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The Best of Springtime

Ah, spring is here, and it's time to think about garden parties and colorful ways to bring joy to your next gathering of family and friends. Keeping it simple by using shortcuts with ready-made mixes and springtime candy favorites will create just the right "pizzazz" for your next party.

For giving cookies and cupcakes a visual boost, Starburst Jellybeans provide a low fat decorating alternative. Plus, lollipop cookies are sure to be a treat for young and old alike. They can be used as a centerpiece and then your guests can take them home as party favors.

Be sure to stock up on the pastel colors of M&M'S so you can design a variety of flowers and shapes in the coming months. Think about the bridal and baby showers you'll soon be planning--and preparing--for family members and special friends.

For more recipes, decorating, gift and family fun ideas, go to www.brightideas.com.




Springtime Strawberry Cake

1 (18-ounce) box favorite cake mix
1 cup strawberry jam
2 (12-ounce each) containers whipped vanilla frosting
Red food coloring, paste or gel
1 (14-ounce) bag Starburst Jellybeans
1 (16-ounce) bag Starburst Tropical Fruit Chews

Prepare cake according to package directions. Bake in two 8-inch round cake pans. Let cakes come to room temperature. Cut both into matching strawberry shapes. Layer with strawberry jam sandwiched between. Tint frosting with red food coloring to desired shade, then frost entire cake. Separate yellow jellybeans from bag and arrange on cake, following photograph as a guide, to appear as strawberry seeds. Select and unwrap 14 green fruit chews. Warm in microwave 3 to 4 seconds, just to soften. Using fingers, press all fruit chews into one piece and slightly flatten. Using a rolling pin, roll out chews until wafer thin. Cut out two leaves. Gather up remainder and form stem. Place stem and leaves at top of cake.

Note: Can also be baked in 8-inch heart-shaped cake pans. Makes 12 servings.


1 (18-ounce) roll refrigerated sugar cookie dough or ten 4 1/2-inch cookies
10 (2 1/2-inch) medium cupcakes, store bought or homemade
2 (16-ounce each) containers white frosting
Food coloring
1 (14-ounce) bag M&M'S Milk Chocolate Candies
Starburst Jellybeans
Skittles Candies
Starburst Fruit Chews

Roll sugar cookie dough to 1/4 inch thickness and press out ten 4 1/2-inch cookies. Bake the cookies according to directions on the package. Set aside. Remove paper cupcake liner from cupcakes. Slice off rounded top of cupcake. Ice top of cupcake with 1 tablespoon frosting. Turn cupcake upside down and place on the cookie. Set "cookie hats" on wire rack. Divide icing into 4 bowls. Beginning with a few drops of food coloring, tint icing to desired pastel shade. One at a time, place icing into microwave for 15 seconds. Stir icing and check consistency for pourable consistency. Pour frosting over "hats," covering them completely. Set aside for 10 minutes. Decorate using candies. To make hat ribbons, unwrap fruit chews and soften in microwave for 5 seconds. Then thinly roll and cut into thin ribbons and wrap around the hats. Makes 10 bonnets.

Flower Cupcakes

1 (18.25-ounce) box yellow cake mix
1 (16-ounce) container white frosting
1 (16-ounce) Starburst Jellybeans, Original or Tropical Fruits

Make cupcakes according to package directions. Spread frosting onto cooled cupcakes and place jellybeans on top in a flower design. Makes 1 dozen cupcakes.

Garden Cookies

1 (18-ounce) roll refrigerated sugar cookie dough
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
6 large green craft sticks
1 (16-ounce) container prepared vanilla frosting
Assorted food coloring
2 (14-ounce each) bags M&M'S Milk Chocolate Candies
6 (6-inch) flowerpots or containers
6 Styrofoam squares or floral oasis

Preheat oven to 350 F. Knead cookie dough and flour together until smooth. Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out 6 tulip shapes (approximately 4 inches high and 3 inches wide) from dough, and transfer to cookie sheet. Gather up dough scraps and re-roll, if necessary. Slide a craft stick underneath each cookie, and press it into dough. Bake until golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer cookie sheet to wire rack. While cookies are cooling, divide vanilla frosting among 4 bowls. Using food coloring, tint to pink, light blue, yellow and pale purple. Spread frosting over each cookie, and arrange chocolate candies on top. Let dry, about 30 minutes. Fill flowerpots with Styrofoam. Press craft sticks into Styrofoam. Arrange green candies around craft sticks. Makes 6 large cookies


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