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Cupcake fling

Europe is missing out on all the cupcake fun. Why? They didn’t discover the cupcakes yet. They know cakes and they know muffins, but no one put the two together yet. Till very recently, I myself have never made cupcakes.  But two things lead me to try and, my oh my, am I happy to venture into the cupcake territory!

The first thing was my son’s love for muffins. The boy is weird – he doesn’t like sweets much. Also, he is a “one component” kinda guy, by which I mean he more often than not chooses simple one-component food over complicated one (no sauses on his meat, no dips for his veggies, no whipped cream on.. well.. anything). So, muffins, being small and not too sweet, and being one-component dessert, are his drug of choice when it comes to baked goodies.

The second thing was related to the first – since I started to bake muffins for kids’ gatherings and birthdays, I got myself a little helper. Here it is

Cupcake Courier

Cupcake Courier

This thing is absolutely ingenious for transporting muffins and cupcakes (up to three dozens!) And, because I’m so rational, I wanted to try and use it for more than just muffins, so I decided to try cupcakes!

Let me tell you, once I started I couldn’t stop! I really got cupcake crazy and haven’t made a real cake in more than a month! How come I’ve never made them before??? They are easy to make, practical (especially when you have such a great way to transport them), easy to eat, easy to share, and above all – oh so cute! I am a cupcake convert, that’s for sure!

Since my little discovery, I bought two books on the subject. The first is by Dede Wilson – A Baker’s Field Guide to Cupcakes: Deliciously Decorated Crowd Pleasers for Parties and Holidays. It has some neat ideas and a lot of great recipes.

The second book is Hello, Cupcake!: Irresistibly Playful Creations Anyone Can Make by  Karen Tack and Alan Richardson. It has the neatest decoration ideas, and anyone who bakes at least occasionally, should have this book!

So, here are some of my creations. The first ones were pretty classic – the Black Forest Cupcakes (chocolate cupcake with cherries inside, topped with whipped cream, chocolate cut-out and a cherry, sprinkled with sweet cocoa powder).

Black Forest Cupcakes

Black Forest Cupcakes

Next were the Boston Cream Cupcakes – yellow cupcake filled with pastry cream, glazed with a bittersweat ganache and a single silver pearl.

Boston Cream Cupcakes

Boston Cream Cupcakes

These ones were made for a 7-year-old boy’s birthday party. Kids went crazy over these! The cupcakes were chocolate with vanilla buttercream spaghetti, strawberry sause and chocolate truffle meatballs.

Spaghetti with Meatballs Cupcakes

Spaghetti with Meatballs Cupcakes

This last weekend I made some carrot cupcakes for a tea gathering with my girlfriends. Some of them were topped with a swirl of traditional cream cheese frosting and topped with a fondant carrot.

Carrot Cupcakes

Carrot Cupcakes

For the second half of the batch, I colored the frosting green and piped it on the cupcakes using the large leaf tip. Then, I put buttercream roses on some, and simple drop flowers with gold pearls on the others. This was by the way my first ever attempt at buttercream flowers!

Flower Cupcakes

Flower Cupcakes

Buttercream Rose Cupcake

Buttercream Rose Cupcake

That’s it for now, but be sure to check back! With the holiday season upon us, there’ll be more baking in my kitchen!

Amazing Cake Art

Today, while searching for tire cake ideas (I want to make a cake gift for my driving school – they’ve been nothing but nice to me), I stumbled upon a very amusing webpage, featuring many unique cakes, all made in Russia (St. Petersburg) by the same artist!

Here’s the tire cake picture (there’s no way I can make anything even close to this cake in detail)

You can see the rest of her amazing cake art on this page.

 

I love cheesecake. As simple as that. Any kind (well, home-baked prefered, but I even enjoy an occasional Sara Lee), any flavour, anytime. I’m sure, I’m not the only one.

