Cupcake rose garden

The rose cupcakes actually weren’t what I originally had in mind.  I’m somewhat annoyed so just look @ the pictures while I quietly sulk about it.  All I’m gonna say is if the day ever comes that I can no longer make buttercream roses in my sleep, that’ll be the end of the world.

"Earth day" birthday cupcakes

Note to self: requests for blue + green swirl frosting = cupcakes that look like “Earth”.

Rose cupcakes

Hrpmh.

Hello Kitty cupcake

It’s been a year since I started this so-called biz.  How do remember the date?  It’s been one year since I made custom Pinkalicious cupcakes for a coworker’s daughter’s birthday.  This year, Hello Kitty cupcakes were requested.  Due to time and budget constraints, I had to think about how to make some basic cupcakes that still clearly screamed cutesy Japanese white cat without going overboard.  (BTW, did you know that Hello Kitty is 37 years old???)

The abstract art idea popped into my head after browsing the ThinkGeek catalog (I love the stuff from that store!) and seeing a tee shirt that was a play on Hello Kitty.  It was just a white cube with the trademark bow with the headline “Hello Schröddy” and that was perfect for a cost-effective cupcake design.  I got a kick out of the physics joke about Schrödinger’s cat, too (yes, I wholeheartedly embrace my nerdiness).

A crackly and "eh"-looking experimental first bow... which is why it's called a "test bow"

I made a super light vanilla cake batter and whipped up some white vanilla frosting for basic swirl designs.  That part was easy.  Making the bows turned out to be a bigger undertaking than I expected, even when I used *gasp* ready-made fondant.  Yeah, I know… I said I’d never use it again, but I was in a pinch.  And in hindsight, MAYBE I should have just made my own.  The bright red fondant-from-a-tub was the perfect color, but it dried up soooo quickly.  After rolling out the fondant, I was barely able to cut out shapes for three bows @ max without the fondant starting to crack.  WTF?  I had to toss a chunk of it out b/c the fondant was rock hard and useless, so I just rolled out a small ball of it and cut a few shapes @ a time.  I don’t have bow-shaped cutters and had to improvise so I used circle cutters that were two different sizes: a tiny one for the middle of the bow and the sides are actually pinched-in larger circles.   After making about ten of these, I realized I left out a little nub on each side of the bow but decided eh, I was over it.  They look pretty close though, right?  The fondant dried within minutes, so I immediately placed each bow on the corner of each cupcake.

There you have it: abstract Hello Kitty cupcakes with signature red bows.  So simple and yet so kawaii!  And I saw a pic of  a really happy birthday girl loving her cupcakes =)

An army of totally cute cupcakes

Pig sprinkles atop a hot pink cloud of frosting

Labor Day weekend signifies the last weekend of summer, and most normal people spend it chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool being all lazy, but we were the anti-thesis of beach bum, BBQ-ing, beer guzzling couch potatoes.  We had just signed the papers to sell our house on Thursday, and we had people coming to view the house Friday.  I was let out of work a few hours early on Friday for the holiday and had originally planned on baking cupcakes and making frosting for Vin’s little niece’s 2nd birthday party, but I rushed home to re-organize some clutter @ home before the potential buyers came. (Cross your fingers!  They really liked the house!)  I was too pooped to even think about baking by the end of the night, so I woke up early on Saturday to do everything before the party @ 2.

Chocolate cupcakes with hot pink vanilla-raspberry icing and pig sprinkles

The theme for Penny’s birthday was pink pigs in honor of the petting zoo animals that were coming to her party.  I knew I wouldn’t have time to plan for and decorate an entire pig cake, so I promised cupcakes instead.  The birthday girl had asked for chocolate and hot pink, so chocolate cake and hot pink frosting she got.  Vin’s sister had requested about two dozen cupcakes, and the batch of cake batter I made was enough for 37 (perfect for exactly 3 dozen cupcakes for the party and 1 test one to cut up into tiny bites to analyze and eat).  I decided to turn the extras into “adult” cupcakes… not anything with genitalia shapes (if I did, I wouldn’t be posting pics!), but added some booze and caffeine  =)  I was like, “hmmm….” and whipped up some Kahlua-coffee-mocha frosting for the extra dozen; the icing was a little melty b/c of the liquor, but it tasted really good!  AND, to top it off,  I just so happened to have pig-shaped candy sprinkles for the cupcakes.  Tiny white pigs were carefully placed on the hot pink frosting and one little pink pig was put on the grown-up cupcakes.

