Monday, October 22, 2012

Dusting off the keyboard with 2 months worth of cupcake making!

Hello?? Hold on one second while I blow the dust off of this blog.

Holy cannoli. I haven't blogged in ages. I've been so busy with being a Bake consultant and baking for other things that this blog got pushed to the back of the shelf with the leftovers from last Thanksgiving. So hello again! It's nice to see you again.

Here's what I've been up to since I last blogged.

1. I entered a pretty big cupcake contest at the Big E (the New England state fair) this year. I entered the most delicious, addicting pumpkin cupcakes ever. I mean EVER! They were topped with a homemade maple (REAL MAPLE) buttercream frosting and topped with homemade maple sugar candy crumbles. These cupcakes are almost impossible NOT to eat. Really. Want to know how I did? Well, I got a "merit award". Basically they were good but not good enough. I so badly wanted to place, but that's okay. It was my first contest. I scored high in every category except for the cupcake texture. I knew that was going to get me but I didn't realize I would lose HALF the points for that category! But hey, I knew the cupcake had more of a muffin texture than a cupcake texture. Mental note: Don't submit muffins into cupcake contests! :)

Pumpkin Maple cupcakes.
 2. My son's birthday party passed in September as well. The awesome thing about his birthday? I could basically do whatever I wanted for his cake. His party was at a zoo so I went with animal themed cupcakes & a cake. This cake was my first striped fondant cake and boy, did I have an issue with my fondant! Trying to save money, I went with homemade marshmallow fondant for the main color. I've made it before so I wasn't worried. Too bad I thought I was too cool for my measuring spoons & cups and estimated the amount of everything that went into the bowl. Not enough marshmallows and way too much water = a gooey marshmallowey mess. Ugh again! This is the second year that I tried to use fondant on his cake and ended up throwing the fondant out! But this year I was not going to give up and throw the whole cake away. Not this time! NO WAY! I luckily bought extra marshmallows so I started again, measuring spoons glued to my hands. Ta-Da!! Measuring = Awesomeness! The fondant came out perfect! I added some orange gel coloring, rolled it out, & threw it on the cake. Perfecto! Next came the tiger stripes. Thanks to my cake decorating school, The School of Youtube, I learned how to do this easily. A pizza cutter. For the black stripes I used store-bought black fondant. NO WAY was I going to attempt to make black fondant. Me and black food coloring just don't get along. I try and I try to work with it but it always smacks me across the face yelling, "Get over it! I'm really purple!! You're never going to turn me into black! Bwahaha!" (Damn black coloring). Anyways, I made the stripes and threw them onto the cake. For my first striped cake, I think it came out pretty awesome! 
Tiger themed cake/cupcakes (Paw prints are mad with candy melts)

3. Cupcake contest number 2. So I heard of another cupcake contest in the area. This one was much smaller but I didn't care. A contest is a contest. And I needed to redeem myself for that muffin mistake I made earlier. This time I was going to do the pumpkin/maple cupcakes again but when I went to the grocery store, I grabbed everything to make chocolate cupcakes. Don't know why that happened but it did. So I decided to make some "Death-by-Chocolate" cupcakes. Chocolate cupcakes filled with chocolate ganache and topped with chocolate frosting. To point out the "Death" part, I made some sugar glass and some fake blood. They were delicious. Winners? I wasn't sure but I definitely loved them as did everyone else who tried them! So I submitted them and went to the corn maze. I fully intended on being back for the results announcement but the corn maze figured I didn't need to be there. We left the corn maze 2 hours after the contest ended. I was starting to assume that I didn't place. Then as we were driving down the mountain, my phone rang. I scrambled to grab it and saw that it was a number that I didn't recognize. I went to swipe the screen to answer but for some reason my phone didn't want to recognize my finger-swipe so I missed the call!!!! UUGGGGHHHHH! I tried to call back but the phone was busy. UUUGGGGHHHH again! I took a deep breath and waited, hoping to hear the voicemail notification... 2 minutes later and "Ding!". Voicemail Received!!! As soon as I got to a parking lot, I pulled over and anxiously dialed my voicemail...


I FREAKING WON FIRST PLACE!!!!!!! HOLY CANNOLI!!!  I almost cried in the car I was so excited. I literally started dancing. I didn't care who could see me. I FREAKING WON! I am still excited about it -- 2 weeks later. Big E, take that! Woot Woot!  I was actually mentioned in the November Bake Magazine for the win! Yay!! Now, onto the next project...

4. The last one. I was asked to make some birthday cupcakes for a friend's daughter's 5th birthday. Of course I said yes! And, because I wanted to practice my cake-decorating skills, I offered to make a cake as well. Knowing that this awesome 5-year-old is a diva/princess, I went with a decoration fit for a princess. A chocolate crown on top of a glittery pink cake! Adorable. Her face lit up so much when she saw it which made me super excited. Adorable cake for an adorable diva/princess!
Glittery cake topped with a sparkling tiara!
Okay. So that's it for now. Did you make it all the way through? I hardly made it through all of that typing! My next blog should be coming soon. So until next time, happy decorating everyone!


