Yup we have officially entered the most wonderful and busiest time of the year. If you are like me I tend to stress about getting the perfect gift for my family. This is why I have decided to put together a quick gift list for that baker in your life. I will be totally honest, some of the links below are affiliate links, not all are, but I recently decided to become an Amazon affiliate as I buy so many baking items from them.
My #1 gift for a baker is this book Icing on the Cake by Tessa Huff. My brother and sister-in-law gifted me this book a few years back for my birthday and it has been my go to baking book. The recipes are amazing (I haven't found a bad one) and she has many baking and cake decorating tips for all levels. Oh, and my beautiful macarons you see on social media, the recipe in this book is where it all started.
When I won the State Fair in 2019, part of my prize package included this set from Pepe Nero. I now cannot live without it! The rolling pin comes with adjustable thickness rings and I use it to roll out all my cookie and pie doughs. I HIGHLY recommend this bundle for a gift. Plus it comes with 4 thickness rings (rolling pin is 18 Inches long), cookie cutters, non-stick silicone baking mats (15.7 X 19.6 Inch), dough cutter (10 Inch), 7 decoration pens and a pizza roller.
This one is on my personal wish list (and I am not an affiliate for them). I've been eying this pink apron from Hedley & Bennett fo some time now. They also have free embroidery so you can even write the baker's name on the apron. They have the cutest kids aprons as well. They have a 30% off Black Friday event going on now so I wouldn't wait.
All bakers need a good turntable. For many years I used a low profile one from Wilton. It was ok until I wore it out and wanted something else. I now use an aluminum alloy cake turntable and I love it. The quality is impeccable and it is so easy to turn.
For the person who loves macarons, I have created the Macarons of the Month Club Gift Subscription. You may choose from a 6 month or 12 month subscription, however, if you to gift yourself this amazingly delicious gift I promise I won't tell anyone! The gift subscription will start in January, 2022. You can also join the monthly subscription as well. This allows you to skip months or cancel anytime. Local Ohio residents only.
Happy shopping and remember to never underestimate the joy of sweets!
Throughout the year I have been asked numerous questions about baking and if I had any helpful tips. Therefore, I have decided to share some of my most used tips/tricks/items I love with you.
Please note that this email contains some affiliate links. These links will be marked with an *.
1. How to correctly measure flour: This is huge. Have you ever made cookies and they turned out really dry? I have, many times. The problem could be how you're measuring the flour.
2. Use a scale to measure out your ingredients. Have you ever seen ingredients listed in g, mL, oz before? This is because it is more accuracte to measure out ingredients instead of using measuring cups/spoons. Next time you bake, try measuring out the ingredients. I bet your bake will taste and look MUCH better.
3. Yes the quality and type of your baking pans matter. There is so much to go into on this so I figured it's best to reference this article from All Recipes. See Below. My FAVORITE pans to use is the Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Commercial Baking Half Sheet Pan*. Yes this is one of my secrects to getting the perfect macaron and sugar cookies for my cookie cakes. It bakes everything evenly and is sturdy enough that it doesn't warp in the oven
The 10 Best Baking Pans of 2021 | Allrecipes
4. Get to know your oven. It took me about a year and a half to perfect my macarons and learning my oven played a major part in this. Learn where your hot spots are and if you should use convection vs. regular baking setting on the oven. For me, I use convection when baking any cakes or sugar cookies, however, when baking macarons I use the regular bake setting.
Things I rececommend for all bakers
Using the right utensils and baking supplies while baking makes a difference as well in how your bakes turn out. Here are some items I rececommend and love to use myself:
I am member of the affiliate program for Amazon, and will receive a small commission from purchases made via the links below marked with a *.
Kitchen Scale*: Nicewell Food Scale, 22lb Digital Kitchen Scale Weight Grams and oz for Cooking Baking, 1g/0.1oz Precise Graduation, Stainless Steel and Tempered Glass
Baking Pans For Cookies*: Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Commercial Baker's Half Sheet, 2-Pack, Silver
Mixing Bowls*: Pyrex Glass Mixing Bowl Set (3-Piece Set, Nesting, Microwave and Dishwasher Safe)
Kitchen Aide Mixer*: I would be lost without this! KitchenAid KSM3316XCU Artisan Mini Stand Mixers, 3.5 quart, Contour Silver
Measuring Cups/Spoon: Hearth & Hand Measuring Spoons from Target, Pampered Chef Measuring Cups
I hope you and your family have a wonderful time baking together this holiday season. Remember, never underestimate the joy of sweets!
