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Posts Tagged ‘kids birthday party’

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!

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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

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