It’s not like I’ve never made a cake before, so I thought a sheet cake wouldn’t be too difficult. I ordered an edible image from a vendor on ETSY of the official US Army birthday logo and bought supplies in yellow and black to match the Army colors!
If I were to do it again, I’d cut the image square and pipe a frosting border around it so it didn’t stick out as much against the frosting. Also, I probably wouldn’t put the black sugar crystals on it because with the heat they ended up melting and just looking messy.
However, I was the only one who seemed to notice these things and everyone else raved at how awesome the cake was!
The cake itself was dark chocolate cake on the bottom and classic white cake on top with fresh raspberry filling all covered in whipped cream buttercream frosting. It was a HUGE hit and honestly one of my favorite tasting cakes I’ve ever made!
It came as a complete surprise to me, but about half way through the event, the President of USO Metro and the owner of the Montgomery Inn Boathouse Restaurant presented me with a certificate of appreciation for all my time and work serving the military members of our community.
It has always been my honor and complete pleasure to serve the military community, especially at the USO. The USO has done so much for my family over the years that it’s the least I can do to give back to them and our community.
If you’re in the military and are close to Washington DC, I highly recommend checking out the USO. They are a great resource for the community and have so many amazing activities for service members and families!
On a beautiful summer evening, I hosted a Dessert Decorating Workshop for wounded soldiers, their caregivers and other active duty military! It was a fun, sugar-filled event!
When I moved back to the USA in February after living abroad for 5 years, I knew I wanted to get involved in my local community. My family began attending events at the USO Warrior & Family Center at Fort Belvoir and I was introduced to one of the fabulous women who organized all the events at this USO.
The first time I met Casey it was at a Caregiver Support Group at the USO. I asked her if I could host a dessert decorating workshop for the wounded soldiers and their caregivers along with other active duty military at the USO. Casey of course said yes and my brain went into planning mode! First person I reached out to was Meaghan of the decorated cookie!
Meaghan is a super talented food blogger and baker who lives just up the street from me in DC! I knew she’d be the perfect person to co-teach this workshop with me! She’s got mad skills when it comes to desserts!
Meaghan is also a military spouse and a blogger and we’ve been Facebook friends for a while now! We actually met for the first time in real life at the USO for this event, but it was like we had known each other for years.
That’s really how special both the food blogging and military communities are.
Two days before the workshop, I began baking cookies and cupcakes and making batch after batch of buttercream.
My plans was to teach these wounded warriors and their caregivers how to transform their cupcakes, cookies and marshmallows into beautiful desserts their families and guests will be so impressed with!
The tables were set with piping bags, decorating tips, marshmallow sticks courtesy of Wilton (THANK YOU FOR YOUR GENEROUS DONATION OF SUPPLIES & DOOR PRIZES!) along with dozens of cupcakes, cookies and frosting!
None of this would have been possible without the use of the USO Warrior & Family Center at Fort Belvior! Their kitchen and common area were the perfect place to host a workshop like this! Thank you, USO, for letting me do this!
With the tables set and the desserts ready, Meaghan and I were ready to teach! On the agenda for the workshop were five demos for decorating.
Two styles of decorating cupcakes with buttercream using piping bags and tips, techniques for decorating sugar cookies with buttercream, and two styles of decorating marshmallow pops.
Meaghan and I got to work sharing all of our tips and years of tricks and secrets we’ve stored up with the workshop!
As the class eagerly watched… I showed the class how to whip up a batch of my famous buttercream as well as fit a piping bag with a tip and fill it with frosting.
I then demoed how to use an open star tip and an open round tip to create two different looks when frosting cupcakes.
Meaghen jumped in and showed the class her go-to technique for piping frosting onto cookies!
Finally, Meaghan showed everyone who to turn marshmallows into dessert pops by using edible markers and sprinkles!
After the live demonstrations were complete, it was time for the class to start practicing what they learned!
Meaghan and I gave the class instruction on what the tools were in front of them and set them free!
