Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Birthday Jesus Cake

I've made a birthday cake for our Savior, Jesus Christ every Christmas for the past 5 years. It's a tradition I hope to have every matter what. I make sure to keep it simple; if for some reason I was incapacitated, David could make problem. I'm sure my poor kitchen would be unrecognizable afterwards, but oh well. He did make a cake for me once. We had just started dating, and he made me dinner, start to finish, including a 2 layer cake. Talk about impressing a girl!

This recipe calls for a store-bought cake mix, but if you have a special cake you'd like to make from scratch, please go ahead. And be sure to let me know...I would love to hear all about it! Now, I do make cake frosting from scratch. Homemade frosting spreads SO much better than the canned stuff. Trust me...please...just make it, you'll be so glad you did.

Happy Birthday Jesus Cake


1 box cake mix
Oil, eggs, and water for the cake mix
Vegetable shortening and flour for greasing cake pans


4 cups powdered sugar (about 1 pound)
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk


Graham cracker crumbs
Miniature nativity set
Gel food coloring of choice

Bake the cake in two cake pans according to the box instructions. Make sure to grease the cake pans with shortening and flour, even if your cake pans are non-stick. You will save yourself one big headache if you do. Leave the cakes in the pans for 10 minutes after baking,

then turn them out onto a rack to cool completely.

Now for the a stand mixer bowl, beat the butter and shortening together on medium speed. Add the vanilla extract. Then add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, beating well after each addition. You will need to scrape down the bowl several times to make sure all the sugar is well incorporated. It will appear dry, but don't worry! Add the milk, one tablespoon at a time, beating well, and scraping the bowl as necessary. The frosting should look light and fluffy.

Reserve 1/3 cup of frosting for the lettering. Place one cake layer on a pedestal or serving plate. Tuck 4 strips of wax paper under the cake so you won't get frosting all over the place.

Plop a nice big dollop of frosting on top of the cake, and spread it around the top. You don't have to make it perfect, just try to make it level so the next layer of cake sits nice and flat.

Place the second cake layer on top...

and then use the rest of the frosting to cover the top and sides. Don't worry about making it look professional...I just use my offset spatula, and make it as smooth as possible. If there's a spot here and there, I don't obsess over it. After all, my kids don't care...all I have to say is, "Chocolate cake" and they come running :-).

Take a couple of spoonfuls of graham cracker crumbs and spread them in a circle on the top of the cake. This will keep your nativity set from sinking too deeply into the frosting.

At this point, grab whoever happens to be running through the kitchen (this time, it was Christina), and offer the leftover frosting in the bowl.

Then send that child off to inform the rest of the kids...which she promptly did. Everyone got their own spoon to lick, including Gabriel, lol.

Okay, back to the cake! Tint the reserved 1/3 cup frosting whatever color you like (we did ours in blue), and pipe, "Happy Birthday Jesus" around the edge of the cake. (You can see how I used a zip-top bag for piping decorations on my Gingerbread Cookies).

Set the miniature nativity set in the middle of the graham cracker crumbs. Ours is simply a little craft kit that came from Oriental Trading Company. Wait a couple of hours for the frosting to set, then remove the waxed paper strips.

We sang "Happy Birthday" to Jesus after dinner last night. The kids all happily consumed a piece of cake.

This is a simple, special cake to make for Christmas...I hope you make one for your family.

God bless your table tonight!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Gingerbread Cookies

I had tried to make gingerbread cookies a couple of times, but I didn't like the dough, it was either too soft or lacked a true gingerbread flavor. So for the past couple of years, I just used my Molasses Cookie recipe and cut the dough out with a little boy and little girl cookie cutters. When I explained this to Christina's preschool teacher, she said,

"I have the perfect gingerbread cookie recipe for you. I'll get you a copy."
I tried it was fabulous. The dough was incredibly easy to work with, and the cookies tasted kids gave them 2 thumbs up! When Christina saw these cookies cooling, she said,

"Mommy, did one of the cookies run away?"

