Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Icing Syringe, My Heart

You may have noticed that my cupcakes have had "some work done" as of late... Yes, they have gone quite Hollywood! It is all thanks to my new friend the Kuhn Rikon Mechanical Pastry Bag, which I fondly call my Icing Syringe (blame the nickname on my med-student taste-tester!).

I was inspired to upgrade from the old sanitized pinky-finger and butter knife when Bead Up! came to town to help me with my blueberry baby shower cupcakes. She had a fancy-smancy icing bag (like what the pros use!), and I confess myself intimidated at first. Why buy a tool when you have a knife and a ZipLoc bag?! Bead Up soon showed me just how magical the right tools can be in making your creations look like they came out of Martha Stewart magazine. So I resigned myself to buy one of my own.

It was a Sunday afternoon when the plan turned to reality - an afternoon made for baking and Disney movies, and I needed my new toy NOW. So I popped over to Sur la Table to see what they had in store. There, practically glowing on the shelf was the Kuhn Rikon tool of glory that would forever transform my cupcake creations!

For $28, I purchased this completely disassemble-able tool (that is handy for easy washing) has seven different icing toppers of two varying sizes. It is perfect for any skill level - you simply smoosh the icing into the syringe and squeeze it onto your cupcakes to make tons of fun shapes!

I highly recommend making your icing a little more thickly than normal cake icing. If you plan on doing a more intricate design than just using one of the cool toppers (see left picture), a drier icing can act as a fondant like texture. That blue dragon (see right picture) was made entirely out of very stiff icing!

Other of my recent favorites shown below and made entirely with my fancy Icing Syringe.


Whimsical swirls!

Rim for a hat!
(more details on this one in the previous post)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Down a cupcake-shaped Rabbit Hole!

Kristie was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the river bank... when suddenly the White Rabbit appeared, muttering, "Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be very late!"

He soon popped down a rabbit-hole under the hedge. Kristie followed, never considering where
she might wind up...

Here she appeared! - at her very own baby shower for her baby boy, Jacob, which was set to the appropriate theme of (you guessed it!) a Mad Hatter Tea Party! You see, Alice in Wonderland is my sister's favorite book. So her book club pals and I entered the creative wonderland of planning her baby shower down to the very last tea cup! I, of course, assumed the great responsibility of supplying the cupcakes!

I know my sister's favorite cake flavors are red velvet with cream cheese frosting and chocolate with chocolate frosting, so I planned everything around that. I'm a big believer in pleasing the mama's taste buds above all else. It just so happened that they came out adorable in the process!

My sister in infamous for her amazing milk chocolate icing. Her little secret (that I will share with you now!) is that she softens the butter to room temperature and then blends it with the milk, adding in the sugar and cocoa afterwards. Something about the warmth of the butter makes the icing extra fluffy. Especially when you are trying to make the icing look appealing, fluffiness is key. No crisco needed!

Curiouser and curiouser...

I hopped to baking two dozen mini cupcakes of each flavor (4 batches total) and one dozen normal sized cupcakes of each flavor. This came to... well, quite a few cupcakes! Luckily though, I had many eager taste-testers and guests who were most excited to take them home for midnight snacks.

When I bake rather epic amounts of cupcakes, I like to do it over a two day period - ideally baking on one day and decorating on another day. This gives me a rest and helps my creativity to flourish. May I also suggest having an adorable helper to keep you company and wash the occasional dish (despite how many times you tell her to sit down!!)?! This was some of the most fun I have ever had baking cupcakes - with my sister in her amazingly huge kitchen!

This culinary wonderland produced a rather white rabbit idea of its own! I noticed how, whenever I bake cupcakes anyway, there is always a rim around the side (because I fill the muffin cups almost to the top)... hmmmm doesn't that rim remind me of... of.... A HAT?! Why yes! And is this not a Mad HATTER tea party?! I decided to go with it because I justified that if it came out weird, I would simply call it MAD (not so much hat!). Luckily for me, they did come out pretty darn cute! I covered the chocolate cupcakes with white, colored icing. I separated the icing into bowls to produce multiple colors and multiple hat designs.

