I’ll be covering two different Thanksgiving projects today! One of these projects was a cake and cupcake order, and the second was a batch of sugar cookies made just for fun (because I love decorating cookies, and I love seeing how my skills improve every time).
For the first of these projects, I made a cake and cupcakes for Thanksgiving dinner. The cake and four of the cupcakes were regular chocolate cupcakes, and the remaining four cupcakes were gluten-free. I used my favourite Betty Crocker Devil’s Food Cake recipe for the cake and half of the cupcakes, then I adapted this recipe for my gluten-free cupcakes. I used a blend of brown rice flour, white rice flour, sorghum flour, tapioca starch, and corn starch for my gluten-free flour (my mix comes from Sarah Bakes Gluten Free – see the comment section for replacing the potato starch in her original recipe, which I’ve done here).
The icing was a mix of orange (for the cake and half the cupcakes) and raspberry (for the remaining four cupcakes).
Starting with the cake, I used a mix of orange, red, yellow, green, and maroon icing to make a fall colours tree. I started by drawing the tree trunk and branches up from the side of the cake and stretching across the top. To save piping bags, and to give a more natural look to the leaves, I added only a small amount of each colour to the bag at a time, then changed icing colours without cleaning the bag. This way, I got some leaves that had a mix of both colours. I took a few progress pictures to show the progression of adding leaves to this cake:
I added a few leaves to the side of the cake, as though the leaves are falling off the tree. I also added a few gourds at the base of the cake, to tie into the cupcakes.
For the cupcakes, I was asked for gourds and fall leaves. I used these two designs as a way to distinguish the two icing flavours; gourds for orange icing, and leaves for raspberry icing. I made the gourds as buttercream transfers, so I piped out orange (for pumpkins) and a mix of green and yellow (for the gourds) with a star tip onto a piece of parchment paper, then put them in the freezer to allow them to set. I did the same with the leaves in red, with a little bit of yellow icing to give a mix of the fall colours.
I did a simple flat-topped icing to give a nice flat base for the buttercream transfers. The leaves ended up quite large, so most cupcakes only fit one, but I tried a few groupings of the gourds because these transfers came out a little bit smaller.
The top row of cupcakes are gluten-free, and I added some extra decorative cupcake wrappers to be sure it was extra clear which cupcakes were gluten-free and which were not (I usually overdo it a little bit when making a mix of allergy/intolerance friendly baking and regular baking; I assume most people are intelligent enough to read the labels that I add to my packaging, but I always like having a little extra security since there are usually fairly serious consequences to a mix-up).
If I do the buttercream transfers again in future, I want to find a way to eliminate the “sketchy” look that they have, where the individual piped lines are still visible. Perhaps rubbing the transfer with a piece of waxed paper once the transfers have been placed on a cupcake, or maybe piping them onto a slightly warm cookie tray, would help with this?
The cupcakes and cake got great reviews, and I’m always so glad when my gluten-free goods are enjoyable; I know how difficult it can be to get the same texture and taste as in a regular cupcake, so I’m always striving for better gluten-free goods!
My second Thanksgiving-themed project was a batch of gluten-free sugar cookies. I brought these to my dance school on Saturday to sell to parents and dancers. I chose a gluten-free cookie because I’ve been bringing a lot of regular sugar cookies lately, and I do have a few dancers with gluten intolerances. Plus, I find that the gluten-free flours work really well in this cookie, so it’s still a delicious treat for someone who isn’t avoiding gluten.
I recently bought a few cookie cutters in fun shapes, so I tried out three different shapes: a square, a diamond, and a plaque with a rounded centre. I really like the diamond with the scalloped edges, so I’ll definitely be finding a use for this cutter in the future.
I used similar colours as for the cake above; a mix of red, orange, and yellow. I also included black for some silhouettes.
For the square cookies, I wanted to try out a stencil that I bought recently. Unfortunately, the stencil was much larger than the cookies, so I had trouble keeping it flat, and as a consequence, the icing leaked under the stencil and the designs weren’t very clear. I tried a few by hand (using the stencil as a reference) and they actually came out fairly well:
I’ve since cut up my stencil into smaller pieces, in the hope that this will help keep the stencil flat in the future. I really like the detail that is possible with a stencil so I’m hoping I can make this work in the future.
With the plaque shaped cookies, I hand-drew some gourds, fall leaves, and apple baskets. I don’t really like how “cartoonish” these end up looking. I’ve recently seen some absolutely beautiful hand-drawn flowers on cookies (done with a paintbrush and some edible food colouring paint), and these seem to pale in comparison. Unfortunately, the hand painting seems like a bit of a laborious process, so I’m not sure if there is a good middle ground to get something a little more realistic down on the cookie. Still, I think the gourds in the centre cookie are pretty cute!
The third set of cookies is definitely my favourite. These were done on the diamond-shaped cookies. I started with a black border, then filled with layers of red, orange, and yellow. I wanted the look of a fall sunset here. In a few of these cookies I tried to blend the colours together, but I think the icing was a bit thick to blend more seamlessly between the layers, so I didn’t quite get the look I was going for. Once I realized that the blended look didn’t quite work, I tried some other patterns just to see how they looked (see the top right and bottom three cookies below, for these patterns, and the top left cookie for an attempt at blending).
I used the wet-on-wet technique for a few of these to add the outline of a bare tree and some birds to give the look of a fall silhouette. I also wanted to try a few silhouettes on the cookies once they had dried, so I left these overnight before finishing:
There wasn’t too much of a difference in look between these methods, but I’m happier with the wet-on-dry method. There was a little leaking of the black food colouring into the red, orange, and yellow in the wet-on-wet cookies, so they were a bit less neat on day 2 (you can see a little bit of this on the top left-hand cookie above).
I had a great time decorating these cookies, and I’ve definitely learned a few things about how I like to decorate and how to use stencils on cookies (though this needs a bit more work!). I love being in a stage where I’m still happy with the finished look of most of my projects, but where I still have room to learn and improve. To me, that’s such an exciting part of mastering any skill: being able to learn something new with every project. I’m already looking forward to my next cookie decorating session!