Baking, Cake Decorating, In The Kitchen, No Filter Friday

No Filter Friday (Halloween Cupcakes)

A little something different for No Filter Friday this week!

Last year I had posted about some Halloween cupcakes I’d made, to try glow in the dark icing for the first time. Click here if you want to see that post. If you’re not that curious, here’s a condensed version: glow in the dark icing was NOT to my liking any nobody else that ate them cared for it either so IMO while glow in the dark icing sure sounds cool, skip it and stick with something that tastes good. As for the decorative aspects of those cupcakes, I had specific things in the pantry I wanted to use but the results were… well. Also not to my liking.

I realized the other day I never did get around to updating on those cupcakes or the fact that I made them a second time, for a family friend’s daughter to take to school for her class Halloween party. I changed things up with the second batch; I just made my usual American buttercream icing, and used different decorative items for a FAR better finished look!

I am particularly proud of these cupcakes. Especially the witches – they were 100% my own creation and NOT something spotted on pinterest or in a magazine etc. Sure, it’s entirely possible with how many bakers there are in the world that someone else thought them up too, and surely someone has a version that is even better. But that does not take away from the fact that I thought them up on my own, without having seen them anywhere else first. The ghost cupcakes were easy to think of but they’re also kind of a Halloween standard for bakers. I mean, blob of white icing plus something for the eyes – no brainer right? The monsters, I honestly can’t be sure. I want to say I thought those up myself too but there’s a nagging thought in my head that I’d seen them in some magazine years ago and filed the idea away for future use.

Anyway. I feel like a dope for not having updated last year with the second batch pictures as they are far superior to the first batch that got posted. But I am posting now, and maybe if you’re on the hunt for something cute to make for Halloween this year this will be your solution!

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I also did black, orange, and purple swirls on some but for some reason I can’t find the picture of those ones.

Anyway. Obviously you can use any cupcake recipe you like, and while I prefer my homemade American buttercream icing any decorator icing you like will work as long as it’s good for piping (not too thin, so that it can hold its shape).

The ghosts again are a total no brainer – use a large round tip (1A or 2A preferably) to pipe a big swirl of white icing. Pop a couple small black sugar pearls on for eyes and voila!

The monsters are the next “least involved” – tint the icing with whatever color(s) you like (really wish I could find the picture of the second box of cupcakes; I made some monsters with multi-colored “hair”!) then use a multi-opening tip (233 or 234) to pipe strands of “hair” all over the cupcakes. Place some candy eyes around in the icing, and your little monster cupcakes are done!

The witches are more involved, but still simple. You can use whatever colors you like, of course, but I’ll explain the process with the colors I used as examples. You’ll want to start by making the hats. To do this, use a small amount of melted chocolate to adhere Hershey’s Kisses to the tops of Oreo Fudge Cremes cookies. Pop them into the fridge or freezer for several minutes so the melted chocolate can set and hold them together. Meanwhile, with green icing and a large round tip (again, 1A or 2A) pipe a large dollop of icing on just half of each cupcake to create the witch’s “face”. Use an icing spatula to smooth the surface if desired. Then with a multi- opening tip (233 or 234 again) and purple icing, fill in the other half of the cupcakes by piping “hair” for your witches. Place one hat on top of each cupcake. Then use the green candies from a box of Mike & Ike candy to make the witch noses. Finish off your witches with small black sugar pearls for the eyes.

Sprinkling some or all of the cupcakes with some iridescent edible glitter is optional. I don’t think you can tell in the picture, but I opted for doing so. Glitter makes everything better. 😉

I hope you enjoyed this little venture away from the normal No Filter Friday, and if you make any of these Halloween cupcakes yourself I’d love to see how they turned out!

Until next time. xoxo

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Baking, Cake Decorating, In The Kitchen

Galaxy Mirror Cake

If you have not heard about mirror cakes, they are the latest “in” thing in baking. I had first heard about them several months ago but I honestly was not impressed by any of the ones I had seen to feel it was worth getting a recipe and trying it myself. Basically they are simply cakes that have a very shiny glaze poured over them after the buttercream has had a chance to set up. Cool enough, but not really a must-try, right?

Recently a video popped up in my recommendations on youtube that totally changed my mind! Turns out, you just need to be a little more creative about how to use the mirror glaze to make it more interesting. Why I did not think of it myself I don’t know – I guess because I had not bothered to look into it enough to see the possibilities. To see the video that changed my mind, which includes the tutorial for the galaxy mirror cake as well as the mirror glaze recipe, click here.

