Showing posts with label Cake Decorating. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cake Decorating. Show all posts

Monday, October 22, 2012

Angry Bird Cupcakes

I can't believe this kid is five years old already.  In the same way that I gushed in my ode to Anna's second year, the measure of time is so different when applied to the life of a child.  I remember so clearly picking up Danesa's older kids from school and telling them their mom was in labor. They were ecstatic, and waiting for "the call" seemed to take forever.  We made dinner, went to Dairy Queen, played games, waited.  Then around 8 pm, we got the news.  A 10-pound healthy baby boy.  Oh boy!  We ran to the hospital to meet the little guy, and now five years later...what a kid!

So, in what's becoming tradition with my best girlfriend's kiddo, I stretched a creative neck out there and produced some pretty sweet cupcakes for the Angry Birds themed party!

I did quite a bit of research on the best way to create these trendy little birds and pigs and in the end was very pleased with the results.  Even though nobody believes me when I say it, these were surprisingly easy to make.  Even you can do it!  I promise.

What You Need

White icing
Sugar Sprinkles the color of the bird/pig you want to make
Regular sized marshmallows, cut in half crosswise
Black licorice strings, cut into 1-inch pieces
Candy Corn
Black icing
Shredded coconut (if you are making the nests)
Cadbury mini-eggs (if you are making the nests)

To Make Angry Birds

Ice the tops of the cupcakes with a layer of frosting.  Put the sugar sprinkles in a shallow bowl and dip the tops of the cupcakes into the sprinkles, making sure to coat completely and no white icing is showing through.

Place two mini-marshmallows on the cupcake, near the top at eye-level, using a small dab of icing to adhere if they have trouble sticking to the cupcake.

Add two pieces of candy corn below the eyes and pinch the tips together to make a beak.

Add half a regular sized marshmallow below the beak to make the chest.

Add two black licorice pieces between the eyes to make the eyebrows.

Add two dots of black icing to the mini-marshmallows for the eyeballs.


To Make Pigs

Ice the tops of the cupcakes with a layer of frosting.  Put the sugar sprinkles in a shallow bowl and dip the tops of the cupcakes into the sprinkles, making sure to coat completely and no white icing is showing through.

Coat a regular sized marshmallow and two mini-marshmallows with icing and then roll in the sugar to coat completely.  Add a small dab of frosting in the center of the cupcake, where the nose will be, and then press the regular sized marshmallow on top.  

Add the mini-marshmallow coated in sprinkles to the top of the cupcake near the center, using a small dab of icing to adhere if they have trouble sticking to the cupcake.

Add a mini-marshmallow to each side and near the top of the nose, to make the eyes, using a small dab of icing to adhere if they have trouble sticking to the cupcake.

Add three mini-marshmallow directly below the nose, to make the teeth, using a small dab of icing to adhere if they have trouble sticking to the cupcake.

Add a small dot of black icing to each eye and two small dots on the nose.  


To Make Nests

Ice the top of the cupcakes with a layer of frosting.  Put the coconut in a shallow bowl and dip the tops of the cupcakes into the coconut, making sure to coat completely.  Top each cupcake with three mini-eggs


See I knew you could do it!  Now, go...


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sesame Street Birthday Party

As emotional as I got about Anna turning 2, I also had a great deal of fun planning her birthday party.  I mean really, who doesn't get excited about cupcakes as cute as these?

And vegetable and fruit trays as fun as this?

All of these were fairly quick and easy to throw together, but your guests will be impressed with your artistry and think you've been spending days preparing food.  And, I guess in all fairness, since I made something crazy like 36 cupcakes, the cupcake decorating did take a bit of time.   But I enjoyed every second of it.


2 lbs strawberries, hulled and halved
2 cups blueberries
1/4 cup mango yogurt covered almonds (orange peanut M&Ms would work too)

Arrange the strawberries, cut side down, on a round 10" platter.  Leave an empty space in the shape of Elmo's mouth and then fill with blueberries, reserving two small blueberries for the eyeballs.  Add marshmallows where eyes should be and use a blueberry for the eyeballs.  Arrange the mango almonds in the shape of Elmo's nose under the eyes.  Eat it!


