Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

These festive cupcakes were a blast to make, and even left us with lots of leftover candy, yum! I highly recommend making these cupcakes because they are so cute and very easy to make! If you can successfully dip a cupcake in sugar, you'll be a pro.

The christmas bulbs were rolled in different color sugars, and then decorated with licorice laces, mini M&Ms, Fruit by the Foot, and Airheads. Let your creative juices run wild! The tops are yellow Dots that are secured to the cupcake with pretzel sticks. The loops are black licorice. Cut a slit into the top of the Dot and the black licorice should slide right in.

The string of lights have a carved graham cracker base to give it the bulb shape. The graham cracker is then iced, and secured onto the lightly iced cupcake and rolled in different color sugars. These were the instructions, but because I know EVERYTHING (just kidding), I discarded the directions and dipped the iced graham crackers first and secured them to the cupcake with icing after.. well, surprisingly (haha) following the instructions would have given a better result. The sides of the graham cracker and the small piece of cupcake showing were not coated in sugar, and made it look a little sloppy. Next time I will follow the directions.

As for the graham crackers, I was surprised at how easy they were to cut; hardly any cookie crumbling! A serrated knife got the job done. The tops of the lights are green Dots secured  with pretzel sticks, and the light cords are green licorice laces (which were difficult to find, but I picked them up at a specialty candy store). I had no problem inserting the green laces into the tops once I had cut a small slit in the side of the Dot. The plug is a black licorice square and two Tic-Tacs.

I also recieved the "Hello, Cupcake" sequel, "What's New Cupcake" for Christmas! Thanks Mom and Dad :]. I'm VERY excited to try these new designs. The book is full of impractical cupcakes that are absolutely hilarious.
My wonderful sister Sam also gave me a "Hummingbird Bakery" baking book for my birthday! Its filled with delicious looking baked goods. SO, in addition to disguising my cupcakes with decorations, I am planning on experimenting with more elegant and sophisticated recipes. How exciting!

Enjoy the rest of your Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Build Ups and Break Downs

Happy Belated Fall!

I made this cake for my grandfather's birthday, which we celebrated with a house full of people during thanksgiving break. This was my first cake that was designed and decorated without a book to follow. It was also the first double layered cake I've ever made.. and the first time I've ever used fondant. That being said, it brought on the challenges, the stress, and yes, the tears. In addition, take note that a kitchen crammed with 13 relatives is not the ideal location for cake decorating.

The adventure began with the making of autumn leaves. I bought fake leaves from Michaels and coated them with brown, red, and orange melting chocolates (coating with your fingers works just fine). I let them harden in the fridge and then carefully peeled off the fake leaves. If trying at home, be sure to get fake leaves with veins, or else the chocolate leaves will have no texture. The leaves have about a 50% success rate, the other half cracked or broke while being peeled. Next it was time to make the acorns. These were made from caramels which I molded into an acorn shape. Each caramel was then dunked into chocolate sprinkles to make the acorn caps.

At this point, I figured the hard part was over.. the decorations looked great. All I had to do now was bake the cake and ice it. Easy peasy right? HAH. It was perhaps this over confident mindset that unleashed the wave of disasters.

I bought 2 six inch round pans to bake the top layer of the cake, and decided that I would simply guess the baking time for them.. needless to say, they came out half raw. Whoops! Good thing cake batter is so tasty! Then came the icing and filling of the cake. I made my own buttercream because it's my family's favorite frosting. And though it was delicious, I will never EVER use this buttercream to frost a cake again. The cakes were sliding all over the place due to the extremely high temperatures radiating from the 13 bodies that were circling the kitchen. The frosting also wasn't strong enough to hold in the filling (which I had poured a little too generously), causing the blood red raspberry filling to seep everywhere. Finally, the buttercream hardened far too quickly to decorate properly. To fix all of the cake flaws, I coated the cake with as much frosting as I could slap on to it. In the end, the cake looked like was a big mound of icing.

In addition, while attempting to ice the cake it came to my attention that the cupcakes I was baking had been in the oven for a good 45 minutes. So much for multi-tasking! I guess the burning stench coming from the oven was masked by my tears of frustration about the icing failure. Oopsies. I'm just glad I didnt set the house on fire.

Lastly, I molded dark brown fondant into branches, and placed them on the mound of frosting that made up the cake. I finished decorating and fixed up the cake as best I could.

In conclusion, here is what I have learned from this baking disaster:
1. Do not decorate a cake in a small house packed with 13 people.
2. Do not try more than 2 new skills on any one cake.
3. No matter how much you enjoy raspberry filling, do not over-fill a cake.
4. Do not cry over a cake, because in the end.. it's just a cake.

Hope you can all learn from my failure! I know I sure did, haha. And happy belated fall! I hope it was a good one.