And boy were they talented! Their creativity surpassed all my expectations for this class! Not only did the class expertly pipe frosting onto the cupcakes like they’ve done it for years, but they took the initiative to try new things and get really creative!
Check out some of their creations!
I love it! With just a bit of direction and the right tools, look how creative they were! I am just so impressed!
As the evening was winding down, I had a huge surprise for the guests! FREE STUFF!
I reached out to all of my food blogger friends and asked them if the would donate autographed copies of their cookbooks.
I raided my baking supply closets and put together some fun grab bags full of baking tools and gadgets.
I bought a cake stand a few aprons from Home Goods while Meaghan put together goodie bags filled with cookie cutters, food coloring and marshmallow pop making supplies!
It was a really special moment for me to be able to shower these wonderful wounded soldiers, caregivers and active duty military with gifts. Doing something like this has been a dream of mine for a while and being able to give to them an evening of joy, happiness and all you can eat cupcakes was just a pleasure. A true pleasure.
I can’t leave out my daughter Emily and her best friend Alexis for being a huge help to me before and after the workshop. The girls did all the dishes after the event and helped clean up without any complaining! Thank you, my sweet ladies!
If you were at the dessert decorating workshop, I promised you the recipe for my buttercream and sugar cookies!
Finally, a HUGE THANK YOU goes to Anna of Anna Kratoville Photography. Anna donated her time and skill to my workshop so that I could focus only on teaching the class and not have to worry about taking pictures too! Aren’t these photos just amazing! If you’re in the Northern Virginia area, make sure to check out Anna and hire her for your next event!!
My heart is just overflowing with joy and happiness after putting together this class. Everyone involved loved it, I loved it, the USO loved it and I can’t wait to do it again.
Every Spring, cities and towns both big and small in Germany celebrate the Easter season with a festive market. The Ostermarkt (Easter Market) in Nuremberg is packed with vendors selling everything from flowers to jewelry, kitchen wares and food. This past weekend, I had the opportunity to meet up with two fellow Army Wife bloggers in Nuremberg for a Bavarian Blogger Meetup!
Melissa of Milligfunk (a Healthy Lifestyle, Travel & DIY blog) and Jamie of North of Something (a Family Travel blog) met up with me and my husband, Dave, for a fun day of shopping and exploring at the Nuremberg Ostermarkt. We began at Starbucks for a coffee and snacks where we spent some time chatting and getting to know each other. I really enjoyed being able to share my blogging experiences with other bloggers who really “get it”.
The Nuremberg Easter Market is nestled between a cathedral and restaurants in the heart of the shopping district of the city. Rows upon rows of little stands line the Main Market Square in front of the Frauenkirsche Cathedral.
Since I had been to this market several times before, this trip I wanted to focus on all the food and kitchen related stands to share on JavaCupcake. I could have spent many more hours browsing the isles and dreaming about stocking my kitchen with all the fabulous tools, pots and pans and pottery I found in the market. If only I were made of money!
My favorite kitchen stand is this one. It’s right on the corner of the first row at the market and I stop her first every time I come. There are at least two other stands just like this one at the market, but for some reason this is my favorite.
As you can see, this stand is packed full of kitchen goodies. Let’s take a closer look…
Whisks, cutting boards, bottle cleaners, pizza boards, spoons… and that’s just in this tiny little section of the stand! I think I stare at the whisks and pick up every single size each time I visit. I want one of each please!
And then there’s the bakeware. Muffin pans (they don’t really make too many cupcakes in Germany) and mini cake pans… and see that bunny and sheep pan in the back left? I wish I would have taken a better picture of that, but those are traditional cakes that are made every Easter here in the shape of a bunny or a lamb! I am going to have to buy a pan before I leave Germany!
Germans love cakes and tortes and anything they can bake in a springform pan. Seriously. This was just one small section of these types of cake pans. I really wish I could go home with one of everything. (Yes, I’m probably going to say this after every photo!)
