Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, friends!! This morning, I woke up with the urge to bake. The urge to create. The urge to spread some cupcakespiration! As you can see, I created a hodge-podge of some of the inspired designs that I have features in early October - the Owls, made of Oreo eyes and chocolate chip pupils; mummies with white bandages and yellow faces, orange pumpkins, green frankensteins, and some creepy crawlers!

*Hint: at your local target, you can find "sluggy gummies" to use instead of just drawing them like I did.

This is the first year that I don't have any particular plans, and have set up my cupcake tree in the hopes of getting some trick 'r treaters in my building. Or someone to come over and eat my cupcakes!

Have a spooktacular, cupcakefull night!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pumpkin Spice and everything nice!

I found this recipe for Spiced Vanilla Icing in Fine Cooking Magazine and was immediately intrigued. They paired it with buttermilk cake - but I put it with a spice cake to give it a fall holiday flair. Here's the original recipe:

9 oz. (2 1/2 cups) confectioner's sugar
3 tbs. buttermilk, more as needed
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp of table salt

Now, let me preface my critique by saying that I sold out of my dozen spiced cupcakes and received rave reviews about their flavor. That being said, I was skeptical about adding salt to icing - upon a highly scientific spoon test, I was not impressed. In fact, I almost scrapped the entire batch of cupcakes all together. However, no one commented on the salt, and if anything, it seemed to contrast the spice cake in an interesting way.

If I could make a couple of simple amendments to the recipe, I would say that instead of a 1/4 tsp. of salt, I would do a small pinch of salt. Additionally, I would say do the 3 tbs of buttermilk and use just regular milk to add more moisture if you need it. Otherwise, the buttermilk makes it too thick.

Whether it's a unique Halloween treat or a house warming Thanksgiving present, this spiced recipe really mixes up the typical autumn dessert into something people of all ages can enjoy!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

100+ Cupcakes Later...

125 minis, 24 standards, and 2 jumbo cupcakes later... I survived my first cupcake event!

Cupcakes, Cocktails, and Creations was a delicious success. The six hours of prep that went into making the five flavors of cake and the matching five flavors of icing was totally worth it:

1. Raspberry Lemonade with vanilla frosting
2. Lemon cake with lemon/lime icing
3. Red velvet with cream cheese frosting
4. Pumpkin spice cake with vanilla/nutmeg spiced icing
5. Yellow cake with homemade milk chocolate icing

I really learned a lot from this event - from my capacity to create hundred of cupcakes to my ability to package and sell my creations to willing customers. After two hours into the event, I sold out of my regular and jumbo sized cupcakes! Hurray! I priced them intentionally low - $1 for the standard size and $3 for the jumbo ones. I included packaging free of charge, which in the end, made me break even for revenue overall. But the point of this event was not to make a profit - it was to see if my cupcake creations were good enough to sell. It is with great pride and enthusiasm that I say, "YES! They were!"

In retrospect, I could have included the cost of the container into the overall charge. These cupcake containers were a HUGE draw for customers who would have been happy to pay extra for the box (bought at Michael's). For single servings that I sold, I used Ralph's-brand tupperware as well as circular plastic boxes from the $1 section of Michael's. In fact, I just bought the Ralph's tupperware on special again today for the price of 3 containers for $2. Also, I am currently searching for a vendor to buy the adorable cupcake window boxes from to reduce my costs in the future.

The jumbo cupcakes, which are as tall as a nutmeg shaker, were a big hit. I baked them using the left over batter from the mini cupcakes. The tough thing about cupcakes this size is making sure they are fully cooked without burning the edges. The other major problem (a sweet problem to have!) is that you can't taste-test your work... I know, I know, life is so hard! But seriously, not being able to guarentee the taste made me have major reservations on the jumbos. Though, they do LOOK very cool and intriguing. I think I could have easily sold more of these as well.

Finally, I'm all about presentation - hence the cute containers that every customer received! But nothing was a bigger hit than the cardboard-Halloween themed tree that I displayed the cupcakes on. With the giant spider on top, the cuteness of the tree - donated by my incredibly creative sister! - caught the buyer's eye and drew them in for the sugar fix.

It also helped that the mini cupcakes were like samplers for the bigger ones that I sold. After all, people love to taste-test, especially when it's free!

From this event my main realizations were 1. I would absolutely cupcake cater again! 2. I don't think running 24/7 bake shop is for me 3. Always bring extra toppings so you can quickly personalize an order 4. Presentation really is everything - spending the extra dollar on cute containers is worth it! 5. Perhaps there is a side business in this hobby...

See you tomorrow - for the count down to Halloween! More details on these individual cupcakes to come...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I haven't been abducted by aliens, I've been planning party food!

I know I've been MIA for 10 days (yikes!) but I plan on making it up to you this coming week between Halloween and my first cupcake event!

