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US Army Birthday Cake | The JavaCupcake Blog https://javacupcake.com

US Army Birthday Cake

Last month I had the privilege of making the US Army Birthday Cake for their 241st birthday party hosted by the USO Warrior & Family Center at Fort Belvoir, VA!

US Army Birthday Cake | The JavaCupcake Blog https://javacupcake.com

When the USO Warrior & Family Center at Fort Belvoir asked me if I’d be willing to make the birthday cake for the Army’s 24th birthday party, you don’t say no… even if you’ve never made a sheet cake before!

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!

US Army Birthday Cake | The JavaCupcake Blog https://javacupcake.com

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!

US Army Birthday Cake | The JavaCupcake Blog https://javacupcake.com

The Fort Belvoir Garrison Commander and her staff were on hand to celebrate the Army’s birthday and to officially cut the cake along with the President of the USO Metro and the owners of the Montgomery Inn Boathouse Restaurant from Cincinnati, OH.

US Army Birthday Cake | The JavaCupcake Blog https://javacupcake.com

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!

US Army Birthday Cake | The JavaCupcake Blog https://javacupcake.com

I also made 300 red, white and blue cupcakes for the party, but I already shared the details of those a couple of weeks ago.

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.

US Army Birthday Cake | The JavaCupcake Blog https://javacupcake.com

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!

Dessert Decorating Workshop @ the USO - Fort Belvoir | The JavaCupcake Blog https://javacupcake.com

Dessert Decorating Workshop

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! Dessert Decorating Workshop @ the USO - Fort Belvoir | The JavaCupcake Blog https://javacupcake.com

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.

Dessert Decorating Workshop @ the USO - Fort Belvoir | The JavaCupcake Blog https://javacupcake.com

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!

Dessert Decorating Workshop @ the USO - Fort Belvoir | The JavaCupcake Blog https://javacupcake.com
Betsy, Casey & Meaghan

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.

Dessert Decorating Workshop @ the USO - Fort Belvoir | The JavaCupcake Blog https://javacupcake.com

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!

Dessert Decorating Workshop @ the USO - Fort Belvoir | The JavaCupcake Blog https://javacupcake.com

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!

Dessert Decorating Workshop @ the USO - Fort Belvoir | The JavaCupcake Blog https://javacupcake.com

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!

Dessert Decorating Workshop @ the USO - Fort Belvoir | The JavaCupcake Blog https://javacupcake.com

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.

Dessert Decorating Workshop @ the USO - Fort Belvoir | The JavaCupcake Blog https://javacupcake.com

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.

A big thanks to Shannon, owner of Sweets & Treats Boutique for supplying all the cupcake liners for this workshop!

Dessert Decorating Workshop @ the USO - Fort Belvoir | The JavaCupcake Blog https://javacupcake.com

Meaghan and I got to work sharing all of our tips and years of tricks and secrets we’ve stored up with the workshop!

Dessert Decorating Workshop @ the USO - Fort Belvoir | The JavaCupcake Blog https://javacupcake.com

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.

Dessert Decorating Workshop @ the USO - Fort Belvoir | The JavaCupcake Blog https://javacupcake.com

I then demoed how to use an open star tip and an open round tip to create two different looks when frosting cupcakes.

Dessert Decorating Workshop @ the USO - Fort Belvoir | The JavaCupcake Blog https://javacupcake.com

Meaghen jumped in and showed the class her go-to technique for piping frosting onto cookies!

Dessert Decorating Workshop @ the USO - Fort Belvoir | The JavaCupcake Blog https://javacupcake.com

Finally, Meaghan showed everyone who to turn marshmallows into dessert pops by using edible markers and sprinkles!

Dessert Decorating Workshop @ the USO - Fort Belvoir | The JavaCupcake Blog https://javacupcake.com

After the live demonstrations were complete, it was time for the class to start practicing what they learned!

Dessert Decorating Workshop @ the USO - Fort Belvoir | The JavaCupcake Blog https://javacupcake.com

Meaghan and I gave the class instruction on what the tools were in front of them and set them free!

Dessert Decorating Workshop @ the USO - Fort Belvoir | The JavaCupcake Blog https://javacupcake.com

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!

Dessert Decorating Workshop @ the USO - Fort Belvoir | The JavaCupcake Blog https://javacupcake.com

I love it! With just a bit of direction and the right tools, look how creative they were! I am just so impressed!

