Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Vote - Iron Cupcake: Earth

Please vote for my cupcakes in the Iron Cupcake: Earth contest at No One Puts a Cupcake in a Corner (my cupcakes are listed under Cake Walk I and Cake Walk II close to the top of the page)! You can vote for your 3 favorite cupcakes. Each vote counts as an entrance into a drawing for the incredibly amazing prizes! For information about the cupcakes I entered and the prizes, view the posts I made in the month of December. Thanks for your support!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Chocolate-Orange Cupcakes with Ginger-Cream Cheese Icing

I decided to make another cupcake for the Iron Cupcake: Chocolate With a Twist contest. This time, it's a chocolate cupcake with hints of orange flavoring, and it's topped with a bold, fresh ginger-cream cheese icing! Here's the recipe:

Your favorite from-scratch or box Devil's Food Cake
3 tsp. orange extract
zest of 1 orange

4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
2 Tbsp. butter, at room temperature
3 c. powdered sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Make the cake according to your recipe or the box, adding the zest and extract. Pour into paper cupcake liners and bake for approximately 14 minutes. Allow cupcakes to cool on wire racks. When cupcakes are completely cool, make the icing by mixing all ingredients together. Spread over the cupcakes and serve!

To give your cupcakes a little bit of flare, you can stripe your piping bag with orange gel colors to make this swirl pattern in your icing. It's easy to do! You'll need: a pastry bag (10-inch is plenty big enough), orange gel food colors (sold at Michael's and made by Wilton), a new paint brush. Using the paint brush, paint a line of orange inside the bag from the tip about halfway up the bag. The more color you put, the more color your icing will have! Load the piping bag half full with your icing. Cut the tip off the bag (or use couplers if you're familiar with them) so that you have about a 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch hole at the end. Pipe the icing onto the cupcake in the same manner as you would to create an ice cream cone! The icing will magically pick up the color that you painted on the inside of the bag.

Voting for Iron Cupcake starts soon! Please vote for my cupcakes! Don't worry, I'll remind you again when the time comes. Have a great holiday!

Friday, December 19, 2008

My First Graduation Cake!

Before I show you the pictures of the graduation cake, I have to tell you the story behind it. Matt's brother wanted to hire a stripper to jump out of a cake for Matt's graduation party, but his wife Nicole (who writes this cute blog about her guinea pigs) wasn't too keen on the idea. They compromised and she asked me to do a graduate cake with a mini "stripper" jumping out of it! Here's the censored picture, for those with sensitive eyes.

Just kidding! I'd never put something that wasn't family-friendly on my blog! The doll is actually wearing a bathing suit, I promise. Here, look for yourself:

This cake is actually a lot smaller than it looks - only the top tier is cake! The bottom tier is a Styrofoam cake dummy. I thought the cake would look funny if she was jumping out of something that was too small for her to fit in! By using the dummy on the bottom, the cake looks taller and more impressive without adding a lot of time and labor to make the finished product! On the back of the cake, I attached little symbols that were personal to Matt and his family like a VW logo to symbolize his new car, legal balances to symbolize his plans to attend law school, a golf bag to represent one of his favorite recreations, and an Obama campaign logo because Matt recently became a US citizen and voted for Obama.

I made this little "beligerent Gator" (as J-dawg calls it) by request too:

Now, you're thinking...it looks ok, but there's just something "not right" with Albert! Allow me to draw your attention to his legs, or lack thereof.

This figure was modeled with fondant, which can be pretty heavy. Two skinny fondant legs would not have supported his entire body so let's just pretend he's resting. Or, Adam said he looks like he's coming right through the cake board! Whatever works for you!

Congratulations Matt!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Triple Threat Throwdown - Round 2!

The second round of the Triple Threat Throwdown took place on Sunday night - this time at a neutral location and with more variety in the audience. This round was cookies and took place over 2 courses. First, all three bakers presented their best classic chocolate chip cookie: Lourdes' "Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookie" (left), my "Gourmet Chocolate Chip Cookie" (top), and Elise's "BEST Chocolate Chip Cookie" (bottom).

The scores after the chocolate chip category (out of a possible total of 280 points) were:
Lourdes - 220
Elise - 225
Me - 241 <-- Yay! I won the chocolate chip round!

