Flowers for…spring?

March 23, 2014

Sure…”spring”.  There are still snowdrifts up to my head in some places, but hey, I firmly believe that one day it will melt.  Until that happens, I’ll have to content myself with a garden of cupcake roses.

Cupcake Roses

These are the vanilla cupcakes from (of course) Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and I jazzed up vanilla buttercream icing by adding a package of cherry Kool-Aid to the mix.  Fun fact: it’s more tart than you might expect, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.  It keeps the finished product from being too sweet.  And instead of my usual outside-in piping, ending in a peak of frosting in the centre, I piped from the inside out, creating a vaguely rose-y look.

It almost makes me forget about the snow…

I want my mummy!

October 27, 2013

I’ll keep this short, because who wants to read about cupcakes when they could be assembling last-minute Halloween costumes?  (Speaking of which: according to WordPress stats, people are finding this blog by searching “Dolores Haze costume”.  This makes my day in ways you cannot imagine.  I wish I didn’t already have a costume lined up myself; there are at least a couple of people who would appreciate the reference.)

But…following my last rant about overpriced festive bake kits at Target, I saw an equally overpriced kit at Chapters to make mummy cupcakes.  The kit made 12, and it cost $10.50.  And, okay, yes it came with candy eyes, but how important are those to the overall integrity of the finished product?  And do they really taste like much?  So I broke out my trusty chocolate cupcake recipe as well as that for buttercream icing, and made my own, no doubt tastier, version.

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I used a basketweave tip (Wilton #47, I think) to pipe on the bandages.  That was tricky!  I’m a big fan of symmetry and pattern, and to try to maintain a random order of bandage direction?  Killer!  The eyes are mini chocolate chips, and the mouth is red gel food colouring applied with a toothpick (my parents’ idea; before they suggested it, my mummies had a bit of a Hello Kitty vibe and no mouth to speak – ha! – of).

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(Yes, that’s my mummy holding my mummies.)

Have a safe and happy Halloween, everyone!

Ahhh….I love Halloween.  I might have mentioned that before, but it bears repeating.  This is an entire day where you’re expected to wear a costume and eat candy.  If television would air Technicolor-filmed musicals all day instead of horror flicks, it just might be the perfect day.  And I don’t let being an adult (ha!) with a career (ha!  ha!) stop me – I’m shameless, and will show up to work in costume even if I’m the only one in the whole office who’s dressed up.

While browsing the Halloween department at Target recently, I was a little disappointed.  Sure, Tar-zhay had some different costumes than WalMart (for which I have yet to come up with an adorable, French-sounding pronunciation), but their candy selection was rather mundane.  Same old, same old – and nary an Eat-More in sight.  (These are a precious, precious commodity, and I would trade my strictly hypothetical firstborn for a bag of the minis.)

Ah, but they did have some different food preparation products – juice blends with ghoulish names, a set of four different sprinkles in test tubes, some cake mixes.  One that caught my eye made an orange-and-black marble cake with purplish icing.  Cute.  The price?  $7.99.  Eight bucks for something I could do myself?  No way was I paying that kind of money!  So I came up with this:

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This is the basic marble recipe from…well, you know.  I used gel food colouring to get the batters just the right shades, and then proceeded to fill and swirl as usual.

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With purple icing!  Clearly, my marbling skills need work; this one looks mostly orange.

Now the only hurdle to clear is whether my test audience finds black cake appetizing or not.  Come on, it’s chocolate….

Whenever I have to deal with carrots (peeling, grating, chopping…anything that ensures my hands will be fairly covered in their juices) and am left to marvel at my Oompa Loompa palms, I’m reminded of the story of how Susan Dey ate so many carrots that her skin turned orange, creating problems during filming of The Partridge Family.

Another coworker is moving on to bigger and better things, and somehow I determined that his lovely parting box o’ cupcakes should be of the carrot variety.  How is it that I’ve had Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World for years, but always bypassed that particular recipe?  Time to change that!

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Just look at that dense, raisin-y, carrot-y goodness…mmm…..

These turned out really well for a first attempt, and gave us an answer to that ubiquitous question: “What’s your idea of a hot Saturday night?”

“Standing in the kitchen with the oven on during a heat wave.”

Go ahead – tell me I’m wrong! 🙂

Last year, it was Oreo cheesecake cookies, and now…this!

(OK, to be fair, I did inhale a wedge of key lime pie last night.  It was one of those two-in-one belated Pi Day/early St. Patrick’s Day dealies.  Even so…)

I think I’m going to call these “Favourite Daughter Cupcakes” because I’ve managed to cram my dad’s favourite things into one convenient package.

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If you’re a regular reader, you probably know which cookbook – and likely which recipe, too – I used for the cake.  If you’re an irregular reader (wait…what?), check out some of the other cupcake posts.  Therein lies the secret.

To summarize: chocolate cupcake, cored and filled with peanut butter buttercream, covered with a rich chocolate ganache that’s been spiked with peanut butter, and topped with a swirl of the filling.  Favourite daughter, indeed!

These are blissfully chocolate-peanut buttery, and can almost make me forget that there are fat snowflakes falling from the sky as I type.

Lousy Smarch weather…..

I <3 you…

February 14, 2013

…oh, and cupcakes, too!

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

Hut…hut…hike!

