Archive for September, 2012

September 28, 2012

Tools of the (Cupcake) Trade

I wanted to share a few helpful hints I’ve learned along the way in making cupcakes.  Little tidbits that make things easier, and I contend thereby more fun!

I’d be surprised if most people don’t know this one already…

To easily fill up a frosting bag, insert the bag with the tip already secured inside into a cup and fold the excess bag over the sides of the cup.  Now, you can easily fill the bag and roll the sides up with out a huge mess!

The cup also comes in handy once the bag is full as a place to put it when not in use.

September 27, 2012

Fondant Ribbon Roses How To

Here’s a quick tutorial for making fondant ribbon roses.  You’ll need:

  • Fondant
  • Shortening
  • Cornstarch
  • Tinfoil or wax paper and scotch tape
  • Rolling pin – a smooth plastic one or one made for rolling fondant works best
  • Fondant ribbon wheel or pastry wheel
  • Ruler if using a pastry wheel
  • Paring knife

Cover your counter top with a sheet of foil and smooth out as much as possible.  Don’t worry, it doesn’t need to be perfect! Just make sure there are no big creases in it.  Taping it down will help keep it in place too.

Rub a small amount of shortening over the surface of the tinfoil, then dust lightly with cornstarch.

Place your fondant on the tinfoil.  Before you begin rolling you may also want to light grease your rolling pin too.

Begin to roll the fondant by rolling in the pin away from you.  You can’t really roll back and forth like you would with dough, so just keep rolling away from you.  You may need to re-angle your rolling pin in diagonal or horizontal rolls to make sure it is rolling out evenly.

Roll until you have a very thin sheet about 1/8 thick.  Using your fondant ribbon cutter, make as many ribbons as the size of your fondant sheet.  My ribbon cutter was set on 1 inch.

If you are using a pastry wheel, I suggest marking off the size you need, then placing the ruler on the fondant to use as a straight line guide for the pastry wheel to follow when cutting.

Pull one strip from the sheet and cover the rest of the fondant with a clean towel.

Next, cut the ends of each strip with a paring knife to get a clean edge.  I like to cut one end on the diagonal.

Starting with the diagonal end, roll the dough a little tightly at first then once you get it going, lift the strip off the counter and finish roll by hand.  This allows you to make the rolls looser as you continue to go around.

You can get really loose, like I do, or you can just slightly graduate your looseness as you go around.  Sometimes, I even give a slight fold at the bottom of one of the rolls because it opens up the roll a little bit more and makes it more natural.

At this point you can just smooth the edges by tapping lightly with your finger to soften up any cracks, or you can pinch out the rolled layers for a more open and soft effect.  That is what I did to make the roses on the Wedding Cupcakes.

You can make these ribbon roses more structured by keeping the cut end straight (instead of cutting one on the diagonal), and adjusting the rolls to be tighter and more even all the way around.

My flowers didn’t come out like perfect little roses, but I like the organic form they took on and that each one ended up with it’s own unique look.  I also used a pearl candy for the bud in each one which I thought pulled the whole cupcake together nicely.


September 24, 2012

Pumpkin Cupcakes w/ Maple Buttercream and Pumpkin Truffles

This week’s cupcake continues to take inspiration from the same wedding, a gorgeous Fall weekend in New Hampshire, the wedding favor and the final arrival of decent fall temps in Hotlanta.

Adorable little glass juglets of pure maple syrup were the favor at the Hollywood couple’s wedding and as soon I as received my little treat, I knew instantly that the contents were not destined for a sole stack of pancakes, but for cupcakes!  Duh.  To welcome the cooling weather that at least comes in the evening and early mornings, I felt pumpkin would be an appropriate cake for the maple butter cream I planned.   And, as it happened I had just come across a cake recipe that only called for a can of pumpkin and a yellow cake mix.

While I was still home, I also came across an easy recipe for pumpkin truffles that seemed like perfect toppers and enough of a challenge to add to an otherwise simple recipe.  I forgot to copy the recipe before leaving though and had to look for a manageable one on the internet.  This one seemed to do, but I replaced the gingersnaps with vanilla wafers and added a pinch of ginger.  As you’ll see from the results, I’m not so good with the chocolate covered part, but I don’t mind when things look imperfect as these did.

