Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Treat "Fore" The Golf Lovers In Your Life!

The one year anniversary of my blog is coming up next month and one of my first projects was a golf course made out of cupcakes.  At the time I thought it was a bit sad looking and had wanted to give it another go with the proper tools, namely a grass piping tip.  Finally, I had a reason to do it when I was asked to create a cupcake golf course for a birthday party.

As with any cupcake project, I baked up the cakes!  Once they cooled, I arranged them on a cake board.  Without giving it much thought I designed the shape the same way I've noticed the courses on google - random and askew:

The order was for 20 chocolate and 20 vanilla cupcakes.  I purposely placed the chocolate on the outside so it would resemble earth beneath the grass.  I'm not sure it made a real difference.  Vanilla would have been just fine.  Next, I mixed up three batches of buttercream icing.

Vanilla Buttercream Icing

2 sticks of butter
4 cups of confectioner's sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3-5 tablespoons half and half

Using a mixer, beat butter until it is fluffy.  Add 3 cups of sugar - one cup at a time - mixing until it's completely incorporated.  Add vanilla and half and half along with last cup of sugar and mix, adding more half and half until the icing is the desired consistency.

I wanted to make enough to cover the entire golf course.  Since I was dying the "grass" green, I needed enough to be sure I wouldn't need to mix more icing.  If I needed to make more I couldn't guarantee the greens would match and that there wouldn't be a darker or lighter patch on the course.  For 40 cupcakes three batches of icing was perfect.  I didn't have much left over at all by the end!

So, I combined the three batches (I mixed them up separately to ensure it turned out okay.  Recipes are funny like that; some you can double or triple with no consequences, some you have to make adjustments in the measurements.  I was under a time crunch, so I played it safe mixing the buttercream in three separate batches.  I spooned out a nice sized scoop for the water and another spoonful of white for the sand trap.  I spread the blue and white over the areas I designated for the water and sand.  On top of the white I sprinkled brown sugar.  I thought it had a nice, sand-like texture.  I've seen other courses where crushed Nilla Wafers or Graham Crackers were used for the sand and I think next time I will do that just to cut down on the sweetness factor.

Once the "water" and "sand" were applied, I filled a piping bag with some of the green icing fitted with a Wilton #233 grass tip.  Using the green, I filled in the remaining surfaces of the cupcakes.  My client asked me to make it look like a smooth course, not like separate cupcakes arranged as a course.  To that end, I filled in the spaces between cupcakes with some icing for a surface to pipe the "grass" on top.  Once I made some decent progress with the rough, I designated an area for the green.  Using the same frosting/smoothing technique as for the "water" and "sand", I added green icing and topped it with some light green sanding sugar to mimic the short grass of the green.  Then I continued piping the rough.

To finish the "water" I added some small chocolate rocks:

Lastly, for the golf course, was the flag and hole in the green.  I used a wooden skewer (next time will use a lollipop stick) for the post and white fondant for the flag.  The hole was an upside down chocolate chip and the golf ball a white dragee:

That's it!  A bit time consuming to pipe all of the "grass", but EASY.  As always, however, I have a few ideas to improve the design.

So, the order was for 40 cupcakes, but I was only able to fit 30 onto the cake board.  For the remaining 10 cupcakes I made cupcakes designed to be a golf course "green".

Picture quality is not so great, but you get idea.  I have a new macro lens and camera I'm still trying to figure out, which means some photos will be better than others until I work it all out.  :)

In elementary school one of my teachers had each of us students write a paragraph on the first day of school.  On the last day of the year she handed them back to us so we could see how our writing improved and how much we'd progressed during the course of the year.  This golf course is kind of like that for me.  When I see where I was a year ago and what I can do now, all just because I keep trying, it feels pretty good!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Using Stickers In A Pinch (Or Using Them Just Because You Can!)

