SHF: Very Vanilla Cupcakes and I get crafty again.


So the vanilla cupcakes aren’t the real reason you should be excited about this post. I’m about to give you a step-by-step tutorial on how to make your very own cupcake stand like the one pictured above!

I don’t know what’s gotten into me lately. I’ve been bitten by the craft bug or something. It all started with the party hats and various other projects from Noah’ s birthday party, then the hand embroidered aprons for the jam swap, and now this. (There’s also some felt Christmas stockings in the plans for the little ones, but let’s not hold our breath on those.)

What’s going on?? It’s like I turned thirty and boom, I woke up with a glue gun in one hand and a pair of knitting needles in the other. I would never consider myself to be a crafty person, yet I now have a (very large) box labeled “Arts & Crafts”in my closet full of ribbon, glue, and glitter. If you can help me understand this, ahem, creative phase of my life, I’d appreciate it.

Wait a sec, this isn’t menopause, IS IT? Because I was planning on combating that head on with an extra glass of wine or two, not pinking shears and rick-rack. This craft thing is too expensive to become a crutch. Any idea what a good pair of scissors costs these days?


Anyway, this cupcake stand came to be when I found myself in need of a way to display the 60 or so cupcakes I had made for my mother-in-law’s wedding shower last weekend. I love to use height in my food presentations and I’m sorry but those Wilton cupcake stands just don’t do a thing for me. I was convinced I could make my own and thanks to CakeJournal, I did!

Now, we’ll get to the cupcake stand in a minute, but first, the Vanilla Bean Cupcake:


I have to say, it was a pretty decent all-around indulgence. With a moist, buttermilk cake base (also laden with vanilla bean seeds) and the fluffiest of buttercreams, this darling is going to be a staple around here. To further emphasize the pure vanilla in these cupcakes, I topped them with a sugared shard of vanilla bean, and with that sparking touch, this cupcake is making it’s way over to Susan at The Well-Seasoned Cook for the November Sugar High Fridays Event!

Susan’s blog is new to me, but I loved her choice for this month: All That Glitters. Brilliant! (Of course the New Artsy-Crafty Aimee is secretly thrilled that the challenge has the word ‘glitter’ in it.) A big thank you to Susan for hosting this event and be sure to check out her blog on November 28 for the entire luminescent round-up! I can’t wait to see what other people have come up with and I’m sure their submissions will shine a lot brighter than my little twice-licked, once-dipped vanilla bean. Not exactly a light-bulb moment in my culinary career.
OK, OK, I’m joking, I didn’t lick the vanilla beans…. And all the ladies reading from the shower just gave a sigh of relief (Hi Barb!)
Recipes at the bottom, as usual.
Oh, and yes I am aware that I am only giving you the recipe for the Vanilla Bean Cupcakes, yet there are several other varieties pictured! Don’t pout on me now. The ring-topped cupcakes are none other than my recently posted Pumpkin Spice Cake with Maple Frosting, which, for the record, makes a phenomenal cupcake. As for the chocolate ones? We’ll you’ll just have to wait for them, but here is a little hint. Yeah, insane.


All right, time to get out the scissors and paper. What’s so great about this stand? Well for starters, you can customize it to any event you need by coordinating the paper and ribbon to match the event type. My MIL is having a winter wedding, hence the snowflake theme. Or you can adapt it to match your cupcakes, even better.
It’s also so darn easy to make, why not indulge your inner Martha? Trust me, if I can make this stand, you can too, provided you have the right materials. Here’s what you need to get started:


Three cake boards
: 8″, 12″ and 14″ (I purchased mine from Ares) These are the silver rounds you see in the photo above. Naturally you can use whatever sizes you want (8″, 10″, 12″ works well) but I wanted a large stand.
Heavy duty gift wrap paper
Glue and glue stick (not pictured)
Cake Dummies
: These are the two Styrofoam-looking rounds and are use for practicing wedding cakes. Also found at Ares. Note: Ideally I would have use one 2″x4″ dummy and one 2″x6″, but they only had 6″ so I went with two of those.
Ribbon: enough to wrap the dummies and trim the edge of the cake boards.
Scissors
Pencil

Straight pins
(should match your ribbon.)

Start by tracing the cake board rounds onto the wrapping paper that you will be covering them with. Lay them on the underside of the paper and trace with a pencil. Cut out the rounds.

Using your glue stick with a light hand, glue paper onto the cake boards. Working from the middle out, smooth with your hands to push out the air and remove bubbles. Allow to dry. If you wish, glue ribbon around the edge of the boards. I skipped this step as my silver cake boards already matched my silver paper–also I ran out of ribbon…Classic.

Wrap cake dummies with chosen ribbon. Start by securing one end with a straight pin. Wrap until entire dummy is covered and secure again with a pin. You can also glue the ribbon on, but this way makes for an easy removal of ribbon.

