“Champagne” Cupcakes with Strawberry-Champagne Whipped Cream

Happy second day of Cupcake Week!

(p.s.  who’s totally psyched for Top Chef tonight?!?  This girl!!)

I’ve already made champagne cupcakes in the past, and while I enjoyed them, I really felt the champagne didn’t lend enough flavor to the cupcake itself – what I tasted more than anything was the dryness of the champagne.

No longer.

This time when I found out I would be making these, I set myself on a quest for a good bubbly.  While I love champagne dearly, I have decided it’s just not quite appropriate for a cupcake.  This time, my goal was to find a prosecco or sparkling moscato to give these lil cupcakes the extra “oomph” they needed.  After spending some time at Trader Joe’s, I found exactly what I was looking for – a delicious tasting prosecco.  Has the bubbles, but just a bit more flavor than champagne.

And these cupcakes turned out mah-velously.

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Earl Grey Mini-Cupcakes with Lemon Frosting (aka Happy Start to Kat’s Cupcake Week!)

Hello readers!

It’s the start to my own personal cupcake week! (or mini-cupcake week)

A colleague of mine is having a brunch coming up and hired me to make some mini-cupcakes for the event, so starting today I get to have a few different mini cupcake posts!

I ran into this woman when I was getting my hair cut, and what she requested for the cupcakes was something that was not “pedestrian” – something unique and delicious.  So I came up with a bunch of suggestions, and she selected four that she and her sister liked best.  One is a recipe I’ve made and absolutely love, one is a recipe that I’ve made before and am improving on, one is a cake recipe I’ve made and I’m turning into cupcakes, and one is brand spankin’ new!

My brand new recipe is something that sounded interesting and very different – Earl Grey cupcakes with a lemon frosting.  Personally, I’m  not a tea fan – I like peppermint, mint, and then I switch to coffee.  But the idea of a tea cupcake just sounded so appropriate for a brunch, I couldn’t not include it in my list of recommendations.

This cupcake ended up oddly delicious – it almost tasted like a light lemon poppyseed cake.  The tea flavor doesn’t come out until the very end, as a subtle lemony-floral aftertaste.   Continue reading

Christening Cake

Happy Monday – it’s cake time!

This past weekend was a christening in my family.  I’m not exactly sure of the link – it’s my dad’s cousin’s son’s son… is that my second cousin once-removed?  Something like that… I think… but regardless – this new lil guy is my cousin! 🙂

Trying to figure out what to do for a christening cake was a feat unto itself… try googling it. Seriously.  You get everything from cross-shaped cakes to cakes with teddy bears to cakes with booties and balloons.  Basically, it seems like whatever is blue works well, and most people seem to shove the religious part by the wayside.  After spending days and days searching for something to give me inspiration, I gave up, feeling no more inspired than when I started.

Then I ran across a forum post on Cake Central (if you are a baker, check it out, it’s awesome!).  For billowing fondant.

And I was hooked.

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Dreamy Creamsicle Cake Part 3 – Completed Cake!

Happy Monday all!

I had originally planned to get this post up yesterday… but then time just got away from me… so here we are.  (As a side note, don’t you just wish you could go to the store and buy more time?  In my mind it would be sold like parking meters – 25 cents for each additional 15 minutes of time you would like to add to your day.  If only.)

On Saturday morning, before and after getting my hair cut, I was able to finally construct my Dreamy Creamsicle Cake.  I had pulled the cake out of the freezer the night before to thaw, and had pulled the frosting out of the fridge first thing in the morning so they could soften.

The first problem I encountered was that my Orange IMCCB had broken (if you don’t know what that is, check here :)).  Honestly, I think it was broken when I first made it, but at the time I was too positive and was just thinking “oh, that’s only orange zest”.  Um, no.  Unfortunately after the Orange IMCCB had softened and I re-mixed it to hopefully get the emulsion working, it just kind of stared at me sadly while swirling around in the mixing bowl.  But no matter – I had been trying to decide which frosting would be for the inside of the cake, and that just decided it for me, because geez did that stuff still taste good – so good I couldn’t not use it.

When putting this cake together, I had decided to make thinner layers (with more frosting) to make sure that the flavor was well incorporated as well as keeping the cake moist.  Along with this, I had also decided that I wanted to try what I refer to as “swoosh” frosting – basically frosting the cake with an ongoing back and forth motion using a small spatula or back of a spoon to give it a somewhat-unfinished-but-still-nice look.  I think my first attempt at this came out alright – not the best, but definitely not too shabby either!

