Saturday, December 24, 2011

Aunt Donna's ... I mean ... Julia's Rum Cake

Every year right before Christmas my Aunt Donna makes rum cake. I'm not sure how many she makes, but she gives them away to friends and relatives. My mother is the recipient of one of these cakes. It only makes sense ... they are sisters after all. On rare occasions, I've been lucky enough to get a piece of my mother's rum cake. She loves it, so she keeps it for herself. I think my Aunt Donna has even sent her rum cake to my sister and brother at different times. I, however, have never been the recipient of one of her delicious cakes. :(

Two years ago, I set out to figure out Aunt Donna's rum cake recipe. It was really a trial and error process. There was one that we still refer to as the "egg cake." The family was nice and all tried a piece, but I think I ended up throwing it away. My mother then let me in on a little secret. She told me that she thought Aunt Donna put pudding in the cake. That's all I needed to know.


Now I don't need to wait for the rum cake that never I make my own.

Craig says it's delicious ... and perfect ... and not for sharing. I wanted to put a rum drizzle on top, but the boys cut into it before I got that far ... And do you know what? ... It didn't need the drizzle.

This recipe I'm not sharing ... you're all on your own. All I'm going to say is that it's delicious and I'm no longer calling it Aunt Donna's Rum Cake. It is now going to be known as Julia's Rum Cake. Maybe next year I'll make some as gifts for friends ... maybe ...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Santa Hat Cupcakes

My cupcakes are all dressed up and ready for Christmas.

My friend Angie likes to send me pictures of cool cupcakes. A couple of weeks ago she sent me a picture of a cupcake that looked like it was wearing a Santa hat. I LOVED it. So I set to work trying to figure out how to copy it.

This past weekend I had some extra purple frosting, so I tried to make the Santa hat. I texted the picture to my sister-in-law with the message,"If this was red would it look like a Santa hat?" Her response was, "Sure. Or a boob." Not the answer I was looking for.

I decided to move ahead with the project anyway. I do think it looks much better in red. I decorated 21 cupcakes with the red Santa hat for my boys to give to their teachers. I even bought individual boxes for them. My 7th grade son loved the idea and happily deliver each box to each of his teachers before school. One of his teachers was absent, which was a good thing because the hat slid right off the cupcake. Jared ate that one himself. He told me that it was a delicious cake wreck. My 9th grade son, however, hurt my feelings by not wanting to take part in the fun after I'd gone to so much work. I ended up delivering them to each of his teachers myself ... which is really easy to do since I work with all of them.

My older son's history teacher e-mailed me later on to tell me how mad she was. While she was in the hall between classes, somebody took her cupcake. Can you believe it?!?!? I felt really bad about it, so I came home, baked 2 dozen more cupcakes, and decorated about 12 more with Santa hats. Tomorrow I'm going to tell the history teacher to take better care of her gifts.

I will definitely make these cupcakes again.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Chili Chocolate Cupcakes

These last few weeks leading up to Christmas have been INSANE! There doesn't seem to be enough time to do anything. I've been teaching all day and then playing mom every night. With son #1 in high school and son #2 in junior high, I've attended two choir concerts and two band concerts. I also just finished up a grant writing class ... all I've been doing in my spare time is writing and editing. It's been nuts.

So a couple of weeks ago I got a Facebook message from a friend (I actually know her through my husband ... she's an amazing singer and teaches at the local university). She had heard about my Lavender Cupcakes and my Rose Water Cupcakes, and wanted to know if I'd make some Chili Chocolate Cupcakes.  One of her students is doing a recital for an independent study project and they wanted refreshments. I asked all the important questions, like .... How many? When the answer came back as 60, I knew that there was no way I was going to have time to make these, but I was really intrigued by chili and chocolate together. So, against my better judgement, I said yes. I decided that sleep was for losers and I got to work.

After doing some on-line research, I came up with a plan. I ended up doubling my normal chocolate cake recipe and then added 3 tsp cayenne pepper, 4 tsp chili powder, and 5 tsp cinnamon. This made 78 cupcakes. For the frosting, I made my regular chocolate fudge icing and then added some cinnamon until it tasted right ... real scientific.

