Sunday, March 3, 2013


    Next month I have to create a cake similar to a Monopoly Board for a Bat Mitzvah. The young lady made up her own board with different street names, etc. That will be easy to recreate, a square cake with an edible image on top. The difficulty lies with the little pieces, the houses and hotels, and of course the players pieces, the shoe, race car, dog, thimble and now the cat. Have you seen how small those pieces are? I don't like putting non edible things on my cakes so buying a game and using the real pieces was out of the question. Molding them free hand was also out of the question, as I am not good with tiny details, I have fat and clumsy fingers. So a mold of the items would be perfect, put some sugar paste in the mold, pop it out, paint it and you are done. They don't sell Monopoly molds so I have to make it myself. Off to my local craft store.
   At the store, there were different types of mold making kits but since I knew I needed a flexible medium that I could peel back and remove larger pieces at the top through sometimes smaller base pieces. So the mold kits that harden to a stone like consistency were out. I was almost ready to give up when I came across the only remaining container of this silicone mold stuff. I snatched it up and with my 50% off coupon, it was only $10. (After making a bunch of molds, I barely used any, so I will save it for future projects.)
container of mold maker
Monopoly items with numerous coats of mold builder

      The container's instructions were a little vague, but I set to work. I laid newspaper down on my surface and put wax paper on top. I got a small paintbrush and the items that I wanted to make molds of. The instructions tell you to do 8-10 thin coats, allowing to dry between coats. I found doing thin coats impossible so I just gobbed it on but I did allow for thorough drying time between coats. You also have to make about a 1 inch rim around the outside of the items allowing you to have something to hold while making your sugar paste item.
     I did everything in about 10 layers just to be on the safe side. When dry, I unmolded the item and I had my mold. The stuff does not hurt the original, you couldn't tell that I had done anything to them.
the car from Monopoly

mold of the car
the sugar paste car made from the mold
     Once the molds were done, I started to make my sugar paste pieces. I made a small oval of sugar paste smooth and put it into the car mold and then tried to unmold it. No such luck, it got stuck. After I scraped it out, I tried again, this time using some Crisco. I covered the piece of sugar paste thoroughly with Crisco and pushed it into the mold. You really need to push it in well but not to hard or you can end up with a misshapen piece. It is silicone and very flexible but you need to be careful. I waited just a minute or two and popped the piece right out. It looked pretty good as you can see from the picture, you can see the wheels, the indentation for the seat and some other details. Let the pieces dry for a few days before you paint them.
     Then it was on to the other pieces in Monopoly. Since my set doesn't have the cat, I don't even know if the new sets are being sold yet, I bought a small plastic cat at the craft store and followed the same process.
plastic cat from craft store
cat mold
sugar paste cat from the mold
     As you can see from the finished sugar paste cat, the mold picked up some great details from the plastic cat, such as the tail, fur and little ears. Next it was on to the hotel and houses using the same process.
house and hotel and the sugar paste results
house and hotel molds and finished results
     Once you take the sugar paste out of the mold, you may have to do a little shaping. Do it while the sugar paste is still pliable. If you wait until the piece drys, you will have to sand your mistakes.
painted sugar paste car
     Hope you enjoyed this tutorial and check our Facebook page and web site in April for the finished cake. and

