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Four Seasons Cupcakes

After reconnecting with a friend from high school, our family was invited to join theirs for dinner.  I am absolutely unable to visit someone empty-handed and so I asked what I should bring.  I was informed that because of my interest and skills, I had dessert duty.

No problem.

The only guidance that I was given was that the entire family loves chocolate except for one person.

My husband recommended cupcakes as something easy and basic.  I think he figured that I would slap some frosting on a few cupcakes and call it a day.

He should know me better than that.

After pondering the parameters and a few different ideas, I decided to go with a seasonal theme.  Four seasons allows for some nice variety and a range of creative expression.  I decided to make one batch of chocolate cupcakes and one batch of vanilla cupcakes and decorate a few of each in each seasonal style.  For added oomph I tossed some chocolate chips into the chocolate chips into the chocolate batch.  I didn’t have time to go pick up a box of vanilla cake mix, so I made the vanilla cakes from scratch.

BIG MISTAKE!

I didn’t realize until the day after the party that the recipe turned out terribly dry.  I should have taste-tested them.  But at least they looked good and the chocolate ones turned out.

First up: Winter

Happy Snowman

A happy royal icing snowman sitting in a drift of french vanilla butter cream frosting.  The frosting was great and tasted like cotton candy.  I used a very thick orange royal icing for the carrot noses and they actually stood out from the snowmen.

Then: Spring

Delicate Flowers

Beautiful Roses

Lacey Leaves

I was tempted to make the green grass mint flavored, but I didn’t want to overwhelm or overpower the design elements.  I used a star tip to pipe the homemade butter cream onto the cupcakes.

The flowers and leaves are made of white modeling chocolate that was delicately tinted.  The leaves were each individually cut out and had veins etched in before the edges were ruffled and they were dried with bends and curves in them to make them appear more realistic.  The ribbon roses were made with thinly rolled strips and came out very nicely.  Modeling chocolate was certainly nicer to deal with than fondant for these elements.

Next up: Summer

Surf's Up!

Royal icing surfboards ride on waves of blue butter cream.

The shells are homemade chocolates with crushed peppermint candies in them.  They melt in the mouth and taste exquisite!

(Can you tell where my love lies?)

 

 

 

 

 

And finally: Autumn

Autumn is my favorite season.  I love the leaves.  I love the colors.  I love the cool crisp mornings. And I love any excuse to work Autumn into my art.

Maybe the entire reason that I did the 4 seasons cupcakes was so that I would have an excuse to make an autumn cupcake in February.

Autumn Leaf

The leaves were made of marshmallow fondant that I tinted red, orange, and yellow and then marbled.  I etched veins into each leaf and then draped them over a rolling pin to dry.  Right before I placed them on the cupcakes, I dusted them with gold shimmer dust.

Bright leaves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The frosting for these cupcakes is a double chocolate butter cream which was sprinkled with a whisper of hot cocoa mix before the leaves were put on top.

Awesome Autumn Leaves

This was a great project for me.  I was able to play around with various techniques and products and just let loose on things.  I have never done a cupcake project this large and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I may consider doing cupcakes for my next birthday…stay tuned to find out if I do!

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Blue’s Clues Cake

For my son's 2nd birthday I HAD to go with his favorite cartoon character.

This cake looks NOTHING like my original design, but I am not entirely surprised since I think that Blue’s Clues cakes for 2nd birthdays are doomed.

A friend of mine made a Blue’s Clues cake for her son’s 2nd birthday and at the last minute the nice royal icing topper that she had made for it broke and she was stuck with a very basic tiered cake.

I wanted to show that Blue is not adverse to royal icing toppers and with the help of the kids had designed  a cake which would have all of the main characters (Blue, Steve, Slippery Soap, Mr Salt, Mrs Pepper, etc) standing on top of the cake.  In order to be certain that the royal icing dried fully, I made them a month in advance.  There were a dozen characters each 2-4 inches tall that took me a couple of nights to make.  They were drying beautifully and all was good.

And then my middle kiddo ate them.

Grrrr!!!!!

So I remade them with a couple of changes.  I wasn’t as pleased with the results, but they would do. It’s a cake for a 2 year old after all.  He won’t really care.  But a week before the party, when I went to remove them from the wax paper and flip them over so they would be fully dry, about half of them broke.  So I changed my design and planned on sticking them around the sides of the cake with Blue and Steve standing on top with the candle.  I kept the cookie sheets of characters hidden in the oven so that middle kiddo wouldn’t get to them.  (He has a history of taste-testing my creations. )

When my landlord came over just days before the party, I took them out to show her.  I figured that they would be fine in the couple of minutes it took to walk her to the door when she left.  I was wrong.  I entered the kitchen and the HE was, hiding behind the table with a half-eaten character in each hand.  I was furious, especially when I saw that he had scarfed down all of the unbroken topper pieces.

So I settled on this design.  I actually found making the paw prints around the sides of the cake to be very therapeutic after the difficulties of getting the cake put together.  And it tasted great and everyone enjoyed it…especially the birthday boy.

Luke dives for his Blue's Clues cake

The cake is funfetti and the frosting is homemade butter cream.  The letters on top are the only original royal icing toppers that weren’t eaten or damaged.

Dual Cakes

Typewriter Cake

 

 

My husband wanted a typewriter for his birthday…this is how I provided it.  I had a few issues arise during the making of the cakes this year and was not fully pleased with the end result on this cake, but at least I did get to try a few new techniques and to hone other skills.  (Please note that this photo makes it look very lopsided, but in reality it was not.)

