Saturday, September 24, 2011

Alpha Gam Always

During the Wilton class I signed up to bring cupcakes for my sorority tea. I'm an Alpha Gamma Delta and recently became active in the Atlanta Alum Chapter. The idea of 24 red and buff roses (our sorority flowers) came to mind. I must have been feeling ambitious that day because I had not even learned how to pipe roses when I came up with the idea. Luckily I felt comfortable piping roses during class. I found some paisely green baking cups at Michael's (green is another sorority color) As the date of the tea was approaching I started chickening out because I thought to myself..hmm maybe I should do a dozen roses and a dozen rosettes. I mean how in the world am I going to pipe 24 roses all by myself??? Well I enlisted the help of my mama (dad came too). We enjoy being in the kitchen together and she has been wanting to see my new skills in action.

I found this recipe online for simple vanilla cupcakes. This is my first time ever making vanilla and I learned some lessons. When the recipe says to use softened butter that means to leave the butter on the counter FOREVER. And in case you are not sure how long forever is then just know you have time to drink two cups of coffee while watching two to three shows on Food network. Unfortunately I was unaware of this time frame and thought the butter would be ready after I measured out the flour, cracked four eggs, lined 24 cupcake wells, and set up a card table for extra "counter" space. Needless to say my Kitchen Aid was not liking the butter. I plan to stick with Crisco from now on because when the cupcakes came out there was butter in the wells and the bottom of the cupcakes were greasy. In this case I would like Paula Dean to do some explaining!!! (For non Paula fans - she LOVES butter!)

Lesson #2 just because you have extra batter does not mean it all has to be used. I'm just going to be honest and say it - I filled the wells up way beyond 3/4 full. Maybe parents should not be so strict with the clean your plate rule during childhood because then the children grow into adults and over fill their cupcake wells. The pans got a little messy and some had muffin tops but it was something icing could fix. My mom may disagree though since her job was to frost the cupcakes. Then we struggled to place them in my cupcake lesson learned. (the height of the roses didn't help matters) I'm guessing it is important to use the correct size pan as well - just a guess.

Thank goodness I had lots of icing in my fridge from class. It came in real handy. All we did was tint the yellow and red darker. Remember I said in a previous postsI was happy with pastels in class. This memory came back as we were aiming for that perfect red. Now this time mom was asking why do we have to use toothpicks. We totally popped the top open a bit on the no taste red. My mom said "we will be here all day!" Yeah you are telling me mom!

Of course we made the Wilton buttercream recipe for the white frosting. As I was piping roses mom kept saying, "I don't know if I like this mixer." Who doesn't like Kitchen Aid??? Geez!

It was hard not sampling them especially after working so hard and they look so yummy. Almost too pretty to eat really. I think my parents were impressed. I had so much fun!

Everyone loved them! One sister even said, "when I first saw them I thought they were from Publix. They look professional!" Love in Epsilon Pi ladies!!!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Feeling like a cheater...

I received my first official request for cupcakes last week from one of my small group girls (sorry mom but you don't really count). She saw my Betty Crocker cook book on my counter that I keep out for decoration - oh who am I kidding - I'm a cupcake freak. Anyway the book was turned to the Molten Chocolate Cupcake recipe and she says "So we are going to make those, right? And by we I mean you." I replied yes and of course the freak that am I made them one week later - today. The reason I feel like a cheater is because the recipe is a box cake mix and CANNED icing! Some stove top ganache action is involved so there is some skill level. And that skill is not burning the chocolate which I succeeded at. Go me! Since the recipe is not from scratch I thought I should at least "decorate". I didn't feel these cupcakes needed a lot of icing given the potential for chocolate overload so I decided to do the whole cut the tip of the bag and make a fancy swirl. Mistake! What a mess refilling the icing bag! Cupcake swirls require lots of icing so there was no way I would have enough for all 24 cupcakes either. (Wilton buttercream icing would have been better - just saying) Needless to say I took my picture of the cupcakes with a pretty swirl and moved on to just icing with a metal spatula. New additions this week included a cookie scoop and a 3 tier cupcake stand. Wow the cookie scoop is a big time saver and less messy than any pour or regular spoon trick. The picture of the stand speaks for itself I believe. I will add the recipe soon and in the mean time you can google it - just look up ole' Betty Crocker!