Thursday, August 23, 2012

A non-cupcake post

I'm posting this because I've started venturing into the scary non-cupcake baking world. Yes, I'm still making cupcakes. No worries there. I'm just trying to get the hang of a few other things. Like maple sugar candy. That was delicious. Should I post that recipe here? I might later on. But this blog is about these two specific experiments.

First is "Cake Gems". This name is trademarked by the Bake company, which I have joined as a consultant. (Super excited about that!) Cake Gems are basically like a cake pop but without the stick. AND the best thing? They're so much easier to make than cake pops. I love these. SERIOUSLY! These are vanilla cake with vanilla frosting and covered with white chocolate candy melts. Delicious and definitely addicting.

Second: Wannabe Reese's. A HUGE thanks to The Whimsical Princess for the recipe. The only change I made was using candy melts instead of chocolate chips. Candy melts are just easier. These definitely aren't Reese's but they come pretty darn close. These were also VERY addicting!

So there you have it. Possibly my first, possibly my only, non-cupcake post. Hopefully you try these things out and Love them!

Friday, July 13, 2012

MMmmmm Maple Syrup


If you know me you know that I am obsessed with maple syrup. Real maple syrup. Not that store bought brown stuff that tries to call itself "Real Maple Syrup". Disgusting liars. But real, Massachusetts Maple Syrup. Heck, I'll even go as far as to say any New England made maple syrup.

My family is also obsessed with maple syrup. So much so that every year we drive about an hour to go to a thing called
The Maple Fest in the teeny tiny town of Chester, Massachusetts. It's a very small event in the even smaller historical center of town. Like half of a city block small. I only know of the event because I grew up down the street from it. We go up there, take the hay ride to the farm and sugar house up the road. The tractor pulling us stops halfway to the sugar house and we listen to the local boyscout troop explain how maple syrup was made by older settlers. Then the tractor moves on and we arrive at the sugar house where we watch the syrup being made and listen to a speech on how maple syrup is made nowadays. Then we each buy a gallon of freshly made, pure Massachusetts maple syrup. Yum. Is your mouth watering? Mine is!

I've been on a sort of cupcake making hiatus lately. Why? Because my pants have told me to. Well, the old pants that I am trying to get back into are reminding me that I need to lay off the cupcake testing. A couple of days ago, thanks to a picture I noticed online, I decided to forget about those old jeans for a day and try out french toast cupcakes. I love french toast and it gave me a reason to use my real maple syrup. I recently tried a french toast cupcake at a local cupcakery and let me tell you, it was not that good. There was too much granular sugar in the frosting so the frosting was grainy. And the cupcake was a basic vanilla or yellow cupcake. There may have been extra flavoring added but I sure as heck couldn't taste it. It was (of course - like most french toast cupcakes are) topped with crumbled bacon. I love bacon as much as anyone, but this bacon was rubbery. Not good.

So I got to work on my own version of a french toast cupcake. I used a vanilla cupcake MIX. Yes, mix. I used the mix because I have joined a baking supply company that sells it and I needed to try it out before I started selling it. Keep your gasps to yourself! Once I scooped the batter into my cupcake liners, I spooned about a teaspoon of maple syrup onto the tops of the unbaked cupcakes. I then threw them in the oven for about 17 minutes.

As for the frosting, I wanted to go with a cinnamon buttercream. I made a basic buttercream and started adding cinnamon, one teaspoon at a time. But that wasn't working. I could hardly taste the cinnamon. So I started adding it by the tablespoon. Still couldn't taste it. So I basically just dumped about a 1/4 cup in. Voila! Cinnamon buttercream. I think I need to buy new cinnamon! LOL.

I swirled the frosting on top of my maple infused cupcakes and topped with drizzled maple syrup. No rubbery bacon here. I thought about throwing some bacon on but decided against if for 2 reasons: 1: I'm not going to put myself through eating rubbery bacon and 2: it's a french toast cupcake. Not a breakfast cupcake. And a third reason: Because it gave me an excuse to use MORE maple syrup!

These cupcakes got the most compliments of any that I've made. Even topping my strawberry/lemon ones. And that says something. Everyone is obsessed with the strawberry/lemon cupcakes!

Now if you decide that you also want to try these french toast cupcakes, do it! But if I find out that you used anything other than REAL MAPLE SYRUP, I may show up at your house and you may get a scolding from me. You shouldn't be using fake syrup on anything, let alone a cupcake!