Of course, I could not dive right into making my own galaxy mirror cake. Besides the cake pans and ingredients for the cake itself and my American buttercream, I did not have any decorating items at all, not even the only one you really need for this cake: gel food colors. I shopped around online a bit, found a company with the best prices I have ever seen on my preferred brand of gel colors (FYI this is Americolor) and hemmed and hawed over whether or not to order. As you may have guessed by now, I ended up talking myself into it. I also picked up the optional disco dust (because I love glitter and sparkly things so much) and I knew I would need a good, sturdy cake board for this cake so I got a foam core board as well.

I checked the tracking information compulsively, as is my habit when I order things online. When the delivery date was updated for today I knew that meant the day before delivery task was baking the cake so it would be ready to go once I had my gel colors. I spent the day both giddy and impatient while I waited for the mail to be delivered.

Once I had my new goodies in hand, I cleaned off the foam core board, whipped up a batch of icing, filled and frosted my cake and popped it in the fridge to set up. The two hour wait from that point was pretty agonizing. You can not make mirror glaze in advance – it must be made immediately before it will be used. But I knew the icing had to set up well for the glaze to work, so I did my best to stay otherwise occupied till the two hours were up and I could make the glaze.

The process was very simple, and while it does not smell too appealing while making it (unflavored gelatin just does not smell pleasant, there is no way around that) I did end up tasting a bit of the still-warm glaze and can promise you that it does taste good.

Glaze complete, I divided it among five bowls, putting small amounts into three of them for the accent colors, and keeping the majority in two other bowls for the main colors. I added my gel colors and tried not to create too many air bubbles while stirring them in, and then the fun began!

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I ended up forgetting a step recommended in the video to blend the colors together a bit, but that is ok. I think that step is totally optional. My pink and purple ended up looking almost the same once they were on the cake, which I think may have been due to the glaze still being a tiny bit on the warm side when I poured it. The end result is still pretty darned awesome if I do say so myself!

I would DEFINITELY make another mirror glaze cake in the future, and I would also not hesitate for it to be another galaxy cake though I have some other ideas churning now that may look awesome with this glaze. But those will be for another day.

Have you made a mirror glaze cake?

Baking, Cake Decorating, In The Kitchen

Halloween Cake

I had been wanting to try making swiss meringue buttercream (henceforth referred to as smb) for a couple of years, but I just never got to it. It uses a lot of butter and egg whites and I typically do not have enough on hand for any spur of the moment baking for the smb recipe. And the few cakes I plan ahead for tend to have specific requirements for flavors which rules out the smb. I finally decided to plan for a cake with smb over the weekend, though.

It took two batches. The first batch didn’t turn out. I had used liquid egg whites as the consensus from Google seemed to be that while perhaps not quite as good as fresh eggs they would work fine for making meringue. Maybe it was user error but my meringue never got thick enough – it remained a slightly thickened sticky soupy mess. I tried again using fresh egg whites and that batch was successful! The meringue still did not quite fluff up the way it should have based on the recipe/tutorial I was using but it got far enough along that I was able to add the butter and finish making the icing.

The design for this cake was very simple. It is from My Cake School, and there is a free tutorial on their blog.

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I first set aside some of the smb to tint green then used the untinted icing to fill and frost the cake. I placed the mellowcreme candies around the base of the cake then with the green icing I used a #2 tip to pipe vines all around the bottom between the candies. Then I used tip #352 to add leaves to fill in the base. I filled the top of the cake with orange sanding sugar, leaving about half an inch open to pipe a leaf border along the top of the cake. My trick-or-treating ghost was done differently than the tutorial. I have not had luck using rice krispy treats for cake decorating so instead I made a cake pop using the smb and a bit of my cake (I baked a single cupcake along with the cake itself for this purpose). And I prefer modeling chocolate over fondant so that was what I used to cover the cake ball and create my little ghost. I didn’t want to buy icing writers (food color markers) because I don’t have much use for them and you can only buy a whole pack not a single color. So I just used black decorator icing and a #2 tip to pipe the eyes on the ghost/trick-or-treater and for the face on the little treat pail. I secured the bow onto the ghost with a dab of melted white chocolate. I cut a length of a drinking straw (I didn’t measure, just a couple inches) and pushed it down into the center of the cake just till the top was level with the icing, then slipped the lollipop stick the cake pop ghost is on into the straw in the cake. The straw just helps ensure a little more stability to keep her from falling over.

