It took me a while to get into Pinterest, the pin-board-style sharing website. At first glance it seemed like it was only for people planning for weddings or babies. But then I found the recipe boards. And Christmas cookies. Those freaking Christmas cookies.
You see, I have a problem with Christmas cookies. They can’t just be delicious morsels of sugary fatty goodness, they have to be beautiful, sugary works of art. That my family and friends will quickly devour. Every year I try to top the cookies I made the previous year. And every year after I finish icing all the cookies, I say the same thing — “Never again. Next year we’re just slabbing icing on and tossing on some sprinkles. Who cares what they look like as long as they taste good?”
And then a whole year goes by and I have yet another elaborate decorating scheme. This year it was Pinterest’s fault. Granted, I did learn some handy techniques from Pinterest about flooding cookies with icing and getting icing into a pastry bag, but I also saw things like this:
Royal icing poinsettias. The step by step instructions made them look so easy! … and then I started making them. Hand cramps are by far the worst part of cookie decorating, followed shortly by making multiple colors of icing. That is why my poinsettias do not have green leaves — making red and yellow icing was enough.
My poinsettias are no where near as pretty as Sugarbelle’s. Here are some on a sugar cookie:
And here is a collection of my best cookies:
Those stupid cookies took up way too many of my afternoons and I am absolutely just splattering icing and sprinkles on next year’s batch, but overall Pinterest was pretty good to me. So I decided to use some of its ideas for my birthday cake.
I saw these instructions for how to frost a cake:
And then I saw this:
The perfect cake for someone turning 20-something and not 5 or 6!
I started making my own birthday cake (because I’m an adult, of course) and everything was going smoothly. Until the cakes got stuck in the pans. And I royally screwed up the icing (which would have been a good pun if it were royal icing instead of buttercream). I decided to double the recipe because have you ever heard anyone say, “This cake has too much icing?” OK, probably yes, but not with one of my family’s cakes. There’s always a tiny layer of icing in the middle and sometimes the cake shows through on the outside, and that’s unacceptable. So double the recipe I did. Except I didn’t add the fully doubled amount of powdered sugar, because I got tired of measuring and having it powder out of the bowl as I mixed. I put my icing into the piping bag per the Pinterest instructions, and started piping dots alongside the cake for my fancy presentation. But then the dots started sliding… down, down the side until there was just a mound of frosting piled on the cake platter. Without that extra cup of powdered sugar my icing was too buttery and slippery. So much for that magnificent plan. Putting the cake and icing in the refrigerator helped, but it still looked horrible. I decided to move on and create the panda. This was the final outcome, Instagrammed to make it look less crappy and cross-eyed:
Lessons learned: Pinterest is helpful, but beautiful creations take way too much time, equipment and icing colors. And don’t cheap out when doubling the powdered sugar in your frosting recipe.
(And in case you’re wondering, the panda cake still tasted awesome and was a big hit at my family’s Christmas gathering in Cleveland. (Since my birthday is four days after Christmas, we traditionally celebrate it with my dad’s family on Christmas, usually with some sad-looking cake I made, or one that my family bought and I stepped on. That’s a story for another post … or I could just tell it here. My parents bought me a Little Mermaid cake from a professional baker when I was young. They put it on the backseat of the car and I accidentally stepped on it when I got out of the car. My dad likes to add that I then “pranced around” the car, tracking icing everywhere. I don’t recall that part. So we brought a Little Mermaid birthday cake with a footprint in it to Cleveland one year. The end.))