Recipe for Cupcakes (if you can really call it that!)

  • One yellow cake mix – I used the Butter Recipe type
  • One can of pumpkin

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake tin with liners.  Mix the two ingredients together.

The batter will be much stiffer than a typical cupcake batter.  It will eventually spread and rise up in the pans, so if you want nice even tops, you might want to smooth it out a little bit first.  I did not and my cupcakes came out like little rocky mountains.  The frosting will cover it up though!

For the frosting, I used this recipe.  (Gorgeous site, btw!) The flavor was very subtle, but delicious.  If you want a stronger maple flavor you might search for a recipe that calls for maple extract instead.

For the pumpkin truffles, I followed this recipe, but would probably recommend following it exactly and using the gingersnaps.  What I loved is that it didn’t make a huge batch because I only wanted enough to top the cupcakes.

The Results…

Overall, this was a decent cupcake.  It got good reviews from everyone who ate one, so it was hard to accept praise as I don’t think it was an all-time best.  The cake had more of a muffin texture and I worried that it was a little “gummy”, but no one seemed to comment as much.  It was super sweet and the butter flavor from the mix was evident in a good way.

I loved the subtle flavor of the maple butter cream.  It had just a hint of maple.  I think it would have been worth the effort to get gingersnaps for the truffles because they needed a little more kick, but I think the overall they look great!

P.S. The cupcake wrappers were from the dollar section in Target and they stayed bright after baking!  I like how they match the flavor and season of the cupcakes.

September 17, 2012

Here comes the…cupcake!

Notice a missing cupcake post last week?  I was on what I call vacation- home to visit my parents and attend my favorite cousin’s wedding! My mother made the wedding cake, and I contributed by making the roses for the decorations.  It was pretty cool because I don’t really work with fondant that much, but helping out with the cake got me into it.

We called it the Red Carpet Cake for the Hollywood couple getting married.

I, probably like most people, don’t like to actually eat fondant.  Some people think it tastes gross and some people think it’s tasteless.  However, my mom made fondant from scratch and it was delicious.  I kept sneak eating the scraps from my roses!  She made way more than she needed and insisted I take some home which was sort of terrifying because the white blob wrapped in cling wrap looked like a warped brick of cocaine and I couldn’t decide if I should try to take it in my carry-on or stow it in my checked bag.  I ended up with enough room and dropped it in my suitcase right before checking it.  Then, my heart skipped a beat when three TSA agents came roaming around my gate.  I imagined them hauling me away and questioning me about my “cake” supplies.  In the end, I and the fondant made it back without incident.

She also gave me all her extra store bought fondant and other supplies and I got totally inspired to play around with everything and see if I could make some pretty little cakes with the fondant.  I’ve been stowing this “wedding cake flavor” cupcake from Recipe Girl on my Pinterest inspiration board for quite a while, so it seemed like the perfect recipe paired with simple butter cream frosting.

Then came the fun with fondant.  The first time I ever made fondant flowers was for the first wedding cake my mom ever made.  I didn’t take a class or watch a video.  I just made freehand petals and stuck them together.  They came out great, and this time my mom insisted on “stylized” ribbon roses from her inspiration cake.  I didn’t mind the simplicity of making the roses this way, but I like the petals to look a little more “real” so when I had creative license, I used the same technique, but I just pinched out the petals so they had a more natural look…well, as natural as you can get with neon fondant!

I added some candy pearls to make little buds in the center of each flower.  They didn’t all come out looking anything like a real flower would, but I liked them anyhow and everyone looked super impressed when they came into the office today.  I had to tell everyone that the flower was just for decoration though because the fondant was so terrible.  Some of them braved a little taste, but they all made the same face once it hit there tongue.  Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty!