PS. If you don't feel like baking, but still want to decorate cookies, check out my Holiday Sale where you can find Decorate Your On Cookie Kit, Hot Chocolate Bombs, and Macarons of the Month Subscription.
It’s that time in your child’s life when you need to start planning the first birthday party. You planned your guest list, the food to be served and now you need to figure out the cake. Having two boys of my own and 12 years of cake decorating experience, I have learned a thing or two about 1st birthday cakes and smash cakes.
For my oldest child, I made him a cake thinking he could smash into the front of it and then the adults could eat the part that was untouched. Not a great idea because 1) the child’s hands and slobber will be all over the cake, and 2) the child typically doesn’t just smash the front of the cake. Lesson learned, have two separate cakes.
I took what I learned from my first child and when my youngest turned one, I felt like I was fully prepared, so I thought. For his cake I ended up making a smaller cake that sat on top of the larger cake that was to feed the adults and other children. This was a better idea because when it was time for the cake smash, I was able to lift his cake off the top and the party guests could also enjoy the cake sans baby slobber. However, looking back this was okay, but not ideal. I really wish I made a separate smash cake for both of my boys.
Here are some dos for a smash cake:
Lastly, the child will make a mess. Be prepared! We laid a shower curtain down on our floor to help with clean up, but cake still got on our walls, tables and all over the high chair. If cleaning up your house does not sound pleasing to you then I recommend having professional 1-year-old pictures taken with a smash cake. Professional pictures are a great way for you to capture that special, once in a lifetime moment of the cake smash without having to hose down the inside of your house afterwards. Plus, with professional pictures you don’t have to worry about missing that one great pic of the smash. If you are local to central Ohio, Stacey Ash Photography takes the best newborn and 1 year old pics!
Here are some ideas for some great smash cakes:
Happy New Year and Valentine’s Day! 2020 was a little intense for everyone and I am looking forward to a fresh start in 2021. This year I have some big plans for Sweets By Christa and my goal is to stay on top of all the cake/cupcake/treat trends, so I can offer only the best to my community.
*Make sure to read all the way to the end for a fun, special Valentine’s Day activity to do with your children.
I want to introduce you all to a cutie that I have perfected at the end of last year and the beginning of this year. The cakesicle! What is a cakesicle? It is a cake pop in the shape of a popsicle. Yes, that’s right, it’s a super duper extra large cake pop. I have begun seeing them pop up on Pinterest and Instagram and I knew I had to check them out. Cakesicles are amazing because they make a nice treat to share with your friends COVID friendly style. Each cakesicle is made from a cake flavor of your choice and mixed with my own chocolate or vanilla buttercream. The cake is surrounded by either white or milk chocolate and then a stick is placed into it. Cakesicles can be decorated and personalized to your needs. The finished cakesicle is individually wrapped for ease of handing out to people.
How to store cakesicles:
Honestly though, eating the cakesicle within the first week is my family’s preference.
Another major treat I am working on to bring you all this year is macarons. Ok, I know I have made macarons last year, but this year I want to offer more flavors more often. I am also going to be offering special order macarons for any occasion. This means that you don’t have to wait for one of my sales to order them. If you have a special occasion coming up and want to order some, please let me know! I am still throwing around the idea of a Macaron of The Season Club. This means that you would be guaranteed a half dozen or dozen mix of my seasonal macarons. They would be available Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter Holidays (December). If you are interested in this please let me know.
Valentine’s Day is going to be here in a few weeks and I’m wondering where has January is gone? Now is the time to order some sweet treats for your special someone. I am offering several treat boxes this year that include cakesicles, hot cocoa bombs and per request of my husband, chocolate covered Oreos. I am also going to be offering hot cocoa bombs in 3 flavors: Classic, Pink Cookies and Cream, and Strawberry. Please note that for these cocoa bombs, I have created my own cocoa mix that is free of preservatives and I promise you can pronounce every ingredient listed. My boys have been drinking this cocoa mix for several weeks and think it’s better than the store bought kind!
I also am going to have Valentine’s Macarons for sale as well. These will be a variety pack and you can order either a dozen or half dozen at a time. Flavors include: cookies and cream, chocolate strawberry, vanilla, and raspberry white chocolate. I am also working on making Big Mac Hearts. These will be supersized vanilla macarons, like the size of 2-3 macarons put together, in the shape of a heart. Great for sharing or just eating on your own. I will be having a limited amount of all of these available for purchase. Macaron orders will open up this week.
*Please note that all Valentine’s Day Pre-Sales will close on February 6th to allow me time to bake all these treats.
