Thursday, March 29, 2012

Gender Reveal Cupcakes

What are gender reveal cupcakes you ask? They are cupcakes with a colored filling, pink or blue, to represent the sex of a baby. Parents to be are coming up with fun ways to find out and share the news with friends and family these days.

When my good friend asked me if I would make theirs, I swear I jumped out of my chair in sheer excitement. I am beyond humbled to be apart of such an amazing moment in their lives.

Other than the following guidelines, I had free creative range:
  • Chocolate
  • Think outside the box
  • Something that nods to their purpose
To say that I was obsessed with the design, both visually and mechanically, is the understatement of the year. It was all I thought about for weeks!

The exterior of the cupcake was pretty simple once I found something that inspired me. Thank you Martha Stewart! The mechanics of how to reveal the gender took a lot longer to engineer. Honestly, it was a true feat of engineering.

After reading this post about gender reveal cupcakes , I decided to forgo the frosting filling. It would have been easy, but I was afraid that either the parents-to-be or the grandparents-to-be would get ansy and try to find out without eating the cupcake. I wanted a fail proof cupcake. One where poking the center of the cupcake with a toothpick would do you no good. One where you could not see if you licked the frosting off. Or one where the surprise would be ruined once you removed the cupcake wrapper. I wanted to make a cupcake that you HAD to bite into. No other way around it.

It's a BOY!!!!

You see that blue part? It isn't frosting. It's cake! Blue tinted cake. Keep reading and I'll step you through how I did it.

First, I want to tell you about the baby elephant candy garnish. As I mentioned, the elephant is based on a craft punch. How cute and fitting would it be for the elephant to be holding a ball with a question mark in it as a nod to the big reveal? The garnish was made in steps similar to the candy logos I've made in the past.
  • Step one, print mutliple reversed images on a page and cover with a sheet of wax paper.
  • Step 2, trace out the eye and ears
  • Step 3, trace out the question mark and fill in elephant
  • Step 4, fill in the ball
Handmade candy garnish.
Yellow and grey are not only gender neutral, but also the couple's wedding colors!

The grey color was achieved by mixing pink, orange, blue, and light green candy melts with Wilton icing color in black. The speckled spots you see are a result of my color being a bit dried out. I think it worked out perfectly.

I wished I would have made the yellow balls just a touch bigger to give me more room to properly form the question marks. Some didn't turn out all that well. In fact, when I gave away the rejects at work, one person asked me "Who turned 7?"

Now, onto the cake! I had seen a photo of a heart baked into the center of a cupcake buzzing around the Pinterest boards and decided to give the idea a try. The quick and dirty behind it is that you bake half your cake batter, let it cool, and then cut it into shapes with cookie cutters. Then you take the shape and place raw batter around it and rebake it.

Trying to color chocolate cake is not going to work all that well. So I switched to tinting a vanilla cake. Unfortunately, I did not listen to my gut, and went with a yellow vanilla cake. I don't have pictures to show you, but the cake came out a deep shade of turquoise. Not exactly what I had in mind. Good thing I had extra time to retry with a white cake. Whew, thank goodness round 2 worked like a charm. Once the blue cake had cooled and hardened sufficiently (freezer method), I started cutting out shapes with fondant cutters. 

If you notice in the reveal photo, there is chocolate cake in the middle of the blue. I wanted it to be more than just a cork of blue in the middle of the cupcake, so I hollowed out the center of the shape with different cutter. In order to be sure that the blue would be completely engulfed by the chocolate, they had to be cut down a touch.

If you do this, the cake will need to go in and out of the freezer. It is way easier to cut shapes out of frozen cake. Unless of course you are using a super dense cake.

