooling over ingredients that I was planning on buying... And then Saturday hit.

I had two cakes to decorate for Saturday. I figured I had time- I could pull it off. NO worries. Well... Because I was so caught up in my 'last week of work' activities and excitement, I kind of biffed on my pre-planning to get ready for Saturday. I wasn't focused. So Friday night I was up pretty late working on this:

initially I was really intimidated by this cake. I'm not so good w/ drawing faces so to have to come up w/ a face out of fondant... And, to make her stand up! Perhaps that's why I didn't prepare so well- I was almost avoiding it and thinking I would be in a do or die situation. BUT, much to my surprise, it worked out. I was able to bring my drawing to life and I was so proud of myself.. Plus, I had a pretty in depth conversation w/ someone that night and, it left me somewhat distracted.

so, I had the cake frosted and had Ariel made and I was praying she would get hard enough to stand on top of the cake (as it was requested). My tooth also mysteriously started to hurt but I put it in the back of my head.
until Saturday a.m.
I woke up in the most disgusting amount of pain ever. And it kept getting worse by the minute. I couldn't see straight and all I kept thinking was "must finish this cake...must START other cake... must get pain relief. must pull tooth. i don't care, pull it"

well, you know, life happens and in a whirlwind of 6 hours I manage to melt Ariel, find a way to make it work, finish the Ariel cake, finish the graduation cake, not pull my tooth out, cry, argue, WATCH Ariel get decapitated and crumble and feel utterly helpless... and medicate myself into painless oblivion so I could sleep.

Mind you, the day before had been a Mary Poppins day (practically perfect in every single way), and then Saturday was the payment for the wonderful day prior.

Either way I REALLY like the Ariel cake, but man you should have seen her on Friday night. She was gorgeous...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Oooh baby baby it's a wild world....

Love that song! the guy that gave me my first kiss used to sing that song to me (HOW CHEESEY!!!) but, it is a wild world.. it's a jungle out there! and I just up'd the cheese factor myself. anyhow- I love love baby animals… Something so sweet about their big eyes.. and PUPPY PAWS! aren't big puppy paws the cutest? makes me want to get a puppy. for a second...

OK, the point of this post- I've been wanting to do a baby animal cake for a while and I finally was able to for a baby shower.
A while back I donated a decorated celebration cake to a Relay for Life auction and along w/ the certificate for a cake I set out a tray of cookies and some pictures of cakes I had already done.

I seriously got a TON of business as a result and this order was from one of those new customers. Again, the power of word of mouth amazes me.

After emailing w/ the client, I sketched out this cake:

#1 had some animals similar to these in his room at one point so I had some inspiration already.
She liked the idea and I got started with the animals on Friday night while chatting w/ my bestie and dying over the gift she brought me (she hunted down a DVD copy of the movie "Rad" oh.my.GAWD. seriously!!! I love her)

And here is the cake:

The top tier is banana cake and the bottom is white cake. The whole thing was frosted with Swiss Buttercream and filled w/ same.
The animals are all made out of fondant.. OH, speaking of which- I bought a new kind of fondant last week. It's a new brand made by Duff (of Charm City Cakes/ Ace of Cakes). It has a 'buttercream' flavor (where the Satin Ice has a "vanilla" flavor). I'm still on the fence about it. It's not as pliable as the Satin Ice, but it smells delicious. The colors are gorgeous though!! Price point is about the same (both are expensive) so I will see how I feel as I work with it more- will keep you updated (because I know you care)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

You lucky bastards...

I'm only 29 (yes, ONLY) and during the last 5 years at my office job, I would spend some time- well, lets just be honest and say a SUBSTANTIAL amount of time- fantasizing about winning the lottery. The money was spent before I even won. Or bought a ticket.
Since that wasn't likely to happen, I'd switch gears and dream about retiring at the ripe old age of 40. I thought my 401k would be pretty well padded by that point and I'd be so ready to retire. :)
I'm a dreamer, what can I say.

Needless to say, retirement parties and moreso retirement CAKES hold a special place in my heart. You lucky bastards. I say it with love...
I was asked to make one for 4 retiring teachers and after A LOT of discussion and back and forth we finally came to an agreement on what the cake would look like.

And heeeere it is:

It was 4 layers of devils food chocolate cake with milk chocolate chip frosting inside, Swiss Buttercream outside. The flowers and bugs are fondant, the initials are beads

Now, I realize this has nothing to do w/ teaching. But, I didn't want to do the generic apples and chalk boards. Plus, it was to celebrate THEM. So I asked about what they liked- what their favorite colors were, etc.. And each of them had a favorite flower so I ran with that.

I have THREE crazy cakes coming up in the next week but I think I'll make time for a new recipe to share. Let me do some trolling and I'll get back to you.


I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle, but if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best.
-Marilyn Monroe

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A greener Sweet Sandy B

My carbon footprint is Shrek sized. Or Sasquatch sized, if you believe in such things.
For the past 3 1/2 years I've driven 65 miles EACH WAY to work. I hate it, the car hates it, my kiddies hate it. It just sucks. Yet another reason why I'm looking forward to next Friday.