Dessert Decorating Workshop @ the USO - Fort Belvoir | The JavaCupcake Blog https://javacupcake.com

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.

Thanks to:

All your books were a HUGE hit with the workshop!

Dessert Decorating Workshop @ the USO - Fort Belvoir | The JavaCupcake Blog https://javacupcake.com

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!

Dessert Decorating Workshop @ the USO - Fort Belvoir | The JavaCupcake Blog https://javacupcake.com

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.

Dessert Decorating Workshop @ the USO - Fort Belvoir | The JavaCupcake Blog https://javacupcake.com

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!

Dessert Decorating Workshop @ the USO - Fort Belvoir | The JavaCupcake Blog https://javacupcake.com

If you were at the dessert decorating workshop, I promised you the recipe for my buttercream and sugar cookies!

Vanilla Buttercream –  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!!

Dessert Decorating Workshop @ the USO - Fort Belvoir | The JavaCupcake Blog https://javacupcake.com

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.

Thanks to all the sponsors including the USO, Wilton, Sweets & Treats Boutique and the decorated cookie.  Without you, none of this could have been possible.

If you’re interested in volunteering at your local USO, check them out on the web to find your local center.

Marie Calender's Comforts from Home Program helps to support USO Operation Celebration. Share your comforts of home and support the USO! | JavaCupcake.com #comfortsfromhome

Marie Callender’s Comforts from Home

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Marie Callender’s. The opinions and text are all mine.

Being a military family, we can’t plant our roots in one place and call it home.  We move every few years and our home becomes wherever the military takes us.  Thankfully, we’re able to bring the Comforts from Home where ever we live and the USO helps us do that.Marie Calender's Comforts from Home Program helps to support USO Operation Celebration. Share your comforts of home and support the USO! | JavaCupcake.com #comfortsfromhome

Most American’s have probably heard of the USO, but many don’t really understand what the organization does for military service members and their families.  Millions of times each year at hundreds of locations around the world, the USO lifts the spirits of America’s troops and their families. (from the USO website)

Personally, my family has been able to utilize the services of the USO the most here in Germany.  While my husband has used the USO in several airports across the world and on military bases while deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, it wasn’t until we were stationed in Germany that we were able to experience all the USO has to offer as a family.

Twice a week, our local USO located on USAG Bavaria – Grafenwoehr, Germany, USO Grafenwoehr, offers “Dinner for Soldiers”, a program that provides a free, home cooked meal to military service members and their families.  My family attends these dinners 3-4 times a month, most weeks actually.  The USO provides us a much-needed break from our busy life by preparing us a meal and giving us a bit of comfort from home.

This week, I wanted to share one of my favorite comforts from home by baking the soldiers & families my Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars!

Marie Calender's Comforts from Home Program helps to support USO Operation Celebration. Share your comforts of home and support the USO! | JavaCupcake.com #comfortsfromhome

Over 140 people attended “Dinner for Soldiers” and were able to enjoy a variety of sandwiches including oven-roasted turkey breast and succulent honey ham paired with sharp cheddar cheese. These sandwiches were placed upon fresh-cut bread from the German bakery with various toppings for selection. USO Grafenwoehr volunteers prepared homemade cheesecake and salsa with a variety of chips, topped off with my cookie bars!

Marie Calender's Comforts from Home Program helps to support USO Operation Celebration. Share your comforts of home and support the USO! | JavaCupcake.com #comfortsfromhome

A big THANK YOU to the awesome USO volunteers who made the dinner happen!

Marie Calender's Comforts from Home Program helps to support USO Operation Celebration. Share your comforts of home and support the USO! | JavaCupcake.com #comfortsfromhome

Not only were single soldiers able to enjoy a home cooked meal, but families and friends did as well.  The USO does an amazing job at providing an inviting, warm place for everyone in the USAG Grafenwoehr community to enjoy.   For our family, home is at the USO.

