Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Ornaments

For the Merrimack Concert Association Bake Sale, from the Hello Cupcake book. Very quick and easy. Close up of one:

Josh's Birthday Cake

Yes, it's blue. I was going for a moderately manly look, so I avoided flowers. Instead I hand-piped the snowflakes and added pearl drops for the snow.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Apple Cider Donuts

These were delicious hot out of the fryer. From an old Washington Post article.

Manger Douse

I made this cake in order to try a technique I'd just learned of: Frozen Buttercream Transfer. I'm interested in any non-fondant technique, because though I love how fondant looks, it tastes like butt, and cake is supposed to taste good, right? This technique requires a piece of Plexiglass and a picture. You tape the picture to one size of the glass, tape plastic wrap to the other, and trace the image with frosting. You put the whole thing in the fridge for at least a half hour, then flip the image upside down onto a frosted cake.

I used canned frosting for the outline, which was a mistake. You can see that it peeled off the edges in some places. The rest of it is homemade buttercream, slightly thinned, which worked excellently.

Have you ever wondered what you'd accidentally think of if you were told by Gozer to choose the form of your destruction? I think I have my answer here. It wouldn't be the Stay-Puft Man, it'd be Danger Mouse. I decided that since this was a practice cake, I'd do the first feasible thing that came into my mind. So, "crumbs!" Danger Mouse it was. However, I've always struggled with my spatial relations, as anyone who's asked me to read a map might know. If I'm in the car with you and I say, "the map says to turn left," you should turn right. Or go straight. Or back up. Try anything but left and you'll have a better chance of getting where you're going. Well, my spatial relations caught up with me here. I forgot that the transfer would be a mirror image, and Danger Mouse has his initials on his shirt. So he came out as "Manger Douse" instead of Danger Mouse.

Oh, and since the cake has been consumed, I feel comfortable saying that I've discovered that the cat loves butter. First I caught her licking the buttercream frosting. She won't lick ice cream, but apparently buttercream does it for her. Then, when I'd buttered and floured the pans for the cake, she licked that, too. I scooped out the part she'd licked from the frosting, but I left the pans. A little kitty spit never hurt anyone...did it?

I Don't Like Apple Pie

In an effort to release my family from the horrible duty of constant cake consumption, I've been branching out to other baked goods. Also, I'd never tried apple pie before. You'd think I'd been born in India or something, but no, I'm American through and through. However, apple pie has no chocolate, which explains why I've never had any.

The recipe for the crust and pie came from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. The crust was delicious, but the general verdict was that the filling needed more spice. I'd add my own two cents in, but it turns out that I don't like apple pie. So tart! So unchocolatey! However, I feel slightly better about my life knowing that I tried it, at least.

Not pictured but two other recipes worth sharing that I've made recently:
This is my holiday standby, and the moment it turned from September to October, I had to pull that lonely can of pumpkin from the cupboard: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread.

I'd never made muffins before, but this recipe is excellent: To Die For Blueberry (or chocolate chip, if you're me) Muffins.

Mondrian Cupcakes

I made these in an effort to reproduce a major work of art in cupcake form. I got the idea from my Hello, Cupcake book, in which they loosely reproduce Van Gogh's "Starry Night". Not wanting to copy, I chose a different (and much easier) painting. Originally I'd been thinking Kandinsky, but I was simultaneously delighted and horrified by the idea of reproducing artwork made completely of straight lines on top of round cakes. Mondrian won this time, but Kandinsky, I'm coming for you soon.

Cupcake Bites

These were a request from Lauren for Ryan's 30th birthday party. They're cake balls shaped and decorated like mini cupcakes. Stolen from Bakerella again.