The cupcakes were really spicy and my throat was burning after just one bite. The frosting actually helped to subdue the spicy a bit. It's a good thing I had and iced coffee nearby.

To decorate, I found a chili pepper mold on-line, so a bought it. I then used red and green candy melts. I think they turned out pretty cool.

I had my husband go with me tonight to deliver the cupcakes to the theater. Michelle, the student, was there and she told me how excited she was when Kitty told her that she had asked me to make the cupcakes. She told me that she had had the lavender and rose water cupcakes and thought she was going to "fart flowers." It sounds gross, but it made me laugh. I told her that I hope she liked spicy. Her response to me was, "Oh yeah! I'm Mexican!" She also told me, with a smile, that others were coming to her show because of the cupcakes. I feel all warm inside now ... but that could also be because I had a Chili Chocolate Cupcake for dessert.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

My favorite Blizzard at Dairy Queen is Cookies and Cream. It doesn't matter what the new flavors are, I always seem to order the Cookies and Cream. If Oreo cookies are that good when mixed with ice cream, they've got to taste great in a cupcake ... right? It turns out ... the answer is yes!

I first made these a couple of months ago. I was sitting in class on a Saturday afternoon (I take weekend classes ... 8-5 Saturday and 8-1:30 Sunday), when my professor says, "We need snacks. Julia and Mike, you're in charge of bringing snacks tomorrow." So of course Mike looks at me and says, "What kind of cupcakes are you going to bring." I went home that night and came up with these little babies.

Now, I love sweets. But ... the first one I ate made my head spin like I'd never had sugar before. These were so rich and dense that I couldn't eat more than one.

I took a dozen of them to class the next day (I don't remember what Mike brought). My professor liked them a lot. I think I became her favorite that day. She brought me magazines with cupcake recipes the next weekend we had class. Others in the program told me that she was still talking about the cupcakes at a seminar they had to attend with her. I got an "A".

So ... last week my friend Melanie asked me to make some Cookies and Cream cupcakes for a party that she was having for her mother's birthday. Because she actually asked me to make 6 different kinds of cupcakes, she only needed 8 of these. My boys were not upset that my recipe made 24.

Here's how you make them ...

Start by opening 12 Oreos ... making sure that each cookie part has some cream filling on it ... and put one in the bottom of each baking cup. Then crush about 12 more Oreos and save for later. I went ahead at this point and cut 6 Oreos into 4ths for garnishing later. I won't lie, crushing and cutting Oreos makes a huge mess. I even crushed them in a Ziploc baggie.

Next, it's time to make the cupcakes. I like this recipe because it starts with a white cake mix. I like when I can doctor a box.

Mix a white cake mix, a cup of sour cream, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 3 large eggs, and a teaspoon of vanilla for about  2 minutes. Then fold in about 1 1/2 cups of crushed Oreos. The batter will be really thick. I use an ice cream scoop to fill each of the baking cups about 3/4 full. Then put them in the oven at 350 degrees for about 19 minutes. Cool on a wire wrack.

To decorate, I just made my favorite vanilla buttercream recipe and piped a swirl on top. I then sprinkled some crumbs over the top and stuck one of the Oreo pieces I cut earlier in the top. I found that a half Oreo was too big, so that's why I cut fourths. I wonder how a Mini Oreo would look on top? I've seen others where they have mixed the crumbs right into the buttercream before piping, but I think the sprinkle gives it a cleaner look.

Here's what it looks like on the inside.

I really don't know how anyone could eat more than 1 of these ... they are just so rich ... so the 24 that this recipe makes is quite enough.

My only complaint is that the cookie on top get real soft real fast. I guess that's a reason to eat them right away.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Truffle Cupcakes

I think these look like truffles ... so I'm calling them truffle cupcakes.

My friend, Leesa, called me up one night and asked if I would make cupcakes for her son's 8th birthday. He wanted some cool cupcakes to take to school for his class. How could I say no? After a family discussion ... and a check with the teacher to make sure there wasn't a peanut allergy problem in the class ... Alexander decided on chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting, vanilla cupcakes with chocolate frosting, and chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting. Yippee! I like all of those!

