Cupcakes, cupcakes, cupakes!

I wrote a post about Alabama’s new Cottage Law over on my Pursuit of Ashley blog because supporting locally owned and operated commercial bakeries is something I am very passionate about. That blog post had me reminiscing about the small bakery that I owned and operated for two years. (The shop, Simply Sweet Cupcake Boutique, although now owned by someone else, is still open if you want some yummy baked goods.) I am thankful to all of my family members and customers who supported me and allowed me to chase a dream! The business and I were featured in several local magazines, on the local news morning show several times, and the local newspaper. I was proud of building my business from literally the ground up, so here, if you are interested, are some photos of our shop and my all-time favorite cupcake projects:

My favorite picture that I used in most of my ads…

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Some of my favorite orders came from some very creative, loyal customers. I loved these Alice and Wonderland themed cupcakes.

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Especially the stacked teacups.

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I loved these Breakfast at Tiffany’s themed cupcakes that a customer requested.

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I loved taking my customers wonderful ideas and using flour, sugar, and a little fondant to turn them into tiny, edible pieces of art. Here are some “shabby chic” cupcakes…

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And some “retro-housewife” cupcakes for a wedding shower…

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Under the Sea…

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Cupcakes that were “tutu” cute!

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We catered a ton of weddings, and I loved being a part of all of them. Here are a few of my favorite wedding photos:

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wedding cupcake

I loved doing hydrangea-inspired cupcakes for weddings

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This wedding tower was 6 feet tall!

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Some brides wanted all one flavor of cupcakes, while others offered their guests a variety…

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Here is a picture of me in the shop that was taken for the newspaper. (Note: I was unprepared for this particular photo– hence the no-makeup, worn out appearance!) I loved our fabulous logo in the background; we put a lot of time and thought into coming up with it.

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Some other articles…

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And I’ll leave you with our most popular non-food item from the shop!

peace love and cupcakes

 

Lego Party

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My son loves Legos, so it was no surprise when he requested a Lego-themed birthday party. Actually, he requested a Lego-themed, glow-in-the-dark, party at our local bouncy-house party facility. No big deal, right?! Never one to shy away from a theme, I jumped on the Lego train and got to work. I found this website, Makoodle.com, on Pinterest that gave me a starting point, and some great ideas for the party.

Lego Invite 3I started with these cute invitations from Makoodle. Follow the link to get to a downloadable template. Makoodle also includes a template for the “You’re Invited” stickers to go on the front of the invitations. I added my son’s party information and had the invitations printed on heavy cardstock at my local office supply store. I have found that the copy quality is much better doing it there than at home, and actually cheaper than having to purchase ink. I ordered the clear pillow boxes from Amazon, added a few Legos, and the label. (I used the extra large pillow boxes, but I think the large ones would work fine.)

Crayon Favor

The next step was making the crayon party favors. These Lego molds came in handy for party favors and his cake. Simply unwrap and break crayons into the mold and bake them in the oven at 225 for about 10 minutes, or until the crayon is melted. Allow to cool completely before popping them out of the mold. It was a fun project, and my son enjoyed helping me unwrap and break the crayons up. We even made some multi-colored crayons with the leftover pieces at the end. Those were the crayons he wanted to keep.

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I tend to over-do everything. So although the crayons alone would have been a great party favor, I also made Lego-inspired favor bags by using a 2″ craft punch and some hot glue.  I found some other Lego-inspired goodies and added them to these favor bags. I decorated the tables in the party room with primary colored table covers, plates, napkins, and such. I also used some of my son’s Lego toys as decorations.

lego cake

For his cake, I was inspired by THIS cake. I used the same silicone mold that I used for the crayons. I melted white chocolate to make the bricks. To color candy melts, white chocolate, or any fat-based product you really need to order oil-based food coloring. Water-based food coloring will make the chocolate seize up and give you a gritty texture. I didn’t have any oil-based food coloring on hand, or the time to order some, so I found that if I pre-mixed my regular Wilton/Americolor food coloring with about a tablespoon of Crisco before adding it to the chocolate it kept the chocolate from seizing. For the sides of the cake, I used Satin Ice Fondant. (Satin Ice tastes much better than what you can purchase at your local craft/hobby store. You can order some from GlobalSugarArt.com. A 5-pound tub is plenty.  I always order white fondant, and color it myself.) I also made a fondant, Lego-esque decoration featuring his name for the top of the cake. If you don’t want to fool with fondant, you could use the chocolate bricks for the sides too like on the Makoodle website.

