Arbonne Cupcakes

June 14, 2012

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My neighbor sells Arbonne products and she is often hosting parties. She mentioned to me awhile back that she may be wanting cupcakes for an upcoming party and asked about a gluten-free option. When this party rolled around, she initally asked for about 4 dozen cupcakes – some gluten-free, some gluten-tastic.

But when it came down to it, she only needed 2 dozen cupcakes, and none gluten-free. So it ended up being a much more simple order than I expected.

I made 1 dozen chocolate cupcakes (1/2 of this recipe) and 1 dozen yellow cupcakes (1/2 of this recipe). I made 1 1/2 batches of vanilla buttercream icing and flavored half of it with almond extract for the yellow cupcakes and left half of it vanilla for the chocolate cupcakes.

The little toppers are similar to the ones I made for Caelan’s cupcakes, but with only 2 dozen to make, I got them done in no time!

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Can’t Wait To Meet The Cheat!

August 14, 2011

Heidi is a dear friend who just welcomed her beautiful daughter into the world just this past week! We met about 3 years ago when we were both planning our weddings and have stayed in touch, along with several other girlfriends, since then. I was very excited to be able to make the cake for Heidi’s baby shower which was a couple weeks ago!

This cake was the first cake I’d made since Caelan was born. It was…challenging…but I was able to do it over a Friday and Saturday when Bill was home, so he could watch the baby while I baked and that worked out well. I don’t think I could make a cake without having someone watch the baby – it just requires too much time.

Heidi and her husband, Brian, nicknamed their baby “The Cheat” while she was pregnant. I decided I’d make a round cake and draw a picture of The Cheat on it. I was all excited about this idea until I saw a picture of her cake for her family shower and realized that it was almost exactly what I was thinking of! Not sure why I was surprised, it was kind of an obvious (and appropriately cute!) idea for a cake.

I have a set of cake pans that my sister-in-law gave me for making a 9” round checkerboard cake. I used box cake mix – one vanilla and one chocolate. Heidi said she liked chocolate so I made a chocolate mousse filling. I covered the cake with vanilla buttercream. I printed out a picture of The Cheat and traced it onto wax paper which I then used to trace an outline onto the cake. I colored some of the frosting yellow, black, and green to fill in The Cheat and do the writing.

This cake turned out to be one of the best ones I’ve ever made. I was really pleased with it, and I am normally so critical of my creations that I’m not often really happy with anything. Somehow I didn’t actually eat this cake. That often happens – I’m more interested in making cake than eating it – but I should really make it a point to sample my creations! But I’m happy it went over well at the shower!


Brayden’s Winter One-derland

January 25, 2011

The cake that I worked on at the beginning of January was the most advanced order I have received to date. Meaning, I was asked and I agreed to do this cake about 5 months ago. I normally don’t take orders that far in advance, and I probably won’t in the future, but this one worked out well.

Amy is a very old friend of mine from kindergarten all the way through high school graduation. We hadn’t really been in touch in the last 10 years or so, but that’s what Facebook is for, right? Amy asked me if I could make two cakes for her son, Brayden’s, first birthday party. One cake would be a sheet cake for the adults, and the second cake would be a smash cake for Brayden.

The theme for the party (and the adults’ cake) was mostly blue, silver, and white snowflakes. The cake was to be a half sheet cake – half chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream filling, and half yellow cake with chocolate buttercream filling. The whole thing would be covered in vanilla buttercream. I made two 11×15 cakes – one chocolate and one yellow – and then cut each one in half and filled it. I then pushed the two half cakes together to form the whole cake. I made a double batch of vanilla buttercream that I used to cover the cake and fill the chocolate half. For the decorations, I used two different snowflake cookie cutters to cut snowflakes out of plain white fondant. I used pearl dust and lemon extract to paint the snowflakes blue or white. I also cut out letters using my letter cutters.

For the smash cake design, Amy sent me a picture of Brayden playing with his favorite toy – a set of nesting cups similar to the ones shown here [source]. She asked for the cake to be banana cake with vanilla buttercream icing and in the shape of this toy.