I don't know about the rest of you cake pop makers out there, but I can't even begin to imagine how people make such intricate, detailed, perfect shapes, animals, etc.  Chocolate is a fussy thing to work with.  It's too liquidity, it's too thick, it's just not my preferred medium (fancy word there, huh?  ;) for baking.  Therefore, I haven't gone too far into the realm of cake pop options, apart from different colorings.  The thing is, though, I'm getting kinda bored of the plain, old round cake pop.

Which brings me to my recent cake pop order.  The theme was "Noah's Arc" (for twins...how clever!) and I was given an invitation for a color guide.  I spent days thinking of what I could do to make them a bit more special without getting into making actual animal shapes I would have to add details to.  As far as skills go, I just don't think I'm there yet.

I went to the craft store to pick up sticks, wrappers and ribbon the day of the project and resigned myself to playing it safe with the ball shape, matching colors as best I could.  As I walked to the register past the scrapbook sticker aisles I thought, "Why not look for some animals to add to the packaging."  It's such a simple, easy addition, but I LOVE the way they turned out!!

Here is a photo of the group with the invitation:

Aren't they CUTE?  I may be a bit more enthusiastic than is warranted, but the amount of time and stress it saved me while, at the same time, playing up the theme makes me want to sing and dance!  ;)

I definitely will only use scrapbooking stickers, rather than flat, one dimensional versions, because they're more visually interesting and polished.  I'm totally going to capitalize on all of the adorable stickers out there and save myself some headaches when I can.  The possibilities are endless!!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tattoos for Treats?! Sure, I'll give it a try! :)

Well, hello there!!  This summer has been so crazy....I've really missed baking!  We've hosted lots of visiting family and friends at our home and did some traveling.  I was even able to spend some time on the set of Royal Pains during the filming of an episode!  However, things have settled down and it's time to get back to blogging. 

Over the last months I've worked on orders people have asked me to do.  So, now that I've found a few minutes to myself for blog baking I am having difficulty decided where to begin.  I've been trying to come up with something a little different.  Something original.  I'm still trying to come up with it.  Everything is a variation on a theme, you know?  So, in the meantime of coming up with a unique and amazing product (lol), I decided to experiment with the zebra stripe brownie tattoos I picked up at Michaels some time ago.

The photo above is the picture perfect look I was going for.  It's by Duff Goldman, some big time baking guy.  I think he has a show.  Anyway, mine didn't turn out quite as lovely, but I think they're cute!

First I baked up some brownies.  For fun I baked them in a cupcake pan.  

I was in a "round" kind of mood, but the shape of the tattoos wasn't ideal for round brownies.  They are designed for square items since they have a border, so the pattern isn't big enough for a cupcake sized brownie.  If you make brownie bites it will definitely fit nicely.  After reading the instructions I discovered I would need a brownie icing to create an adhesive for the tattoo.  Here's what I whipped up:

Brownie Frosting
recipe from Allrecipes

6 tablespoons milk
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup chocolate chips
1 dash vanilla extract

Combine milk, butter, and sugar in a small saucepan.  Bring to a rolling boil for 30 seconds and immediately remove from heat.  Add chocolate chips and vanilla, stirring until melted.  Pour immediately onto warm brownies

I removed the cooled, but warm brownies from the pan and then frosted them with the brownie frosting.  Initially, when you make the icing it is liquidy.  It will harden, though, and not stick to the brownie very well.  It's definitely best to frost them immediately before they cool completely and let the frosting set after applying it.

Once the icing was on, I applied a square of tattoo on top of the brownie.  The tattoos come in a rectangular shape, so I cut them into squares myself.

Using the flat side of a knife, I ran it over the top of the tattoo to secure and smooth it to the frosting.  After it set for about 20 minutes, I cut the edges to make rounds.

Looking at the picture above you can see what I mean about the edge of the pattern not fitting on top of the round brownie surface.  Making the brownies a bit smaller would easily take care of this problem.  I think these are cute, and for something themed these would be a great dessert.  You cannot taste the tattoo at all and brownies, of course, are always DELICIOUS!  This is a pretty quick and easy way to whip up something simple with that extra pizzazz!