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In case you were wondering, he DID get to bounce around with glow sticks in the dark too! I think he had a pretty fabulous 5th birthday party! You can view my inspiration Pinterest board here to see some of the other ideas that I liked, but didn’t use. There are some other cool invitations, and a link to purchase the crayons from Etsy if you don’t want to make them. I made some Lego Rice Krispy Treats like these to send to school on his birthday. The 5 dish that I filled with candy can be purchased from ShopTomKat.com.

Spring and Easter Craft Decor

I wanted to share some of my favorite Easter pins and printables with you. The best news is that all of the printables are FREE. I have found that they print best if I take the files to my local office supply store, rather than printing at home.

I saw a pin on Pinterest for a Spring-inspired tulip wreath. I purchased some fabric tulips (on sale), and a vine wreath at my local craft store, and voila, I had a tulip wreath of my own for less than $25. I found that I didn’t even need to hot glue anything; I just stuck the flower stems in the wreath.

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HOP to it

Click HERE to find the precious Bunny-themed printables. I printed them out, had them laminated, attached them to a dowel with hot glue, and added a ribbon. I put some of them out Easter morning when we do our egg hunt at home.

Click HERE for some more adorable Easter printables from Amanda’s Parties to go. It includes Spring/Easter prints, cupcake toppers, banners, and much more.

Also, be sure to check out this fun neighborhood Easter game: You’ve Been Egged. The link includes instructions for the game, and a free printable.

And finally, I put this printable in a frame on my entry table:

he is risen

Click HERE to find the Chalkboard Easter Print.

Key Lime Cupcakes

key lime cupcakes 3I made some Key Lime Cupcakes for a bake sale. I make them every year at a block party that we host, and people always want the recipe. A similar recipe was always one of our best sellers in the days when I owned a bakery. They taste light and tangy, but will satisfy even the sweetest tooth. They are perfect for your spring and summer parties. I promise your friends will be thoroughly impressed with these. (Unless of course, your friends don’t like Key Lime in general, but you don’t need friends like that!)

This recipe takes a little help from a boxed cake mix– you could certainly alter your favorite scratch-cake recipe, if you prefer. There are two secret ingredients: lime jello– which gives it the perfect color and texture, and key lime juice– which gives it the right amount of tang. I used to use only fresh squeezed Key Limes, but they are tiny, and it is time consuming to extract enough juice or the cake and frosting. I have made the recipe with regular lime juice, but have found that Nellie and Joe’s brand Key West Lime Juice yields the best flavor. It is readily available at most grocery stores.

 

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Cupcakes

1 box lemon cake mix (I prefer Duncan Hines)

1 box of lime jello

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup Nellie and Joe’s Key West Lime Juice

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Dump all of the ingredients into an electric mixing bowl, and mix on low for about 30 seconds until combined. Then, mix on medium for 2 minutes. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 of the way full. (I use an ice cream scoop to get the perfect, even amount in each cupcake.) Bake for 14 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center cupcake comes out clean.

 

Frosting

1-  8oz. block of cream cheese (softened)

1- 32oz. bag of confectioner’s sugar

2 Tablespoons of Nellie and Joe’s Key West Lime Juice

Food coloring if desired. (Must use a gel food coloring. Betty Crocker makes a “Neon” green gel color that works great, or look for an electric or lime green from Wilton or Americolor.)

In an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese for 30-45 seconds. Add in two cups of powdered sugar, and mix until the frosting starts to come together. Stream in 1 tablespoon of lime juice. Stop and add two more cups of powdered sugar. Stream in remaining lime juice. Add more powdered sugar in increments of 2 cups at a time until the frosting reaches the consistency that you desire. (I usually do NOT use the whole bag of sugar.)

Note: Be careful not to add any more lime juice. The acidity in the lime juice will make your frosting a runny mess if you use too much.

 

The Perfect Pomegranate Martini

martini1Pomegranate Martinis are my favorite drink of the moment. I may even be a bit of a Pomegranate Martini snob. I try them wherever I find them on a menu. Most often, I am disappointed. Most that I have tried are too tart. I prefer mine to be on the sweet side. There is an upscale steakhouse close to my house that seems to have the best. After a few Fridays in a row of sitting at the bar with my husband eating steaks and drinking martinis, I befriend the bartender who gave me his recipe. I went home and tried it, and voila! the Perfect Pomegranate Martini. It almost taste like a pomegranate-infused lemonade. It is so yummy, and pretty potent.