My darling husband does not like marshmallow fondant, so this year I experimented with a different product – homemade modeling chocolate.  I LOVE working with that stuff!  Super easy to make with just 2 ingredients and just as versatile if not more so than fondant.  Both cakes were made exclusively with the modeling chocolate (M.C.) as I did not want to deal with making fondant once I had tried the M.C.  The one time that I can say for sure that I will use fondant in the future is when I need a pure white covered cake since the lightest color achievable with the modeling chocolate is a nice ivory color as seen in this pic.

Some of the techniques that I experimented with did not work out at all and luckily I started working on the components for these cakes weeks ago so that when things failed (or…ummmm…got destroyed…oops!) I had plenty of time to repair the damages or try a new approach.  This is why I ask that people give me about a month notice if possible when they want me to make a cake for them, so that I can design the cake and take my time getting things just right, although I will not turn away someone who only gives me a week or two.

Tropical Island Cake

 

Island Cake Details

 

This year his cake was a little more formal with a set color palate (chocolate brown and ivory) and a design that needed to stay somewhat true to form.  My cake, on the other hand, was a more free-form piece which left a lot to my imagination.  I have been stressed out a lot this year and the kids seem to be stuck in crabby mode, so it didn’t take long for me to decide that the theme for my cake was to be, “Deserted Tropical Island for One.”

I made the shelter, trees with coconuts and leaves, discarded sandals, and tons of fish ahead of time using modeling chocolate and royal icing.  I ended up accidentally destroying the first set of royal icing fish (ALWAYS check your oven before preheating just in case you are hiding something from children/hubby/dog/etc) and remade them as a set of modeling chocolate jellyfish (grape, strawberry, and raspberry jelly fish to be exact) which were then left in a too warm location and forgotten resulting in my abandoning of the fish totally.  😦

But even with the fish abandoned, I was extremely pleased with the final cake.  The shelter and coconut trees look pretty real for being made of chocolate and the rose bush on the side of the hut resulted from me playing around and having tiny flowers on hand to decorate an errant blob of homemade butter cream frosting (new recipe this time and can I say YUM!!!!!).  I had hoped to make a tiny crab for the beach, but did not have the time to accomplish this, so maybe on a future cake.

And why, you may ask, do I make 2 cakes for our dual birthday party (our special days are 4 days apart), especially when the gatherings are relatively small?  The answer is that he likes chocolate cake and I prefer white or funfetti cakes.  This year my cake required 2 boxes of funfetti cake mix while the main body of his took up 2 boxes of devil’s food cake.  In addition, the round component of the typewriter (I think it is called the carriage, but feel free to correct me if I am wrong) was a Swiss Cake Roll made from scratch and filled with a combination of raspberry jam and fresh whipped cream then covered with frosting and modeling chocolate.  I was not very pleased with this, my first attempt at a Swiss Cake Roll, as the cake was unreasonably dry and crumbly.  If I had more time, I would have made a second one to try a different recipe/method but there was no time so I had to go with the one that I had.  The only thing that I liked about this portion of the cake was that I created a structurally supportive system of straws to keep the Swiss Cake Roll from collapsing the back of the typewriter.

As I said, I used a few new techniques for these cakes, some with great success and some which were miserable failures but in the end everyone was pleased with the look of the cakes and enjoyed eating them and that is what matters the most.

Two cakes

Well, since my hubby guessed what his cake is going to be, I can now talk about it openly.

There will be two cakes for our party on November 20th.  The first is for my husband.  It will be a chocolate cake with chocolate filling.  It will be decorated in dark chocolate and white chocolate, and will be designed to look like a typewriter.  I even plan to make a large Swiss Cake Roll for the round barrel portion of it, and each key is being individually made.  I will even make a piece of white chocolate “paper” to put into the typewriter for the realism.

My cake, will be a funfetti cake with buttercream frosting.  It will be a small sheet cake with a mound in the middle.  The flat portion will be decorated in blue frosting with assorted fish “swimming” around in the water.  The mound will be decorated as a tropical island with palm trees and a small hut a la Gilligan’s Island.  A nice little tropical getaway for one.  Peace and quiet that I do not get normally.

So those are my plans at this time.  I hope that I can make my visions work.

‘Tis the Season!

With my husband’s birthday and mine only 4 days apart, this is my favorite time for cake making. We have different likes and dislikes when it comes to cakes and so I always make 2 cakes. I am sad to report that we have only a couple of guests who are able to come to the party this year, and so I may have to eat most of the cake myself. Que lastima!

Anyways, I will give more details about the planned cakes later this evening. As it is, I have to clear my table of modeling chocolate and heat up some leftovers for dinner.

November is drawing nigh

It has been an obscene length of time since my last posts.  Not good.  But I have also been working on some private pieces that have kept me from more playful pursuits.  But now I am starting on the process of two cakes to be done by Nov 20th and am getting really excited.  I am going to be using some new techniques and components in these two cakes and I think they are going to turn out really well.  Stay tuned for more info and periodical photos of the process.

Here is what my daughter’s birthday cake ended up looking like.  Due to some family stuff that came up, I wasn’t able to be as OCD as I would have liked and the corner towers are not perfectly square and identical in size, but I am very pleased with the result.  And most importantly, MY DAUGHTER LOVED IT.  Actually she and her brother helped put on the life saver windows.  It is a little tough to see, but tucked behind on the right hand side was the tiara I made out of fondant and royal icing.  The Princess on top is made of royal icing and was drawn from a design by my daughter whose favorite stories all seem to involve a princess in the top room of the tallest tower (Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty especially).  I even tinted the funfetti cake pink and purple and alternated the layers to make it more interesting when we cut into it.  A perfect cake for a girly Princess’ birthday, and even her 14 year old brother (partially shown in the pic) was amused.

The Birthday Princess With Her Cake.