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

How to Construct a Gingerbread House: Part 3

     Now that the roof has set up overnight on top of the sides, the only thing left to do is accessorize your gingerbread house. I first put the trees on. The trees with the pretzel rod trunk need a little special attention. Since I use a cake board for my gingerbread houses, I cut a small circle out of the board where the pretzel rod will fit. After dry fitting it, I remove it, fill the hole with royal icing and put the trunk back in. I then put a ring of royal icing around the base. This gives it extra stability. The flat siting trees can just go on the board with a rim of royal icing along the bottom.
     Since all my gingerbread houses are made for Christmas, I like to cover my board with "snow". I make a thin border all around the 4 sides to hold the icing in, using a #3 tip with my pastry bag. I then thin royal icing out to pouring consistency, and pour it all over the board, letting it flow right up to the house. Then I place my trees, bridges or other landscaping down right into the thin layer of royal icing that I poured. You need to work quickly and know where you want to place everything as the royal icing begins to set immediately and if you start moving things around, you can end up with a mess. Again, this is where a dry fitting will come in handy.
     With our cabin in the woods, my daughter wanted a stream and pond. We have down water before and there are numerous ways to achieve the look. You can easily color piping gel blue and put it on your board, ringing it with candies or mini marshmallows. You can also melt crushed blue hard candies on a cookie sheet covered with a silpat, but you have less control over the shape. You can move the melted candy around with a spatula as soon as it comes out of the oven but you literally have seconds to work before the candy hardens. For our cabin, I saw some tiny flat pieces of mirror at the craft store and bought some small squares and an oval. I put the squares in a line right onto my royal icing covered board and at the end of the line, I put the oval. I then placed the bridge right over the line of squares so it looked like a bridge over a stream that ended at a pond. I then ringed the whole thing with my chocolate river rocks. (The same rocks that I used to cover the chimney.)
     I put my snowman in, the pile of logs next to the front steps and my well with bucket. On the front porch, I placed the chairs and a broom. On the roof, I put a ladder and a sugar Santa popping out of the chimney and a small string of lights. We added a wreath on the door and some poinsettias over the windows. I then sprinkled confectionery sugar over it all to simulate snow and even placed footprints in the royal icing from the porch steps to the bridge. I added a store bought deer (the only non edible thing besides the lights) and we were done.
     I hope you enjoyed this as much as we did. Tomorrow, the gingerbread house goes off to school and will go home with a lucky little boy or girl right before the holidays.
     I have attached a link to the recipe I use for construction grade gingerbread but there are many out there on the Internet.
Bridge with mirror stream and pond
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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

How to Construct a Gingerbread House: Part 2

simple and easy
     Now that we made the trees, we can make a few other things that are simple and fast and will make our log cabin more realistic. My daughter wanted a snow man and some chairs for the front porch. I decided on a pile of logs for the fireplace, a broom for the front porch, a ladder for the roof, (someone was looking for Santa) and a well and bucket since there is no plumbing in our cabin. All of these things can be made from pretzels, hard candies and royal icing. The snowman was made from cereal treats covered in white fondant but you could just cover the cereal treats with white royal icing. Just one bag of pretzels sticks went a long way.
Hole in back for wire
      Now on to making the sections of the log cabin. I use a construction grade gingerbread that has no eggs or butter and thus is sturdy and doesn't spread much in baking. I roll my dough out on my silpat or parchment paper so that I can just pick the sheet up and place it on my baking sheet without distorting the pieces. I roll the dough to 1/4 inch thickness but you could even go to 1/8. Bake according to the directions. If you are putting lights in your house, as we are doing, make sure you cut out a small section in the back for the wire. Also don't forget to cut out your windows and door. 
                                                           Once the pieces come out of the oven, I always re cut them because even with construction grade gingerbread, there will be some spreading. I just lay the pattern over the pieces and cut them where needed. Do this while the pieces are still warm, if you wait until they cool, they are harder to cut and you run the risk of breaking them. If you want "glass" in your windows, wait until the pieces have cooled and then put some crushed hard candies in the window openings and put back into the oven for about 5 minutes or until the candy has melted into the opening. I use a butterscotch candy because I like the yellow look through the window but any color will work, it is your choice. Allow the pieces to harden overnight before attempting construction.
Gluing on logs with royal icing
     The next day, it is time for construction. If I am covering the walls with fondant or, as in this case, "logs", I do that before I put the house together. I find it is much easier to work flat on the table. The same holds true for the roof and chimney, if there is one. In this case, I used pretzels sticks to simulate logs and glued them on all 4 sides with royal icing, breaking them to fit. I covered the chimney with chocolate river rocks to simulate stone. Allow the walls to dry before putting the house together. I find using a pastry bag works better that a spatula for gluing the pieces together. If you don't have a pastry bag, a ziploc bag works just as well. Just cut the corner off. You have better control and the icing doesn't go all over the place. Dry fit your house on your board before you start gluing. You may not want the house right in the middle of the board because of the landscaping, ours was going to one side to make room for the bridge, stream and pond, and well. Have some heavy cans and jars put off to the side to use as supports as you work. Do the 4 sides first and allow to dry overnight before putting the roof on. Do all 4 sides at once so that you can adjust the angles so they all fit. Put royal icing along the bottom of each piece and up the sides and fit them together. Use the cans to prop the sides and allow to dry. Fill in any gaps with royal icing. If you are using lights, make sure you put the back piece over the wire so that the lights are inside and the battery pack or plug is outside. Once the house has set up and before you put on the roof, I secure the lights inside where I want them to be using the royal icing.
     As I mentioned, my daughter wanted a bridge over a stream. To get the arch in the gingerbread, I took a small empty tin can and cut it in half. I cut a piece of gingerbread to the width I wanted and put it over the well greased half can and baked it according to the recipe. Once cool, we decorated it with gumdrops and a piece of rolled candy over the top to simulate a railing.
     The roof can go on the next day. Again, if you wanted to use shredded wheat to simulate thatch or necco wafers for tiles, it is easier to do it before the roof goes on. Here we wanted a rusted tin look, so we used red cinnamon gum sticks and glued them on. Once they were dry and the house set up overnight, we put the roof on, again using a liberal dose of royal icing with our pastry bag. Our pattern had a roof overhang so we also used candy sticks in a coordinating color for support. We put the house away again to dry overnight. If you try doing everything on the same day, you run the risk of knocking something over. It is easy to do as the royal icing doesn't completely harden for hours, and you are trying to put small pieces with big hands. I find it best to do everything in stages.
     Tomorrow, we landscape and put our finishing touches on. Stay tuned. While you are at it, visit us at

