Pumpkin Cake!

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My brother’s birthday often coincides with our annual Halloween get together, so it seemed only fitting that he get a Halloween themed cake. I went with something that looked cute but wouldn’t have me up until 2am baking entirely from scratch so I decided on a bundt cake from cake mix. Didn’t really use a specific recipe other than borrowing from numerous things I saw on Pinterest.

Ingredients:

  • 2 boxes cake mix (I used chocolate – accidentally used 2 different mixes. Sigh. Different shades of brown).
  • Ingredients box mixes call for (typically eggs and oil I think).
  • Buttercream icing (powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, food coloring). I have any number of recipes on other posts for it. Do NOT used shortening because (a) it tastes bad (meaning you’ll have to start over with real butter if you’re like me), and (b) it says this on the box which is terrifying:photo 2
  • Glaze – I don’t even remember the recipe I used but I think it was mostly cream cheese, milk and powdered sugar. Sorry, I’m lazy, but you can google glaze recipes.
  • One green ice cream cone.

Bake the 2 cakes according to package instructions. Note that I used a shit-ton (technical term) of cooking spray to ensure clean removal from Bundt. Here I am with my weapon and wearing the awesome R. Kelly “Hot and Fresh out the Kitchen” apron the husband got my for Mother’s Day.

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Stack one cake on top of the other upside down to make a pumpkin shape. Drizzle with the glaze, then decorate detail with buttercream. Stick ice cream cone in middle for stem.

Mine was kind of a hot mess, but it tasted good!

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Banana Cream Poke Cake

Happy birthday my Fat Man! I pinned this one months ago knowing I’d make it for the husband’s birthday since there is NOTHING he loves more than banana pudding + Nilla wafers. Super easy recipe – pretty much make a cake in a pan, poke some holes in it and pour pudding over hte holes, then top with whipped cream (store bought, no less) and crushed nilla wafers. Enjoy for fewer days than you should because “people” keep eating a couple inches off every time we open the fridge.

 

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Full (and slightly more detailed) recipe at the Country Cook: http://www.thecountrycook.net/2012/06/banana-pudding-poke-cake.html

 

Ingredients:

1 (10 oz.) box yellow cake mix
ingredients needed to make cake (eggs, oil & water)
2 (3.4 oz.) packages instant banana pudding
4 cups milk
1 (8 oz.) tub frozen whipped topping, thawed
20 vanilla wafers, crushed

Instructions as described above or at original source link. YUM! I’m definitely planning on trying some other variations on poke cakes based on this attempt.

Pistachio Cake Mix Cookies

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Ok, I know I raved to high heaven about the s’mores bars in my prior post, but these? I’m pretty sure I can say that these are my favorite thing I have baked so far. They have my two favorite things – white chocolate and almond extract. And? Mix based so CRAZY easy.

Found these while searching Pinterest for St. Patrick’s Day cookies. I wanted something besides the typical sugar cookies frosted and/or cut to be St. Patrick’s themed. These came up and I fell in love.

All you need is a box of pistachio pudding mix, a box of cake mix, eggs, vegetable oil and almond extract (green food coloring optional). And white chocolate chips, or regular chocolate chips or whatever else you might want  to sprinkle in. I did white chocolate chips. (Full recipe, etc. at original link at “Eat Cake for Dinner”).

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Mix the cake and pudding mixes together. Then add the oil, eggs, almond extract and food coloring (I did 2 drops) and mix with a hand mixer. Stir in chocolate chips. Form into balls about 1 inch diameter and put on lightly greased cookie sheet. Top each with 2-3 chocolate chips.

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Bake at 350 10-12 minutes (I did about 13 in our slow oven).  Remove, cool and go crazy with deliciousness.

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I may try with other combos of cake mix and pudding flavors. Banana pudding? Butterscotch?! Can’t wait to experiment…

Red Velvet Valentine’s Cookies with Cream Cheese frosting

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Finally – Valentine’s baking success!!!

Found this recipe on pinterest and chose it among 3 contenders, in part because it used a box mix which meant much easier to make with a 3.5 year old helper while the 1.5 year old napped. Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies from Two Peas & Their Pod.