2 lbs broccoli florets, stems trimmed off
16 oz can whole black olives
Handful of baby carrots
Red bell pepper, cut to look like a tongue (a small tomato would work too)
2 tablespoons ranch (or other white) dressing
2 small condiment cups (available at craft and party stores)

Arrange the broccoli florets on a round 10" platter.  Leave an empty space in the shape of Oscar's mouth and then fill with olives, reserving two for the eyeballs.  Add bell pepper for the tongue. Nestle the condiment cups into the broccoli for the eyes, fill with ranch dressing and then add the two reserved olives to make eyeballs.  Arrange carrots above the eyes to make a bushy unibrow. Eat it!

An Elmo and Cookie Monster cupcake army!



12 cupcakes of your choice (I used this recipe)
12 marshmallows, cut in half crosswise
3 cups icing (this buttercream icing works great using the vanilla variation)
Red (Elmo) or Blue (Cookie) gel paste food coloring, mixed into icing (this is my favorite brand)
12 mango yogurt covered almonds (orange peanut M&Ms would work too) for Elmo
6 Oreos, cut in half for Elmo, OR 12 mini-chocolate chip cookies for Cookie Monster
1/8 cup black icing

Fit an icing bag with a multi-hole tip, and then fill with icing color of choice.

This awesome decorating tip for hair is perfect for Sesame
Street Monsters!

Now, the fun part!  Go crazy icing the cupcakes.  Since Elmo and Cookie Monster's fur is wild and unruly there is no need for precision here.  Just grab your icing bag and cover the cupcake.  I did eventually find a rhythm and found that starting from the center and icing outward in lines was the quickest way to do this, but this isn't necessary.  You'll find your groove.

Immediately after icing, add two marshmallow halves for the eyes, an almond for the nose (if you're doing Elmo) and a cookie for the mouth.  Then using a small tip, add two small dots on the marshmallow for the eyes.  You're done!

Now go put one in front of your favorite child and let them go crazy!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Camouflage Cake

My dear friend Ashley got married about a month ago (you know the one who's shower I turned into Foodzilla while planning?) to a man made perfectly for her.  This wedding was positively oozing with love, good vibes, and the absolute knowledge that this was a marriage made to last.

As all good brides do, Ashley put a ton of time, energy and forethought into exactly how she wanted their big day to be executed.  One of these details was in the form of a groom's cake for her beloved.  Since the groom is an avid hunter she encouraged him to put bits of camouflage into the decor of their wedding, but each time he shied away from it.  Little did he know she had a major camo surprise planned for him, and she asked me to make it for him.  A camouflage cake!

GULP.  I mean, this was my wedding cake debut!  And it was for one of my dear friends' wedding no less.  Oh yeah, and besides the occasional birthday cake for a friend's birthday, I don't really have much cake decorating experience.  But I was up for the task...and I think I did alright.

I was a little intimidated and did crazy amounts of research and several renditions of this cake before the big day.  After my obsessive research (and a miserable attempt at camo fondant) I decided to use the VIVA paper towel method (great video tutorial here) for smoothing the icing.

For this method you need to use a crusting buttercream recipe, the one I used is below, and a roll of VIVA paper towels.  Why VIVA?  Because they do not have a pattern on them and are perfectly smooth.  I started by piping the design for the camouflage pattern onto the cake.  Then, I put the whole cake in the fridge for about an hour for the frosting to set up, or crust.  You will know that your frosting has crusted when you touch the frosting with your finger and it doesn't leave any on your finger.  It should feel slightly stiff  but it won't be hard.

Once the frosting had crusted I used a VIVA paper towel and laid it over the top of the cake and very lightly smoothed it with my finger.  (Some people use an offset spatula, but I found that my finger left a smoother finish because I could feel the bumps and lumps beneath the paper towel.)  I repeated this method working from the top to the bottom of the cake and then around the sides.  It took awhile to get the smoothness I desired, but it worked!  Don't believe it?  I didn't either at first.  Here's proof:

I was thrilled with how the cake turned out, and clearly, so was the groom!

