Wednesday, April 15, 2020

I'm a lemon lover!

I love the juicy tartness of a fresh squeezed lemon. Lemonade, lemon bars, lemon cake, lemon curd, lemon meringue pies, lemon tarts - all yummy to me. One of the best things about living in Arizona was our lemon tree that would be loaded with huge lemons every winter. Our neighbors received a lemon meringue pie, along with a basket of lemons, for Christmas each year.

A few days ago, I braved going out to Safeway to buy fresh lemons, in anticipation of making one of my Luscious Lemon cakes for a customer. Since that didn't pan out, I had a whole bag of lemons in my refrigerator that I wanted to use. 

I sat down at my computer and looked for a new lemon recipe to try, and found "Lemon Butter Cookies." These little gems are really tasty and probably not a good thing to have around for just the two of us during this time together at home. These are worthy of being added to my collection of favorite cookie recipes. 

Lemon Butter Cookies

2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
10 Tbsp. softened butter
1 (8 oz.) block cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla
Few drops yellow food coloring
3/4 cup powdered sugar


In medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt. In large bowl, beat butter, cream cheese, and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla, and food coloring. Mix in dry ingredients until just combined. Cover bowl and refrigerate until firm. 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll dough into 2 inch balls and roll in powdered sugar. Let set for 2-3 minutes, and then roll again in powdered sugar. Place about 2 inches apart on baking sheet, and bake until cookies crackle and set, but are still soft in center, about 18 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Introducing APRON BUDDIES!!!

For those of you who have been following our mission adventures at Cove Fort, Utah, you know that we are now back home in Colorado trying to adjust to post-mission life. While on our mission, I had a lot of time to ponder about what I wanted to do with my cake business once we got home. One thing I definitely decided was that I had to spend less time doing huge extravagant party cakes, and more time doing what I enjoy-teaching. So I have decided to change up my business a bit, and add a new dimension at the same time. For my Custom Creations business, I will continue to design wedding cakes, dessert cakes, cupcakes, and cake pops. I will leave the  party cakes to the younger and more energetic bakers. 

The teaching side of my business will be known as  Apron Buddies. I will be passing on my skills as I teach decorating classes and offer cake decorating parties. I may even throw in a dinner roll/cinnamon roll or other baking class from time to time. I hope my past customers and friends can feel my excitement and enthusiasm that I have for this new venture, and help spread the word! 

Our son, Tom, has designed the new Apron Buddies logo, and I will continue to use our Custom Creations logo for our cake designs. 

Thank you all for your past support, and I look forward to fulfilling your cake cravings again.  We are open for business!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Coconut Pecan Icing

While serving our mission here at Cove Fort, I have tried to make a cake each month for those having birthdays during the month. I like to make a different dessert cake each month, but it seems that by far, my German Chocolate cake seems to be the favorite. Here is the recipe for the Coconut Pecan Icing that I use. Sure, you can go to store and pick up a can of Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker Coconut Pecan Icing, but it won't taste like this stuff. For added flavor, try toasting the pecans first, and toast a few extra pecan halves for decorating the top. You can also toast a little coconut for side decoration if desired. Try not to eat all the icing before it gets on the cake!

Coconut Pecan Icing
 (For German Chocolate Cake)

Use this, along with my Chocolate Buttercream recipe and “Doctored German Chocolate Cake Mix Batter”

4 egg yolks
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
1 1/2 tsp. Vanilla
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter
1  7 oz. package coconut (about 2 2/3 cups)
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans (toast if desired)

Beat egg yolks, milk, and vanilla in large saucepan with whisk until blended.

Add sugar and butter; cook on medium heat 12 min. Or until thickened and golden brown, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Add coconut and nuts; mix well. Cool to desired spreading consistency, and spread between layers and on top of cakes. Ice sides and trim with chocolate buttercream.

(This recipe works well for high altitudes. You may have to tweak it for lower elevations.)

1 Duncan Hines cake mix, any flavor except Butter Recipe
1/2 cup flour (FOR HIGH ALTITUDE ONLY)
1 small package instant pudding mix to compliment flavor
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
4 eggs (1 cup total)
7 oz. sour cream

Preheat oven to 350°.  Combine all ingredients in large mixer bowl. Mix on low speed until combined. Scrape sides of bowl. Mix at medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour into greased, floured, and parchment lined cake pans. (Or use “Miracle Goo” with parchment.) Bake 30 minutes or longer, until toothpick comes out clean. DO NOT OVER BAKE.  Bake cupcakes for about 18 minutes.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Perfect Buttercream!!

