Monday, June 27, 2011

The Big Cookie Reveal!

Last week, I posted this picture:

summer teacher vacation cookies margarita watermelon
And I told you the cookies were a surprise for someone very important in my life. Did you guess who that person was???

My mom!

Coincidentally, one of my Mom's former students (she's a 5th grade teacher in TX) was in Florida on vacation with her family. Her Mom saw my temporary Ph.D.-serts & Cakes website and called me. They wanted to bring some surprise cookies back to my Mom! How sweet is that?!

So I decided to do a "Summer Teacher" cookie mix.

summer teacher vacation cookies
She received chalk boards, pencils, watermelon, beach balls, sunglasses, cupcakes, and ice cream cones. When I think of "teacher on vacation," that's what comes to mind!

The best part was that Mom had NO CLUE! *insert evil laugh here* I love being sneaky like that.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Rolled Sugar Cookie Process & a Sneak Peak

People ask me all the time how I bake my sugar cookies so that they don't burn or spread while baking. I've posted my sugar cookie recipe here before, but let's go through my whole process today so you can see it from start to finish.

*Disclaimer: There are MANY different methods to rolling out cookie dough. This method may or may not work for you. It's what works for me. Period.

Step 1: Make Sugar Cookie Dough
I use this recipe from Cooking Light Magazine. I always mix up the dough at least 1 day in advance and store it in the refrigerator so it's nice and chilled when I'm ready to bake.

Step 2: Roll Out Dough
Here are the tools you'll need:
-1 rolling pin (silicone-coated works best)
-nonstick baking spray
-cookie cutters of choice
-1 batch of sugar cookie dough

rolled sugar cookie process how to
Spray SilPat with baking spray and place dough on top. I give my dough a good smoosh with my hand so it's a little easier to roll (remember, it's chilled so it's very hard). Then spray the top of the dough with baking spray.

rolled sugar cookie process how to
Roll out the dough. If it's sticking to your rolling pin, spray the top of the dough again with baking spray. You don't need a perfect rectangle/circle when you roll. In fact, I usually use only 1/4 of the sugar cookie dough (the rest is stored in the fridge) and work on only one side of the SilPat.

rolled sugar cookie process how to
Do you have trouble keeping your dough an even consistency throughout? Try using Wilton's 20-inch rolling pin with guide rings to get an even thickness. Or, place one wooden dowel on either side of your cookie dough and roll on top of that. Both the guide rings and the wooden dowels will only let you go to a certain thickness so you won't get super thin spots in your rolled dough.

Step 3: Cut out Cookies
Using your chosen cookie cutter, cut out your cookies from the rolled dough. Don't cut them too close together, though, because they will spread a little bit while baking.

rolled sugar cookie process how to
Step 4: Tear Away Excess Dough
Peel up the excess dough around the cookie cut-outs. Simple as that! It should come up really easily since you sprayed the SilPat with baking spray. If it gives you trouble in spots, slide a thin spatula underneath it. Of course, be careful not to nudge your perfectly shaped cookie cut-outs.

rolled sugar cookie process how to
Step 5: Repeat Until SilPat is Full
Now, I have to mention here that some people like to freeze the shapes at this point. Then, you could pick them up and move them around the SilPat. This would allow you to fit more shapes on 1 pan and reduce your total amount of baking time.

I'd rather just bake what I can fit on a pan, and continue rolling on another SilPat. When I bake cookies, I have 4 SilPats going at a time so I've always got one ready to go in the oven.

rolled sugar cookie process how to
Step 6: Bake!
Baking time will depend on your oven and the size of your cookie. If I'm unsure how long the cookie size will take to bake, I usually set the timer for 7 minutes and check it then. Your cookie should not be shiny at all when it's finished baking.

That being said, it'll take some practice to know when to remove the cookies from the oven. Ideally, you want to remove them JUST BEFORE the edges start to turn brown. In the image below, two of the cookies are perfect, but the one in the left rear started to get a little brown. A little brown like that is ok because your decorations will probably mask it. Yay!

rolled sugar cookie process how to
Let the cookies sit for 1-2 minutes on the pan. This will allow them to harden a little. When they're hard enough to lift (they don't break when you lift them), move them to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Step 7: Repeat!
Just keep repeating the above steps until you've used all your dough. If the dough starts to get too warm, it'll get really sticky. When I'm done working with some dough, I throw it back in the fridge or freezer. The key is to keep it chilled!