Then came the second category - Specialty Cookie! Each baker was allowed to choose which cookie to present and there were no rules or restrictions. The competing cookies were: Lourdes' "Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookie" (left), Elise's "Intense Chocolate Cookie" (top), and my "Chocolate Surprise Cookie" (right).
And the scores in the Specialty Cookie category are (out of a possible total of 420 points):
Lourdes - 340
Me - 355
Elise - 372 <--Congrats to Elise for winning the Specialty Cookie category!

Here's a shot of Jiejin and Thomas tallying the scores.

We all waited with bated breath until the final scores were revealed!
We added both scores together to reach our final scores and to determine the overall winner:
Lourdes - 560
Me - 596
Elise - 598

Congratulations to Elise for winning The Triple Threat Throwdown - Round 2! Elise is the official Cookie Master (in the words of the Throwdown Director, Jiejin)!

A shot of the 3 competetors (left to right: Lourdes, Elise, and me)
while Elise shows off her certificate!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

December - Chocolate with a Twist

For my entry into Iron Cupcake: Earth, I wanted something that my husband and I would both love. He loves mojitos and we both love chocolate so I thought - what could be better than a chocolate mojito?!?! When I told him about the idea, he was skeptical (to put it lightly) but after tasting the cupcake, I had definitely won him over! It's a refreshing chocolate cupcake with hints of lime and mint, topped with a lime- and rum-flavored frosting. Try it yourself - it's the perfect dessert for dinner parties, Girls' Night Out, bridal showers, etc! It tastes just like a mojito - it'll blow your mind!

Chocolate Mojito Cupcake Recipe

4 oz. semisweet chocolate
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
2 c. packed brown sugar
3 eggs
2 Tbsp. lime juice
2 tsp. dark rum
2 1/4 c. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
zest of 1 lime
1/2 c. milk
2 t. mint, chopped finely
1 c. boiling water

1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
3 Tbsp. butter, at room temperature
zest of 1/2 lime
1/2 shot of rum

1. Melt chocolates in microwave and let cool.
2. Beat butter on medium speed until creamy. Add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs. Stir in melted chocolate, lime juice, and dark rum.
3. Meanwhile, heat milk and mint in a small saucpan over medium-low to medium heat. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Allow to steep 5 minutes. Drain milk, and add more cold milk if necessary to bring total volume up to 1/2 cup.
4. Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and lime zest. Add to butter mixture alternately with mint-infused milk. Stir in 1 c. boiling water.
5. Pour into greased or paper cup-lined muffin pans and bake at 350oF for 10-12 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few crumbs.
6. Allow the cupcakes to cool 1 minute in pans and then cool completely on wire racks. When cupcakes are completely cool, top with frosting and serve. (To make the icing, blend all ingredients on low to medium speed until smooth.)

Notes: I was a little conservative with the rum in my icing. You could easily increase the amount of rum in the icing to one full shot, or even more, if you feel adventurous!

Voting will take place December 29th through January 2nd at No One Puts a Cupcake in a Corner.

Iron Cupcake: Earth

I recently discovered this amazing online cupcake competition called Iron Cupcake: Earth! Each month, a special ingredient is chosen and you make a cupcake with that ingredient. Then, all the entries are posted on a blog called No One Puts a Cupcake in a Corner and anyone can vote on them! According to the new voting procedure, each person can vote for 5 cupcakes. Then, each vote gets translated into an entry for a drawing for prizes. So, the more votes you give a particular cupcake, the better their odds of winning a prize!

For the month of December, the theme is Chocolate with a Twist!

Here are the ETSY prizes you can win: An original work from Betty Turbo, cupcake earings from Lots of Sprinkles, a special piece from Cakespy, and limited edition cupcake pincushions from Moda Home, compliments of Sweet Cuppin Cakes Bakery and Cupcakery Supply!

And the corporate prize providers are: Head Chefs by Fiesta Products, Hello Cupcake by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, a Jessie Steele Apron, The Cupcake Courier, and Taste of Home. The competition is also sponsored in party by 1-800-FLOWERS.