One key note that I discovered through trial and error was that once a cupcake is turned upside-down, it really cannot be moved without destroying the rather sticky top. Hence the tiny plates with the doillies as their final resting place. I laid the cupcake down on the doilly and iced it using this fancy icing syringe that I will write about in my next post. But suffice to say, it comes with many different icing tips that I used to create ridges and flowers on the hands to make each one unique!

While you really had to LOVE icing to want to eat them, they made such cute additions to our table decorations. Believe it or not, a couple did get eaten! It was quite fun to create.

I do love being an Auntie, and I have no doubt that there are many ways in which to spoil my nephews and nieces in the years to come!
"Wake up, Kristie, dear!" her sister said. "Why what a long [sugar-induced coma] you have had!"

"Oh I've had such a curious dream!" said Kristie, and she told her sister of all these strange adventures she'd had [decorating onesies and staring at diaper cakes].... So Kristie got up and [waddled] off, thinking while she went, what a wonderful dream it had been!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Turkey Week! I hope it has been a FULLfilling one so far. If it has not been, try these tasty treats on for size, courtesy of Betty Crocker and a little cupcakespiration! They are called Praline Pumpkin Cupcakes - Betty suggests it in cake form, but after reading some reviews and knowing my audience, I decided to make them into cupcakes.

No muffin cups necessary. Simply simmer butter, whipping cream, and brown sugar and put it on the bottom of each muffin cup. Sprinkle with chopped pecans. A thin layer of the goo works just fine. Then mix the Duncan Heines (I prefer Duncan to Betty), eggs, water, oil, pumpkin, and pumpkin spice - and PRESTO! You have a delicious Thanksgiving treat!! Well, then add the cream cheese frosting....

Full recipe can be found here - Praline Pumpkin Cake

The recipe says to bake the cake for 41 minutes, but my cupcakes were done in about 15-17 minutes. For the cupcakes, you don't really need to let them cool for an hour... the normal 30 minutes is just fine.

Enjoy! Hope you have a festive holiday!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Baby Blueberry Champagne Cupcakes

It doesn’t get much cuter than mini cupcakes… ok, well the actual babies are pretty adorable! I’ve been baking up a storm for the little buns in the oven these past few months. First for my sister-in-law, then my boss, and soon my own sister! I will tell you about my sister’s baby shower cupcakes much later as it is a surprise and she would likely snoop on my blog (hehe). Today, I wanted to share what I whipped up for my boss at work...

When I make baby shower cupcakes (this is my third time), I try to cater to the tastes of the mother and the general color scheme of the event. Since her stomach can be a little sensitive, I want to give her something she and the little munchkin will absolutely love and hopefully not up-chuck later!

My boss loves cupcakes and fruity dessert. She is not a big fan of icing or super sweet things. AND she is having a boy. I took all this into account when I cooked up the idea for her cupcakes. My co-workers had given me the specifications of the color blue. Ok, that I could do!

I knew I wanted to do minis for two reasons – 1.) It’s a baby shower! A celebration of a tiny dude! Minis seem appropriate, 2.) I was baking for an office of about 40, which would take FOREVER with a normal sized cupcake in a 12 dozen sized pan.

The next idea I had was to involve blueberries – I knew they would look so cute topping a mini cupcake. But could I take it all a step further? Why yes! Thanks to the innovations of Bead Up! who introduced me to adding flavored Jello mix into a white cake mix (and joined me for an epic night of baking!), I had a great pairing idea to go with my blueberries – I picked up blue Very Berry Jello mix at the store.

We proceeded to mix it… but the dough was tasting quite berry. So we added about two teaspoons of Vanilla. Ah yes, the sweet spot! Then on to the icing! Bead Up had the brilliant idea of adding champagne flavoring to the normal Martha Stewart Buttercream Icing recipe. What a festive idea for a baby shower! While she promises me it did not taste like medicine, I could not help but feeling that the final pairing of blueberry and champagne flavoring tasted a little like dental fluoride… but I must be crazy because everyone loved them! Especially the Mommy!