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything on my cake blog, but a friend asked me for my recipe for buttercream and I couldn’t seem to find the exact recipe that I always use, so I’m posting that now. I’ve tweaked it several times over the years, and this is by far the best recipe I’ve ever used for taste, texture, and spreadability. You can replace the hi-ratio shortening with all butter; however, your icing will not be as stable, and will definitely not hold up in warmer weather. This makes a large recipe, so you need a large capacity heavy stand mixer. I prefer a KitchenAid 6 qt. model. 

Cathy’s Buttercream (American style)

3/4 lb. butter (3 cubes), softened
12 oz. hi-ratio shortening (NO Crisco)
Butter Vanilla flavoring (to taste)
3/4 tsp. salt
3 lb. sifted powdered sugar
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Beat butter, shortening, butter vanilla, and salt in KitchenAid mixer with flat beater attachment for several minutes until very light and fluffy. Add sugar and cream and beat until smooth and fluffy on low to medium speed. You do not want to incorporate too much air. This makes a full bowl (6 qt.), so I usually cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel while mixing to avoid a “sugar storm” in my kitchen. 

These cakes and cupcakes are all iced with buttercream

Monday, November 20, 2017

Wedding cake ... really?

Every now and then, I will get a request for a very unconventional wedding cake. This cake request was from Kayli and Nathan from Denver. Their wedding was on a Sunday, so since I don't work or deliver on Sundays, Kayli came with 3 of her bridesmaids to pick up the cake. Kayli and Nathan met with me several months ago, and described what they had in mind, and I had cake samples for them to taste. I then had my son, Tom (Disney animator), draw a sketch for me to get a rough idea of what I could design for the cake. The request was a bolder or mountainside with grassy patches and a hammock on top, with the bride and groom. Also, they wanted some succulents on the cake because they really like them. So, here are a few pictures to show the progress of the cake.

 Rough sketch for cake idea.
 Stacked and filled 12, 10, and 8 inch layer cakes with support dowels. In the freezer to chill.
 Carved and shaped cake with crumb coat. Back in freezer to chill.
Final coat of buttercream, and back in freezer to chill before adding modeling chocolate.
 Finished cake. I used crushed edible rocks for the gravel on the trail, and touched up color with petal dust mixed with Everclear.
 Trees and figurines were molded from modeling chocolate, with the bride's dress  and hammock from Flexfrost, edible icing sheets.

Succulents were made from gumpaste. 

It's always a challenge and takes longer than anticipated to do a new design. But the bride and groom were happy with the results, so I'm good with that. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

The word that cake decorators hate the most...

Well, I guess hate is a pretty strong word... how about really dislike... the word is CONGRATULATIONS. Why do I not like this word? It is because it has 15 letters to write, cut out, press out, mold, or whatever, and then try to get the placement just right.  And that takes a lot of time. Combine it with "Congratulations on your Retirement" and then it's really fun. 

Look at all of the wording on this cake!

Have you ever had one of those days where everything seems to go wrong that can go wrong? Well, I had one of those days last Saturday... what was supposed to be an easy cake turned into a nightmare. I had designed a cake similar to this before that turned out perfect. First of all, my edible ink printer quit working and so I needed to repair it to get it working properly. I didn't get it working in time, so had to cut out emblems and everything by hand. I could have used my Zing electronic cutter, but didn't think I'd have time for that either. Then I tried combining two different kinds of fondant to make a camo background for the cake, and the different color pieces split when I decided to cover the cake with it... what? Oh, by the way, I found a new fondant that I love to work with. Dream Fondant by Choco-pan is wonderful to roll out and cover your cakes without any tearing or "elephant skin." So then, because I spent too much time trying to fix the printer, I didn't have time to cut out the letters for the cake, so did the writing in free-hand cursive. Granted, my cake writing is pretty good, but this particular cake would have looked better with a different type of lettering. I ended up giving the customer a discount and told her that it wasn't my best work. It looked like an amateur's cake, and I AM NOT AN AMATEUR, I AM A PROFESSIONAL. At least I knew the cake would taste great.  Ok, I will now get off my soapbox...

This is how the cake should have looked. 

So, I learned several lessons - yes, I'm still learning - from this whole experience. #1 - always print out my images the night before, in case the printer needs servicing. #2 - prepare the lettering ahead of time, so you are not trying to get it done the last minute. #3 - Don't combine different kinds of fondant when making a camo background for an Army cake. 

I got online on Saturday night and ordered some tools to make my cake decorating life a little easier... Marvelous Molds has come out with a new line of molds called Flexabets. I had some of these already, but the one I really needed and ordered was "Congratulations." The Flexabets are a bit tricky to learn how to use correctly, but when you do, will save you a lot of time. 

