SHF: Baby Girl Cupcakes and the Giveaway Winner!

First of all, let’s not waste any time in announcing the winner of the spice kit from Under the High Chair’s second birthday dinner. Rest assured that the selection of the winner was done in a most thorough way, overseen by my husband, the engineer in the family.

And the winner is…Jill!!!
Whoot! Whoot! Congratulations!
Jill, please contact me via email with your address and information and I’ll get your present out to you as fast as I can!
A big thanks to all who participated and left such great comments! This was the first giveaway I’ve done, but it certainly won’t be the last–it was so much fun to see people popping in from the four corners of the globe…and two hundred comments is such a nice round number for the draw.

And now for some of the most girly-girl cupcakes you will ever see…

My self-appointed mission was as follows: bake cupcakes for two-week-old Amber’s baby shower and make them as pink and girly as possible, because with three men in the house, we never get to play with glitter, sprinkles and pink food coloring, let alone even make cupcakes.

Yep, life would be different if I had girls. Oh, it’s not that I’m complaining, you’ve seen my boys and I love them fiercely, but let me put things into perspective for you:

This is the first time homemade cupcakes have been featured on UtHC.

That’s right, we just celebrated two years of posts and all this time you have been deprived of cupcakes. Everywhere else, cupcakes are flaunting themselves, blogs are devoted to them, boutiques specialize in them and celebrities crave them. I mean, it’s practically the decade of the cupcake and although I’ve kept you up to date with the best cupcakes in the city, I haven’t been baking any myself.

Why such a dearth of the pretty little things? I’m not quite sure, but there must be a reason, and I intend to get to the bottom of it. Is it just because I have no girls to bake with? A husband who demands “Give me a real cake, woman”? (okay, kidding about that last one, he’d get a lot more than real cake if he called me ‘woman’.)

Anyway, enough with the introspection, I’ve finally made some cupcakes and although they came out rather garish (I might even say ghastly), I had a heck of a lot of fun playing on my Pretty in Pink theme.

I was bemused when one girl at the shower turned to me, half eaten cupcake in hand, and said

“So what flavor would you say these were anyway?”

Hmm, good question. Vanilla? Buttermilk? Is pink a flavor?

Here’s how I arrived at my final product:
For the cupcake itself, I adapted a recipe for Buttermilk Red Velvet from Joy the Baker, using less red food coloring and doubling the amount of vanilla; it was fluffy and moist, not to mention hot pink!!

I frosted the cupcakes with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting which Joy frequently pairs with Red Velvet Cake and I am in full support of that marriage. Yum!

Edible glitter and sprinkles adorn the frosting and finally, the cupcakes are topped with cut-out hearts of rolled fondant. The baby’s name is hand painted onto the hearts with food coloring. Voila.

Long after these cupcakes were consumed at the baby shower and the leftover frosting eaten with a spoon, I happened upon foodbeam’s Sugar High Friday event: Cupcakes, the final chapter.
(You can read more about the SHF, the ‘international sweet tooth blogging extravaganza’ here)

It crossed my mind to submit these cupcakes, but then told myself, naw, who am I kidding? It’s Fanny, for pete’s sake! I didn’t even get to do an official photo shoot for the cupcakes, what you see was snapped at the shower while I ignored Mateo’s complaining from his car seat in the corner. (Bad mother) There was no way I could send my insanely pink baby girl cupcakes in response to her call for “delicious cupcakes, baked with flair, sophistication and novelty’.

But then I kept reading Fanny’s post and somewhere in it she said ‘most importantly, have fun‘, and that’s precisely what I did with these cupcakes. I mean, edible sprinkles and light pink fondant? I had a blast.
So be sure to check out at the end of the month for the round-up of cupcakes, and please, go easy on my entry, okay?

Here are the recipes if you are interested in making your own really pink cupcakes.

