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Sweet Design Company: Apple Spice Muffins

By Catherine McCulloch

Apple Spice Muffins are a sweet snack loaded with slices of apple, fragrant with cinnamon and nutmeg. We made these muffins as a special treat for a brand new day care, Islington Village Child Care Centre  in the west end of Toronto. Sweet Design is especially excited about this new venture because we were asked to create a brand identity, website, as well as consult on color development for the facility.

The motto for the centre is 'A Community To Learn & Play'. To that end we used a graphic image that symbolized elements of the daycare's philosophies. The apple is an iconic symbol of learning, reflecting growth and development physically, emotionally and academically. A red apple was chosen because of its bright color, one that exudes energy and indicates a stimulating  environment.

The heart speaks to the love of children and the importance of creating a positive atmosphere with trusting relationships and lots of fun. The tree in the middle of the logo represents the notion of community both as a childcare center and on a larger scale, their role within the neighbourhood. Strong and vital, the tree is full of fruit, each apple a little different from the next, much like every child.

In keeping with the fresh feel of the brand, interior spaces were finished in colors that corresponded to the logo. Flooring, trim and one accent wall in each room was color coded according to the apple colors in the tree; sunny yellow for the youngest ones, bright lime green for the toddlers, vibrant orange for the JK’s and SK’s and signature red for The Big Apple, the special events center.

We also created a website for this excellent daycare centre in order to provide parents with information about their extensive daycare, nursery school, and before-and-after school services. They also wanted a vehicle that would reflect their high standard of services from organic food catering and the Jolly Phonics reading program to the expertise of their staff. As every parent knows, nothing is more important than the care of their children so we gave the website a personality that is professional and capable yet still vibrant and warm. For more information about the centre, see their website at; or call the director, Julia Meffe, at 416-255-2000. For more information on Apple Spice Muffins with Cinnamon Stick Toppers see the recipe below.

 Apple Spice Muffins


1/4 cup Brown Sugar

1/3 cup Flour

1/2 cup Butter cut into squares

1 Tsp Cinnamon


1 1/2 cups Flour

3/4 cup Brown Sugar

1/2 Tsp Salt

2 Tsp Baking Powder

1 Tsp Cinnamon

1/2 Tsp Nutmeg

1/3 Cup Vegetable Oil

1 Egg

1/3 Cup Milk

2 Tart Apples (like Granny Smith) peeled and chopped

18 Cinnamon Sticks

Mix together Topping ingredients and set aside. Preheat oven to 350. Line a muffin tin with cupcake holders.

Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. In a separate bowl combine the oil, well beaten egg and milk. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together. Fold in the chopped apples. Fill muffin tins with the muffin mixture. Sprinkle 2 Tablespoons of topping over each muffin.

Bake for 20 - 25 minutes. Makes approximately 18 muffins.  

For a fun presentation idea, let the muffins cool then insert a cinnamon stick into each muffin.


Sweet Design Company: Casual Holiday Treats

By Catherine McCulloch

Holiday entertaining ranges from the full-on-over-the-top Christmas party extraveganza to a casual get together with family or a few friends. Sometimes it's nice to have a paired down afternoon where everyone can ignore the crush at the mall, sit around an outdoor fire and take a break from the hectic, crazy part of the season.

For a simple dessert presentation for a small gathering, lemon raspberry trifle is a great make-ahead option. This dessert is best assembled the night before so that all the tart and sweet flavours melt together. Mocha cupcakes with buttercream icing and chocolate dipped oreos with crushed candy canes can be purchased at your local bakery to fill out your dessert display while keeping the work to a minimum.

There are simple, quick ways to add a little festive flair to your display that don't require much time or effort. Pick one color to tie your desserts together. I started with a fun red and white candy cane scarf hung over a garden bench to set the theme. A swath of bright red ribbon around the trifle bowl and attached to the tray handles adds another splash of color. Red and white sparkling striped scrapbooking paper, silver cupcake liners and red sprinkles brighten the mocha cupcakes. And a bed of red sprinkles for the candy cane oreos provides contrast to the white platter and backdrop of snow.

A little sweet break to enjoy the crisp coolness of winter and the warmth of friends.