Assemble cupcake stand starting with the bottom layer. Place largest cake round on your workplace and glue ribbon-covered dummy directly onto the middle. Apply glue to the top of this dummy and place middle sized cake round on top, make sure it is centered, and press firmly to attach.
Glue second cake dummy in the center and glue the final and smallest cake round on top of it.
If this sounds like a lot of gluing, you’re right! I also used a ruler to make sure things were centered and balanced.
Stand should resemble the above photo. Now put something slightly heavy on top and allow to dry overnight. Your cupcake stand is now ready to party!
Shoot me an email with a photo if you decide to make you own. Have fun!

Note: if these directions made no sense to you whatsoever, here is the complete tutorial on Cake Journal. I tried my best…
Note 2: In the photo at the very top of the page, you’ll notice my stand has a extra tiny tier to it. Yes, I played around with some extra Styrofoam and rigged up a little topper for my cupcake stand featuring my Re-Ment mini cake stand that I recently won. I couldn’t resist showing it off!

Right, about those recipes….This is making for a VERY long post. My apologies.

Very Vanilla Cupcakes
(These were heavenly fresh from the oven and still pretty decent the second day; however, they didn’t freeze well and shriveled up into dry little morsels.)

8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temp
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temp
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 vanilla bean
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 kosher salt after sifting and set aside. Measure out the buttermilk.

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. Add vanilla and beat well. Slice vanilla bean lengthwise and with the tip of a knife, scrape out the seeds and add the to the butter mixture. Mix 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. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting with Vanilla Bean Buttercream.

Makes 16 small or 12 large cupcakes.

Vanilla Bean Buttercream
Makes about 2 cups

2 large egg whites
1/2 cup + 2 tbsps sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into tablespoons
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean

In the bowl of an electric mixer set over the saucepan of simmering water, combine egg whites and sugar. Cook whisking constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch. Attach the bowl to the mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until it holds stiff peaks. Continue beating until the mixture is fluffy and cooled. Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter, several tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out seeds with the tip of a knife. Add to buttercream and beat on low speed to eliminate air bubbles – about 2 minutes.

Using an offset spatula, generously frost cupcakes with buttercream.Serve immediately, or refrigerate up to 1 day.Remove from fridge and bring to room temperature before serving.

Sugar High Friday: Tonka Bean Spiced Apple-Raspberry Cake


If you’ve ever had an apple cake, you’ll probably agree that it just might be the second-most comforting, soul-satisfying cake out there. (Obviously chocolate cake takes first place, right?)
It works with tea or coffee, brunch or dessert, and can be dressed up or down, depending on the occasion. Apple cake stands alone; it requires nothing save perhaps a dusting of powdered sugar to spiffy it up, and doesn’t rely on filling and frosting to meet its full potential.


Back in March when I was recovering at home from the birth of my second son, Mateo, my good friend and neighbor, Linda, brought over a box of home cooked food. There were at least three meals worth of hot dinners, warm artichoke dip with pita, a salad and her famous apple cake.
After the hospital food (which I barely survived), her cake tasted like the best thing I had ever eaten. I’ll never forget standing in my kitchen with Danny, eating it from the pan and just looking at each other saying, “Everything is going to be OK now. We have this cake.”
We could have brought home triplets, and I would have felt equipped.

There’s a lot to be said for the benefits of good, home cooked food when you are emotionally and physically low on reserves. Remember that the next time a friend has a baby or an operation or something. Sure flowers or another baby blanket is a nice gesture, but how about a crock pot of Beef Bourguignon…and an apple cake.


I called Linda up a few months later and requested the recipe. She laughed and said it was a ‘very popular’ recipe and got a lot of reactions. I understood why.
Thanks Linda!

OK, so of course I changed a few things, but not much.
My raspberry bush was still yielding fruit when I made this cake, so I tossed in a few handfuls between the layers of batter along with the apples. The recipe originally called for a dusting of cinnamon at this point, but I reached for my microplane and grated Tonka bean over the fruit. You should always use a light hand when working with Tonka bean as ingesting too much of it can be a health hazard.

Tonka-Bean Spiced Apple-Raspberry Cake
(don’t sweat it if you don’t have tonka bean, just use a teaspoon of cinnamon instead)

1 cup sugar
3 eggs, room temperature

2/3 cup oil

3/4 teaspoon almond extract

1 ½ cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

2 medium apples, peeled, cored and sliced thinly

3/4 cup fresh raspberries
1/4 tonka bean, grated superfine

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter an 8 inch round cake tin and line with parchment. Beat eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in oil and almond extract. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Fold into egg mixture. Spread half of cake batter in tin. Cover with sliced apples and raspberries and sprinkle with tonka bean. Cover apples with the rest of the batter and bake for about 45 minutes.

This is my entry for October’s Sugar High Friday event hosted by Anita over at Dessert First. Anita chose spices as her theme for this event and I originally didn’t have anything to submit, but when I took my first bit of this cake and the tonka bean quietly, yet masterfully, stole the show away from the fruit, I knew I had nailed it!
And my love affair with the tonka bean continues…

Check out Anita’s blog on October 31 for the entire SHF roundup.