The other thing I ordered was a steamer to clean my edible ink printer print head when it gets clogged. I ordered this from Icing Images. I love the quality products that I get from Icing Images. Hopefully, this will make maintaining my printer a little easier and quicker. 

And no, I did not take a picture of the cake that I was not happy with... didn't want any of those memories. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

Ahhhh... Cream Puffs!

Cream puffs, eclairs, or profiteroles... all use the same kind of choux pastry dough. Cream puffs are round, eclairs a little longer in shape, and profiteroles are basically cream puffs with ice cream and drizzled with chocolate or fudge sauce... yum! Cream puffs are an impressive dessert, yet very simple to make.

Have you ever wanted to make cream puffs, but just think they are too difficult? Well, you must try again. Cream puffs are very easy to make, if you just follow some basic tips that I have learned over my years of baking and catering.

When I was still catering, we made many many cream puffs. Not only did we fill those with whipped cream and mousse fillings for desserts, but we also made them as a shell for our savory chicken salad, which was a huge hit with our customers. Now that I am not catering any longer, I don't often make the chicken salad puffs, but I have been experimenting lately with different presentations of dessert cream puffs. 

Chicken Salad Puffs

Once you learn how to make the  choux pastry dough, you can make the cream puffs any size you wish, from mini to much larger. My favorite is usually somewhere in between. When making a cream puff tower, you usually need to make very small, or mini puffs. I have not yet perfected the true croquembouche-the French cream puff tower assembled with caramel that hardens and makes a crunch in your mouth, and is decorated with strings of pulled caramel. It is a perfect combination of flavors- the soft yummy sweetness of the filling and the crunchy caramel as you bite into the cream puff. Usually, you use some sort of a crocquembouche mold for the best results. It is my goal, sometime soon, to perfect one of these. I have assembled small cream puff towers with melted chocolate, which also works well... just not the true French croquembouche (which means "crunch in the mouth.")

Traditional Croquembouche

Son-in-law, Eddie... cream puff lover

In the meantime, I would like to share the recipe and tips for making a perfect cream puff, and also my basic simple mousse and simple Bavarian Creme recipes.

One thing I have learned to do is to measure my eggs. We have our own chickens, and so the eggs are not always consistent in size. 1 cup of our fresh eggs usually equals about 4 extra large eggs. My baked items always turn out better when I measure the eggs to make sure the amount is consistent. 


1 cup water
1/2 cup (1 stick butter)
1/4 tsp. salt
1-2 tsp. sugar (optional)
1 cup flour
4 extra large eggs (1 cup)  

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line 2 bun pans with parchment paper.

Bring water, butter, salt, and sugar (if desired) to a rapid boil. Remove from heat and add flour, and stir until it forms a ball and comes away from the sides of the pot. Return to heat for 1-2 minutes and stir until you have a smooth ball and less moisture. Measure the eggs. Pour mixture into mixing bowl, fitted with a flat paddle. I use a KitchenAid, but any mixer will do. You can even just use a spoon and lots of elbow grease. Turn on mixer and add one egg at a time. Mix until incorporated, then add the next, and so forth. Continue mixing until you have a soft smooth batter. 

Put batter into a pastry bag fitted with large tip, and pipe onto pans. You can also use a cookie scoop or two spoons to put batter onto pans. If you have peaks at the top of your dough balls, wet fingertip and smooth down. This will prevent the tips from burning. 

This next step is very important and I have learned from trial and error. Put puffs in the 425° oven for 15 minutes, then turn the temperature down to to 375° and bake for another 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of your cream puffs. This will make certain that your puffs are dry enough and will not collapse, yet still remain golden color. I have learned this from experience. 

Remove from oven and cool completely, away from draft, before filling. When ready to fill, you can either slice the tops and fill, or use a pastry bag by inserting the tip into the side or bottom of each puff to fill with cream or mousse filling. Sprinkle dessert puffs with powdered sugar. 


8 oz. cream cheese
(2) small packages vanilla instant pudding mix
3/4 cup milk
1 large or 2 small containers of Cool Whip, thawed

Beat cream cheese until softened. Gradually add pudding mix until combined. Very slowly add the milk, and continue beating until smooth. Fold in Cool Whip until thoroughly combined. Keep in refrigerator, or freeze for longer storage.


8 oz. cream cheese
1 1/2 - 2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 small container of Cool Whip
Cocoa, fruit, jams, fillings, peanut butter, Nutella, or any other flavorings

Beat cream cheese to soften. Add powdered sugar and vanilla, and beat until smooth. If you want chocolate mousse, add desired amount of cocoa at this time. Beat until smooth. Fold in Cool Whip until thoroughly combined. Fold in desired flavorings, or leave plain for vanilla mousse. Refrigerate or freeze for longer storage.