Sunday, October 28, 2012

My First ... and Probably Last ... Wedding Cake

Last summer I attended the wedding of one of my former colleagues. I taught at a small high school for 7 years before switching to the high school I've been teaching at for the past 12 years. Tom was a social studies teacher in the room across the hall from me for 6 of those 7 years. He left the year before I did, but I still know members of his family in the area and was able to keep tabs on him. I was excited when I received in invitation to his wedding last summer and was hoping to reconnect with others I had worked with. That's exactly what happened. It's funny how we can all live within 20 miles of each other and never run into each other. It was really nice seeing everyone and we all promised that we'd get together soon for lunch.

A few weeks after the wedding I received a call with information on the promised lunch gathering. Five of us got together at a local Italian restaurant and had just the best time catching up. While there, I got to see pictures of new grandchildren and grown-up children. I too shared pictures of my boys ... these ladies remembered holding both of my boys when they were born. I also shared with the others that I had a new baking hobby and showed some of the pictures I had stored on my phone. Dianna was very complementary of my cakes and cupcakes. It was a fun afternoon.

Flash forward to January of this year. Out of the blue, I got a Facebook message from from Dianna's daughter. She was getting married and wondered if I'd make the cake. I told her that I didn't make wedding cakes, but she was very persistent. She called me on the phone and told me how she had looked at my pictures on Facebook and she really wanted me to do this. She must have given me the right number of complements, because I finally said yes. She was only asking for a small cake for the wedding party ... a cousin was making cupcakes for the guests.

... A cousin was making cupcakes. Are you thinking what I thought? Am I not the cupcake queen? What was I doing making the cake? Why did I agree to all of this?

... back to the story ...

She wanted a 2-tier red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. I was really concerned about the cream cheese frosting. She told me the reception was going to be in a barn in October. October in Illinois can be cold, hot, rainy, humid, dry ... it's so unpredictable. I tried to talk her out of it, but I just couldn't. I went on and asked for advice there. One of the posters, carmijok, shared her cream cheese recipe with me and it worked beautifully ... not runny and easy to work with. I site of the reception eventually got changed to an indoor venue. I had less to worry about when I learned that information.

So, flash forward to this weekend. The wedding was yesterday. We had Parent/Teacher conferences this week, so I was done at school at 12:30 on Friday. I had the whole afternoon to bake and decorate ... so I thought. I ended up going to our high school football game because it was the 1st round of the playoffs and the band was playing at half-time (son #1 is in the band). That took a couple of hours out of my day ... but I was able to get the whole thing done by 1:30 a.m.

Here's what I did ...

I started off by baking two 6-inch round and two 8-inch round red velvet cakes. I wanted to make each tier three layers. So then I leveled, cut, and assembled each tier.

Crumb coating is a must ... especially with red velvet. Red velvet crumbs get everywhere ... and ... I have never made a red velvet cake where I haven't stained everything in my kitchen red. Why does everyone love red velvet so much?
Top Tier
Bottom Tier
After the crumb coat was all smooth, I started adding more frosting. I had some real issues getting it smooth ... and the darn red velvet kept bleeding through. So I added more frosting. That really seemed to do the trick.

Next came the part that makes me the most nervous ... stacking. I used 5 straws for support, each cut at the same height and inserted into the bottom tier. I had my ruler out and tried to mark the cake so that the top tier would be centered. I think I did okay. The whole cake was 7 inches tall.

It was now time to decorate. Trisha asked for scroll work on the cake as well as a "B" for her new last name. She wanted a blue border (Pepsi can blue) as well. I used a stencil for the "B" and a round fondant cutter for the circle, but all the scroll work was free-hand. That part made me very nervous. I was also concerned about getting the cardboard cake circle under the top tier covered up. It all worked out though. I even hid a heart in the back as a little surprise for the bride and groom.

I had not seen the cake topper, but knew it's dimensions, so I left room for it on the top.

