Saturday, May 30, 2009

the Easter Rabbit cometh

My family has an annual Easter tradition where we bake a white coconut cake shaped like an bunny and decorate it with misc. candy. As Mark had never made an Easter cake, we decided to make one together. We started with two perfectly baked 9-inch round cakes, cut to create ears and a bow tie. (He's quite dapper, this bunny.)

Add some buttercream frosting and he starts to take shape.

Cover in coconut. (I recommend the Baker's Coconut brand. It's super moist and delicious to eat by the handful. That is, if you were, ahem, the sort of person who would do such a thing.)

And decorate. I would like to point out that the color combination you see here is mostly due to me waiting until a few days before Easter to get jelly beans. The only bag left was Jolly Rancher Smoothie Jelly Beans or some such nonsense, which gave us a limited color pallete.

What a handsome boy.

baby shower blitz

My church had a baby shower for my friend Melissa in February, and I provided the desserts: 4 dozen chocolate and white cupcakes with cooked frosting and fondant flowers, and a matching two-layer red velvet fondant-covered cake.

*Note: Melissa and Mark (her Mark, not mine) have since had beautiful baby Gabrielle, and I look forward to making her a cupcake once she gets some teeth.

I used cookie cutters for the flowers of course, and a smaller tip for the piping bag (though it came out looking much like snakes when an air bubble would pop through).

An elderly woman at my church approached me the next day and told me that she had called her friend in Florida just to tell her about the cupcake she had at the shower. Now that's high praise.

The cake was a challenge. At least the hand-swirling-and-rolling-out-a-giant-piece-of-fondant part. I have never been taught how to wrap a cake in fondant, let alone a circular one. So I gave it my best shot and covered the wrinkles with strategically placed flowers.

It was a great shower, and we only had a few cupcakes left to send home with Melissa and Mark.

Not bad for my first attempt at a fondant-covered cake.

myron cope just might be proud

Though I love living in Pittsburgh as much as I love cupcakes, I have never been known to be a Steeler fan. However, I have said on many occasions that I am not above any celebration that calls for food. Thus, I present the treats I made for this year's Super Bowl.

*Note: I realize that it's been five months since the Super Bowl and already another Pittsburgh team is vying for another championship, but I'm still playing catchup. And rest assured there will be a Pens cake.

First, I made cupcakes for a Steelers party at work, where I made red velvet cake (my personal favorite) and dyed it pitch black. Add some piles of yellow cooked frosting and some Burgh jimmies, and there you have it. (I must add that my cupcakes went like hotcakes. Many a black and gold bagel were left behind in their wake.)

The pièce de résistance was the cake I made to look like Myron Cope's Terrible Towel for the game party. It was a cookies and cream cake with dyed buttercream frosting, decorated with black fondant which I eyeballed and cut by hand and topped off with piped frosting.

The cake was a hit. Most of my friends know that I typically call dibs on making desserts for our urban family gatherings, however one party guest did not know this and asked which bakery the cake came from, which was quite a compliment for me. I strive to out-bake Giant Eagle's Aunt Martha at all times.

Next year I will make another Steelers cake, if they make it to the Super Bowl again. A logo? Perhaps. Steely McBeam? Highly doubtful.

the stephanotis affair

Back in March, Mark and I spent close to 9 hours on a Friday night working on 4 dozen cupcakes for a bridal shower. Even though this was well over two months ago, I still think the hard work we put into what I like to call "the stephanotis affair" (after the stephanotis flowers we hand-shaped out of rolled white fondant) deserves to be featured.

So here's a play by play. We start with 4 dozen white Magnolia cupcakes in silver Wilton wrappers. *Note that while I like Reynolds cupcake wrappers for their ability to keep shape and the little convenient containers in which they are packaged, I don't use the foil wrappers, as they have a tendency to stick and overcook the batter.)

While I worked on prepping the cooked frosting (a whipped buttercream that incorporates a cooked milk and flour paste), Mark cut stephanotis flowers from fondant. A debate raged as to whether or not the flowers needed texture, and if so, what could be done so as to not make them look like starfish. We settled on a compromise.
Using Wilton gel food coloring, we got the icing as close to the requested "sea glass" color as possible.

After filling a piping bag with a large star tip, I piped icing, added texture and silver dragees to Mark's stephanotis flowers, and plopped them back in the trays where they would stay until the next morning.

We had a bit of extra batter, so I decided to make us some jumbo cupcakes which were, to give you a comparison, about the size of my head. Delicious, nonetheless.

And finally, the finished product on display at the shower. Probably the fanciest cupcakes I had made to that point.

Verdict? Rave reviews from shower attendees, so I am going to file that under "cupcake success."