Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Moooooo-ve Over Other Sweet Treats, The Cows Are Coming Home!

I have been having a crazy-busy spring/summer season!  Lots of travelling and hosting guests who've come to tour NYC.  I've also been filling baking orders, but have been on such a time crunch I was never able to photograph and blog about them.  This time, however, I tried something new and decided to share my experience:  Fondant.

I have been afraid of fondant and dreading the day I had to use it.  Finally, that day came and I reluctantly purchased the necessary tools to make these cow cupcakes.  I have no idea when or how I developed the idea that fondant was a messy, sticky, difficult substance to work with, but I could not have been more wrong!  It's pliable, not terribly sticky, and FUN!!

These cutie cows were favors for a birthday party.  I was shown a picture to work from, and it was clear that the only way to accomplish this design was to use (in my opinion) the F-word.  Fondant.

Unfortunately, since I have family visiting from Buffalo, I was not able to photograph each step involved in putting these together.  I wanted to be efficient and still spend time with my guests.

To that end, I bought pre-made white, black and pink fondant from Michaels.  I also used candy eyes and black decorating gel for the snouts.

To begin, I rolled out the white fondant.  I made pretty thick discs and next time will make them thinner, since there's really no reason to use so much when topping a cupcake.

These are the tools I used to cut the shapes:

I used my graduated circle cookie cutters and matched the size of the head to the size of a cupcake.  Next, I used a smaller circle for the pink "snout" area.  After cutting the snout I used my fingers to press it onto the white head, forming it into an oval shape.  I used the smallest cutter from a "Fondant Flower" set from Michaels Craft Store to make the spots on the cow.  Certainly, you can make all kinds of different spot shapes, but I decided to be a little more uniform in the design, though I randomly placed them on the head so no two cows would be the same.  :)  The smallest circle cutter was for the ears.  I cut circles and then pinched the bottom of the circle together for a 3D ear effect.

I assembled them in this order:

  • Large circle head
  • Pink circle snout pressed onto the head
  • Black spots randomly placed on the head
  • Pressed in the eyes (which didn't stick very well, so I dabbed some black gel underneath them to act as a "glue".
  • I rolled bits of white fondant to make a "snake" sort of shape for the horns.  I placed them underneath the head and pressed the "forehead" area down into the horns to make them stick.
  • I rolled pink fondant on top of black fondant and then cut circle shapes with a cutter.  I pinched them into an ear shape and used the same "sticking" method as the horns to make them stick to the head.
  • Random smiles, smirks, and nose dots on the snout using the black gel.
  • I left them on a cookie sheet overnight to dry.

The next day I made vanilla cupcakes and vanilla buttercream icing.

I placed a dollop of buttercream on top of the cupcake and then pressed a cow on top:

And that's it!  The process took about 2 hours of rolling, cutting, shaping and placement.  I had fun doing it and can't wait to try some more new designs with my new friend, fondant!!  :)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Pretty In Pink: Chocolate Desserts

I had an order for a baby shower with the request to use browns and pinks.  This was a fun assignment and I was excited.  However, it was also a little overwhelming coming up with designs with so much inspiration and ideas from research.  Also, if you follow me on Facebook, you know I had some issues with humidity, as in it's E-V-I-L, which upped the ante in completing this order.  For five days straight it was foggy 24/7 and without air conditioning I had to have the windows open in order to prevent suffocation.  I have either a) never experienced weather like this in my life or b) never noticed because I was baking all the time.  I'm just not sure.

Since I had this order why not just put in the air conditioners you ask?  Well, my husband was working 14 hour days and they are too heavy for me to install myself.  So that was that.

For instance, I was asked to make sugar cookies in a flower shape with pink icing.  I had to call and say I wasn't able.  The icing was NOT drying.  I had an idea to make chocolate cut-outs and to use melted pink chocolate for the flower outline.  I baked the cookies for an extra minute to dry them out a bit more and the pink chocolate worked just fine, so they turned out okay in the end.  For the incredible recipe for these cookies, click here.

The second part of the order was cake pops.  I had no issue making these, thankfully.  As for the design, I was going to use a squeeze bottle to decorate them with pink chocolate, but since I used some for the cookies it seemed too redundant.  I was asked to keep the design very clean and simple, so I used some brightly colored flower sugar candies I'd picked up at Michaels Craft Store.  I separated enough pink ones and used a toothpick to apply a bit of melted chocolate to the tops of the pops.  Then, using tweezers, I added the pink candy.  I actually really liked the final result!  For instructions to make cake pops, click here.

The next part of the order was chocolate cupcakes with raspberry filling.  I had a hard time making a filling that wasn't too runny, which made the cupcakes soggy.  Finally, I came up with something.  For directions detailing how to add filling to a cupcake, click here.  Next, I made some buttercream icing and on several I piled fluffy, pink frosting.

I decided to experiment with hand-rolled gum paste roses.  They kinda turned out okay.  I definitely need more practice making them.  Some looked more like roses than others.  The good news is I enjoyed making them.  It was a zen kind of project.

