Sunday, May 19, 2019

A Cookie Layer Cake

Are you thinking of surprising someone with a homemade birthday cake this year?  Try making a layer cake decorated with iced sugar cookies in whatever shapes the recipient may like, but go the extra mile and add their nickname in cookie form as well.  Whenever I hear the term, "cookie cake", I think of either a layer cake or sheet cake with cookies attached to it.  A flat chocolate chip cookie 'pizza' iced and decorated to look like a cake is not a cake in my opinion.  


Having alphabet cookie cutters in one's pantry is a must if you are a cookie crafter, cookie baker and cake decorator.  They allow you to spell out a person's name, a greeting or even their nickname.  They come in various fonts and sizes, so pick and choose whatever you like, and then create personalized cookies or cakes.

This past week I baked a delicious chocolate layer cake and iced it in delicate Swiss meringue buttercream.  To this I attached royal icing cookies in the shapes of hearts and letters along the sides of the cake, and on the top.


Take a look at how easy, yet showstopping a cookie layer cake like this can be.



The royal icing recipe and the sugar cookie recipe are from yours truly.  Do a quick search on the blog for those recipes.  Use heart-shaped cookie cutters (I used my Martha by Mail Hearts Set) in whatever sizes you wish, and cut out as many as you think you're going to need.  Take my advice and cut extra.  For the letters, I turned to the Martha by Mail Alphabet Set in our pantry, and cut out my friend's nickname, not once, but twice.  I wanted the cake to have 'Bubbles' all around the cake, and since I was thinking of baking a large 10" round cake, I wanted to make sure it was completely covered in cookies.

Leave the royal icing white, and quickly outline and flood your cookies.  Using rainbow nonpareils, sprinkle as many as you want on each cookie while the icing is wet.  Set them aside to dry completely. 

Note:  do not freeze iced cookies with these rainbow nonpareils because they will bleed upon thawing.  It's best to store the cookies at room temperature (tightly sealed) for up to two weeks if necessary.


The rich, yet light chocolate cake recipe comes from Martha Stewart.  It's her 'One Bowl Chocolate Cake' recipe which is always outstanding and very easy to make.  For the surprise birthday cake, I baked a double batch of the recipe and divided it between two 10x2" round cake pans.  These baked at 350F for approximately 45 minutes.  

The Swiss Meringue Buttercream is also from Martha.  I like to use the larger quantity version because it's best to have extra and not run out.  Any leftover Swiss meringue buttercream can be frozen for a later date.


Once the cakes have cooled sufficiently, pop them in the refrigerator to chill and begin making your buttercream.  As soon as the buttercream is ready, take the cake layers out, and place one of the layers onto a cake decorating turntable.  Add a good amount of buttercream to the top of the layer, and then gently sandwich the other layer on top of that, making sure that the layers are centered.  Quickly give the entire layer cake a crumb coating.  You can then chill the cake for about 30 minutes.  The buttercream can stay out in a cool spot, covered with plastic wrap.  Once the crumb coating is chilled, frost the entire cake, applying the buttercream either in one smooth coat, or having it textured as you wish.  The top of this cake was embellished with stars using a large Wilton 1E piping tip.  I then added all of my hearts cookies facing in one direction.  The letters were then gently added all around the cake.


You can see the back of the cake.  It too spells out 'Bubbles'.


I simply adored making this cake because it was for a very special person.  Everyone who saw it at work said that it looked too pretty to eat.  But, do you know what I thought?


I thought it was too good not to dig into as soon as I was done photographing it. :-)  By the way, my friend Kelly loved every bit of it.


Happy Birthday Bubbles!  

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Removing Security Tags from Antique China

It isn't unusual or unheard of to encounter antishoplifting tags on items at antique stores, antique malls and consignment shops. Security stickers on antique and vintage pieces can be problematic if the adhesive is particularly strong or if the tag has been on the item for a number of years.

Antishoplifting tags are made by embedding layers of metal coil resonators within nonconductive materials.  These tags will transmit a signal to the security gates if they have not been deactivated.  This is good if you are the antique shop owner, but bad news if you're the buyer.

Depending on the type of piece you've purchased, Goo Gone Original can be life changing.  If you collect fine china, keeping a bottle of this adhesive removal product in your home is a must.  All high end antique stores & vendors will have security tags on their precious objects, so be prepared.

Antique Drabware ca. 1810-1820

Several years ago I came across several pieces of antique Wedgwood drabware from the early 1800s at a high end antique store that I could not walk away from.  Call it fate, call it good luck.  I think it was meant to be.  What I wasn't expecting, though, was to have antishoplfting tags that seemed to be fused to the undersides of my plates and serving dishes.  As annoyed as I was, I knew that I had to treat my treasures gently if I wanted them to remain undamaged.

Antique Wedgwood Drabware Dessert Plates ca.1820

You can see my pathetic attempts at removing these tags by trying to peel them off of the gilded drabware dessert plates.  The paper peeled off, but the remaining materials didn't want to budge.  They were tough.  I asked several of my friends what they would do.  Some suggested Goo Gone, and others suggested peanut butter.

Antique Wedgwood Drabware Plate

I started by removing as much of the label as possible without resorting to anything.  The paper part was easily removed, but the metal coils were impossible.  I tested one plate before making sure that the Goo Gone was going to work without damaging my antiques.  

Working in my kitchen next to the sink, I laid each plate on a clean, soft kitchen towel.  I then soaked a cotton ball in Goo Gone and applied it liberally over the entire tag.  This was then left to soak for about 5 minutes.  I then used a plastic bench scraper to gently remove the tags.  Most of them were able to come off, but a few were rather stubborn, so I reapplied more Goo Gone until the metal coils came off.  Thankfully it worked!