On Saturday, I'm cupcake catering the BeadUp event in North Hollywood. It's called Cupcakes, Cocktails, and Creations. You can check out more details and RSVP on Facebook or by writing a comment below. It's a showcase of Christyn's jewelry (at very affordable prices!) and a plethora of cupcakes and cocktails to tickle your taste-buds.

Here's the pertinent info:

Saturday, October 24th @ 3:30-6pm
Marla L'Angelle's Home (12304 Miranda Street, Valley Village CA)

Why not get ahead on your holiday shopping and get your sugar buzz on? Sample some of my Halloween-themed delights that will make their way into next week's blogs. Tomorrow, stay tuned for the flavor discussion... right now, I'm thinking four flavors.... hmm.... yum!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Fun Friday Find!

When people find out that I have a blog dedicated to cupcakes, they usually laugh and say "wow, you must really like them a lot." HECK YES, I do!! On many occasions when I divulge this obsession or "hobby" (for the faint of heart!) with others, they give me recommendations of things to check out or ask me if I've tried various techniques before. Well, I received a great recommendation from a co-worker to check out this site called by a cupcake author - Krystina Castella.

What a find! Krystina posts detailed baking tips for classics like Mint Chocolate Chip cupcakes to a full themed spread of "Tiki Cupcakes" with flavors that range from banana coconut to pina colada to seabreeze. Wondering what it takes to make the Seabreeze cupcake? Check it out:

1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 granulated sugar
2 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup pink grapefruit juice
1/4 cup cranberry juice
Zest of 1 small grapefruit
3/4 cup chopped cranberries

How refreshing and creative!! Just thought I spread the cupcakespiration! Sprinkles off to you, Krystina!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Which Store Bought Vanilla Icing Is the Best?

I'm a fan of the vanilla icing - I love the way it tastes on chocolate brownies, smooshed in the middle of a cookie sandwich, and especially slathered thickly on a chocolate cupcake. I like it because it is quick and easy to make - requiring, at its core, four simple ingredients: confectioner's sugar, milk, butter, and vanilla. Not to mention you can dye it any color of the rainbow to dress up any holiday treat (like pink for every day of the year!).

What happens when you don't feel like standing on your feet for another 10 minutes to whip up the delicious topping? You reach for the back-up icing... oh, you know what I'm talking about - the icing that you keep at the back of your cabinet or fridge for a rainy day... the day when you have company but decide to pass off the easy alternative as your own!

Good thing you have me here to tell you that when it comes to store bought vanilla icing, you're better off sucking it up and making your own. I'm not talking about other flavored white icings like buttercream or cream cheese or funfetti - I'm talking about plain ol' vanilla.

Here to take up spoons in the name of science is my sister, Kristie, ever the scientist and scholar, who insisted that a blind taste test be conducted! Hardcore, I know. This is what we found:

Betty Crocker "Rich & Creamy" Vanilla:
Cupcakin' It Up's choice!
Appearance - yellow tinge to color, smooth, moist looking
Texture - powderiness that held fast in the after-taste
Taste - buttery, mild, powder-taste
Notes - Although Betty Crocker beat out the others for taste, the texture seemed off to me.

Duncan Hines "Home-style Classic" Vanilla:
Appearance - whitest, least shiny
Texture - stiffest, lack of creaminess
Taste - bitter after-taste, plasticy
Notes - Kristie thought this was the worst!

Pillsbury "Whipped Supreme" Vanilla:
Appearance - smooth, slimy-looking
Texture - syrupy, sugar crunched in your mouth, and the texture seemed to stick in my throat
Taste - sweet, syrupy
Notes - I thought this one was the worst! As a side note, I also thought the Pillsbury chocolate was the weakest in the last taste test - this time it was a blind taste in which I didn't know the results to the end, so it's not the brand I'm repulsed by, it's the quality.

Overall, I was very disappointed. It's hard to believe that you could mess up vanilla icing. But that's the difference between making it with a machine and sitting on a shelf and making it with love and sitting in your tummy right away. Do yourself and your guests a favor next time you feel tempted to purchase "the backup icing" - make your own! It doesn't take long, and you'll knock the lids off of any commercial icing competitor.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Happy October!!

October is here! - which, granted, feels exactly like August in LA BUT it means that it is officially appropriate to start making Halloween themed treats! Muhaha!!

I kicked off the October celebration of Halloween treats at a Michael's cookie demonstration in Burbank. I confess myself disappointed. It all took place on one table with one confectioner who spent most of the time running around the store gathering supplies. The cookies didn't even look very appetizing. Maybe I'm just a cupcake girl at heart, but aren't cookies meant for dunking - not painting! The only thing that piqued my interest was a flyer for a cupcake decorating class that cost $15... but what the flyer neglected to mention (and I only learned from word-of-mouth) is that you have to bring your own cupcakes AND icing. wtf?! But one must turn flour into cookies in this scenerio - so I saw opportunity. Inspiration to take that $15, buy some sweet muffin cups and dye and decorate my own darn cupcakes at home! For free!

Bring on the cute cupcake designs and Halloween decorations!