Just yesterday, I baked one for today’s brunch with my girlfriends. It was a Mocha Cherry Cheesecake with a ganache topping. It came out of the oven so pretty and perfect and that was when my brain shut down. Somehow I thought it would be ok if I removed the sides of my spring-pan – well, now I know it was a BAD idea! The thing is, I baked the cheesecake in a steam bad (wrapping the cake pan in foil and putting it in a bigger pan with water in it). It usually gives you a very tender cheesecake with mousse-like texture, but it also means that the cheesecake doesn’t really bake through. When I took the sides of the pan off, the top of the cake cracked and the filling puddled on the counter. I’m not gonna tell you which words I used to loudly proclaim my own stupidity, but let me tell you they weren’t pretty (thank God my kids were asleep!) I thought the cake was ruined.

On the other hand, there was nothing to lose by trying to salvage the situation, so I put the sides of the pan back on, and scooped the filling from the counter (I swear, it was über-clean!!!) back in the pan. I then put the cake back in the oven (without the water this time around), and baked it again. After that, I cooled the cake and put it in the fridge overnight. In the morning, I put the ganache on top of the cheesecake and prayed to all the cake gods that what I had was still edible!

Surprise, surprise – the cheesecake was ok! It was more than ok, it was great. In fact, you couldn’t tell there was anything wrong with it, and my girls thought I was kidding when I told them the story. But, because of the incident, I didn’t trust myself to take a picture of a “spoiled” cheesecake (although it looked allright also). After I realized the cake wasn’t ruined at all, it was too late for a full photo-session, but I managed to salvage the last piece to take a picture :)

Mocha Cherry Cheesecake

Mocha Cherry Cheesecake

Moral of the story: if something goes wrong – don’t panic. It may look like a total miss, but don’t give up! Try to do what you can with what you have. Chances are, even if the cake doesn’t turn out perfect, it will still be delicious!

All this talk about cheesecakes made me wonder if there’s such thing as a cheesecake wedding cake (seriously, why not? I haven’t met a person in my life who didn’t like cheesecake) I did some search and found out that, even if it’s not the easiest to decorate and it spoils more easily than other types of cake, it’s not impossible to have a cheesecake wedding cake!

Here is the link to the discussion of making and decorating a cheesecake for a wedding.

Well, I’m trying that the next wedding I can!

First of all, I want to say that the cake turned out great. It was all I was hoping for (even if not absolutely perfect). Because the picture is worth a thousand words, here it is:

Fall Basket Cake

Fall Basket Cake

Now come the thousand words! This cake was a lot of work (even if it was the work of love). For those who might want to try to walk in my steps, I want to share the story in detail.

Challenge 1 – Fondant Leaves

First of all, I decided to make the fondant leaves, obvious reason being the time it takes for them to dry, but also my lack of experience working with this medium. I had some MMF in the fridge, so I colored it using gel food colors (mostly yellow, a little bit of red). To make the leaves, I got a cookie cutter set like this

For the first batch I got some green florist wires and inserted them as stems (what was I thinking? they weren’t going to be a part of any bouquet…) Of course, the leaves dried flat and boring, not to mention the wire in the middle made them brittle like hell. For the second batch I just cut out the leaves, rolled them with a ball tool somewhat thinner (I couldn’t get them really thin and realistic – for this I’d need me some gumpaste), veined (handwork! I still need to buy myself some veiners) and put them on crimpled aluminum foil to dry.

To color the dried leaves, I used non-toxic chalk and food color felt-tip pens. All in all, I was happy with the way the leaves turned out, although as I already said, I need to explore gumpaste!

Here’s the close-up of the leaves

Fondant Leaves

Challenge 2 – Basket Handle

This one was a real pickle! I first wanted to make the handle out of the fondant. Which I did – not one, but THREE! Let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty – either there’s something wrong with my fondant (which was homemade marshmallow variety) or with my humble self, but the silly thing was sticking and breaking and overall not behaving itself. After I managed to make three handles, I left them to dry – which they refused to do! I waited 4 days, after which I was trying to find the way to make them dry better. Long story short, they broke. Yes, all of them.