Sweet Design Company: Christmas Party Dessert Mantle 

By Catherine McCulloch

Decor and desserts - what could be more fun that a sweet display that's part of the Christmas decorations! A mantle filled with sparkling ornaments and color themed treats can become the focal point for a party. The home where this holiday fete was hosted is decorated in Cape Cod blue and features Canadian artwork of Quebec winters. With an icy color palate and snowy scenes, it seemed only natural to create a dessert buffet in shades of blue with accents of white and silver.

This particular mantle is deep and spans the width of the living room affording enough space to include decor pieces as well as sweets for 125 people. We wanted lots of sparkle so we included shiny ornaments piled in different shaped glass containers and arranged a few oversized ornaments on the mantle. We also included mini ornaments on white and silver heirloom platters between the treats.

More sparkle came from the blue glitter paper and silver snowflake paper on the risers which were decorated to look like Christmas presents. Snowflakes were repeated in the sugar cookies and again as sprinkles on the red velvet and vanilla cupcakes. Other treats included chocolate and vanilla cake pops, chocolate and espresso macarons, petit fours, crinkle cookies, brownies, empire biscuits, truffles, chocolate dipped pretzels, candy sticks, rock candy and sour raspberries.

The entire display was framed by 2 small white lit Christmas trees on either end of the mantle. White pine boughs with tiny Christmas lights were tucked behind the serving pieces so the mantle glowed as the sun went down.

If you're throwing a party and inviting lots of people who don't know each other, a dessert display over your mantle is a great place for people to linger and mingle. Nothing like a decision over chocolate truffles or chocolate macarons to start a conversation!



Sweet Design Company: Autumn Cupcakes

By Catherine McCulloch

The last of the leaves are falling. American Thanksgiving is just around the corner. As we hang on to the fading days of Autumn, it's great to be able to squeeze in at least one more outdoor event before the icy coldness of winter forces us indoors. A great way to pay homage to the season is through some Autumn Chocolate Cupcakes.

Because every fallen leaf is a slightly different color, the gum paste leaves for these cupcakes are also all slightly different. In order to achieve this effect separate your gum paste into two different balls making sure to tightly cover the one you're not working with. Add a little yellow food coloring to the first ball and work in the color. Once the ball is completely yellow, roll it out and brush on a little extra yellow food coloring unevenly over the surface. Cut your leaves with an oak or maple shape then mold each leaf a little differently, letting them dry.

Take another ball and repeat the process with orange food coloring. Press together the leftover scraps from  the yellow and orange balls to form one new ball. Don't work them in too much because you want to have a varigated effect. Roll out the new ball, brushing on a little more orange food coloring. Each leaf will be a little different but all will be within the same color palate.

Finish the leaves by adding veins with a food marker. Insert the leaves into the cupcakes at different angles and add sprinkles of yellow sugar or non-pareils. A wooden tray with orange ribbon tied to the handles provides a rustic aesthetic that's perfect for your last outdoor Autumn event.


Sweet Design Company: Autumn Wedding Candy Bar

By Catherine McCulloch, Photography by Michael Fantauzzi

Autumn elegance with a splash of fun was the theme for this candy table set up for Domenic and Christina's wedding at Hazelton Manor. The bride wanted a table filled with confection where the candy apples and carmels apples were the stars of the show. In order to showcase the hand dipped apples we featured them on amber cut-glass cake pedestals from Vintage Dish Rental. They also provided pretty amber depression glass candy dishes and matching plates to add a little more sparkle to the table.

It wasn't hard to play up the natural color scheme and elements of Autumn. Miniature pumpkins were displayed on long stemmed glass pieces and placed between candy jars. Pumpkin stems were decorated with yellow polka dotted grosgrain ribbon, brightly colored Fall leaves tucked underneath. To evoke a little glamour, risers and candy labels were decorated with rhinestones, and oversized sunflowers in white and varying shades of orange featured sequence centers.

Although most of the candy was yellow, orange or red, the flavour selection was huge to appeal to as many guests as possible. From Fall staples like candy corn and big foots to sour peaches and sour raspberries, Reeces Pieces and Hersey's Kisses, candy sticks and pixie sticks, yougurt dipped pretzels and yogurt dipped raisens, licorice, gumballs and a big favorite with young and old alike - chocolate dipped marshmallows. Sweet Love for everyone - but most especially for Christina and Domenic.