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How To Construct a Gingerbread House: Part 1

Every Christmas, my daughter and I construct a gingerbread house. Then we bring it to school to my daughter's class where it will be on display for a few weeks before Christmas. It gets raffled off on the last day of school before the Christmas break to a lucky child in the class. We enjoy the time together while we construct the house over a few days, and gives my daughter a sense of accomplishment. It also teaches her about giving and sharing the joy.
     Over the next few blog posts, I will take you step by step in the construction of the gingerbread house, and hopefully be able to share with you my tips and secrets. Our houses have come a long way and are getting more detailed and elaborate. This year we are going to attempt a bridge for our rustic cabin in the woods.
     Over the years, I have collected many photos and blue prints of gingerbread houses. I keep them all in a binder so we stay neat and organized. If you search the Internet, you can find many free patterns and directions. When I find a free one, I download it and put it in my binder. I have amassed a large collection, you will be surprised with what is out there.
     The key to making the process fun and enjoyable is preparation. I can't stress that enough. I gather what I need over a period of time. If I am at the candy store, I will check out the selection and see if there is anything that may work with my design, purchase it and put it away until needed. Before I begin baking, I make sure I have all the ingredients in the house the day before. I also put my board together and make some decorations ahead of time, namely the trees.
     First, determine what design or style of house you are going to construct. As I said, this year, my daughter chose a rustic cabin in the woods. I have a pattern for the cabin, having found it on the Internet a few years ago. I enlarged the pattern pieces on my printer to the size I thought would work for us. I printed them out on heavy card stock because I like to save them for future use. You can use regular paper but they would only be good for one use.
ribbon on the side of cake drum
     Next, based on the design and size, prepare your board that the gingerbread house will sit on. I have seen some suggestions to use heavy cardboard. I strongly do not recommend that as I find it can easily collapse with the weight of the house and landscaping. A piece of plywood would work, most of the big box stores will cut it to size for you. I use a cake drum that you can get in any cake decorating supply store or craft store like Michaels or AC Moore. Hint, use the coupons that are always in the newspaper and the drums aren't expensive. I am using a 16 inch square drum because I like to have lots of room for my landscape and house. The top is silver on most drums but that won't matter as you won't see the top when you are done as you can landscape with "snow", covering the entire board. You can also leave part of the silver showing to mimic water but we will get to that later. To dress up the sides of the board, I cover the sides with ribbon, using double sided tape. I found a red and green plaid ribbon and used that for the sides.
     Now on to the other things that can be done ahead of time, namely some landscaping ideas. This year we are attempting  a bridge over water. I bought some small pieces of mirror at the craft store that we will use for the stream. Last year we did a pond and used blue tinted piping gel. We wanted to try something different this year. Now onto the trees which are probably the most labor intensive.

