Heavenly Yet Beautiful Cupcakes

Starting my own cupcake company was a thrill and I learn so much. But I yearned for the calm of taking my time to create perfect little decorations and unique flavor combinations. After selling my business, I decided to focus on teaching my craft. I hope this site will inspire you to create and indulge in one of the best and most satisfying desserts...the cupcake.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Cake Challenge

Well, the competition came to an end on Sunday. I drove out to Burke VA to pick up my creation a bit early. I didn't win anything but scored pretty high I thought for my first competition. I got a whopping 46 points out of 50.  I did especially well in the creativity and color categories. 
This cake was a huge undertaking. I have never worked with fondant before and for good reason, the stuff is like Play Dough and covering a cake with it is not an easy thing to do. I had to patch up so many spots that I was forced to create a very artistic crack on the side of my cake. I figured...pots can crack, so why can't mine have a crack strategically placed where the fondant wasn't exactly perfect. The sugar flowers were key. And I was very grateful that my gumpaste classes came to good use. I spent nights making God knows how many Jasmin blossoms and leaves. My mother and partner was the one to credit for the beautiful Sweet Peas (naughty little flowers those are). But I had to add a little cupcake love, so the roses were cupcakes and I piped on the petals...yes, with no help. I thought I did a fabulous job considering I had never piped a rose petal by petal before. The little clay pots also had a cupcake inside them.  I made the pots by using my cupcake pan and turning it upside down. The shape of the cups was perfect to cover with fondant. The soil was made by pulverizing chocolate cookies. It looked so real that it made the cake a tad unappetizing. I worked and worked on this cake noticing imperfections and tried to solve them as best as I could every step of the process. In the end though, I walked into the competition like a proud peacock. I did the best I could and the end result was beautiful, maybe not perfect, but beautiful and made with a ton of love.  The experience helped me realize that I can do anything I put my mind to. And that gave me more confidence that I can do this. This being my cupcake business. I can really do it if I just put my mind to it. I love what I do even if it means staying up until 1am making 150 cupcakes for a bridal shower and looking like a big old mess in the morning. So.... I am signing up for the next competition in May. I already thought of my next creation. Now I just have to find a place to teach me how to cover a cake in fondant. 

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Kickin Some Cake Booty!

After 3 weeks of working on gumpaste flowers and trying to work with fondant, the cake for the contest was officially completed last night. I am also officially exhausted so I am keeping this entry short and just showing everyone pictures. I will rest my brain and complete a more detailed entry this week.
Quick description: 8" cake covered in gumpaste with chocolate crumbs (dirt) topped with 5 cupcakes frosted to look like roses and an assortment of handmade gumpaste flowers (Sweet Peas, Jasmin Flowers and leaves). Little pots were made from fondant and then a cupcake was inserted inside. Topped each with chocolate buttercream and rolled in chocolate crumbs. Gumpaste flowers and lady bugs were added to each. Grass was made by dying coconut shavings and placed on top of chocolate rice krispies.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Fresh Like a Spring Daisy

I am working like a dog trying to get ready for the Cake Show on March 21st and 22nd. Yes, on top of taking on my first wedding cake, I thought I would add more grey hairs to my head by submitting a cake for the Capitol Cake Show. Of course, I am not entering in the Master or Professional Division. I'm not THAT crazy. I am comfortably submitting my cake for the Division B which is one step above the Wee Ones (teens and kids) Division. So I will competing with moms and amateurs and that gives me some peace of mind. But the redhead in me wants to kick some cake booty. So I am putting together a very unique cake. I think I am the only one that is submitting a cake that has cupcakes on it. I dunno, but I think I am the only one. I won't ruin the surprise of what I'm doing yet. Once I'm done I'll take a picture and post it. Anyhoo, I am making a ton of sugar flowers to the point that my fingers are getting sore. Since I have not been able to finish the instructional videos (because this cake show has taken over any free time I have had), I thought I would post a small instructional entry on how to make a sugar daisy. It's easy IF you can get yourself to a cake supply store or Michael's and buy necessary
 items. Here's what you will need:
1. Gumpaste (you can buy this already made at Michael's)
2. Daisy cutter or any multi petal cutter 
3. Crisco
4. Cornstarch
5. Yellow food coloring
6. Wire stem (available in the floral design area of any arts and craft shop)
7. Veiner (not necessary, but a great little tool)
8. Glue (you can use honey or mix some powder gumpaste with 
a bit of water, usually 2 to 1 powder to water)
9. Ball roller (available at Michaels or from Wilton.com)
10. Aluminum foil
11. A plastic cutting board and if you have a dense foam board (like what one uses to kneel on when gardening...but new and clean, obviously)

