Monday, April 23, 2012

Aloha Rainbow Cupcake

On a regular occasion I do a bit of a web trawl for new cupcake ideas. I find inspiration from many different sources, but the best one is pinterest. I use pinterest to "advertise" my blog, and in turn I find other peoples blogs and wonderful ideas to adapt on. Whilst doing my nightly pinterest trawl I found the Rainbow cake.

Now I've seen, in fact we've all seen, the rainbow cake so often before. The common way is in layers - about a foot tall cake with just massive layers of different wonderful colours stacked upon each other with a butter cream frosting to seperate them. Well this day, I found a rainbow cake, which had about 6 different colours poured into one cake pan! It looked like a hippie had taken over the kitchen and incorporated tye-dye into the food! It was awesome, but how do I adapt from this?

Well, what I did was made my normal vanilla cupcake batter and portioned 5 cups of the batter across 5 bowls. Then I chose my colours, and went a bit crazy trying to get the colours as vibrant and bright as possible. After baking, the colours came out amazing - I was really surprised with the vibrancy! When it came to frosting them however, my question to my husband was "Do I go with a plain white frosting, or do another colour - like purple?" He of course told me to go with purple, that there just was not enough colour in the cupcakes.... So again I asked him, "Should I leave the frosting vanilla flavoured or should I do something crazy - like Tutti-Frutti?" Of course, he went with the latter option.

So this is the result of yet another experiment. I think the cakes would be nicer with a vanilla frosting, but wanted to try something crazy and different. Why not?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Caramel Coma

Last week I was out shopping with my husband when we came upon a product by Kraft - they were caramels that looked just like what we would call Jersey Caramels back in Aus, just with out the white fudge centre. So I started thinking instantly of all the things I could do with these soft and chewy caramels, and convinced my husband that I had to have them.

The very next day our Family Readiness Group posted they were going to have a bake sale. Obviously, we were going to bake some donation cupcakes, but what kind? I suddenly had a flash of these chewy caramels and thought what better time to experiment than with a bake sale! So I placed my chewy caramels in the freezer, hoping it would slow the melting process down when it came to the baking. I also got a bunch of them in a bowl with a tablespoon of water and microwaved it for this wonderful sticky caramel syrup that I drizzled on top of the frosting.

When it came to the taste test, the square fudge piece sunk to the bottom and became quite chewy. I had envisioned something almost like when you buy a tub of ice cream and you get this lovely, luscious, sticky, swirl of caramel. Unfortunately, it was a little more sticky and chewy than I had hoped. So chewy that you couldn't take an actual bite out of the caramel. Rather, you ended up with a mouthful of hard chewy caramel that almost bound your teeth together, taking away from the cupcake experience.

However, as a result of this early attempt I had 2 orders for these cupcakes. My exact words "They still need tweaking, Ive got an idea for a solution - let me try those and you can have them!"

My idea was to use my caramel made from boiling cans of condensed milk. What I would do is core out my baked vanilla cupcake and pipe the caramel in place. Then I was going to finish with a vanilla butter cream and drizzle over the caramel syrup. However I had a request (you know who you are) for as much caramel as possible - and my husband let slip that I do a salted caramel frosting. So with that instead of the vanilla butter cream, after tasting half of one, I was on an instant sugar and caramel rush! It was Ahhhhhhhmaaaaazing!!! I just hope my lovely customers enjoyed them as much as I did!!!

Anyway, see for yourself what all the fuss is about..

Caramel filling..
Working hard, or hardly working? In this one picture you can see, caramel cupcakes, rainbow cupcakes, mini chewy caramel cupcakes, salted caramel frosting by the bucket load, and lamingtons! Not to mention the diet root beer ;)

The finished product, ready for delivery.

Inside the coma....

Monday, April 16, 2012

Quack Quack... duck cupcakes

Standard size cupcakes with fondant ducks
I had my first custom cupcake order this week, for a lovely little girls 4th Birthday. I was actually very much honoured to be asked to make her cupcakes, and was extremely excited to find out that she just adores ducks. So, to be given a couple of details I had to come up with a design that I could execute with one weeks notice.

The details I was given - ducks, purple, cookies & cream and vanilla/choc marble cupcakes.

As I have never had an order like this before, I started to do my research. I searched the web for pictures of cupcakes that other people had done with ducks. In my mind, I was looking for a duck pond. I had thought buttercream frosting, with gel icing to mimick the water of the pond, and then a little rubber ducky style 3D sculpture sitting in the middle of the pond. So the search began for pictures, not so much for me, but to send to my customer to gain approval for what she might like. Its hard to have a vision and try to explain that vision to someone else without a little bit of visual prompting.

After I found the style of ducks to make, and gained approval that this was also what she had invisioned for her daughter, I completed my first test run of ducks, and cupcakes, along with the decorating.

