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!