2 different styles of trees
     As I said preparation is key and I like to do as much as possible ahead of time. Since we are doing a cabin in the woods, we need lots of trees. They can be time consuming so before Thanksgiving, my daughter and I made our forest of trees. We bought a box of ice cream cones and a bag of pretzel rods. We made some royal icing and tinted it greens. We also had a bowl of multi colored dragees nearby for decorations. Some trees were going to sit flat on the ground and some were going to be on long trunks. Those that were going to have long trunks must first be filled with royal icing and a pretzels rod inserted into the icing and allowed to dry for a few hours. I used different lengths of pretzels rods to make the trees different sizes. I used a Styrofoam block to hold them upside down or you can use a glass or cup. I used some left over royal icing in various colors to use as the glue since you won't see the underside. Nothing goes to waste in my house. While the trees with trunks were drying, my daughter and I started piping the ice cream cones. I used a leaf tip but even a star one would work. Since my daughter is only 8, her piping skills left a little to be desired but that is the charm of the trees. Nothing in nature is perfect and if there were some big spaces, we just filled in with dragees. Start at the bottom rim of the cone where it is the widest and start piping around and around, working your way up. When you are done with one tree, sprinkle with the dragees while the icing is still wet so they will adhere. You can also leave off the dragees or use whatever you want for decorations. Leave aside to dry. We did the entire box of ice cream cones, but did it over a few days as it can be tiresome to pipe them all at once.
     That is far as we got so far but preparation is the key. Tomorrow we are ready to bake and then actual construction, which should be a breeze. Next time I will go over the mechanics of cutting and baking your pieces so that fit together well. Stay tuned.
     If you would like to see more of our creations, visit my website,

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

American Cancer Society, Baking for the Cure

     Recently, I was invited to participate in a bake off for the American Cancer Society, Baking for the Cure on Tuesday, August 28, 2012. It was held at the Bergen Mall in Paramus, NJ. As my mom died of ovarian cancer many years ago, it is hard to say no to the American Cancer Society. With not much time and a busy schedule, (it was my daughter's 8th birthday party for 50 people the weekend before), I had to come up with a design that would fit the theme (purple, and celebrating more birthdays) but that would be easy to execute quickly.                                                                                                                                                      The flavor was easy, my best selling key lime pound cake with Swiss meringue buttercream. As for the design, what says happy birthday better than presents? I opted for three stacked presents, two boxes and one wrapped gift. Also, I wanted to incorporate their special logo and pay homage to all the walks and runs they sponsor so I made a pair of purple sneakers out of sugar paste  and their logo in an edible image. I called it presents for Grandma, gifts my daughter would give her grandma (my mother) if my mother were still alive.
Pattycakes & Cookies entry
       Samples of our cakes were given out and those that made a donation were allowed to vote for the best in the two divisions, professional and amateur. There were some great cakes there in both divisions and some note worthy bakeries were represented. In the end, Pattycakes and Cookies won the grand prize in the professional division. It was a great and humbling experience for me to win and all for a great cause.
Patty from Pattycakes & Cookies with her daughter
      Check out the article and pictures in the local paper about the event.          

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cake Truffle Centerpieces

     We recently celebrated my daughter's 1st Holy Communion at Gianna's Restaurant in Carlstadt, NJ. I was trying to come up with some inexpensive centerpieces for the table that worked with the religious occasion and the earthy decor of the room. I knew I was making the cake and all the other desserts, cake truffles and cookies. So why not make the desserts the centerpieces?
     That is exactly what I did. I made about 200 cake truffles and cookies. I bought the bark encased tins and the tree stump cake pedestals. I hot glued a half round of styrofoam on top of each pedestal, put the truffles in paper and used tooth picks to hold them on. I put a religious pick on top and I was done with the cake pedestals. I put cookies and left over truffles in the bark encased tins and put a set on each table. They were festive and delicious, (and so easy to do).
This was the cake, a cross on top of a Bible with a spray of sugar flowers.
     Check out our website for more delicious confections.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Denim Day Cookies

     Last Thursday was Denim Day and Pattycakes and Cookies was asked to participate for a second year in a row. The YWCA of Bergen County, Rape Crisis Center partnered with the three Panico Salons in New Jersey to raise awareness of sexual assault. At Panico Salon in Ridgewood, everyone wore jeans, the salon was decorated and they had a buffet. Rape Crisis brochures were available to explain the great work they do, and conversations were encouraged between mothers and daughters about sexual assault. Of course, denim day cookies were supplied by Pattycakes and Cookies and were available for a small donation. All money raised went to the support of the Rape Crisis Center.
Helen, CEO of the YWCA, Patty of Pattycakes & Cookies, and Chrisula, Director of Rape Crisis
     The cookies were made in the shape of a pair of pants. We made the cookie cutter ourselves from some metal flashing. They were a sugar cookie, covered in blue, white chocolate fondant. Some were solid blue and some were stone washed and acid washed looking. Details of stitching, pockets and belt loops were added for a final touch. They were then individually wrapped and delivered to the three Panico Salons.
     We had a great time at Panico, meeting with Jack Panico, his wonderful staff and getting a tour of their beautiful full service salon. Hopefully, we will be invited to participate next year.

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