Ingredients:

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1 box red velvet cake mix (original recipe used Duncan Hines, I used Betty Crocker; I’m sure it doesn’t matter what brand you use)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Powdered sugar, for rolling the cookies
Heart shaped cookie cutter, optional

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat and set aside. [Note – I have no effing idea what a silpat is. LOL. I used parchment paper. Which as I learned with Hanukkah cookies, is very much NOT interchangeable with wax paper (the latter of which should NOT be used in an oven while baking.]

2. In a large bowl, combine cake mix and flour. Whisk until clumps disappear. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together cake mix, flour, eggs, oil and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth. Take about 1 tablespoon of cookie dough and form into a ball. Roll the ball in powdered sugar until fully coated. Place cookie dough balls on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, or until edges are set and cookies begin to crack. [Another note – the recipe seems to imply you can roll the dough into balls BEFORE rolling in the sugar. Not so much. It was painfully sticky and gooey, and I messed up my first cookie trying to do that. After that, I would get a dollop with my tablespoon (I very much overfilled each to make bigger cookies to accommodate my cookie cutter size), drop the whole dollop into a shallow bowl of powdered sugar, then roll it until it could be handled easily, THEN roll into a ball.]

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3. Let cookies sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes. If desired, cut cookies into heart shapes, using a heart shaped cookie cutter. Transfer cookies to a wire cooling rack and cool completely. Eat the cookie scraps:)

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I didn’t get a pic of the scraps but I think my son ate about 12 cookies’ worth of scraps. LOL. He was a fan. I wouldn’t kick them out of bed either.

Note [from original recipe] -you don’t have to cut the cookies into heart shapes. They are great round too!

So, instead of leaving it at that, I really wanted to do some decorating as well (part of why I had originally shied from this recipe, as I love decorating desserts) so I decided to take it up a notch and borrow a cream cheese frosting recipe from one of the other contenders to decorate our cookies.  Frosting from Joy the Baker’s Red Velvet Cupcake Recipe (adapted by her from Hummingbird Bakery cookbook). The original recipe was a cinnamon cream cheese, but I just wanted regular cream cheese frosting so I left out the cinnamon.

Cream Cheese Frosting

2 1/3 cups powdered sugar, sifted (I never actual sift. Oh well.)

3 Tablespoons butter, room temperature (As usual I cheated and stuck in microwave to desired consistency.)

4 ounces cream cheese, cold (Joy the Baker used room temperature, mine was probably midway between cold and room temp)

Beat the powdered sugar and butter together in the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment (I don’t think I have a paddle attachment so I used the standard attachment).  Mix on medium-slow speed until it comes together and is well mixed. (I think I did something wrong because mine was still pretty much just powder after this step but I continued as instructed).

Add the cream cheese all at once and beat on medium to medium-high until incorporated. (Again, still way too dry, so I took it upon myself to VERY slowly add whole milk until desired consistency. I probably added 1 tbsp total).

Turn the mixer to medium-high and beat for 5 minutes, or until the frosting becomes light and fluffy.Do not over-beat as the frosting can quickly become runny.

My own additional step – add one drop of red food coloring (liquid, not gel) to make pink.

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Then, I put the frosting in a frosting bag with a small decorative tip and piped onto each cookie, and sprinkled red and white crystal sugar on the frosting.

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HUGE fan of these. So much that I considered making more after they were gone in a day (we wrapped up a decent # of them for various Valentine’s gifts to teachers, nanny, etc.).

No Bake Halloween Treats!

After the melted frosting mess last Halloween and dealing with an infant and two year old, I decided to take an easy route this year and go for no bake goodies. Also, what I really wanted to make was this pumpkin cake…

…but since my sister in law was bringing birthday cake I thought that would be overkill.

So, I made Witch’s Hat Cookies, Peanut Butter Ghosts, and a fun candy jar, all courtesy of Pinterest.

None of these really require a recipe but you can check out the links for instructions if needed.