It sounds like a complicated cake but it was really super simple. Mine did not come out perfectly and there are a few things I would tweak if I ever revisit this design but overall I am happy with how it turned out. I think it is a very cute design and it is great for novice decorators to introduce some simple fondant work (or modeling chocolate, if you are like me) and get a little piping practice.

Baking, Cake Decorating, In The Kitchen

Club Penguin Puffle Cake Tutorial

I noticed that a lot of views were a result of people searching for puffle cakes. Considering the cake I have already posted about is a layer cake with a buttercream transfer of an image of some puffles I decided to do a tutorial on making puffle cakes. That is… cake that looks like a puffle as opposed to a basic cake with a picture of puffles. =)

My niece has not played CP in a long, long time. But I *think* that the annual Puffle Party is happening soon, isn’t it? Well. Either way if you want a puffle cake to celebrate a little CP love in the real world it’s really a lot easier than you might think.

The key to making puffle cakes is simply to have the proper baking dish for the job. Start by pre-heating your oven as designated in your recipe, and whipping up your favorite cake batter. (Or totally cheat and used a boxed mix. Which is what I did for this tutorial… nobody’s judging.) Then select your bake-ware. Because I was making two puffle cakes today, I used a 1 quart glass bowl and a 1.5 quart glass bowl. They are shaped a bit differently, with the larger capacity one being a bit deeper. (Which ultimately I preferred.) If you’re only making one puffle cake I’d say to use a 2.5 quart bowl, OR you could use the smaller bowl and just put the remaining batter in some muffin tins and make cupcakes. Your call. (The cupcakes could be decorated to look like mini puffles… totally cute and fun idea, isn’t it?) Whatever you end up using to bake your cake(s) in just be sure that the dishes you use are oven-safe and prep your baking dish with some cake release/Pam for baking/butter & flour. I like cake release. In my opinion it works best.

The bowl on the left is the one that yielded the better results, in my opinion. Whatever you use just keep in mind the fact that puffles are NOT perfect little circles. They are more like somewhat flat ovals…

Fill your dishes up to within about an inch or so of the top of the bowl(s). Give or take a bit, depending on how much batter you have.

Then of course bake them off till a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The 1-quart cake was done in about 36 minutes and the 1.5 quart one took about 45 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the bowls for about 15 minutes before turning them out to cool completely. Be careful when you turn them out as there WILL be steam released in the process of flipping the cakes out of the bowls!

When the cakes are cooled completely, trim the bottoms off so they will sit flat on your cake plate/serving platter.

Because I didn’t quite like the size of the cake from the 1-quart bowl, I popped the trimmed portions of both cakes on top of it before frosting to build up the height a bit. It wound up working nicely since then there were no scraps left-over. I don’t like being wasteful.

Tint your frosting as desired and frost the cooled cakes smooth all over. Then I used a large leaf-tip (# 112) to pipe the “hair” on the tops of the cakes. My frosting was a touch thick and it didn’t quite end up with the look I wanted but it still worked and looks cute. You could use a different tip if you prefer; this is just the one I thought wold work best of what tips I own.

Then I fitted a # 5 tip onto a tube of black Wilton Decorator Icing. (Trust me that if you need small amounts of black frosting for such things, invest in these tubes of ready-made stuff. It will save you a LOT of heartache…) Use this to create  your puffle’s face.

Now go back in and add any finishing touches needed. I used some white frosting and a # 2 tip to make the little white dots on the eyes and also to fill in the eyes of the purple puffle.

See? Simple.

Excuse the fact that I didn’t bother keeping the plates clean. I didn’t feel like fussing with wax paper. If you are making a puffle cake for a party or you just want the cake plate to be clean when you’re done all you have to do is slip a few strips of wax paper just under the edge of the cake all the way around; when you’re done gently remove the wax paper strips and voila – nice clean cake plate!  Also, if you want the puffle’s body to be perfectly smooth, use the paper towel trick I posted in the frozen buttercream transfer tutorial.

Baking, Cake Decorating, In The Kitchen, Recipes

Whipped Cream-Cream Cheese Frosting = Oh So Dreamy

Every year for Thanksgiving, I make my (not so) famous pumpkin cake. Even if we are not going anywhere. Even if nobody is coming here, and even on the rare occasions when we didn’t even have the traditional supper for whatever reason, I make that cake year after year. I’ll make it in different forms, just to have some variation while still holding the tradition. Simple two layer cake. Four layer. Cupcakes. Bars. Sheet cake. No matter what shape it takes, it’s there every year for Thanksgiving.

