Category Archives: cupcakes

Engagement cake

I looked at the calendar the other day and I realized it had been a few months since I last posted anything here. I sincerely apologize to anyone who checks in here regularly…I really do want to get to this more frequently, but it’s just so much work sometimes!

As usual, lack of posts does not mean lack of activity in the kitchen. One of the projects I was most excited about recently was an engagement cake I did for some friends of ours. I only have pictures of the final product because…well, honestly, I don’t know why. I remember taking a few process shots, but they seemed to have evaporated from the camera. I was particularly interested in the process of this cake because I was trying a different technique for icing the cake prior to covering it in fondant. Oh well.

Sorry for the quality of the pictures, too. These were taken on my phone. I know, I know. I’m so lazy. The inside of the cake was a devil’s food cake filled with chocolate ganache. The difference I mentioned earlier was covering the cake in a ganache (rather than buttercream) prior to putting the fondant on. The goal was to create a smoother surface, thus allowing crisper edges – which I think I mostly achieved.

Sorry, more bad photography. Please ignore all distracting background. The leaves are hand-cut fondant and attached with royal icing. It was a fun cake. =)

 

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Wedding! (part 2)

Okay…so where did we leave off? That’s right, baking done and enjoying Thanksgiving dinner. That was the end of the San Francisco portion of the project. The next part was probably the most stressful part of the whole weekend – transporting everything to Sacramento. We borrowed my parents’ minivan and loaded it up with the 360 cupcakes, the 14-inch square cake, the 2 foam tiers, my KitchenAid mixer, and about 5 gallons of buttercream. Oh yes, and all of our personal things for the wedding. Once we got to Sacramento, things were a bit more relaxed for me, cake-wise. I didn’t really have much to do until the morning of the wedding, when I planned to frost all the cupcakes.

So Saturday morning, after staying up nearly all night, I got up early and started reconstituting the buttercream. With the help of my wonderful wonderful friends, we frosted and decorated the cupcakes, delivered them to the reception site, and set everything up. I don’t think things could have gone better.

That concludes my first experience baking solo (almost) for a wedding. It was exhausting, but I loved every minute of it. It was a great experience, and I’m grateful that my friends had enough confidence in me to trust me to do this for them. I also want to thank my friends who took pictures to document everything for me; my brain was somewhat overloaded and I certainly didn’t have the presence of mind to even think about taking pictures. Thanks to everyone who helped! Couldn’t have done it without you!

PS – the final shopping stats for all of this:

9 pounds of cake flour

71 eggs

84 sticks of butter

20 pounds of sugar

70 egg whites

10 cups of oil

2 quarts of buttermilk

3 pounds of carrots

3 pounds of cream cheese

Wedding! (part 1)

Whew! What a holiday season! It’s been a little hectic in these parts over the last six weeks or so…as I’m sure it is for most people this time of year. However, I chose to make it even more interesting for myself for agreeing to make a wedding cake/cupcakes for our friends’ wedding the week of Thanksgiving. I know, I know, Thanksgiving was totally over a month ago, but between work and Christmas, I haven’t had a chance to find pictures and post about the wedding craziness. And quite frankly, since my friends were posting pictures on Facebook (in almost real time), I didn’t feel super motivated to post on this blog. Oh well.

My mission: Create a 3 tier wedding cake and cupcakes for 250 guests. The wedding was on the Saturday after Thanksgiving in Sacramento. I basically had two days (Wednesday and Thursday before the wedding) to complete everything.

On Wednesday, I focused on the actual wedding cake – a vanilla buttermilk cake with mocha buttercream filling. In the interest of full disclosure, I really only had to bake one tier of the three tier cake. Since the bride and groom were only interested in having a cake for pictures, they opted to have the top two tiers made of foam and only have the bottom tier be real cake. So as far as baking cake, I only had to make one 14-inch square tier. But when I say “only” one 14-inch tier, that single tier needed to be four inches high, which meant three individual layers of cake…and since I only have one 14 inch square pan that meant I had to do each layer one at a time.  And actually, despite all the months of very very careful calculations, I somehow miscalculated the volume of cake batter I would need for each layer of cake and they ended up too short…which meant that I needed to bake an additional layer of cake to reach the required four-inch height requirement. While I baked and cooled each layer of cake, I worked on the mocha buttercream. After filling and constructing the cake, I needed to cover the darn thing in white fondant. That nearly made me cry. I felt like I needed at least 4 additional hands to help me lift the fondant over the cake. Unfortunately, it was just me and the two hands God gave me, so we did our best. That’s why some of the sides are less than perfect.