Chocolate Crusting Buttercream Icing
Adapted from Cake Central

Makes enough to frost 2 - 8" cakes

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup Crisco all-vegetable shortening
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 pounds (8 cups) powdered sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

*Variation: to make a vanilla buttercream I omitted the cocoa powder.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or with a handheld mixer) cream the butter, shortening, vanilla and salt until smooth and no lumps remain.

In a separate bowl, sift together the powdered sugar and cocoa.  Alternately, you can pulse 1/3 of each at a time in a food processor to sift and combine.

Add 1/3 of the powdered sugar mixture to the butter mixture and beat on medium-low until combined.  Add 3 tablespoons of the cream and mix on low until combined.  Repeat with remaining powdered sugar and cream until desired consistency and sweetness is attained (you may not need all of the powdered sugar and cream, this makes a very very sweet icing).

If you want to color the icing, do this after your desired consistency is reached.  Then add a few drops of dye at a time until the icing is the color you desire, keeping in mind that it will be slightly darker once it has crusted.

If you are not using the icing right away cover with a damp paper towel and put in the fridge.  When you are ready to use it whip it with your mixer for one minute.

Ice the cake, smoothing it with an offset spatula as much as possible.  Allow to air dry or put in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.  When the frosting is set (it doesn't come off on your finger when you touch it) you can use the VIVA paper towel method described above to smooth the frosting.  Once you've smoothed the cake, you can add decorations, or you can simply...


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Kitchie Tip: How to Make Chocolate Curls

Before getting to the promised task at hand, I have some majorly big business to address.  First, (I am still in a state of shock and disbelief) thank you so much to everyone that voted me into the FoodBuzz Top 9 on Friday!  The Dark Chocolate Mocha Buttercream Cake I made last weekend was both fun and therapeutic for me, and the fact that it made into the Top 9 was a major win for me.  So, thank you, thank you and thank you!  I actually started crying when I read the first email congratulating me on Top 9.  It means a lot.

Second, I have a winner for the OXO salad spinner giveaway I posted last week.  The winner was lucky number 5, jwfong, which selected for me.  Congratulations!  I'll be in touch shortly. 

Now, onto the star of the show...chocolate curls (like the ones on top of my cake that made the Top 9, surely it was the curls that got it there).

How-to: Chocolate Curls

3 ounces chocolate (I used bittersweet)
1 tablespoon coconut oil (shortening can be substituted)

Melt the chocolate and coconut oil in the microwave in 30 second increments, stirring after each increment, until completely melted and smooth.

Using an offset spatula, spread the chocolate on an overturned rimmed baking sheet, until smooth and evenly distributed.  Put the entire baking sheet into the freezer for 2 minutes. 

Remove from the freezer and, using an overturned metal spatula (turner), lightly push the chocolate away from you to form the curls.  If the chocolate is too hard, it will not curl and will look like this:

If this is the case, allow to sit at room temperature for 30-60 seconds more and then try again.  Repeat until the chocolate is the right temperature and the chocolate curls easily under the spatula, like so:

The chocolate will melt very quickly if touched, so try to to move the chocolate to a ceramic plate or other cool surface using the spatula.  Put them in the refrigerator as soon as possible and keep there until you are ready to use them.

Because the chocolate is spread so thinly, you will likely have to return it to the freezer several times during the curling process because it will begin to melt quickly.

When you are ready to use the curls, remove from the fridge and work quickly to decorate your cake/cupcake/etc. touching the curls as little as possible.  Once you've gussied up your awesome dessert with these curls, go ahead...

Eat it!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Dark Chocolate Cake with Mocha Buttercream

I have been on a roller coaster of emotions these past few weeks.  If you've been keeping up with my posts, you know that life has had some ups and downs lately.  And these ups and downs have pulled me out of the kitchen and into real life.  This weekend I got to spend hours in the kitchen baking and decorating a cake for a friend's birthday and at the end of it I felt revived and renewed.  After spending hours on my feet I felt energized and truly alive for the first time in weeks.  I feel so fortunate to have something in my life that brings me (and others, for that matter) such joy.  I am breathing in gratefulness this week.  Life is good.  Oh is it good.