Now you may have also noticed in the picture above that after you bake, the baking spray on the SilPat turns brown. Not very appetizing, right?! Well, it won't do much damage. If you roll your dough on top of that, the dough will start to turn brown a little, but it won't change the flavor. If you want to avoid the color change, just wipe the SilPat with a paper towel before you roll dough out on it again.

rolled sugar cookie process how to
So, why was I baking cookies this week? Well, I can't reveal that yet...but I can tell you it was a surprise for one of the most amazing people in my life. Here's a sneak peak of the finished cookies:

margarita cookies sugar decorated
And I have no problem showing you that sneak peak because these margarita cookies actually broke while I was packaging them! So this person won't even receive them...I already ate them! Stay tuned for the big reveal of the rest of the cookie batch and the recipient next week!

Baby Gender Reveal Parties

(Photo from

Have you heard of the baby gender reveal parties? I am in love with this idea, and I've been dying to convince my friends to let me bake their gender reveal cake. Ok, let's backtrack. What's a gender reveal party?

Well, this is a trend that's getting more and more popular. Instead of finding out the gender of their baby in the doctor's office during a sonogram, expectant couples ask their doctor to write the gender on a piece of paper and seal it in an envelope. Then, they deliver that envelope straight to their cake baker. The baker decorates the outside of the cake with a gender neutral design...but the inside? Is either PINK or BLUE!

(Photo from

So the couple picks up the cake and takes it home to a party, usually filled with friends and family. When they cut the cake, everyone discovers at the same time whether they're having a boy or girl!

When Ph.D.-serts & Cakes opens its doors, we will definitely offer this service! In the meantime, if you are pregnant and want to try this, email me! Even if you live outside of Tampa, FL, I have ideas for how we can do this and ship the goods to you!

And, by the way, did you catch the big reveal of Ph.D.-serts & Cakes' website and logo on Facebook this week? If not, check it out at The website is still under construction, but if it's anything like the amazing logo that Allison Anne Stevens Designs created for me, I know it'll be out of this world!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Princess Birthday Cake

Last weekend, I made my first cake in Tampa! It was only supposed to feed 25 people, but I hadn't touched a cake in weeks so I went a little overboard. I made it 2-tier, and it probably should have fed about 60 people. But, from what I'm told, there wasn't much cake leftover after the party so I guess they didn't mind!

The cake was for my mother-in-law's boss, Debi, who owns a clothing boutique called the Princess Boutique. They told me they wanted the cake decorated in shades of pink, topped with the Princess tiara, and to somehow incorporate high-heeled shoes.

princess cake silhouette stiletto tiara pink
So there you have it! I decided that using black silhouettes of the stilettos would look the most chic and help to contrast the "little girl" feel that the pinks & tiara were portraying. And I used the new Fabric Fondant & Gum Paste Mold from Wilton that I picked up a couple of weeks ago at the Wilton Food Blogger Workshop (stay tuned to see more of what I'm making with my loot).

But Debi wasn't the only one celebrating a princess' birthday last week! Our puppy Nani turned 4! In dog years, we're the same age now!

dog birthday cookie
Taylor and my mother-in-law brought Nani some goodies, including this adorable ice cream cone cookie for puppies!

dog birthday cookie
Nani was eager to please. Sit! Shake! Lay down!

dog birthday cookie
Then she carried the cookie around the house for a bit...

dog birthday cookie
...and finally settled down and smiled (or snarled?) for the camera.

Happy birthday, Debi & Nani!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Farm-Themed Birthday Cake

It's been quiet on the blog lately. There are a lot of exciting things going on in my life! I'll share some "sneak peeks" with you in a minute, but first let's talk CAKE! Here's a cute cake we just made for a 2nd birthday party.

farm animal boy birthday cake
They wanted it farm animal-themed so I made fondant cows and pigs and stuck them to the sides of the cake.

farm animal boy birthday cake
We also decorated with corn stalks, white fences, a farm tractor, and a huge #2 topper.

farm animal boy birthday cakefarm animal boy birthday cake
So, what's so exciting that it can possibly keep me from updating this blog regularly? Well, it involves moving, opening, birthing, and caking!

My family just relocated to Tampa so I can open my own custom cake shop. The cake shop is already in the works and I'm sure you'll read more about it on this blog. Be sure to stay tuned for the official unveiling of my new logo and website!

And, as you know already, I'm now 25 weeks pregnant with our first child! It's an exciting process and I'm loving every minute of it. Forgive me if setting up my baby girl's nursery occupies more of my time than it should. Some call it nesting...I think I'm just overly excited to welcome her to our family!

Last, but certainly not least, I'm gearing up to attend the Wilton Food Blogger Workshop in Chicago later this week! 27 food bloggers are going to be there, and I think if we find time to sleep, we'll be lucky. They're showing us the test kitchen, we're having cake decorating competitions (I'm game!), we're going to the annual Sidewalk Sale, etc, etc, etc. I'll definitely blog the whole adventure when I get home. There are so many things I'm looking forward to in this trip, but I'm definitely dying to meet the peeps behind Cake Spy and Cupcakes Take the Cake who will also be there! Woohoo! Wilton HQ, here I come!