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Monday, July 4, 2011

How to Be Awesome at Patriotic Desserts

Happy 4th of July!

Most every year, we go out to our friends, the Howers', house for the 4th of July, along with several other families and friends of theirs.  This year, I was assigned desserts for the 12 or so adults and 8 or so kids who were going to be there.  My knee-jerk reaction was to go by Publix and pick up a cake or pie or something, but then I remembered, no, I don't do that anymore.  I make my own stuff now!  So I did. 

USA Jello Parfait

The first thing I wanted to do was make a red, white, and blue jello parfait in a big bowl.  I've seen it done lots of times and it always seems like the quintessential patriotic dessert.  I didn't really have a recipe, but how hard can it be, right?  I made a pan of red jello and a pan of blue jello the night before (2 boxes each).  Then, I kinda cut the jello up into rough cubes so it would be easier to spoon out, and I put the red in the bottom of the bowl, being careful to put lots around the edges so it would look cool.  I also put a few raspberries around the edge.

Then I put a layer of light cool whip on it, and then the blue jello.  I also put a couple of handfuls of blueberries in because I got blueberries BOGO at Publix, so I had tons.

Then another layer of cool whip, and then I used raspberries and blueberries to make a flag on top.  I even managed to make thirteen stripes, but that wasn't intentional.  (It wasn't until Brian reminded me that I should be counting the white stripes as well as the red that I realized it was possible.)

Betsy Ross would be proud.

Honey Almond Cookies

One of my friends does this blog where she makes a new cookie recipe every week for a year.  Pretty cool.  She did Honey Icebox Cookies this week and they looked delicious, so I thought I'd try them.  I am a huge fan of honey, and they sounded unusual enough that people wouldn't just pass over them like normal cookies.  I changed the recipe a little because I didn't have any lemon extract, and I love almond extract, so I used that instead. 

They were amazing.  I made the dough a couple of nights ago and just stuck it in the fridge, and then I cooked them for the minimum amount of time because I love soft cookies, and I don't like crunchy ones at all.  They came out perfect.  I put a few red and blue sprinkles on top before I baked them and voila!  Instant patriotic cookies!

These were a hit with kids and adults.
America Jar Cakes

I was originally just going to make some cupcakes, but then Mallary, my sister, told me about this genius idea she found online to cook cake in Mason jars.  You can find the recipe here, but basically you just prepare a boxed white cake mix (I doubled mine) and then divide it into 3 bowls. 

Put a whole thing of red dye in one, a whole thing of blue dye in another one, and leave the third white.  Scoop about 1/4 c. of red, then white, then blue batter into the jars, layering as best you can. 

Doesn't that look like liquid America?
Then put the jars on a cookie sheet with some water in the bottom and cook at 325 for 40-55 min.  When they have completely cooled, spoon some icing on top and then sprinkles if you want.  They are fabulous.

This became quite a saga, because I ended up doing the whole thing twice.  I was also assigned desserts at Brian's parents the day before, so I did my first trial there.  My batter was a little thin, so it made it harder to layer.  I used pint jars, which were wider mouthed, but fatter, so they were harder to get the red, white, and blue striped look.  Mallary used half-pint jars, and she put a little oil between the layers, and they came out in pretty much perfect stripes.  Her downside was that they tended to cook too fast because the jars were smaller.  That, and they baked over the top of the jars so she had to cut the tops of the cake off to be able to ice them.

I also put too much batter in them the first time and everyone ended up pretty close to a diabetic coma by the time they finished them, so the second time around, I didn't use so much batter in each jar, and I used the extra to make about 20 cupcakes (remember, I used two boxes of cake mix).  The jars were still plenty full.

I also found that the funfetti cake mix that I used worked way better than the Duncan Hines white cake.  The batter was thicker and made it way easier to layer.  Plus, it's funfetti.  Duh.

I really loved that when you ate the cake, it looked like American confetti on your fork.  It was so colorful!

I know it's blurry, but don't you still want to salute?

The best part of the whole thing was when I was putting the lids on and I was like, "I wish I had something to make these look really cute, like some red fabric."  And then I was like, WAIT!  I have TONS of red fabric left over from my quilt, already cut up into little 5 inch squares and the edges are all pinking-sheared.  (is that a phrase?)  Then I realized that not only did I have red, I had white too!  By this point, I was literally flailing my arms around and jumping in circles in the living room, doing a happy dance.  I think Brian thought I was having a hyperglaucemic fit or something.  But it was just a really good idea, and I was really excited.  See how cute they are?

God bless America!
And here are the cupcakes, which were also multi-colored inside.  One of the girls there said she didn't like them, she LOVED them.

It's what the founding fathers would want.
The cake in the jar went great with  ice cream, and in fact, we just scooped the ice cream right into the jar!  Some of the men discovered that putting a cookie in the jar and then ice cream, and then eating the whole thing was apparently delicious.  Why does a cake with icing and sprinkes and ice cream also need a cookie on top?

Because America.  That's why.

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