Archive for ‘Tips’

November 9, 2012

Tools of the (Cupcake) Trade

Well, I found this fun little tool at Walmart for $1.87.  When I first saw these cupcake corers on the internet,  I assumed it would be way more expensive and wrote it off as a useless gimicky gadget (say that five times fast!)  But, for the price, how could I pass it up.  It wasn’t exactly a life altering investment.

Well, good thing it wasn’t. I bought it the weekend I made the apple crisp cupcakes which I already knew I’d be filling with apples.  Perfect time to try it out.  Unless I used it wrong, it basically just cuts through the cupcake, but it doesn’t pull the middle of the cake out when you take it out.  After three attempts, I grabbed my paring knife and finished coring my cupcakes.

Moral of the story – this is not a gadget that you need to make filled cupcakes.

November 2, 2012

Tools of the (Cupcake) Trade

I find baking cups and indispensable tools for baking cupcakes.  If not just for the actual baking, at least for the serving.  I wouldn’t like for people eating my cupcakes to not have a clean surface to hold on to when they select one to eat.

I also think cupcake wrappers can add personality to otherwise bland or monochromatic cupcakes.  And, when needed they can hide out in the background to allow for a cupcakes splendor to rise up.

For that type of situation, I love the white wrappers I found at Dollar Tree.  They are super thin and waxy, and I usually need to double up, but I love how they almost become invisible.

Then, for looks or a special occasion, I like to find wrappers that are more festive or share a message such as the Class of 2012 ones I used for celebratory cupcakes during graduation season. The mini blue ones with the lighter blue circles seemed so perfect for blueberry cupcakes.

When I make mini cupcakes, I usually bake them in straight in the pan and then put them in the wrappers for serving.  This is mostly because my mini cupcake pan in wider and more shallow than the standard wrappers.

I find foil wrappers useful too when I need something really sturdy, and sometimes I’ll double my luck with them and use the white inside paper for one batch and bake cupcakes in the foil leftovers.  I don’t find the paper a necessary component when baking in them.  After all they are on the pricey side, so why not stretch the buck a little.  For a while, I was using them by request because one of my students had an issue with eating the paper wrappers!

I don’t tend to spend on the really fancy and intricately designed baking cups found in the craft stores because that just seems like a waste of money to me.  I mean, if an occasion really called for something extra special, I might splurge, but not on a regular basis.

My favorite place to buy cupcake wrappers is from the dollar bins from Michael’s.  They are cheap and cheerful.  When I run into a time when I have a few odds and ends left around, I’ll just make a batch of cupcakes using up all my leftover wrappers.  I’ll be creating a cupcake tasting for a bride and groom soon, so I can use up my extra baking cups to distinguish flavors, etc.

I received the set of red silicone baking cups as a gift, but found that they are extremely hard to clean so I don’t use them much for baking.  However, they are perfect for putting smaller items in a lunch box when you don’t want things to mix.

For storing, I’ve seen cute ideas where cupcakes cups are stored in mason jars, etc.  I find it just as easy to stack them on top of each other and sometimes I’ll reuse the Reynold’s cups they cup in for additional storage.  That’s what I did with the white cups from Dollar Tree.

October 26, 2012

Tools of the (Cupcake) Trade

An essential tool for the cupcake baker is a carrier to transport the little gems from place to place.  There are all different kinds and some are great for presenting the cupcakes as a gift or for those who are serious sellers.  That’s a post for another time.  The carriers I am referring to today however are for the home baker who may be bringing small batches to a party or the office.

My favorite one is the one pictured below that I got at Walmart for just under $5.  It can also hold deviled eggs, a whole cake or pie and maybe a few other treats.  With removable trays, it’s easy to clean and dishwasher safe.  The only thing that would improve it’s functionality is if it could hold up to 24 cupcakes instead of 12.  It has also proved useful for hosting a number of mini cupcakes snugly.

I wish I would have as many great things to say about the 24 count carrier that I recently got from My Coke Rewards.  I saved caps and entered codes all summer for it and my students helped a great deal with getting me caps.  It’s not terrible, but the tray that holds the upper 12 cupcakes bends in the middle and squished the cupcakes in the pan.  But hey, it was free with a little easy labor and when all else fails, I still got another cupcake baking tin out of the whole deal!


October 19, 2012

Tools of the (Cupcake) Trade

As part of my full-time employment, I get to go to a lot of trade shows where promotional item companies give samples in droves in hopes that we will order something imprinted with our university logo on it.  I love these events and I get a lot of useful goodies including ones I get to take home and use in the kitchen.  I have things like pizza cutters, adjustable measuring spoons, etc.

That’s where I got this little pointed spatula that is probably one of the handiest tools I have not just for cupcakes, but for many food preparation needs.  The pointy ends get in the tiniest measuring spoons and down into the last drops of products in jars.  Ever since I got it, I’ve been hoping to score another one at the trade shows, but no luck yet.

October 12, 2012

Tools of the (Cupcake) Trade

Bakers may have noticed a new product in the grocery store aisles sometime in the last 6-9 months.  Little packages of flavoring for a new fangled pre-made frosting from Duncan Hines.  They come in fun flavors like Cotton Candy, Bubble Gum, White Chocolate Raspberry and many more.

I first bought the mint flavored packet and the accompanying frosting.  I made chocolate cupcakes and topped them with Junior Mints.  The cupcakes overall got a relatively poor rating from my tasters.  I almost didn’t buy the packets again because of that and I found the frosting had a really odd consistency…gooey, but not in a good way.

Then, this summer when I was dying to make Cotton Candy cupcakes I turned to the packets when I couldn’t find the liquid flavoring from any of the stores that sell extensive baking supplies in my area.  I just figured that the packets could be thrown into a cake mix and they could also flavor a homemade butter cream despite the directions to only use Duncan Hines frosting formulated to work with it.  Don’t believe the hype!  The flavor packets worked quite well in both the cake mix and homemade frosting.

As a cupcake baker, I’ve come to love them because they are pretty cheap, they are single use so I’m not stuck with a bottle of flavoring I’ll probably not use again, and the range of flavors is great.  I just picked up some seasonal apple flavored packets for next week’s cupcakes!

October 5, 2012

Tools of the (Cupcake) Trade

I’m not big on fancy tools and gadgets, though I do find some of them useful.  This particular item is not very special, but I find it immensely helpful in filling frosting bags, spreading frosting, and sometimes the are more helpful than an actual spatula.  It’s also excellent for getting down to the last bits in a peanut butter jar.

They are just plastic spreaders and I found them at the Christmas Tree Shop on one of my visits home.  Two sizes for $1.69 have become an invaluable tool in weekly baking sessions.  I’m sure they could also be found at kitchen store, but might not be as cheap!

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.