Buttermilk Pink Velvet Cupcakes

8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temp1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

2 large eggs, at room temp

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 Tablespoons Red Food coloring 1. Preheat the oven to 325. Sift together flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add the kosher salt after sifting and set aside. Measure out the buttermilk and red food coloring. Add the dye to the buttermilk for easier incorporation later. 2. Cream the butter and the sugar using an electric mixer, until the mixture is pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, letting the eggs beat for 1 mintue in between additions. Scrape down the bowl in between additions. Add vanilla and beat well.
3. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients. Start by adding one third of the flour mixture. Mix just to incorporate. Add half of the buttermilk. Add another one third of the flour mixture. Mix to incorporate. Add the last half of buttermilk, followed by the last third of flour. 4. Spoon into paper lined cupcake pans. Check the cupcakes after 12 minutes.
Makes 16 small or 12 large cupcakes.
Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting 1 1/2 cups butter, softened 8oz cream cheese, softened 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed 1 teaspoon vanilla extract pinch of salt 4-6 cups powdered sugar 2-4 tablespoons milk depending on desired consistency Cream the cream cheese in an electric mixer for 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl and add the butter, beating for 1-2 minutes, or until incorporated. (Be sure that the two are at room temperature. Cold cream cheese or butter can make your frosting lumpy.) Add the brown sugar, pinch of salt and vanilla extract, and beat until incorporated. Turn off mixer and add 2 cups of powdered sugar. Turn the mixer on a low speed so the sugar doesn’t fly out of the bowl. Slowly add more sugar alternately with the milk until you reach your desired consistency.

One Wedding Cake: Mission Acomplished

I’ve had enough cakes for a while, thank you very much.

Enough butter, enough sugar, enough icing. Please stop already with the flour sifting and the spatula licking–oops, did I just say that? I would never lick a spatula!

Seriously, though, after making this cake last weekend, I am ready for a change. I need to sweat some onions or grill some meat, and spend a few hours making a minestrone with perfect vegetable cuts.

Nothing went wrong with the cake and I was happy with how it turned out, but I was SO stressed out about it, I was hardly able to enjoy the process. Really, not until it was sliced, served and folks wiped the crumbs off of their mouths with their napkins did I really sit back with a sigh.

OK, who am I kidding, it was more like make a beeline for the bar and down a rum and Coke.

Now I’ve made my fair share of cakes and I’m quite comfortable in that area, so you are probably wondering ‘why all the sweat?’, but it was the areas out of my control that had my knees knocking last Saturday.

Things like the ultra high humidity and thundershowers.

We must be on one of the worse power grids in Quebec, because we seem to lose electricity at the slightest gust of wind. It crossed my mind more than once that I could very well be stuck with three tiers of iced wedding cake sitting in a dark, dead fridge at any point in time. Seriously, it’s happened before.

Somehow, though, we managed to avert disaster at every turn and deliver a cake that the bride loved. It survived the van ride from my place to the reception hall, thanks to Danny’s mad driving skills, and we even made a quick pit-stop for a poutine-to-go for our growling stomachs. I needed something salty to counter balance all the icing and cake in my system! I couldn’t stop eating all the scraps and trim during the cake assembly process. There were probably a few nights where I just sat down to a big bowl of icing and a glass of milk for a late supper.
It felt like that, anyway.

So this was my second attempt at a tiered cake with rolled fondant and I’d say it came out just OK. However, I think I am going to enjoy playing around with fondant in the future. It’s so easy to work with, like grown-up play dough.

Each tier of wedding cake had a layer of chocolate cake and a layer of vanilla buttermilk cake. (A photo of how this looks and both recipes can be found here.) Everything was then coated in a simple buttercream and covered in rolled fondant.

For the decorations, the bride had a few requests. The bridesmaids wore pink that we matched the ribbon on the cake to and the white mini-gebera and lisianthus on the cake were echoed from the brides bouquet.

Lastly, the antique bride and groom topper were passed down from the brides’ mother, who had used them on her wedding cake, some 35 years or so ago. I though that was sweet.

So huge congrats to the happy couple, A & J, and thanks so much for letting me be a part of your wedding day!

For now, though, it’s time for a little baking break. Danny is on summer holidays and we’re looking forward to some sweet family time! A trip to the zoo is planned, as is a three day camping trip. I think I know what I am getting myself into-tenting with two babies-but if anyone has any tips to pass along, they would be much appreciated. And no I don’t mean “get a hotel”, either.