Each piece was then carefully washed in warm water with a mild dish soap to remove any excess product.  After I hand dried each plate and serving dish, I inspected them for any scratching or color damage, but I detected nothing. 

Note: read the directions and warnings on the bottle, and always test this product before using it.

Lakin Pottery Drabware ca. 1810

This unusual drabware serving dish from ca. 1810 is not Wedgwood.  The gilded piece has a handpainted landscape scene in lovely shades of plums and creams.  The scrolled edges are accented in thick bands of gold.  I love it so much.  


Do you see the imprint?  It says "drab porcelain".

Lakin Pottery Drabware ca. 1810

Here is another early nineteenth century gilded drabware serving dish with a landscape scene in the same shades as the previous piece.  Simply beautiful!


The imprint of this serving dish says 'Lakin'.  What this means is that both pieces were produced by none other than the North Staffordshire pottery works of Thomas Lakin, sometime in the early 1800s.  Thomas Lakin Pottery began producing pieces in the late 1700s and continued to do so through the early part of the nineteenth century.  Undamaged pieces such as these are indeed treasures.


A mix of antique Wedgwood, Lakin and Spode drabware.


The stamp of early Wedgwood is unmistakable.



The thrill of the hunt for unique and rare pieces of fine china doesn't have to be thwarted by a simple security sticker or tag.  Having a bottle of goo gone will have your pieces ready for display on a wall, a cabinet, a breakfront in the dining room or an heirloom hutch in the kitchen.  Remember: antiques are meant to be shared, so display and enjoy them!  

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Easter Cookies Bound for England

Creating sugar cookies for my friend Jayne (a British expat) is always a pleasure because she gives me so much creative license.  She has been a big supporter of my sugar cookie craft for almost a decade now, and I have her to thank for prompting me to pick up the pace and churn out cookies by the dozen each and every season.  


Her request this time around was simple: "design a set of Easter cookies for my family in England and make them pretty."  After going through my archive of past cookies, and perusing the cookie cutters in my pantry, I decided on a few shapes and designs for these special U.K. bound cookies.

A large Easter egg cookie cutter, a large five inch plain-round cutter, and some very special cookie cutters from the former Martha by Mail catalog were all gathered on my large kitchen counter. I then quickly began to plan Jayne's cookies.


Have a set of baked and cooled egg-shaped cookies and several large round ones as well.  Batches of royal icing should be tinted a very deep egg-yellow, a mint green, a light pink, a light blue and white, of course.  

Ice all eggs in the bright egg-yellow royal icing (OK, some were made in that minty, jadeite green) and allow them to dry completely.  Using a cake decorating airbrush kit, and Americolor gold highlighter, spray all of the egg cookies evenly and let them dry.  Once they have dried, using a #1 piping tip, add a cross-hatched pattern to each egg in alternating colors.  You can then add small dots in between each opening as shown.  Let them dry completely.



For the bunny and chick shapes, I used my Martha by Mail Easter marshmallow cutters that I adore.  The bunny and chick are beyond adorable.  I think they're perfect for cutting out cookies, but they're also ideal for tracing shapes onto cookies.  

Flood each round cookie in either mint green, light pink or light blue royal icing using a #4 piping tip.  Let the base dry completely.  With an edible marker, trace the baby chick, and bunny (I also used a special bunny head cookie cutter for the other shape).  With white royal icing, outline and flood the shape as shown.  Immediately add 4 small colored dots on their little butts, and then add small dots for eyes.  Each cookie then gets a dotted border.  Alternate up to three colors like I have done and make each border unique.



I have a feeling that every member of Jayne's family across the pond is going to love having one of these Easter cookies.  Packaged in clear cellophane bags and tied with gorgeous satin ribbons, the Easter treats are stylish enough for baskets, platters or neatly-wrapped presents.  Have you started your Easter cookie baking yet?  



My thanks to Jayne for her continued support of my craft.  Let's keep on piping!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Making Vintage Kitchen Towels

Several weeks ago I came across a large bolt of vintage fabric that I knew I had to have.  The linen was new-old stock from the 1950s with a lovely green-striped pattern along the edges.  In my mind I was already turning this fabric into something for my kitchen, because the cream colored background and the green-striped edging of the linen looked like it would be an exceptional match with some of the green kitchenalia that I collect.


I love how creative some people can get with their hand stitching, embroidery and various sewing creations.  Unfortunately I don't fall into the category of being adept with a needle and thread, so I rely on knowing people who are.  


After approaching a local seamstress about what I had in mind, she quickly walked me through what she was going to do.  The 10 yards of fabric would be cut into 1 yard pieces, and each piece would then get a stitched hem to create the kitchen towels of my dreams.  Since I specifically asked for a 1/4" seam (above), the seamstress told me that she would take 1/2" from each edge, and fold that extra 1/4" inward to give the towel a sturdy, crisp edge.


You can see the extra 1/4" fold that was given to each edge.  Once they were stitched with a cream colored thread, each towel was then pressed with a professional steam iron.  Done!


My "vintage" 1950s tea/kitchen towels are ready for duty.  They are in such perfect condition that I won't hesitate to gently use them however I see fit throughout the kitchen.  At almost 36" in length, the towels are large enough and undeniably sturdy to use as "lapkins" for an informal lunch.

They look great with my yellowware, my enamelware, and, of course, my jadeite.



Keep an eye out for large pieces of fabric from yesteryear at vintage shops, online and at yard sales.  If you ever come across any that speak to you, buy the fabric and either make placemats, table runners, napkins or tea towels with them.  Your new-old kitchen towels are going to look fantastic in the kitchen.


Happy Collecting!