Sounds pretty amazing, right? You KNOW I can't resist this one!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Newberry Branch Library Demo

A few months ago, I was invited (through a recommendation from Debbie of Ms. Debbie's Sugar Art - thank you!) to do a demonstration at the Alachua County Newberry Library Branch. The description of the demo was "Need some fresh decorating ideas for your baked delights this holiday season? We have the perfect gift for you! A professional cake decorator will present ideas and techniques for creating wonderful delights sure to satisfy Santa and his elves." Professional! Wow, I definitely wouldn't go that far! haha!

Here I am in front of my demonstration table. It looks pretty good for not really planning much in advance, right? Haha! I found the cutest fabric at JoAnn's that had little cupcakes on it, but they didn't have enough of the fabric to cover a whole table so I had to buy brown to go underneath that. Actually, I think I prefer it this way compared to the whole table being covered in the pink cloth!

I made a "dummy" cake and a Christmas cookie bouquet to display during the presentation. The cake was an 8" square covered in blue fondant. I put a giant green and red ribbon on top and shaped 2 elves out of fondant using the instructions from a book about making things with clay.

The cookie bouquet was just 6 sugar cookies on sticks decorated with fondant. I bought a cheap container at Michael's and then filled it with Christmas candy and candy canes. These are super easy to make - just push a cookie stick into the cookie dough before you bake the cookies. When they are baked, the stick should be pretty secure. Then, put a piece of styrofam in the bottom of some kind of decorative container and shove the cookies in. Be sure to push them in to differing heights so that you can see the ones in the back. Containers with wider mouths than this one are better because you can get a more full bouquet. Go try one!

For the demonstration, I did something much easier. This you can definitely try! You need to start off with your favorite cake recipe. Bake two layers in 8" round pans. When the cakes are completely cooled, level them. Assemble the cake like always: place one layer on the cake board, apply a layer of filling or icing, lay the second layer on top, ice the whole cake. The icing on the cake doesn't have to be perfect NOR does it have to be crumb-free because you end up covering the whole thing later! Here's what you need to finish the cake:

You'll need your favorite chocolate frosting, 30-35 strawberries (trimmed to remove the green part so that all the strawberries are approximately the same height), 2 boxes of Pirouette cookies, your favorite Christmas ribbon, and appricot glaze (see recipe below). I trimmed the Piroutte cookies ahead of time so that they were all different lengths, but you could also trim them to the same length - be creative!

Apricot Glaze:
*You could also make a strawberry glaze for a cake like this. Use the same procedure, just substitute seedless strawberry jam/preserves for the apricot preserves.
2 1/2 cups apricot preserves
1/3 to 1/2 cup water
Combine the preserves and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and immediately strain into a fresh bowl to remove any apricot chunks. Allow the glaze to cool completely before using. Store the glaze in the refrigerator if you make it ahead of time. The glaze should be runny when you use it so you may need to reheat it in the microwave or on the stove first.

How to decorate the cake:
Place the Pirouette cookies upright all the way around the edge of the cake. Use double-sided tape to attach your ribbon around the center of the Pirouette cookies. Place the strawberries on the top of the cake to completely cover it. I left most of the strawberries whole and filled spaces with strawberry halves. You could cut all the strawberries in half before placing them on the cake or you could slice them thinly and layer them on the caketop. However you do it, it's bound to be beautiful! After all the strawberries have been placed, brush them with a little apricot glaze. Don't go overboard here! The glaze just gives the strawberries a nice shine. If you add too much, you'll come back in an hour to find that the glaze has slipped to the bottom of the cake and your cake is now swimming in it! Anyway, here's the finished product:

See? This is totally something you can pull off and definitely impress all your guests this holiday season!

