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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Caelan’s Birthday Party: Cake and Cupcakes

June 8, 2012

Obviously, I was going to make the cake/cupcakes for Caelan’s party. Given how many cakes I’ve made for other people’s birthdays, baby showers, etc it would have just been weird if I didn’t make a cake for Caelan. Plus, my mom always made our birthday cakes growing up so it seemed like the right thing to do. And, of course, I wanted to 🙂

Although, my mom also made our Halloween costumes and I think I’m going to have to let that one go. But I digress…Back to cake 🙂

I decided to do a cupcake tower/display for the guests and a smash cake for Caelan. Here are my inspiration pictures – party supplies from the theme I chose.

I had a ridiculous amount of indecision regarding how many cupcakes to make, how many flavors, which recipe, etc. I was annoyed with myself by the end, but for our 36 guests, this is what I ended up with:

  • 1 6″ round yellow cake
  • 1 batch of vanilla buttercream frosting (divided: blue, brown, medium brown, light brown)
  • 4 dozen yellow cupcakes
  • 1 batch of vanilla buttercream frosting (orange) – 16 cupcakes
  • 1 batch of lemon buttercream frosting (yellow) – 16 cupcakes
  • 1 batch of lime buttercream frosting (green) – 16 cupcakes

I used this recipe for the cake and cupcakes. The frosting is all from the same recipe, I just switched out some of the vanilla extract for lemon extract or lime juice for the lemon and lime versions. I made and colored all of the frosting the weekend before which was definitely the way to go. Having that all ready to go when I was putting things together at the last minute was awesome. Frosting the 4 dozen cupcakes took all of about 30 minutes.

For the smash cake, I printed out the monkey from the napkin (pictured above) and traced his face onto some wax paper. Then I laid that on top of the iced cake and traced the outline into the icing. I used various star and round tips to fill in the monkey’s face with the 3 shades of brown icing. It’s kind of a lot of effort to go through for a cake that’s (hopefully) going to be smashed by a 1-year-old, but it really didn’t take that long to do, and it was cute 🙂

A few weeks in advance, I made the cupcake picks. Using the noise makers (pictured above) for inspiration, I designed some cupcake toppers using MS Word. I cut them all out using a giant hole punch and I also cut out cardstock circles in coordinating orange, yellow, and green. A couple evenings of watching TV and gluing paper to toothpicks, and they were ready to go!

For such a large amount of cake and cupcakes, it actually didn’t take me that long to put together. Honestly, the biggest challenge was clearing space in our fridge for 2 large cupcake boxes and a cake box! But it was a good excuse to clean out the fridge 🙂


Boston Cream Pie, take 2 (-ish)

February 27, 2012

The first part of the year is birthday season in my family. My birthday in January, then both of my parents in February, then my sister in March. My brother- and mother-in-law also have birthdays in the early part of the year. We used to have a separate birthday dinner for each person, but in recent years we’ve decided to double up or combine celebrations to accommodate many people’s schedules (and basketball season).

This year, my parents and I (and Bill and Caelan) got together to celebrate my birthday (4 weeks late), my dad’s birthday (1 week late), and my mom’s birthday (1 week early). I wanted to make a cake, but since mine was one of the birthdays that we’d be celebrating, I decided to go with just a “cake” rather than a “birthday cake”.

Boston Cream donuts are my favorite and I’d never tried to make a whole pie before, but this seemed like a good time to give it a shot. I made a half-assed attempt at Boston Cream cupcakes awhile back, but this time I used an actual recipe and made real pastry cream. Or attempted to do so.

I made the pastry cream (I used the recipe from this post on Annie’s Eats) the night before I was going to assemble the cake and put it in the fridge overnight. I was disappointed the next day to find that it didn’t set up and was unusable. The pastry cream is essentially a custard and custards are definitely tricky, but I’ve made them many times before (in the form of crème brûlée) and was successful. Anyway, I didn’t have time to risk another attempt (and I’m not sure exactly where I went wrong), so I looked around my kitchen for something to improvise with and I came up with a mixture of french vanilla pudding mix, milk, Cool Whip, and a tiny bit of vanilla extract. It was passable (though actually less so after being chilled).

Then I made the frosting (dark chocolate ganache) and though I’ve made it several times before, I had issues with this too! It was too thick to spread so I kept adding half-and-half to make it manageable.

The cake tasted good (though I’m less and less enamored with that recipe the more I make it – I should try a new yellow cake recipe) but it wasn’t a real Boston Cream pie. So it looks like I will be making a 3rd attempt at this at some point because I really want to get this one right!!