This was my initial design:-

The duck shape was actually my third attempt at a decent looking duck, and I still did a little more tweaking which you see in the final results. This was a very rough practice run, and used it to test how the fondant would handle being in the gel icing for 24 hours. I discovered that it became a little sticky on the outside, but otherwise, my official taste tester declared it was quite tasty and other then some slight discoloration of where it sat in the gel, it was as good as when it went on.

I spent close to 6 hours working on the fondant ducks. I went from my initial, yellow rubber ducky style - to a selection of different vibrant colours so that I could incoroprate purple in the design.

I did a lot more tweaking of the design of the cupcake and trialed a few different options on the day of the final product. I decided that the cake just seemed to be missing something and after finally working out what it was, I fixed it. You can see for yourself the final result and can make your own judgement, however I really think they turned out pretty good! I was super proud of myself with the end result and after 3 hours of baking and decorating, I was well deserving of a night out with my husband to celebrate with margaritas! :)

Mini cupcakes with mini fondant ducks
Mini cupcakes with mini fondant ducks

Mini cupcakes with mini fondant ducks

Standard size cupcakes with fondant ducks

Standard size cupcakes with fondant ducks

The box of 2 dozen standard sized cupcakes with fondant ducks

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Monte Creams

When my husband and I moved to Hawaii from Australia, I had no idea the extent of how different the foods would be. There was the task of learning a whole new vocabulary for things - like Caster Sugar in Australia is Granulated sugar in USA, or icing sugar in Australia is powdered sugar in USA. The vocabulary was definitley a learning curb, however the strangest thing was the vast difference in food!! Biscuits as we know it - or cookies in USA are nothing compared to our beloved Arnott's. My only option to overcome the lack of in my view, quality biscuits, was to bake them myself. Lets face it anyway, home made is by far better then store bought!

So after a chance flick through one of my recipe books I found the Monte Creams recipe - back home we know them as Monte Carlos. Knowing I was hosting a morning tea with alot of the other Aussie wives attending, I just knew these had to be on my table. Im so glad I did do them, as I think they were the first thing to disappear off the table out of a selection of about 10 different treats.I think what really made these so delightful, was that everything used to create them, was home made. For those of you that are unaware of what a Monte Cream is - think of a buttery short bread sandwhich with a butter cream and jam centre. Now that I've captivated your utmost attention.....

Monte Creams Recipe
Makes 24 biscuits (12 Monte Creams)

Prep time: 10 mins      Cooking time:- 15-20 mins
  • 125g butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups sifte self-raising flour
  • 1/4 cup sifted custard powder
  • 1/3 cup desiccated coconut
Preheat oven to 350F (180C)  and line two baking trays with baking paper.
Beat butter and sugar until light and creamy.Add milk and beat until combined. Add flour, custard powder and coconut and mix to form a soft dough.
Roll teaspoons of mixture into even sized balls and place on trays. Press down with a fork.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until just golden. Cool on wire rack.
Cream Filling
  • 75 g butter
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons milk
  • 1/3 cup strawberry jam (I used my home made summer berry jam) 
Beat butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the milk and beat until combined.
Spread one biscuit with half a teaspoon of cream filling mixture and the other biscuit with half a teaspoon of jam. Sandwich the halves together.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Summer Berry Syrup

I hosted a little morning tea last week and amongst all of the wonderful little treats I created I thought, what better way to finish it all off with, but a wonderful refreshing summer berry smoothie. Personally I'm not a big fan of seeds or pulp in my drinks. I think if your going to make a smoothie or fruit drink, it should be smooth and creamy. Sometimes the quality of a drink and/or food has nothing to do with flavour, but more to do with the texture.  So I thought the best way around these two obstacles, was to make my favourite berry coulis.

This is a wonderful recipe for a syrup that you can mix with milk & ice cream to make a smoothie, pour all over buttermilk pancakes, garnish the top of a berry cheesecake or even match it with a chocolate souffle to cut the richness. This recipe is simple, tasty, fresh, convenient and just plain old AMAZING!

To put it simply, use equal quantities of either fresh or frozen berries and sugar in a medium saucepan over a medium-low heat stiring constantly until sugar disolves completely. Use a handheld blender to puree, then push through a sieve and let cool. I then pour the syrup into ice cube trays and freeze for future use. For the berries I used Blackberries, Raspberries, Strawberries and Blueberries. 

You can alternatively not blend or strain the syrup and serve it as a Berry Compote. This is really lovely with a pavlova, ice cream or whatever your heart desires.

My smoothie recipe follows:-
100ml Berry Syrup
3 large scoops Vanilla ice cream
300ml Low fat milk
a splash of Cranberry juice

Place in blender and combine. Serve with bendy straw & enjoy!!  ;)