Monday, July 21, 2014

Custom Made Fondant Princess Crown Cupcake Toppers

I'm back!  I'm back!!  I'm back!!!

After a year and a half absence, I don't know who, if anyone, is reading this, but I'm so happy to be posting an entry once again.  I've missed this so much.

A lot of happened since I last blogged on Life Is Sweets.  Shortly after my last post, my husband was in a pretty bad car accident with a fairly long recovery.  He did remarkably well and has returned to work and a normal life with, really, no lasting effects or troubles.  We are so thankful.  We also took a bit of time for traveling, moved into a new house, and, finally, have a new routine that has allowed me to get back to what I love - baking and creating in the kitchen!

Okay, so let's get to it.  One of my favorite four year old girls was having a birthday party to celebrate and the theme was "Ariel" and princesses.  I wanted to create something to incorporate both elements, while at the same time not obligating me to tackle the actual making of Ariel, which I accept is outside of my current skill set!

I'm pretty new to the fondant game, but it's more fun to work with than I expected and I'd like to do more with it.  I have done some fondant projects in the past, such as these cow cupcakes, but I've held onto to this idea that everything on a cupcake should not only be edible, it should be tasty and delicious.  If you have to peel off or remove items, what's the point?  Well, maybe just being pretty is point enough!  With all that said, here's how I made these cute princess crown toppers.

To begin, I rolled out some waxed paper and used painters tape to secure it.    You will be working with a smallish amount of fondant, so if you don't have tape, use a generous piece of waxed paper and anchor it with heavy objects at either end for stability.  That will work just fine.

I purchased a crown cookie cutter measuring approximately one inch tall.  I bought Wilton branad pre-made fondant at Michaels craft store in hot pink and and rolled it out in a fairly thick layer, keeping mind I wanted to insert a toothpick through the bottom.  Next, I began to cut out the crown shapes.  (To prevent the fondant from drying out, keep what you are not using wrapped in plastic so it will remain pliable.)

I worked on about 4-5 crowns at a time.  Once they were cut out, I inserted the toothpick.

If the toothpick is showing through the backside of the crown, "patch" it with a very small amount of fondant flattened with your fingers.  Gently spread it on the exposed area to create a seal.  If the crowns have already begun to dry and the fondant does not stick, use a very small amount of water to permanently secure it.

I wanted to give some visual interest to the crowns and decided to add some "pearls" to the tips.  I thought Wilton Pearlized Sprinkles would be perfect for this.  Since the fondant I chose was pink, I went with white sprinkles.

Cute!  Yet...I thought something more was needed.  I set the crowns and a layer of paper towel (to absorb moisture and leave them nice and stiff) and moved on to something else.

Then it came to me!  Ages ago I purchased a cookie stamper set with tiny little letters.  How cute would they look on the crowns?  I chose my friend's first name initial, "K".

Adorable!!  I was very pleased.  Very simple with clean lines and a splash of "bling".

The next day, however, I still had these crowns on my mind.  While shopping for supplies, I didn't really know where I was going with this, so I purchased some plastic crown rings to put on the top of the cupcakes as toppers in case my ideas didn't work out.  I REALLY hoped not to use them and was glad I didn't have to for that purpose.  BUT, I had some inspiration about using them as stampers on the fondants.  Would that be effective to create more of a "crown" effect?

I lined a ring up and rolled it back and forth, pressing firmly but not so firm as to flatten or distort the shape.


I stamped a "K" in the middle of the heart.

Perfect!  Would some "pearls" be too much?  Of course not!

To secure the sprinkles, press one into each point of the crown making sure there is a semi-circular indent for the sprinkle to rest in.

Using a small paintbrush (that's never been used for painting - I have a supply reserved for food projects only), apply a trace amount of water in each indent and them apply the sprinkle.  Once dried, the sprinkle should be totally secured to the fondant.

Here is the progression of the crowns as I made them.  I loved the final version with the ring impression so much I redid all of the crowns for the birthday party cupcakes.

Now, to take a plain frosted cupcake and transform it into something fit for a Princess on her birthday!

I found these adorable castle cupcake wrappers and knew I wanted to use them, too, for the final product.

All done!

But then again...what about some sparkles by adding a layer of edible disco dust?

