Thursday, October 30, 2008

...and the wedding recap

Well my friends, as promised, here are the rest of the pics from our busy wedding weekend.

In case you missed it, the wedding cupcakes you see here are the culmination of a whole year's worth of study and practice in all things cake related. (This was cupcake armageddon! My big TAA-DAAAAH!)

All in all, I was very proud of how the cupcakes turned out. I thought they looked nearly professional and people simply raved about the flavor. I wish I had counted how many times I heard "you MADE these?!" during the evening, but I was too busy dancing and sipping champagne! Do you know that we didn't have a single cupcake leftover after the wedding reception? How often does that happen? So yeah, I think I'm going to call this one a success! Hooray!

CaraCakes' Spicy Fall Wedding Cuppycakes
with Pumpkin Cream Cheese filling and Maple Buttercream Icing
If you want the recipe, here's the link back to the original post.
I did make one or two adjustments to the recipe for the final go-round. I added a bit more pumpkin to the pumpkin cream cheese filling and doubled the maple flavor in the icing to 1t. just to make the flavor more pronounced.

And without further ado, the pics:

Ladies and gentlemen, gather your spices!

Beating the cream cheese and butter for the filling. Obviously this is a double batch...

Mmmmmm pumpkinny orange color

Here are a couple tricks I've learned when making cupcakes you have to carry somewhere. 1) Line the bottom of a cake box with a cake board or cardboard to make the box more sturdy. 2) Fill and frost the cupcakes INSIDE the box! You can fold up the sides of the box after you're done filling and frosting, and then you don't have to worry about smearing the frosting as you're trying to get them nestled in their places.

Of course I had to sample one! Really, it was just to get the pic for you. Really it was. I could have eaten all 96 of them just like this, but everyone else wanted frosting. Sigh.

Through the cake box window, 24 swirly frosted cuppies.

A closeup of a sparkly fondant leaf. Remember my friend from up North who does lots of gorgeous cakes? She volunteered to make all the fondant leaves for me as a wedding gift so I wouldn't have to worry about decorations and I could just focus on the cupcakes. Didn't she do an amazing job? These are all colored, cut, shaped and sparkled by hand!

The finished product!

Last but not least... big smiles all around!

So with a big sigh of relief, there it is. I'd love to hear what you thought of the project, the final results, and any of the other projects I have attempted and displayed here for you over the last year.

So is this the end of the blog? I really don't think so. I'm kind of on a bite-sized dessert kick now. I'm sure in our new location, life will call for cupcakes (maybe Air Force cupcakes?) and I promise to keep updating you on my adventures in frosting!


Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Hello again,
I bet you thought you'd lost me? Well, the weekend after our wedding my new hubby and I packed up and moved to Scott Air Force Base in Illinois for a new 2 year assignment, and with all the moving mayhem, I have just recently recovered (unpacked) my camera and all the wedding pics. So I apologize for the belated post, but I promise it will be worth the wait!

Ok, first things first! Back in September when I made the cherry chocolate chip cupcakes for the Triple Play Birthday post, my hubby decided he liked the flavor so much that he wanted me to make those for the wedding instead of my Pumpkin Spice cupcake recipe that I had been working on all year! Yikes! What to do? I tried convincing him that cherry chocolate chip wasn't a fall-themed flavor, but when my argument fell flat, I opted for a compromise - I'd just make both! Why not have a Harley themed groom's cake with a flavor he really loves for our family bbq on Friday, and have my pumpkin spice cupcakes for the big reception on Saturday? That's a LOT of cupcakes, but it's the best of both worlds!

So Wednesday, I set about making the Cherry Chip recipe. You can read all about the recipe and see pics of the work in progress in the September post. Hubby liked them with chocolate frosting instead of the cherry vanilla in the recipe, so that's what I went with. And yes, I used canned chocolate frosting (you know me by now!). It was easier for me, and since the cupcakes were from scratch I figured I could cheat on the frosting a bit.

In going with our Harley-themed bbq, I used silver wrappers for the cupcakes, along with some silver and black Harley picks I purchased online and a Hog cake topper. I made 2 batches of cupcakes and used one more batch of batter to bake a 6" round as a cutting cake. I split the cake into 2 layers and frosted the middle, and decorated the whole thing with maraschino cherry halves. The final touches were milk- and white- chocolate motorcycles made with molds I purchased here and dusted with edible silver luster dust. Here are the pics!

The cupcakes went into the fridge and were still moist and delicious on Friday. If you're going to refrigerate these cupcakes, make sure you let them come to room temperature before you serve them. They are butter-recipe, and so they're really dense when they're cold. Otherwise, we were still eating the leftovers a week later and they tasted great!

So that was round one for the wedding weekend. Round 2? Look for a post later this week. Stay tuned!


