DIY

My very first Cake Decorating Class – Detailed in Pictures

My first cake decorating class was tons of fun and I can’t wait to go back for more.  This was a Basic Cake Decorating class.  The cakes were pre-baked for us and the instructor covered everything from tips and tricks to bake the best cakes, how to fill a piping bag,  how to make buttercream frosting, and we even made delicate roses to adorn our cakes with!

Here was the station when I first arrived.  They supplied everything we needed — and look — they even served wine!!

We practiced piping techniques:

We leveled our cakes:

We piped a border and filled our cakes with raspberry filling:

We practiced icing our cakes:

Then we smoothed the icing out:

And check out this cool basket weave pattern we piped:

Then we colored our buttercream and created beautiful roses:

The instructor even provided boxes so that we could take our masterpieces home:

My favorite parts of the class were learning the basket weave technique and how to make buttercream roses.  Easter is right around the corner and I can see myself using these techniques to make a beautiful spring cake!

If you’ve ever considered trying a class like this, my recommendation is to DO IT!!  I learned a lot and it’s fun being in class with others that share your same passions.

Buffalo Check Print Cake Tutorial

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I have been obsessed this holiday season with all things buffalo check print….pajamas, table settings, DIY art, ornaments, even cake.  Yes, I said cake.  I found a couple of jaw-dropping cakes online that were buffalo check print/lumberjack-themed and I knew immediately that I would be making one this holiday season.

I scoured the internet looking for the most “effortless” way of making this cake.  I found a couple of specialty baking pans on Amazon’s website that were designed to create this checkered pattern, but many of the pan reviews were subpar.  Then I found a baking blogger/YouTuber with a website called Cookies, Cupcakes, and Cardio where she made her own templates to create the buffalo check pattern and I knew that this was the method I was going to try.

Please note that the inspiration cake is made from scratch, used 4 layers and 4 colors of cake, and is larger than my test cake, so some of the instructions differ, but the outcome is amazing either way and will definitely impress your guests!  Also note that the inspiration cake was made to be a Lumberjack-themed cake, so it was finished off to look like a tree ring along the outer edges and top; I was solely focused on creating the buffalo check pattern, so I simply frosted the outside and top of my cake and called it a day.  Here’s how I made my cake:

INGREDIENTS

6 inch cake pan

1 Sheet of White Cardstock

Scissors

Pencil

Non-stick Cooking Spray

1 box Betty Crocker Vanilla Cake Mix, with required add-ins – batter divided

1 Cup Measuring Scoop

3 Bowls

Knife

Wilton Icing Colors in Black, Brown, and Red-Red

Vanilla or Chocolate Frosting of your choice (can be homemade buttercream or store-bought works too—I dyed my vanilla frosting black, but this is optional)

DIRECTIONS

Using your cake pan as a template, trace the outer edge of the pan on your cardstock with your pencil.

Find a circular object about 2 inches smaller in diameter than your cake pan (i.e. a coffee cup), then trace it within your first circle.

Repeat one last circle about 2 inches smaller than the last one, so that you have 3 circles drawn on your template.

Cut the circles out and note that you will only need to use the two biggest circles.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and spray your cake pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Mix your cake mix according to the box directions, then using your 1-cup measuring scoop, measure out 1 cup of batter in each of your 3 bowls.

Use your Wilton Icing Colors to dye each of your batters.  You want one black, one burgundy (use a bit of the brown and the red-red), and one red.

Bake each of the batters separately.  In my oven, each 6 inch layer took 13 minutes to bake.

Make sure the cake cools a bit before you remove it from the pan. Place each layer of cake on a separate plate.

Set the cakes in the freezer for about 15 minutes to make sure they’re nice and firm.

Take your first layer of cake and place the largest circle template that you previously cut on top of the cake.

Use your knife to trace around the template and cut your first circle in the cake. (You guys are going to kill me, but I didn’t get any photos of this process!!!!  My bad but I was laser focused on making sure I got this part right.)

Next use the smaller circle template and cut another circle in the cake.  Once you’ve done this, you should have 3 circles that make up your 1 layer of cake.

Repeat this process on the remaining 2 layers of cake.

Now you’re going to reassemble your cake layers mixing and matching the 3 colors of cake.

Here’s how I layered my cake rings (note that the photo above and the photo below this section shown are from the bottom to the top of the cake):

Bottom Layer: large red circle, medium black circle, small burgundy circle

Middle Layer: large black circle, medium burgundy circle, small red circle

Top Layer: large burgundy circle, medium red circle, small black circle

Once you’ve reconfigured your layers, apply a thin layer of frosting between them as you stack them up.

