Thursday, May 29, 2008

"Your Cuteness, Sir, Confounds Me"

Holy snap. These things are cute. And I don't just mean your ordinary, everyday, run-of-the-mill cute. These babies are devastatingly adorable.
tr.v. dev·as·tat·ed, dev·as·tat·ing, dev·as·tates
1. To lay waste; destroy.
2. To overwhelm; confound; stun

Such a perfect definition, for gazing upon a tray full of these miniature delights would most certainly render a person unconscious. Or at the very least obliterate any feelings of sadness, discontent, or ill-will. Could these possibly be the answer for world peace? You decide.

My sister D. and I collaborated on this little project, which was a little time consuming but well worth the effort. The first few came out kinda...ugly. But we quickly got the hang of it and churned out some pretty little 'cupcakes.' Inside is a strawberry and cream cheese cake ball, topped with white candy coating and resting upon a cup of chocolate bark. Chocolate bark??? Really? You'd think the inventor could've come up with a better name than that.

Anyway, learn how to make your own using Bakerella's tutorial. While you're there, check out the awesomeness that is Bakerella. Oh and you might as well buy a t-shirt or 3.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

And the Winner is....

Me, hopefully. Well I've gone ahead and sent in my entry to the "Miss American Cupcake Contest." Entry deadline is May 31st, so it may be a while before the state winners are announced. I'm guessing that once the recipes are received they will need to be tested out and baked. Depending on the number of entries, it could be weeks before I know anything. I know my recipe and photo definitely has prize-winning potential, but still--better keep my fingers crossed.

After my less than stellar results with the Cajun Cake recipe, I decided to go with a gateau de sirop (syrup cake) recipe. It kind of hit me in one of those "why didn't I think of this to begin with?" kind of moments. Gateau de sirop is a very traditional, very popular and beloved cake here in Cajun Country, where sugarcane fields abound. And it's really only properly made using Steen's Cane Syrup, produced locally in Abbeville, Louisiana. I myself have never eaten a syrup cake, nor have I tasted Steen's Syrup before developing this recipe, but I'm really glad I did. The cake itself is reminiscent of gingerbread-- only softer, springier, and more moist, with less of a gingery kick. The cane syrup has a decidedly molasses flavor, but different somehow. I can't explain it, except that it's pretty durn good!

Recipe development was fun, actually. Since I was planning on entering my creation into a contest, I couldn't just use the classic Steen's recipe on their website or any of the others I found online. That would be stealing. My geeky nature prompted me to search out a total of 9 recipes and enter them into Microsoft Excel spreadsheet for comparison. Baking is a tricky science, so making up a cupcake recipe on the fly could only result in disaster. By comparing flour-liquid-egg-syrup ratios and getting an idea of typical ingredient amounts, I was able to take what I thought was best out of the 9 recipes I had to make one that was uniquely my own. Hooray for spreadsheets!

I'm not going to post the recipe here until later, after results are announced. It's pretty long, and this post is already getting too long. Here are some snapshots of the process:

Cupcake mise en place. Sometimes I pretend I have my own cooking show.
Fresh from the oven. I was actually really scared of overflow, as the batter was exceptionally thin and filled the muffin cups pretty high. Luckily, no disasters today... save for one cupcake (not seen in the picture) that was inadvertently smashed by my oven mitt.
Frosting mise en place. For the frosting, I tried to replicate the flavor of a "dollop of whipped cream and drizzle of cane syrup" that is commonly found on gateau de sirop. It's a cooked frosting otherwise known as Mock Whipped Cream. The flavor is gently sweet with a texture that's light, almost ethereal, and lilting on the tongue. If you've ever had a Red Velvet cake with the "other" frosting (as in NOT the cream cheese frosting), then you know what I'm talking about.

I think I did pretty well with the photo of the finished product, don't you think? (Very first picture in this post...scroll back up if you don't believe me.) Now that's what I call one heck of a beauty shot.

Monday, May 26, 2008


So I've *almost* done it. Updated my blog completely, that is. I have one more entry on deck, but that will have to wait for tomorrow because it's late (for me) and I need to get to bed! Sneak peek: It's about my entry in the Miss American Cupcake Contest.

A Different Sort of Swirl

You may or may not have noticed that I've been on a cupcake kick lately, and that I tend to decorate them with the same frosting swirl. Don't get me wrong, I love using the 1M swirl on top of my cupcakes. It's elegant and makes fast work out of frosting cupcakes. I'm not kidding when I say that it probably takes me 3 times as long to just use an offset spatula to spread icing on compared to using a piping bag. I've said before that I have some sort of problem with getting things "just so," so when I'm spreading on icing by hand I tend to go over the same spot multiple times to try to make it look right. With a piping bag, you get one shot. The swirl hides most imperfections.