Cookie cutters for days!! I really wish I knew how to flood cookies using royal icing because I would want to make a cookie in every one of these shapes. There were probably half a dozen stands with cookie cutter displays with at least this many, if not more to choose from. Some of the stands even had cookie cutters that looked like cathedrals from neighboring cities!
There’s one stand that sells silicone everything. Mats, toppers for your pots, candy molds, cake molds, ice molds. Anything you can imagine that could be made into a mold, they sell it.
And then there’s this. Oh. Em. Gee. I like die and go to Heaven every time I come to this stand. The colors alone are enough to bring me joy for days! If I could buy the blue, lime green and orange… one of each in those colors…. well, let’s just say I’d NEVER LEAVE MY KITCHEN. I’d just stand there staring at all the beautiful tools!
I mean really, have you ever seen anything like this before? So many pots! And they’re all different!
And these ladles. I mean, they have holes in them so it’s not like I could use it for soup… but I mean COME ON! I’d just want to get one in each color to hang on my wall because they are so pretty!
So besides kitchen gadgets and tools… this market is full of dishes, pottery, tea pots and any serving dish, plate or platter imaginable! In the picture above you can just see one small sample of the rows and rows and rows of dishes to choose from.
I almost came home with one of these tiered stands too. Unfortunately, I was kidless and strollerless on this trip to the market and had no where to put something this big while I shopped. But oh aren’t they pretty!!??
Some of my favorite pieces were the brightly colored Easter egg plates. Wouldn’t one of these be so cute on an Easter brunch table?
Can we talk food now? Seriously… there was so much good food at this Easter Market. I could have eaten breakfast, lunch and dinner there… plus a few snacks between!
Is is the best bread stand at the market. Behind the front counter they are baking bread fresh all through the day! Piles of freshly baked bread line the windows of the front counter area. They have two choices of bread sizes… big or bigger!
This bread isn’t a white bread… it’s a darker, richer, denser bread full of flavor. My favorite is the mini loaves filled with raisins. So good! Every time we come to this market, my husband and I go home with at least €20 in bread! We’d be crazy not to!
Behind the counter is a German man who I’m sure has been making bread his entire adult life. He stands at the same spot most of the day, pulling giant balls of dough out of a tub and hand cutting them into pieces to bake. I probably could have watched him do this for hours. It was fascinating!
If you’ve been reading JavaCupcake since I’ve moved to Germany, you may remember me mentioning a few times how much I love potatoes since being here. My snack of choice at any market or fest is always the potatoes. The Nuremberg Easter Market is no exception.
There’s nothing new or special about these hard candies. You can buy them at any local grocery store here in Germany. But, there is something about seeing a long row of these big glass jars full of candy with piles of little bags behind them. It’s massive and I get sucked in every time I see it and go home with at least three flavors!
These are freshly fried and seasoned thinly cut potato chips. And yes, they taste as good as they look. Crisp, salty and so addicting! I love these so much, I made my husband take a picture of me with them! Ha!
For lunch, Dave had a beer battered fish sandwich… made to order. He said it was probably the best fish sandwich he’d ever had. He had no idea what that white sauce on top was, but he said it was delicious!
The market also had lots of German favorites like these baguettes topped with cheese and veggies. This type of open-faced baguette topped with things is pretty typical. My favorite are the ones topped with garlic butter and cheese… mmmm yeah. Cheese!
Both Jamie and Melissa enjoyed roasted corn on the cob and needed 10 napkins each to clean up the deliciousness! I’ve never seen a mountain of corn before though, have you?
And we can’t forget about the pretzels the size of your head! Oh… and covered in CHEESE!
These pretzel shaped donuts were something I’d never seen before. They weren’t at the market, but they were at a little shop that lined the market. I’ve seen pretzels and I’ve seen donuts but not pretzel donuts! YUM!
One of my husband’s favorite places to shop at the market is this salami stand! Dozens of flavors of salami freshly made and ready to be taken home! It’s hard to pick just one, but I think Dave decided on the chili salami… the spicier the better for him!