Frost the outer edges and top of the cake.

Then wow your guests with this beautiful and intricate cake!!!

 

 

Inexpensive DIY Holiday Pictures to Coordinate with your Tablescape

What’s going on, peeps?  Happy Friday!  Today I wanted to share with you how I inexpensively transformed two existing pictures in my dining room so they would coordinate with my Christmas tablescape.

The original pictures looked like this:

There was no way I was going to be able to keep them in the room with my red, gold, and black buffalo plaid check tablescape.  But instead of running from store to store to try and find two holiday pictures to hang, I decided to use items I already had at home to make these pictures work.  Here’s what I used to make it happen:

Wrapping paper, scissors, scotch tape, and packs of letters previously purchased from Michaels was all I needed.  The letters usually retail for $7.99, but I always use a 50% coupon and get them at half price.

I simply took the existing pictures off the wall and wrapped them in my wrapping paper.

Then, using my gold letters, I spelled out words synonymous with the holiday season, Peace and Hope.

I re-hung the finished pictures on the wall and my project was complete.  Effortless, right?

DIY Marbled Christmas Ornaments

Here at Casa De Effortless, we don’t begin pulling out the Christmas decorations until Thanksgiving night. In fact, we’ve made it our family tradition to start setting up the first tree after we’ve enjoyed a scrumptious holiday dinner. Then, the rest of the house is decorated in the days that follow. And yes, you read right. I said first tree. We put one tree downstairs in the main living room and a second one upstairs in the kids’ playroom. I’m contemplating adding a third tree to the kids’ room now that they’re older and won’t be trying to take everything off of it.  And that’s not counting the trees I setup in the entryway.  Or the mini trees sprinkled throughout the kitchen.  I like Christmas trees. A lot.

Here are some photos from a couple of our most recent Christmas trees.

2016 Living Room Tree

2016 Playroom Tree

2015 Playroom Tree

Whether you wait to decorate until after Thanksgiving, or if your tree is up now, you’ll want to try your hand at these amazingly simple DIY painted ornaments. The materials needed to make them are inexpensive, the process is as easy as 1-2-3, you can customize the color combinations, and the finished product is spectacular.

If your tree isn’t up yet, you can make these now to coordinate with your planned color palette. If your tree is already up, you can make a set (or two) to add to the décor already on your tree – I mean come on, you can never really have too many things on a Christmas tree……….right??!! Actually, you can. So if your tree is done, you can make these and place several of them together in a basket or bowl to place on your coffee table or on a shelf.  Picture them in a setup similar to this:

If you decorate your dining table, you can sprinkle them throughout your tablescape with a mix of greenery and other accessories. You can also make a set to attach to a wreath. Or, if you have absolutely no need for them, (though I would find this very hard to believe!) you can make them to give as a gift to someone else. Imagine these beauties all packaged up in a clear gift box with a coordinating bow wrapped around it. The possibilities are endless!

But enough jibber jabber.  Here’s what you need to make these bad boys:

The ornaments are from the Dollar Tree and you can purchase these 2-packs for $1, or they sell a large, single ornament for $1.  The two bottles of acrylic paint pictured are from Michaels and they’re a part of a 16-count variety pack.  It regularly retails for around $8.00, but I caught it on clearance last year for around $3.00.  And that’s it.  All you need are ornaments and paint.  Shortest DIY project supply list ever.

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Remove the ornament cap.

2. Pick your paint colors. You can choose multiple colors to create a marbled look, you can use one solid color, or you can make a combination of these.

3. To begin, squeeze a generous dollop of paint inside the ornament and gently swirl (do not shake) the ornament to ensure complete coverage. If you’re using two or more colors, alternate the colors side by side before you swirl so you get a nice mix of both colors.

4. Allow the ornament to dry on a paper towel overnight and while the ornament cap is still off.

5. Once the paint has completely dried, put the cap back on.

And that’s it.  You’re done.

Gorgeous, right?!

Simple Halloween Place Setting

Halloween is right around the corner and I’ve been seeing tons of inspiration for kids’ parties, but not a lot for us grown folks that are big kids at heart.  So I threw together this simple (and inexpensive) place setting that would be perfect for an adult dinner party.

The tablecloth, skull, skeleton hand, and white plate were all picked up at the Dollar Tree for $1.00 each.  The striped plate is from Ikea and retails for $4.99.  The flower is from Michaels and was attached to a garland that I’ve had for awhile now, so I don’t remember what I paid for it, but I do remember picking it up on clearance.  All of Michael’s fall florals are currently on clearance at 70% off, so if you’re in need of faux flowers, now is a great time to pick some up.