Anyhow, even though I have begged and pleaded- on literal bended knee- to work from home the answer has always been the same.... NO. and quit asking.

Due to guilt, I've really tried hard to not think about the awfulness my commute has been causing the environment. (stay with me here, this does involve food and not preaching). I thought about buying carbon offsets or planting trees or what not- but I would kill the tree and really, I'm broke (see Livin' La Vida Divorced)

A couple of months back I found this website- www.reusablebags.com
I found it because Natalie (of Bake and Destroy) works there and she does an amazing job of promoting the site and their products. When I was at the TNT party a couple of weeks back there was a brief discussion about reusable bags in general (because Natalie brought along the CUTEST cupcake bag). I sat back quietly listening...somewhat ashamed because I do use plastic bags from the grocery store- I re-use them A LOT and even when I get paper bags, I re-use those too! I do own some reusable bags but because I get so much use out of the plastic/paper bags, I don't use them all the time. :( Sweet Sandy B = sheepish.

Well, as a parting gift from that weekend Lisa (@thebutcherbaker) gave me a Platypus. Not the duckbilled mammal (talk about crazy town animal man... check them out!) but a reusable water bottle that rolls up/smashes flat when you are done. I loved it and used it daily until some dingbat at work threw it away because it was empty and they thought it was garbage. grrrrr

Natalie and Reusable Bags to the rescue!!!

In Mondays Mail I got the following:

Notice ALL the items stuffed into this one envelope! That was the VERY FIRST thing that struck me- how little packaging was used for these products. It was GREEN primarily, but also instant gratification. I opened the envelope and BAM, I could play with the contents w/o having to open various other bags. (FYI- there was also a platypus and another Wrap N Mat inside, but I forgot to put them in the pic)

These are snack bags. They are similar in size to regular baggie 'snack' bags and hold about the same amount of... snacks! ha. and, cute pattern!!

THIS bag is a small reusable Q Tote/lunch bag/gift bag. It's called "yum" (duh). And, it is the perfect size for lunch... as you will see shortly. It's made out of recycled materials and is really REALLY sturdy.

The Wrap N' Mat. I was most excited for these. I pack a lunch every day for work- always have, always will. It has endlessly bothered me that I use a different baggy every day. I started to use the same baggy for an entire week, but even still, I wanted a better option (I thought about Bento boxes for a while too).
But this little piece of magic was perfect. It wraps up around the sandwich and you just wipe it off, wash it off, whatever and then use it again the next day. And, what do you know, it also serves as a placemat when opened. Genius. I will DEFINITELY be buying more in different colors. (and yes, I HEART mustard. the more the better I say.)

So, here is my Greened up lunch:

And yes, Plastic Bags do indeed, BLOW

Please do me a favor and check out Reusablebags.com They have specials ALL the time and different discounts available. Become a fan on FB and you will be hip to what's new on their site and also get MORE discounts!!!
(I also am the proud owner of the cupcake Q reusable tote... I couldn't wait and ordered it as soon as they were available on their site- pix to come!!!)

Monday, June 7, 2010

A cupcake follow up

A few weeks ago I had the Johnny Cupcakes experience. Remember? It was just that little tiny bitty event that I may have mentioned once or twice. Maybe


When I was there, Just Baked provided the cupcakes for the event. So I was starving and excited that night and I truly didn't taste the cupcake they handed out. I more or less scarfed it down and called it good. As a result I didn't have much commentary (except to say that I thought it was expensive- and later learned that in the cupcake world it was actually pretty cheap)

Welllllllll, today I had the chance to try one again. I went to the mall and finally bit the bullet and bought my new laptop (and also got my iPod fixed! Yippeee!!!)
At the mall I was walking w/ the kiddo's and spied the Just Baked shop and made a beeline towards the counter.

I was suprised to see that the case wasn't full. It was about 11:30 and they had just opened a half hour before... Hm.... Was it just not stocked yet? Or do they just not bake a lot on the weekends? That didn't make sense..
And I was also surprised to see this on the counter:

I didn't know they did celebration cakes too!! It was cute- the colors matched their decor. They also had some cupcake liners for sale although I didn't check out the price tag for those

They had some appetizing options but nothing was jumping out at me, until I saw this:

It was called the Fat Elvis. I'm not an Elvis fan, really. But I think he and I could have had some amazing food binges together. Like in his later, super bloated eat a lot of food days. When I was in Chicago a couple of weeks ago at the Tits N Tats Jamboree (oh, did I tell you about that? Maybe? lol) Natalie made an Elvis Comeback Special cupcake. I think I may have begged her in advance because I love anything involving peanut butter. She kindly did me the favor
Hers were delicious... the buttercream was insane, and she topped them with pretzel M & M's. Have you had those yet?! Buy some today, but beware. They are that good. I won't let myself buy a bag for fear they will take over my life. I still day dream about them. Seriously.
So when I saw Just Baked's version of an Elvis cake, I had to try it.

This is what their description reads: "Our moist banana cake topped with peanut butter-buttercream pillows then hand dipped in our homemade ganache and sprinkled with peanuts"
Basically, a little bit of heaven.