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!


Rachel’s Bridal Shower

May 27, 2011

On April 30th, I co-hosted my sister’s bridal shower. I am so glad that even though I was 35 weeks pregnant, I was still feeling good and able to contribute!

I used Vista Print to make up some cute (CYUTE) invitations…

I was also in charge of favors which is something that usually falls by the wayside because people either forget to take them or they just toss them. But I love favors and wanted to do something cute. I picked up a favor kit from Michael’s that came with some clear boxes and silver ribbon. I think edible is the way to go, so I went on the hunt for some kind of candy in a pink wrapper (pink is my sister’s wedding color) and I found Hershey’s Bliss Dark Chocolate pieces. I ordered some stickers from VistaPrint for the labels that match the invitations and voila – favors 🙂 I wish I had a picture of the actual favors, but I don’t.

And of course I was in charge of the cake. I wanted to make a really spectacular cake for my sister’s shower, but unfortunately I didn’t meet my own expectations. The cake was tasty and people seemed to like it, but I wish I could have done more. (Again, I don’t have a good picture.)

Rachel asked for yellow cake and vanilla frosting – simple as can be!! I decided to try out a new yellow cake recipe and went with this one from Smitten Kitchen. Deb’s carrot cake is fabulous, so I figured I could trust another cake recipe from her. The cake was less moist than the Wilton yellow cake I usually use, but it was dense and carved well. It held up very well to being sliced in small pieces. I made 2 recipes for a 2 layer 1/4 sheet cake. The layers were very tall, so the cake overall was too. I’m not sure whether or not I’ll make this cake again, but I will keep the recipe if I need a very sturdy cake.

For the icing I made this flour icing (I never know what to call it!). As usual, I think I got the heating of the flour/milk mixture wrong – or was it the cooling? All I know is when I mixed it into the butter/sugar mixture, I got tiny sesame-seed-sized bits of the flour mixture that wouldn’t mix in 😦 I did not have the separating issue I had the last time I made this frosting, so maybe I just need to give it a 3rd try. It is very tasty and is refreshingly different than normal American buttercream.

For the decorations, I cut daisies out of fondant and painted them with red and white pearl dust. I love using the pearl dust because it always looks so nice! I do NOT love mixing up pink icing. I can never arrive at a nice color of pink and I usually end up somewhere around a coral color.

The rest of the shower, my “aunt” took care of. My sister is a vegetarian, so 95% of the food was vegetarian also. There were several varieties of quiche, a fruit salad, a green salad, steamed shrimp, and veggies.


Leslie’s Baby Shower

April 4, 2011

When I went on “cake hiatus” at the end of January, I still planned to make 2 cakes in the coming months. One will be for my sister’s bridal shower (which I am co-hosting) at the end of April. The other was for my friend Leslie who is expecting a baby girl in May (she’s due just 3 weeks before I am!). Her shower was this past weekend.

Leslie didn’t really have a “theme” for the baby’s room or anything so I Googled some pictures of pink baby shower cakes (no short supply of those) and got some ideas. I picked this one as my inspiration pic [source]. I really liked the display platform that this cake/cupcake combo was on. I don’t usually make anything special for the display, but for some reason I wanted to for this one.

I used a 14″ round cake base for the larger bottom part, and I used 5 stacked 8″ round cake circles for the middle section. I used hot pink laminated paper for the top of the cake part, and I hot glued some green ribbon around the edges of it.

Leslie said chocolate peanut butter was her favorite combo so I planned to do a vanilla cake with chocolate ganache filling and peanut butter icing.  Due to a very, very busy week and weekend leading up to this shower, I decided to cheat and use a box mix for the cake. I made a 6″ round cake and 12 cupcakes.

For the chocolate ganache filling, I used a recipe that I have used several times before. Though it was fudgy and delicious, I don’t think it was smooth enough. Maybe I didn’t mix it enough or maybe it was because I refrigerated it for awhile. For the peanut butter icing, I used a recipe from Annie’s Eats that I had been wanting to try for awhile. Peanut butter icing can be so rich, and this one looked lighter and fluffier so I wanted to give it a try. I thought it was delicious and very smooth and had a nice sheen to it. I thought it piped well on the cupcakes, but it was a little too thin for piping the border around the cake. It firmed up in the fridge though and it didn’t melt so overall it worked.

I tinted some fondant using Wilton’s Pink and Leaf Green gel colors and cut out some flowers and circles to use for decorations. I also made little “lollipops” to spell out “Congrats Leslie” which I wasn’t sure would fit on such a small cake, but I managed to make it work.


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 🙂