Baby Cakes

I feel the need to keep apologizing for my sub-par photos, but probably should come to terms with the fact that this is how it’s going to be for a little while. Baby Mateo is now a laughing 16 lb, 4 month-old who Must. Be. Held. and so I usually end up shooting with him on one hip. Also Noah, who is almost 3 now, and thinks it’s great fun to traverse the kitchen at top speed and slam into my knees right when I have the perfect shot. YOU try holding a camera steady! Sigh. So for the last time, sorry for the lack of inspiring photographs. Check out the super talented Aran’s photography on Cannelle et Vanille if you really want to see some gorgeous stuff.
Now, onto the cake.

The babies keep on coming and so do the cakes!

We love babies around here and in the last few weeks were thrilled to welcome Angelique, Jesse and Owen to our extended family. I wasn’t kidding when I said that three of my sisters-in-law were pregnant! Congratulations to the proud parents and best wishes for the new chapters in your lives ahead.

This cake was for a friend of mine and first-time mama, Valerie, who is due in just a few weeks, but I have to admit, it was a trial run for the wedding cake I am doing this weekend. I wanted to see if I could cover an 11-inch cake with rolled fondant and actually succeed, not like this disaster!
It came out OK and was lots of fun to do, even if it involved waking up at 6:30 am to decorate so as to be ready for a 9:30 AM brunch baby shower. Who does that??

So quickly clockwise from top left: rolling out the fondant…to find I have waaaaay too much. Oh well, better than to little! Then there is the trimmed and smoothed cake with the humidity starting to make it glisten; a closeup of poke-a-dots.

I dyed the fondant a pale blue (yes, it’s a boy!), wrapped the bottom in satin ribbon, and cut a pregnant lady out of fondant for the top. You can find the template here for the silhouette, designed by the super creative Melody of My Sweet and Saucy. I keep stealing it, but she’s so pretty, how can I not?

I was unsure of how else to decorate the cake, as I was still a little bleary eyed, but after my morning coffee kicked in, and with time ticking on–oh look, I haven’t done my hair yet, either– I decided poke-a-dots would be cute and easy.

So I rolled out more fondant and used the small end of an antique piping tip (size 12) to cut perfect circles. Again, improvisation is key at all times! By this time the fondant was sweating ever so slightly, and all that was required to fix the poke-a-dots to the side of the cake was a gentle push of the thumb.

I used two really reliable recipes for this cake: a buttermilk cake for the top and chocolate for the bottom; that way everyone gets a sliver of each so you never have to decide what flavor you want. Who can make these kinds of decisions before noon anyway?

Email me if you have any questions about quantities.

Buttermilk Vanilla Cake (adapted from Demolition Desserts)

8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temp
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temp
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk

1. Preheat the oven to 325. Sift together flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add the salt after sifting and set aside. Measure out the buttermilk and set aside.
2. Cream the butter and the sugar using an electric mixer, until the mixture is pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, letting the eggs beat for 1 minute in between additions. Scrape down the bowl in between additions. 3. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients. Start by adding one third of the flour mixture. Mix just to incorporate. Add half of the buttermilk. Add another one third of the flour mixture. Mix to incorporate. Add the last half of buttermilk, followed by the last third of flour.
4. Pour into two buttered 7-inch round cake pans or one 9×13 pan. Bake about 15 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
One Bowl Chocolate Cake (adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook)

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

3/4 cup warm water

3/4 cup buttermilk

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two round 9-inch cake pans or one 9×13 pan; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Add the eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla; mix batter until smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to ensure batter is well mixed.

Divide batter evenly among pans. (If I have any extra batter I like to make a few mini cupcakes.) Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed.
Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.

Here comes the Bride…and another cake

I am happy to report that I fulfilled my duties as a matron of honor to the best that I know how and my friend Rachel is now happily married! It was a stunning wedding. The weather behaved perfectly and so did Mateo, so that helped the day go a lot smoother.