Lastly, for the chocolate cupcakes, I attempted to smooth the buttercream icing and make pink buttercream flowers with a dragee center.  As you can see, the concept was a good enough one, but, clearly, I need to work on this design.  With the moisture that permeated my house, the buttercream was acting fussy, too.  Yes, even the icing was in misery!!  ;)  To see a much prettier version of this flower design, click here.

And then there were the stars of the show...the Tiramisu Cupcakes.  I had to make a second batch after throwing out the first.  The idea is to poke holes on the top of each cupcake and then dip them in espresso.  The first batch was beyond soggy.  I was worried about the second batch, but they turned out just fine.  They were topped with an amazing Mascarpone Icing, finished with a dusting of cocoa powder and chocolate shavings.  Oh, they were beautiful.  I mean, I really loved them and felt proud of how they turned out.  So it was really too, too bad that they tipped over during the delivery and were a complete mess of icing and powder.  At least I have this pretty picture to remember them by:

*Sigh*  The good news is, they were (barely) able to be salvaged and everyone LOVED them.  All was forgiven and I didn't completely ruin the poor Woman's Baby Shower as I feared.  These cupcakes are so awesome they will be getting their own post soon.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Let's Play Ball For Father's Day! - Red Velvet Baseball Cupcakes

I've made many orders of cupcakes the last few weeks, but they were all variations on a theme of what I've done before.  Yesterday, however, I made some baseball cupcakes for a boys' birthday party at Yankee Stadium.  How FUN does that sound?!!  This was new design for me.  Pretty simple, and, of course, I had ideas how to improve on them them while I was in the process of putting them together so this will be a fun project to do again.

I've made (and posted about) Red Velvet Cupcakes...and I still SWEAR by the recipe I use.  It's absolutely delicious and has been an overwhelming success every time.  The color is such a lovely, deep red which an amazing hint-of-chocolate taste.  The Cream Cheese Frosting I usually top it off with is incredible, too.  In fact, it's often the star of the Red Velvet Cupcakes - such a winning combination (you can find the recipe here).  However, in this case I was asked to make a barely sweet icing so I decided to go with something a little different - Mascarpone Frosting.  I made the Mascarpone version for Tiramisu Cupcakes I baked a few weeks ago.  With only 1/2 cup of sugar I thought it could be a wonderful compliment to red velvet.  Turns out, I was right!

Okay, so here's how you make the cupcakes:

Sprinkles Copycat Red Velvet Cupcakes
Followed to a "T" from Carrot Top Mom

2 1/2 cups flour (I used all-purpose)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa (not Dutch processed)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk (or milk with 2 teaspoons lemon juice)
1 ounce red food coloring
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare baking pans with cupcake liners.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

In separate bowl, beat butter and sugar using electric mixer until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes).  Beat in eggs one at a time.  Add sour cream and milk, beating until well combined.  Lastly, add vanilla extract and red food coloring.

In three increments, add flour mixture.  Beat until just combined, do not overbeat.  Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full.  Bake for 15 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick come out clean.  Let cool for 15 minutes and remove from pan.  Let cupcakes cool completely before frosting.

Adding red dye to creamed ingredients

Red color of creamed ingredients with red dye

Slightly brownish red color of combined creamed and dry ingredients

The Mascarpone Frosting could NOT be easier to make:

Mascarpone Frosting

1 cup heavy whipping cream
8 oz.  Mascarpone Cheese
1/2 cup confectioners sugar

Using an electric mixer, whip heavy cream until if forms stiff peaks (about 5 minutes).

Add cream to the bowl

After 1 minute of mixing

After 2 minutes of mixing

After 3 minutes of mixing

After 4 minutes of mixing

After 5 minutes of mixing

Consistency thick enough to not fall off of spatula

In a separate bowl, beat together mascarpone cheese and sugar.  Once they are completely combined, add whipped cream incrementally:

Add in increments - I added in three

Finished Frosting

I frosted the cupcakes as smoothly as I could, letting them set a few minutes after the initial icing to "crust" a little bit.  Then I went over the rough spots once more.  It's not a silky smooth icing.  It's really ideal for piping rather than smoothing, so it's not going to look perfect.  Once they were all frosted I used the red buttercream icing and piped half moons on each side of the cupcake with a #3 piping tip.

Next, I piped a "stitching" effect on the half circles.  This was a bit challenging, as the buttercream did not want to stick to the mascarpone icing.  I used a toothpick to coax everything into place.

They are playful and fun, but I am planning to experiment a bit more.  One thing I'd like to do is making the "stitching" "V's" a bit smaller.  I will use a smaller piping tip and make the buttercream icing a little less stiff so it will cooperate more.  I had some leftover cucpakes, which I piped some Mascarpone Icing onto and decorated with some red M&M Minis:

And then, like all good bakers do, I sampled one to make sure they were okay:

SSOOOOOO GOOD!!!!  A word of caution - if you use the Mascarpone Cheese icing, place the M&M's on at the very last minute.  The icing drained the candy color of it's red and by the next day they looked a stained mess!  Otherwise, the M&M's add a nice effect and a bit of sweetness to compliment the icing.  Anyway you make them you will love them!