Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.
Today: An unexpected -- and infinitely easier -- way to dress up your cakes and cookies.
Recently, I was running around my kitchen at the last minute as usual, still needing to make frosting and slather it on my cake before leaving for a potluck. I needed a stick of butter, a block of cream cheese, a little vanilla, some milk, and a few cups of powdered sugar, which I always had on hand -- except for that day, when all I had left was a few sad tablespoons at the bottom of the powdered sugar box.
There would be no fluffy cream cheese frosting that day.
But I still needed something to dress that cake up, even just a little. I began scanning my kitchen for a solution. I had sprinkles, but no way for them to stick to the cake, and I didn't have a garden of edible flowers to raid. But suddenly, the answer popped up when I spied a flower-shaped cookie cutter I had decoratively propped up against the fruit bowl on the counter.
Bingo! A stencil!
I set the cookie cutter right in the middle of the cake, spooned those last paltry dregs of powdered sugar into a fine sieve, and gently and generously showered the entire cake with the sugar. Five seconds later, I had a pretty cake to set on the buffet table.
More: Dig into one of these 11 cakes fit for a celebration.
I've learned that lots of kitchen items will work as a stencil. Look through your utensil drawer for chopsticks you can lay at jaunty angles, or arrange dried bowtie pasta in a pattern around the perimeter of the cake; it's so easy and so fun that even when I do have a full box of powdered sugar to make frosting, I often use the stencil trick anyway. Who can argue with fast and fun?
Here's what you'll need to stencil your cake or cookies:
Here's how to do it:
Use the improvised stencils to create designs on your cake or cookies. Set the stencil in place, add a few tablespoons of powdered sugar to the sieve, then gently tap the side of the sieve over the stencil, showering it with sugar. Carefully remove the stencil to reveal the design!
A few more tips before you get started:
Photos by Vanessa Vichit-Vadakan