Welcome Sprout!

August 27, 2012

It seems like its been forever since I made a cake – the last one was Caelan’s birthday cake – so I was very excited to make a cake for a friend’s baby shower this weekend. I “met” Lindsey on my message board about 4 years ago and now she is expecting her first baby – a little girl nicknamed Sprout.

Lindsey is an excellent baker, cook, and hostess herself so I was slightly intimidated to make a cake for her. I ended up using a recipe from her own blog, Our Share of the Harvest, for a lemon cake that she raved about. I love lemon cake also and love an excuse to make one!

I was also going to use the recipe in her post to make a homemade raspberry filling. Unfortunately, I messed it up. No one wants raspberry filling with clumps of cornstarch in it! I didn’t have time for another attempt, so I just went with raspberry jam for the filling.

For the icing, I used my favorite vanilla buttercream (1 1/2 batches, but I think just 1 would have been enough). I assembled the cake and crumb-coated it with white icing and while that was setting in the fridge, I divided the rest of the icing and colored it. I used Violet and Red-Red for the purple color and different amounts of Lemon Yellow for the yellows.

I saw this icing technique on Pinterest and it was actually pretty easy. I spread the purple on the top first, smoothing it out and letting a little bit go over the edge. Then I put on a (messy) line of dark yellow around the bottom and then the light yellow went in the middle. I took my icing scraper (aka a large plastic putty knife from Home Depot) and scraped the sides of the cake while turning it. The icing colors blended perfectly. To be honest, I was kind of surprised at how well it worked! I kind of wish I had made the dark yellow section thicker or that I had been a bit messier in applying the icing so that the layers wouldn’t be so defined, but I can try that next time. I think this technique would look particularly good on a taller cake.

I topped the cake with some silver and pearl sprinkles. I thought it looked really sweet and feminine and I was temped to not write on it because I knew my handwriting would mess it up! I thought the cake called for writing in script, not print, and my script writing is just not very good. That would be why I’m not including pictures of the entire cake in this post, just the edges 🙂

I had to leave the shower before cake time so (as is often the case) I didn’t actually try this cake. I hope someone at the shower enjoyed it!!


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!


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 🙂


C is for Cookie

January 11, 2012

[pictures from Kristy]

I made a baby shower cake last October for Benjamin’s mom, Kristy, when she was pregnant with him. It’s one of my all time favorites! So when Kristy asked if I could make cakes for Benjamin’s first birthday I was happy to do it AND she had a great idea. We used the pictures below (click on them for the sources) to come up with a plan for a 1/4 sheet cake and 2 dozen cupcakes.

I decided to use the yellow cake recipe I found over at Smitten Kitchen. I’ve used this recipe once before and I know it makes a nice dense cake which would be great for carving since the plan here was to carve the sheet cake into a #1. I added chocolate chips into the mix since Kristy wanted a chocolate chip cake.

I made up 1 batch of chocolate buttercream icing to fill the sheet cake and I made up 2.5 batches of vanilla buttercream for the top of the cake and the cupcakes.

For the fondant decorations, I used white and black fondant to make 25 sets of googly eye balls. I also cut out some large dots in red, orange, green, and blue for the cake. I used mini Chips Ahoy cookies for the cupcakes.

For the Cookie Monster topper, I decided to make it out of blue fondant and then use royal icing for the fur. I was sort of winging it here because I wasn’t sure if the royal icing would stick to the fondant, but it did. I used a grass tip (Wilton’s #233) for the fur for both the Cookie Monster topper and the cupcakes and it worked perfectly.

I made these cakes and their decorations over the course of 4 days. I meant to count how many hours I spent on it, but it was hard to tell. I took lots of breaks to take care of my son so that made counting hours tricky. I think it was about 8-10 hours total though.

As much as I am happy I took on this project and as proud I am of how it turned out, it reminded me that I do not have the luxury of 8-10 extra hours in a week for cake baking. It’s really hard to make it work these days. I am in awe of those moms out there who work full time, take care of munchkins, and still have time for a time-consuming hobby like this….’cause I really don’t.


Chocolate Almond Mini Cupcakes

December 21, 2011

I had 2 events for which I wanted to provide baked goods and they were within a week of each other. One was a party given by Caelan’s daycare provider for all of the parents and one was my office holiday party. So I decided to take a shortcut and use a boxed cake mix to make mini cupcakes. A batch of cake batter will make a zillion mini cupcakes (I got 5 dozen out of it before I ran out of liners, but there was a little bit of batter left). I used a French Vanilla mix (because I had it on hand) and I added some almond extract.

I decided I would dip the cupcakes in chocolate ganache before frosting them with almond buttercream. I used the ganache recipe found in this post from Annie’s Eats. I had some leftover almond buttercream from the anniversary cupcakes I had made the week before so I just used that. I think the almond flavor was a lot stronger after having been in the fridge for a few days (and that wasn’t necessarily a good thing). I garnished the mini cupcakes with some shaved milk chocolate.

I brought a dozen and a half or so of these to the daycare party and put the rest in the fridge (unfrosted, un-ganached). I never did get around to finishing the ones for my office party. Sorry coworkers. But I was kind of “meh” on how these turned out anyway. I don’t know what it was, but the flavor was kind of off.

So since I had several dozen of these leftover, I wrapped them up and put them in the freezer. I’ve never frozen cupcakes before, so it’s kind of an experiment. We’ll see if they’re any good if I ever defrost them.


Halloween Cupcakes, Take 2

October 31, 2011

I’ve only baked a handful of times this year since I’ve been preoccupied with other things (you know, my son, my husband, my wreck of a house, etc). The large blocks of free time that are required for baking are hard to come by these days! But I had the itch to bake and I had a relatively free weekend ahead of me AND Halloween was on the other side of that weekend which meant it was the perfect opportunity to make some Halloween cupcakes and pawn them off on my coworkers!

I made Halloween cupcakes before and these are similar, decoration-wise. But this time I wanted to try out a new yellow cupcake recipe. I looked at this handy comparison of 3 different yellow cake recipes from The Way The Cookie Crumbles, and decided to try Martha Stewart’s Yellow Butter Cake. I was hoping for a cupcake that had a bit of a dome to it because I need that sort of cupcake for an upcoming project, but it didn’t work out with this recipe. It’s a good cake, but it made flat cupcakes. Oh well, the search for a well-domed cupcake continues.

I used this vanilla buttercream recipe that has now become my favorite, and I mixed up several different colors in order to make jack-o-lanterns, vampires, a plain black for behind the spider webs, and the eyeballs. The eyeballs were an afterthought – I had some leftover batter so I made a few mini cupcakes and eyeballs seemed like a good choice for those. The spider webs are made of white chocolate. I forgot what a pain in the butt those were to make!! The white chocolate has to be exactly the right amount of melted for piping and I could barely complete one web before having to re-melt the chocolate.


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!