Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cupcakes Down Under

So, tomorrow I leave for a 2 week trip to Australia and New Zealand. I am beyond excited, and being as I've been planning this trip for 4 months now, very happy it's finally here! My friend Vica & I have an awesome trip planned that includes Melbourne, Whitsunday Islands, Sydney, and Auckland.

This trip means I probably won't be blogging much, if at all, over the next two weeks, but I will be sampling a couple cupcake bakeries in Australia. Most notably:

Little Cupcakes in Melbourne: Melbourne is the first stop on the trip, and maybe the place I'm most excited to go to. My brother studied abroad there in the Spring of 2007 and I was so jealous every time I read one of his emails from there.
Photo from Little Cupcakes website

Cupcakes on Pitt in Sydney: My college, Boston University, had a really popular study abroad program in Sydney so I had a lot of friends who were there for several months. We're staying in the Central Business District (prior to doing research, we almost ended up in the Red Light District) and hopefully we will be able to find cupcakes there. There's Cupcakes on Pitt and the pictures on their website looked awesome. I'm hungry just thinking about them.
I'm reallyyyy excited for this Strawberries & Cream cupcake
from Cupcakes on Pitt. And about 20 of the others they have

I haven't been able to locate online a cupcake bakery in Auckland. You can be sure when I get back I'll be posting all the cupcake pictures from the trip. Make sure to check back in a couple weeks!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Under the Sea

Two of my great loves in life are cupcakes (obviously) and The Little Mermaid. When I was younger, I probably watched it hundreds of times and had the cassette tape so I could sing along when I wasn't watching it.

Cupcakes waiting to be eaten

For my birthday this year (in November), my parents gave me a cake decorating toolbox so that I would have my own set of equipment in my new apartment. In the toolbox, there was a package of Little Mermaid cupcake liners. I hadn't used them yet, but on Friday night when I threw together some vanilla cupcakes for guests I was expecting, I decided to liven up the seemingly plain cupcakes with fun liners.

Ariel cupcake liners

These were just vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting (dyed to match Ariel's ocean background), but vanilla is probably my all-time favorite flavor, so I could have eaten all of them. Fortunately (for my waistline), I found people to eat the majority of them (ok, I had one for breakfast today...).

Monday, May 11, 2009

Extremely Busy Weekend!

This weekend I had 3 orders to complete - a surprise 30th birthday that was fiesta-themed, a friend's niece's 2nd birthday, and a coworker's daughter's birthday. The fiesta needed 120 cupcakes in an assortment of margarita, marble, and vanilla with coconut. In addition to all those cupcakes, they also had me do a fondant-covered cake to go on the top tier of the cupcake stand! The 2nd birthday party was just 2 dozen mini rainbow cupcakes, and the coworker's order was 80 cupcake truffles. I have a problem with time management when it comes to baking as it is, so it is no surprise I ran into trouble this weekend.

I thought I was on a good track. In fact, I had planned on waking up Saturday morning, doing the cupcakes, dropping off Morgan's order of minis, getting a mother's day gift and maybe even taking a nap before I had to drop off the fiesta order in Hoboken (I was baking in Toms River). I was so ambitious with my time that I probably even thought it was feasible to solve world peace in the extra time between the orders and delivery. I was so, so very wrong. World peace will probably have to wait until next weekend.

The assembled fiesta order. I was really proud of this!

Around 12:00 pm on Saturday, I started to get panicky and think I was not going to finish in time. I called my mom who was in Philly picking up my sister at least twice crying. I was having a major problem with the margarita cupcakes. The recipe I had was really difficult to follow and for some reason grouped together the frosting & cupcake ingredients and I kept adding the wrong things or the wrong amounts. Hence, 2 batches of cupcakes in the trash before I got a good one...hours later.

Close-up of the cake

At about 1:30 pm, my parents came back home, and I could have dropped to the ground crying tears of joy that I had someone to help me. I seriously would have never finished on time if my mom didn't come home. Kate was also a supreme baking assistant, helping me out both Friday night and Saturday by going out of her way to pick up ingredients for me and then driving me up to Hoboken to help me unload the cupcakes. My sister Melissa was clutch as well and ran to Michael's to grab me more cupcake liners being as I had gone through way more than I was anticipating.

By some miracle, I ended up finishing approximately 3:50 (I needed to get in the car to have them there by 4:00), quickly took a shower (which was for the best of everyone who was going to see me), and loaded up Kate's car with the 6 boxes of cupcakes (oh yeah, did I mention I made an extra 2 dozen of 2 completely separate kinds for a friend's party I was going to??), the cake, stand, 36 personalized individual cupcake take-home boxes, and my suitcase I need for when I go to Australia in two weeks. I really did not calm down until about 6 beers into the party I attended that night.

Individual take-home boxes for cupcakes

The drop off of all the cupcakes went so well. Everyone seemed really happy with them and everything made it there in one piece! I LOVED the idea to have the individual boxes. I hope someone else in the future wants to do that as well.

Sunday, I went back down to Toms River for Mother's Day and made the 80 cupcake truffles. I gave my baking intern (my mom) the night off from washing dishes, a fair Mother's Day gift I thought. I dropped those off today and am happy to be done baking at least for a few days. I never thought I'd say this, but I need a tiny break from least until the next whim strikes me!

Cupcake Truffles - the blue were vanilla & pink were strawberry

Again, thank you SO much to everyone who helped out this weekend. This was the biggest batch of cupcakes I've done to date and it took just about every resource and bit of emotional support to make it happen.