I made all the cupcakes on Sunday, wrapped them up tight in plastic wrap, and got them in the fridge. When I got home from work on Monday, I broke out my Christmas apron and got to work making the frostings. 

On a side note, I have really got to change out of my school clothes before I hit the kitchen. By the end of the night, I realized that I was still wearing my skirt and boots ... and boy were my feet aching.

So ... I got all the frostings made. The vanilla buttercream I make is really sweet and delicious. It's my go to buttercream. Sometimes I flavor it differently (lemon, almond, mint), but it's always really yummy. The chocolate buttercream I make is a favorite of son #1. If I have some in the fridge that I'm planning on using for another project, I have to make sure I tell him to keep out. He puts it in a bowl and eats it like ice cream. The peanut butter buttercream is my absolute favorite. It's like a little piece of heaven. It's very creamy and delicious.

I filled each of the cupcakes and then put a nice swirl on top. When I was all done, I thought they looked nice, but they were missing something. So I got out a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips and a bag of white chocolate chips and melted them down. I then drizzled the vanilla icing and peanut butter icing with the semi-sweet chocolate and the chocolate icing with the white chocolate. Mmmmmmmmmm...

I always make a few extra for the obligatory photo op ... and then the boys get to eat them. They really hate that they have to eat the extras. ;)

Today Leesa told me that Alexander was thrilled with the cupcakes. His expression after trying one ... "Mom! There's frosting inside!" 

Honestly, I think the frosting is what makes them so yummy ... that and all the chocolate. 

Mmmmmm ... chocolate ...

So I leave you with a few extra photos of these lovely cupcakes.

Chocolate with Vanilla Buttercream

Vanilla with Chocolate Buttercream

Chocolate with Peanut Butter Buttercream

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

Today my parents and my in-laws came for Thanksgiving. It was a nice dinner for the eight of us. To get ready for the big meal, I made pumpkin pie cupcakes, dinner rolls from scratch, and a birthday cake. Yes ... today is my birthday so I made myself a cake.
I really considered putting "Happy 23rd Birthday" on the cake ... and then hiding a "+20" somewhere else on the cake. Really though, I'm not ashamed of my age. As I tell my son, I make 43 look good. :)

Six or seven years ago I decided to try my hand at dinner rolls from scratch. It went so well that it has become my thing for holidays. I actually considered just buying some rolls this year, but then my mother-in-law asked if I was going to make MY rolls. So of course I had to. It's a good thing I get the day before Thanksgiving off work ... I spent the whole day in the kitchen ... and loved every minute of it.

For my cake, I made an 8 inch square chocolate cake with my favorite chocolate cake recipe. I filled and covered it with my son's favorite chocolate fudge icing. I couldn't decide how to decorate it though. I thought about putting a big turkey on it, but then I decided to try to make it pretty. I had some left over vanilla buttercream in various colors from my groovy cupcakes, so I decided to make Fall leaves. I really like the look of brushed embroidery, so it was decided.

The cake was very yummy. Everyone was stuffed, but we forced it down anyway. It was a pretty good day.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

I really don't care for pumpkin pie, but I kind of feel obligated to serve it at Thanksgiving. This year I came up with an alternative, however. Earlier this month I went through my pie cupcake phase. My friend Ginger loves pumpkin anything, so I took her a cupcake. She's so funny ... she saved it until the next morning so that she could have it for breakfast. Anyway ... she loved it so much that she asked me to make 2 dozen for her Thanksgiving dinner. So this morning I got up and made 3 dozen so that I could have some for my Thanksgiving dinner as well.

I found the recipe for these on the Internet somewhere ... I can't seem to remember where. I always enjoy doctored box recipes, and this one proved to be a winner.

This is all you need to make these tasty little treats.
Yep ... that's a box of Fun-da-middles. I saw the Fun-da-middles at the store a while ago and thought, "What a waste. I already know how to fill cupcakes. Who would buy those?" It turns out ... I will.

So ... I just followed the instructions on the back of the box, but instead of oil I put in 1/3 cup of pumpkin pie filling. I also put in 2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice. When I got the spice out of the cupboard (I had to climb on a stool to get it off the top shelf), the lid was slid open and I ended up spilling some on the floor. I really made the kitchen and my apron smell like Thanksgiving.