I spotted this sweet little old Germany lady getting down on her fish sandwich. I couldn’t help but want to capture this moment… fur coat and perfect hair and all. This is seriously how the Germans get down when it’s time to eat. Good food, amazing traditions and no apologies.
I know these next few pictures aren’t of food… but they are my second favorite part about the market (besides the food!). Spring is my favorite time of the year. The winter chill is making it’s away out and the flowers begin to bloom. I can’t help but be in awe of their beauty.
I really had so much fun exploring with Melissa and Jamie! It was a pleasure to meet both of them! I commented at the end of the day that I don’t know if I would ever agree to meet up with a stranger in the middle of Europe unless it was another blogger! Especially an Army Wife blogger!
By the end of our fun afternoon, we were all exhausted but happy with our bags full of market goodies!
I am really looking forward to chatting more with both these wonderful ladies about Army life, blogging and friendship! Make sure to head over to Melissa and Jamie’s blogs (links below!) to read their take on the Nuremberg Easter Market and our meet up!
Milligfunk – a Healthy Lifestyle, Travel & DIY blog
On Saturday, I took part in Cupcake Wars! Well… not THE Cupcake Wars, but a fundraiser in my community for the Cougar Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports the Army unit my husband is in.
This fundraiser was a friendly competition where five local bakers set out to bake 5 dozen mini cupcakes, create a display and let the community decide who was best. There were three prizes available, Best Overall, Most Delicious and Best Presentation. About 100 people attended the two hour event where they bought tickets to taste the cupcakes and vote for their favorites in each category. All proceeds from the event go into future Cougar Foundation events which directly benefit the soldiers and families of 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Vilseck, Germany.
Of course, I don’t know how to do anything mini, so I knew my presentation and cupcakes were going to be GRAND! With about a month before the event, I began planning my tablescape. I knew I needed something to display my cupcakes on, so my husband helped me to build a giant cupcake tower! I’ll have a full DIY instructional post on that project later this week!
So with the cupcake tower taken care of, I needed to decide on more of the details of the tablescape. Since the colors of 2/2 CR guideon (flag) are red and white and that’s who this fundraiser was for, I thought those would be the perfect colors to work with! I contacted my friend Shannon at Sweets & Treats Boutique and she was immediately on board with sponsoring my table by providing all the paper products for my table by providing me with the red and white chevron liners and coordinating straws.
The theme of my table was “Milk & Cookies” so each person I served received a cupcake in a chevron liner along with a cup of milk served with a chevron straw! Aren’t these straws and liners the BEST?
If you’re wondering what that cuteness on top of the cupcake is, I have to be honest and say I can’t take credit for their genius. I was inspired by other friend (I have so many talented friends, don’t I?) Christi of the baking blog, Love From the Oven and her new book Smart Cookie! She features a rainbow bouquet of these pops in her book and I thought the red ones would be PERFECT to top my cupcakes! Balloons topping the cupcakes and balloons floating behind my cupcake tower tied the entire table together!
Let’s talk cupcakes for a second. You may be noticing a theme here… Oreos. I love these cookies, I mean really, who doesn’t? Every time I make these cupcakes they are always a crowd pleaser and I knew they’d be a hit with all the kids who came to the fundraiser!
I started with my favorite chocolate cupcake, baked an Oreo in the bottom of the liner then topped it with a whipped Oreo buttercream! Perfectly moist, not too sweet and so creamy. It’s the perfect cupcake for an Oreo lover!
The other bakers competing at Cupcake Wars created some super delicious cupcakes… one of which you might even recognize!
Starting at the top of the above photo we’ve got Tia and her spiced cupcakes with orange buttercream. You can see she went above and beyond with her Fall themed display! So cute and her cupcakes were a perfect bite of Fall! Loved the orange frosting on these cupcakes!
Next is Stacy who made Cherry Limeade Cupcakes. Her little cuties are perfect versions of a full size cupcake! I loved how high her frosting swirled. Now, you may be thinking these look familiar…. well, it’s because I made these same cupcakes back in 2011! Crazy huh? :) I think Stacy did a great job with her version!