Chocolate cupcakes with Kahlua-mocha frosting

Both versions of cupcakes were well-received; both kids and adults loved the pink frosted cupcakes, and I clearly didn’t make enough of the coffee-Kahlua ones.  Oh well.  Next time y’all should get in on that limited edition stuff faster.  Baked goods + booze = fun time for grown-ups @ children’s parties.  haha

Now it’s back to cleaning and sorting our junk… I’d love to be able to get rid of half of my things, but that’ll happen when pigs fly.  Sorry, I had to say it  =P

Happy birthday, Penny!

Little Miss Irene came and went this past weekend without leaving her mark on our property.  There were some of us that said the storm would be overhyped in our area so we just stayed in and didn’t buy into the apocalyptic frenzy at the supermarkets, especially b/c we were fully stocked with liquids and snacks and batteries and candles and food anyway.  (I went grocery shopping on Monday afternoon and it was kind of funny to see bare shelves where cases and cases of water used to be and one lone dented jar of peanut butter next to tons of jelly and jam.)  We got lucky.  Some parts of the East Coast were hit hard: crazy flooding that covered cars, huge trees that crushed houses, and power outages that are STILL ongoing =(  Thankfully, no one I know got hurt…

The only thing that affected us was that the LIRR was suspended on Monday.  Man, what a pity =P  Vin and I worked from home and I was excited to use the extra time NOT COMMUTING to bake.  That didn’t happen.  A realtor was coming to check out our house the next day and I rushed to tidy up the place to appear semi-presentable.  I left work early to make sure I got home in time for the appointment with the real estate agent.  The train ride was surprisingly on time, so I had a couple hours to spare and decided to start making the dough for cream puffs, or pâte à choux en français.   I triple-checked to make sure I didn’t leave anything off the super simple ingredient list and cut the measurements in half (uhh, I have no reason to be making 80 puffs). 

Filled pâte à choux

As with many things that come out of my oven, this was a first time experiment and I made some amendments.  The first adjustment was… I mixed everything by hand.  I didn’t want to make a huge mess with the mixer so I mixed the dough with a wooden spoon and whisked the filling by hand.  And you wonder why I have Michelle Obama arms.  (Just kidding!)  I also added a whole extra egg to the dough just b/c I just felt like it.  In overused reality TV show speak, “this could totally make or break me,” and it turned out to be a great idea.  No risk, no reward, right?  (Though, I shouldn’t really be thinking such things considering my job.  haha)   The other change was that the recipe said to bake the choux for 25 min @ 380 degrees.  Uh… not in this kitchen.  I tested my first tray of puffs @ 350 for 10 minutes and they didn’t puff up enough (still tasty even though they look more like macarons than puffed pastries), so I tried the next tray @ 370 for 10 minutes.  MUCH better.  The final tray was the best @ 370 degrees for 12 minutes.  They were a buttery golden brown on top and puffed up to look like pastry roses b/c I piped them in swirl shapes.  I was worried about burning them or over-drying them, but I think if I left them in for just 30 seconds longer they would have been absolutely perfect.  Maybe.  I don’t know.  It needs to be tested.  =)

The realtor came in as I was placing the choux on the cooling rack and the house conveniently smelled awesome.  Seriously dude, I need to bottle that sh*t in a spray and have this odor wafting through the house whenever potential buyers come so maybe we won’t have our house stay on the market for long… I’d offer a year’s supply of baked goods to whoever buys our house but unfortunately I don’t think that’ll seal the deal.  haha  I whipped up a basic filling that tasted like a mix between whipped cream and Boston creme pie filling and squirted it in the puffs until they overflowed.  Vin tried one of the unfilled f*ck-ups.  He said it was still light, airy and fluffy. I couldn’t fill the flatter choux so I just dipped them in chocolate and dropped rainbow sprinkles on them.  Haphazard?  Yes!  Gross tasting? No!

I packed a bunch for my coworker since it was her birthday, hid a couple in Vin’s lunch, brought some to my sister and her boyfriend, and added some as part of a housewarming gift to a friend.  So far, the feedback has been outstanding (yay!): my coworkers loved them and said, “You always make people happy with your baking!”, my friend said “They’re so light and awesome I feel like I could keep popping them in” [A, that’s a totally TWSS  =P], and my sister said they were “Delightful!”  Vin said this is his favorite thing I’ve baked so far (crème brûlée, you just got served!) and almost ate all the extras last night.  haha  I can’t believe how incredibly easy this was, and I think for Thanksgiving I’m going to make a tower of them with caramel and spun sugar.  And hopefully, making a croquembouche won’t keep me up all night baking the day before the party.  haha