I have to run now and make some pancakes so that I can again eat some maple syrup!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Zombie apocalypse!

So today is my hubby's birthday and if you know him, you know he is OBSESSED with zombies. He actually has a plan of action to take if there is a zombie apocalypse. (C'mon, people, it could happen).

Since the zombie world is a passion of his I decided that a zombie-style cake would be perfect for his birthday.

I started by forming 5 fingers with fondant. I just rolled 5 small pieces and then used the back of a butter knife to make knuckle lines. Then I draped them over a large mug so that they dried in a curved shape. Then I took some brown & green gel colors, mixed them with some vanilla extract and used a QTip to paint them. The brown/green mixture gave it the "death" color that I was looking for. I let them dry overnight.

The cake is a 9" round double layer white cake. The buttercream is the yummiest vanilla buttercream you will ever try, but dyed green. I gave the cake a base coat of frosting then piped grass in circles around the top of the cake. When I got to the center, I crumbled some chocolate wafers to make dirt. Then I took my dried zombie fingers and made them appear to be digging into the dirt to pull out of the cake-like grave where the zombie is buried.

Next some fake blood (corn syrup with red gel coloring) was drizzled all over the hand.

The hubby, upon seeing his zombie friend, said the cake looked disgusting. Exactly the look I was going for! Success!!

Funny thing is that as soon as I sat down to watch tv this morning, Night of the Living Dead II came on. It was like the cable company was sharing in on his birthday with us. Too bad we won't be sharing any of our disgusting zombie cake with them!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Army of cupcakes

Hey there! It's been a long time. Let me start off by saying sorry for not writing in awhile. I've been preoccupied with eating healthier and working out. You know, it is bikini season and all. So I told myself that for the month of June, NO cupcakes would be made. I normally make them every Sunday so going a whole month was going to be tough. But I was determined to go those 4ish weeks without baking a single deliciously perfect mini cake. Well, of course, about 2 days after I told myself "No cupcake making!", I was contacted to make some Army style birthday cupcakes for a soon to be 7-year-old. And of course I threw out all of my thoughts of a cupcake-free June and jumped at the opportunity to make them reluctantly replied with an overly excited  "yes".

Okay now -- on with the process ...

SO. I knew exactly how I was going to make the cupcakes. A cammo cupcake with cammo frosting. My only problem? I was going to have to use black. Ugh. Me and black food coloring just don't get along. The more I try to get it to work with me, the more it yells to me, "Get over it! You will never get anything other than purple." One of these days, I'm going to have to figure that one out. So I decided that my cammo would consist of chocolate batter and yellow cake batter - (1/2 dyed green).

Of course I forgot about all about that plan and went into making chocolate batter with green and black dyed cake batter. No big deal. But not what I had really wanted. The process that I used to get the cammo cupcake is the same process that I used to make my tiger-striped cupcakes. I scooped one color at a time into the cupcake cups until each was filled about 2/3 of the way.

Now for the frosting. My original plan was to make chocolate frosting and green-dyed vanilla frosting. But as I was going through my pantry I realized that I was super close to being out of powdered sugar so I just made one batch of vanilla and dyed half green and half brown. For those of you wondering how to get the multi-colored swirl, you just have to take spoon each color into your piping bag without mixing them. I try to put one color on one side and one color on the other. As it pipes, the frosting is swirled. I'll try to post pictures of the filled bag another time.

So there it is. I also made a small cake. The most delicious vanilla cake with vanilla frosting that I've ever had. I'll post those recipes another time.

Monday, May 14, 2012

First communion cupcakes

A few months back, my boss asked me to make her son some cupcakes for his first communion. When she first asked me I was unbelievably nervous so I told her I wasn't sure. But after lots of cupcakes made over the last few months, I realized I could do it. So here are the cupcakes that I made.

Close up -- chocolate melts cross.

So here they are. They are basic white cupcakes with vanilla buttercream since that is her son's favorite kind of cupcake. The recipe that I use for the white cake is Buddy Valastro's recipe. The link I used is from Rachael Ray's show, but I actually get mine from his Baking with the Cake Boss cookbook. In there, he also says to use Italian pastry cream. I haven't added that yet, because I always forget to make it prior to making the cake so if any of you have tried it, please let me know how it works. The only thing I don't understand about the cake recipe is that both times I've made it, the top comes out sticky. I made a cake the first time and cupcakes the second time. Does anyone know why they would come out like that? They were definitely cooked long enough. I don't know if it's the recipe or if it is just me. Probably me because the Cake Boss wouldn't publish a sticky-topped-cake recipe! Ha!

For the toppers, I had originally done a more detailed cross. But my shaky hands ruined those so I made these simple ones. They look pretty cute, but the original ones were just a tad cuter.