Fran's Cakes

These cupcakes were for a 50th birthday party luncheon, as requested by Fran. I combined buttercream flowers, candy butterflies, and candy numbers on extra-jumbo cakes. They looked good except that it was around 800 degrees the day I did these, and the frosting melted terribly.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Flower practice

My mom needed to bring something to a party, so she asked me to make cupcakes. Jay's parents (who got me all the cake decorating equipment to begin with) got me the 2nd book of the Wilton decorating series (flowers) for my birthday, so I decided to try some of the flowers out on these cupcakes. These came out great! I made four designs: roses, rosette bunches, chrysanthemums, and blue cartoony flowers. I invented the last type, because I had a bunch of cupcakes left and I needed something easy to do. I actually think they look cute and lent the plate some variety. The mums were my favorites, though.

The cat had a hand in these cupcakes, or a paw, as it turns out. I left the roses and rosettes out to dry and she managed to step on them. Some of the roses were a little squished in the middle, though most of them were salvageable. Then, when I was almost done, she jumped onto the counter about two inches from the cakes. Fortunately she freaked out and jumped right down once I started shrieking.

Record Player

This was my first carved cake. It's fairly simple and it doesn't look as cute in the photos as it did in person. The song and artist were the first thing that popped into my head. This one is pound cake and Wilton buttercream frosting (which used all shortening instead of butter--yuck) with fondant accents. Unfortunately it was huge, so most of it got thrown out, but it was fun to make, and it was great practice.

First Fondant Cake

This was my first attempt at a completely fondant-covered cake. Now, I'm not a big fan of fondant, since it tastes like butt, but I figured I should learn how to work with it anyway. This cake was dark chocolate with homemade buttercream underneath all the fondant. Jay thought it looked like a Mario Brothers cake. I gave this one away, so I'm not sure how it tasted, but I'm happy that the fondant was smooth. I didn't know that would be so easy to do.

I had a minor disaster while making this cake--I'd placed the box of powdered sugar on top of the fridge next to me, which of course fell down on top of me. It made a huge mess all over me and the floor. Then the cat rolled around in it. That left both of us covered in sugar and two species of white footprints all over the house.

Easter Cupcakes

Not much to say about these. Cute, though, aren't they?
I made twelve egg cupcakes and the rest of the batch just got dollops of frosting. When I was doing the dollops, they looked amazingly like little piles of doggie doo. The little hearts and flowers helped reduce the excrement-ness...or made it look like the dog had had a very interesting meal. Your choice.
I've been attempting to improve my photography skills, and this week, I've discovered--gasp--wait for it--how to turn off the flash (work with me here people, I'm a musicologist, we're not so good with technology). It helped, don't you think?

I've also been trying to do that nifty thing where the front item is in focus and the ones behind are progressively fuzzier. This is the closest I got:
I want to eat that front one now, don't you? Now I just have to learn how to remove the cans of cat food from behind the picture before I snap it.

Because on your birthday...

you get to decorate your cake however you want. This birthday girl wanted to practice the technique of filling in shapes with the star tip, so she made a kitty stick figure on her cake.
And she wrote "yay" in the corner, just for kicks.

Partway through the evening, someone very carefully cut out kitty's head and served it to me. I wasn't hungry, so I didn't eat it, and by the end of the night, kitty's head was reattached to his body, only upside down.


I made these for a small gathering at my friend Erin's house. They were really fun to make. The sunflowers were oreos with frosting petals and Fruit Roll-up leaves, and the ladybugs were M&Ms. I loved using my frosting tips and will definitely be using them more often.

Some cupcakes had two sunflowers or more:
And some had ladybugs, while others were not as lucky.

Butterfly in the Sky

I can fly twice as high!

I had the Reading Rainbow theme song in my head all day yesterday as I made these. My mother chose these cupcakes out of the book at Christmastime, and didn't think I'd actually do them. Well, Mom underestimated me! Mom's birthday is on Wednesday, so the J crew (that's Jay, Josh, and Joanna) and I went up to mis padres for dinner last night, and the butterflies came along.

These are my favorite cupcakes so far. Not only are they completely vegetarian, but they turned out the closest to the book design. They were also very tasty--the last two designs were extremely sugary, but these, with dark chocolate cake and dark chocolate in the wings, were just right.

