A while back, I decided to offer some "cakes for materials cost" to all my Facebook fans, in order to build up my portfolio. My first order came from my landlady, Jessa, who wanted some cupcakes for her boyfriend's birthday party. She wasn't too fussed on which flavours, so I suggested chocolate cakes with orange frosting, as I'd been wanting to try out orange buttercream for a while. She agreed and so I set to work.
I had also recently purchased some Regalice chocolate fondant and some star cutters, so I made chocolate cakes from my trusted recipe, topped them with a thick swirl of orange buttercream and finished them off with a chocolate fondant star and a small sprinkle of edible glitter. This is how they turned out:
Jessa took them to a garden party where they were happily devoured and as a result, a couple of her friends placed orders with me. So for any budding cupcake maker out there who is considering a way to drum up some business and build up their portfolio, I would heartily recommend offering to bake for materials cost to start you off :)
Wow, goodness it has been a while since our last post! Apologies for our absence, we've just been so busy getting the new website together and since the launch of our facebook page, we've had regular orders over the past couple of months, which is fantastic news!
Thank you everyone who has become a fan of us so far, you are all wonderful people :)
Back in late June/early July, I did what every good baker does and I took some of my wares into the office to share with my colleagues. A very sweet girl who was temping with us bought me a present to thank me for training her up over the past month, and I was so touched that I couldn't very well not give something back. So, I made a batch of 12 strawberries and cream cupcakes for her last day:
A light and fluffy vanilla sponge (back to my old favourite recipe this time) with a strawberry jam centre, topped with a heavily whipped buttercream and a fresh strawberry, sprinkled with edible glitter.
They went down exceedingly well, so for our annual staff BBQ I was coerced into making some cupcakes.. I had recently bought some excellent pure peppermint extract, so I decided to take in a dozen chocolate mint cupcakes:
These consisted of the Primrose chocolate cake recipe for the sponge, a peppermint buttercream and sprinkled with dark chocolate sprinkles and edible glitter. These also received many compliments, and were set to become one of our initial range of flavours.
We've been busy making lots of cakes for you to drool over, so do pop back soon for another update!
And if you'd like to see how our website is progressing, check it out at:
On the 15th of June it was the birthday of our good friend Dean, who had graciously invited myself and my other half to go and spend the weekend at his new house with him and his fiance. As it was his birthday, I offered to bake him some cupcakes, and was given creative control. I decided on a basic vanilla/chocolate combo - heavy on the chocolate - as it's always a crowd pleaser, even for the fussiest of tastes. I received The Hummingbird Bakery book for my birthday, so I thought I would try their recipes for vanilla cupcakes and chocolate buttercream. I bought one of those combo packs of chocolate sprinkles and used a combination of all four types to decorate these little bundles of sugar:
The vanilla cupcake mixture turned out... interesting, to say the least. It was quite runny to work with, and I found it didn't quite make enough to give a generous dozen portion in the muffin cakes. When I pulled the cakes out of the oven, they had shrunk away from the muffin tin during baking so turned out quite small, more like fairy cakes. The tops also turned out completely level, rather than the domed top I get with the Primrose Bakery recipe. The cakes were small and hadn't risen very much, I felt as though the recipe could have done with being a bit drier and to make them a bit fluffier and after reading several reviews of the Hummingbird book, I found a lot of other bakers have said they needed to adapt recipes in order to make them successful as well.
Still, I persevered and made the chocolate buttercream. This was a lot lighter than the chocolate buttercream recipe in Primrose's book, as it requires the use of cocoa powder rather than a bar of dark chocolate. The texture was almost mousse-like, and it was very tasty and easy to pipe. I think it would be ideal for use within a layer cake.
The cakes went down a treat and I will definitely use the buttercream recipe again and perhaps if I decide to use the vanilla cake recipe again, I will use it for mini cupcakes instead.
On the 7th of May this year it was my sister-in-law's 30th birthday party. As a present to her, I offered to make her some birthday cupcakes. She gave me free reign on design and flavour, with the only specifications being that her colour theme was pink and could I please make a few gluten-free ones for my niece, who has celiacs.
For a long time I ummed and ahhed over which flavours to do, what decorations, what size, how many? There was an estimate of 70 odd people coming, so I tried to make the figures one-per-customer. I decided on a mixture of minis and regular sized, my original plan was - 12 gluten-free vanilla sponge with pink marshmallow icing, 36 mini red velvet sponge with cream cheese frosting and 24 chocolate cupcakes with pink vanilla buttercream. This would make 72 in total... a lot of cakes for my little oven! So I gradually made them over the course of a couple of days.