Or maybe securing an edible sugar heart in the middle of the crown.  Perhaps a fun jewel sticker for some sparkle?  The possibilities are endless!  Color combinations and and array of sprinkles, quins, edible glitter, stamps, etc., will allow you to make your own specialized cupcake topper for the Princesses in your life!

Stay tuned for the second part of this particular party...Mermaid Tail Cupcakes!  I will post a tutorial detailing the steps to make these cutie cupcakes.  Thanks for stopping by Life Is Sweets!!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Hershey's Kiss, Kiss "Dah-ling" Cookies

I must be watching too many episodes of the Real Housewives Franchise because, while putting these together, "Kiss, Kiss, Dahling" (in the voice of Lisa Vanderpump or LuAnn De Lesseps) kept going through my head.  Despite this, I had so much fun making these!!  I first spied the idea on Pinterest here at Munchkin Munchies.  They looked so adorable I had to try them myself.  Since we are fast approaching February 14th, I decided to mimic the hues of the Kiss wrappers found in the Hershey Kiss Valentine's Day packages.  So cute.

I have an absolutely favorite cut-out cookie recipe that I always use, but it contains lemon juice and zest.  I planned to use melted Kisses for some of the cookies instead of icing, however, which didn't seem to appealing to combine with lemon.  Also, I wanted to flavor some of the dough with almond (to create a faux Hershey Kiss Almond candy) and some with cherry (for Hershey Cherry Cordial Kiss cookies).  Neither would be tasty with a lemon based cookie.

For a new sugar cookie dough recipe, I turned to The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle, since she makes some of the most amazing cookies I have ever seen.  It only stood to reason that her basic cookie recipe must be delicious, too, right?  I made a few slight changes but was VERY happy with this recipe.  I will most definitely be using it again.

Before baking the cookies, be sure you have your decorating supplies ready:  Unwrapped Hershey Kisses (save the "Hershey Kiss" tag from each), food coloring in the shade of each wrapper you are turning into a cookie, and edible sprinkles in the corresponding icing colors.

Basic Sugar Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) of real butter (I used salted)
1 1/2 cups of confectioner's sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons flavoring extract (I used Almond)
2 1/2 - 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream together butter and sugar.  In a separate bowl, combine the egg and flavoring.  Combine butter and egg mixtures and beat until fully incorporated.  In another separate bowl, sift together dry ingredients and add to butter an egg mixture in three intervals.  Mix until dough is pliable but not sticky.  Roll out dough* and cut into desired shapes.  Bake for 7-8 minutes.  Let cool completely before icing.

To make the Kiss shape, I used a small heart cookie cutter.  I tried to smooth out the top of the heart into a straight line for the bottom of the Kiss.  Some were more successful than others.  Last night I picked up a small metal heart cutter and flattened the cutter itself for the future.

Next, I mixed up some icing - confectioner's sugar mixed with water to a thickish consistency.  To test the thickness I run a knife through the icing and count to five.  If the line disappears before 5 seconds, I add a bit more sugar.  If it takes 5 seconds for the line to disappear, it's exactly how I want it.  I just eyeballed the amount of icing, making as much as I thought I'd need for the amount of cookies I had.  Then, I split the icing into three parts dyeing the first one gray, the second light pink, and the third red.

Working with one color at a time, I poured the icing in a plastic piping bag fitted with a #3 tip.  Outline the Kiss with icing and fill the inside.  You can use a toothpick to nudge fill out the icing completely inside the outline.  Immediately after icing a cookie, take one of the Hershey Kiss tags and, again using a toothpick, push it into the icing so it will be secure once the icing sets.  After the tag is applied, immediately pour the sprinkles that match the icing color onto the cookie.  (TIP:  Pour the sprinkles over a coffee filter.  When you are done sprinkling, use the filter to pour the unused sprinkles back into the container.  Not my original idea, but it's genius and works like a dream!)

I started with gray icing and sprinkles:

Then I rounded out the Valentine collection with pink and red:

Once I completed the icing/tagging/sprinkling process, I melted down the unwrapped Hershey Kisses in the microwave in one minute increments at 30% power until they were melted.  I poured the melted chocolate into a piping bag, snipped off a TINY bit of the end, and made a triangle of chocolate on each cookie:


Using a toothpick, I pushed the chocolate into a kiss shape and did my best to create that iconic swirly flourish at the top!  I can definitely use more practice with that:

They are not perfect, but I *love* them.  :)

I think these might be a new favorite of mine.  I will make them for every Holiday and event coming because WHO doesn't love a Kiss?  Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, January 18, 2013

A Tiramisu Triumph!

