Monday, September 27, 2010

Little Miss Ladybug Cake & Cupcakes

This was probably the most fun project I've worked on to date. I was asked by a customer to make a ladybug cake for her daughter's first birthday. She showed me something similar to what she wanted and my first impression was "oh boy... how do I do THAT??". And then the wheels started spinning. We're talking about a first birthday party. With kids. And lots of them. What a disaster a tiered fondant cake would be -- to cut, to serve, to eat. So I suggested cupcakes and a smash cake for the birthday girl.

I decided to use butter cream for the smash cake (for those of you who don't know what a smash cake is, it's a little cake that gets "smashed" for photos) because the point of a smash cake is to be, well, messy! Fondant wouldn't give you the same effect. But for the cupcakes, I wanted a clean, smooth look to them that butter cream wouldn't give.

I used a ball pan for the smash cake body. It's pretty big - maybe 6" diameter. For the head, I flattened some black fondant into a round disc. I then used my edible paper and food coloring printer to print a "face", and adhered that to the black fondant disc when it hardened. For the body, I used a star tip for the pink and black, and of course added green "grass" frosting around the base. My hands were KILLING me when I was finished, but it came out great and the customer LOVED it!!

Then it was time for the cupcakes. I needed 75, so I did three different designs - 25 of each. Each had a different cake flavor and a different butter cream infusion and thin spread of frosting underneath the fondant.

My first thought was to have Brittany help with the little fondant ladybugs. They had to be made days in advance because they had to dry enough to make the dots on them with the edible marker. So she helped... for 10 minutes. Then it became boring for her. But that was a HUGE problem because hers were perfectly shaped and mine looked horrendous. No bribery in the world would make her take days to make me ladybugs. Two days before the order was due, at way past midnight.... Erik and I were working on some of the other details while I was stressing about making hundreds of ladybugs.... and there it was. Right there on my counter, caught out of the corner of my eye.... PERFECT!! I noticed that my flip measuring spoons are perfectly shaped (1/2 circle) -- and the smallest size was a perfect ladybug size. Honestly, that shining moment in my non-double oven kitchen made me feel like I had just won the lottery. Ok, maybe not a million dollar lottery, but maybe a $10 scratch-off. So I went to work popping out little ladybug bodies for the next 15 minutes and 200 were done! I went to bed with a huge smile on my face that night!!! Here's Erik putting dots and a stripe on the bug bodies... and a shot of some of the bug bodies waiting for their heads.... haha

I used a round cookie cutter to cut the fondant cupcake covers, used a leaf cookie cutter for the leaf, a flower ones for the flowers, and rolled the stems out and thinned them at the edges. I think the next time I make these, I'll make larger circles on the pink ones. They look a little lost to me.

So, so, so much fun to make these!! And they gave me the courage to make some more fun fondant toppers. I'm working on a HUGE Mario Brothers theme for a party this weekend. Stay tuned for a recap and some pictures!!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

And we have a winner.... well, 2 winners!

While we were away, I told Erik that if the give-away post generated 50 or more comments, I would give 2 baskets away. There were 58 entries, so 2 winners!

I'm running to my daughter's open house at school, but wanted to post this quick....
The winners of the Cupcake Essentials Baskets are:
Sierra and Belle!!

(Yes, I have the results and will post pics later -- but if I don't leave work now, I'll be late and you KNOW you can't be late for first period!! haha)

So Sierra & Bella, email me your addresses and I'll put your baskets together this weekend!
Thank you to all who entered! Be on the lookout for a special holiday give-away. No hints... I'll tell you right now it will be for a Babycakes Cupcake Maker!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Yummmmmy Faux-stess Cupcakes

A few months ago, I was Googling like there's no tomorrow, searching for different cupcakes to try. And then I came across the recipe for "Hostess filling". And OMG - it was heaven. Really, who doesn't love marshmallow fluff?

So I figured I'd use my standard go-to chocolate cake recipe and jazz it up a bit by adding a marshmallow creme filling. And while I was at it, I figured, "Hey, why not try to make some ganache, too." So glad I did. They flipped at work!!

So here's the deal...
Make your favorite chocolate cupcakes. Then.....

For the Marshmallow Creme Filling: (I've tried a few recipes for this -- this one is my favorite... I found it on the Evil Shenanigans blog)

2 tsp very hot water
1/4 tsp salt
1 (7 oz) jar marshmallow cream
1/2 cup shortening
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Dissolve the salt in the hot water and allow to cool. (this is EXTREMELY important.... I kept forgetting to dissolve the salt and the filling tasted salty... duh!!)

Whip the marshmallow cream, shortening, powdered sugar, and vanilla until it begins to get fluffy. Add the water/salt mixture and whip well.

I use an open star tip in a pastry bag to infuse the cupcakes with the marshmallow creme filling. I'm not a fan of using an apple corer -- it's messy - and besides, I like to feel the cupcake getting heavy in my hand when using a pastry bag to fill them. You can put sooooo much more filling in them than you get in the Hostess ones!!

I then spread a thin layer of the marshmallow creme on top of the cupcakes and refrigerate for a few minutes to chill them.