This cake was far from perfect ... and it was a little stressful making it. I don't think I ever want to do one again. I'm glad I had the experience, but now I'm done. :)

For those of you who are interested in making this delicious ... and nice crusting cream cheese frosting, here you go ...

Cream Cheese Frosting
2 sticks of real butter (salted)
1 8-oz pkg of cream cheese
2-lb bag of powdered sugar
Cream the softened butter and cream cheese together, then slowly add the powdered sugar. Mix well.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Peanut Butter / Chocolate Swirl Cupcakes

When it rains it pours. I'll go for so long without any reason to bake, and then BAM ... lots of reasons to make cupcakes. This past Sunday, my husband was having a cookout with some of his co-workers ... he should take cupcakes. Monday was my friend Beth's birthday ... she needs a birthday cupcake. Monday night was the junior high band chili supper ... I need to supply cupcakes. By my calculations, I was going to need 4 dozen (I always have to make extra for the boys to take to their girlfriends ... it's so cute).

What haven't I tried?

I went back through recipes I had pinned on Pinterest that I hadn't tried yet, and I found a winner! Chocolate and peanut butter swirled cupcakes!!!!!!

I used the cake recipe exactly how ... kevin {&} amanda ... posted it on their blog. Really the only thing I changed was the frosting. I love the peanut butter buttercream I usually make, so I stuck with that.

Personally, I thought the cupcakes were a little dry, but everyone who had one liked it. Maybe I'm just too picky. I like this recipe, though, because it starts with a box ... 2 boxes to be exact.

Chocolate Cake
1 box devil's food cake mix
1 small package Jello instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups mini chocolate chips

In a large bowl, mix together everything except chocolate chips until well combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Peanut Butter Cake
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup butter, softened
4 eggs
1 box butter cake mix
2/3 cup water

In a large bowl, combine peanut butter and butter. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy (about 3-5 minutes). Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add approximately 1/3 of the water, and mix on low speed until just combined. Repeat 2 more times with remaining cake mix and water.

Preheat oven to 350. Line 4 standard-sized muffin tins with cupcake liners. Add approximately 2 tbsp of peanut butter cake batter and 2 tbsp of chocolate cake batter to each liner. I found that if I alternated flavors, it swirled batter. Use a knife to gently fold and swirl the cake batter.

Bake for 18-22 minutes.

Peanut Butter Buttercream
2 cup butter, softened
2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 lbs powdered sugar
4 tsp vanilla extract
6 tbsp heavy cream

Cream butter and peanut butter. Add powdered sugar and mix until combined. Scrape the bowl, mix on high speed for a minute, then add extract. Mix again before adding the heavy cream. Mix on high speed for 3 minutes.

Sweet Milk Chocolate Ganache
1 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Place chocolate chips in a heat-proof bowl. In a medium saucepan, whisk the heavy cream, vanilla, and sugar and bring to a simmer. Pour over the chocolate chips, let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk until completely smooth. Chill for 1 hour or until the ganache reaches a thick frosting consistency.

How to Pipe Swirled Frosting
I tried to follow a tutorial for swirling the peanut butter buttercream and ganache on each cupcake. You can find it at Good Life Eats. Here's how mine turned out ...

I thought it looked really cool, but it also made a huge mess. I think maybe I didn't let the ganache chill long enough and it was still too runny. I also quickly discovered that I wouldn't have enough for 4 dozen cupcakes. I only decorated a dozen this way, and I also added chopped peanut butter cups on top. 

I packaged them up in my cupcake carrier and away we went to the cookout.

When I got home, I decided to just drizzle the rest of the cupcakes with the ganache before adding the chopped candy to the top.

So 2 dozen of the drizzled cupcakes went to the band chili supper ... they were a hit ... Beth got one for her birthday ... she liked it ... the boys each gave one to their girlfriends ... they each got a hug ... and the rest were eaten by my family.

These cupcakes are a little high maintenance, but have a "Wow!" factor to them. I'm glad I tried them.