Lastly, I wanted to share with you a special Valentine’s Day activity to do with your children. I did this several years ago with my boys and each year they ask for me to do it again. I make, or you can buy, 28 paper hearts that are about 6 inches wide. I do 28 because I have 2 children. You will need 14 hearts per child. Starting February 1st, each night after they fall asleep, I write a saying on the heart. The saying can be as simple as “You are amazing” or more complex like “I love you to the stars and beyond”. Be creative and make them personal. Once I have the saying on the heart I will tape the heart to my child’s door. This way when they wake up in the morning they get to see what new heart is on their door.
When I first began baking macarons, I had no idea how to pronounce them; macaroon or macaron? I realized that I would use the words macaron and macaroon interchangeably. However, deep down inside I knew that there must be a difference and if I wanted to sound like I knew what I was baking, then I'd better learn the difference. So here are the differences and believe me they are quite different!
A macaron and a macaroon do not look anything a like. A macaron is a French origin desert that is two round semi flat meringue cookies with a buttercream, ganache or fruit type filling in the middle. A macaroon is more cake like in a single mound and you can find them dipped or drizzled in chocolate.
Both are gluten free and made using egg whites and sugar, but that is about it when it comes to similar ingredients. A macaron also has almond flour, flavoring extract, and can be colored any color that is desired. The batter also goes through a delicate folding process combining the egg whites and almond mixtures. Fold too much and the batter is running all over the place and won't hold it's shape, but if you don't fold the mixtures enough you end up with lumpy batter.
A macaroon is more of a cake consistency that is made with egg whites, sugar, condensed milk and coconuts. These are a drop cookie and are also delicious with a chocolate drizzle on top.
Macarons are best enjoyed at room temperature, however, if you can resist eating them right away, they can be refrigerated up to 3 days or stored in a freezer for 3 to 6 months. If freezing them, make sure they are in an airtight container to help prevent freezer burn. Stock up on your favorite flavors, keep them in the freezer and enjoy them whenever you want!
Even though both cookies sound similar. They are very different. Next time you want to order a French flat sandwich type cookie, make sure to ask for a MACARON as you may end up with something totally different than what you really wanted.
The Fourth of July has always been one of my top three holidays growing up. When I was younger I loved the excitement my town had for the annual Fourth of July Parade. I remember watching the parade with friends and family. We would laugh and gawk at all the floats and the marching bands that went by, looking forward to the day when we could march in the parade. That chance came for me in high school with the marching band. It was so much fun seeing all the smiling faces, hearing all the cheers and then remembering when it was all over that I couldn’t wait to do it again next year.
Another highlight from my childhood was the Independence Day Stampede. Besides watching the rodeos each year, big name country stars would come to town to perform. This was where I saw my first concert, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. I was lucky enough to see them perform with my closest friends. We’d show up way before the concert started and tried to get right up next to the stage. I remember singing and dancing and not having a care in the world. Then the next day it would be difficult to hear or talk, but it was totally worth it!
The cherry on the top, so to say, about this holiday is the food. Who can resist a good old-fashioned BBQ! Hamburgers, hot dogs, coleslaw and all the sides one can think of (ok I could do without the baked beans), but my favorite part about the BBQ was the deserts! I have a strong, make that intense sweet tooth, so I would typically help myself to multiple servings of desert. With my sweet tooth in mind, I have created a list of my most favorite 4th of July desserts in hopes that you will love them as much as I have!
My top 4 favorite deserts for the 4th of July:
Banana Pudding Parfait: This creamy desert is AMAZING and super easy to create. Throw some blueberries and strawberries on top to make it festive and people will be asking for more!
Flag Cake: Ok I know, most people know about the flag cake, but it’s a staple at every BBQ on the 4th. You can bake your favorite cake and then decorate it with strawberries and blueberries or I am loving this one with a no bake cheesecake base.
Patriotic Flag Fruit Tray: This is a quick and easy one! Seriously, there is no baking and can be put together in no time. Perfect for the person who wants to make an impression, but short on time.
Strawberry Short Cake: One of my favorite desserts growing up was strawberry shortcake. My mom would get an angel food cake, some whip cream and strawberries. She would cut up all the strawberries and let them sit with a pinch of sugar while we ate dinner and then after dinner she would put it all in a bowl for us: angel food cake, then whip cream and top it all off with a super size scoop of strawberries. If you would prefer to make this more homemade here is a great recipe.
What desert will I be making this 4th of July? Stay tooned to my Instagram and Facebook page to find out!
Christa is a mother of two rambunctious boys who loves sweets! She has been baking and decorating cakes for over 12 years. When she is not baking or decorating she is enjoying time with her family.