This is my new favorite cookie.  It is for this week, anyway.  My kids and I invented cookies for a bake-off at the state fair, and this is one of the results.  One of the others we made took first place, but this one is my personal favorite.    
Contests are funny things anyway:  you'd think the best-tasting item wins, but that's not necessarily the case.  First of all, "best taste" always depends on who's doing the tasting. Or the judging, in this case.  Secondly, cookies are given a score, and in this contest, only 40% of it is from how the cookie tastes.  30% is how attractive it ('and its surroundings) are, and 30% here was 'creativity', which, like taste, is very subjective.  

This cookie was dreamed up by a daughter who loves key lime pie, and wanted a cookie that tasted like it.  You'll have extra frosting; you can make a half batch, or it can be frozen, or used to frost cupcakes, or spread on graham crackers... or eaten on a spoon!
My friend who dislikes frosting, likes this  frosting.
Creamy Lime Pie Cookies 
Makes 2- 2 ½ dozen

Graham Cracker Sugar Cookie:

¾ c. granulated sugar 
½ c. butter or shortening or coconut oil
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 sleeve graham cracker, finely crushed (about 1 ½ c.)
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
1 c. flour
¼ c. limeade concentrate, thawed.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cream shortening and sugar, add egg and vanilla.  Add cracker crumbs, salt, and baking soda; beat well. Mix in flour. Drop by heaping spoonful on lightly greased cookie sheet.  Bake 7-8 minutes.  Let cookies cool two minutes, then brush with the limeade concentrate.  All of it should be gone once all cookies are brushed.  Cool completely before frosting generously with Creamy Lime Frosting.


Creamy Lime Frosting

1 cube butter
2 c. powdered sugar
1 ½ tsp. vanilla
1/16 tsp. salt
4 drops green food color, optional
¼ c. limeade concentrate, mostly thawed
8 oz. cream cheese, still cool, cut in 1” cubes

In a medium bowl, combine butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, salt, and green food color.  Beat until fluffy.  Add limeade concentrate and whip the mixture.  Add cream cheese, a couple cubes at a time, and beat until mixed thoroughly.  Beat on high until light and fluffy, but don’t overbeat or it will go runny.



 
 
To make cookie pops like the photo above, set the unbaked cookie on top of a craft stick before baking the cookies.  Be sure to cover at least 1 to 1 1/2 inches of the craft stick; press down gently on the dough.  

This recipe makes about two dozen, 3" round cookies.

Soft Sugar Cookies
1 stick butter (1/2 c.), softened
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1/3 c. buttermilk, kefir, OR sour milk (add 1 Tbsp. lemon juice to fresh milk to make 1/3 c.)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 c. flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Cream the butter with sugar; beat in the egg, buttermilk, and vanilla.  Combine baking soda, baking powder, salt, and flour; stir in to the other ingredients.  Grease or spray a cookie sheet.  

Put half the dough on a flour-sprinkled counter top.  Sprinkle a little flour on top to prevent your rolling pin from sticking, then roll about 3/8" thick.  Cut out with cookie cutters or canning jar rings.  (I used a ring from a regular-sized canning jar.)

 Bake for 7-10 minutes, depending on size and thickness, until  light golden brown on edges and underside.  Cool completely; frost with your favorite frosting if you like. 

This recipe also makes a great base for a Cookie Pizza.

To make the rose leaves, sprinkle some sugar on a flat surface, roll a gumdrop flat, a little bit at a time, flipping the gumdrop often so it stays coated with sugar as it flattens.  Trim with a knife or scissors.
 
 
The monthly envelope full of local ads and coupons arrived a couple days ago.  As I flipped through it, one summery dessert caught my eye:  a dessert pizza.  It was an advertisement for a local pizza buffet, "only" $5.99 for the buffet.  
Well, we have 7 people at home, so $6 x 7 is not something we're willing to spend very often.  :)  Instead, I could make this for under $4 with what I had on hand.  Frozen blueberries and strawberries are always in the freezer here; I get them at DollarTree in the frozen section.  Cream cheese stores way beyond its sell-by date, so I stock up when it's $1 for 8 ounces.  A local store recently had whipping cream at $.33, and it stores quite a bit past the sell-by date, plus it can be frozen.  And I stock up on butter when it's on sale, then keep it in the freezer.

What are some of your must-have-on-hand ingredients?