Here comes the time consuming part. I filled each cup 1/3 full and squeezed a dollop of the vanilla cream that came in the package in the center of each well. Next, I squeezed a bit of maple syrup on top of each cream filling.
The syrup I used was given to me by my fabulous and extremely talented friend Heidi. She brought it back from Minnesota for me. It is so incredibly yummy. 

Next, I filled each cup with a little more cake batter and then sprinkled pecans on top. Off to the oven they went for 24 minutes.

Again, my whole house smelled of pumpkin ... but without the pie.

After the cupcakes cooled ... and before I boxed 2 dozen of them up to take to over to Ginger's house, I had to try one of the smaller ones.

Tomorrow I'll show you what else I made for Thanksgiving ... and it wasn't pie. I know my mother will show up with pie, so I just didn't bother. I'll be satisfied with 1 ... or 2 ... or 5 ... pumpkin pie cupcakes.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Groovy Cupcakes

As promised ... here's how I decorated my awesome rainbow cupcakes. Let me start at the beginning.

I have this very good friend. She's a fellow math teacher and we worked together for a long time. To make it even better, we live in the same neighborhood so we often see each other out walking (when we're not playing taxi service for our kids). Last Spring, however, she got a new job. I can't blame her ... change can be good for the soul. The only problem is that I don't get to see her every day like I did for so many years. When the job starts getting stressful and I start flipping out, I don't know who to turn to anymore. She was my rock.

Anyway, my friend's daughter, Kelsi, turned 12 today. Early last week, Kelsi asked if I could make her some cupcakes to take to school for her birthday treat. Of course I said yes. She then told me that she wanted chocolate and vanilla with tie-dyed frosting and decorated with peace signs, hearts, and smiley faces. I told Kelsi that I could make the vanilla cupcakes themselves tie-dyed as well if she was interested. Her response was, "That would be lovely."

So, If you remember from my last post, I made 25 rainbow cupcakes, but had to cut one open and take pictures of it (and eventually eat it myself) because it was just too small. I also made 8 gluten free chocolate cupcakes ... because Kelsi can't have gluten ... and a whole bunch of regular chocolate cupcakes. To the freezer they went. That was Sunday.

On Monday, I got to work on the toppers. These I made out of fondant so that everything would be edible. I just used a small heart shaped cookie cutter for the hearts and cut out 38 of them. For the smiley faces, I used a round cookie cutter to cut 38 circles out of yellow fondant. I then cut 16 blue circles and 16 green circles. I used a black food writer to put the faces on the yellow circles. Each one kind of has a personality of its own. The peace signs took the longest. I used stencil paper to trace a peace sign and then cut it out. I then put the stencil on top of the fondant circles and used the food writer to color in the open spaces. These were kind of a pain. When everything was dry, I took 2 of each and "glued" them around a toothpick. I ended up with 19 hearts pops, 19 smiley pops, and 16 peace pops (8 blue and 8 green)

On Tuesday, I made and colored my icing. I made one batch and split it up among 6 bowls so I could color them red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. After I split them and before I colored them, I got a little nervous about how much there wasn't. If I ran out and needed to make more, I would never be able to match the color. So I made another batch. It turns out, judging from what I have left, that one batch of icing would have been enough. Now I'm trying to decide what to do with all the extra.

Wednesday was decorating day. After getting home late from work and then eating dinner, I finally got to work on the cupcakes at 6 pm. I started off by filling my piping bags.
They remind me of the NBC peacock. I didn't have enough small tips, so I just cut a hole in the end of the blue and purple bags. A tip would have worked so much better.

Working with 5 cupcakes at a time, I smeared a layer of red frosting on the top of each cupcake. I then put a red blob on the middle of each and then continued with the other colors, making concentric circle.
So that all of the colors wouldn't look separated, I used a flat brush to smush the colors together.
I then took a toothpick and "pulled" lines from the center out. Viola! Tie-dyed!
On the above cupcake, I cleaned the toothpick after each line. That was a lot of work though, so all of the cupcakes don't look this good.

I finished each cupcake off with one of the toppers I made and they were ready to go. Since I made 8 gluten free cupcakes, I put the blue peace signs on those. By doing this, Kelsi would know which ones she could safely eat.

