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HOW TO DECORATE CUPCAKES like you went to pastry school

Question for you – are you a baker? I am trying so hard to become a really awesome baker, but I have to master the patience portion. With cooking, you can throw in a little of this & a little of that, a dash of something unexpected, and voila – you feel like Gordon Ramsey. With baking, there is so much precision and attention to detail – neither of which I have. In a decision to try and up my kitchen game, I signed up for the Windy City Dinner Fairy cupcake decorating class at Macy’s last week & would you believe it was a total blast?! It was free, delicious, and I learned some seriously valuable frosting tips! 
How to decorate cupcakes like you went to pastry school

Nicole from Windy City Dinner Fairy taught us how to decorate cupcakes with a piping bag. Have you ever used one? We got a set as a shower gift and I have barely broken it out, but thanks to some pro tips (like, make sure your frosting is room temperature before putting it into the bag otherwise the icing won’t go on smoothly) and I feel like I have kind of got the hang of it. 

How to decorate cupcakes like you went to pastry school

If you are like me & have no idea what you are doing, here is a basic guide:

Round Tips: for lines, dots, writing, filling, and thicker frosting

Open Star Tip: star shaped decorations & perfect to make the below hydrangea flower frosting effect

Closed Star Tip: rosettes

Basket-weave Tip: for lattices & ribbonlike lines and boarders

To make the awesome hydrangea cupcake frosting effect (like the cupcake below), fasten your open star tip to your piping bag, fill with room temperate icing, and squeezing slowly place a drop of icing starting from the outer rims moving inward. Feel free to go as high as you want to go or as wide. It’s your cupcake, so have a little fun with is!

How to decorate cupcakes like you went to pastry schoolSo, what do you think? Ready to try out your new cupcake decorating skills? For more information on Windy City Dinner Fairy visit Nicole’s Facebook page and for upcoming information on Macy’s events, click here. Happy decorating!

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How to decorate cupcakes like you went to pastry schoolThis post is sponsored by Everywhere Agency on behalf of Macy’s; however, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

CHAI CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES + our new favorite cookbook & a fun event!

One woman’s Vogue is another gals cook book – know what I mean? Between you & me, I never really got into fashion magazines. Truthfully, I enjoy Vogue & Vanity Fair more for the articles than anything else & while I absolutely appreciate the styling & editorial finesse, they never became a staple in my purchasing habits. But cookbooks are a different story entirely.

PS – Hey, CHICAGO! Scroll down to the bottom, I’ve got a special surprise for you!

chai chocolate chip cookies via lauren kelp

Give me a good cookbook & I will read it like an 11-year-old reading Harry Potter for the first time (or, fine, okay, also me every time I read it…I mean book 6 is just so freaking good!) A new cookbook is full of exciting possibilities – new recipes, yes, but also new stories, new ingredients to fall in love with, new ways to show your friends and family you love them, new ways to be thoughtful about your food & mindful of what you are putting into your body. In fact, I love cookbooks so much, I have given myself a strict monthly budget to indulge my little habit. December’s cookbook of the month is the latest from Nancy Silverton, Mozza at Home.

chai chocolate chip cookies via lauren kelp

If you don’t know Nancy, you should! She is the only chef to win both the Outstanding Pasty Chef & Outstanding Chef awards from the James Beard Foundation (i.e. big freaking deal). Mozza at Home is all about crowd-pleasing recipes for relaxed, family-style gatherings. Uhh, does that sound like anyone you might know?! She gives you the backstory on each recipe, where it came from, why it’s personally significant, and she tells the story of her time in Tuscany & you are tempted to put in your two-weeks notice & fly out to meet her. I just got the book yesterday but am already obsessed! I was so excited, I woke up this morning (yes, as in like 3 hours ago) and whipped up her Chai Chocolate Chip cookies & they are nothing short of magical. Enjoy with a cup of coffee or hot mint tea and you’ve just about died and gone to heaven. Grab the recipe below.

CHAI CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3 dozen
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1¾ cup + 2 tablespoons cake flour (or unbleached all-purpose flour)
  • 1⅔ cup + 2 tablespoons bread flour (or unbleached all-purpose flour)
  • 2½ sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1¼ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1¼ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1½ teaspoons grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1¼ lb chocolate (60% - 70% cacao), chopped into ½ chunks
Instructions
  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position & preheat the over to 325.
  2. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and toast them in the over for 10-12 minutes, or until they are lightly browned and fragrant. Feel free to shake the pan & adjust half way through baking, so nuts brown evenly. Remove from the oven, set aside to cool, & turn off your oven. Once nuts are cooled, coarsely chop and set aside.
  3. Combine the cake & bread flour in a large box and stir to combine.
  4. In another large bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and pepper and mix until light in texture and color. Add in the eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly in between.
  5. Add the vanilla and mix. Reduce speed and add in the flour and mix until no flour is visible. Add in chocolate and stir to combine.
  6. Cover the dough & refrigerate for at least 1 hour (preferably over night)
  7. Adjust the oven rack so one is on the top third and one is on the bottom third and preheat to 350 & set up two cooling racks.
  8. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll into 1¾ ounce balls (smaller than a ping pong ball). Put 6 to 8 balls on each large baking sheet with at least 2 inches of space in between each ball of dough.
  9. Put one sheet on each rack in the oven and bake for 12-14 minutes, until light golden, but still soft. Switch baking sheet positions halfway through cooking time, so they bake evenly.
  10. Remove baking sheets from the oven and set on the cooling rack & let sit for 5 minutes.
  11. Repeat with the rest of the dough & enjoy!

chai chocolate chip cookies via lauren kelp

For all my CHICAGO friends, come meet me & Nancy at her book signing at the Macy’s State Street at noon on December 9th! I’ll be there from 12-1, so come introduce yourself & say ‘hi’ & I’ve got a special gift for you!

Looking for more fun holiday events? Check out this list of events happening at Macy’s this month!

chai chocolate chip cookies via lauren kelp


lauren buttonThis post is sponsored by Everywhere Agency on behalf of Macy’s; however, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

THE ULTIMATE HOLIDAY EVENTS

‘Tis the season for twinkling lights, wreath-making parties, and fabulous holiday events…am I right?! Well, my friends, it’s about time to start scratching names of that gift list of yours. Luckily, Macy’s State Street has some fabulous events in store!

  • Looking for something fun to do with mom & grandma? How about the Waterford Signing Dec. 5th at noon (at State St.) where Waterford spokesperson and artisan, Vincent Rellis will showcase and explain the process of how raw materials are transformed into the world’s finest luxury crystal
  • Maybe something for the food lover? Check out the Culinary Demo & Book Signing with Nancy Silverton on Dec. 9th at noon (at State St.) for an exciting cooking demonstration from her new cookbook, Mozza at Home.
  • Looking for something fun for the kids? Believe Day on Dec. 9th at noon (at State St.) is all about some holiday family fun with face painting, balloon twisting and special performances from Broadway in Chicago’s ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ and The Goodman Theatre’s ‘A Christmas Carol’.
  • Maybe you need some help with the gift wrapping? Hop on down to Macy’s Watertower location for the Holiday Gift Wrapping Event on Dec. 10 at 2pm  for complimentary gift wrapping with any $40 purchase or more. Plus, enjoy festive music from our DJ, refreshments and more!
  • Looking for something a bit more fun? Check out the Ugly Sweater Event on Dec. 16th (on State St.) for a fabulous twist on a holiday classic!

This post is sponsored by Everywhere Agency on behalf of Macy’s; however, all thoughts and opinions are my own.