Cookie base
1 stick butter (1/2 c.), softened
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1/3 c. buttermilk, kefir, OR sour milk (add 1 Tbsp. lemon juice to fresh milk to make 1/3 c.)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 c. flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Cream the butter with sugar; beat in the egg, buttermilk, and vanilla.  Combine baking soda, baking powder, salt, and flour; stir in to the other ingredients.  Grease or spray a 10x17 rimmed cookie sheet or 14" or 15" round pizza pan.  Drop cookie dough on top and pat into an even layer; wet your fingers so the dough doesn't stick so much to you.  Bake for 14-20 minutes, until light golden brown on edges and underside.  Cool completely.  

Topping/Frosting 
3 oz cream cheese
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla

2-4 cups berries or other fruit (I used 1 cup frozen blueberries, about 1 1/2 c. frozen strawberries)

Spread the topping over cooled cookie, cut into squares, and then sprinkle or decorate with fruit.  Serve; cover and refrigerate any leftovers.
 
 
This gluten-free cake is high in fiber, but you'd never know it when eating it.  It just tastes like a moist coconut cake.  It also has a delicious cream cheese frosting that you can sweeten using agave or honey, and a lemon-cream cheese filling between the layers.  This makes a small cake, 6" round if two layers, or a single 8" layer:  a much better size for most people!

Coconut Cake:

4 large eggs
1/2 c. melted coconut oil
1/2 c. agave nectar
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 tsp. coconut extract
1/2 c. coconut flour
1 tsp. baking soda (this is too much, I can taste it and the cake overbrowned)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. xanthan gum
1/2 c. shredded coconut, either sweetened or unsweetened
Cream Cheese Agave Frosting (recipe below)
1 1/2 Tbsp. orange or lemon marmalade
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease sides and line bottom of a 6" round pan* with a circle of parchment paper.  Set aside.

Whisk eggs until light in color and a little foamy, about 2 minutes.  Add the coconut oil, agave, vanilla, and coconut extract; mix well.  Add coconut flour, then put the baking soda, salt, and xanthan gum on top of the coconut flour, and mix all together.  The batter will be very thin at first, but will thicken within minutes as the coconut flour begins absorbing liquid.  Stir in the 1/2 c. shredded coconut.

Pour into the prepared pan.  Bake until center no longer jiggles and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.  Run a knife around the outside edge of the cake to loosen it.  Cool cake, in the pan, on a cooling rack for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan/s and cool completely.

When cool, split the 6" cake into two layers.  Frost the first half with lemon-cream cheese filling.  Place the other layer on top of the filling, then frost the entire cake.   Pat coconut onto the sides of the cake, then sprinkle it all over the top.
  
*If you don't have a 6" round, you may use either one 8" round (reduce baking time to about  30- 35 minutes), a 9x5 loaf pan (about the same baking time), 12-15 cupcakes (about 30-35 min. of baking), or four 4" round pans (reduce baking time to  18-20 minutes each).

Cream Cheese Agave Frosting:  use the recipe for Fluffy Honey-Cheesecake Frosting, except substitute agave for the honey.

To make the lemon-cream cheese filling (or orange-cream cheese filling), take  3/4 cup of the Cream Cheese Agave Frosting and put it in a small bowl.  Add 1 1/2 Tbsp. marmalade and stir.  
 
 
This is seriously amazing frosting, one you'll want to take your time eating, to capture every nuance of the flavor.

Why is it so good?  

Well, look at the name.  White chocolate.  Butter.  Cream.  Need I say more?  
Yeah, it wouldn't be smart to eat it every day.  But- boy, is it delicious!  Even better, it's really easy.

I found this in a magazine when my now-16-year-old was a newborn.  Really newborn; a magazine at my hospital bedside.  There were several intriguing recipes in there; I wrote them on a slip of paper, then tucked them in my recipe binder once at home.  The paper is still there, and three of those recipes are now favorites of mine:  Lattice Pineapple Pie, Orange-Coconut Muffins, and this frosting.  

It's one to savor.  You can also refrigerate or freeze this and shape it into truffles. Roll in chopped almonds, powdered sugar, sprinkles, or fine cookie crumbs, or dip in melted white or milk chocolate.  

My favorite white chocolate for this recipe is Guittard white chocolate chips.  To me, the Nestle white chips have a overly-cooked-and-sweet flavor, so I avoid those.   Chips are cheaper than baking squares, and the good ones have a great dairy-and-vanilla taste.  And I almost always use evaporated milk in this recipe; since it's a pantry item, I always have some on hand, unlike fresh cream.

White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting (about 2 cups frosting)

1 cup (6 oz.) white chocolate, melted and cooled-  or 6-(1 oz) squares white chocolate
1/4 cup cream or evaporated milk, or regular milk if you must (not as rich- but passable)
1 cup cold butter, cut into 1" cubes
1 cup powdered sugar

Beat together the white chocolate and cream.  When smooth, with the mixer running, beat in 1 cube of butter at a time.  Add powdered sugar; beat about 2 minutes, until smooth and fluffy.

If you have essential oils, one drop of orange oil would add subtle dimension.




 
 
Or Cherry Cheesecake Frosting. 

Yes, if you've noticed a common thread in the last few frosting recipes, I have a thing for cheesecake!

Once again, the basic recipe is the no-cook Ultra Gel frosting, though you can use cornstarch or flour if you're willing to cook the initial mixture.

The difference between this and the others I've tried is that the earlier ones all used pureed fruit or else jam as part of the ingredients.  This time I used concentrated fruit juice- in this case, a delicious cherry-pomegranate blend- the kind that comes frozen in 12-ounce cans.  This opens up all KINDS of possibilities!  Use lemonade concentrate- or orange passionfruit mango- or whatever else is in your grocer's freezer.

In the photo above, after spreading the frosting on the cake top, I mixed 1/4 cup of jam with about 1- 1 1/2 Tbsp. water, dribbled in parallel diagonal lines, then ran a butter knife lightly through it, alternating directions every other time, to create the chevron pattern.  Then I added the border.


To protect the frosting from drying out overnight, since this one was made ahead of time, I stuck mini marshmallows on the ends of toothpicks, poked them into the cake, then rested plastic wrap on top of the now-blunt toothpicks.  Works great.

Cherry Cloud Frosting

2 sticks butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
1 c. sugar
1/4- 1/2 c. Ultra Gel* (higher amount if yours is fluffy like powder snow, lesser if dense like baking soda is)
1/8 tsp. salt
1 c. (8 oz.) juice concentrate, thawed
1 tsp. vanilla or almond extract


Beat the butter until smooth, then add everything else at once: sugar, starch, salt, juice concentrate, and extract.  Beat on low for one minute, until combined, then beat on high 5-6 minutes, until fluffy.

*to use cornstarch, use 1/4 cup.  To use flour, use 1/2 cup.  Either way, mix this with the sugar in a small saucepan, then gradually stir in juice concentrate.  Bring to a boil, stirring often; cook and stir until thick, about 4-5 minutes. Cover and cool to room temperature, then add all other ingredients and beat until fluffy.

To make the 'cheesecake' version, use only 1 stick of butter, and one 8-oz block of cream cheese, softened.

 
 
Saw this on the web and my daughter wanted it for her birthday cake...

It's really simple- one frosting tip (2110), one color, and the roses are nothing more than spirals.

The frosting I used was Strawberry Cheesecake Frosting and is naturally colored: use the recipe for Blueberry Cheesecake Frosting except double the batch and substitute 12 oz. strawberries, pureed, for the two cups of blueberries.  It tastes divine!
 
 
Do you love whipped cream but wished it would stay fluffy like whipped topping does?  
Cool-Whip, move over; your superior is here!  Airy, melt-in-your-mouth, delicately sweet, no hard-to-pronounce ingredients- what could be better?

Use this for topping pies, gelatin, cakes or cupcakes, or anything else you like!  Stir in a little caramel sauce and it's either an amazing dip for apples or an incredible cake filling.  Fold in some melted and cooled chocolate for a mousse-like topping.  White chocolate is delicious mixed in.

The version below that uses gelatin gives the most firmness.  I've kept it in the fridge for two weeks before, without the faintest hint
Yes, you can use this to decorate cakes!  (Just don't let it get too warm, it will melt if it gets above about 90 degrees F, just like butter does.)  This picture is my niece's wedding cake.

If you can't have dairy, use 8 ounces of chilled coconut cream to replace the dairy cream.  Not cream of coconut, that's different.  Coconut cream is the thick layer you find on top of canned coconut milk; Asian markets sell cans of straight coconut cream.

Stabilized whipped cream
½ pint whipping cream (8 oz)
½ tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. sugar or ¼ c. powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. Ultra Gel OR 1 tsp. unflavored gelatin*

If using Ultra Gel, stir it with the sugar, then add cream and vanilla and whip until stiff.  

If using gelatin, put it with a tablespoon of water, let it sit a minute to soften, then microwave for 12 seconds to dissolve it. You could heat gently on a stove, if needed.   Don't let it boil.  Whip cream, sugar, and vanilla until they start to thicken a little, then slowly pour gelatin in while still beating. Whip until stiff.  Chill it if you need it a little thicker.

Store any extra in the refrigerator.
__________________________________________________________
*Other ways to stabilize whipped cream:
(you can skip the Ultra Gel and gelatin if you use these)

-fold in 4-8 ounces melted and cooled chocolate (the more you use, the more truffle-like the frosting/mousse will be.  Also, the darker the chocolate, the less you need.)

-Beat in 2-4 ounces of cream cheese.

-Before whipping, sprinkle in half a package of instant pudding powder.  (This is really adding  Ultra Gel, which is part of the pudding mix.)

-Substitute 1 1/2 -2 Tbsp honey or corn syrup in place of the sugar, or 3 Tbsp. any flavor jam or jelly.  This will only lightly stabilize it, but works for things you'll eat in the next couple hours.
 
 
While standing in line at the supermarket one day before Christmas, I picked up a cooking magazine that had some gorgeous cookies on the cover.  As I studied the picture, the cashier noticed, laughed a little, and said, "they have nice pictures, but do YOUR cookies ever look like that?"

She was shocked when I answered, "Um, actually, yes."

You don't need to be a professional baker.  You don't even need fancy decorating equipment, though I really appreciate a good pastry bag and frosting tips.  (If you don't have these- you can buy a small set for under $10 at Walmart, ShopKo or hobby stores- a ziptop freezer bag with a corner snipped off will work.)   

The trick to making those beautiful, glossy cookies is to use two consistencies of frosting- one thin, one thick, and to give yourself enough time to let one layer dry a bit before adding the next.  The thin frosting becomes your canvas, the thicker one is used to make the details.  Make it easy on yourself by only mixing two or three colors.  Rather than using the liquid food color drops, try paste or gel food colors.  They are much easier to work with because a little goes a long way and they won't make your frosting runny. 
******
The thin frosting can be as simple as powdered sugar and water, or if you want the surface to be shiny when dry, make Royal Icing. A regular batch produces a thick icing; to get the thin frosting, mix in water a little at a time to get the right consistency. The recipe below is for the Royal Icing, which also dries very hard, making your cookies a little less likely to get damaged.  This is the same frosting I use on gingerbread houses.

Royal Icing  (thick frosting)
3 egg whites (use clean eggs with absolutely no cracks in them)
1 16-oz bag or box of powdered sugar (about 4 3/4 cups)
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla, lemon, or almond extract

Put everything in a large, absolutely grease-free mixing bowl.  Beat on high speed using an electric mixer until very stiff, about 7-10 minutes.  Use right away and keep the bowl covered at all times with a damp kitchen towel, to avoid drying it out.  Makes about 3 cups.  To color it, divide into smaller bowls and stir gel or paste food color into it.  For the cookies below, I divided into three bowls; one remained white, one was tinted pink, the last colored red.

Thin frosting
Put the amount of frosting you think you need, already colored, in a bowl.  Add water a little bit at a time, stirring until smooth.  The right consistency is when a little bit of frosting drizzled from a spoon takes from 5-10 seconds to disappear back into the rest.

Spread a thin layer of frosting on each cookie.  If adding sprinkles or edible glitter, add it while the frosting is wet so they'll stick.  Let the cookies sit until a crust starts to form over the frosting, then decorate using the thick frosting in a pastry bag.    

If you're new to frosting, tips, and pastry bags, Wilton has a great getting-started page
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Start with white as the base, let dry. Next use pink with a basketweave tip like #47. Finish off with tip #3 grids and squiggle border.
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Just like the previous one except simpler: white base, let dry, add tip #3 grids in pink, then a tip #3 red squiggle border.
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Or how about that same white background, but using only red and tip #3?
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White base, sprinkle with edible glitter, dry. Add tip #3 dots in white, then a red squiggle border also using tip #3.
 
 
It's that time of year again!  

I started homeschooling one of my children just a couple weeks ago (taking a bite of the elephant at one time- this is also the reason I haven't been posting as often), so I'm looking forward to making some adorable things with her for Valentines' Day-  and not having the normal glut of candy (hurray!)  

My mom wasn't much for celebrating many things- but we always woke up Valentine morning to find a giant (to us kids) cookie with a pretty border and our name written in flourishes of pink frosting.  

Below are some of the ideas I love for this year, some are mine and some are from other sites.  There's also this post for more ideas, including how to make heart-shaped muffins with a regular muffin tin, some liners, and several marbles.