Thursday (actually Thanksgiving day), I got to work on the cupcakes for the wedding. The bride and groom had decided on 4 different flavors of cupcake: red velvet with cream cheese frosting, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, lemon cake with lemon cream cheese frosting, and vanilla buttermilk cake with mocha buttercream. For 250 guests, I had calculated that I would need about 70 of each type of cupcake, for a total of 280 cupcakes. Somehow, despite, all my careful math, I ended up with 360 cupcakes. Oh well. Math was really never one of my strengths, and better to have too many than not enough, right?

Thankfully, my lovely sister pitched in that morning and helped me with the cupcakes. She deserves a huge prize.

By early afternoon, nearly every surface in our apartment was covered in cupcakes. It was either beautiful or terrifying, depending on how you looked at it.

After all the cake was baked, I started on the rest of the frosting. I ended up making 6 batches of swiss meringue buttercream, and each of them nearly gave me a heart attack. No matter how many times I make that stuff (and I’d done it dozens of times of prior to this), I always freak out that it’s not going to come together. Thankfully, there were no problems with the buttercream, but I was a little worried that my poor mixer was going to give up on me after the third batch.

When all the buttercream was done, and after I stopped in at work for about an hour, I was finally done with the baking portion of this project and went off to Thanksgiving dinner at my parents’ house.

Lemon Chiffon and Lemon Butter cake

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Today was about experimenting with lemon cupcakes. A friend of mine requested “lemon cake with lemon frosting” and I found myself at a bit of a loss…do I even have a lemon cake recipe? After a bit of searching, I found that the only ones I have are for a lemon pound cake. Now pound cake is all good and fine – actually, lemon pound cake is delicious – but I wanted something a little bit lighter and fluffier than pound cake. So off to the internet I went.

My initial thought was that I could find a good recipe for a “lemon layer cake,” and adapt it into cupcakes. However, most of these recipes were for a white, or vanilla, cake with lemon curd filling and a white frosting. Not exactly what I was going for. I did find a recipe for a lemon chiffon cake from Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes, which seemed interesting, but I was really more interested in a lemon butter cake. At that point, I decided to forget the internet and tinker with my favorite yellow butter cake instead.

I ended up making both the lemon chiffon cake and a lemon butter cake. Both turned out pretty well. Actually, the lemon chiffon cake turned out to be an almost perfect replica of my favorite Chinese sponge cake, which was a delightful surprise – I’ve always kinda wondered in the back of  my mind if I could figure out those Chinese cakes. Despite that, I think I preferred the butter cake – it was, not surprisingly, a sturdier cake and easier to handle. However, I think I do want to tinker a bit more with the flavoring.

I also took this opportunity to play with some ideas I’ve had for some upcoming wedding cupcakes:

Lemon Butter cake with sugar pearls

Lemon Butter cake with sugar pearls

Butter cake with fondant flowers

Butter cake with fondant flowers

Lemon chiffon with initials

Lemon chiffon with initials
More difficult to see - a sugar rim around the edge of the frosting

More difficult to see - a sugar rim around the edge of the frosting

Varying the "swirl" technique

Varying the "swirl" technique

And now, for anyone who is interested, the recipe I used for the lemon butter cake:

Lemon Butter Cake

adapted from Baking Illustrated, by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated

1 3/4 cups (7 ounces) cake flour, sifted

4 large eggs

1/2 cup milk

1 tsp lemon extract

1 tsp almond extract

1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar

2 tsp baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt (I used Kosher)

16 tbsp (2 sticks) butter, softened but still cool and cut into 16 pieces

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pan with paper liners.

2. Beat eggs, milk, and extracts with a fork. Reserve 1 cup of this mixture and set aside. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of a standing mixer. Beat on low speed for about 30 seconds. With mixer still running on low, add butter 1 piece at a time; mix until butter and flour begin to clump together and look sandy, with pieces about the size of peas (about 30 -45 seconds after all butter is added). Add reserved 1 cup of egg mixture and mix at lowest speed, about 5-10 seconds. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add remaining egg mixture in slow, steady stream. Stop mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat at medium-high speed until thoroughly combined and batter looks slightly curdled, about 15 seconds.