And so was this cake.  Actually, this cake was beyond skyrocketed right past good, great, excellent and amazing, and fell unscathed into the lap of perfect.  This cake was all sorts of intense.  Four layers of dark chocolate cake....with layers of bittersweet espresso ganache...and mocha buttercream...topped with toffee and chocolate curls. 

I had an obscene amount of fun making this cake.  I love being challenged with a new recipe.  I love finding recipes with an absurd amount of steps that would have a  non-baker running away in terror.  I love when the end product looks and tastes as amazing as the amount of time I put into it.  Let's just say, this cake fulfilled the baking nerd in me.

I also got to try my hand at making chocolate curls which filled me an irrational amount of giddiness.  The tutorial for the chocolate curls can be found here.  Such a fun easy way to gussy up a cake.

This was a conglomeration of several recipes.  The cake came from my all-time favorite baking book flour by Joanne Chang, the frosting and ganache were adapted from Southern Living and the idea for toffee and chocolate curls came from this little brain of mine.   This is definitely a special occasion cake because it takes some time, but believe me, it is worth every second you put into it. 


Dark Chocolate Cake with Mocha Buttercream & Toffee

Dark Chocolate Cake

Note: The cake can be made up to a week ahead of time.  Bake, allow to cool and then wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze.  Remove from the freezer about an hour before you are going to frost it.

1/2 cup (60 grams) dutch-processed cocoa
1 ounce (28 grams) unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup boiling water
1 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (225 grams) cake flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup (60 grams) creme fraiche
2 eggs
2 egg yolks

Preheat oven to 350F.  Butter, flour and line the bottoms with parchment paper of two 9-inch cake pans.

Combine cocoa powder and unsweetened chocolate in a small heat-proof bowl.  Pour the boiling water on top and whisk until completely smooth.  Place in the fridge for 45 minutes, whisking every 15 minutes,  until cooled to room temperature.

Combine flour, salt, baking soda and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, and mix until combined.  Add the butter and beat on low speed for 30-40 seconds, or until the mixture resembles a dough and is thoroughly combined.

Whisk the creme fraiche, eggs and yolks in a small bowl.  With the mixer on low, slowly pour the creme fraiche mixture into the dough until thoroughly combined.  Turn the mixer up to medium high and beat for 2 minutes until light and fluffy.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl, then return the mixer speed to low.  Slowly pour in the cooled chocolate mixture.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl, then mix on medium for 30-40 seconds until the chocolate is completely incorporated and evenly distributed in the batter. 

Pour the batter into the prepared pans.  Bake 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with just a few crumbs sticking to it.  Allow cakes to cool completely on a wire rack in the pan.  Once cooled, invert the pan on a flat surface and peel off the parchment paper.

Meanwhile....while you are waiting for your cakes to cool.

Mocha Buttercream Frosting

1/2 cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 Tablespoons instant espresso powder
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a small saucepan, whisk together flour, cocoa, espresso powder and half-and-half.  Whisk constantly over medium heat for approximately 5 minutes or until thickened (it will resemble a pudding).  Transfer to a small bowl and cover the surface with plastic wrap to avoid forming a skin.  Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature, about 45 minutes.

When the mixture has cooled, beat butter and powdered sugar in a stand mixture fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.  Slowly add the cooled cocoa mixture on low speed until thoroughly combined.  Add vanilla and beat on low for 20 seconds to combine. At this point the mixture should resemble whipped cream (dreamy creamy mocha whipped cream!).

While you're waiting for the buttercream to cool do this...

Dark Chocolate Espresso Ganache

2 tablespoons espresso powder
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 cup hot water
12 ounces dark or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter

In a small bowl, combine the espresso powder and sugar.  Add hot water and stir to combine.  Set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat the cream over medium heat until just boiling, then quickly remove from the heat.  Pour the cream over the chocolate in a bowl and whisk until smooth and no chocolate chunks remain.  Stir in the butter and 3 tablespoons of the espresso mixture.  (The rest of the espresso mixture can be discarded.)

Allow ganache to stand at room temperature for 1 hour or until it is thick enough to spread.