First of all, I made the gluten-free sponge. This was easy to make and the results were great - light, golden, fluffy and sweet. I stored them in airtight tupperware containers, ready to be iced on the morning of the party. The next evening I made the mini red velvet sponges and stupidly missed out a crucial step in the recipe - the baking powder, so they didn't fill the cups properly. (Instead of using a mini muffin tin and mini muffin cases, I purchased some Wilton's Nut cups online - they are sturdy enough to be used alone on a baking tray). The mixture also didn't stretch as far as I had hoped, and due to the lack of fluffing up, I ended up discarding several of the smaller ones, and then my cream cheese didn't quite stretch as much as it was meant to, which meant I only ended up with 24 instead of 36. They did taste nice though, and once I had piped on the cream cheese frosting and covered them with some edible glitter and pearl dragees, they weren't too shabby, so I boxed them up and popped them in the fridge ready for the following day:
Then the morning of the party came. I made the chocolate sponges - the recipe I used was from the Primrose Bakery cookbook, and my goodness - the mixture made so much, I ended up making 36 and even then throwing some remainder away. It was a little fiddly as it involves separating the egg yolks from the whites and whisking the whites meringue style, then folding them into the mixture. The recipe also calls for melting down 70% cocoa solid chocolate, so they come out very rich, but very yummy, and quite light. Then I made a mammoth portion of vanilla buttercream, swirled through a drop of pink food colouring and took a third away to make the marshmallow icing. This involved chopping up a bag of marshmallows and throughly mixing them throughout. This icing then went on top of the gluten-free vanilla sponges and were complete after a generous sprinkling of pink edible glitter:
So after that all I needed to do was to decorate the chocolate sponges with the remaining pink buttercream. I iced 24 of them using a palette knife and topped them with glitter and edible sugar violets. For the remaining 12, I piped on a large helping of frosting and sprinkled them with yet more edible glitter and some pearl dragees:
To make an edible cake topper, I bought some pink fondant icing and sculpted a 3 and a 0, carefully speared them with toothpicks and stuck them in two of the cakes on the top tier. I also made a couple of stars in the same fashion and put them on the other two top cupcakes. So here they are, all 72 cakes, set up on my faithful old cardboard cake stand, which is still going strong:
And all in all, they went down rather well - although I did make too many, as there was quite a lot of other food there to eat! They didn't go to waste though, so I'm told ;)
As I was taking them on the train to Portsmouth, I invested in some reuseable cardboard cupcake boxes. If you should need any, I would thoroughly recommend www.cupcakeboxes.co.uk as I found them to be quite reasonable, fast to dispatch and their service was good. They didn't send me a tracking number initially but they were very quick to respond when I emailed requesting one, and were courteous and helpful in their correspondence. The boxes have held up really well (I picked the corregated cardboard ones without the window, except for the 24 cup mini cupcake boxes, which only come with a window as shown above) and they are a nice size for transporting. They look nice too!
First time whisking up those egg whites went rather well, although it doesn't half make your arm ache... still, that chocolate cake recipe was delicious. I would thoroughly recommend it.
By staggering the cake baking and the decorating, I managed to bake a large amount of cakes in a short space of time (and in a small kitchen) - it was my largest order, so I'm happy that I managed to fulfil it.
The mini red velvets.. oh how I cried when I realised my mistake, because they were already in the oven at the time and I knew there wasn't anything I could do. Still, at least they were tasty, albeit a little flat.
I made the mistake of buying the 'better value' cupcake cases (you know the ones, 100 in a pack for the price of 45! etc). They were supposed to be muffin cases but they were quite shallow and thin. Not great quality and certainly not suitable for a big chocolatey cake like I put in them...
I ran out of butter when I was making the final batch of icing. I was only 70g short, but I was a bit miffed. Lesson learned - always buy a spare butter and icing sugar!
Too much of one mixture, not enough of another... I ended up with enough chocolate mix to make another dozen cupcakes on top of the 36 I made, and yet the red velvet mix I used, which should have made 36, barely scraped to 32... both recipes were from different books, and I suppose a lot of this is a matter of trial and error. In the end it all balanced out, but I think in future I will aim to make more mixutre than I need, so that I have spare if I need it.
Ideas for next time:
Buy mini marshmallows instead of cutting large ones up.. this is just a time-saving exercise though.
I was quite impressed with the nut cups trick for the mini muffins, but I think I will still invest in a mini muffin tin.