I had to get creative and find the express way to make a better and stronger handle (preferably, also edible). I finally bought some flaky pastry, cut slim strips and braided them, put toothpicks in the ends and baked the handle, praying it would work! I guess some baking gods out there took a pity on me, because it worked and worked beautifully. The handle was the right color, right form, and even had a bit of a give. It also tasted good (and was eaten by Gleb who liked it more than the cake it was attached to).

Challenge 3 – Cake

Actually, this part was no challenge at all! I chose to make Russian Multilayered Honey Cake which I absolutely love. Well, it was a challenge for me to make first 10 or so times I attempted it, but after tons of trial and errow I finally found a perfect recipe, so this time around I was sure it would turn out perfect, which it did! I’ll put up the recipe in the recipe section the first chance I get (need to translate it first).

Russian Multilayered Honey Cake

Challenge 4 – Icing on a Cake

I wanted to use Dulce de Leche buttercream to pipe the basketweave on a cake. It tastes great, but there’s one problem with it – it just won’t hold shape! The recipe I know of (equal parts of dulce de leche and butter, beat together) is usually used as a cake filling. I tried to find a recipe used specifically for piped decorations that would use dulce de leche, and found one. It was much more complicated to make, but the consistancy was still too soft and runny to pipe anything.

I had to improvise yet again, so I added some gelatin to the cream, which did the trick! I wouldn’t say the frosting had the perfect consistancy, but it worked.

Challenge 5 – Piped Decorations

So, I had my frosting, but there was still a lot of piping to do. What’s so challenging about that? Nothing, I guess, if you’ve done it before. I didn’t, so I was plenty anxious. I knew the principle behind it, and I watched some YouTube videos like this one

As I said earlier, my frosting wasn’t optimal. So, considering that and the fact that it was my first time piping anything, I think I did good. Here’s what it looked like:

Basketweave

Challenge 6 – Mushrooms

This was another thing that took tons of my precious time. The idea was to use meringue for a stem and a cookie for a top, which was exactly what I did. Only my meringue didn’t want to hold stiff peaks for some reason (this never happened before), so my stems didn’t want to stay tall and proud as they should have. I ended up doing them in two takes: piping small ones first, and then adding another layer after they dried a bit in the oven. This made for some very funny looking stems, but it worked.

The recipe for the cookie used the leftover egg-yolk from making a meringue. Maybe because of this, maybe because of my pure luck, the cookies were very brittle and I broke more than I was able to save. I ended up having only 8 or 9 usable mushrooms, but it was enough to fill the basket, so no big damage done! May I also add that the kids went crazy over these little forest suckers!

Kids love mushrooms!

 All in all, the cake was A LOT of work, but at least I was happy with an outcome. It was, of course, absolutely delicious, but it also looked beautiful. The biggest compliment I could get came from one of the guests, who thought it was a real basket up to the point when I started cutting the cake. She was really surprised! Sliced basket for desert, anybody?

To finish off my novel (sorry if it was too much information, but I just needed to share), here are a couple more pictures:

 

Basket cake

Basket cake again

Oh, how could I forget the happy birthday boy? He had his cake and ate it too!

bd-boy-with-his-cake

An amazing find

The second part of my cake story is coming soon! Big promise!

In the meantime, while searching for car-themed cakes, I stumbled across something truly astonishing and simply HAD to share! Because the picture is worth a thousand words, here it is:

In case you are not sure why I’m putting this up, IT’S A CAKE CAR!!!

You can read some more about it here.

And here is a video of how it was made

It’s a great inspiration for all people who love cake (both making and eating sides of it). The only downside to this story is, the cake wasn’t eaten – in the four days it took to finish the project, the cake spoiled under all the bright lamps… Oh well, I guess it’s time to make another one! Maybe an SUV this time?

Here we go, another birthday in the family. And not just any regular birthday – my baby just turned ONE! Of course, such an occasion calls for a very special cake!

On the one hand – been there, done that (my first son is four years old, which means I made my share of kids’ birthday cakes – for him and for some of his friends). On the other hand, it’s the first birthday cake that is going to be featured in this blog and the first to be made since I decided to get serious with my baking and decorating. So, as special as all first birthday cakes are, this one has to be extra special!