3/4 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® devil's food cake mix
1 box (4-serving size) chocolate fudge instant pudding and pie filling mix
1 1/4 cups water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 container Betty Crocker® Rich & Creamy chocolate frosting
Powdered sugar
Sliced strawberries

 In 1-quart saucepan, heat whipping cream over medium-high heat until hot but not boiling. Stir in chocolate chips until melted and mixture is smooth. Refrigerate about 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until thick.
Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 24 large (2 3/4x1 1/4-inch) muffin cups (dark or nonstick pans not recommended). In large bowl, beat cake mix, pudding mix, water, oil and eggs with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds, then on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl constantly. Place 1/4 cup batter in each muffin cup. Spoon 1 tablespoon cold chocolate mixture on top of batter in center of each cup.
Bake 20 to 23 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. Cool 1 minute. Carefully remove from pan; place on cooking parchment paper. Cool 10 minutes. Frost with chocolate frosting. Just before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar. Garnish with strawberry slices. Serve warm. Store loosely covered.

Go Dawgs!
Look at that swirl!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes with Cinnamon Buttercream Icing

Wednesday 9/7/2011: I am a small group leader at my church and just formed my first group of seven amazing girls. We had our first social in order to take some time to get to know each other. I decided to host a Mexican Fiesta at my house. Along with some enchiladas I baked Mexican Hot Chocolate cupcakes with Cinnamon Buttercream Icing (recipe to follow). The new mixer was awesome! It cut the time in half and was pretty much effortless. I love the pour shield! I was a little concerned making a recipe with boiling water especially when the batter was thin and I could see clumps of cocoa but they turned out great. The icing was easy to pipe and I chose to pipe shells on the perimeter and rosettes in the center. The small group loved them and my parents enjoyed some of the left overs. I froze half of the recipe and can't wait for them to reappear later!!!

By Diane Phillips from
·         2 cups granulated sugar
·         2 large eggs
·         1 cup whole milk
·         1/2 cup vegetable oil
·         2 teaspoons vanilla extract
·         1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
·         3/4 cup Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder
·         1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
·         1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
·         1 teaspoon salt
·         1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
·         1 cup boiling water
How to make it 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line 24 standard cupcake pans with liners, or coat with non-stick cooking spray.  In the large bowl of an electric mixer, stir together the sugar, eggs, milk, oil and vanilla, until blended. 
Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt and cinnamon, and gradually add to the sugar mixture, until the mixture begins to come together. 
Very slowly, add the boiling water, and blend until the mixture is smooth. 
Ladle or scoop the batter into the cupcake tins, filling ¾ full.  Bake the cupcakes for 15 to 18 minutes until a skewer inserted into the center of each one comes out clean. 
Cool the cupcakes in their pans on wire racks until cooled.
Healthy Cooking Tip
At this point the cupcakes can be kept covered at room temperature for up to 2 days, or frozen for 6 weeks.  Defrost and ice with the cinnamon butter cream frosting. Cover the frosting, and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 6 weeks.
Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting
·         4 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
·         1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
·         1 tablespoon vanilla extract
·         1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
·         2 tablespoons milk
·         Chocolate curls for garnishing cupcakes
How to make it 
In the bowl of an electric mixer, stir the sugar, to aerate it.  Add the butter, vanilla, cinnamon and 1 tablespoon milk, and beat on high speed until the frosting is spreading consistency. If the frosting is stiff, add a few more drops of milk, beating after each addition.  Frost the cooled cupcakes and garnish with chocolate curls. Makes enough to frost two 9-inch layers or 24 cupcakes.

