Saturday, 6 November 2010

Cute and Cuddly Christening Cupcakes

Christening cakes seems to be one cake area where tradition stays well and truly firmly fixed when it comes to christening cake decorations.

These christening cupcakes were made for a lovely little boy named Charlie and the brief was very specific, a blue and white baby theme.

The sugarpaste teddy bears are a particular favourite of mine and are always a great hit when used. The dummies and booties are perennial favourites and very easy to make  - just follow the link for instructions on how to make those particular christening cake decorations.

The other decoration on the cupcakes are boxes of present made using a patchwork cutter.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Chocolate Roses and Other Chocolate Cake Decorations

I tried to temper chocolate once - it did not go well.

But I still liked the idea of working with chocolate so was delighted to come across modelling chocolate, (also known as chocolate clay, chocolate plastic and chocolate platique) which is sort of like chocolate play dough. It's made from a mix of chocolate and syrup and can be used on its own or mixed with sugar paste to create chocolate icing.

Being chocolate it can be hard to handle as it starts melting the minute you start handling it ~ though this is helped if you can work on a marble or granite worktop as they tend to stay cool in all conditions.

So far I've managed to master chocolate frogs and chocolate teddy bears so today thought I'd be brave and have a go at roses. The method is the same as for sugar paste roses but the chocolate roses are a little trickier as the petals start to melt and get sticky, but the results so far have been quite encouraging ~ at encouraging enough for me to continue.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Notes on a Cupcake

As a cake designer I love knowing that the cake, or cupcake, I'm creating will have special meaning to the recipient, so it's lovely when someone comes to me with a very definite theme in mind. In this case it was cupcakes for the 21st birthday of a chocoholic, musical, piano player.

Starting with the cupcakes it was easy to decide that the flavour would have to be chocolate ~ and a deep rich chocolate at that, which is achieved by adding melted chocolate to the cake mix and not just relying on cocoa powder.

For the topping I used a white chocolate sugar paste icing which I made by adding some of my handmade modelling chocolate to ordinary fondant icing. This gave the cupcakes a lovely ivory finish.

The decorations were a mixture of handmade mini piano keys and music themed note and treble cleft cutters with a few '21's and a 'Happy Birthday' thrown in for good measure.

The result was a really personal set of cupcakes and a delighted customer.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Radio Daze

It's been a very exciting week here at Fantasy Icing Towers. Not only because I managed to take a couple of days off and have my sister and sometimes adorable niece and nephew to stay but also because I had the priviledge to be a guest on BBC 3 Counties new food and drink show '3 Counties Kitchen' ~ and it was fabulous.

The show, which is hosted by the wonderful Nick Coffer aka @mydaddycook (in twitter-word) is a magazine type programme designed to showcase the best in food and drink in the Beds, Bucks and Herts area. It airs every Sunday night at 7pm and is well worth a listen to.

My part in the production was to bake a cake for the occasion that could be easily re-created at home ~ so I opted to do something that involved one of my favourite things (cheesecake) and one of my least favourite things (lemon curd). As an aside that's not as mad as it sounds, I like to take things I'm not so keen on and find a way to present them in a way I am keen on ~ the theory is it gives me a much better repertoire of recipes. In this case it culminated in a Lemon Curd Sponge with Lemon Cheesecake topping, which, if the speed it was eaten at is anything to go by, was rather good ~ I certainly didn't get to take any of it home with me. If you fancy a go at baking it yourself you can find the recipe here.

In fact the show was a bit of a star studded affair as it also featured Dhruv Baker, Masterchef Champion 2010, plus the wonderful Vickie Humber of Humbers Homemade who makes the most fabulous jams and chutneys ~ and brought a rather oversized marrow with her ~ as you do. There was also a cook off between 2 local chefs based on ingredients choosen by the listeners. Okay hands up, I don't know what they cooked as I was in the pub by then ~ but I bet it was great.

It is a now a slightly damp, grey and overcast British Summer afternoon, the washing machine is wizzing in the background, there is tidying up to be done, and dinner to think about ~ in other words real life needs to be dealt with.

However things are not quite the same -  I've done something new - something I never thought I'd do, and I loved it. So from now on, whenever life begins to feel a bit like a rainy afternoon, I'm going to stop and remind myself of my moment in the sun ~ when I was on the radio.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Dressed To Impress ~ Cupcake Wrappers

Putting your cupcakes in cupcake wrappers is a bit like putting your glad rags on to go out. It's not something you do everyday but on those rare occasions, (rare for me anyway ~ but then my idea of getting ready for a night out is not having food colouring under my nails) it can take you to another level.