I told her, "no," they were all accounted for. Apparently, the kids made some of these cookies at school, and when they went back to the oven to check on them, one was missing. The teachers explained that one cookie ran away, like the gingerbread man in the story. Too cute.

So thanks Ms. Miller for this recipe! This one's a keeper...for sure :-)

Gingerbread Cookies

1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 package (4-serving size) butterscotch flavor instant pudding
1 large egg
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground ginger (I used 1/2 the amount)
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a stand mixer bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the pudding mix and egg, beat on medium speed until well blended. Combine the flour, baking soda, ginger, and cinnamon in a bowl. Gradually add to the creamed mixture, beating well after each addition. Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour, or until firm.

When you're ready, take the dough out of the fridge and let it warm up for about 15-30 minutes so it's not too stiff to roll out.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly flour your work surface. I have 2 cookie cutters that I use for making little boys and little girls. And in case you're wondering, Joshua will only eat the boy cookies and Rebecca and Christina will only eat the girl cookies :-). Kids!

Divide the dough in half, and sprinkle one portion with a little flour.

Roll the dough out to about 1/8 of an inch thick. Cut your cookies out with a cutter dipped in flour.  Transfer the cookies to an ungreased, non-stick baking sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are light golden brown.

I had some frosting left over from my Molasses Cookies, so put the rest in a bag and decorated the cookies. This is easy to do, and you don't need a fancy piping bag. A quart-sized zip top bag works great. You just need a piping bag adapter and a coupler. These can be found in the cake decorating aisle of your grocery store or craft store.

Here's how to put it all together. Snip a little bit off the corner of the bag and insert the adaptor. The edge of the bag should lay on top of the threads of the adaptor.

Now slide on the metal tip you want to use, and screw the coupler on. All done! See...easy, right?

I pipe a little bit of a design on the cookies. Feel free to do whatever you'd like. I love making these, and the kids love to watch. I suppose I should let them have a go at it...maybe next year.

Aren't they CUTE? They're sure to be a hit with your kiddos too...mine had already eaten some by the time I published this post, lol. I hope you try this recipe out!

God bless your table tonight!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Jesus in a Blankie

Last week, I asked the kids if they wanted me to make anything special for them to eat on Christmas Day. Joshua said,

"I love those piggies in a blankie, Mom. But why don't you make them look like a baby Jesus wrapped in a blanket?"

My son is SO smart :-)

I bought the little cocktail sausages, and some cresent rolls, and experimented for just a few minutes in the kitchen. I just cut the dough into triangles instead of rectangles like I usually do, and "swaddled" the little sausages. My kids helped out and we had fun making these. I made a batch and took them over to my sister's house, and everyone thought they were so cute. I think these are perfect to serve on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Enjoy!

Jesus in a Blankie

2 cans (8 count each) refrigerated crescent rolls
1 package cocktail sausages (I used Hillshire Farm "Lil Smokies")

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Open up the crescent rolls, and divide the dough into 4 rectangles along the perforations. Use your fingers to pinch the diagonal perforation together.

Use a small, sharp knife to cut the rectangle in half vertically, and then from corner to corner along each square.

Take one of the triangles and lay it out on your work surface. Take one little sausage, and lay it in the middle.

Fold one corner over the sausage...

then fold the other corner over, just like you're swaddling a baby :-).

The dough should be snug around the sausage, but not tight. Now pinch the end closed, so the end of the sausage is enclosed-- you shouldn't see it at all.

Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and repeat with the rest of the crescent dough and sausages. Bake at 375 degrees for 12 minutes, or until the little babies are a nice golden brown.

Serve warm with your condiment of choice. We like honey mustard or barbecue sauce.

These were devoured at my sister's party...I was sure there would be some left, but one of my uncle's kids probably ate half of them, and I made 32! Oh well!

(And can you tell I'm having way too much fun with my NEW camera? It's my new toy, and I love it, so much, I growl at David if he takes it away from me...ha, ha!).

God bless your table tonight!