Pretty Cupcakes

Recently I was asked to put together a "sampler" of cupcakes for various events - Sweet 16s, weddings, bar/bat mizvahs, etc in order to show what I'm able to do. I used some designs I've already done and also came up with some new. This post is going to be mainly pictures (which I learned this weekend is all some people look at anyway!). Most of these pictures were taken around 4:00 in the morning when I finished baking, so the quality of the photography is a bit lacking.

The final 24 that made the cut

Cupcake Flags!

Cupcake for a Sweet 16

Modified Golf Cupcakes to include a sand trap and water hazard

That glitter is edible!!

This one was my favorite

The woman's name I was meeting with was Lori. Not sure how
this would work out for longer names.

There's a lot going on on this cupcake, but I think it's pretty

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Cupcakes in Jars

Late yesterday afternoon, I got a call from my friend Dan to see if I had yet to figure out a solution to shipping cupcakes. I had actually just stumbled across the idea to bake cupcakes directly in Mason jars in order to be able to ship them securely and was waiting for my shipment of 24 Kerr Mason jars. After calling around in Toms River, I found a local hardware store that stocked them and ran over there pick them up. Having never read up on how exactly to do this, I just prepared the batter, filled the jars, and stuck them in the oven. As the first batch was baking, my mom was reading horror stories on the Internet of glass jars with cupcakes in them shattering in too high of a temperature. Fortunately for me (and everyone within distance of the oven), no shards of glass came flying out. The whole process went relatively smoothly considering I had never done it before.

Once they were baked and cooled, I piped the frosting directly into the jar and added some sprinkles on the vanilla ones. I made a dozen labels to make them "prettier" and more personal. And then I tied them with a ribbon, forged a card in Dan's name (just kidding- He told me what to write), and packed them up to be shipped to Massachusetts.

Today I had my assistant (my mom) take them to the Post Office and mail them because I had to work. I should have known what to expect...That being a mom herself, she would choose the shipping option that got them there for Sunday regardless of how much it cost. When I expressed concern that it was really pricey, she put it this way: "Tell him to suck it up. She's worth more than that." Fortunately there were no complaints from Dan (which is unbelievable if you know him--joking Dan!) about the insane shipping cost.

I feel like pretty much the minute this post publishes, I'm going to be inundated with requests from my friends to mail them cupcakes all over the US. Kim already asked, but being as her address in Costa Rica is something like "50 meters from the Burger King, Liberia, Costa Rica", I don't think I will be able to send them to her any time soon.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

I'm starting to sense a theme here this week with my cupcakes...alcohol. Hmm... Tomorrow's Cinco de Mayo and I have an order this weekend that includes 3 dozen margarita cupcakes. Being as I've never tested my margarita recipe before, I felt this was the perfect opportunity. Now I'm going to push these off on my coworkers tomorrow.

After getting out of work late, I ran around Hoboken picking things up for these cupcakes - limes and tequila. I found the tiniest, cutest bottle of Patron and had to have it even though it was twice the cost of Jose Cuervo (but still only $5). Usually I hate tequila (it is my absolute least favorite shot at a bar), but I love the idea of thes
e cupcakes.

Sugars & salt before I mixed them

The cupcake is a lime cake, covered with the tequila lime frosting and rimmed with combination sparkling sugars and course salt. After downing a whole box of Kraft mac & cheese when I got home, I'm not hungry enough to want to eat cupcakes now, so I'll have to wait until tomorrow for an official cupcake review.

Cupcake + Booze = True Cinco de Mayo Love

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Strawberry Cupcakes (and Daquiris!)

Unsure of what to bake Wednesday night for a few friends, I was passing Garden of Eden, this amazing specialty grocery store in Hoboken that has the best produce. There was a pile of stacked quarts of strawberries there, as usual, but the price has come down so much since the winter. And the berries looked amazing. I had to make strawberry cupcakes.

It is so hard to find good lighting in my cave of an apartment!

I made these for the first time last year for Morgan & my birthday party, but in mini form. I used the recipe I found from Sprinkles (a popular cupcake chain on the West Coast) on the Martha Stewart website. You can find the recipe here. After making them again this time, I remembered (after the fact, of course...) what modifications I had wanted to make to the recipe after making it in November. The cake comes out very dense and moist, and the frosting is awesome, but really thin. What I should have done (and will hopefully remember to do next time) is whipped at least 1 of the egg whites to fold into the batter to lighten it up (this is a good bet for any fruit recipes-they tend to be heavier than others) and maybe even condensed the strawberry puree into a thicker syrup (this definitely should have been done for the frosting). Those few things aside, these really are one of my favorite cupcake flavors. Plus I can fool myself into thinking they're healthy because they're made with whole fresh fruit.

One interesting thing about these cupcakes is they have a really short shelf life. Usually, when I bake cupcakes, they can stay fresh for many days in one of my cupcake containers. With the strawberry though, after really one or two days, they start leaking. Yep, leaking. It is SO weird. After that time frame, you open the container and find them sitting in a little pile of strawberry/sugary goo. Gross. I'm definitely interested in seeing if this happens when I lighten the batter up.

Yes, they tasted as good as they looked

I had some left over strawberry puree on Thursday night, and picked up more strawberries to make strawberry daquiris for Meghan & Lauren. It's really a toss-up what was better - the cupcake or the daquiri. But, the pairing of the two was amazing!

So happy together...

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