First things first. Above are the items you will need. The stems with the centers are made using gumpaste and yellow food coloring. The roll a small ball in your hands and flatten it out on the plastic board. Take the wire and bend one end and heat the end with a lighter until it's glowing. DO NOT TOUCH IT, you will burn yourself big time. Insert the wire into the flat side of the yellow dough and hold it steady for 20 seconds. Then insert the other end of the wire into a foam board or an apple works well too. Let it dry for at least an hour.
Using a rolling pin, roll a grape size ball of white gumpaste on your plastic board. Please rub a bit of Crisco on the board first so your gumpaste doesn't stick. If the gumpaste is sticking to your rolling pin, rub a little cornstarch on it. The gumpaste should be rolled out until it's thin, like  2 mm thin or less.
Take your cutter and place it on the gumpaste and press really really really hard. If the cutter is digging into your hand, please put a paper towel in between your hand and the cutter. Wouldn't want you to land your daisy cut hand in the emergency room.
Peel the excess gumpaste from around your cutter...GENTLY! 

Now, if you have a veiner like the one above, fabulous. If not, take a dull knife and run the knife down each petal without cutting the petals. You just need the indentation of the knife. If you have the veiner, place the flower in the veiner 
Squeeze gently, or press down gently.

Remove top of veiner and peel the flower off gently.

Place your flower on a dense foam board. 

Using the ball roller, carefully rub the petals to smooth out the lines a bit and thin out the edges. 

   Take the stem and add a little glue to the flat part of the yellow center. Poke the stem through the center of the flower and slide the flower towards the yellow center. Press gently so the center sticks to the flower. Then use a bit of aluminum paper to create a disc to support your petals. I usually add a bit of gumpaste under the aluminum disc so it won't slide down. If you want double petals, make another flower and glue it to the first set of petals. Remove the aluminum disc first obviously and add it back to support your petals. This flower takes 24 hours to dry.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


I guess business is cyclical. I was slammed making cupcakes for both my coffee shops and clients. Then, all of a sudden, I got slammed with online orders for my cupcake wrappers and cupcakes got a bit slow. It's weird and a bit scary. That's the one thing I cannot get use. I worry that all of a sudden people will stop ordering my cupcakes and that will be that. With a corporate job I never had to worry.  I had a task to do and I did it, every day with no interruptions. I never thought for a second that I would run out of things to do. But with my own business, I'm at the mercy of others. I don't particularly like that. The good news? I have several weddings booked this year. 
And I am making my first wedding cake...gulp. Far cry from a cupcake, but I know I can do it. I've been taking classes at Fran's Cake and Candy Supplies on how to make gumpaste flowers and my instructor has been sharing tricks of the trade on wedding cake making. Doesn't seem that difficult. So when a bride called asking if I could make a wedding cake using the same recipe I use for my cupcakes, I said suuuuuuuuurrrrre. When I hung up the phone I paused and thought, what on earth have I gotten myself into? So I need to practice. And what do I decide to do? Enter a cake decorating contest. I swear, I just keep getting myself into things I pray I can do. My instructor convinced me to do it. There's a huge cake decoration show/contest on march 21st and I am officially entering a cake/cupcake creation. I figure, if I do well then my client's wedding cake will be a cake walk...so to speak. And, hundreds of cakes will be there so I will have examples all around me. And according to Keith (my instructor), they have classes one can take during the day. I plan on attending as many as possible. 
Anyway, other than that, business has been a bit slow these last few weeks. I'm a bit nervous about the whole thing. So I took my extra time and started to expand my cupcake wrapper line. So much so that I got blisters from using the scissors for hours. But the wrappers look great. I've scattered some images of them but all of them are on the E-Shop portion my site. I made A LOT of them. 