Iris brought a Hawaiian treat with coconut macadamia nut cupcakes. She dressed up her table in a Hawaiian theme. I wasn’t able to try hers because I’m allergic to nuts, but I heard they were pretty delish!
Finally, Natasha from Frosted Fantasies (she opted not to have her photo taken) made an apple cupcake with a soft, smooth frosting. A tiny bite of deliciousness perfectly decorated with golden sugar pearls!
Now, this event wasn’t just a fundraiser… it was WAR! Cupcake WAR! And there were prizes to be won! Best Presentation & Most Delicious were awarded gift baskets full of fun baking items such as aprons, cookbooks, cupcake liners and other supplies. The Best Overall winner was given a brand new KitchenAid stand mixer!
Since there was not a panel of judges for the competition, the winners were to be chosen by those who attended and purchased tickets to Cupcake Wars. Votes had two options for tickets, buy a $10 tasting ticket which included 1 cupcake from all 5 bakers and 3 votes, 1 for each category or buy a $2 individual ticket for 1 cupcake and 1 vote for any category. Whoever had the most votes in each category, would win!
This next part, I’ve been grappling with whether or not I should talk about. I’m not typically one for drama and negativity, but I feel as though something needs to be said about the process in which the winners of this Cupcake Wars was chosen. How things played out was unfair to all those who participated and to those who cast votes.
When at least a dozen people come up to you after the event and ask… “What just happened?” I started to really question and think about everything and decided I really wanted to say something about it.
Half way though the event, I was approached by the President and a Board Member (above) of the Cougar Foundation. They informed me that they had decided they had decided that they no longer wanted one person to win every category but that they wanted three different winners. Granted, this wasn’t my event to organize and they can do what they wanted, but I immediately thought that changing the rules half way though the event was quite strange and really unfair.
Both the bakers and the voters were given the set of rules and guidelines on how voting was to happen and how a winner would be chosen… all of that was now thrown out the window.
How exactly would they be choosing who would win what category if one person won all three categories? How was this new process of choosing a winner fair? This new way of choosing a winner also opened up the voting to be tampered with and the ballot boxes (or bowls in this case) to be stuffed. I overheard several people talking about buying extra tickets just to make this happen. The entire process wasn’t fair and the winners of this contest reflected that.
I’m not saying that the winners didn’t deserve to win… I’m simply pointing out how unethical the entire thing turned out to be and how the results probably would have been a lot different if the Cougar Foundation would have stuck to their original plan.
In the end, here’s who won…
Best Overall: Iris with the coconut macadamia nut cupcakes & and the Hawaiian display
Most Delicious: Shannon with the Cherry Limeade Cupcakes
Best Presentation: Betsy (ME!) with the Milk & Cookies Oreo Cupcakes
I am very thankful for being recognized for all the hard work I put into my display and presentation. THANK YOU to everyone who came out to support me and vote for me. I am so incredibly proud of all the hard work that myself, my husband and my kids put into making it all happen. I could not have done it without them!
I wish I had time to take a picture with everyone who came out to support me… so let this picture of me and Rachel of the Glitter & Bow blog serve as a symbol for my love and gracious thanks to all of you!! xoxoxoxo MUAH!
A HUGE THANK YOU to Jacob of Spork Photos and his wife Chrissy of Chrissy.Photography for being my personal paparazzi team at Cupcake Wars! Your pictures are amazing… THANK YOU!
And how cute are these kids enjoying my cupcakes during Cupcake Wars?! SO ADORBS!
I had an incredible time planning to participate in Cupcake Wars… it was definitely a first for me! I have never put together something so elaborate from start to finish. I really truly am proud of it all. From the cupcakes to the DIY tower to the colors I planned my family to wear, I had every detail planned and I had so much fun doing it!
So much fun… I’m actually considering hosting a Cupcake Wars myself before I leave Germany! This time, I’ll have a panel of judges, hopefully to include a few owners of cupcake stores from Frankfurt, Munich and Berlin. How fun would that be?
