Monday, January 23, 2012

German Chocolate Cupcakes and Coconut Pecan Frosting

This weekend I experimented with a new type of icing for my friend's birthday party. To celebrate his German heritage, he and his friends hosted a German potluck and they asked me to bring some German chocolate cupcakes. (I learned during the making of said cake that German chocolate cake is, in fact, not at all German, but made it anyway.)

First I made the German-themed chocolate cupcake toppers. I thought German flags, pretzels and glasses of beer would be appropriate symbols of the country.

Remember that with a chocolate transfer, you have to do everything backwards from how you'd like it to appear on the cake. In this case, "Tom" appears correct because the letters "T" "O" and "M" happen to look the same forward and backward.

 I couldn't taste the cupcakes themselves, since they weren't gluten-free, but they looked moist and fluffy and I placed a pecan on top of each one.

While they cooled, I prepared the icing combining a couple of different recipes. It seems that coconut pecan frosting is very easy to adapt to anyone's preferences and the amounts do not have to be exact. I used recipes from Barbara Bakes and The Joy of Baking.

 It was simple to make and adjust. If you like coconut, add more. If you like pecans, add more. If you like butter, add more. Simple. I would suggest that if you are making cupcakes instead of a full German chocolate cake, that you chop the pecans a little smaller than the recipes recommend.

When the icing was cool, I spread it on.

And then added the German-themed chocolate toppers.

Happy birthday, Tom!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Guest Blogger: Cute Animals in the Snow!

 Greetings Blogfans! Herald the Dog here, once again, to give you a quick update on life at the Wild Wonders Outdoor Theater here at the Point Defiance Zoo.

During the winter months we zoo animal-stars have a hiatus from the rigorous training and program schedule of the spring and summer seasons.  With the colder weather there's been a lot of eating
Tilli the aardvark with yogurt on her nose.

And a lot of napping
Mango the kinkajou, disturbed from slumber.
But it's not all rest and relaxation around here. I need to go on at least four walks a day! I see all kinds of interesting things, from polar bears taking a dip in their pool to tigers lounging on their heated rock. This was one of the most rare and elusive sightings:

A "snow" leopard! Zookeepers are hilarious, aren't they?

Some animals are better suited to this snowfall than others. Native northwest animals like Buckley the beaver

Cactus Jack the porcupine
and arctic animals like Mariah the gyrfalcon

While most of my tropical counterparts like to spend their days indoors on these snowy days, curiosity still got the better of some, like Sushi the fishing cat from southeast Asia.

I'd better head inside to my cozy bed before my tail freezes! On behalf of all the critters here at the theater in Tacoma, thanks for checking in with us and come back to see us soon!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

DIY Wall Decor: Unusual(ly easy) Craft Project #17

I'm always looking for easy and useful craft projects, so when I received some odd little puzzles from a white elephant gift exchange, I hatched a plan. Each 5 x 7 puzzle displayed a cupcake decorated in a different color. Kinda cute, but what am I supposed to do with tiny puzzles that I can finish in ten minutes? Turn them into wall decoration, of course!

Step one is to complete the puzzle, which in this case took very little time. Then Jared helped me spray adhesive (very effective and easy to use!) onto the back of the puzzle. We had to keep the puzzle intact while we flipped it over, which was not difficult with a 5" x 7" puzzle, but would be challenging with a larger one. This layer of adhesive made the pieces stick together so the puzzle was in one sheet. Then we sprayed a piece of cardboard with the adhesive and laid the puzzle onto it.

Once the adhesive is dry, cut the cardboard as closely around the puzzle as possible, so it has a sturdy backing. Then use any 5" x 7" frames and place the puzzle inside. We dug through some thrift store shelves and found four nice frames for less than $4.00! You can coordinate the frames, but we thought it would be fun to use four different ones.

For apartment dwellers like ourselves, punching holes in the walls for nails isn't an option, so these Scotch mounting squares have really come in handy. We put half a square on each corner of the frames and they hold really well without leaving goo or a hole to worry about.

Then you can hang your puzzles wherever you want; for instance, hang them next to your picture of jaguars that you can't remember acquiring but display anyway because you don't have that many things to hang on walls.

Or hang them above the oven for inspiration.

This project is very versatile because anything you can find (or make) a puzzle out of can become part of your decor.