Monday, March 2, 2009

Little Darcy

To celebrate St Patty's Day, I took it upon myself to create a new flavor exclusively for ACKC (one of the coffee shops that carries my cupcakes).  When building the flavors for my new cupcake, the last thing I wanted to do was create a basic vanilla cake and slap some buttercream on top that has been flavored with Bailey's. That was too simple and certainly in my view,  expected. 
So I tinkered in the kitchen one evening and created a deep (and I mean deeeeeeeep) chocolate cake. So packed with chocolate that the cake was black. When they came out of the oven I was a bit taken back by them. They looked so morbid, so dark. But when I bit into one....I almost passed out. The cake was so unbelievably moist and the taste was dark and rich. I had two. Okay, maybe 3.
I then thought to myself about some Easter eggs I used to have when I was a little girl.  The ones that oozed gooey sweet deliciousness. I wanted the same experience for this cupcake. To find the ideal recipe, I sat on the floor of my room surrounded by all my recipe books. I searched and searched for the best filling I could find. I then came across my Great Grandmother's hand written recipe book that is starting to fall apart. In there I found an English custard recipe. It was simple and sounded divine. I made it trying to interpret the measurements as the recipe came from her Grandmother and they didn't have measuring cups back then. So eggshells of milk turned into 3 cups of milk. I also added cornstarch to make it a bit thicker and I added Bailey's Irish Cream. I love Bailey's but I wanted to use it creatively.  The custard came out insane. I really think it should be bottled. 
I assembled the cupcake piping in the chilled custard and then pondered the buttercream. I mixed a bit of Bailey's into the buttercream but then added a swirl of chocolate syrup and salty caramel. I didn't mix it in, but rather left it so you could see the swirls when the buttercream was piped on top of the cupcake.
Let me just say that eating this little piece of heaven was euphoric. Below is the recipe, you all must try it:

Chocolcate Cake:

2/3 cup of Hershey's Dark Dutch Combination Chocolate Powder (this is a new product from Hershey's. You can find it in your grocery store, I used a finer chocolate that I get from my distributor but it is very similar to this Hershey's Dutch product)
2 cups all purpose flour
1  1/4  teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 teaspoon Baking Powder
1   2/3 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup Hellmann's Mayonnaise (sounds weird, but trust me, it makes a fabulous cake)
1  1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1   1/3 cups water

Preheat oven to 350
Mix flour, chocolate, baking soda, Baking powder in a small bowl
In a large bowl mix sugar, eggs, mayonnaise, vanilla and water. Slowly add the dry mix slowly into the wet mixture (use an electric hand held beater)
Pour into cupcake cups and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

3 cups whole milk
8 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch (if you want the custard thick, if not, leave this out. I added it)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup Bailey's Irish Cream

Heat milk in a heavy sauce pan over heat until hot, but do not boil it! Whisk eggs in a heat proof bowl along with sugar, cornstarch and salt.
Add a bit of hot milk to yolk mix (about a 1 cup). Then add the remaining milk to the egg mixture and whisk whisk whisk. Transfer the bowl to the sauce pan and cook over medium heat stirring constantly with a wisk. Add the Bailey's slowly. Cook and stir until the mixture thickens.
Put the mixture through a sieve into a clean bowl. Add vanilla and butter and mix in well. Let the custard cool and place a piece of plastic wrap on top of the custard (touching it) so it doesn't develop a skin. Chill it in the fridge for at least an hour or two. Using a piping bag and tube tip, pipe in the custard into cooled cupcakes. If you don't have a piping bag or piping tips, take a melon baller and make a deep well in each cupcake and fill each cupcake with the custard. Tap the cupcakes so the custard settles in evenly. 

Buttercream (This is not my usual recipe, this one is simpler and faster):

2  cups butter
5 cups confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup Bailey's Irish Cream (or more if you want it more potent)

Cream butter in a bowl using a hand held electric beater
Add sugar slowly mixing it in (if not you will be wearing most of the sugar if you use the electric mixer on full blast)
Add Bailey's and mix well until smooth. You can add more Bailey's, sugar or butter to taste. If you like it really sweet, add more sugar or add more butter if you want it thicker...etc.

Gently add  a tablespoon of chocolate syrup and caramel (ice cream syrups work very well) and pipe on the buttercream.

Try to only have one. But it's hard to resist. I suggest a coffee to go with the cupcakes.

I named this cupcake Darcy because I knew a girl named Darcy, she's as sassy as this cupcake.