For the Witch’s Hats, ingredients are:

1 Package Keebler Fudge Stripe Cookies
1 Bag Hershey’s Kisses
Orange frosting in a tube (I used the Wilton orange sparkly kind).

Then you just put frosting on the bottom of a Hershey’s kiss as “glue” to stick it to the upside down cookie…

and encircle it for the ribbon around the hat.

Now, the ghosts should have been easy enough. Ingredients:

1 Package Nutter Butter cookies
12 ounces “vanilla flavored candy coating” (this is important)
1 bag mini chocolate chips

Except, I couldn’t find that candy coating crap anywhere, and figured it must be the same as white chocolate, so I got a couple bags of white chocolate chips. I tried to melt them in a saucepan as the recipe directed, but guess what? White chocolate doesn’t melt into a liquid like regular chocolate. No, it gets mushy, and coagulated, until it’s one giant clump of fat and goo, and then it starts burning and caramelizing and turning brown, until it ruins not 1, but 2 of your pots, as you try with the second bag because you mistakenly assumed that the first try didn’t work because the pot was the wrong size.

Yeah, not so much. 😦

My trusty facebook friends schooled me on vanilla flavored candy coating and directed me to Hobby Lobby (which I’d never been to before but it was AWESOME). So candy coating in hand I tried again. Instead of melting it over the stove as directed, I followed the directions on the bag and just microwaved in 30 second increments, stirring between nuke sessions, until we had some nice creamy melted coating:

Then we dipped the nutter butters in the coating (top and sides only, not the entire cookie). Recipe said to use tongs but we (hubs helped and did much of the dipping, even with a baby on his shoulder!) found it far more efficient to dip by hand.

Then you just place two mini chocolate chips near the top of each cookie for the ghosts’ eyes, and you have some spooky little treats! You’re supposed to let them set for like 10 minutes but I gave them (and the witch’s hats) overnight.

The last thing I made was just a bunch of candy in a jar, layered to make a nice looking decoration. Mine (second pic below) wasn’t as pretty as the inspiration (first pic below) but still cute!

I couldn’t find regular black licorice so I used nibs which weren’t nearly as neat looking, and no gumballs or pretty suckers, just the crap I could find at Target. It was still a big hit though!

We’re Back! With MINT BROWNIES!!!

So, I now have a working oven again. Actually, it’s a new oven. Not because of the issues with the other, but because we ended up moving forward with our plans to redo our kitchen and replaced all of our appliances. Big fan so far.

And, to break in the new guy, we made some delicious mint brownies! I say we because, as most who read my other blog(s) know, I am expecting and high risk therefore doing all I can to limit activity, particularly at the point in pregnancy which I am currently approaching. So, rather than be on my feet for 45 minutes baking, I did some preliminary prep and then sat on the couch and directed my dear husband, who really did most of the work.

Recipe from Betty Crocker using a Ghirardelli mix.

Chocolate Mint Brownies

Brownie Base:

  • 1 box (1 lb 2.4 oz) Betty Crocker® Original Supreme Premium brownie mix (again, we used Ghirardelli instead, in the same baking aisle at the grocery store as the Betty Crocker, etc.) (* Apologies for pic quality in this post – my camera/lens was being a whore so to get it to auto focus I’d have to hold things like 4 feet away from the camera.)
  • Water, vegetable oil and egg called for on brownie mix box

Filling:

  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 Tbsps butter or margarine, softened
  • 3 Tbsps whipping cream
  • 2 oz cream cheese, softened (recipe says “from 3 oz. package” – not sure why that matters, ours came from an 8 oz. package).
  • 1/8 to 1/4 tsp mint extract
  • 2 drops green food color (we used the gel kind)

Topping (More on this below but we didn’t actually make this topping, rather we used the one that came with the Brownie mix).

  • 1/3 cup whipping cream
  • 1 1/3 cups (8 oz) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup butter (do not use margarine)

STEP 1: Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pan) NOTE – the brownie mix said 325 so that’s what we did. Grease bottom only of 9-inch square pan (brownie mix said 8 inch square and that 9 inch wasn’t recommended, so we used 8 inch) with shortening or cooking spray. (For easier cutting, line pan with foil, then grease foil on bottom only of pan.) Make and bake brownie mix as directed on box. Cool completely, about 1 1/2 hours (We cooled about an hour, they were fine)

STEP 2: In large bowl, beat filling ingredients with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Spread over cooled brownies. Refrigerate about 1 hour or until set.