I literally put this place setting together in about 5 minutes, but to dress it up even further, I would lay a table runner down the middle of the table; add a black place mat under each setting; lay the cutlery on top of a striped cloth napkin; and add a nice floral arrangement in burgundies and pinks to serve as the centerpiece.

TIP: When creating a floral arrangement, you can always do a mix of real flowers with fake ones if you have some on hand.  I like doing this because real flowers can get pricey, but if I add fakes ones and mix them in with the real ones, my arrangement ends up looking nice and full and I save some money too.

And since you know I love me a themed-event, here is a sample dinner menu that coordinates perfectly with the Halloween theme:

 

Farm-Themed Birthday Party

My family and I spent this past weekend celebrating our sweet babies turning 3 years old. I have enjoyed picking their party themes the past couple of years but as they are getting older, I can see that I’m going to have to relinquish that control at some point and let them select their own themes. And knowing my twins, they won’t agree on what that theme will be, so I’ll probably end up having to coordinate two different parties.

As I mentioned in this post here, I planned a farm-themed party this year and we celebrated with a handful of our kids’ friends and parents, and some of our family members. The weather was gorgeous; a bit hot for October but there was no rain (thank goodness), just sunny skies with a nice breeze, which was important because all of the festivities were held in the backyard.

Let’s go over the events for the afternoon shall we?

We kicked things off with a farm-themed lunch. We feasted on pigs in a blanket with two different dipping sauces, farm-raised turkey sandwiches, chicken feed AKA cheddar Chex mix, farm-fresh deviled eggs, and fresh-picked apples. The dessert table featured mud cups AKA chocolate pudding with crushed Oreos), Cow Tales candy, and a chocolate and vanilla marbled cake with chocolate ganache that featured two fondant pigs bathing in “mud”.

The take home gifts were another yummy treat: sea salt and caramel chocolate-covered Oreos, and they were delicious!

Next on the agenda were the games. We started with a chicken egg hunt. While the kids were eating, I hid plastic eggs filled with treats around the yard. I showed the kids a framed picture of my chicken friend Henny and explained that she had laid eggs and that they needed to find them and put them in their goodie bags.

I used leftover plastic Easter eggs for this game, so they were all brightly colored purple, pink, orange, and blue eggs. It was funny watching the kids gather the eggs. When my daughter would find a blue egg, she would give it to my son, and when he found a pink or purple egg, he would give them to her. My daughter was the only girl at the party, so after a while, all of the little boys started giving her all of the pink and purple eggs. It was very cute!

The second game they played was Hot Potato. I should really say the second game they attempted to play was Hot Potato. I went back and forth about this game because I thought the kids might not get the concept of someone getting out each round, and I was right. As the first kid was left holding the potato when the music stopped and got “out”, all of the kids attempted to leave the game because they thought it was over! Mr. Effortless tried to explain the rules a few times and help them to reconvene, but needless to say, we ended that game fairly quickly!

Next we played a pig roundup game.

We sectioned off a corner of the yard with a mini fence to serve as a pig pen.

I purchased a pack of pink balloons, blew them up, and glued pig faces to each one. I scattered the pigs around the yard and asked the kids to help round them up and put them in the pen. The idea of this game was great; the kids loved running around and picking up the “pigs”, that is until they started popping from being poked by the grass as the kids attempted to pick them up! It was actually pretty funny, but I was afraid someone would be traumatized by the popping pigs. Most of the kids were troopers though, and as the balloons popped, they would just run and find another one to pick up. Everyone except for my daughter. After the first one popped on her, she was done!

The last game was an old-fashioned potato sack race and this one, like the Hot Potato game, may be better received when the kids are a bit older. Everyone understood how to play, but a couple kids were simply uninterested in getting in a sack so they sat that game out. My daughter completed about half of the race then determined that she could jump no more. My son and one of his buddies finished like champs though!

After we finished the games, each child was able to pick a walking farm animal balloon to take home with them. I found these on Amazon. They were a big hit and my kids still have a couple of them left in the house that they’re using as punching bags!

At the end of the party, we all went inside the house to sing happy birthday and eat cake, then all of the guests went home.

We’re very grateful to the friends and family that came over to celebrate with us. It was a beautiful day, and most importantly, my kids genuinely enjoyed themselves.