I think they turned out great ... and both Kelsi and mom were happy with them.

Now on to Thanksgiving where I think I'll be making more pumpkin pie cupcakes. :)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Rainbow Cupcakes

So ... this past weekend I decided to make Rainbow Cupcakes. I'm so excited with how they turned out. Most of the cupcakes turned out to be a really nice size, but the last one ended up being a little small, so I did what any good baker would do ... I cut it open and took a picture. It may be a small undecorated cupcake, but it turned out great.

Before I tell you how I made them, just let me say that this was by no means my idea. I have seen cupcakes like these on the Internet and have been wanting to try them. I made a tie-dyed cake back in June, but I had never tried cupcakes before. These were a little time consuming ... but the end result was well worth the effort.

So here's how I made them ...

I started off by just making regular vanilla cake batter ... nothing real special. But here's where the special part comes in. I divided the batter among 6 bowls. I used an ice cream scoop and tried really hard to get them equal, but I learned when I got to the end that some bowls had a little more batter in them than others. More on that later...

After I divided the batter, I added a little gel color to each bowl.

And here's where the time consuming part came in. I put a scoop of red on bottom ... then a scoop of orange ... then a scoop of yellow ... then a scoop of green ... then a scoop of blue ... then a scoop of purple ... then it occurred to me that I should have done it in reverse order so that the hot color ends up in the center and the cool color ends up on the outside. Oops! So then I did the rest of them in reverse order. I also got faster at it by putting a scoop of purple in the remaining 11 cups ... and then a scoop of blue in the 11 cups ... and then a scoop ... you get the idea. The colors spread out as they settled and looked like this ...
Can you see my "oops" cupcake in the corner? Normally I fill both pans and put them in the oven together. Not this time. I figured I could fill the second pan in the time it took the first pan (19 minutes) to bake. I was wrong. It really took me a long time to fill that second pan. I got to the bottom of each bowl and still wanted to make more cupcakes. So I got out every rubber scraper I own and began scraping every last bit of batter out of each bowl. I got 25 cupcakes ... but the last one was really tiny. So ... as mentioned earlier, I used it for a photo shoot.

And this is what the cupcakes looked like as they cooled. Look for my "oops" cupcake.

These little darlings are now individually wrapped in plastic and safely tucked into a freezer bag and resting comfortably in my freezer.

***On a side note ... cupcakes stay fresh and moist if they are individually wrapped in plastic, placed in a freezer bag, and frozen for a few days. I always try to bake early and freeze.***

I'll be thawing these little beauties and decorating them on Wednesday. Stay tuned to see what I do with them. You won't be disappointed. ;)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Awesomely Nerdy

Okay ... I'll admit it ... I'm a math nerd. This year marks my 20th year of teaching math ... 2 years of middle school math and 18 years of high school. I've got so many math T-shirts that it isn't even funny. I wear my nerdyness like a badge of honor.

So this week I had the opportunity to make math and science cupcakes. I wasn't sure how I was going to do it. I thought and thought and thought for several days. And then the other night I got out all my fondant and started messing around. What I ended up with was awesomely nerdy.

I started out by just cutting some white disks. I then got to work on the math stuff. The coordinate plane was kind of fun. I just made some indentations in the fondant disk to represent grid lines. I then cut some really thin strips of red fondant to make the x- and y-axes. I was just thrilled with how it turned out. The little arrows on the ends were a little tough to make. I just cut a square and then cut it along the diagonal. The problem was that they were so small that they just kept sticking to my fingers. When everything dried, I used an food writer to put the x and y in the proper spots.

The right triangle was actually super easy to make. I just cut a rectangle out of some blue fondant and then cut it along the diagonal. At first I cut it too big and it didn't fit on the circle. I really hate it when I misjudge the size of something. You would think that I would be better at estimating ... but then you'd be wrong. After it was all "glued" together, I used the food writer to put the Pythagorean Theorem on it. It was a bit simple, but I still liked it ... it's math after all.

Having just come off my "pie" cupcake week, it only seemed fitting that I make a Pi cupcake. For this one, I just cut some strips out of black fondant and then shaped them into Pi. Once again, however, I made the strips too big. I had to keep trimming and trimming and trimming until I got it right. I was pleased with how it came out.

