Thursday, May 29, 2008

Potluck Cupcakes

More cupcakes! It's very surprising how popular and flexible cupcakes really are. They provide equal portions, so that no one fights over whose "slice" is bigger (although some do fight over the number of sprinkles, but that's just nitpicking), there's more flexibility as far as presentation and you can decorate each one individually if you really want. I just finished making these for a potluck at work tomorrow. I offered to make a salad, but they insisted that I make dessert. To tell the truth, I knew they would, but a girl likes to hear a compliment every now and then :) These are vanilla (from my now favorite recipe) with raspberries tucked inside and a lemon meringue buttercream. I made enough to bring to work and a few "imperfect" ones to take home to my poor sick sister who's bored out of her mind at home. A cup of tomato soup and a soft cupcake should make anyone feel better, right?

Oh, and there's a funny story about the cupcake stand in the picture too! So I've mentioned my current "affair" with Craig's list, well I saw a post on there for this stand at a fraction of the cost it normally goes for, and after a few emails back and forth with the seller, we decided to meet at the nearby park where her son had soccer practice. I went with a friend and since I've never been there before, so I got a bit turned around and when I finally found the park, I discovered that I was in the wrong parking lot. I didn't want to risk getting lost while driving around trying to find the right parking area, so I got out of the car, left the keys in the engine and my friend in the passenger seat, called the lady on my cell and took off on foot to try to find her. Mind you, I never told my friend what I was doing, where I was going, or what we were there to do. So she's in my car, watching me disappear in a crowd of kids, on my cell phone and she thought that the most logical explanation for the whole situation was that I was there on a shady mission to "exchange money for merchandise". You know, the "it fell of the back of a truck" situation. Okay, so she didn't really think that, after all this is ME we're talking about, by the time I got back to the car with my shiny new cupcake stand, she had already called some of our friends and that was the story she kept on telling everyone for the rest of the evening. The moral of this story? Don't take your friends with you on "business trips", you'll never hear the end of it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Pretty in Pink

Just a quick little addition. It's a vanilla cupcake with a strawberry mousse filling and vanilla frosting. I recently became obsessed with Craig's list. You may pick this up about me, but I have a somewhat obsessive personality...I'll find a hobby or a project for myself and then become completely absorbed...I also have a somewhat short attention span, so this leaves me with many many projects only a fraction of which are ever completed. I like knowing that on any given day I am never without something to do. So back to Craig's list. It's a treasure trove of stuff that with a bit of TLC can easily become your new favorite. For example, I just bought a beautiful set of German fine china (today's cupcake is in the soup bowl). It has 7 full (and one partial) place settings and a bunch of serverware pieces. I'm now trying to locate the 3 pieces to complete the 8th set and I'll have a gorgeous spread for a tiny tiny fraction of what it would actually cost if it was new. Bargain hunting has always been one of my favorite hobbies since it always comes with waves of happiness when I find an amazing item or deal...although you'll never see the happy little dance that comes with that :)

Epic Battle: Vanilla vs. Chocolate

My friend and social calendar keeper, Donna, has been telling her co-workers about my "side-business" and so I have an order for plain Vanilla and plain Chocolate cupcakes. Now, I'm not a big fan of "plain", but understanding that everyone's tastes differ, I decided that plain will never equal boring in my kitchen, so I set about doing research to find the ultimate Vanilla and the ultimate Chocolate cupcake recipe. I think I hit it fairly close on the head. The crumb for both is delicate and moist while still having a powerful flavor of vanilla and chocolate. I decided to give two non-meringue based frostings a try and although they came highly recommended...I think next time I'll stick with my staple recipe, even if it does take 10 times longer to whip up. All in all they both came out very cute and I'm happy with the result.

Just as a side note, I am still in the "research and development" stage of my baking career. I'm mixing up a lot of experiments and I'm still adjusting things I like and don't like from each recipe I find. This is why you will not see any recipes on this blog for a while. It's not that I don't want to share...I just don't want to pass on something that I know is not fool-proof. I know I absolutely hate it when I get a recipe from the web promising heaven and what I get falls desperately short. If there is something in here that catches your eye and you absolutely must know how it's done, feel free to send me an email and I'll be happy to share (as long as it's not a family secret...I do have one or two of those and ask as often as you like, I'm not tellin').

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Pingu for my Nephew

This past saturday we celebrated my nephew's 3rd Birthday. Pingu is a character from one of his favorite shows, and therefore the theme of his birthday cake. I made the penguins out of fondant a day in advance and they really seemed to be the hit of the party. All the kids wanted one, which to me is the best compliment ever. I think this was the first time in a while I've made a cake this big and there were almost no leftovers (everone was too afraid to eat the igloo even though that was cake too).

And here are just the little guys before they were relocated to their sugary home:

Breaking Silly no-dessert pacts and whatnot

One of my co-workers, Cat, made a pact that starting Jan 1st she will abstain from sweets in the form of dessert for 6months (she's getting married in the fall and figured it's a good way to lose some weight...nevermind that the pact leaves a gap of about 3 months before her wedding where she can just gorge). Anyhow, one of the loopholes was that she can't refuse cake given to her on her birthday, since that would be taking full advantage of that I made sure that there would be something sweet and chocolaty on her birthday. I made a whole bunch of these chocolate and earl gray cupcakes and all in all I think they came out awesome. They were very dense and chocolaty almost like a coffee cake and the earl gray ganache really gave them a nice pretty finish. A bit of coffee whipped cream on top and a fondant butterfly all served on top of one of my recently acquired tea cups and I'd say that's one silly pact down and I'm well on my way to undermining many more.