STEP 3: Meanwhile, in 2-quart nonstick saucepan, heat topping ingredients over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until melted and smooth. Cool about 10 minutes or until lukewarm.

So, here’s where we went astray. See, the whipping cream we used in step 2? Well, we didn’t read farther ahead, and DH, loath to cram our new fridge full of crap we wouldn’t use, said that since we’d NEVER use whipping cream before it expired, we should just toss the rest. So we did. Then we got to step 3 and said…uh…whoops! Luckily, the brownie box mix came with a fudge topping so we used that. It was in a packet and just required that you warm it in hot tap water for a few minutes before spreading over brownies. So, we did that and spread it over the brownies/mint frosting.

Didn’t get a pic before it went in the fridge but here are the final product.


THey actually came out much better than I anticipated (aesthetically). I did have some trouble getting them out of the pan though so the bottoms kinda fell apart as we sliced and removed. I ended up discarding most of the edge pieces and had a lot of scraps (which our little guy loved nibbling on as I finished).

(Scraps in the bowl that couldn’t be used b/c they weren’t presentable enough to bring over to our friends’ house for dinner).

(The poor tray after I’d hacked away at it).

They tasted pretty good. I didn’t think the mint flavor was quite strong enough, whereas the hubs thought it was almost too strong and said he couldn’t taste the brownie. We both liked them still, we just tend to have a mint disagreement (he thinks Shamrock Shakes are too minty, I think they taste like vanilla with a hint of mint and aren’t minty enough. Not sure which of us is closer to the norm).

Hoping to be posting more again now (even if many of the projects are done mostly by the husband under my direction). Thanks for reading!

The Christmas Cookie Debacle of 2010 – Part 2

APOLOGIES FOR TYPOS/MISSPELLINGS AND THE LIKE. I TYPED THIS MOSTLY ONE HANDED WHILE A 25 LB MEATLOAF (MY 18 MO. OLD) CLUTCHED MY ARM AS HE NAPPED NEXT TO ME.

We last left our heroine with trays full of (mostly tiny) sugar cookies. Next step was the gingerbread. Also, a mix, and very easy. Just pour contents of package into a bowl…

Add egg, butter and water (this called for “softened” butter so I employed my finally learned after much trial and error method, which is to put it in the microwave for about 30 seconds…

Once the dough was mixed, I tried to roll it out on the island. I note that the recipe did NOT call for chilling it first unless it was sticky, but seemed to think there was a possibility you could roll it out and cut immediately after mixing. It thought wrong.

So I put that bad boy in the fridge for a bit to harden and moved on to buttercream. Here is where I finally did something from scratch because I am not a fan of canned frosting when I have a choice, and we all saw what happened last time I tried to use food coloring in premade frosting…

I used this recipe for the buttercream (found by googling and rejecting any recipe that called for Crisco because it grosses me out):

Directions:

1 cup butter (2 sticks or 1/2 pound), softened

3-4 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar, SIFTED

1/2 teaspoon table salt

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

up to 4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream

Instructions:

Beat butter for a few minutes with a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed [This must be an instruction for someone with a much cooler mixer than my $30 handheld that I got from my wedding registry in 2004. Suffice it to say, mine doesn’t have any “attachments” except the two wire mixers that you pop into the body when it’s not stored in the cabinet.]

Add 3 cups of powdered sugar and turn your mixer on the lowest speed (so the sugar doesn’t blow everywhere) until the sugar has been incorporated with the butter.  Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt,  and 2 tablespoons of milk/cream and beat for for 3 minutes.  If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add remaining sugar.  If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add remaining milk 1 tablespoons at a time.  Enjoy!

I used about 3 3/4 cups of powdered sugar and only 2 tbsps of milk because I wanted it pretty thick. Once done, I set aside about 1/3 to keep white.