The base of the recipe is PAMA Pomegranate Flavored Liqueur. I was able to find it at my local, state-controlled, beverage store. It is alright alone– although a little bitter, but it is also good in a number of other cocktails. It has become a staple in our bar stock. I

The recipe calls for Sweet and Sour Mix. I prefer to make my own at home– the store-bought stuff is too sweet and artificial-tasting. I keep some in a mason jar in the fridge. It keeps for about a month, and makes the perfect margarita when mixed an equal portion of lime juice, a shot and a half of your favorite tequila, and a splash of triple sec. Click here for my Sweet and Sour Recipe.

The Perfect Pomegranate Martini

1 1/2 oz. PAMA Pomegranate Flavored Liqueur

1 1/2 oz. Sweet and Sour Mix

1 oz. Absolut Mandarin

1 oz. Triple Sec

I have found it is best to start with chilled mixers. I shake with ice, and serve in a sugar rimmed glass with a lemon twist.

 

 

Sweet and Sour Mix

***I am back (again)! It has been a long while since I last blogged, but it has been a busy year for us. I changed jobs twice, and we closed a deal on the bakery business that I used to own. I have been super busy, but I am ready to get back to sharing some of my ideas.***

Our Spring calendar is full of parties, so I find it is good to maintain a well-stocked bar for entertaining. I like to be sure to always have fresh lemons and limes on hand, as well as mixers, including this bar staple. Sweet and Sour Mix is found in a number of cocktails, and also serves as the base for the perfect Margarita. Many Sweet and Sour Recipes call for equal parts lemon and lime juice. I make mine with just lemon juice, and add lime juice when making a margarita.

Sweet and Sour Mix

1 cup sugar

1 cup warm water

1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

Stir sugar and water in a sauce pan over low-medium heat until the sugar has just dissolved. Remove from heat and allow the sugar mixture to cool a bit. Chill the mixture before making cocktails.

Double the recipe if necessary. I keep it in a mason jar in the refrigerator. It keeps for a month, if not longer.

For a margarita, combine 1 1/2 oz. Sweet and Sour mix with 1 oz. of freshly squeezed lime juice, 1 1/2 oz. of tequila, and 1 1/2 oz. of triple sec. ENJOY!

Top Gift Picks for Dad

Forget a tie or a coupon for a round of golf, these Father’s Day gifts are sure to impress dad. Ranging in price from $25- $150, and in no particular order, here are Ashley’s top gift picks for Father’s Day.

 

flip jacksFlipjacks from Southern Tide: These super-durable flip flops are sure to keep your dad styling and comfortable this summer. As an avid supporter of small businesses, I highly recommend you see if a local retailer carries them (if you are in my part of the world, check out G Harvell Men’s Clothier), but if you can’t find one, you can order them directly from SouthernTide.com. ($69.50- $75.00)

 

coolerPatio/Deck Cooler Stand: If you are handy (or know someone who is), you may want to try out this DIY project. Lumberjocks.com has some basic information about the project. I think a dark stain and some caster wheels would make this already awesome gift idea even better. ($150)

 

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Monogrammed Fotostrap: If the dad in your life is never too far from his DSLR, this may be the perfect gift. This camera strap from Monogram Lane has a stylish, vintage feel. This can take up to 3 weeks to ship, so you may want to contact the retailer to make sure dad will get it in time, or give him a picture of his awesome gift and wait it out. If your father is a photographer, we think this one is worth the wait. ($85.00)

monogrammed steak brand and carving board

 

Monogrammed Steak Brand: Since we, here in the South at least, love anything that is monogrammed, how about getting your grill master his very own monogrammed steak brand. It also comes with a matching carving board. They are made in the USA and add a rustic sophistication to backyard barbeques. Available from Williams & Sonoma. ($39.95)

 

beer towerDIY Beer Tower: I have seen several variations of this idea on Pinterest. It is an economical gift option that dad is sure to love. A 24-pack of dad’s favorite brew, some cake circles, and ribbon, and you are good to go. If your dad isn’t a beer man, feel free to use soda instead. Tuck some gift cards and sweet notes in between the layers to make it a complete gift. ($25)

 

Comment below to let us know about your Father’s Day gift ideas.