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Cupcake success, but where's my camera?!

Well my friends, the big day has come and gone and the cupcake-ing was a big success! I made a groom's cake and 24 cupcakes, and the wedding cake and 96 cupcakes for that... and I have lots of great pics in my camera, which is nowhere to be found after all the mayhem this weekend!!! So until I can locate it, let me leave you with one pic of the finished wedding cake (which is what I know you want to see!) and a couple pics of the groom's cake and I will update later this week when I find my camera.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008


3 days left! 3 days left! It's almost here!!! Tomorrow is cupcake insanity day for your good pal CaraCakes... I'll be in the kitchen making 8 dozen wedding cuppycakes and a cutting cake for the top. Wish me luck, friends! This is where the rubber meets the road. Er, the spatula meets the frosting? In the meantime, here's a teaser of the project I did today... more to come!!!


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Friday, September 12, 2008

Triple Play Birthday

My fiance and I met while singing karaoke, and we have a whole group of friends who karaoke with us on a weekly (or so) basis. One night a month, we decorate our karaoke hangout with balloons and streamers and celebrate the birthdays of all the people in our group born that month. Tonight happens to be the night for our September birthdays and we have 3 people we're partying on behalf of. I think this calls for cupcakes!

So Ron is a Red Sox fan, Miss B. is a 4th grade teacher, and Tim is a country fan and we call him Tumbleweed Tim. My ambitious project today was to make 2 dozen cupcakes (8 for each person) with themed fondant decorations. Not one to ever make it easy on myself, I thought it would also be a good day to try making a new recipe from SCRATCH, including both cupcakes and frosting. Yum!

One of my favorite ice cream flavors is Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia, a vanilla and cherry flavored ice cream with chocolate chips and chocolate covered cherry pieces floating around in all that chilly creamy goodness. Why, I've been thinking, should ice cream get to have all the fun? Why not a cuppycake? After searching online I found a couple recipes that were for chocolate cupcakes with cherry pie filling (which I really don't like), so I googled a bit more and discovered this recipe for cherry vanilla cupcakes with mini chocolate chips and pieces of maraschino cherries all chopped up inside. Fabulous! Grab the apron and let's get started!

Cherry-Chip Cupcakes from - makes 12 regular cupcakes

1-1/3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup syrup from jar of maraschino cherries
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 stick butter or margarine, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate mini-chips
1/4 cup finely chopped, drained maraschino cherries (14-20 cherries from a 10 oz. jar)

Heat oven to 350. Grease and flour 12 regular-size muffin cups or line with paper liners. Whisk flour and baking powder in a small bowl until blended. Put milk, cherry syrup and extracts in a cup. The mixture will probably curdle but it's nothing to worry about and it will not affect the cupcakes. In a medium-size bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on high speed about 1 minute until pale. Gradually add sugar and beat until fluffy. Reduce mixer speed to medium. Beat in eggs, one at a time, just until blended. Reduce mixer speed to low. Alternately beat in flour and milk mixtures just until blended. Stir in chocolate chips and cherries. Spoon batter into prepared cups. Bake 20-25 minutes until the cupcakes are godlen and their tops spring back when lightly pressed. Cool in pan on wire rack 5 minutes before removing to rack to cool completely. Spread top with Cherry-Vanilla Buttercream.

Cherry-Vanilla Buttercream
1/2 stick butter or margarine, room temperature
1-3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 Tbs. vanilla extract
1 Tbs. milk
1 Tbs. cherry syrup from jar of maraschino cherries - this was my addition, in lieu of another Tbs. of milk. Makes the frosting pink and pretty! You can use milk if you like.

Beat butter in a medium-size bowl with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually beat in powdered sugar alternately with milk and cherry syrup, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla until blended. if needed, add more milk, 1/2 Tbs. at a time, until buttercream is of spreading consistency. Makes about 1 cup.

This was the first time I have tried a butter recipe cupcake instead of the regular eggs, water and oil, so as the batter came together I was surprised to find it very thick, almost somewhere between a pancake batter and a sugar cookie dough. My concern was unfounded, though, because as soon as the cuppies hit the oven, the butter began to melt and they began to resemble "real" (aka boxed) cupcakes. Since the recipe makes only 12 (actually 13ish) cupcakes, I had to do the whole thing twice, and by the second time around I was able to whip the batter together in no time at all. Here are some pics of the mixing and baking process, along with some baked and cooling cuppycakes:

Adding the cherries and the chocolate chips...

Starting to melt and looking a whole lot more like cupcakes!

Well, what do you know? They turned out ok!

Hey, I had to try one before I brought them to the party!