The wings are made of two different colors of candy melting wafers. The wafers are melted in ziplock bags and then dripped onto wax paper. This was certainly the hardest part. First of all, the book insists that it's easy to use ziplock bags for decorating (both for the wafers and for frosting designs). That is a load of horse hockey. The bags are far too flimsy and no matter how much tape I use to reinforce the seams, they constantly break apart. I've ended up covered in chocolate every time. So from now on, it's official cake decorating bags only for me.

The wings set really fast. Once I didn't even have time to sprinkle the nonpareils on before it had set. So that is one plus--the process moves fairly fast. 24 sets of wings took me about an hour, and probably would take half the time now that I've gotten the hang of it. The rest of the decorating is fairly simple. The wings are held up by M&Ms underneath:

Jay deserves an honorable mention for his involvement in the Butterfly Cupcakes. First of all, I sent him to the store twice: once for eggs, and once because I'd accidentally made the wrong kind of cake (it had pudding in it and the cupcakes blew up like muffins, impossible to frost). Then, as we were leaving the house with cupcakes in hand, he took a bad step and twisted his ankle horribly, but managed to save the cupcakes from certain death and dismemberment. His ankle blew up to the size of a baseball and he is hobbling around like an old man today.

I have no more cupcake plans for at least a month from now; so, if you are having a party, invite me, because I'm bringing cupcakes.

Little Effing Penguins

After a pretty crappy January, I've finally gotten around to making Cupcake Project Round Two. This time I picked penguins, since there's only a month left of winter (wahoo!), and I was making them for my friends Dylan and Mandy, who were having a party. For some reason, I felt Mandy would appreciate penguins.

Here is how they came out:

These were much easier than the dogs, mostly because I could assembly-line them. The most time-consuming part was creating the shape: they are made with a donut hole on top of half a mini donut on top of the cupcake. The whole thing is slathered with frosting to hold it together, then dipped in more frosting, which allows them the ability to give you diabetes immediately.

I made two versions. This is the vegetarian version, with gumdrops and Mamba candies:
And this is the original recipe, with marshmallows and Starburst:
The Mambas were a great replacement for the gelatin-laden Starburst, but the gumdrops didn't look as good as the marshmallow, since they're not as stark white. I'm still looking for some veggie marshmallows--our Whole Foods didn't have them. Also, the penguins were supposed to have Starburst feet, but I was too lazy, so I skipped that part. I'm also starting to hate those chocolate cookies--I ruined a bunch of flippers, and then they softened as the evening went on and fell off the penguins. However, they were much appreciated by the partygoers. Mandy kept saying, "they're little effing penguins!" Only she didn't really say effing, but you know.

Next installment of the Cupcake project coming soon!

Pup Cakes

For New Year's Eve, I took the opportunity to try my first batch of decorated cupcakes. I picked designs that didn't involve piping, since I don't feel too confident with that yet, but had multiple versions to try. The ingredients for the pup cakes were really easy to find, too. Here is how they came out:
From left to right: dalmation, chocolate lab, beagle, dachshund.

Sadly, the first three are not vegetarian, since their muzzles are made of marshmallow (underneath all that frosting). So I decided to make the dachshund also, which was the least cute in the book, but the only one without any marshmallow. He looks great in real life, though, and turned out to be my favorite.
The book (called Hello, Cupcake!) insists that all of the designs are easy enough for anyone. I agree that they were easy; however, they're very time-consuming. It took me three hours to make eight of them, though it was a fun three hours. Most of the time came from cutting the chocolate cookies (you can see the cookies on the dachshund's ears; they also make up all the dogs' mouths), and mixing frosting colors and loading bags. I couldn't find a good way to shape the cookies, which turned out to be the most annoying part. They tended to split in the wrong places. The book suggests popping them in the microwave for a couple of seconds to soften them, but that did nothing for me. The rest of the designs were easy. The ears for the beagle and lab are made of smooshed Tootsie Rolls, which was fun, and the pink tongues are squished Starburst.

I made two of each breed. Here is the whole dog park:
The book has a ton of really cute designs, so I hope you all like cupcakes, because that's what you're getting for your birthday!