I made these cupcakes last year for a company thanksgiving pot-luck at work, and it’s a great single-serving ode to the classic sweet potato casserole. While a bit denser than my typical cupcake, they were a big hit among my coworkers.
So, this started out as a short post until I realized how behind I was. I wanted to clean out the bin of baking that has been accumulating on me. It’s amazing how quick they build up!
These were cupcakes I had made in the past for my sister’s bridal shower, but while I was on a business trip, I had some friends request that I make them at their house.
However, there was a bit of a problem when their mixer broke (aka “fizzled out with the awful stench of motor burnout”).
So, since everything else was ready to go, I got to do it all by hand!
However, everything else at least went smoothly as I made the citrus cupcake base, filled them with a dollop of raspberry preserves and topped them with a buttercream frosting made with fresh raspberries.
The end result still turned out pretty darn good, and my friends loved them and appreciated the extra effort.
My son’s school had a special Spider-man Day and asked me to make some cupcakes, so I decided to hit up the food coloring on basic yellow cake.
Over the summer, my aunt had her 60th birthday, and we usually have a family picnic a few weeks beforehand, so we surprised her with a personalized cake:
The bowling ball is a dense chocolate cake with a strawberry preserve filling, and the pins are a lemon cake with lemon curd filling.
For reference, the pins were done using a vintage Donald Duck cake pan:
For one of my wife’s friends, I was asked to make some bridal shower cupcakes. She requested my buckeye cupcakes (which are becoming quite famous in these parts, consisting of a chocolate cake, peanut butter frosting filling, chocolate ganache, and a dollop of peanut butter frosting), but I made her a deal that I’d make one more type of my choosing as well.
So on the right is the buckeye cupcake, and on the left is my creation: a cherry cupcake with honey lavender frosting. Both got positive reviews, but the lavender one was a bit on the strong side and I’d probably tone it back next time. However, that was my first foray into using it, so it was a trial.
So, for my son’s third birthday, he asked me for a Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtle cake. Unfortunately, the new iteration of the show has yet to produce any such pans, and all of the older ones are going on eBay for around $50. So I got creative and decided to freehand a picture on top of a cake made with an old astronaut pan.
Not perfect, but I was still very happy with how it turned out and my youngest son nearly leaped with excitement when he saw it.
For Christmas morning, we decided to make donuts from scratch. I prepared the dough the night before, let it rise in the fridge overnight, and let it warm back up and proof in the morning.
The donuts were great when warm, but a little on the dense side. Next time, I’ll make sure to give them more time to warm back up before trying to do anything with the dough.
For my oldest son’s birthday, we sent cupcakes into school with him and I let him choose what he wanted. He settled on a strawberry cupcake with chocolate frosting, and then helped to finish decorating them.
Lastly, one more birthday cake, again for my oldest son, because he got cupcakes at school and cake with the extended family at home (lucky boy!).
We had gone to Monster Jam a few weeks prior, so the boys are still full-throttle into the monster trucks. So when I asked him what he wanted, he said an Iron Man Monster Truck.
Again, getting creative with the pans, I came up with the following:
If the frosting looks a little more yellowed, it probably is, as this time I did make the switch from plain Crisco to an organic palm oil shortening. I though it actually tasted much better despite the different color.
So, that wraps it up. Unfortunately now, my Kitchen Aid Pro is back on the fritz, so I’ll have to get that fixed up before tackling much more.
For this year’s Super Bowl, I again went all-out homemade, like I normally do:
The cake was actually a request for this year by one of my wife’s friends. I’ve made is several times in the past, but in previous years I had used some shortcuts (i.e. not from scratch) due to time constraints and this year I wanted to stick with making things from scratch. I used my yellow cake recipe, but this time I split the batch in two, and added pre-melted chocolate to half, and then swirled the two batters together in the pan to make a marble cake. (Sorry, no shot of the middle.)
The frosting was my standard buttercream, with a small portions separated for the white stripes and laces, and then the remainder mixed with cocoa powder and extra whipping cream until it got a nice chocolaty taste and slightly thicker than usual consistency.
One thought I’d like to add about making this cake is that I hate this cake pan, mostly because it cooks very unevenly and can take almost twice as long as a standard 8″ cake in order to make sure it is cooked all the way though. Yes, I do have an older oven (it’s painted a rust color if that is any indication), but I don’t have these issues with standard cupcake and cake pans. So, the ends can turn out dry, while the middle finally cooked. Not ideal, but I keep this pan around for this annual event nonetheless.
This past weekend was my 1-year-olds birthday party, and I had picked out a pan for his birthday cake around six months ago. I had done a monkey cake pan for my first son, and wanted to stick with a similar theme for the second, so I had picked out an elephant cake pan. Well, when it had come to make the cake, I decided to try two other things as well.
First, I was going to try working with fondant for the first time. Now, I’ve never been a big fan of fondant, as I think it often doesn’t add much to a cake besides providing a smoother finish. However, I have another project coming down the pipeline where I’ve been asked to use fondant, so I thought I’d at least try it out first.
Second, I wanted to make a regular yellow cake recipe, just to keep things easy, but I wanted it to be more fun. So, after I mixed the batter, I decided to split it up into 4 bowls and color it.
I then added it to the cake pan, one at a time right into the middle, and shaking them even a little bit with each layer.
After baking, it looks a little funny as a blue cake, but you can see some of the other colors poking through while it was cooking before I got a chance to level out the back.
After the cake was fully cooled, I went to work on the decorations.
I first made up a batch of my basic buttercream frosting, and applied a thin layer over the cake to help the fondant stick when applied.
I then rolled out my fondant with a fondant rolling pin, and then flopped it over on the cake. I then smoothed it to the contours of the cake with the back of a spoon, and then trimmed the edges at the bottom of the cake.
Once the cake was covered, it was time to break out the coloring for the remainder of my buttercream and the piping kit to do the decorations. Here is a shot of my work in progress:
And finally, the finished product…
…which was adorable on it’s own, but there was an audible “WOW” when the cake was cut and served.
All in all, it turned our pretty awesome. And it was really pretty easy to do (even if it did require a little extra clean-up), and well worth it the extra little effort in the end. Everyone enjoyed it, and we barely had any left when all was set and done.
The only thing I’d make sure to change next time would be to roll out the fondant a bit thinner. I used the medium rings on the rolling pin, and it was easy to handle, but it was a tad thick for the cake. So, either stick to the really thin fondant (maybe trying the Fondarific as suggested by Jen at Cake Wrecks in her twitter feed), or just stick with the buttercream.
It seems appropriate to start off the recipe portion of this blog with some of the basics that I work with. So, since I plan on spending a lot of time on cupcakes, I thought I’d start with the basic frosting I use to top many of them (or tweak to get those great flavors). I used to always use the basic Wilton Buttercream Icing recipe, but I found that too often it wasn’t as firm as I wanted it to be. Therefore, I made a few tweaks to it to get the kind of frosting I wanted, and ended up with this recipe:You may notice that my two biggest changes are to use more shortening and heavy whipping cream instead of milk, and I feel that these make for a more stable frosting, which is great for piping onto cupcakes. Don’t worry…the cupcakes recipes will be coming shortly!