So on to the frosting... As I munched a still-warm cupcake, I thought it might be fun to have more than one frosting flavor, because some people just don't think a cupcake is a cupcake unless there is chocolate frosting on top. My sister subscribes to that philosophy. So does my brother, come to think of it. I happened to have an extra tub of Betty Crocker chocolate frosting sitting in my cupboard, so I decided to use that for 12 of the cupcakes and make the frosting recipe above for the remainder.

It's a good thing I had extra frosting on hand, because that recipe really only makes enough frosting for about 10 cupcakes (11 if you skimp - and who does that?!?) so I needed a backup anyhow. Betty to the rescue! Here are some cupcakes frosted with the pink stuff...

How could you possibly frost 12 cupcakes with that?!

Pretty Pretty Piping

I'm going to let the decorations speak for themselves. Enjoy the pics! And have a great weekend. 21 days and counting!

Love, CaraCakes

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Poured fondant? And getting ready for the big day!

Hello, my friends! 23 days to go. And things are cooking right along, pardon the pun.

Last week I was in Amelia Island, Florida attending a conference for work when my team surprised me with a cake! Actually, it wasn't just for me, it was also for 2 other ladies in our department with big "life events" this fall - they are both expecting babies. But I took a pic of it anyway to share with you because a) I am kinda obsessed with cake lately, and b) I'm still trying to figure out exactly how they did it. Here are a couple of pics:

Due to how shiny the cake appeared, I wondered if the frosting and decorations were modeling chocolate. But when we cut into the cake, it was actually fondant. So help me out here: is that what they call "poured fondant"? If not, how did they get the fondant so shiny? And how did they do it without leaving fingerprints? Some sort of gloss product? Even the little balls and accents had the same shine to them. It surprised me because I'm used to the standard matte finish. Either way, the fondant was definitely homemade. The marshmellow flavor was fresh and fluffy and actually quite tasty - not dry and packaged like the stuff you get in the craft store. Very interesting!

In other news, I decorated my cupcake tree for the reception last night and am very pleased with how it turned out! Over the course of planning the reception, I've been focusing on the fall theme (as you know) and have somewhat unintentionally slid into a burgundy base color for the decor, with other fall colors like pumpkin and chocolate and gold as accents. This happened mostly as a result of the color of the chairs in the reception hall as well as the choices of napkin colors for the tables. So burgundy (though not my favorite color) it has become.

The cupcake tree I bought is a series of 5 cardboard disks with rectangular pieces that fit together to make the support structure for each tier. Using a roll of cake foil I got here, I traced each circle and cut it out with scissors, then affixed it to the tier using double sided tape.

I then measured out some satin burgundy ribbon, hot glued it to the edge of each tier, and stacked the finished tiers together. Voila!

I debated whether or not to cover the support pieces with foil as well, but I think when you get the cupcakes in front of them you won't be able to see the supports at all. I'm hoping that when this is all over I'll be able to take the ribbon and foil off and reuse the cupcake tree, since the website where I purchased it seems to be no longer in business. Glad I got it when I did!

I'm supposed to make cupcakes for a birthday party this weekend. Off to that project!

Keep counting down with me!
Love, CaraCakes

Saturday, August 16, 2008

It's Crunch Time!

There's all kinds of fun to be had with iron-on letters...

The Cupcake Armageddon counter on this site says only 48 days until our wedding weekend. Is that possible?!?! Where has my summer gone? Back in the innocent hopeful days of spring, I had all these visions in my head of a summer full of cakes, recipes and fondant, and weekends of nonchalant and relaxed wedding preparations. As it turns out, I have spent 6 of the last 10 weeks on the road traveling for my job and have had little time to do much of anything except squeeze a few wedding details in here and there between flights out of town. In fact, I was supposed to be on the road again today headed back to Atlanta to teach a week of classes, but my Monday and Tuesday class was cancelled and so I'm not leaving until Tuesday night. My groom is playing golf this afternoon so I found myself with a couple of free hours to pick up where I left off with cake making.

I feel at this point like I have the whole cupcake thing down pat, but I still need work on the 6" round cake that is going to top the cupcake tree and will be used as our cutting cake for the reception. I want to get the frosting picture perfect and see if my homemade cake topper is going to work the way I want it to. I need to cover the cake tiers in the burgundy foil I bought in Atlanta, add some ribbon and some silk leaves and see how the whole thing is going to look put together. If I don't do it this weekend, my next opportunity will be the week of September 8 and that's a bit too close to the reception date for comfort. So this afternoon's adventure was to make a practice cutting cake, mess around with the cake stand, and enjoy some yummy new flavors.

