My Red Hat Afternoon with the Valley Springs Valley Girls

I was so delighted recently to get a message from my dear friend (and major blog supporter!) Pat, asking me if I would come to her Red Hat Society meeting and demonstrate my Duncan Hines Cherry Masher Sandwich Cookies, which were award-winners in the Duncan Hines Frosting Creations baking contest.

I was so honored to be invited to demonstrate my recipe, especially since I’ve never actually done a presentation like that before today. It was thrilling getting to actually bake in front of people and have them ask me questions, both personally and professionally, about my life, my cookies, and my blog.

First off, this week has been a whirlwind, which has made it difficult to blog as frequently as I typically do, because not only did I really want to prepare for my presentation, but my brother also turned 12 which meant a two-tier cake and three dozen cupcakes for his castmates in his play.

It was worth the time off, though, because I was able to make so many great real-world connections this week with some great ladies.

Of course, when I first got to the meeting place for this fun and fabulous group of Red Hatters, I was practically shaking. Even though Pat is a great friend and I knew that I would end up doing well with my demonstration, it’s always a little nerve-wracking to stand up in front of people and demonstrate something you’re passionate about! The thought goes through your head with “what if they don’t like what I made?” or “What if I forgot a key ingredient at home?”

As I started baking, though, I really got into the swing of things. I came with everything pre-measured, so that helped me fumble a little bit less with my presentation.

All in all, the ladies really seemed to love the recipe (and my family appreciated my demonstration because it meant making a test batch for them at home, as well, so everybody got to taste some of my test cookies, too).

I wanted to tell you guys a couple of anecdotes about my cookies, though.

First, when I entered the Duncan Hines contest, I had actually baked 8 recipes in one weekend trying to choose which ones to submit. At the time, we had a couple of exchange students spending the weekend with us, and I literally just started calling people, saying “Come sit in my kitchen while I bake– there’s way too many desserts to go around and someone has to eat them!” People just sat in the barstools in the kitchen as I spent hours upon hours baking items for the contest, tasting them, giving their opinion, and waiting as I submitted the recipes to the website.

Then, everybody left. I cleaned up the kitchen. My mother went out of town with my brother. I had the house to myself, just my son and I, and when he was napping, I had the thought that I should really do just one more. Just one more recipe, that would do it. I whipped up the cherry masher sandwich cookies, thinking I wanted to make something that was a cross between a cookie, a cherry mash, and a cherry cordial, but was still delicious and interesting in a new and exciting way. What resulted was a not-too-sweet shortbread cooking with a cherry vanilla filling and a chocolate coating– this was before the lovely chefs at the Duncan Hines kitchen suggested that I make it a drizzle instead of a coating, which made the cookies a million times better.

I made the cookies, tasted one, and I knew these were gold. I posted the recipe, but… there was no one there to try them. I ended up polishing off the entire batch over the span of a couple of days, yes, entirely by myself (this is why I’m not a size 2 or even a 12).

When Duncan Hines contacted me to let me know I was a winner, I asked which recipe I won for. Was it the gimme s’more bars that my brother raved about? The strawberry pie that was a hit with my mom? The coconut amaretto bars that went on to win an Amish Friendship Bread Kitchen contest? No.

The winner was the Cherry Masher Sandwich cookies.

That NO ONE. No one tasted. Except me.

When I told everyone who had come and sat in my kitchen that weekend that I was a winner, everyone was exclaiming “Really?! For which recipe? Which one?” and all of them were a bit disappointed that no one had even tasted the award-winner.

Honestly, when I made those cookies, as good as they were, I really wasn’t sure I’d ever make them again. For most events, I have a handful of go-to recipes that are family favorites, and then I have a couple of new recipes that I try here and there, but for the most part, I just don’t repeat many recipes. There’s so many new things to try that I don’t always make a recipe again, even if I liked it (none of the other recipes I submitted for the Duncan Hines contest have been made again, although several I’d like to make again sometime). So, I really assumed before I was told that I won that, yes, the cookies were good, but no, no one would get to try them since I had already finished all of the cookies.

Now, it’s my most-requested take-along. Everyone wants to try them. I’ve made enough batches of those silly cookies that I could probably make them with my eyes closed and hands tied behind my back (not literally. You kind of need hands when you’re rolling out cookie dough). They’re really easy, but they’re definitely something you want to make a day in advance because of the freeze time.

It’s just so funny to me that what was just a cookie I made on a whim, last minute, one last entry into the contest, that no one tasted and I never thought anyone would get to try, ended up being a cookie that I’ve become known for. That cookie has singlehandedly driven a lot of people to my blog, sent me to New Jersey and back, gotten me an article in the newspaper, and led to a fun demonstration with an incredible group of Red Hat ladies.

I am so blessed that this little cookie recipe I came up with has taken me so far, that this simple cherry sandwich cookie with an amazing flavor has given me so many blessings, and so many great opportunities. In some ways, I have Duncan Hines to thank, and in many ways I have my mom’s amazing inspiration to thank, and of course, I have everyone who tastes my recipes and gives me feedback and helps with Zach while I’m destroying the kitchen to thank…

And for today, I have the amazing Valley Springs Valley Girls to thank, because I got to share a great day with them and I got to share my true passion of baking with them. And beyond that, I made connections that I hope will continue on for a very long time to come.

The ladies were so kind to gift me an adorable Red Hat bear, as something to remember this special event by, and I know that there’s no way I’ll be forgetting today anytime soon. I really feel blessed that I got to spend this time with them.

I made a very special recipe card for my Red Hat friends, and I wanted to share it with you, as well, so all of you can make these delicious sandwich cookies anytime you’d like.

As I told the ladies today, these cookies freeze very well for 2 weeks or so (as if you’ll have any left for that long!). If your church or group is having a baby boom or something and you need to take a lot of meals to people, it’s easy to whip up a double or triple batch of these and keep them in your freezer in an airtight container, then package up a baggie of 6-12 cookies to put in with a meal. It will seem like you spent all day slaving in the kitchen, but really these gems were just in your freezer, ready to go to whoever needed a little blessing.

I prettied these cards up using a digital scrapbooking kit in Photoshop. The kit is called Bake Me A Cake by Kristin Cronin-Barrow and is available here at Sweet Shoppe Designs, so you can make your own pretty matching set of recipe cards or digitally scrapbooking any other kitchen memories you have.

One comment

  1. I know you had a wonderful day, I knew you had Pat’ support and that is all you would need. I’m glad they liked your cookies as much as everyone else.

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