The Results…

Looks aside, as pretty as they did turn out, this was an outstanding cupcake and butter cream frosting!  I do believe these are the best cupcakes I’ve made yet.  I followed the recipe to a T, and the cake is just gorgeous.  I have no problem with a semi-homemade recipe and anytime I need a white cake recipe, this will be my go to.

The butter cream was also the smoothest, best tasting I’ve made also.  I think this is because of a few things.  The butter and frosting ratios are different than my typical base recipe.  Also, I used heavy cream instead of half-and-half or milk and I really let the butter soften up on the counter before combining all the ingredients together- please don’t ask what I usually do insted!  While I will probably still use my base recipe for flavored frostings, when I need a plain butter cream this will also be my standard.

Stay tuned for a ribbon rose tutorial coming later this week!

September 3, 2012

Blueberry Lemon Cupcakes

Since my tasting audience is 99.9% students, I often ask what kind of cupcakes they’d like to see on Monday. Sometimes I may ask someone whose birthday is coming up or if I want to connect with someone. There are times when I just have so many choices I don’t want to be the one to decide! If we’re near a computer or iPad, I’ll hand over my Cupcake/Monday Pinterest board for them to scroll. If not, I ask for a flavor profile. The latter is how this week’s cupcakes came to be.

I’ve found several different variations of blueberry lemon cupcakes around the web, and at first I found one I was going to use. But, then when I was in the store to pick up a white cake mix that the recipe called for I saw a lemon cake mix and thought I’d make up my own cupcakes this week.

I also got a new cupcake pan for making mini cupcakes. When making a purchase for kitchen equipment, I hate to admit but my strategy is always to go with the cheapest over the highest quality. This time I made an exception though. While in Home Goods, I found a couple of different mini muffin tin options. At first glance they were mostly the same, but then I found this one that was a little larger than the others and the wells were wider, but more shallow. The wells were really unique and although the pan was $5 more than the others, I really liked it. Standard mini cupcake liners are too small for the wells, but I just put the cupcakes in the papers after baking as you’ll see.

The Recipe

Lemon Cake Mix (plus ingredients called for on the box)
Zest of one lemon
One bag frozen blueberries
2 oz. water
1 tbs. sugar
4 c. powdered sugar
1 stick butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tin or line with paper liners.

In a small saucepan, add half the bag of blueberries, water, and sugar. Bring to a boil and cook until blueberries can be mashed easily and a thick sauce that coats a spoon forms.

While blueberries are cooking, prepare cake batter according to package directions and add zest of one lemon. Pour batter into muffin tins. Place about three blueberries per cupcake in the middle of the batter. You should still have blueberries left over for garnish.

Bake cupcakes until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center. My mini cupcakes took 14 minutes, my larger versions (I had a ton of leftover batter) took 20 minutes. Allow to cool.

For the frosting, start by pureeing the blueberries in a food processor – the mixture will have texture, and not be completely smooth. Place mixture in a bowl and add butter and sifted powdered sugar and beat with electric mixture until well combined. This will not be a smooth frosting since blueberry bits will be speckling the mixture, beautifully so.

Frost cupcakes with the tip of your choice and top each peak with a blueberry. It is wise to pick out the best of the blueberries for this before using them for the other parts of the cupcakes.

The Results…

Visually, these cupcakes are stunning! The color of the frosting is a gorgeous purple and the dark blueberry looks like a black pearl perched on top!

I first tried the larger version of the cupcakes and was a little disappointed because the blueberry flavor in the frosting felt too subtle. Since the regular size cupcakes were an afterthought, I didn’t have any blueberries to put in the batter or on the frosting. A few leftover swirls of the cooked mixture went into the batter, but only added visual appeal not flavor. It also let me know another stick of butter was necessary, but I only had one left so there was no immediate remedy to be had.

I wondered then about the flavor mini versions with each one hiding three blueberries inside plus the one on top. This time, I was really pleased because they really popped with the right amount of blueberry flavor and the combination of the two flavors was perfectly balanced. The frosting is the perfect hit of sweetness against the tart blueberries. Once I loaded them in the carrier I was so happy to find that two didn’t fit so I just had to eat them instead!