Marie Calender's Comforts from Home Program helps to support USO Operation Celebration. Share your comforts of home and support the USO! | JavaCupcake.com #comfortsfromhome

Marie Calender's Comforts from Home Program helps to support USO Operation Celebration. Share your comforts of home and support the USO! | JavaCupcake.com #comfortsfromhome

Marie Calender's Comforts from Home Program helps to support USO Operation Celebration. Share your comforts of home and support the USO! | JavaCupcake.com #comfortsfromhome

Marie Calender's Comforts from Home Program helps to support USO Operation Celebration. Share your comforts of home and support the USO! | JavaCupcake.com #comfortsfromhome

Marie Calender's Comforts from Home Program helps to support USO Operation Celebration. Share your comforts of home and support the USO! | JavaCupcake.com #comfortsfromhome

And as recently as this month, the USO Rome in conjunction with the The Chaplain’s Office of the US Army Europe provided my husband and I a once in a lifetime all-expenses paid opportunity to attend a life changing spiritual resiliency pilgrimage throughout Rome and the Vatican.  Without the support of the USO, this opportunity would not have been possible.

To learn more about this USO sponsored journey, read my blog post here!

A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican | JavaCupcake.com

Want to Support the USO?
Marie Calender's Comforts from Home Program helps to support USO Operation Celebration. Share your comforts of home and support the USO! | JavaCupcake.com #comfortsfromhome

Purchase Participating Marie Callender’s Products
This fall, Marie Callender’s is gearing up to re-launch the Comforts from Home Project by bringing the comforts of home to those who protect America’s homes every day: the brave men and women of the U.S. Military.  Additionally, Marie’s is teaming up with the USO to support USO Operation Celebration™, a program that shares a bit of home with our troops and helps them celebrate the holidays year round.

Every time you enter a code from specially-marked packages of Marie Callender’s meals or desserts, Marie Callender’s will make a donation to the USO to support USO Operation Celebration™. Visit Submit a photo on Facebook to learn more about how you can join Marie Callender’s in helping to bring a little bit of home sweet home to our U.S. service men and women overseas.

Post a Photo to the Food Network’s Facebook Contest Page
Additionally, Marie Calender’s wants to know what your comforts from home are.   Submit a photo on Facebook in support of the USO, using hashtag #comfortsfromhome and show us what home means to you.  Is it a tradition? A family activities?  Favorite meal or recipe?  For each photo received, $1.00 will be donated to the USO! Also, your photo could be featured on air for the following shows:

  • Kitchen Crashers on DIYNetwork & HGTV – Airing 11/9 and 11/14
  • Hello/Goodbye on Travel Channel – Airing 11/10
  • Guy’s Grocery Games on Food Network & Cooking Channel — Airing 12/14 and 12/19

Two simple ways you can support the USO and provide people like me the chance to enjoy comforts from home!

Visit www.ComfortsfromHome.com to join Marie Callender’s in helping to bring a little bit of home sweet home to our U.S. service men and women overseas.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Marie Callender’s. The opinions and text are all mine.

Comments submitted may be displayed on other websites owned by the sponsoring brand.

A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican | JavaCupcake.com

A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican

Last week I had the privilege of attending a life changing spiritual resiliency pilgrimage throughout Rome and the Vatican.  This trip was completely funded by The Chaplain’s Office of the US Army Europe using Chapel Tithes and Offerings in conjunction with the strategic planning of the USO Rome for the Wounded Warriors of the Warrior Transition Battalion-Europe and their family members.

It was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican | JavaCupcake.com
Outside St. Peter’s Basilica just before the Papal Audience

In May of 2010, my Mother passed away at the age of 68.  As long as I could remember, my Mother always spoke of visiting Rome and bearing witness to the one place that everything she believef in as a Catholic would be close enough to touch.  My Mother dreamed of visiting the Vatican, meeting the Pope and praying in the Sistine Chapel.

Last week, five years after her death, I fulfilled her lifelong dream.  I visited the Vatican, I met the Pope and I prayed in the Sistine Chapel… and through the entire journey, I felt my mother with me.  I wore her diamond earrings during the journey and took a moment every opportunity I had to say a prayer of remembrance for her.

A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican | JavaCupcake.com
St. Peter’s Basilica

Each day of this Spirituality Resiliency Retreat had a different theme set out by our chaplain, Ch. Regule.

Ready – Our first day of the 2 day road trip!  We were all packed and READY to begin this fantastic journey.

Reset – Day 2 of travel gave us an opportunity to reset our train of thought and get ourselves ready to receive what the week had to offer us.

A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican | JavaCupcake.com
The Vatican Museum

Receive – Our first day touring brought us to the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica.  Our goal this day was to receive the Holy Spirit and be open to anything we may feel while visiting such a holy place.

A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican | JavaCupcake.com
The Pietà by Michelangelo

Restore, Renew, Revive, Repent – Wednesday was the day we were fortunate to have an audience with the Pope and the day we could fit any “R” word we needed into our hearts.