 

 

Cookie Cake Recipe

As a child, I remember passing the storefront of the Great American Cookie Co. in my local mall and drooling over their humungous iced cookie cakes, brownies, and of course the cookies.  Double Doozie anyone?

Nowadays they go by Great American Cookies, but the treats have not changed.

Do you have a “pinning” problem like I do? You know, you pin or print out hundreds of recipes that you mean to try one day, you just never get around to making them.  I’ve had Melanie of Garnish and Glaze’s recipe for a Chocolate Chip Cookie cake tucked away for some time now and I’ve finally tested the recipe and boy, is it a good one!  It’s nostalgic of the classic cookie cake from Great American Cookies, the ingredients are easy to throw together, and the result is amazing!

I was looking for a dessert to bring in to work to celebrate a friend’s birthday, but I wanted to make something other than the typical cake or cupcake fare.  Then I remembered I had this jewel of a recipe in my stash.  Make it.  You’ll thank me later.  It’s scrumptiously good and a great alternative to traditional cake.

Cookie Cake Recipe

Cookie Ingredients:

-10 tablespoons butter
-2/3 cups brown sugar
-1/3 cup white sugar
-1 egg + 1 egg yolk
-1 teaspoon vanilla
-1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
-3/4 teaspoon baking soda
-3/4 teaspoon salt
-1 cup chocolate chips

Frosting Ingredients:

-4 tablespoons butter
-2 tablespoons cocoa powder
-1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla
-1-2 tablespoons milk
-Sprinkles

Cookie Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a (8 or 9 inch) pie plate or cake pan.
Cream the butter and sugars together for 2 minutes and then mix in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla.
Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Use a wooden spoon to mix in all but 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips and then press the cookie dough into the pie plate. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons chocolate chips on top and press them down slightly.
Bake for 22-25 minutes. Let the cookie cool completely and then run a sharp knife along the edge to loosen and then use a large spatula (or two!) to transfer to a platter. Pipe on frosting along the edges and add the sprinkles.

Frosting Directions:

Beat all the frosting ingredients together until smooth, adding milk as needed. Place into a piping bag fitted with a 1M tip.


 
Note: I realized that I was out of cocoa powder after I had already starting making the cookie, so I substituted two tablespoons of hot cocoa mix in the frosting and it still turned out great.

Let’s Talk Cake!

Cake is a must on birthdays.  Seriously, it is.  Look it up.  I’m sure it’s a rule somewhere.  I’m not sure where, but just trust me, it is.

I have a bit of a sweet tooth by nature, but I’m also passionate about health and fitness, so I don’t always partake in the sweet stuff as often as I’d like to.  But if we’re celebrating a birthday, you better believe there will be cake.

Just as much as I love a great themed party, I swoon over beautifully constructed themed cakes.  While planning my twins’ upcoming Farm-themed party, I scoured the internet for farm party cakes and the net’ did not disappoint.

Check out this masterpiece from The Cocoa Cakery:

And this one featured on MomOoze.com:

These cakes are perfection and I would be ecstatic to have them at our party, but just like with my party décor, I always try to do what I can at home to keep expenses down.

Last year, to coordinate with my babies’ camping-themed party, I made a four-layer S’mores Cake inspired by Cathy of What Should I Make For… .  Cathy’s cake looked scrumptious and drool-worthy.  It was a naked cake, so you could see each of the decadent layers: chocolate cake, whipped chocolate ganache, graham cracker crumbles, chocolate cake, marshmallow frosting, then more cake, ganache, graham crackers, and frosting.  It was a sweet lover’s dream come true!

I took my inspiration from Cathy’s cake and made my own version, the Effortless way.  Cathy’s chocolate cake was made from scratch.  I used two boxed chocolate cake mixes.

TIP:  Boxed cake mixes make great cakes; to give them a more “from scratch” taste, I substitute coconut oil for the vegetable oil and add about 1 Tbsp of Vanilla Extract.  You can also substitute the oil for real butter.

I followed Cathy’s ganache recipe to the letter.  When most people hear ganache, they think it’s fancy and complicated.  It definitely elevates desserts, but it’s so easy to make.  Here is the recipe:

Whipped Chocolate Ganache

INGREDIENTS:

3/4 Cup Heavy Cream

1 Tbsp Light Corn Syrup

8 oz Semi-sweet Chocolate, chopped

DIRECTIONS:

Heat heavy cream and corn syrup over medium heat until hot, but not boiling.

Place chopped chocolate in a bowl and pour cream mixture over. Let stand for 5 minutes and then stir until blended.

Place bowl in refrigerator for about an hour, stirring occasionally until ganache thickens to a spreadable consistency.