New Kitchen Aid and Cake Pops

Saturday 9/3/2011: All week (mainly after Wednesday's baking ordeal) I was thinking about how I need a Kitchen Aid mixer but was not sure since they are so expensive. I searched Craigslist and actually contacted someone to only find out that the $99 mixer was 8 years old! Then I started looking at the website of every store that came to mind and found that Brandsmart had mixers for $169.88 Isn't it funny that every price at Brandsmart ends in $0.88??? Any way my mom met me there and we found two mixers - navy blue and almond - so I purchased the almond mixer. I left the store with pure excitement.

After we shopped some more at Mall of Georgia we came home and made cake pops. These things sure are popular so I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. I had the left over muffin top and icing from my cake this week so I picked up candy and lollipop sticks from Michael's. My mom had some sprinkles. I found a step-by-step instructional website written by a mom. The instructions suggested that you purchase floral foam in order to dry the sticks but since this was my first time and I was not making the pops for a special occasion I for went the foam. They are strange but are yummy. Mom said, "these are SWEET!" and dad said, "just give me a slice of cake." Also, they made an excellent game day snack during the Georgia game. It would have been even better if Georgia had won but Boise State was ranked #5!
Cake pops!!!
Best mixer ever!

Final Project Time!

Wednesday 8/31/2011: Wow this was a long day! We had to come to class with a two layer 8 inch round cake already iced with extra icing for the design. I think this is the day that sparked my desire for a Kitchen Aid stand mixer. We began with learning how to write in icing! Of course I made the comment that I was unsure if I would be able to free hand writing on a cake - and I had to eat my own words when I actually did it on my final cake! Then it was rose piping time. Again this flower nail is a handy tool but challenging as well. I struggled to get a proper bud at first but after several tries and the instructor adding some water to my icing I was good to go. Before this class I had the brilliant idea to make cupcakes with red and buff roses (our flowers) for my sorority Alumni tea at the end of September so the pressure was on to perfect these roses. I'm sure more practice will be necessary before taking on that endeavor. The rest of the class was final project time. We were allowed to let our minds go wild with creativity using the techniques we had learned in class. My parents were on their way home from their vacation out west and I was picking them up from the train station after class so I decided to write "Welcome Home" on the cake which is the part where I had to eat my words about free handing the writing. It was EASY. I was so proud of my roses that I decided to place them on the cake too. Then I did some dots on the bottom perimeter of the cake and the top perimeter I piped drop flowers. Piping on a flat surface is easy once you learn the technique but I sure did have a time piping the drop flowers on the edge of the cake. Needless to say I scrapped a few off before I got the hang of it. Oh and another lesson learned involved the chocolate butter cream icing. I'm going to triple check the consistency of my icing from now on is all I'm saying. My parents truly enjoyed the cake and were so impressed with my piping skills. My mom has already picked out a white raspberry cake she wants me to make. I agreed as long as she is the sous chef!

Third Class

Wednesday 8/24/2011: Cupcake day!!! When I made the 8 inch cake for the week before I used the rest of the batter to make 12 cupcakes. We only needed 6 cupcakes for class but I brought them all in for extra practice. Lots of practice was involved in this class for sure. We learned how to make shaggy mums, pom pom mums, leaves, and drop flowers. Pom pom mums were probably the most challenging because you use a flower nail and let them dry before you place them on top of the cupcake. Also, we learned how to pipe swirl icing on top. It was awesome to finally know how to make icing look like what you see in the grocery store. Lol. I asked the instructor how they pipe a smooth swirl and she said all they do is cut the tip of a bag - no tip! Geez I may have been happy if I didn't learn anything else but just to know that...jk...I enjoyed the whole class. Shaggy mums crack me up because the tip is like a miniature pasta maker. Too cute and lots of fun! And yes the leaves are purple because I just did not see the point in making extra thin icing when I had some left over from the week before. That is my only other beef with the class - you make way too much icing for what is needed. I guess they did not intend on teaching us how to half the recipe. Oh well it is all in my freezer for another time.