A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican | JavaCupcake.comFor me, after hearing the word of Papa Francesco, I felt a renewed sense of purpose as my role as care taker to my husband (who suffers from combat related injuries).  I also felt revived in the Catholic faith, a feeling I had not felt in 20 years.  Being in the presence of the Pope allowed me to reconnect with my faith and reaffirmed my commitment to having a relationship with the Lord.

A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican | JavaCupcake.com

A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican | JavaCupcake.com

This summary of the catechesis by Papa Francesco was read in English during our Papal Audience. Those words reaffirmed my commitment to helping Dave overcome his combat related injuries, to our marriage and to my love for my family. Out of all the days that I could have been witness to Pope Francis… I believe I was meant to hear these words.

Today we consider the promise of love and fidelity made between husbands and wives, which is the basis of all family life.

This promise is called into question nowadays and seen is somehow opposed to personal freedom.   Yet the truth is that our freedom is shaped and sustained by the fidelity to the choices and commitments we make throughout life.

Fidelity grows through our daily efforts to keep our word.  Indeed fidelity to our promises is a supreme expression of our dignity as human beings.

There is no greater school to teach us such fidelity than marriage and the family, which are in God’s plan a blessing for our world.

St. Paul tells us that the love which grounds the family points to the bond of love between Christ and the church.  In these days of the hardship on the family, let us pray that the church will uphold and strengthen the promise of the family with creativity and with unfailing trust in that faithful love in which the Lord fulfills His every promise.

The video below is from the Vatican and shows the entire Papal Audience I was privileged enough to attend.

A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican | JavaCupcake.com

Papa Francesco took so much time with each person he came in contact with.  His love for people and his willingness to truly care for those who wish to love & serve the Lord is awe-inspiring.

Relationship – The final day of touring Rome, we were to reach out to those around us and either strengthen relationships or build new ones.   I chose to do both.  I took this time to bond with my husband over an amazing day of touring as well as taking the opportunity to use my military-wife skills.  I was able to connect with our Battalion LTC and ask him questions about our upcoming move and get answers we had been unsuccessful at getting in the past.  This connection, this new relationship really started the ball rolling on our future back in the USA.

A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican | JavaCupcake.com
The Roman Forum

 

A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican | JavaCupcake.com
The Colosseum
A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican | JavaCupcake.com
The Pantheon

Risorgimento – Which is an Italian word that means to change in a way the transforms you so that you’re not the same.   On the first leg of the drive home, I realized that I will never be same after this trip.  I had been transformed. All of my fears about my life, my marriage, my husband and his health were all put to rest.  I was now confident in my role, in my commitment and in my love for my family.  No more doubt was present.  I have this life for a reason… to be the wife my husband needs and the mother my children deserve.

A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican | JavaCupcake.com

Reflect & Remembrance – Once we arrived home, rest along with reflection and remembrance of our journey was in order.  Writing this blog post is a part of the remembrance process for me.   Sharing my pilgrimage and my journey on my blog will cement my commitment to my family and my husband.

This entire trip would not have been possible without the support of the Chaplain’s Office, the USO Rome and our tour guide Jean Paul.

LTC Lawrence Burns presented certificates of appreciation to Christiano & his staff of the USO Rome for all his hard work in planning and organizing this trip for the Wounded Warriors of the WTB-Europe.

A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican | JavaCupcake.com

This was our entire group of Wounded Warriors & their families along with the Chaplain, security & staff of the WTB-Europe outside the USO Rome office on our first day of touring Rome.  Thank you USO Rome for being amazing hosts for our time in Rome!  You made us feel welcomed and loved!

Courtesy of the USO Rome
Courtesy of the USO Rome

LTC Burns also presented our tour guide, Jean Paul with a certificate of appreciate.  His knowledge of Rome and the Vatican was vast and he knew the answers to any an all questions we had for him.  Not only was he a professional, but he was kind and fun to be with!

A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican | JavaCupcake.com

You better believe I found cupcakes in Rome too!  But… that adventure is for another day and another blog post!

A Life Changing Pilgrimage to Rome and the Vatican | JavaCupcake.com
Made Creative Bakery

I took almost 1000 photos during this trip and there was no way I could include them all in this blog post, so I’ve put the best 100 or so pictures in this gallery below!  Enjoy!

Rome & the Vatican – October 2015

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