So how did the demonstration itself go you ask? Well, let's start by saying that this demo was scheduled on the same day of the SEC Championship game (Go Gators!). Gainesville and the surrounding area pretty much...not pretty much - definitely revolve around UF's football season so we didn't expect many people to show up at the demo. Adam went with me to help set-up since I had no idea what to expect when we got there. We put my table in the front of the classroom and a small semicircle of chairs in front of it. At 2pm, when the demo started, a 5th grade girl came in, pulled up a chair to MY side of the table, and started looking for something to do. I guess she's used to hands-on demos because she pretty much took over on this cake! I showed her how to put the cookies on the side and she took it from there! Then a mother and her daughter came in and she helped a bit too. Only one other lady came in during the demo. Yea, we got a whopping 4 audience members and none of them actually sat down! They all stood around the table! It was kind of odd that no one noticed the semicircle of chairs....whatever. So the little girls decorated the cake and everyone but the 5th-grader left. She stayed for the entire hour...lucky us! haha! She was very sweet though. I had brought some fondant with me so I let her play with it and take some home. Here she is making a flower with her fondant:

I came to the quick realization that I don't have much to talk about with a 5th grader, and Adam definitely wasn't much help! haha! Luckily, she seemed to like talking so it wasn't too bad.

The Newberry Library Branch Manager has already scheduled me to do an Easter-themed demo on March 28th. I'll definitely do something kid-friendly, hands-on, and easy! In any event, this demo was a lot of fun, and it was a good way for me to get more teaching experience. Thanks again to Debbie for recommending me in her place!

There she goes again!

Adam and I started to decorate our Christmas tree on Friday night. I say started because we got the lights and garland on and then realized we had no hooks for the ornaments. Needless to say, our tree still looks pretty bare. Anyway. we had joked about putting Nani in her Santa costume while we decorated the tree so when we started on Friday, I kind of tossed her outfit on the floor. She nosed at it for a while and even put her head in it a few times! We decided to put it on her and she seemed to like it! Maybe we're not imagining all this! She seems to really enjoy dress-up!

Here she is in her Santa costume eating the ends of the tree branches...

The bubble wrap around one of our ornaments really grabbed her attention too...check out that tongue!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Miss Personality!

Adam and I have always known that Nani, like lots of other dogs, is FULL of personality! This weekend, she was very quirky and I caught a few things on camera.

We gave her a Chew-Lotta bone on Sunday. She really likes these bones and I used to take them away when she was half finished because they're big bones for a little dog! I guess my motherly instinct didn't want her to spoil her dinner or get a tummy ache.
Anyway, not only does she not let me come near her when she's eating her bone, but she's developed a habit of hiding it when she's nearing the end. Usually we're outside so she tries to
hide it in every bush nearby. This Sunday, she suddenly disappeared upstairs to hide it. I tried to sneak up the stairs to spy on her, but they were too squeaky so she saw me coming.

After she hid her bone, she proceeded to sit at the top of the stairs so she could keep an eye on both us and her bone. She sat there for a long time! While she was there, she must have gotten bored because she did a lot of yawning. If you look closely, you can see the bone still stuck in her back teeth! Yummy!

Look, she's winking!

On Monday night, Adam & I bought our first Christmas tree! For those of you who've been in our house and recognize where we put the tree, don't worry, we're not leaving it there. We were trying to avoid rearranging furniture, but I really don't like the tree where it is now. Anyway, Nani was both intrigued by and scared of the big green prickly thing! But she seemed to get over it and helped Adam water it a little while later.

All that excitement must have really worn her out because she was just so sleepy that evening! Adam tucked her in with a blanket and she was snug as a bug in a rug! (Notice the little tongue peaking and paw peeking out. We did not pose her for this picture!)

I wonder if we give Nani too much credit or if she's really as smart as we think she is! A while ago, she was making these funny pirate "aye" sounds so I thought, "Maybe she wants to play dress-up!" I put her pirate costume on her and she seemed content!

This morning, she was trying her darndest to get her Gators sweater off the shelf. When I took it down and put it on the floor for her, she nosed at it for a long time. I finally asked if she wanted to put it on and she ran over to me. I put it on and she seemed appeased. Could it be?! Ok, I admit the pirate costume was a stretch but you should have seen her with the Gators sweater today!

This one is actually from a few weeks ago but it goes well with the theme of this blog post. One day, Adam and I were playing with Nani on the stairs. (She likes to fetch things up and down the stairs.) Anyway, I was sitting - kind of laying - on the stairs and she was fetching her "Squeaker" (yes, this was before she destroyed her 3rd "Squeaker"). After she fetched it, she'd run back over and "kiss" Adam and I like crazy. One time, however, she ran over and stood right on me! Look how happy she looks! It's like she sees nothing wrong with it! Like I was meant to be stood on! Hmph!