3. Divide batter evenly into cupcake pan, filling each cup about 2/3 full. Bake about 12-15 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, rotating pans midway. Cool pans on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan and continue to cool. Cool completely before icing. Frost with desired frosting.

Cupcake party!

This past Friday I had the pleasure of hosting my first cupcake party! The idea was born between my lovely friend, Stephanie, and myself when we were drooling over the pictures in Hello Cupcake! Our goal was to be able to make lots of different cupcakes and not have to eat them all…thus, we invited a bunch of our friends over to assist us in creating a huge sugar-y, delicious mess.

Stephanie and her sister came over early to help bake the cupcakes. Although I had list of about 8 different kinds I wanted to do, we decided to keep it simple and stick to chocolate and yellow cake.

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IMG_3975The chocolate cupcakes are from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book (actually, they are technically a devil’s food cupcake), and the yellow cupcakes are based on a recipe from Smitten Kitchen. Despite having successfully made that yellow cake before, the cupcakes are a little…interesting. Please ignore the holes on the tops of the them…and their very interesting texture. Our guests were extremely polite about them and did not comment on this.

After a lovely dinner, we got down to business. Although my intention was to just let everyone go for it, they insisted on a demonstration.

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fitting a coupler

piping

piping

And then the creations started…

Kim and her Star cupcake

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Transamerica Building or Eiffel Tower?

Transamerica Building or Eiffel Tower?

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Those are just a small sampling of the beautiful creations that came about…I had a blast putting this together and sharing one of my favorite activities. I hope everyone else enjoyed it, too!

Sweet Almond Cake with Lemon Curd & Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

This was an awesome new cake I tried from my awesome new book, The Sweet Melissa Baking Book, which I recently purchased from the awesome Powell’s Bookstore in Portland! Whoo-hoo! Tax free! This is another book that was written by the owner of a bakery (Sweet Melissa Patisseries) in Brooklyn, New York. Again, it is a book that has been out awhile and has gotten rave reviews – I am just really slow to jump on the bandwagon.

This cake immediately caught my eye and I knew I was going to have to try it. I mean, really, what’s not to love? Almond cake (made with browned butter!), lemon curd and lemon frosting. The original recipe is actually  for a lemon mascarpone frosting, but I was a bit lazy and didn’t feel like going out for mascarpone cheese. I also adapted the lemon curd a little bit and used my favorite lemon cream recipe from Dorie Greenspan.

Because they are much easier to share and disperse out of my kitchen, I decided to make cupcakes rather than a huge layered cake…and here they are:

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It’s a little difficult to see, but I filled some of them with the luscious lemon cream mentioned above. I say “some” because apparently I missed a few when my husband called me while I was working. Oops!

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I also topped a few of them with sugar pearls…I was told that they are surprisingly crunchy, but cute, no?

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Red, White & Blue cupcakes

So I think it’s pretty clear that I haven’t been terribly good at getting posts up in a timely manner lately…regular life has just been crazy lately, and I don’t really see it calming down any time soon. So just a warning to anyone who is reading this: posts might be erratic and brief in the next month or so.

I feel almost silly posting these now – we are so far past the holiday that they look like they should be marked “90% off!” and stuck in a discount bin, but I really wanted to share them with everybody because I thought they turned out pretty well and were fun to make. The story behind these isn’t too interesting: Ryan and I were invited to a picnic for the Fourth of July and I wanted something cute and theme-y to bring. I think the best part about these cupcakes is that this was the first project that Ryan really “helped” in the kitchen!

These were also very easy to make, if slightly more labor-intensive. We accomplished these by mixing up a batch of white cupcakes, splitting those into two bowls, and coloring one bowl blue. Then we did a half batch of red velvet cupcakes, and then layered the three colors into cupcake liners. Easy-peasy! 

setting up 

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Ryan, sifting

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I hope I did all my conversions right!

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Two bowls of white

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White and blue

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Mixing up the red

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Here we go…super red!

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Into the oven

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Ta-da!

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The layers are a little uneven, but you get the idea

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Ready for the party!

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