Back in January it was my other half's birthday. He doesn't really like to make a fuss about it, so he makes it quite difficult for me to orchestrate any grandiose gestures in celebration of his special day. He doesn't like parties, or crowds, or expensive presents... but he does like my cakes. And he does have a certain penchant for Reese's Cups, so when I saw the recipe for peanut butter cupcakes with chocolate frosting in my Primrose Bakery recipe book, I knew I'd found my perfect present.
As we had two of our very good friends coming to stay for the weekend, (who also happen to be a fan of the miraculous peanut butter/chocolate combination) I made a dozen. And boy, did they go down a treat.
Here's one of the few pics I snapped before they were devoured!
The recipe called for smooth peanut butter, but I've always preferred the crunchy stuff, so I decided to use that instead. It actually turns out that this gives them a lovely muffiny texture, with the odd delightful little crunch of peanut butter here and there. The chocolate frosting was a bit of a nightmare, I'll be honest. I think I overcooked the chocolate somehow, or used the wrong kind of chocolate? I asked the aforementioned other half to pick me up a bar of decent chocolate at the shop on the way home from work... he brought home Dairy Milk. Normally I would applaud his selection as I love Cadbury's chocolate, but in this instance I think a 70% cocoa solid chocolate might have been better suited. Anyway, the frosting came out a bit sticky and greasy, which made it very difficult to spread. It was absolutely delicious though, so I will experiment more with it in the future.
Kudos goes to the Primrose Bakery for such a tasty recipe, once again :)
For my 25th birthday I decided I wanted to make some cupcakes, as it was a good opportunity to use my new large star nozzled piping set! As my birthday is at the beginning of Spring, I thought a theme of cherry blossoms would be very fitting. The colours of dark brown, pink and white look quite elegant and beautiful together in cakes, so I couldn't wait to get started. I wanted two different styles of cupcake, so I decided upon a vanilla sponge base with two different toppings - pink vanilla piped buttercream and rich chocolate buttercream swirled with a palette knife. I found some rather lovely pink sugar flowers on CakesCookiesandCraftsShop, which I thought looked close enough to sakura blossoms to work. One day soon I will teach myself how to make my own sugarcraft flowers as they look amazing.
I wanted the buttercream to be a beautiful rich but pale pink, so I bought some Sugarflair food colouring in Pink, which came as a cute little tub of a very thick liquid, more akin to gel, much to my surprise! It was easy to mix into the icing and gave a beautiful even coloured result. Gorgeous! Another thing I finally bought myself was some proper edible glitter that actually sparkles. I chose an irredescent pink, which came out beautifully true to colour on pink frosting and on dark chocolate it showed up a wonderful purple colour, which was a lovely result.
Without further ado, here they are, my cherry blossom birthday cupcakes:
Vanilla sponge with chocolate buttercream
Vanilla sponge with pink vanilla buttercream
And here they are adorning my cake stand:
Successes: These were by far my most well received cakes so far (with the exception of the coveted peanut butter and chocolate cupcakes I made for my other half's birthday... pic to follow). Everyone liked the appearance and loved the taste, which makes for a happy Claire indeed! The chocolate buttercream was delicious - it's the first time I had made it using a Primrose bakery recipe - and I chucked a whole melted 70% cocoa Lindt Excellence bar of chocolate in it...boy it made a difference. It was light and rich at the same time. The sponge was a tried and tested recipe but it's always a relief when they turn out well! I might try a new sponge recipe next time just for a bit of variety to my baking. I loved decorating these ones, I'm so glad I took the time to invest in some better tools.
Failures: The piping of icing was not as easy as I had hoped - it took ages to get the icing in the bag and then when I did I had air bubbles in it, which made smooth piping a bit more tricky. I wasn't really sure what I was doing with my hands other than trying to make it swirly - I wanted it to be beautiful ice cream whippy style frosting, but I missed the mark a bit. I had also originally planned to break up the vanilla/vanilla combination by digging out a well in the top of the sponge, and then putting a spoonful of jam on there. I of course only remembered this after I had put the icing on them... *rolls eyes*
Ideas for the future: New sponge recipe, something more exciting perhaps? Learn how to pipe icing better! Implement the jam idea.
My friend Nargis contacted me in January to ask if I would be interested in doing a stall with her at the Handmade Brighton Valentine's craft fair. "Of course", I replied, "when is it?" That's when I discovered it was only 3 weeks away! So I set to work busying myself with making aprons and tea cosies and planning some fun Valentine's Day cupcakes. This would be my first experience of selling my wares to the general public, so it was all rather exciting.