I'm excited to share this recipe with you.  Of all the desserts, cupcakes, and sweet treats I've made to date, these cupcakes absolutely received the most rave reviews.  They are both pretty and pretty easy to make!  If you like tiramisu, I cannot  recommend these enough.

To begin, mix up your favorite yellow cake recipe and bake it into cupcakes.

As they are cooling, make a cup of coffee.  Any flavor you like will do just fine.

Next, using a skewer, poke holes into the cupcakes.  Be sure to poke several holes so the coffee absorbs.  You can either use a pastry brush to apply the coffee to the cupcakes or a spoon to pour it on.  I found using a spoon worked better to achieve the sponge-soaked cake effect of tiramisu.  I poured a teaspoon sized spoon of coffee onto each cupcake, one at a time, and repeated the process until the cup of coffee was gone.  

This photo shows the three steps from bottom to top:
1.  Bake cupcakes
2.  Poke holes with skewer
3.  Apply coffee with pastry bush or spoon

While the cupcakes sit soaking up the coffee, prepare the icing (which is soooo delicious!).  One of the distinctive flavors of tiramisu is mascarpone cheese, a smooth and soft buttery cream mixture with a sweet, light flavor.  In the cupcake version it's used in the icing.  You can find it in the cheese section at most grocery stores.

Mascarpone Cheese Icing

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 8 oz. package of mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup confectioners sugar

Using an electric mixer, beat heavy cream until it forms stiff peaks.  (To see the progression of stiffness as you beat the cream, click here for photos at one minute intervals).

In a separate bowl, beat together mascarpone cheese and sugar.  Once the mixture if fully creamed together, add the whipped cream in three increments, beating until completely incorporated at each interval.  The final product of icing will look like this:

To ice the cupcakes, I used a piping bag with the end snipped off.

After each cupcake is piled high with fluffy icing, dust the tops with cocoa powder.

Lastly, add some bittersweet chocolate shavings for garnish (if desired).

And there you have it! 

You can see the coffee soaked cake deliciousness after just one bite.  

Tiramisu is my Husband's favorite dessert so I'll be baking him these for Valentine's Day.  I hope you have an opportunity to make and enjoy them, too!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What? Halloween is only 9 Months Away! ;)

I've been on a bit of a hiatus.  I hadn't intended to be away for so long, but life happens, right?!  I had this Halloween Cupcake-scape in cue since last October and initially thought it was too late to post it.  But then again, why not?!

The idea came from my an order my neighbor placed for a birthday cake for her son, who was turning 6.  He requested a Halloween theme to celebrate, and we arrived at this idea instead of a traditional cake. 

Begin by baking cupcakes in the flavor of your choice.  While they are cooling, start on the chocolate trees.  You can find directions for making them here.  They cannot be easier to put together!

While the chocolate trees harden, arrange the cooled cupcakes in a random pattern close enough that they are touching.  Dye a batch (or can) of icing green to create a "grass" color.  If you would like to use homemade icing, you can find my favorite recipe here.  Using a Wilton Grass Tip #233, start piping the grass.

Now comes the fun part - using your imagination to create any type of Halloween scene you'd like!  I decided not to be too ghoulish, as this was to be for 6 year-old children.  I made some white chocolate ghosts using a ghost lollipop chocolate mold.  These, too, were super easy.  Melt white chocolate, pour them into the molds (first, I melted a bit of dark chocolate, just a small amount, and used a small brush to paint in the eyes and mouth), add the lollipop stick and place in the refrigerator to harden.  When you pop the ghosts out, you can use the lollipop stick to anchor the ghost into a cupcake.  

I also added a chocolate tree, sprinkled a few autumn leaves quins underneath the tree, placed a few sugar pumpkins around, and randomly threw on some candy skulls.  

Lastly, I added a "BOO" banner to tie it all together.

This was a really fun cup-"cake" to put together.  The birthday boy was happy and the kids loved it.  Mission accomplished!

I'm looking forward to blogging about desserts and such in the coming weeks.  I haven't been blogging, but I sure have been baking the last few months.  I'm excited to start experimenting and trying new things and hope you'll find some things of interest, too!

Happy New Year to you all, and thanks for continuing to follow Life Is Sweets!!