The range of wrappers on the market these days is astounding. There are brightly coloured cup cake wrappers for kids parties through to intricate laser cut designs which can add a perfect finishing touch to wedding cupcakes by matching the design of the cupcakes to the cupcake wrapper.

So the next time you have a special occasion to celebrate, make sure your cupcakes are dressed to impress with the perfect cupcake wrapper.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

It'll all end in Tiers ~ In This Case A Two Tiered 25th Wedding Anniverary Cake

25 years marriage is certainly worth celebrating, and Edward and Noreen wanted a cake befitting the occasion for the party. Noreen knew she wanted a 2 tier sponge cake incorporating the theme of the party ~ silver hearts ~ so it was up to me to come up with a few cake designs. We looked at various options and eventually settled on a 12" base cake for the first tier and a an 8" heart shaped cake for the second tier, cut so it sloped down at an angle towards the base cake. The face of the heart cake then provided the perfect frame for the inscription.

The cake is decorated with silver sugar paste hearts, but as sugar paste doesn't come in silver I had to colour some sugar paste light grey, then spray it with PME Pearl Edible Lustre Spray. This added enough sparkle to make the end result look silver. Silver ribbon was put around the base of the cake, and overlaid with piped white royal icing before being studded with silver balls. The final piece of decoration is a spray of silver sugar paste hearts jutting over the top of the heart cake. I'm pleased to say they loved it.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Cupcake Decorating Parties ~ For Kids of All Ages

If you want to have fun, learn something new, and get something great to eat at the end of it, then a Cupcake Decorating Party could be just the thing.

Ideal for anything from kids birthday parties, to wedding entertainment, a girls night in or a hen weekend activity, decorating cupcakes brings out everyones inner artist and  / or inner child.

Kids from around 4 upwards can quickly learn simple skills such as making Frog Faced Cupcakes, then let their imaginations run wild in a haze of buttercream, icing and sweets whilst making colourful creations on their cupcakes.

For adults it's about having fun, laughing with friends and learning a new skill ~ such as how to pipe buttercream into elegant swirls, or how to make simple sugar flowers that will turn any cupcake into a sophisticated tea time treat.

Why not use cup cake decorating next time you need a childrens entertainer i.e. during wedding photos or speeches ~ not only will the kids be entertained they'll also be proud as punch of the cakes they've created.

So next time you're looking for party ideas, and find you've exhausted all the usual ones, think about how much fun it would be to create an edible work of art.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Say It With Cupcakes

What present do you get  for the person who has everything, or the person you need to give something to but don't really know well enough to chose? If what you want is something personal, thoughtful and made specially with them in mind, then  it's time to think cupcakes.

Right now it's 'end of term' and several teachers in the past week have recieved a gift box of cupcakes all tied with ribbon and personalised for them ~ and it's a pretty safe bet that's a gift they'll always remember. 

And talking of gifts .... cupcakes can be themed for any occasion. If you think of each cupcake as an individual canvas, just waiting to decorated, the the possibilities are endless. Of course you can also add names, messages, models or photos to your cakes, the list of potential cupcake toppers is really only limited by your imagination.

Just take a look at the french themed cupcakes to the left. They were made as a bit of a joke present for a 40th birthday boy who lived in France. Each one is different, from cheese to wine to frogs to snails - and he loved them (as did all his friends and family who apparently scoffed the lot before you could say Oh, la la).

So the next time you have something special to say, or someone special to say it to why not be a little different and say it with cupcakes.

Monday, 19 July 2010

If the Shoe Fits ....

Shoes ... for many girls shoes are the ultimate fashion statement. 

Mark Twain said 'Clothes maketh the man' but when it comes to the fairer sex I reckon it's the shoes that maketh the girl ~ or rather the perfect cake topper for a girls cake.

Flat, heeled, strappy, peep-toed ~ the combinations are endless ~ then there's the option of having your cake topper personalised by adding a name and age to the shoe cake toppers, great for birthdays ~ and of course it doesn't have to be your real age ~ if you want to be 21 for the 10th year running that's entirely up to you.

Then again why stop at shoes when you can accessorise with handbags ~ matching sets if you like.