Today was my first workshop here in Germany! Although it was a small class due to some last minute cancellations, the two wonderful ladies who attended had a blast and made some super cute Halloween cupcakes!
Before they arrived, I made three dozen cupcakes, a quadruple batch of buttercream and a big bowl of meringue frosting. Now, I had a lot of all the frostings left over… but I wanted to make sure the ladies had enough to work with!
So… on to the cupcakes! I taught them how to make three different cupcakes. First, was the ghost cupcake. I was inspired by the cake that Lemon Sugar made with the most adorable ghosts on top and thought they’d make the cutest cupcakes!
I showed them how to use a piping bag and large round tip to create these ghosts and then added black decorating gel for the eyes. Chasity got super creative and added a scary “ooooooooooooooooo” mouth to her ghost! (above)
Next, it was on to the Spiderweb Cupcakes. I’ve made these in the past and they are one of the easiest cupcakes to make! In the picture below you can see the ladies frosting their cupcakes with the spatulas… another technique they learned at the class.
Finally, we made my favorite… the Monster Cupcakes! As soon as I saw these little cuties on the Sweetology blog, I knew I had to make them myself and decided they’d be another great addition to this workshop.
Emily got super creative with a couple of her monster cupcakes… added lots of eyes, eye lashes and combining the colors! But, I think my favorite came from Sue. She made a monster with three eyes! SOOO CUTE! I mean SPOOKY! hehe (below)
I had about a dozen extra cupcakes, so I let the ladies decorate them anyway they wanted. We ended up with a table full of some pretty spectacular cupcakes!
A big GIANT THANK YOU goes out to Sue and Chasity for coming to my first Workshop here in Germany! I had a ton of fun preparing for this class and even more fun teaching you how to make these Spooktacular Treats!!
If you’re interested in coming to a JavaCupcake Workshop… I’ve got two more this year. Visit my blog for all the details!
Take a peek at all the pictures from today’s workshop!
Now, you may be wondering what’s up with this blog post. It doesn’t contain a cookie recipe or pictures of my latest cupcake creation and you’re confused. But hey… don’t worry. It’s still pretty darn cool!
As you may have heard, OREO is celebrating it’s 100th anniversary this year! Can you believe it? 100 years of twisting apart those chocolate cookies to get at the delicious cream on the inside! Amazing! So to celebrate the OREO “Daily Twist” campaign has been releaseing a new ad each day based on the latest news and pop culture of that day. It’s been pretty darn fun to watch what OREO comes up with every day! Here are a few of my favorites.
Sept. 20 – Celebrating 40 years of Pong
Aug. 5 – Mars Rover lands
June 25 – Pride
I’ve made a few things out of OREOs here on my blog… let’s take a trip down memory lane!
So… why am I talking to much about OREO? Well they’ve got this amazing event coming up next week that I think you need to participate in!!!
OREO fans in New York and around the globe have a chance to make history today by inspiring the creative for the brand’s first-ever, live, crowd-sourced ad – the 100th in the OREO “Daily Twist” campaign which releases a new ad each day based on the latest news and pop culture of that day.
The World’s Favorite Cookie will set up a “virtual office” on October 2 from 10:00am-2:00pm EST in Times Square, NYC (Broadway in between 46th and 47th Street) where it will create a new OREO ad in mere hours based on real-time suggestions from fans on what hot news of the day they think should be the focus of the campaign’s final Twist!!
Suggestions can be submitted via OREO cookie’s Twitter page (@OREO) and Facebook page (www.Facebook.com/OREO) and may be fed live to a billboard in Times Square.
The creative teams will then develop the ad using the iconic OREO cookie and milk imagery. Fans can watch the creative process unfold live or follow the action via the OREO Facebook page and Twitter handle. From concept to creation, the final ad will debut for the entire world to see later that afternoon.
Sounds fun, doesn’t it? I know that I’ll be participating all the way over here in Germany… and you should to! Wherever in the world you are… whether you go down to Times Square, live in the USA or around the world! Join OREO in celebrating 100 days of “Daily Twists”!