I had never made a banana cake before, but I had a starred recipe in my Google Reader for banana cupcakes so I planned to use that recipe. The tricky part was figuring out how to get the shapes/sizes of cake I needed. I decided to make the cake 3 tiers – one 5″, one 4″, and one 3″ round. I could have purchased tiny cake pans or something for this, but I really didn’t want to add that expense since I wasn’t sure I’d have a use for them again. I ended up deciding to make two 10″ round cakes that I could then carve the pieces out of (I used a 1.5 batch of the cake batter). I had plenty of cake leftover, but this still seemed like the best way.

My original plan was to somehow fashion giant “cookie cutters” out of heavy cardstock to use to cut out the circles. But as usual, my plans changed at the last minute. Paper didn’t look like it would work, so I ended up using a metal cookie cutter, a plastic 1 cup measuring cup, and the lid to a tub of butter. The cookie cutter was great because it sliced right through. For the others, I carved around them with a knife. I was thrilled to find out that not only did this banana cake taste amazing, but it was dense and super easy to carve – YAY!!

I mixed up another batch of vanilla buttercream icing and tinted it 3 different colors – blue, red, and green. Thankfully with such small amounts, I was able to get really good bright colors! I trimmed, filled, and iced each layer separately and put them in the freezer for a few minutes. I then stacked them all together and piped a ring around each layer. I was pretty pleased with how it turned out, though I wish I had not had to carve the larger two layers by hand because it made for a not-perfectly-smooth surface. But it was close, and it was destined to be smashed by an excited 1-year-old, so it worked out 🙂


Happy Birthday Jeanne

October 13, 2010

My 3 college roommates and I got together last week for a dinner that was partly a belated birthday celebration for Jeanne (whose birthday was in September) and partly just a chance to catch up. Jeanne asked for some birthday cake so I decided to bring her cupcakes.

Remembering that she is a fan of the chocolate peanut butter combination, I got this blog post from Annie’s Eats out of my Google Reader. A chocolate cupcake, with a peanut butter filling, and peanut butter frosting. Yum!

The chocolate cake was a new recipe for me and when it came out of the oven, I thought the cupcakes were beautiful and I LOVED the way they looked. The cake was a little on the dry side for my taste, but I’m not sure how the peanut butter filling would have held up inside a more moist cake, so maybe this was perfect.

I really wanted to try the icing from Annie’s post, but it had cream cheese and whipped topping in it and I wasn’t going to be able to refrigerate these so I had to try a different recipe. I started with this recipe and altered the ingredients just a bit as described here. It was very good, but I still want to try the cream cheese one another time!


Happy 60th Janice!

September 29, 2010

When Bill and I got married, we had his best friend’s mother, Janice, make our wedding cake and we loved it! So now, just about 2 years later, I was thrilled to be asked to make a birthday cake for Janice’s surprise 60th birthday party.

Valerie was making the arrangements for the cake and the design was going to be a full sheet cake, carved into the shape of an open book. Half of the cake would be chocolate and half yellow and it all would be covered in cream cheese icing.

I’ve made a full sheet cake once before so this time I knew to allow plenty of time and as much space as I could. I also picked up this tiered cooling rack that really saved my life. Best $10 ever. For this size cake, I was going to make four 9×13 cakes that would then be stacked and pushed together to make one huge cake. The major issue I had last time was handling the cakes – flipping them out, cooling them, moving them, etc. But this rack really helped me!

I made this cake over the course of 3 days. On the first night, I baked the cakes. I made 2 yellow cakes and 2 chocolate cakes. Each cake was a 1.5 recipe, so a total of 6 batches of cake. This is the first time I ever wished for 2 KA mixers! I did the chocolate cakes first and had one`batch in the mixer and one batch in a mixing bowl with my hand mixer. After they were baked and cooled, I did the yellow cakes. Five and a half hours later, it was 1:30am and I was done for the night.