I decided to go with a basic vanilla sponge and pink vanilla buttercream, with pink sugar sprinkles for a sparkly effect, pink sugar balls and to add that special Valentine's touch - a Love Heart on each one.
Here they are, on the stand in full glory:
I was quite pleased with how they turned out, as they got lots of comments and sold out on the day! People gave me positive feedback on their taste and appearance, which has helped inspire me to continue with my cupcake laden journey. The only problem was that people thought they were soaps!? I probably should have made the colouring stronger on the icing...
Successes: Positive feedback on taste and appearance. Sold out at £1.50 per cupcake, by far the most successful thing on my half of the stall!
Failures: I put the Love Hearts on too early so some moisture from the icing seeped into them, making them slightly mottled in appearance. It didn't seem to detract from the taste any, but it tarnished the presentation a little. The red food colouring I used in the icing made it more of a peach colour than the strong pink I hoped for and the sugar balls I purchased from Asda were hard and chewy, not crunchy like I thought they would be.
Ideas for the future: If using sweets with the icing, decorate them on the day for maximum freshness. Buy a new pink food colouring. Make better signage for the cupcakes...something along the lines of "Yes I am edible! Why not try me?" with some free tasters or something. Provide cello bags or boxes so that people can take them away to eat later.
In the first entry of this blog, I mentioned my plans to create some cupcakes for our New Year's Eve party this year, and these are the result! I stuck to a simple combination of rich chocolate sponge and creamy vanilla buttercream frosting, in order to please everyone's tastes.
I used a pretty basic chocolate cake recipe and the vanilla buttercream recipe from the wonderful Primrose Bakery cookbook that my beloved bought me for xmas. It was by far the best buttercream recipe I have ever used, and created the perfect consistency for piping and swirling. It was the first time I had ever attempted frosting a cupcake using a palette knife, using the instructions in the Primrose Bakery book, but it was fun and relaxing and the results were quite good, I feel.
To decorate, I wanted gold liners and gold glitter, but couldn't order the ingredients online because of the holiday season, so I popped into Bert's where I could only find silver liners, and no glitter as such, so I decided upon the substitute of Wilton's edible sparkles in yellow. They are more like a flat shiny sugar sprinkle than glitter, but they added a little decoration. I debated about what to top them off with, and in the end decided to keep it simple with a Cadbury's caramel chocolate button, cut in half and arranged as butterflies. The chocolate caramel buttons proved a hit, but they were a bit messy to work with.
Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream and caramel buttons:
Successes: Beautiful icing and tasty too! Lovely and smooth texture with a good vanilla flavour. Cakes were fluffy and light and very quick and easy to make.
Failures: Chocolate sponge was a little dry, which I attribute to the use of cocoa powder instead of real chocolate in the mix. First time frosting with the palette knife meant the swirls weren't as neat as they should have been. Didn't really like the silver liners, I thought they looked a bit like tin foil!
Ideas for the future: Order in advance if you're going to make cakes around the holiday period! Many internet business remain closed between xmas and new years, which I didn't take into account... Use real chocolate in the recipe, which would make them a bit more moist and rich, and a bit sweeter.
It was my good friend Nargis' birthday on the 20th of November, so I decided to make her some birthday cupcakes. As she is an aficionado of the colour red and thus I needed a cake that would reflect this. I searched for red cupcake, and came upon the happy recipe for a red velvet cupcake - which was both red and chocolatey in nature. It was also described as the "Dolly Parton" of cupcakes and as Nargis just so happens to be a huge fan of hers, it was perfect.
I had never made red velvet sponge before, nor had I made the cream cheese frosting that accompanied it, so this would be a suitable challenge. I went to the shops to collect ingredients, finding it a bit tricky to track down the buttermilk needed (I eventually found it in Waitrose!) and decided on the garnish of raspberries, because they were small and red...and fresh. I also remembered the delicious combination of raspberry coulee and chocolate and figured they would be a good match. And they were!
So here they are, the only photo I got of them before they were demolished:
Red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, topped with fresh raspberries.
Success: Beautiful vibrancy to these cakes and everyone loved the taste! Particularly the frosting, which tasted akin to creamy white chocolate.
Failures: Frosting was a little lumpy/runny.
Ideas for the future: Use more red food colouring and a better cocoa as the sponge wasn't quite red enough and the cocoa dried them out a little. Make sure the butter is room temperature and not slightly refridgerated, as it doesn't mix as well. Use less cream cheese and more butter/icing sugar as I wasn't 100% happy with the consistency.