One of my tasks was to decorate the cake for this elegant outdoor wedding. The original plan was for me to make the cake, but the red tape and fees at the wedding location were such a hassle, that we decided it would be easiest (and more affordable) to use their cake but have me decorate it to the brides’ taste. These places have their ways of making you conform, don’t they? Still, there was no way I was going to let Rachel’s cake look like the gaudy, overdone ones they showed us in their albums.
So decorate I did.

Since she dislikes flowers and the wedding had kind of a vineyard/wine theme, it was easy to choose grapes for the cake decoration. I had originally wanted champagne grapes, but they are only in season in July or August, and I had to make do without them. These regular ones are sugared and the greenery is real ivy. It was really a simple decoration job and fortunately so, as I had -no joke- less than ten minutes to do it, right between feeding the baby and getting dressed with the girls.

I am looking forward to doing a wedding cake that is not rushed sometime!!

The Little Cake That Could

My first time to work with rolled fondant and the Force was not with me

A major storm blew through our area on Tuesday. It snapped trees, blew over tractor trailers on major bridges, picked up my barbecue from the back deck and ruthlessly pitched it onto it’s head. It also knocked out our power for about 6 hours and caused my stress level to go through the roof as I had the three layers to this cake in my fridge.

If you remember, I recently threw a bridal shower for my friend who is getting married soon and this week was the rehearsal dinner where I was slotted to bring the cake. Hey, I’m the matron of honor, I’ll do whatever I’m told!
With all the high heat and humidity we’ve been having around here, I didn’t want to risk a droopy buttercream icing, but rather wanted to go with something like rolled fondant that could hold up to the elements, as the dinner was an elegant backyard garden party.

But despite careful planning and my best efforts, everything went horribly wrong for this cake.

I had never worked with rolled fondant before, but I managed to cover three tiers of cake and make it look pretty decent. After that, things were out of my control, as due to the storm,we lost power shortly afterward.
This poor cake survived 5 hours in a dead fridge that was slowly warming, causing it to sweat and the fondant to get sticky. Then, in the pouring rain, it was transfered to a functioning fridge at the party’s location. Unfortunately, the car ride was a little rough on it and it suffered a few gouges, not to mention a large dent from, ahem, a protruding upper body part. To protect it from the rain, I had hastily slapped some saran wrap on, which was a big mistake as it left wrinkles all over the cake like some kind of bad art deco wall texturing.

So, not much else could go wrong, right? I was certain that with the right patch kit and a few decorations, I could make it look okay, all I needed was to show up an hour or so before the party started and a quiet place to work. Well, due to circumstances out of his control ( so he says!), Danny arrived home very late indeed from work and we were late for the party. I had about 25 minutes to assemble the layers and decorate and when you look at the cake you sure can tell!

Anyway, it was a learning experience and I did have fun with the fondant. A huge thanks to Melody of My Sweet and Saucy for answering my emails and questions and letting me pick her brain a bit.
Oh, and ROCKS!

This cake also had a little surprise inside when you cut into it.

Inspired by Joy the Baker and her recipe for Red Velvet Engagement Cake, I set out to try red velvet cake for the first time (lots of firsts here!). I was sure that one bottle of red food coloring would be enough, but I was wrong, it wasn’t. Not even close.

What to do? Babies are sleeping, there is no one to send to the store for more food coloring. The oven is preheated and the cakes are half made, it looks like I am going to have to improvise.

So I add some blue food coloring to the red and make (gulp) a purple cake.

Mind you, the brides’ colors for the wedding are purple, purple and more purple, so I knew she wouldn’t care.
The wedding invitations were beautiful in purple and green so I went a step further and dyed the buttercream green to match the purple.
The bride loved it and it certainly was memorable-if for all the wrong reasons.

The recipe for Red Velvet Cake can be found here. I used Martha’s Swiss Meringue Buttercream found here, minus the coconut. Between the cake layers are fresh raspberries and blackberries.
It was quite tasty after all was said and done.

Will I ever work with fondant again? Sure, as long as the power stays on! I deserve a second chance! I have a few cakes coming up in July, so wish me luck.