Normally this is topped with a basic cream cheese frosting. This year I decided to change it up a bit though and make whipped cream-cream cheese frosting instead. It’s simple to do. It’s basically a standard cream cheese frosting but mixed with whipped cream. (I will post the recipe below, if you need specifics!) The results in two main differences between this and a classic cream cheese frosting. First and foremost, the whipped cream version is less sweet. By about a landslide. The older I get, the less I like ultra sweet frosting. So this is a great thing for me. (You COULD make it sweeter if you really wanted to by using more powdered sugar.) The other most notable difference is texture. Cream cheese frosting tends to be thick and dense and crusts easily. The way I make it anyway, and I’ve never met anyone who makes it any other way either. But I’m sure there are some out there who don’t have this kind of cream cheese frosting, as I’ve seen – just once though mind you – a post somewhere that cream cheese frosting does not crust. *shrug* But this whipped cream version is light and fluffy… I’m tempted to call it “cloud-like”!

Yeah, I totally took the easy way out in terms of decorating and just made some swirls here and there and left it at that. I contemplated frosting it smooth and piping a border but…. this was just faster and easier. lol

Here is the recipe for the frosting:

2 cups powdered sugar (aka confectioner’s sugar)
16 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup heavy whipping cream

In a large bowl, mix the powdered sugar, cream cheese and vanilla extract till smooth and fluffy, set aside. In another bowl, beat the whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Add the whipped cream to the cream cheese mixture and beat just until blended and smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Voila! You can use more (or less) sugar as desired to get the sweetness you want from this frosting. You can also use more cream if you’d like to have a frosting that leans more on the whipped cream side of things than cream cheese. (If you do this I would suggest folding the whipped cream in to the cream cheese mixture by hand rather than beating it in with an electric mixer, to preserve the fluffiness of it and keep it lighter in texture. Oh and you could certainly do this with the recipe as written too, if you wanted.) This frosting DOES need to be kept in the refrigerator after a while, so unless you plan to serve your cake within a few hours make sure you have some space in your fridge to store the frosted cake. =)

This is excellent on pumpkin cake, carrot cake, red velvet…. basically anything you’d normally pair with cream cheese frosting.