Next step was coloring the rest, with my nifty GEL food coloring I’d ordered from Williams Sonoma (I don’t work for them, I swear, I just really like that store, especially for baking supplies, and there’s no Sur La Table in the suburbs near us).

It mixed up pretty nicely and produced a very rich, bright color:

I will note that while it looked nice, the vanilla extract was kind of overpowering both to smell and taste so in the future I’d use significantly less.

The dough was then chilled so we tried again to roll it out and cut it, with better results.

A couple trays later we were ready to decorate!

So I readied my frosting…

…and proceeded  to start blindly squirting it on cookies…

…you saw in the last post how well this turned out. At least it tasted ok!

So, cookie tree disaster complete, I turned to decorating the handful of large sugar cookies we had made for our son’s daycare teachers. Except the WS decorating pens I got were complete garbage. You’re supposed to melt the stuff by pacing the vials in hot water and kneading them every so often. Well, one burst open when I kneaded it…

And my attempts to get anything out of the busted one or the others yielded the following:

So I did what any self respecting fuckup would do -I cannibalized the cookie tree and used the buttercream on it to decorate the sugar cookies…

At least the end result of the sugar cookies didn’t turn out to badly and I could take them to daycare with a straight face.

Here’s hoping Santa fares better when we make his cookies tomorrow.

The Christmas Cookie Debacle of 2010 (Part 1)

Where do I begin? For one thing, this post will be in several parts due to the volume of photos and the fact that wordpress takes about 5 minutes to upload a single photo and I can’t sit here for 2 hours…

Maybe we’ll start with a teaser pic of the abominable end product?

This doesn’t do it justice, really. It looked MUCH worse in person, and obviously nothing like the aspiration.

Started out with my new Williams Sonoma cookie press, one batch each of sugar and gingerbread cookie mixes, and high hopes.

The dough instructions were easy – for each, just add the requisite amounts of butter and eggs (and for the gingerbread, water) to the mixes and “stir until it achieves a dough like consistency”.

Not quite dough like, is it?…

But after kneading it by hand for a minute I was able to get it more dough-like:

And into the cookie press:

Had a few false starts with the cookie press but finally started to get the hang of it (partially by just taking the leftover bits of dough off the press and trying to reassemble them into the cookies on the sheet.

So learning to use the press was a pain in the ass, and on some of the shapes (I tried a few others besides the star but gave up because it wasn’t working) I couldn’t even pull the trigger all the way, but the cookies came out fine. Only complaint is that they were crispy, not chewy (likely due to being so small/thin), and MUCH too small to decorate as holiday cookies.

See – tiny!

When I realized they were too small for good decorating, I used the leftover dough for some easy start cookie cutter cookies.

All baked and waiting for decoration…

Next time: Gingerbread and buttercream….

Operation Halloween Cupcake – Completed

Well, they’re done. I don’t know if there’s anything more glowing I can say about them besides that. The end result is not at all what I set out to do, but they’re passable, if nothing else.

So, you’ll recall I was hoping to do the big pull apart Spiderweb cupcakes from Betty Crocker (found here and reproduced below). What’s below is the actual recpie and decorating instructions, but as I’ll get into below, I veered a bit off course. Because I suck.

1 box (1 lb 2.25 oz) Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® white cake mix (or other flavor)
Water, vegetable oil and eggs called for on cake mix package
Orange gel food coloring
2 containers (12 oz each) Betty Crocker® Whipped fluffy white frosting
1 tube (0.68 oz) Betty Crocker® black decorating gel
Plastic spiders (for decoration)
  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Place paper baking cup in each of 24 regular-size muffin cups.
  2. Mix cake batter as directed on box, using water, oil and eggs. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake as directed on box. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pan to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.
  3. On large round platter or pizza pan, arrange cupcakes, placing them close together. In medium bowl, mix food coloring and frosting. Spread frosting over cupcakes and spaces in between to create one large circle of frosting. Squeeze one large dot of black gel in center of frosting. With gel, draw concentric circles around the dot, spacing them about 2 inches apart. To create the web design, drag a toothpick from the center dot to the outer edge of the circle (about 12 times). Place plastic spiders on web.

