Sunday, December 6, 2009

Playing with Food for Christmas

I know, I know, we're always told not to play with our food. Most of the time that's true. When it comes to crafty ministry, though, you'll find fun ways to play and have a tasty treat.

Snowman Cake

Long before all of the fancy shaped pans were available, cake mix companies offered ideas for cutting layer cakes to create fancy shapes. This was always one of my favorites, because I love coconut cake. It makes a lovely presentation, and serves a good sized group.

* White cake mix or recipe for two-layer cake (two boxes or recipes)
* Fluffy white frosting (enough for the double cake recipe)
* Shredded coconut (optional if allergies are a concern or you just don't care for coconut)
* Gum drops for features and buttons
* String type red candy (licorice, Twizzlers or Red Vines) for scarf
* Nine-inch cake pans (two)
* Muffin tin (one tin of six or twelve holes)

Step 1

Cover a platter or cutting board with aluminum foil, waxed paper or any desired food-safe covering.

Step 2 - Baking

Prepare the pans as directed by the cake mix or recipe. Make one box or recipe of cake batter.  Fill one muffin hole half-full and set aside. Divide the remaining batter between the two cake pans. Bake and cool as directed. Repeat with the second batch, except bake the two muffins as well. (Note: If you have sufficient pans and a large enough oven, feel free to do all of the mixing and baking as one step.)

Step 3 - Assemble layers

Level two of the layers across the top.  Spread frosting on these two layers. Add a plain layer to each of the frosted layers.

Step 4 -  Shaping the snowman

Cut a shallow arc from the side of the two cakes. Make the arcs as equal as possible because these will become the arms. Frost the cakes along the cut line.

Place the cakes as shown in the diagram - cut side to cut side - to form the snowman's body. Frost the top and sides of the cakes.

Trim the muffins as necessary to form the head and be the same height as the body. Frost the layers of muffin together.  Place it at the top of the snowman's body. Frost head.

Align the cut arcs on the sides to form arms and frost in place.

Step 5 - Dressing the snowman

If you are a coconut nut, as I am, this is the time to sprinkle on lots of coconut snow.

Use gumdrops to form the facial features, for example, a line of red ones for the mouth, an orange one for the nose, green ones for the eyes. Black gumdrops make great buttons on his chest. Form a scarf from string-type candy such as licorice whips, Twizzlers or Red Vines.

And there you have it, a snowman layer cake ready to brighten your table and your palate.

Miscellaneous tips:

If your crowd isn't large enough to need the two-layer version, just use one box of mix or recipe and make it a sheet cake. Don't level the layers - the dome effect makes it look more like a three-dimensional snowman.

Other candies can be used to decorate - basically anything round and colorful will fill the bill.

Individual Snowmen

Little individual snowmen make fun party favors, desserts, place cards or projects for kids at a party.

Regular sized marshmallows
Miniature marshmallows
Food coloring
Graham crackers

Pretty simple to assemble: skewer two regular and one miniature marshmallow on a toothpick. Use a toothpick dipped in food coloring to add features. Two more toothpicks form the arms. Stick the end of the toothpick holding the snowman together into a graham cracker.

Add more miniature marshmallows around the base for stage-setting.

Miscellaneous tips:

For very young children, use uncooked spaghetti instead of toothpicks.

Use white frosting to cover the graham cracker and secure the snowman in a fluffy field of white. (You can add coconut, too!)

Dots of hot fudge ice cream sauce (but not heated) work as features and buttons.

Use cupcakes instead of graham crackers to make the little snowmen even more festive.

John 3:16 Poster

This time of year can become a little crazy, and it's easy to lose sight of what we celebrate. I first made this poster more than 40 years ago.

I was away at college and there was a door decorating contest in the dorm. I had no decorations with me and no money to buy any. What I did have was a shallow box, just the right size to hold a piece of paper bearing John 3:16, the description of the first, best and most precious Christmas gift ever given. While I didn't win the contest (and didn't expect to when I saw the many fancy tinsel and ribbon decorations around the dorm), I did feel good about the number of people who thanked me for the reminder.

These days, I have word processing and desk top publishing to help me make the poster fancy, but it doesn't change the importance of the content.

This one was created in Microsoft's Publisher 2007. You can create one in virtually any publishing or word processing program you may have. You can add artwork or a different background, change to whatever font you prefer - make it your own vision of God's Gift.

If you're short of time, here is a .pdf version you can download and print: John 3:16 Poster

Have a most blessed Christmas!

Reindeer Games

Candy Cane Reindeer

What would Christmas be without reindeer? Bring Santa’s team to your party or table display with just a few minutes work. They are also adorable peeking out of Christmas stockings.

This is another of those projects I’ve been doing for nearly 40 years and don’t remember where I first learned it. Have fun!


* Full-sized, individually shrink-wrapped candy canes (approximately ½ ounce each and measuring 5 to 6 inches long) – 1 per reindeer (but get a few extra to allow for breakage)
* Pipe cleaners, aka chenille strips, in a shade of brown – 9 to 10 inches per reindeer
* Glue-on eyes – 2 per reindeer
* Chenille poms – 1 per reindeer (I like the 10mm size)
* School glue or craft glue
* Scissors or wire cutters
* Ruler

Step 1

Cut the pipe cleaner into three pieces: one measuring 5 inches and two measuring 2 to 2-1/2 inches each. These will be the antlers. Bend each piece in half.

Step 2

Place the bend of the 5 inch piece of pipe cleaner under the crook of the candy cane. Bring the two free ends of the pipe cleaner above the candy cane and twist tightly together where they cross the cane.

Step 3

Place the free ends of the pipe cleaner horizontally at 90 degree angles to the pipe cleaner. Bend the ends up by 90 degrees to form the antler base.

Step 4

Twist a 2 inch piece of pipe cleaner at the bends of the antler base. Bend each of those ends to 90 degrees, at a 90 degree angle to the base.

Step 5

Glue two eyes on the short side of the candy cane, about ¾ of the way to the curve. Glue a chenille pom for the nose.

Miscellaneous tips:

The pipe cleaners I bought were about 12 inches long. So cutting 5 and 2 inch pieces gave me two 5 inch and one 2 inch piece, or six 2 inch pieces per strip. Mix and match as necessary to get the most without waste from your pipe cleaners.

Poke holes in a piece of Styrofoam or the back of the empty candy cane box to stand your reindeer for safekeeping as the glue dries.

The antlers don’t have to be perfect – if you have children helping you with this project, don’t get hung up on the angles.

Chenille poms come in all sorts of combinations. I had a bag of assorted colors and sizes from other projects, and I purchased a bag of the 10 mm black poms.

Because of the small pieces, use caution around very young children. You may prefer to dab eyes and a nose on the wrapper with acrylic paint for little ones.