Up next, science! I decided to make an apple. What does an apple have to do with science? Good question. The story I was told was that Isaac Newton discovered gravity when an apple fell on his head. So, I cut a circle out of red fondant and shaped it a bit. I then cut a daisy out of green fondant and cut the petals off to use as apple leaves. It became a science apple when I used my food writer to put 9.8 m/s under it. 9.8 m/s is the gravitational pull on an object. Pretty cool!

From Newton to Einstein. In physics, mass-energy equivalence is the concept that the mass of a body is a measure of it's energy content. I know ... blah, blah, blah ... but physicists and physics students may understand how this formula works. I was trying to make this look like a chalk board with the formula on it. It probably would have worked better if I would have had a white food writer.

For my final science cupcake, I made an atom. This was mostly just drawn on the fondant disc with a food writer. I did add a few little red, blue, and green fondant balls to make it look more 3-dimensional. This wasn't very creative, but I was pleased with how well I drew on it.

To finish it all off, I made chocolate cupcakes, filled them with chocolate ganache, and topped them with my very yummy chocolate fudge icing. You have to admit ... these are awesomely nerdy!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Biggest Cake I've Ever Made

A couple of weeks ago, a woman from the neighborhood called me about a cake. I didn't know this, but her son is one of the high school English teachers that I work with and he gave her my number. I've waved to her and her husband when I've been out walking, but I had no idea that she was Jimmy's mom.

Anyway ... her husband was turning 80 and she was throwing a party for him ... AND ... she wanted me to make the cake. So I had her come over and we talked about him and what she wanted for him. It turns out that Forrest taught at WIU and was a poet (Annie brought me a book of his poetry to look at). Because of their big family and all of their friends, Annie decided that she needed enough cake for about 100 people. OMG! That's a lot of cake!

Since my oven won't hold a full sheet cake (which should feed 100), I told her that I could do two half-sheets and push them together. Perfect! She decided on half chocolate and half white almond (which was great for me because I love both of those recipes). She also decided that I should put the titles of some of his poems (which she picked out) on the cake and then she would display the book next to the cake. And away she went.

So ... today is the party. Annie stopped by my house this morning to make sure that we were all set for the party and to make sure that I was delivering it at 12:15. I answered yes to both and then invited her in to see the finished cake. I breathed a sigh of relief when she reacted with enthusiasm at the sight of it. This is the finished product...

This cake wasn't made without drama ... and more examples of what not to do. Let's start back at the beginning.

First of all, I needed something on which to put the cake. I had Craig get me a thick piece of plywood because I knew this cake was going to be heavy. He brought me home a 20x28 piece of wood, which was perfect because the cake is 18x24.

I had to bake the cakes one at a time because I only have one half-sheet cake pan. By the time I was ready to put the white almond cake on the cooling racks, the chocolate cake was ready to go on the cake board. I had Jared (my 12 year old son) help me flip the cake from the racks onto the board ... and got it in the right spot on the first try.
And then I had to wait for the other half to cool.
I really need to get bigger cooling racks. Trying to flip a cake this size on two racks pushed together is a little challenging.

Next came the part that almost ended in disaster. Everyone had gone to bed and I had to figure out how to get the white half on the board next to the chocolate half. I couldn't put the board on top of the cake and flip it they way I had done before because the chocolate cake was already on the board. So my next thought was to slide it on ... but when I tried to pick the cake up off the rack, it started to break. I really didn't know what to do, so I posted my question to an online cake forum ... maybe somebody else who was online at 1:30 in the morning would have an answer. I waited and waited and waited ... no reply.

So, I flipped the cake on to a cutting board and then quickly flipped it onto the cake board next to the chocolate cake ... slight crack in the cake ... UGH! You can kind of see it on the top half of the cake.

Shortly after I started icing them together, I got the reply I was looking for. The suggestion was to put some plastic wrap over a cake board, flip the cake onto it, wrap it up good and tight in plastic, and put the whole thing in the freezer until morning. When it's frozen, it will slide easier into place and then it can thaw there and then be decorated. Wow ... I really wish I would have done that.