So, where did we first encounter problems? Well, we started out ok. Follow the directions on the box, not too bad. They gave me a choice between a hand mixer and whisking the batter – it was like a Betty Crocker Choose Your Own Adventure…did I want to do less work now (electric hand mixer) and have more to clean later (multiple parts)? Or work more now (whisk manually) but minimize dishes?

We went with the whisk. I think I did a decent enough job getting out all the lumps too, if I do say so myself. That was my workout for the day.

Next step – filling the baking cups. I picked up some Halloween themed cups from Target:

So into the muffin pan they went, followed by the batter.

Yeah, the cups were a little big for the pan. And the batter was a little too drippy for my uncoordinated self, resulting in much frosting dripped on the kitchen island, the pan, my tray, et cetera. I “cleaned” up the excess batter by swiping it up with my finger and then eating it (unpasteurized eggs too – I’m such a risk taker!). So before anything was even in the oven I’m pretty sure I consumed at least 2-3 cupcakes worth of batter. Hey, at least we’ll keep the blog title accurate, right?

Unfortunately my next mistake was also perpetrated during the filling of the cupcake cups…but I didn’t realize until they were baked. See, it said to fill 2/3 of the way up. That’s what I thought I did, but in retrospect I probably did closer to 3/4. So we ended up with muffins instead of cupcakes.

As an aside, the recipe is supposed to make 24 cupcakes. I got 14 out of mine, so clearly these are some bionic mutant ninja cupcakes.

Next step was the frosting (with another misstep pending). Before even starting, it was pretty clear to me that these giant everest like muffin tops were not going to be conducive to a nice flat and even surface for the spiderweb pattern intended by the recipe, so I decided to try my own decorating on a cupcake by cupcake basis. The first thing I had to do was dye the frosting the desired colors (I wanted half lime green and half orange). The recipe called for gel food coloring, which I couldn’t find at either Target or our grocery store, so I got the drop kind. Yeah, that was a bad choice.

First of all, I figure 2 drops yellow and 2 drops red and we’d get orange. Not so much. That was more of a pale peach. I ended up probably using several mLs of coloring before achieving the desired color (lovely look of bleeding frosting too…)

So, um…did you know that if you use a lot of food coloring it waters the frosting down? Yeah, it does. I didn’t notice or care until this happened…

Yeah, it melted all over the place. Drip, drip, drip. SOOO appetizing, no? I’m just picturing the damn cupcake screaming “I’m melting, I’m melting, oh what a world, what a world!!!!!”

In the meantime I made my green frosting, with similar results.

After that first cupcake I was pretty much decided that I’d need to go out and get more frosting and drive around looking for gel food coloring, until my mother in law (in for the weekend and attempting to distract and intercept the Boops while I baked) told me I could add powdered sugar to thicken the frosting back up. Praise her for saving me another trip out!

Frosting thickened, we tried again! It was still a bit drippy so I ended up putting the frosting and frosted cupcakes in the fridge for a while to stiffen.

Here they all are, pre-decorated:

Finally, the decorating. This is a combination of the original idea on a smaller scale (which I would have done more of but I was running out of black gel), some pumpkin ones I saw (including in a pic posted by a commenter, thanks!) and then I just ran out of ideas and rustled around in our cabinet until I saw the pull and peel twizzlers which I decided I could use as spiderlegs.

They don’t look so bad here, but the jack o lanterns were losing their stems already as they slid through the STILL drippy frosting, so I’m sure they’ll be a mess tomorrow. Oh well, I gave it a shot…

Next project – weigh in!

For a small Halloween party, I’m hoping to do something fun, easy and halloween themed for the next endeavor.

I was planning on this bad boy:

But am also considering doing stand alone cupcakes with orange frosting and little green gumdrop or Mike and Ike stems. Or I could do a round cake shaped like one big pumpkin. What do you think? Or any other ideas? I have makings for yellow cupcakes (or cake), white frosting with food coloring that I can color however I need, and black decorating gel. And I am NOT creative…