Here are some pictures of children-themed birthday cakes I’ve done so far:

Both of the cakes for Gleb’s first birthday (yeah, we celebrated twice) were lady bug-themed as you can see. Well, he was born in April, so it was season-appropriate I guess. Bogdan’s birthday is in the end of October, so for his big day I want to do something fall-themed. My first thought was Halloween (how cool would that be!!), but it’s probably not quite right for the first birthday. Well, maybe next year… or the one after that. Apart from that, I just played free associations with myself: Fall, Leaves, Mushrooms, Nuts… Bingo! A fall basket with mushrooms, leaves and nuts!

OK, I had my idea, where do I go with it? Google, of course! I tried to find some basket cakes, here are a couple of my inspirations:

None of the cakes I found were fall-themed though. So, this must mean mine will be original! I decided to make a Russian Layered Honey Cake and do a basket weave with Dulce de Leche buttercream (I’ll put both recipes up the next chance I get).

Next, I need something to put into my basket: leaves, nuts and mushrooms. The plan is to make leaves out of fondant (I have quite a bit of that stuff in the fridge), and cookies for nuts and mushrooms. Nuts I’ve done before, I have a special machine for that, so this is going to be easy.

 

As for mushrooms, I had to look for a recipe on the internet. I found one that used meringue for a stem and a chocolate covered cookie for a top – so that’s what I’m going to use!

Off to the kitchen I go!!!

Busy bee….

Yep, that’s me! It’s been so crazy that I had absolutely no time to post here (excuses, excuses… I know). I do have something to write home about though, so read up!

Well, it’s already full-blown fall here and it makes me hungry for baking. Especially for the sweet and spicy stuff. And for pumpkin (I love pumpkin for it’s cheerful nature and ultimate versatility – you can do absolutely whatever with it and it always comes out great!) I celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving here in Germany by baking a Pumpkin Pie (sorry, no pictures, but in my defence it doesn’t look as great as it tastes) and some Pumpkin Muffins.

I found both recipes on the Internet, which slowly becomes my cookbook of choice. The recipe for Pumpkin Muffins is from another blog (how appropriate!)

We had so much going on these last couple of weeks, that I had several other opportunities to practice my baking and even some decorating. One reason to make a cake was my older son’s new bed. He grew out of his old one (which was actually a converted crib), but because of our temporary status here in Germany we didn’t want to buy such a bulky (and not cheap) piece of furniture. Well, while browsing our local Kijiji, I came across an ad by a young girl offering a perfect loft bed to be adopted into a good home. Of course, we took it and my son was (and, two weeks later, still is) on the seventh heaven. The least I could do to express his and our gratitude was to bake her a gift. Here it is:

 

It was a chocolate buttercake with raspberry italian meringue buttercream filling – brown-pink inside and out. That was my second attempt at fondant-covered cake, and I must say I need more practice. Here’s the first attempt (a cake made for our friends’ wedding – as a gift, not an actual wedding cake – I’m not as far advanced yet). 

  

This one was a carrot cake with white chocolate cream cheese filling. It was a big mistake to put it under the fondant; it didn’t hold up well at all – the fondant started melting from inside and it finally cracked and partially slid off the cake when we were transporting it to the wedding site. Gee, was I happy it wasn’t an actual wedding cake! The bride was still very impressed and said it tasted great (we didn’t stay long enough to try it).
Well, here’s the last picture for today:
 
Because we didn’t get to try the chocolate-raspberry cake either (with it being a gift and all), I made some cake squares for us and our friends to enjoy. Actually, I still had some buttercream left over from a gift cake and I wanted to try a new recipe for a chocolate cake itself. Because leftover cream was only barely enough to fill one layer, I made some raspberry filling using frozen raspberries to fill another layer. The top was just sprinkled with cocoa powder and each small square cake was decorated with a small fondant flower. They looked cute, tasted even better and everyone loved them!  
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