February 7, 2013

I hate to use the “S”-word (I’m more of a Grey Cup gal myself), but I’m told [conspiratorial whisper] that there was a big football game on Sunday.  Say what?  I don’t know what it was all about, but it sure must have been super.  In any case, I was thrilled to be able to use my grass tip on something besides assorted Muppets.

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There’s not much to explain about these; they’re (of course) the basic chocolate cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, with a green-tinged vanilla buttercream.  The two most interesting things I learned from all of this:

1. Chocolate-covered almonds wobble something fierce when placed on a flat surface to pipe detailing onto them.  And Wilton’s decorating icing-in-a-tube is extremely stiff and awkward to work with, which is my penance for being lazy and not wanting to do two colours of my own icing.  (It – Wilton – doesn’t taste that great, either, and sticks to piping tips like cement even when run under hot water.)  Having a helper hold the last few steady for me was a huge boon to my creative process.  But I’m still using my own icing next time.

2. Speaking of assorted Muppets: I need to use my grass tip for actual grass more often.  A trusted member of my test audience thought at first glance that I had brought him a slightly deformed Oscar the Grouch to try.

But I have 289 days to perfect my technique before the Grey Cup…

…store-bought snack cakes!” – Marge Simpson, Homer’s Phobia

Seriously, whyyyyy did it take me so long to try making mock-Hostess/Fauxtess/cream-filled chocolate cupcakes?

Answer: because I had seen the recipe in Vegan with a Vengeance ages ago, and decided it looked like way too much work.  But it really wasn’t!  Okay, so I skipped a step and had my filling do double-duty as the squiggle medium as well, but even the coring, filling, and ganache-ing of the cupcakes wasn’t particularly onerous.

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The cupcake recipe is pretty much identical to the one in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, moist and chocolatey and wonderful, and I made a basic vanilla buttercream for inside and on top.  (For some reason, the Fluffy White Icing prescribed in VwaV didn’t taste like much to me, although my dad seemed to like it.  Weird.)

These came together really quickly, multiple steps considered, and taste way better than any chemical-filled Hostess special ever could.

And for the record: leftover cupcake cores dotted with frosting and dunked in ganache are a midafternoon snack to die for.

Lemon + Raspberry = Yum!

December 31, 2012

Wouldn’t you know it, I’ve got myself a little tradition at work.  I’m not sure how this went from being a one-off to a regular occurrence, but it seems now that whenever someone leaves (because of retirement or whatnot), they get sent on their way with a lovely gift-box of cupcakes from me.

I made lemon cupcakes with a raspberry-cream cheese frosting for my boss, whose last day before maternity leave was technically today.  Since the office was closed for New Year’s Eve, though, I brought them in for her last week.

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I was really happy with how they turned out…the flavours pair together very well, and they were such a nice change from the standard Christmas sweets that had been everywhere for the last month.

Evidently, I have a reputation as the Cupcake Girl, because I don’t even have to be present when the cupcakes are discovered.  She showed up at my cube a half-hour after I had arrived and deposited my package: “Did you leave cupcakes on my desk?”  Of course I did…who else would it be? 😉

Have a safe and happy New Year!

Remember my theory that if you don’t make homemade birthday dessert of some sort for someone, you don’t really care about them?  Well, a while ago, knowing that a certain someone had a birthday coming up, I asked him what his absolute favourite dessert was.  You know the one I mean – you could be in a restaurant, totally stuffed from a huge dinner, but when this rolls by on the dessert cart, you have to have it.

Why ask him so far in advance?  I wanted to give myself time to locate/perfect/veganize a recipe if necessary.  If he had replied, “Chocolate soufflé” or, “There’s this really awesome cake that my mother used to make – I don’t think it has an English name; my copy of the recipe is in its original German”, I was going to be prepared, darn it!  You can only imagine my surprise when, after mulling it over for a few seconds, he offered, “You know, I’m kind of partial to vanilla.  Not a big fan of chocolate, but there’s something about vanilla.”

Don’t get me wrong; I totally understand the appeal that is the blank canvas of an unadulterated vanilla ice cream cone.  It’s simple, pure, and wonderful.  But vanilla for a birthday cake just seemed so…uninspired.  (And frankly, not much of a challenge, but this isn’t about me.)  Still, if it was vanilla he wanted, it was vanilla he was going to get.  I only wished there was some way I could jazz it up a little bit.  A week or so later, it hit me: homemade funfetti cake!  He’d still get all the vanilla flavour, but with a far more celebratory look!  (It probably goes without saying that this is the basic vanilla recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, my staple for all things delicious and cupcake-y.)

A little blue raspberry icing to seal the deal and make them look a little more manly (?).

A closeup.  Besides looking manly, the blue frosting complemented the blue ice cream cones on the liners.

The inside!  The coloured-sugar sequins I bought to use as confetti melted during baking for all the colour without the crunch.

All packed up and ready to deliver to the birthday boy!

By now, you might be asking, “Yo, Witty Child, what’s up with your cake toppers?”

I chose Gummi Bears because the birthday boy likes them (this is about him, after all), but also because I saw this cake at Marble Slab Creamery and thought it was pretty:

Birthday Bonanza Cake

(But soooo not worth the cost, or the dairy/cholesterol factor.)

Oh, and the Saran-Wrapped coins?  This particular birthday was the double nickel, so two 2012 five-cent pieces seemed appropriate.