Monday, December 22, 2008

The BEST Sugar Cookies

I got distracted while I was making the dough for these cookies, so I only have 2 pics of the actually dough-making process. What can I say...all four kids needed something within a span of exactly 5.2 minutes, and I plumb forgot to take the pictures. Oh well.

But I do have pictures of the finished product, and the frosting process too. See...I haven't lost it completely...not yet anyway :-).

I found this recipe on, when I was fed up with my then sugar cookie recipe. The cookies were too delicate, and they broke so easily. I was determined to figure out how to make cookies that tasted great, but held up better, especially since I wanted my kiddos to help frost them.

So I found this recipe, and I LOVE IT! The cookies are tender--you can taste the butter and sugar in them, and they are pretty sturdy. The secret is to use half butter, half shortening. The butter gives them flavor, and the shortening makes them strong. I've make these for countless birthday, preschool, and holiday parties, and everyone raves over them.

Put on your prettiest apron, and let's bake! I have to show off my new Christmas apron, courtesy of my fabulous MIL. She bought the apron, and embroidered this design on it for me. Isn't it lovely? Thanks Mom!

The BEST Sugar Cookies

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup butter flavored Crisco (vegetable shortening)
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a stand mixer bowl, cream the sugar, butter, and butter flavored Crisco together until creamy. I forgot to take my butter out of the freezer, so I put it outside on the fence to try and speed up the thawing process (after all, it was 78 degrees that day!). I ended up defrosting it a bit in the microwave, and then beating it for a minute in the mixer before adding the sugar.

Add the eggs, extract, and milk. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Add this to the mixer in about 3 increments, so you don't have flour flying everywhere. Turn the dough out onto a couple of pieces of plastic wrap. Push the dough together into a flat disk, and refrigerate for about 3 hours. I like to make this first thing in the morning, and then bake the cookies that afternoon or the next day.

When you're ready to bake, remove the dough from the fridge, and divide it into fourths. I think this is the best portion size to roll out easily.

Sprinkle some flour out on your work surface, and dust some more on top of the dough. Try not to use too much will make the cookies tough if they pick up too much flour while you're rolling and stamping them out.

I should tell you...before I roll out cookie dough, I wash my countertops with hot water and soap, and then use a clean kitchen towel to dry it off. You don't want to use anything else, because your cookies might pick up some of the residue...and that wouldn't be a good thing.

Roll out the dough to about 1/4 of an inch thick. I probably roll mine about 1/8 of an inch. Just experiment to see what works best for you. Turn the dough a couple of times while you roll it out, just to make sure it's not sticking.

Stamp out your cookies, and transfer them to your cookie sheets. I much prefer to use non-stick cookie sheets; greasing baking sheets between batches would be a major pain. I have an assortment of cookie cutters, which were picked by the kids.

If your dough seem too soft to work with, stick it in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes, and then try again. It was so warm and humid the day I made these, and my dough was pretty soft, but a quick trip to the freezer saved the day. I put the dough in the freezer in between batches as well, and it worked great.

Bake the cookies at 375 for 7-8 minutes, or until light golden. Watch the cookies carefully; I've made these for years now, and I've learned that 370 degrees is just right, the first batch needs 8 minutes, and the rest need only 7 minutes. I baked 2 sheets at once, and rotated them from left to right and front to back halfway through the baking time. So...these are not cookies you want to leave. I usually bake them during nap time--chances are, I'll have fewer interruptions.

Transfer the cookies to a rack to finish cooling. I stacked these up after they cooled completely.

Frost the cookies any way you'd like. If you want a great frosting recipe, check out my Molasses Cookies, which I frosting similar to these, only I colored the frosting. I usually leave my Christmas cookies white, and sprinkle them with colored sugar. Rebecca did all the angels this year...didn't she do a good job?

I had to try a close up with my NEW camera!

If the kiddos help you out like mine did, be prepared to sweep the kitchen floor, because the sprinkles go EVERYWHERE!

God bless your table tonight!