VERDICT: The cake was a faint banana. Not in your face banana, like I like my banana cake. It was also really light and fluffy. It seemed like the focus was on the frosting (which was good) and the ganache and not really the cake.
Given- the cake was moist, it was good. It just wasn't AMAZING. I let Mr. Papers have a bite and he said he liked the cake (BETTER THAN MINE I MIGHT ADD... jerk) so, whatever to each their own.
The frosting and ganache was really really good though. And I liked the addition of chopped peanuts on top.

As I reflect back... I remember why I ate the first "Johnny Cupcake" cupcake so quickly- it was because the cake wasn't dense. It wasn't enough to fill you up, you could eat like 2 MAYBE 3 before you felt you got a good taste.
This is a first in my cupcake experiences. Usually I can eat 2 or 3 BITES of a cupcake and feel like I got a good feel for it.
I wonder if this is intentional... if so, kind of smart.....

Here are some of their other flavor options:
Banana Split, Pineapple Upside Down, S'more, Samoa, Snowball, Orange Creamsicle....

If you ever happen upon one, I'd check it out. Sweet Sandy B gives it a thumbs up. Not way up, but up.

and in other Holy Cow moments... (I can't believe I almost forgot to post this) On Saturday a new person sent me a message on Twitter. She had tasted one of my chocolate chip cookies courtesy of @thehungrypanda who referred by 500th fan on FB.
I smiled as I read her message that said her husband said it was the best of his life. aw, shoot, really? blushing... I got super giddy and replied back to her so quickly she could practically see the drool dripping from my jowels. In my reply to her I mentioned Michael Voltaggio. Don't know him? Good, because that means more for me. To follow it up, I send yet ANOTHER message including his name.
GUESS WHAT? um, he read it and replied to me. twice. And yes you now know of yet another reason why THIS girl is a huge dork.

but seriously? is he not attractive? and he can cook. If he is remotely funny I'm a goner.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Fiddleheads are good, and I'm not even Veg

Talk about pressure. Libby had asked me to make a cake for her sisters wedding vow renewal ceremony/celebration or whatever it's called- a while back. I said sure, yeah OK... and like so many other times when people ask me to make a cake for a certain occassion- I didn't think it would come to fruition. But then it started to get closer and we actually started to PLAN for it- birch tree with ferns/leaves on it. She's such a gem she gave me picture inspirations too!

Truthfully, I kept sliding it to the back of my mind because I was a little scared. A cake that a lot of people would see and eat that weren't my family or close friends... They could give me awful reviews and I wouldn't be there to shame them into saying nice things even if they didn't mean it.

So, when it came time to REALLY plan for it, Libby was specific about flavors even. Lemon, lemon and lemon. Crap. I've never made lemon cake before... or lemon frosting! My mid goes into overdrive as I scour the internet for recipes and went to the grocery store to buy an absurd amount of lemons so I could practice making this cake.

And here it is:

This was actually shot before I added the finishing touches. I wanted Libby to see it before I made it "birch tree"-like and added the initials.
You can go see the FINAL product on my Facebook Page- Sweet Sandy B

DO IT, do it NOW and become my 'fan' :) please?
k, thanks

Friday, June 4, 2010

Long Ago, in a Galaxy far FAR away...

Two weeks ago I was asked to make a Star Wars cake by a co-worker. I was freaked OUT. People are usually very passionate about these movies- the characters, the light sabers, the Luke I am your father.... and every cake decorating show has at least one episode devoted to a Star Wars cake. Super intense, full of drama and an incredible amount of detail. It seems you aren't a cake decorator until you have made a Star Wars cake.

With a ton of anxiety I said OK and started to sketch out some ideas. I came up with this:

Thankfully I got approval and awaited a prototype of R2D2. I searched and searched online to find what the back of his head looked like and couldn't find anything.

Here is how my little cake turned out:

Since I'm still at work for the next 2 weeks I can only do the baking and decorating at night. I've started to plan out my week in advance and assign myself tasks each night so that I'm not going crazy the night before something is due.

I knew that tonight would be insane... well, last night (its 2 in the morning), but I thought I had prepared well enough to complete two cakes tonight and go to bed by midnight. Clearly that didn't happen. It was kind of due to this:

I had an order for a Carrot Cake for one of my FB fans. She and I had never met and she asked if I could make something for her anniversary with her husband (aw!) Super rad that strangers are finding me and I'm baking for them. Of course I said yes. I grated the carrots the night before, chopped the pecans the night before... Thought I could just throw it all together, bake it and frost it while I was waiting for the Star Wars cake to set up. Well... When I remove the cake from the pan it wouldn't budge. SERIOUSLY!? WTF?! I have been using Bakers Secret lately (thanks to PW who uses on her cakes) and it has worked like a charm. I didn't even stop to think I would have issue w/ this one. I've made this carrot cake so many times by now.

I had to make another one. And that added to the kitchen mayhem. Well, that and the chatting I was doing w/ a friend on my phone... sigh... :)

Either way, I have this fail of a cake on my hands. But I did have some extra frosting so

I just ate it....