Tuesday, May 22, 2012

New York & DC cupcake tour part 1...

When I found out we were going on a business trip to Washington DC - I knew that being so close, I had to get to New York and visit some of the world famous cupcake stores I had heard so much about.

There was no doubt that I HAD to get to Magnolia, the thing I didn't realise at the time was that there were at least 3 that I knew of scattered around the city. So when I started to investigate the various cupcake stores, I decided to visit the Magnolia bakery closest to at least one other cupcake store. I managed to find one within walking distance to 2 other cupcake stores. On our first day of arrival we got into New York on Manhattan island at 9.30am, this was unfortunately too early to check in. So with nothing but time up our sleeve, we decided to knock off a few of our MUST DO's.

We located a few stores and checked out Dylan's candy Bar, along with the Hershey's chocolate store and M&M's world right next to times square, thus also knocking off Times Square from our list. We visited the world famous Toy's R Us in times square with 3 giant levels and a MASSIVE Ferris Wheel INSIDE the store, which was so much fun! Then we headed for Bloomingdale's and in the store stumbled upon our first cupcakery of our visit. And what better one to start the tour with, but Magnolia Bakery.

The store was only a small one but it was full of character and so very cute.

The staff were amazing and really quite lovely. After the tough decision Steve decided on the Red Velvet and I went with a Sno-Cap (which was devils food chocolate cake and a luscious meringue frosting.) It was delicious and definitely met our expectations. Honestly, it was a great way to start our cupcake tour as it got us off on the right foot and gave us a good base to make opinions on future cupcakery's.

Red Velvet

Steve and I ate half of our chosen cupcakes first, then swapped so we could try both the cakes. We agreed that the particular flavours we each chose were our favorites so quickly swapped back. I had the Sno-Cap and the meringue frosting was AHHHHMAZING! I cant wait to get back home and try to make my own version of this cake - absolutely deeee-lish!!!

Next we set off for Sprinkles. I knew that this would definitely rank high on my list as I have done so much reading about this cupcakery. Especially after Sprinkles recently made the news with their new "ATM" style cupcake purchasing system located in Beverly Hills - the first of its kind in the world.

I really loved the concept they use to identify which flavours were what. See the dots on the front of the building, well that's their flavouring system. Depending on what flavour you choose, there is a corresponding coloured dot combination that identifies that flavour to the staff. It is an ingenious system which they display on their menu board and makes it quicker and easier to identify if they have that flavour in stock through the window.

So again sticking to our "no more then 1 cupcake each, per cupcakery", I chose lemon and Steve surprisingly chose the salted caramel (which is normally my pick). Honestly though, after our cupcake at Magnolia, I wasn't really in the mood to eat my cupcake straight away, and neither was Steve. So we opted to take-away and eat them later on. Little did we realise that would be 3 days later - and still, they rated as one of our top picks! The only thing that really disappointed us, was the lack of variety of cupcake flavours available on that particular day. They do, however, rotate which flavours are available, based on the day of the week - like a roster system.

Salty Caramel
(Keep in mind that we tasted these 3 days after we bought them!!) The lemon was very fresh and zesty. The cake was moist and tasteful, and the frosting was delicately soft and very more-ish. The salty caramel was a surprise to both myself and Steve. They had lightly dusted the top of the frosting with small pieces of sea salt, which really made the frosting pop. The cake, again, was soft, moist, fluffy and just begging to be eaten. The funniest part about these cupcakes, is we had eaten so many sweets in the days prior that we decided all cupcakes waiting for us in the room would get the opportunity they deserved to be tested and rated, even if it meant only having a bite and throwing the rest away.These cupcakes were so good I couldn't stand to see them thrown away, and instead sacrificed myself to eat as much of the cupcakes as I could. I felt extremely sick afterwards, but I tell you what, it was sooooo worth it!

Finally, we made our way to Crumbs bake shop, our third and final cupcakery for day one. I honestly think out of the 3 cupcake stores we visited on the day, this one had the biggest range of cupcakes. The sizes of the cupcakes were also significantly bigger, so if you like more cake for your dollar, this is the cupcakery for you. Again there were multiple shops in the city, however we opted to go to the one just down the road from the previous two visited.