And if you're looking for something smaller in the shoe line, a shoe cupcake topper for instance then we've got that covered too with the cute little 2" pairs of shoes we've used on these cupcakes ~ and when you're dealing with shoes that size you really can have as many pairs as you want.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Bling up your Cupcakes

It used to be that the only decoration found on a cupcake was a sugar flower or a smartie ~ oh how times have changed.  Nowadays cupcakes, like their big brothers the full sized cake, are canvasses for artistic outlet.

As a term, 'Cake Jewellery' is still fairly new but its popularity is growing. The addition of wired and beaded cake toppers to birthday and wedding cakes has become pretty common in the last few years, and with most cake jewellery being bespoke it's a sure fire way of making sure your cakes and cupcakes are totally unique.

Designs range from using a few clustered beads to form a pretty centrepiece to a cupcake, to a fountain of shimmering beads to create a real 'wow' factor. The beauty with cake jewellery is that you're not constrained by cutters or shapers, your only limit is your imagination and the beads and wire you can lay your hands on. 0.2mm wire is best for multi-beaded cupcake creations like the one above as it's very flexible and can be easily moulded into shape. For creations using heavier beads Hamilworth Paper Covered Wire is great, it's sold in most cake decorating shops and comes in a variety of thicknesses.

But what about the Hygiene / Health and Safety aspect of wires and beads in food I hear you ask. Not a problem, the birth of the mini cake pick means you can insert wires to your hearts content, though removing them before eating the cake is (hopefully) an obvious given.

Thanks for reading, and if this has whetted your appetite in any way and you fancy having a go yourself why not attend one of our classes, held frequently in the Beds, Bucks and Herts regions.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

X Marks the Spot

Thank God for the internet. It means that when I get a request for an unfamilar cake subject I can look it up ~ which saves the whole looking blank and playing 20 questions thing.

So when an email request for a birthday cake in the style of the X-Box logo came through a few days ago that's exactly what I did, and 5 mins of googling later not only was I familiar with the X Box logo I was able to say 'no problem', one shiny silver and green domed cake coming right up.

It has to be said that sponge cake isn't the most forgiving material to sculpt, it's soft, springy and full of air - which makes it great to eat but not so easy to carve a smooth curve on - and the more you try the more cake you carve - which makes it perfectly possibly to lop off most of your cake in the search for perfection. The trick is to recognise this and use the other tools at your disposal to fill in the imperfections, namely buttericing and sugarpaste.

Think of buttericing as plaster and sugarpaste as wallpaper - the buttericing smooths out any lumps and bumps and the sugarpaste gives a uniform finish. For this cake I used a white sugarpaste and coloured in myself using a touch of black food colouring. As a tip it's easy to colour your own pastel colours in icing but for strong colours i.e black, deep blues, greens, reds etc it's worth buying the pre-coloured sugarpaste as otherwise, whilst you may end up with perfectly sculpted upper arms due to all the kneading you're unlikely to get an even colour in your icing.

The shiny silver finish to this cake was achieved by using a pearlised spray ~ they're available in most good cake decorating shops now and the ones I use are the PME Edible Lustre Sprays, they come in a whole range of colours and are great if you need to give anything a silver or gold finish.

For me, the best bit with any cake is seeing the recipients face when they see it for the first time, and it's especially great when they takes the time afterwards to say how much they enjoyed it, which is exactly what happened with this cake ~ only this being the 21st Century and social media being king the compliment didn't come by post but by twitter.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Flat as a Cupcake

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is how to get cupcakes to come out of the oven with a flat top, rather than something that resembles a miniature volcano. Without fail, the answer to this connundrum lies in building a good relationship with your oven ...

Oven temperatures are not an exact science, in fact rarely does the temperature on the dial match the temperature in the oven ~ and the differences can be extreme. My current oven cooks around 10C above the stated temperature, my Mum's is at least 20C above. The upshot of this is that while a recipe calls for a temperature calls for 180C cooking temperature the actual temperature your oven is cooking at may bear no relation.

This gives rise to a challange, but one that is simple to resolve using either of the following methods:

1. Invest in  / or borrow an oven thermometer and measure the temperature in your oven.

2. Trial and error, if your cakes are getting burnt or rising more than you'd like, or if they're not cooking in the stated time turn the temperature of your oven up or down 10C and see what result you get, then keep experimenting until you get the result you want.

Of course just because you have discovered the optimum temperature for flat topped cupcakes doesn't mean you shouldn't turn the heat up occasionally. After all there aren't many things that beat the crispy crunch of those volcano like cupcake tops, still warm from the oven.