Hmmmm, what kind of cake to make? This week I was in Manhattan working with a client and they took me to a cute little cupcake shop called Crumbs to try out their recipes. Being in New York City, I expected the cupcakes to be off the hook, but I must admit I was a little disappointed. Our group tried 4 different cupcakes: Key Lime, Pistachio, Cookie Dough and Chocolate Espresso. I found all the cupcakes were moist and had great texture, but on each one the frosting was way too sweet and the flavors too subtle. When I bit into the Pistachio cupcake, the faint hint of pistachio goodness was quickly overwhelmed by sugar and the shortening used in the frosting. I think I was spoiled by the key lime cupcake in Atlanta where the lime flavor knocked my socks off and that's set my expectations for all other bake shops too darn high. As an aside, I know, I know, I have yet to blog my cupcake safaris in Phoenix and more recently in Washington DC. Someday I hope to have the time...

After the underwhelming chocolate espresso cupcake in NYC, I thought maybe I could give that flavor profile a go and see where it took me. I have been thinking lately that a mocha cupcake with hazelnut frosting might be tasty... this sounds like a plan. I googled Nutella frosting a couple weeks ago and ran across a simple recipe that might work...

If you have never experienced Nutella before, let me just say I could eat the stuff right out of the jar with my fingers, no spoon required! Nutella is a chocolate hazelnut spread about the consistency of thin peanut butter and is a very popular breakfast and dessert spread in the UK and Europe.

I've eaten it before on bagels and things but never used it in a recipe and was quite excited to give it a try. It is very sweet, and combined with powdered sugar in a frosting recipe I knew I would need to make a bittersweet cake to balance out the flavors. I wondered what would happen if I took a boxed (you know me!) dark chocolate cake mix and simply replaced the water with strong brewed coffee? The dark chocolate and the bitterness of the coffee should complement the Nutella frosting, right?

Well, this came out better than I could have imagined, folks. The cake is moist and savory and the frosting simply dreamy. If you make this recipe, you'd better be ready to lick the bowl and forget about your supper, because this is one amazing cuppycake!

Here's the recipe:

Dark chocolate mocha cupcakes:
1 box dark chocolate moist cake mix
eggs and oil as called for on the box
replace the water with very strong brewed coffee, cooled

(I didn't wait for the coffee to cool because I was too excited about making the cake. If you're impatient like me, be sure to add the eggs and oil to the cake mix first, then add in the coffee slowly in small parts so that you don't accidentally cook the eggs with the hot coffee! For best results, just be patient!)

My cake mix made my 6"x3" round plus 9 cupcakes. Bake according to box directions.

Nutella Frosting (borrowed from Recipezaar):
3/4 c. butter, softened
3 c. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
1/3 c. milk
1/2 c. Nutella, at room temperature

Beat together.

The Nutella and the room temperature butter make this a very soft frosting, not great for piping. Next time I make this I will probably add a bit more powdered sugar to stiffen it up because I found myself putting the whole bowl of frosting in the fridge between the crumb coat and top coat on the cake and also storing all the finished goods in the fridge. The one good thing about the soft frosting is how easy it melts in your mouth... yummmmmmmm (extra mmmm's for emphasis).

Here's a finished frosted cuppy:

Just for good measure and a little bling, I threw some small silver dragees on the top of the cupcake and I loved how they stood out against the tan frosting. I'm considering adding dragees to the wedding cupcakes too.

While the cupcakes baked and cooled, I played around with my cupcake tree, adding burgundy cake foil to the top 2 layers and gluing ribbon around the edges. I also added skewers to the bottom of what will become my cake topper. I really like the cake toppers I've seen that are metal initials with crystals on them, but they are outrageously expensive if you buy them from any of the online wedding retailers or from a catalog. Back in December, I ran across some gold "N" Christmas ornaments with rhinestones on super clearance for about $1 a piece, so I picked up 4 thinking I could make them work as a cake topper. Here's how my improvised topper came out:

Not too shabby! Lenox and Swarovski, eat your heart out.

Some pics of the finished cupcake and (very imperfect!) cutting cake on the mocked up cupcake tree:

So we're not quite there, but we're making progress. My playing around definitely helped today. I'll be icing the sides of the cake flat with my offest spatula instead of trying to use the icing comb because I didn't like how the comb pulled up some of the crumb coat and I can get the sides perfect with the offset. I know the consistency of the maple buttercream frosting will be much more shelf-stable at room temp and therefore more conducive to icing and piping than the soft Nutella frosting. I kind of gave up on piping the Nutella frosting after a few go-rounds. It definitely tastes much better than it looks here! I will be doing small piped stars around the top and bottom of the cutting cake, and I will be looking for another ribbon to use on the edges of the cake tree because the sheer ribbon just doesn't cover the cardboard the way I want. These are good things to know now instead of 2 days before the wedding, right?! Practice makes perfect.

Suggestions or comments for me? Let me know. 48 days and counting!

Love, CaraCakes