Oh well ... lesson learned. I was able to repair the crack with some icing. It took a whole batch of my vanilla buttercream to crumb coat this monster of cake...but I got it done and went to bed.

The next afternoon ... I spent the morning outside raking leaves with a bunch of high school kids who were trying to raise money for their speech team. I paid the organization with a check and the kids with cupcakes ... I made another batch of icing and got to work covering the cake again. It took almost the whole batch again (there's a lot in the middle to make the two halves level). Smoothing it took a long time too. I use the Viva paper towel method to smooth my cakes after the icing crusts. There was a lot of cake to smooth.

Now it was time to decorate. Annie told me that she wanted red, black, green, blue, orange, yellow, and purple on the cake. I decided, that since Forrest taught at WIU (whose colors are purple and gold), and since I covered the board in gold, that I would do the borders in purple. So I made yet another batch of vanilla buttercream, put a little bit in several different bowls, and started coloring it. I then did a title in each of the colors. I'm really not that good at writing on cakes, and I'm very concerned about centering words correctly, so this part took forever. I had both a tape measure and a ruler out ... and I was using both of them. In the end I think it turned out okay ... for a cake with nothing but writing on it. And Annie was happy with it ... so that's what counts.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Let Them Eat Pie

Once a month, I partake in an event that I fondly refer to as Cupcake-a-palooza. During this event, I usually bake around 100 cupcakes ... give or take. This month's extravaganza took place last night. The theme for the November edition of Cupcake-a-palooza was PIE.

It all started a couple of months ago when I found a picture of cupcakes that were decorated to look like pies. They were really cute, but then my mind started to wonder, "What other kind of pie cupcakes can I make?" I combed the Internet for recipes, came across some good ones, and even made up one of my own. And that's when the fun began.

Let me start with the "pie" looking cupcakes.

I started off by just baking a basic white cupcake. Okay ... a whole bunch of basic white cupcakes.

I baked them in silver foil liners so that they would look like pie tins. I then added a little brown coloring to some buttercream icing to make it look like pie crust. I spread a little over the top of the cupcakes, and then, using a basket weave tip, piped a crust around the top.

Next, I used red and blue M&M's to make cherry and blueberry pie filling. My dear, sweet husband sat at the table and sorted out all the red and blue ones from a regular bag of M&M's. He also informed me that there were about 8 blue ones for every red one. So I made more blueberry than cherry.

Finally, I took the buttercream and criss-crossed it over the top to make it look like lattice. I actually ran out of red and blue candies, so I make one "peach" pie.

But Cupcake-a-palooza didn't stop there. I made Banana Cream Pie cupcakes. These little babies are a yellow cupcake with a Vanilla Wafer baked on the bottom. I filled them with banana pudding (with an extra shot of banana extract) and topped with banana buttercream. To garnish, I sprinkled the top with crushed graham crackers and stuck a Vanilla Wafer in the icing.

I know that Boston Creme Pie isn't technically pie, but I still wanted to include it. I started with a yellow cupcake, filled it with a vanilla pudding (with an extra shot of vanilla), and topped it with a drizzle of ganache. These were my favorite.

The pumpkin pie cupcakes were definitely the most interesting to make. Betty Crocker makes a cupcake mix called Da-Middles. I got one of these mixes and added pumpkin pie filling and pumpkin pie spice to it. I filled the cups 1/3 full and put a dollop of the filling in the middle, as per the directions on the box. I then added a little bit of maple syrup on top of the filling and filled the rest of the cup with more batter. Finally, I sprinkled the top with pecan pieces. When they came out of the oven, they were delicious.

The last pie cupcake I made was a lemon meringue cupcake. I have never made meringue before ... I love new experiences. For these, I made a lemon cupcake, but only baked it for 7 minutes. I then pulled the cupcake pans out of the over and put a teaspoon of lemon pudding in the center of each cupcake. On most of them, the pudding started to sink into the extremely undercooked cupcakes. I then spread a tablespoon of meringue over each cake and then sprinkled them with graham cracker crumbs and put them back into the oven for an additional 14 minutes. These were really hard to get out of the pan. The meringue stuck to everything.

Cupcake-a-palooza was a huge success. They were all delicious. I can't wait to see what I come up with for next month's edition.