That being said, I just don't think the 1M swirl is fitting for every occasion. Sometimes you want a more whimsical look to your cupcake. Enter the 2A swirl. I recently purchased the 2A tip, and thought that it would be very fitting atop a chocolate chip cupcake. Cute, no? You probably can't see the wrapper very well, but it's decorated with Easter bunnies. I had Easter-themed papers I bought on clearance, so I used them with the chocolate cupcake thinking that the color of the cake would obscure any design on the paper. (These were for a male co-worker's birthday) Wrong again.

Mini Red Velvet Cupcake FAIL

I had this crazy notion that making Red Velvet cupcakes in mini-cupcake form would be a fantastic idea. Which it was, until it came time to frost and pack them away for transport. How the heck was I supposed to carry 8 dozen mini cakes to work? All frosted up they'd be impossible to stack and just throw in a giant tub, and I was NOT about to lug a bunch of cookie sheets up the stairs at work. Altogether they just take up too much surface area...something I hadn't accounted for.

Ever the clever and resourceful baker, I decided to improvise and forgo my usual cream cheese icing and instead top these gems with a cream cheese glaze. That supposedly hardens. According to the internet. I learned the hard way that not all glazes harden to the same extent. The recipe I chose said the glaze would "set," which I incorrectly interpreted as "it will get hard enough to stack." The top crusted over nicely by the next morning, but breaking the crust revealed a still-liquid layer. Not yummy. So off goes the glaze and the wrappers, for as it turns out, this batch of cupcakes was destined to become cake balls. I hadn't made cake balls since Christmas, so I figured it was high time they made it back into my repertoire. By the way, if any of you decide you want to make cake balls, do yourself a favor and bake a cake in a 9x13" pan. Peeling off 8 dozen wrappers? Not fun.

Miss American Cupcake Contest

The lovely ladies at All Things Cupcake are hosting a cupcake recipe contest, and they're looking for entries from every state in order to do a Miss America-type showdown. Read more about it here. I'm sending in my entry this week...wish me luck as I try to capture the state title!

My first attempt at finding a cupcake to represent Louisiana left a little to be desired. Entries for the contest would ideally be ones that flavor wise capture the spirit of the state they're coming from. Huh? I had to do a little brainstorming for this one. King cake, bread pudding, bananas foster...these are all fine ideas, but they're not cupcakes. I toyed with the notion of making bread pudding in cupcake form, but to me a cupcake shape does not a cupcake make. What should I do? Thumbing through some of my local cookbooks and doing some internet searching gave me my answer: Cajun Cake. I've never heard of or eaten this particular cake, which has a pineapple base and a German chocolate cake-like topping. I decided to go for it, based on the numerous positive reviews I read on the internet. After all, we all know that if it's on the internet it has to be true.

Cooking evaporated milk, sugar, brown sugar, pecans, and coconut on the stove top. Who needs cupcakes to pour this on? I could eat the whole pot. Seriously. Pot, wooden spoon, and all.
The lovely little beauties right out of the oven. Notice how there's just enough room between the top edge of the cupcake and the top of the liner to capture any icing overflow. They're so pretty! But tasty? Ummm...not so much. Kinda rubbery since none of the recipes I came across called for oil. And bland. Bland is bad. I think they needed salt, if that makes any sense. That and I was told a few days later that pineapple doesn't "go" with the pecan and coconut topping. Oh well.
Here they are in all their shiny, golden glory. Oh so pretty. Such a shame that I'm not entering these in the contest. On a side note, remember how I always wish I could take better pictures? As in without my messy kitchen as a background? Notice the top picture of the single cupcake...that's my black dress filling in as a backdrop. Desperate times, folks.

Graduation Party!

My cousin P. just graduated from Xavier University in New Orleans a few weeks ago with a bachelor's degree in Chemistry. I'm so proud of him, but then again I guess I'm a little biased regarding his choice of major. His sister called me a couple of weeks before his party (which was on Mother's Day) to ask me to make a cake for his party. I suggested doing cupcakes in different flavors to suit the varied tastes of the partygoers, *sneaky grin* and she agreed, giving me free license on flavors and decorations. Yay! I quickly envisioned a perfect Neapolitan trio of cupcakes and came up with the following combos: Coconut-lemon, Fresh strawberry, and Chocolate-chocolate chip. (See above) I know that Neapolitan involves vanilla, but I wanted something a little more intriguing. As luck would have it, the coconut-lemon ones were the last to go at the party. Drat. Should've stuck with the basics.

The task of delivering 72 cupakes to New Orleans presented me with a problem though--how was I going to package them? True, I have the Cupcake Courier that I so love to use, but alas- only 36 can fit in them. I searched online and found cupcake inserts that could fit into a sheet cake box (14" x 20"), but they could only be purchased in bulk or would not ship in time. I bought some window cake boxes and had to rig up the inserts myself using gold posterboard, a ruler, and a circle cutter. I'm really satisfied with how they turned out, but the whole thing took a lot more time and planning than I expected. It was definitely well worth the effort though, because for me the presentation "makes it." So I'm just going to go ahead and say it now: I am fancy. Oh, and did you notice the little touch I added with the Fuzzkoala Cake Company sticker? Nice.

