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