The next evening, I made a double batch of cream cheese frosting. I filled the cakes, stacked them, and pushed them together to make a 12×18 sheet. Next up was carving this into the shape of an open book. I found a few inspiration pictures on the web and I even grabbed a large book off my shelf and opened it up to get a good idea. I was nervous about the carving because I didn’t want to over-carve and be left with a too-small cake! After I got it into a good shape, I covered it with a crumb coat of icing and put it in the fridge overnight.

The next morning, I made a triple batch of cream cheese frosting and covered the cake. I used an icing comb like this one [credit] around the edges of the book to make the “pages”. It was a little tricky because I had to have the icing thick enough so that the comb wouldn’t scrape too much and show the cake, but I only had a half inch edge on my cake board to work with.

After the cake was iced, I tinted some fondant using Teal gel and rolled out some thin strips. I put these around the edges of the cake directly on the board – they were the “cover” of the book. Finally I tinted some of the left over icing using Teal, and some using Golden Yellow. I used a stencil to do the decorative swirls and then added the inscription.

I was told that the cake went over well and it was delicious – which I’m always happy to hear!!


Happy 60th Larry

September 26, 2010

Two weeks ago I made a birthday cake and cupcakes for the father of a dear friend, Valerie. This was one of the few (if not the only) cakes I’ve made specifically for a man and I found that somewhat challenging. By that I mean I wanted it to be decorated nicely, but I didn’t want it to be too feminine. In discussing the design with Valerie, she suggested two toasting glasses of red wine as the main decoration. From there I added some confetti and I think it came through as “festive” – in a very manly and distinguished way 🙂

After deciding on the wine theme, I went with maroon/wine, gold, and ivory for the color scheme. I made a 6″ round chocolate cake and filled and covered it with cream cheese frosting. The cupcakes were yellow cake, also with cream cheese icing. I searched high and low for gold non-foil cupcake liners and finally ordered some from eBay (much to my husband’s amusement). I happened to pickup some gold sprinkles in the grocery store that I used on the cupcakes and around the edges of the cake as confetti.

For the fondant decorations, I used a combination of Red-Red, Burgundy, and Black Wilton gel colors to tint the fondant. I was going for a dark red color (similar to this that I did with Red-Red- and Burgundy) but this time it ended up a little more purple. I used my fondant cutters to cut out little 60’s to top the cupcakes and I used a variety of cutters and a pizza wheel to make the wine glasses. For a little extra shimmer, I used a light painting of gold pearl luster dust. I tried gold, white, and red dust, but the gold looked best so I went with that.

I was so happy to hear that the cake got rave reviews from the birthday party attendees!


Happy Birthday Dawn

August 31, 2010

August 2010

Just 3 weeks after ordering a birthday cake for her daughter, my co-worker Dawn asked me to make a birthday cake for her own birthday which is today! Dawn asked for chocolate cake, and again asked for “less sweet”.

I made a 6″ round chocolate cake with my go-to recipe from Hershey’s. And for the icing, I went with the adapted Swiss meringue buttercream (SMBC). I know for sure that this icing is less sweet than American buttercream.

I’ve made SMBC about a half dozen times and I’ve messed it up about half of those times. So naturally, the normal SMBC stress ensued. Would it curdle? Would it be soupy? Would it thicken up? Would my digital meat thermometer work in place of my recently ruined candy thermometer? (Yes!) So after successfully whipping up this icing, it was time to ice the cake. I’d never used this icing for a cake before. I’d only used it for a filling or for cupcakes. I was very pleased with how it worked on a cake!! It has a beautiful sheen and it was relatively easy to smooth. (Please excuse the bad picture – the lighting is even worse than usual at 11pm!)

As is often the case for me, I decided on the decoration at the very last minute. I piped a shell border and decorated it with multi-colored nonpareils. Those tiny little things bounced all over my kitchen, but I thought it made for a nice festive birthday cake. Oh and I used some orange icing I had leftover from Nancy’s cake to write the inscription. I think my writing skills are improving – very, very slowly!