Now my next project that I've been asked about is making 2 dozen camouflage cupcakes with camouflage frosting. I'm pretty sure I can use the same technique that I used on my tiger cupcakes but obviously with green, brown and black instead of orange and brown. I've never made a black cake/cupcake batter before because black is, like I said here, a huge pain-in-the-you-know-what! But hopefully it works. I'll let you know either way!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Super Mom

Back in September I attended a PTO meeting at my son's elementary school. I was only able to go to that one meeting because my schedule doesn't allow me to go which is very frustrating because I love being a Super Mom (please read that in an announcer's voice to get the full effect). And not attending PTO meetings is definitely going down a notch on the Super Mom (again, announcer's voice please) scale. When I was at this one PTO meeting, I signed up as a volunteer for future happenings. I figured that I could at least fulfill my duties by helping out once in awhile. Well, I never got any emails but I have periodically gotten letters sent home (general letters sent out to all of the parents) asking for help with events. But these events never, EVER fit into my schedule. THAT knocks me down another whole notch! Never volunteering at my son's awesome elementary school? Man, I'm the worst Super Mom (yep, say it again) ever.Then magic happened. I was sitting in my office and an email popped up from someone on the PTO. They needed baked goods and other supplies for a staff appreciation luncheon at the school. --Cue superhero music -- I immediately replied, probably too enthusiastically, "I will make cupcakes!" As soon as I hit reply all, the super hero music started. Maybe I can go back up a notch on the Super Mom (you better saying it like an announcer) scale. So I decided that I would make some basic chocolate/white cake tiger striped cupcakes with vanilla and chocolate buttercream striped frosting and a paw print candy on top. And then I would make some cupcakes that look like apples because all teachers love apples!

I searched the internet high and low until I came upon this website. It gives a tutorial on how to make striped cakes. Well, I took that and just knocked that down a scale to cupcake size. So I threw on my superhero cape -- a green and white striped apron. I just dyed my white cake batter orange and used my never ever ever ever ever fail devil's food cake recipe. (I'll post that on here sometime. It's DELICIOUS). So this was very time consuming. I made 36 cupcakes. I layered 1 Tbls of chocolate then 1 Tbls of orange. And repeated until the cups were about 2/3 of the way full.

Layers of batters
Next I baked them at 350 for about 17 minutes. 17 minutes is always a good time to check your cupcakes. Sometimes I need to leave them in longer but only for about a minute. Any longer and they will be overcooked! Back to my cupcakes. They looked absolutely perfect when they came out of the oven!


Inside (not as striped on this one but I didn't take a pic of the better ones)
Next came the frosting. I made a  vanilla buttercream and dyed that orange. And I made chocolate buttercream. (I know -- tigers are BLACK and orange but black is a pain in the you-know-what. So I went with brown). Then I scooped one frosting into my bag at a time. Orange then chocolate then orange then chocolate. With my bag filled and the Wilton 4B tip in place I started piping out the frosting. The first couple came out orange. But then on the third cupcake, the magic started happening. (Super Mom)The frosting was coming out striped. As I saw how it was coming out I started wishing that I had used the Wilton 1M tip but the 4B was still perfect.
Striped swirls

Then I took my orange paw print toppers (white chocolate paw prints made with candy melts the night before). I made these as toppers because they school sells orange paw print magnets for our cars. These are basically tiny replicas of those. Oh and speaking of candy melts. I had never dyed them before so I had no idea that if I tried adding normal food coloring it would seize up. Well, seize it did. I was then left with much less than I had originally anticipated. I used some yellow and red (didn't have orange dye at the time) gel colors and those worked fine. But DON'T use liquid food coloring with the candy melts. There's no going back once they seize. Believe me. I tried. So three cupcakes didn't have toppers.
Now onto the apples. For these I just used the striped cupcakes and vanilla buttercream. I didn't do anything fancy with the buttercream. I just smoothed it out over the entire top of the cake. Then I turned the cupcake upside down and dipped it into some red sprinkles. They covered perfectly. I recommend doing this as soon as you frost the cupcake though, because if the frosting dries, the sprinkles don't stick as well.
Dipped in sprinkles

For the stem, I just broke a stick pretzel in half and stuck it in the top. This is where my Igor (see here for story on that) came to help. My Igor is 7 and doesn't have a huge attention span but he helped by breaking up about 6 pretzel sticks and eating about 3 tablespoons of frosting. Oh and then he begged and begged for a cupcake. Since I love my Igor, I gave him a cupcake and shooed him back to his Mario Party 9 dream land. Back to the apples! I totally forgot to get some fondant leaves made. Luckily I have plenty of tips and grabbed my Wilton 112 leaf tip and threw some leaves onto the apples. Mission completed (go and do the voice there too).

These took me between 3 and 3.5 hours to make, but it was well worth it. I mean, I think I earned back one of the Super Mom notches. Don't you?