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Bakeries' goal is Pens, Stanley Cup treats

| Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Pittsburgh Penguins have had a couple of rough losses in the first two games heading toward the Stanley Cup.

But with this evening's home-ice advantage, life could be a little sweeter. They will be skating hard at Mellon Arena to shut down the Detroit Red Wings in the final round.

For fans pulling game parties together, it's no problem putting dessert on the table. Bakeries are making decorated cakes and cookies, theme cupcakes and giant chocolate chip cookies plastered with the team's logo.

“We have all kinds of penguin things,” says Lara Bruhn of Prantl's Bakery in Shadyside. “We usually keep a couple in the case. Or, people will come in and ask for a specific design.”

The bakery's cake decorator, Pat Collura, didn't start making penguins treats en masse until the Pens were firmly in the Stanley Cup finals.

“She's a huge Penguins fan and very superstitious,” Bruhn says. “She started doing cupcakes and hockey pucks first.”

The cake pucks are chocolate with a layer of raspberry fondant and “Go Pens” in yellow frosting. Cookies sport licensed Penguins decals the bakery purchased. Cakes are decorated free-form with penguins or a hockey theme.

Stoecklein's Bake Shop in Blawnox offers penguin-decorated cakes, a cake in the shape of a hockey goalpost and Stanley Cup cupcakes bearing numbers from the Penguins' jerseys, says Crystal Pentarek, a spokeswoman. There also are cookies in the shape of ice cream cones.

At CoCo's Cupcake Cafe in Shadyside, there are “Stanley CupCakes,” an array of individual treats, one each with “Lets” and “Go” and “Pens,” and others with the numbers of star players -- 27 (Georges Laraque), 29 (Marc Andre-Fleury), 87 (Sidney Crosby), 55 (Sergei Gonchar), 71 (Evgeni Malkin) and 10 (Gary Roberts).

Lincoln Kretchmar, who owns Kretchmar's Bakery in Beaver, says it isn't unusual for him to sell out of jersey cookies -- decorated with players' numbers -- by the end of the business day, nor his hockey-puck cookies (“Lets Go Pens” written on the top). He also has star-shaped cookies sprayed with gold and cupcakes decorated with black and yellow sprinkles. For parties, he offers a Crosby jersey cake, as well as cakes decorated with the Pens' official logo.

“We've been doing this all season,” Kretchmar says, “but things have picked up quite a bit since the playoffs started.”

Evengi Malkin and Sidney Crosby are some of the fancy stars at Lincoln Bakery in Bellevue, which has jersey cakes with team members' numbers on them, as well as hockey puck cakes. Another cake has the Pens' official licensed emblem on it -- and in keeping with the theme, the batters are yellow and chocolate.

Hockey-puck cakes also are available at Dudt's Bakery in Allison Park. Cupcakes sport icing or a penguin figure, round sugar cookies are iced and decorated with “Go Pens” and cakes feature two little penguins with a hockey stick. In Mt. Lebanon at Graham's Bakery, decorated cakes and cupcakes of any size are sold, as well as cookies with players' numbers or big penguins piped onto them.

All of the bakeries, as well as Barkus Bakery in Bellevue and Paddy Cake Bakery in Bloomfield, say that they take special orders for cakes or cupcakes with a penguin theme.

At Giant Eagle, customers can choose from among black-and-gold cakes and cupcakes with one of the following messages: “Go Penguins,” “Go Pens,” or “Bring Home the Cup.” And at McGinnis Sisters Special Foods stores in Monroeville and Brentwood, the bakeries are offering quarter-sheet cakes with black-and gold-colored coconut used to look like a hockey rink.

Of course, you can do it yourself. If you are handy with frosting and have some cake-decorating tips, you can pipe a penguin onto a store-bought or scratch cake. When tinting frosting, use paste or gel colors; otherwise, the frosting might be too runny to pipe.

Decorate individual round, flat cakes with chocolate buttercream icing, or slice cupcakes in half crosswise and frost individually to make puck shapes. Use a serrated knife to flatten the raised top of the cupcakes. Coconut adds to the icy theme.

For a cake shaped like a penguin, try a 3-D bear-cake pan. Slice off the ears to make a round head. Use the ears for the penguin's beak, fastening it with toothpicks and icing it orange. If desired, save some of the ears to make a tail. Pipe or spread frosting to make the flippers and eyes and frost the oval belly white.

Another way to “draw” a penguin is with a stencil. Draw an outline of a penguin in the middle of a piece of wax paper. After the frosting has crusted slightly, coat the underside of the wax paper with vegetable cooking spray and place lightly on the cake. Sprinkle with cocoa powder, sparkles (through a strainer), colored sugar or confectioners' sugar, depending on the color of the frosting. Gently lift the stencil to reveal the penguin.

Or, take the easiest road. Serve a snow-white round or rectangular cake for an instant whiteout.

Wilton Enterprises is the leading food-crafting company in the industry and is No. 1 in this country in cake decorating and bakeware. These recipes come from “Decorating Cakes: A Reference & Idea Book” by The Wilton School (Wilton Industries Inc., 1999 paperback).

Buttercream Icing

Many things can be done with buttercream, from covering the cake to piping borders, flowers and most decorations. It's easy to make and manage. Its consistency can be adjusted by adding a little liquid to thin for writing messages or more confectioners' sugar to stiffen for piping perfectly defined flowers. For pure white icing and stiffer consistency, substitute all-vegetable shortening and 1/2 teaspoon butter extract for the butter or margarine. Margarine might give icing a softer texture than butter and is less desirable for decorating.

• 1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening, such as Crisco

• 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine

• 1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract

• 4 cups (about 1 pound) sifted confectioners' sugar

• 2 tablespoons milk

Cream the shortening and butter, using an electric mixer. Add the vanilla. Gradually add the confectioners' sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl often.

When all the sugar has been mixed in, the icing will appear dry. Add the milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.

Keep the icing covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. Refrigerate leftover icing in an airtight container for as long as 2 weeks. Rewhip before using.

Makes 3 cups.

Snow-White Buttercream Icing

This recipe can be doubled or halved. If halved, you will have 22/3 cups.

• 2/3 cup water

• 4 tablespoons meringue powder

• 12 cups (about 3 pounds) sifted confectioners' sugar

• 1 1/4 cups solid shortening, such as Crisco

• 3/4 teaspoon salt

• 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

• 1/2 teaspoon clear vanilla extract

• 1/4 teaspoon butter flavor

Combine the water and meringue powder. Whip at high speed until peaks form. Add 4 cups confectioners' sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating after each addition at low speed. Alternately add shortening and the remainder of the sugar. Add the salt and flavorings. Beat at low speed until smooth.

Makes 7 cups.

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