Cake Decorating

>Tutorial: Frozen Buttercream Transfers

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I learned this technique from the Wilton blog where they posted a video tutorial not too long ago. I’ve been having lots of fun with this technique since then. I asked some loved ones if they would be interested in me doing my own tutorial on this decorating technique with step-by-step photos and of course they said yes! So, here we go!
First things first: Make sure that you have some room in your freezer! If you don’t, either make room or wait to do this some other time because – as the name of this technique implies – you will need to place your decoration in the freezer before it can be put on the cake. 
Other than a cake that has cooled completely, you will need:
1. A batch of buttercream icing (I use Wilton’s recipe)
2. A flat work surface to place your design on – it has to be able to go in your freezer! I use a cake board cut to size.
3. An image that you want on your cake – print this out using the “mirror image” option on your printer. It’s best to start with very simple designs to learn this technique – as you get better you can choose more complex designs.
3. Wax paper
4. Scotch tape
5. Piping bags
6. Food coloring
7. A plastic paint brush – from the arts and crafts department, make sure this is a new brush! Wash it with dish soap and let it dry, and do not use this brush for non-food purposes. Ever. 
8. A coupler ring
9. A size 1 or 2 tip
10. A tube of black Wilton Decorator Icing
11. A spatula (off-set is best but if you don’t have one a straight one will work. If you have neither, use a butter knife.)
Step 1: Trim the paper with your image and tape it down to your working surface. Then trim a piece of wax paper to size (I like to make it a little bigger than the paper the image is on) and tape it over the image. Make sure the paper is flat when you tape it down so that your finished decoration is nice and smooth. 
Step 2: Fit your number 1 or 2 tip onto the tube of Wilton Decorator Icing with the coupler ring. (You can use either size tip but it will largely depend on your preferences as well as the complexity of your design. I used a number 2 tip because it’s the only one I have at the moment.)
Step 3: Begin outlining your design with the black icing. Be sure to use slow but steady pressure. You may find it’s easier to use shorter lines to trace over the outlines of your image – practice to find what works for you. Always lightly touch the tip to the wax paper at the beginning and end of your lines to ensure it stays in place.
Continue outlining until you have completed the outlines of your image.
Step 4: Now you can begin filling in your design! Tint small amounts of buttercream icing the desired colors and use piping bags to fill in each section of your design. You can fit each bag with a number 1 or 2 tip, or if you don’t have enough tips for all the colors you will be using (like me) just snip the bags so that there is a small opening and pipe without tips.
If necessary, use the paint brush to gently work the icing next to the outlines you made earlier.
Continue on until you have filled in all areas of your design.
Step 5: Using whatever color you will be frosting your cake with, pipe along the outline of your image. Try to stay just on the edge of the design and layer directly over the black icing you initially outlined with. But if you go over a bit, it won’t be a big deal. (I promise!)
Now, fill the whole thing in with your main color of icing.
I know, right now this looks like it’s quite a mess. Stick with me ok? 😉
Use your spatula to gently smooth out the icing. Be very careful with this step – and yes this step IS necessary. (I speak from experience!) Smoothing it out will ensure your design sits nice and flat on your cake later!
Now. Pop your design into the freezer. 
Step 6: While you’re waiting (depending on the size and thickness of your design you have a minimum of half an hour to kill) frost your cooled cake with the remainder of your main color of icing. For this you can do whatever you like – make it nice and smooth or put some pretty swirls in, whatever. For this cake I wanted a nice, smooth surface. Check out this cool trick I have for you. (Yeah that’s right, you are learning TWO great techniques in this post!)
Frost the cake as smoothly as you can, but don’t worry about making it flawless. 
Now, go find something else to entertain yourself with for 20 minutes or so until the frosting has developed a crust. (This obviously does not work with icings that stay soft so you need to do this with buttercream or cream cheese icing etc… any icing that gets a light crust on it after sitting a while.)
Take a sheet of a paper towel that has a very smooth texture (I use Viva) and place it over the cake. Now very lightly rub your hands over it. (Or use a fondant smoothing tool. Up to you.) You don’t need to apply a lot of pressure – a very light touch will get the job done.
Then lift the paper towel away. Marvel at how smooth your buttercream (or whatever) now looks. =D (It may not be 100% smooth, this method does take practice, and regardless it’s still gonna be some of the smoothest looking buttercream you’ve ever seen!)
By now your design in the freezer is probably ready. You’ll have to work quickly for this part so be ready to go! 
Step 7: Remove your design from the freezer. Remove the tape from the wax paper so your design is now free from the board. (You might want to get some scissors to help you out. This is why I like my sheet of wax paper a little big – I just trim it down to release it and worry about removing the tape from my board later.)
Quickly but carefully peel the wax paper away from the icing. 
Step 8: Place your design on the cake.
Add any finishing touches. I added some white dots to the eyes and I also gently patted some white (clear, really) Wilton Sparkle Gel onto the eyes and pink part of the ears with the paint brush.
Step 9: Proudly admire your amazing work of edible art! I’ve been told some of my cakes are too pretty to eat. My theory? Take some pictures and then dig in! Afterall, cake IS meant to be eaten. 😉 
This method does have a slight learning curve, especially if you’ve never decorated in any way before. But it truly is quite simple and provides you with endless decoration options. Your results may not always be completely perfect (I can see some boo boos on the cake featured in this post…) but honestly? People are going to be so amazed by how awesome your cakes look they are not going to notice any tiny mistakes you may see and be worried about. 
Cake Decorating

>Club Penguin Puffle Party Cake

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My oldest niece adores Club Penguin. She’s been a member of the site for a few years now. If you are not familiar with it, it’s a cute site where players create their characters – yes, penguins – and then you can waddle around the island and play lots of games. It’s a very cute, kid-friendly site. Your penguin can even have pets… those pets are puffles. Puffles are absolutely adorable, humorous little creatures in a variety of colors and each has it’s own distinct personality. 
Club Penguin throws parties on the site throughout the year for various holidays and special occasions for the game. There is currently a Puffle Party going on to celebrate the arrival of the newest color puffle – brown. Since Wilton posted about an awesome decorating technique the other day, I took advantage of the occasion (and my niece’s very timely weekend visit) to try out the technique. Check it out. =D 
To see the technique I used for this cake, just click here to see Wilton’s video blog entry about it. =)

I also used an open star tip to make stars all over the cake at my niece’s request, and Wilton Sparkle Gel for the writing.

Yep. I will be getting a TON of use out of this technique. ♥ Have you tried this one? What did you think of it? If you haven’t tried it, would you like to? I promise it’s really easy! Just remember to keep your design SIMPLE. I’m sure once you get more experience with this you could do some very complex images, but for starting out choose something very simple!