Shaggy Mum
Pom Pom Mum
Pom Pom Mum with Drop Flowers

Drop Flowers (and here are the purple

Second Class

Wednesday 8/17/2011: For this class we prepared an 8 inch round cake and two types of icing (thin for the whole cake and medium for the design). We learned how to tint the icing which was a chore since I had tiny plastic cups to mix up the icing. I mixed the thin icing in the Tupperware container which later was a mistake because the metal knife scratched up the container. Whoops! I understand why the instructor suggested that we leave the lid on our food coloring but that doesn't mean I like it. For those of you who don't know - you leave the lid and poke holes in the top with a tooth pick so that the color does not dry out. Now this means you get to use a million toothpicks to tint the icing. Luckily I was perfectly happy with pastel colors. Fall is approaching which means I will have to be real patient tinting icing because you can't double dip the toothpick. AHHH!!! During the piping lesson we learned how to pipe dots and squiggly lines. Bag pressure is key and I started using muscles in my hand that I didn't know existed. Next it was time to level our cakes. I didn't feel the need to purchase a leveler because I want to make cupcakes not cakes. Man was I wrong so thankfully another classmate let me borrow her leveler. It is surprising 1. how much cake comes off when removing the "muffin top" and 2. how much it makes a difference to level the cake. (And yes I did not resist the temptation to eat the cake top in class) The top of the cake was really sticky which would be a mess to ice. I checked with the instructor and her cake was sticky too. Also, you ice the bottom of the cake so it has to be level. The book instructed us to ice the cake and then pipe a cupcake on top. Oh yeah, we learned how to use piping gel as a template. You put wax paper over the design and trace it in pen or pencil. Then you flip the wax paper over and pipe over the design with piping gel. You let the piping gel dry and then place it on the cake. Magically the design is now on the cake! It makes it a lot easier to pipe out dots when you have the outline...well it is supposed to be easier. One issue I have with this class is that a lot of time was spent on instruction and practicing so when it was time to pipe the final design I felt rushed. Bottom line was that I learned the technique and the cake tasted amazing!

Friday, September 9, 2011

First class

Wednesday 8/10/2011: My mom and I went to Perimeter Mall to eat at CPK, see the Help (amazing movie and book), and pick up some cupcakes at GiGi's cupcakes because there was a Scoutmob for 50% off. I could write a whole other blog about my love for GiGi's. Needless to say the previews these days are super long so we got out of the movie really late - 4:45 p.m. - which as some may know is rush hour traffic in the ATL. I had to be at Michael's for class at 6 p.m.!!! I was driving home like a mad woman so I could drop mom off and pick up my supplies. I made it to class on time but without dinner. Eating is very important for me because if I don't eat by a certain time then I become a grouch and get sick. So I was all worried that I was going to hate the class and/or eat all my cookies before the first lesson. (Truth be told by the end of class I was munching on a cookie while icing.) My instructor was super awesome and we all settled in and began learning. The first lesson was how to fill the icing bag. The pros sure make this look easy on t.v. Man oh man! Cake Boss is one of my favorites and they make hundreds of cupcakes and cakes I'm sure in one day and it seems effortless. Well not effortless but EASY. Luckily the instructor was patient because we were all struggling. By the end of the class my bag was filled with icing from a can and I had piped stars for the first time on six cookies. I've started emphasizing from a can because my coworker grew up in a home where can icing equated to the person does not love you. I was so proud of myself and full excitement that I had forgotten that I was hungry. That is a lie...I got home and ate a bowl of cereal but after I took pictures of my beautiful cookies.

Decision day

Friday 8/5/11: I decided to sign up for Wilton's Decorating Basics so I went to my local Michael's store after work. I chose a Wednesday class so that my Saturday would be open for swimming at my parents' pool - it was August which is prime swimming time. After I paid the cashier for the class I quickly went to the baking section to purchase the items on my supply list for the first class. I was like a kid in a candy store! There were so many products and my fav was Duff's section of the aisle. I was thinking, why does Duff not have a class? I would take his class! He sells zebra tattoos for cupcakes! I turned around to the Wilton section and located the Decorating Basics kit. Next I had to buy icing. I thought well this is easy. It is store bought icing and the only thing I need for the first class is six plain sugar cookies....
Kit and Icing