Remove from refrigerator and beat on high until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Cover and reserve.

Easy peasy, right?  I told you so.

I also followed Cathy’s instructions for the graham cracker crumbles.  You just crumble graham crackers in a food processor, add a little salt, sugar, and melted butter, then bake them in the oven for 12-15 minutes.  You sprinkle this mixture over each of the ganache layers.

Cathy also made her marshmallow frosting from scratch; I took a pre-made cream cheese frosting and mixed it with marshmallow fluff until it was the right consistency, and that was that.  I frosted the entire cake and adorned it with two cute bear cubs and a row of trees, all purchased from Amazon.

I wish I would have taken pictures of the cake after we cut the first slice out so that you could see each of the beautiful layers.  It was truly magnificent!

Here is the finished cake:

 

It was one of the easiest cakes I’ve ever made and it tasted absolutely delicious!  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

 

For this year’s farm party cake, I’m thinking about doing a chocolate and vanilla marble cake to mimic a cow print pattern and there will definitely be some ganache in the mix.  I’m still deciding how I’d like to decorate it, but stay tuned, it will be great!

 

 

Potting Bench Turned Indoor/Outdoor Bar Cart

This past summer I was on the hunt for the perfect bar cart. I wanted to find one that I could use both indoors as a drink station for get-togethers, and outdoors while the fam and I were lounging at the pool.

I didn’t find a lot of options during any of my hunting sprees, and the two bar carts I did find at Homegoods and TJ Maxx cost more than I was willing to pay.

Then lo and behold, while browsing on Amazon one afternoon, I stumbled across this potting bench that I thought, with a little TLC, would make a great indoor/outdoor bar cart:

I  loved the shelving space the bench offered.  The top shelf could hold cups and glasses and the bottom shelves could hold drinks, extra cups, or display party décor.  The drawer was fully functioning and could hold napkins, straws, a bottle opener, and drink stirrers.  The hollowed sink looked like the perfect place to store ice.  And the price was right too.  I was sold!

I knew immediately that I wanted to stain the bench a darker color and that the hardware needed to be upgraded, but those were both really simple fixes I knew I could take on.

Once the bench arrived from Amazon, it took my hubby all of about an hour to put it together.  Here was the finished model:

As I mentioned, the hardware left much to be desired, but a quick trip to Lowes solved that problem.  I bought a sturdier, classic looking pull and ditched the side hooks altogether.

Here is the stain I used, also purchased from Lowes:

It was easy to apply and dried in about 24 hours, though it’s probably best to let it dry for a full 48-72 hours because the paint is somewhat tacky the first couple of days.  If you plan to leave the cart outside, you should apply some type of sealant to protect the wood in the elements, but I have no intentions of leaving mine outside so I skipped that step.

After staining the wood and applying my new pull, my bar cart was ready for action!

It turned out great!

And I love dressing it up for different occasions.  Here’s what it looked like on the 4th of July:

I plan on adding caster wheels to it at some point to make it easier to move around, but otherwise, I think it’s perfect as it!

 

 

Farm Party Series: Menu and Food Labels

After I had decided to go with a farm-themed party to celebrate the twins’ third birthday, next up on the agenda was to plan the menu.  There were so many cute and catchy food names to go with the theme.  It took me a bit to narrow down my list, but here’s what I’ve ultimately decided for my kids’ party:

Pigs in a Blanket

Farm-raised Turkey Sandwich Ring

Farm-fresh Eggs (Deviled Eggs)

Fresh-picked Berries

Chicken Feed (Chex Mix)

Cupcakes (with farm animal faces)

Mud Cups (Chocolate pudding with crushed cookies)

Cow Tales Candy

Just in case you’re planning a farm-themed party, here are a few other options that I thought were really cute and deserve mentioning: Chicken Nuggets, Hay Bales (Rice Krispy Treats), Hay Stacks (Pretzel sticks), Pig’s Tail Pasta (Pasta Salad made with corkscrew pasta), and Tractor Tires (Oreo cookies).

I like to design labels for the food and dessert tables that coordinate with my theme.  It’s a simple process.  I create a template in Microsoft Word using the insert shapes feature.  I insert a 6×4 inch rectangle to fit within my frames (these frames were purchased at Ikea).   Next, I find a background pattern that I like and use it to frame my label.  For this party, I went with a simple cow print pattern.  I insert another rectangle within the first one and then I choose an appropriate font to type the food names.  Last, I find a couple of free clip art pictures that match my theme and place them accordingly.  Here is the finished product: