Birthday Cake (decorating)

One of my family’s birthday traditions is decorating a cake for the birthday person. Growing up mom would let us pick out the shape and design we wanted for our cake and then she would decorate it for us. As we got older we helped her make and decorate our birthday cake. Everything I know about cake decorating I learned from my mom. This year I made my cake by myself.

Starting out, I frosted the sides and top edges of the cake with homemade white buttercream frosting.


Then I colored a portion of the frosting that I’d put aside sky blue. I dropped the blue frosting on top of the cake and blended it into the white frosting with a knife.


I decided to do the writing next (usually my mom and I put the writing on last when we make cakes together, but I decided to put it on at this point so I’d know how much space I needed/had left over for the rest of the cake design). Piping in writing is challenging! Before I piped the writing in on the cake I practiced on a piece of parchment paper so I had an idea of how large to make the writing and what sort of letter spacing I would need.

cake_creativelyus_3 I forgot to take a picture of just the tree structure… so here ya go, two steps in one… I mixed some coco powder in to a portion of the buttercream frosting to make a rich brown frosting then used a star tip to create bark for my tree. Next I put two different buttercream icing greens (one a bit more yellow-green, the other more blue-green) together in the icing bag with a leaf tip so I’d get variegated leaves. I piped on leaves wherever I thought the tree needed some leaves. I could have stopped there, but mom gave me a few new tips for my birthday so I decided to use more of them and add some flowers to the tree.


Orange is my favorite color… so, orangey-peach flowers! Next I added yellow centers to the flowers.


cake_creativelyus_6 cake_creativelyus_7And here’s a picture of the finished cake! I am very happy with how it looks. It tasted good too!


Homemade Vanilla Extract

I made homemade vanilla extract for my mom, mother-in-law, and myself for Christmas this year. I started it in October since it needs at least two months to age. It takes:

Cheap vodka

Vanilla beans (I used Madagascar vanilla beans) – 3 bean pods per 8 oz of vodka

Clean, sterile bottle(s)

VanillaExtract_1_creativelyus VanillaExtract_2_creativelyus I sliced the vanilla bean pods in half lengthwise then dropped them into the clean bottle.

VanillaExtract_3_creativelyus Next, I poured the vodka in over the vanilla beans. Once that was done I sealed the bottles and let them sit on a shelf in a cool, dark area. About once a week I’d shake the bottles so the vanilla and vodka would mix. Two months later…VanillaExtract_4_creativelyusgorgeous vanilla extract ready for gifting! Simple, inexpensive, and a fun gift!

York Peppermint Vase

Kristine and I celebrated our 3rd Anniversary this week! (In case the great recipes and amazing creations from her previous posts didn’t clue you in, you should know I have the best wife ever.) Anyway, getting sentimental and thinking back to when we first started dating reminded me of one my creative projects of which I’m most proud. Kristine and I had been dating for 2 months when we graduated from college together. I wanted to get her flowers, but I wanted it to show more thought and personalization than just basic flowers would. So, that’s how I came up with the idea to incorporate her favorite candy into the vase. You can see below that she was surprised and thrilled!

You could do this with just about any small object (candy or otherwise). Simply buy two vases, one large vase and another small enough to fit inside it. Make sure the vases have the right amount of space between them to fit whatever you want to use. Then, line the bottom of the vase with your object (if you’re really obsessive about detail like I am), set your smaller vase on top of that layer and start sliding the rest of your items in between. Below is a close-up with one of the top York Peppermints removed so you can see the smaller vase inside. (This was back when York mints came in cool foil wrappers instead of the plain ones they come in now.)

Are there any other candies or objects that you think would work well for this? Give it a try and let us know what you create!

Oreo Turkey Truffles

One of Sean’s friends gave him a recipe for these really simple Oreo Truffles years ago and now everyone asks for them whenever we go to pitch-ins or parties. For one of our Thanksgiving get-togethers this year, we decided to make the truffles look a little more festive. If you need a last-minute recipe for a Thanksgiving-themed desert, we’ve got the perfect one for you right after the photos!

This makes about 30 truffles, which will serve at least 15 people. (They are so rich, very few people will eat more than one or two.)

1 Package of Oreos
1 8oz Package of Cream Cheese
1 12oz Bag of Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
Yellow and Red Icing

  • Crush the Oreos in a large bowl and knead the cream cheese into the Oreos until it is all a consistent mixture.
  • Roll the mixture into 1″ balls and place on a cookie sheet. Chill these in fridge for 1hr.
  • Melt semi-sweet chocolate chips and dip Oreo balls into melted chocolate to coat them.
  • Pour some of the melted chocolate into an icing bag and pipe the tail feather design onto a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. (Another option, which we thought of later, would be to use chocolate covered pretzels instead. – If you try this, let us know how it turns out.)
  • Place the chocolate-covered Oreo truffles onto the base of the tail feather designs.
  • Use the yellow and red icing to make a beak and wattle on the top of the truffle.
  • Place back in the fridge to chill.
  • To serve, set the turkeys upright on a tray. (Some may need the bases shaved down a bit to stand upright.)

Also, if you’d like a great recipe for cranberry sauce, check out our friends’ post at

Cranberry Salsa

Tonight I made cranberry salsa. We’d purchased it before (and loved it!) when visiting some friends of ours and hadn’t found any since. It’s definitely a sweet salsa, but it has a bit of a kick! It’s a fun variation on salsa and more traditional cranberry sides served this time of year. I compared a few recipes that I found online and decided to just wing it (and leave out the suggested cilantro since I really, really can’t stand the taste of cilantro).

Cranberry Salsa:

One bag of fresh cranberries

Juice from one lime

Orange rind, about a teaspoon plus a bit

Jalapeños, about two Tablespoons

Three green onions, finely chopped

1/3 cup sugar

Dash of salt

Add all ingredients to mixer. Pulse until salsa reaches desired texture. Refrigerate salsa if not eating immediately (some recipes suggest refrigerating overnight before serving). Enjoy!