Now it's time for the ganache frosting....
I like to keep it simple - so I use 2 ingredients. Heavy cream and chocolate. I had taken a class at the Viking Cooking School and couldn't believe how easy ganache was to make. Now I finally had a chance to make my own!

For the ganache:
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 oz. quality semisweet chocolate (chopped into small pieces so it melts quicker)

Place chocolate into a heat-proof bowl. In a saucepan, bring 1/2 cup heavy cream just to a boil and remove from stove. Pour it over the chocolate and cover with plastic wrap for 5 minutes. When finished, slowly mix with a wire wisk until completely blended.

Dip the tops of the cupcakes into the ganache until the marshmallow creme topping is completely covered. If you need to, twirl the cupcake as you lift it to catch the excess ganache. I rarely have to do this.

For the swirled decor on top, I like to use either butter cream or royal icing. I've used the marshmallow creme, but it seemed to melt, so I don't suggest that! You can use a #3 tip in a pastry bag and pipe a message or design onto your cupcakes, or just go with the signature curls.

Now hurry up and make these!!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Slacking in September? Nope, just on vacation on "One Happy Island"

No, I haven't been slacking... I'm in Aruba with my hubby for a much needed vacation! But I have to say that I'm definitely having cupcake withdrawals! I had thought about bringing my Babycakes machine, but I had a feeling Erik was looking forward to a "frosting-free" week. Going through the grocery store here in Aruba, it was difficult to stare at the baking aisle and not buy something. I could have picked up a cake mix and ingredients, but the thought of having to use canned frosting, coupled with the sadness that I didn't sneak a pastry bag and 1M tip in my suitcase just made baking in Aruba a passing thought. Well, not passing... I'm still obsessing over it because I could have posted cupcake pics at the pool bar, with the freaking HUGE iguanas, and under a hut on the beach. Next vacation, I promise!

So we met these nice fellow NY'ers yesterday at the pool. And I shared my blog address with Courtney. Courtney, if you have a chance to stop by and are reading this, leave me a comment and I will send you some cupcakes!

Now, we saw a building that said "take time to be nice", so in honor of this amazingly relaxing vacation, I'm going to do just that... take time to be nice... and have my first blog give-away.

My very first give-away is going to be for a cupcake essentials basket, complete with a 1m tip, pastry bags, greaseproof cupcake papers, AND (drumroll please.......) a container of your choice of buttercream frostings (which will be chilled if the winner isn't local). How can you enter this give-away? Simply leave a comment about your favorite cupcake, about your cupcake obsession, or just a "nice" comment. I will be randomly selecting a winner when we get back to the states and get settled (yeah, updating my blog from my iPad is a pain in the ass). So entries will be accepted through midnight on Wednesday september 22nd and a winner selected on Thursday the 23rd.

Thanks for stopping by, hope you enter the give-away, and be on the lookout for a few new cupcakes next week!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

September already? Back to School with a favorite cookie-inspired cupcake

Last month's poll for which cupcake to feature in September was close -- but my Oreo Cookies & Cream cupcake came out the winner! I have to say, this is one YUMMY recipe!! I never make this cake base from scratch because I found the perfect adaptation using a white cake mix. And when something is this delicious, why screw around with it, right??

Here's the adapted cake recipe:
1/2 bag of Oreo cookies (not double-stuff)

1 box of white cake mix
1 cup Sour Cream
1/2 cup Canola or Vegetable Oil

3 Large eggs
1 tsp vanilla

And the frosting recipe:

1 stick of salted butter (room temperature)
1 tsp clear vanilla
4 c confectioner's sugar
1 block of cream cheese (not softened) - cut into cubes (*use Philly... tr
ust me)
some Oreo crumbles
Mini Oreos as a garnish (like in the 100 calorie pack/cup)

Now how do you make these delicious creations?? Preheat oven to 350.
To make the cupcakes, mix the sour cream, oil, eggs and vanilla together. When combined, add the white cake mix. Then, break up about 15 cookies into smaller pieces. I do not put them in a blender -- I like pieces of cookie in my cupcake, not just crumbs. Fold them into the batter - do not beat or they will become crumbs.

Spoon them into your cupcake papers - filling them 2/3 of the way. Bake for approx 20 minutes -- until the tops begin to look light golden and spring back to the touch. Remember, one extra minute in the oven makes a HUGE difference.

When done, place on cooling racks until completely cooled. Always make sure your cupcakes are completely cooled, especially when using a cream cheese based frosting! If you've watched Cupcake Wars, you'll understand what happens when you frost hot cupcakes!!

Now for the cream cheese frosting:

Beat the butter and vanilla until blended. Add sugar one cup at a time, scraping the sides frequently. Whip in the cream cheese, a few cubes at a time. By adding the cream cheese cold (and not softened), the frosting will retain some of its stiffness. Do NOT overbeat -- just whip enough to blend the cream cheese. Then fold in the Oreo crumbles (don't overmix the crumbs in - just fold them in -- otherwise the frosting will turn gray).

To frost, I use an off-set spatula to lightly frost the cupcake - then press it into some Oreo crumbs. Then, using a round tip or just a coupler, pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes and garnish with a mini Oreo.

Your kids, hubby, friends, (and you) will LOVE these cupcakes if you're a fan of Cookies & Cream!!