Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Cherry Blossom Cupcakes

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.

Valentines Cupcakes for Handmade Brighton

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.

Friday, 16 April 2010

New Year's Eve cupcakes (December 2009)

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.

Nargis' birthday cupcakes (November 2009)

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.