Inside Crumbs... the goodies cabinet!!!

Decisions Decisions.....

Need coffee??? ;)
We chose to "take-away" these ones again as we were really feeling the affects from the first cupcakes and also starting to feel the affects of jet lag kicking in, we needed to get back to our room and rest up ready for the nights adventures. I chose the Coffee Toffee, while Steve chose the Apple Cobbler. We didn't get to try these ones till the following night, and even then only managed to eat half of the Coffee Toffee which was insanely good but super rich. It had a fluffy cake that rated nothing special in my books, but had this coffee flavoured cream centre with a toffee frosting finished with toffee pieces. It was a really lovely mix of flavours. Unfortunately we never got around to eating the Apple Cobbler - but it still looked delicious.

Coffee Toffee
Apple Cobbler
So after day one, and trying the cupcakes we did, we both agreed that Sprinkles was our favorite. However at this stage, we still had about 7 more stores to visit.... so stay tuned for part two of our New York & Washington DC cupcake adventure!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Ice Cream Cone Sundae cupcakes

Last year I had a vision for Ice cream sundae cupcakes. My vision however was neopolitan marbled cupcake, with lucious tall swirls of vanilla frosting. When I thought about it some more, I started to try and figure out what I would need to make the cupcakes really look like an ice cream sundae. Next thing I knew, I stopped thinking about them, and just made them. I used mini cupcakes, with swirls of white creamy vanilla frosting. Then drizzled chocolate over the top, finished with a last dollop of pink frosting and lots and lots of sprinkles. I then garnished it with a chocolate and vanilla wafer straw, and oh boy were they cute.

My original - and still favorite, ice cream sundae cupcakes.
Then a friend asked me if I could make the same cupcakes for her daughters birthday. I was excited that I was actually going to be able to make them again, and jumped at the chance. However, there were a few alterations - her daughter asked for them to be in ice cream cones so that she could trick her friends. Also she wanted them finished with a stemed cherry on top and lots of sprinkles.

So to begin with I found all of the ingredients I would need to make them with, and then began to try and figure out the best way to bake them. I did one test run, and wrapped the cones in aluminium foil to prevent the cone from burning in the oven. I had my husband cutting holes out of an aluminium disposable baking tray - and then realised, the mini cupcake trays were actually the perfect size. My final hurdles were transporting them, however I figured that out, and I think they turned out a little bit of a success!! One thing I did realise though, as I just looked at my extras I baked for pictures and cutting, is that the cone became soggy at the top where the frosting was piped. So just as a FYI - if you choose to do these yourself, do them as fresh as possible, bake them the same day. I didnt figure this out myself until too late.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Captain America

I was recently asked by a friend if I could make some cupcakes for her sons birthday - Captain America themed. Of course my answer was YES - and I started work on it right away. Working with Fondant is something I thoroughly enjoy doing and I dont get many opportunities to work with it. I just wish I had a few more skills up my sleeve so I had more confidence with it.

Firstly though, I had to go look for the right tools to make the Captain America shields. So I went off shopping, with my husbands help and found a few round and star cutters which I ended up making work. I also got myself some fondant letter & number cutters just because I wanted them for future use.

After a couple of days of working on the shields for the cupcakes, my friend enquired with me about a fondant covered cake. Now I had never done one myself before, I have however helped my mum decorate fondant covered cakes. So I offered what advice I had, volunteering myself to do the cake for her. She graciously accepted The rest of the cake she simply let me be creative with. I had so much fun doing it, I quickly accepted the next birthdays challenge (which Im currently working on now.)

Anyway, the following are the results of a few simple instructions and me letting my imagination go wild! I really enjoy being given a "theme" of a cake to do, and just being let go to do it and let my vision run wild with it. Its fun having a bit of freedom with cakes, but Im also learning when the customer has a vision, how to work with them.