So everything that I have described thus far, has been the easy part, believe it or not. Trying to get the cupcake centers took a couple of tries. Good thing I worked in small batches.  
  • Try 1 - I placed the center into some batter in hopes that the cupcake would engulf it as it baked. FAIL.
  • Try 2 - I placed the centeter into the batter and drizzed a little bit of batter over it to try and keep it down. FAIL.
  • Try 3 - Bake chocolate batter 1/2 way and then place blue centers in before baking the rest of the way. This was getting there. I used 2 chopsticks to push them into place.
  • Try 4 - Bake chocolate batter 2/3 of the way then place blue centers in. Closer, except the chocolate part was too set up before introducing the centers.
  • Try 5 - Bake chocolate cake 1/2, submerge the centers, and then finish baking. Whoohoo, success. Although I wished the tops were a little bit smoother.
  • Try 6 - Repeat try 5 only working quicker to submerge the centers.
Again, if you try this, keep the centers in the freezer until just before you have to bake them. This will make them easier to handle and will also keep them from absorbing the cake batter.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day: Nutella Cupcakes

My friend E wanted to surprise his wife on their 10th anniversary (which lined up with Valentine's Day AND his birthday!). He asked if I could do 10 Nutella, as a nod to their 10th and 2 red velvet. It just so happened that I had another order for red velvet and it would work out perfectly.

I have only ever made Nutella cream cheese frosting, not an actual Nutella cake. I had previously avoided it as the recipe I have filed away was gluten free. Time for some experimenting!

First pass, I followed the recipe as closely as possible, replacing all the flours with cake flour. This yielded a tasty cake, chock full of Nutella flavor with a hint of coffee. But it was on the dry side. I may have also forgotten the baking soda and added it at the very end, potentially overbeating the batter. My second pass, increased the milk substantially but kept everything else the same. Mission accomplished! I had a tasty and moist cake.

Nutella cupcakes, Nutlla cream cheese frosting, and garnished with Milka hazelnut milk chocolate.

Nutella Cupcakes
(adapted from Tartlette)
Yields: ~15-18 cupcakes

1/2 c + 1 tbsn unsalted butter (room temperature)
1/3 cup light brown sugar (could increase this or add granulated sugar for a sweeter cake)
1 package of Starbucks VIA instant coffee (it's about 1/2 tbsn)
1 cup milk
1/4 cup Nutella
2 large eggs
1 cup sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
 pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Mix together the dry ingredients and set aside.
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
Add eggs (one at a time), Nutella, coffee and milk, separately. Beating well after each addition.  
Mix in dry ingredients on low speed until smooth.
Bake 20-25 minutes.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day: A surprise from Mom

Hi all! It's been a busy month and I can't wait to share all the different ways that I have brought smiles to people's faces last month. It's the best feeling in the world, and I wish I could dedicate all of my time to doing it. Maybe someday. Anyways, here we go!

Mrs. H. contacted me at the end of January. She wanted send her son D and his girlfriend M something yummy for Valentine's Day. After spotting me on D's Facebook page, she reached out and the fun began!

We settled on 18 cupcakes - 12 red velvet and 6 vanilla, a delivery around the 14th, and last but not least, it was going to be a surprise.

The stars were aligned in my favor. On the Sunday before V-day, I invited a bunch of friends over for a last minute potluck dinner under the guise that I needed taste testers for some new cupcake recipes (wasn't a lie). Who would turn that down? Thankfully, D and M were free that night, too!

What I didn't mention is that D's parents live in another state. Try North Carolina. Mrs. H was excited about the surprise, but was bummed that she wouldn't be able to see their reactions. So I schemed to do a double suprise and capture the moment on video.

I had my camera loaded on the tripod and ready in a corner. After dinner while D and M were getting ready to leave, I quickly moved it into position and turned it on. Our other friends saw this and asked what I was doing. Without batting an eyelash, I responded with "oh nothing" and they all shrugged and said "OK." (Me playing with my dSLR and my giant tripod is not out of the ordinary.)

D, M, and Mr. and Mrs. H. were all thoroughly surprised that night. Success!

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*wish I could show you the video, but I'm too lazy to ask for their permission to share it.