2 Heath bars, coarsley chopped
Chocolate Curls


Simple Syrup - boil 1/2 cup sugar & 1/2 cup water for 2 minutes (the simple syrup isn't completely necessary, but I find it adds a lot of moisture to my cakes and is a simple way to really amp up the cake)

Note on cutting cake layers: There are definitely different camps on this, but I like to freeze my cakes for 20 minutes before cutting them.  Because the cake is firmer, I find it easier to work with and much easier to cut into layers. 

Cut each cake in half lengthwise so that you have 4 layers.  Put your first layer on a cake stand and brush generously with simple syrup.  And add enough ganache to thinly cover the top of the cake.  Next add 1/3 of the mocha buttercream on top of the ganache and gently spread to cover the top of the cake.  Repeat these steps two more times and end with an unfrosted cake layer on top, brushed with simple syrup.

Add several large dollops of the remaining ganache to the top of the cake and spread with an offset spatula on the top and down the sides of the cake.  Continue adding small dollops of ganache to the cake until the top and sides are completely covered with ganache.

Now, this next part is up to you and how perfectionistic you are.  Smooth the sides of the cake with an offset spatula until desired smoothness is acheived.  You can spend a lot of time on this, so get it as smooth as you can tolerate, and then move on.  See Exhibit A...not perfect, but it'll do.

This is Exhibit A.

Now, toss a bunch of Heath on the top and wherever else you want to put it (try to stop yourself from putting it in your mouth, you'll get plenty of that later!).  Decorate with chocolate curls and get to...

Eat it!!!

Sunday, October 2, 2011


"So, do you want me to make a cake for Luca's birthday party?" -Me
"Sure!" -Danesa
"What kind of cake should I make?"
"Something like a skull and cross bones."
"Um, I meant what flavor..."
"Oh, doesn't matter, but lots of frosting.  And a skull and cross bones."
"Okay...I'll, uh, work on that."

I was scared.  I love making cakes.  I love trying new recipes, new frostings. But...I am not much of a cake decorator.  The extent of my cake decorating is seeing just how smooth I can get the frosting on the sides of the cake and then maybe putting another little poof of frosting on top.  Fancy.  Yeah.

Don't get me wrong, ever since I saw Cake Boss I have been dying to get my hands on some fondant, but, I do not think of myself as a creative person.  So the thought of rolling out dough-like frosting and turning it into something super cool and artsy has intimidated the living hell out of me.  So, instead I have just had a wild crush on it.  A crush I am too scared to approach and actually talk to.  I have just admired this fondant from afar, hoping someday I have the nerve to go say hello.  Saturday was that day.

To prepare myself for this adventure I went to Michael's and perused their baking aisles; which means I threw every single thing that looked interesting into my cart and bought it.  Hey, if I am going to do this, I am going to do it big! 

I settled on black frosting dye, white fondant, edible frosting markers, and a felt skeleton mask that I could use as a stencil.  I am happy to report that I used all of it.  I will skip the gory details of assembling the cake and skip right to the fun stuff...

I rolled the fondant out on a counter dusted with powdered sugar and then traced the skeleton mask on the fondant with edible markers.  I then cut everything out with the tip of a sharp knife.  I flipped the skull over so my markings wouldn't show, drew in a few skull cracks, some teeth and -- WA-LA!  A skeleton head!  I just winged the crossbones and drew them free hand.


A happy birthday boy!

I have no idea why I was so scared.  This cake was SO FUN to make.  I'm still not willing to admit yet that I have any creativity in my bones...but I am hoping it will start to creep in, because I could have some fun with this! 

We partied like pirates and had an awesome time.  Happy 4th birthday Mr. Luca!!

Strangely enough, Mace was half way across the country celebrating another pirate birthday with another awesome 4 year old.  Happy #4 to you too Mr. Finn!  Love you to crazy little pieces! 

Does anyone know any good pirate jokes?  I love me a good pirate joke!  Okay, I'll start...(you actually don't want to get me started on pirate jokes because I will not shut up.  But, I will try to behave myself here):

What is a pirate's favorite kind of beer?  PB Arrrrrrgh!
What is a pirate's favorite kind of sock?  Arrrrrghyle!
What does a pirate drive?  A Carrrrrrrrgh!
And on and on...

Hope you had an awesome weekend!  Happy Monday!