Cupcake Backlog

So it's Memorial Day and I promised myself that since I had an extra day off this weekend, I would take the opportunity to update my blog. Well guess what? It's Monday night, 6:30 pm, and I've only just started on my posts. In my defense, I've been busy this weekend. One of my friends graduated on Saturday (with her second bachelor's degree! And now she's off to graduate school for her Master's. Hmm... does someone love school?), so I went to that and the festivities afterwards. Yesterday my dad and I did some flower-planting, weed pulling, and various other yard duties. It was hot. That blew my entire day. So here I am today, updating...

Here are some cupcakes I made in March to share at work for my birthday. March? Wow, I'm behind. Left: Pink Velvet cupcake with cream cheese icing. Right: Cinnamon-vanilla cupcake with coffee buttercream. Mmmmm. Tasty.

Cupcakes for the company crawfish boil in April. Back: Chocolate-Cream Cheese cupcakes with chocolate buttercream. Front: Lemon Funfetti cupcakes with lemon buttercream. These were tart. Too tart. Better luck next time. Here they are in my cupcake caddy:

I'd been thinking about getting Invisaligns for a couple of years now, and in January I decided to go for it since I could now afford it. I couldn't get an appointment scheduled for a consultation until February, and as it happened I caught the "sickness of death" the week I was supposed to go. After rescheduling, then going in twice for impressions, I still had to wait 8 weeks for them to arrive. Well... I finally got them April 24th! And I'm not gonna lie--the first few days hurt. I made the cupcakes below the first night I had my Invisialigns in. Needed something to distract me from the pain, because lying on the couch pouting was NOT an option for me. Baking always gets me in "the zone." Strawberry/strawberry cupcakes and Cookies 'n' creme cupcakes (white cake with crushed Oreos mixed in).


Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Plate of My Own

It's been a 4-year tradition now that my best friend and I paint pottery at Clayfish Bisque here in town. Our birthdays are two days apart, and we celebrate annually with a girls' day out. With my newly-found cupcake obsession, I knew that this year I had to paint something cupcake-y. Had to. Previous projects include a napkin holder, tissue box cover, and a small jar that has served as both a candy dish and pen holder (though not simultaneously).

For three years running I have taken literally hours to complete my projects, owing to my overly ambitious designs and my meticulous (OCD?) nature. My sister joined us this year for the first time, and this year, yes this year...I finished first. Amazing. I think a lot of this had to do with the fact that I had dreamed up my design weeks ahead of time in anticipation of our little tradition. Part of my inspiration came from a set of rounded square melanine plates I received for Christmas. The plate design itself was black, white, lime, and tangerine...kind of a zebra-y and floral print. But it was the shape and size that really inspired me, for each plate was perfectly sized to hold 9 cupcakes in a neat little square. My heart was just set on painting a square plate this year, and luckily Clayfish Bisque had a few to choose from. The color scheme I chose pays homage to cupcake-related kitchen items I spotted at Cracker Barrel and in my Gooseberry Patch
catalog. It's hard to see in the picture, but the frosting is painted with a white speckled paint to mimic the look of sprinkles on a cake. Because sometimes, the sprinkles make the cupcake!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Reason for My Cupcake Madness

Let me first say that I never watch QVC or the Home Shopping Network. They never seem to be peddling anything I deem worthy of picking up my phone and calling in an order for. Until now. That handy dandy contraption you see above is called a "Cupcake Courier" and it's one of those things that you see and think, "man I wish I'd invented that!" The premise is so simple, and yet the result is so genius--and useful too. I saw this on tv a while back (last year, maybe?), but didn't seem to think it was something I should fork out the bucks for at the time. Tired of toting cupcakes around in cardboard Anheuser-Busch trays**, I decided that my birthday would be the perfect time to splurge and treat myself to a happy little present.

Got mine from for a pretty good deal. I ordered "soft blue sky," which in the online picture and packaging was the most beautiful, soft baby blue. (Even lighter than in the picture above) Upon opening the box, however, I was greeted with a brilliant glow of turquoise. Turquoise? I don't even like turquoise. I can't even pronounce it. Turquoise is neither soft nor blue! But it's grown on me, and right now I'm pretty much loving it. Even bought me a turquoise shirt recently. Tur-kwaaz. I think I like saying it that way. The color looks good on me too...makes me look even more tan, which may or may not be a good thing.

**my parents run a small-town grocery store. Empty beer trays abound, so I have a pretty steady source of cupcake-totin' trays. But then everyone thinks I'm some sort of beer-swiggin' baker or something. I'm not. I don't even like the smell of beer.