With the frosting amounts I made in the previous post – I used it ALL.  There was literally nothing left in either bowl, the amount worked out just perfectly.  And, as always, I brushed my cakes with simple syrup to make the frosting stick.  To continue the flavor theme of my cake, I used vanilla in the simple syrup, which of course worked perfectly with the oranges and vanilla cream.

This cake ended up being a nice weight – almost pound cake-ish, but not quite as dense.  Everyone seemed to love it, and their first reaction was that it taste just like a creamsicle.  My dad thought that the vanilla cream cheese frosting was a little too sweet, so I might have to adjust that a bit, but all in all, I would say this was a delicious success!

Next in line – a Christening cake.  Oh boy oh boy!

Dreamy Creamsicle Cake Part 2 – Frosting & Filling

Happy Thursday everyone!  If you haven’t melted yet, the flavors in these two recipes would be enough to refresh you… I had to stop myself from eating the whole bowl of the orange-flavored one!

I get to take a trip for work over the next couple days, which is the main reason that I’m doing this cake in pieces… well, that and the fact that I’m learning doing this in sections is much easier and less stressful (note to self: keep splitting it up!)

For this Dreamy Creamsicle Cake, I wanted to make two different kinds of frostings and/or fillings (I haven’t decided which one is which yet).  One is a Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting (CCF), and the other is an Orange Italian Meringue Cream Cheese Buttercream (that is seriously a mouthful and will hereafter be referred to as Orange IMCCB).

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Dreamy Creamsicle Cake – Part 1 (cake)

I think every baker dreams of the day of when they make up their first recipe.  For me, that day is today! 🙂  (or I guess technically it was yesterday.  But still.)

I was talking with my friend The Culinary Cheesehead about various cakes that you can make for summer – especially in this insane heat that we are having here in the Midwest. (In case you have missed it, in Chicago we just broke the record for the highest “low” – we never got below 80.  And today is supposed to be 99 with a heat index of 112.  Sigh.)

In the midst of our chatting, Paula mentioned an Orange Creamsicle cake, which sounded absolutely delectable… and after she mentioned it, it just didn’t leave my mind at all.

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Luau Cake!

Hello there boys and girls, it’s time for a recipe-less update!

This past weekend was a surprise party for my aunt, and I got hired to make the cake (wahoo!).  When I asked, I was told the theme was “Hawaiian luau”, so that of course led to millions of ideas instantly going through my head.  In my first iteration, it was a cake with a lei gracefully draped down the side.

Until I thought it through.

While leis are beautiful, the amount of gum paste flowers I would have needed for this image in my mind was… extraordinary.  So… that idea kind of got kicked to the curb of my brain.  After that I just started Googling like there was no tomorrow.  Unfortunately, when you look up “Hawaiian Cake” or “Luau Cake” under Google Images, most of them look like the creators took every single piece of Hawaiian plastic/decor the could find and stuck it on a cake (seriously – most of them should be on Cake Wrecks, just for the amount of weird stuff on the cake)

Eventually I started sketching out some ideas, and this is what I came up with:

It’s a little hard to see as I sketched lightly so I could erase easily, but it’s just a simple topsy-turvy cake with some Hawaiian accents.  I figured this would be easy enough for me to do, as it was my first topsy-turvy cake, and still impressive enough for all the non-bakers out there.

The weekend making this cake was unreal.  I only had one of each size cake pan, so I had to waste time baking one layer of each tier at a time (luckily they were only two layers!).  It was a weekend and cake full of new things.  New vanilla bean recipe, new chocolate recipe, new fondant recipe, and new cake construction.  Looking back on it now – I was kind of an idiot for doing this, because had one thing gone horribly wrong, I could’ve lost it (very very easily).  In the midst of fondant that kept tearing, I decided it would be fun to break the faucet head off the sink and spray the entire kitchen (seriously – it was a blast! (pun intended)).  But after all of the work and craziness, the cake finally got finished.  My feet ached from standing, but I was very proud of what I got done:

For this, I made a vanilla bean cake for the bottom tier and the island (courtesy of my friend Paula, aka The Culinary Cheesehead), and found a recipe for a moist chocolate cake for the second tier on Kitchen Addiction (doubling the recipe and switching the milk for buttermilk).  I made my own version of a strawberry mousse filling topped with diced strawberries, coated the cake in Italian Buttercream and Michele Foster’s Fondant.  I purchased some Mercken’s candy melts and made little chocolate seashells (on top of the green layer) and the flip-flops, flowers, and palm-tree are all made of gum paste.