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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My Cupcake Experience...


Whew...what a DAY!  I started with the simple idea that I would use the box of French Vanilla cake mix I've had sitting out on my counter for a couple of weeks...originally to bake Valentine's Day cupcakes...and then to make "something"... I don't know.  I just left the box sitting out for over two weeks and it was time to put it away or use it ... long past time actually :-) 

I thought, since today was TAKS testing (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) for the teen, in his most difficult subject, it would be a nice motherly thing to do to have cupcakes waiting for him after school. 

He likes chocolate frosting, knew I could whip that up easily enough.  Soooo, I baked two dozen cupcakes.  I ate two unfrosted ones for my lunch.  Hmmm, no wonder I now have a headache!  It's 4:30 in the afternoon as I'm typing this, and I haven't had anything today besides 3 cups of coffee, a banana, a Diet Coke, and two unfrosted cupcakes.  Sheesh...I need a handful of nuts or something or I'm going to crash and burn! <you won't have noticed the pause, but I have now gotten a ramekin of roasted soy nuts to munch on while I type>

I was looking at Facebook earlier and saw JoyofBaking.com had posted a video for the Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Fudge Frosting...I thought I'd use that recipe for the cupcake frosting.  THEN, my brain wandered (as it is prone to do) down the path of "hmmm, I'd like to be able to make a buttercream rose...wonder if there are any instructions on youtube?" 

So, I moseyed over to youtube and found a ton of tutorials!  I used to play around with a Wilton's cake decorating book in the 80's....but didn't get much further than decorating with a star tip...I've never been great with piping on cakes...but do okay on cookies.  Something about being able to hold it and have a small space to work on.  The point being, I've made plenty of buttercream frosting before.  One of the instructional sites I googled gave a recipe for a "decorating frosting" to make roses and other flowers with, using straight shortening instead of adding butter...they said it was the best thing to use to "learn" with.  So.... I thought....what if I made some of this and took out some to work with for learning to make flowers...and then I could add some melted chocolate to the remains and top the cupcakes with a chocolate buttercream.  The chocolate would improve the straight shortening flavor.  Hmmm, it was a plan!

Another of the websites I found was a tutorial which used a Wilton buttercream frosting recipe at three different consistencies...firm for flowers, medium for leaves, and soft for icing the cake.  I decided to take a cup of the firm and color it yellow in hopes of making some acceptable yellow roses...I am from Texas after all! I'd color some of the "medium consistency" green for leaves (maybe just 1/2 cup) and then the rest would get the chocolate.  I had about 5-6 ounces of milk chocolate chips...so I used them to turn the vanilla buttercream to chocolate frosting...and decided I'd pipe it onto the cupcakes.  My little exercise in meandering towards creativity was getting bigger by the minute.

All said and done...I got the frostings made, separated, colored, chocolated, and got the cupcakes frosted.  Then I grabbed some different sizes of tips - I wanted to try my hand at a rose or two and I wanted to make some little flowers with a tip I'd bought years ago and never used.  So...long story short, the firm frosting supposedly good for learning to make roses was so firm my hands were shaking when I squeezed hard enough to get it out of a #104 tip.  The edges were raggedy and after trying and discarding 4 roses, I gave up and changed out the tip to #226 which has kind of a cross-hatched end.  I gathered that you would squeeze and a small flower would appear.  I was practicing on a silicone baking sheet and that frosting was just too hard.  I finally had luck with tip #106 which was a swirly tip and after trying it a few times I thought that would be great for little flowers on top of the cupcakes.  I did a few then got out my tweezers and some green sugar pearls and dropped one (or more) into the center of the flower.  It was cute for a first attempt.


Next I put a #103 tip on the green frosting bag... there wasn't a lot of it... and piped a few leaves on, or near, the yellow flowers.  Then...I decided to try to use the flower nail again with this frosting and wow, it was so much easier.  By then, however, I had cramping hands from squeezing so hard on the yellow stuff...and my hands were shaking - literally.  I discarded the first 3...actually added them back to the piping bag and tried a couple more.  Maybe I'm not cut out to be a decorator, because my roses suck...but, still, it was my first time.  I ended up with green roses...oh well.  At the end of the day, I had an okay tray of decorated cupcakes...leaving a couple undecorated for the teen in case he turns his nose up at my flowery efforts...and I had a few molded chocolate flip flops so I stuck them on a cupcake too.


The poor green roses look even worse in photo than in real life...yikes!
Oh well - you get to see the good the bad and the ugly here on MY blog

My kitchen looked like something had exploded in it...I usually try to clean up as I go...not so this time...I had a little Attention Deficit going on today and buzzed from one activity to the other without cleaning in between.  Oh, yeah, I also made a batch of sugar cookie dough while the cupcakes were cooling so I can bake with my new cookie cutters tomorrow...or maybe the next day if my hands haven't recovered from squeezing that damn frosting!  Think that much caffeine and lack of protein might have been the ADD culprit.  I'm rarely such a messy baker...I should have taken a photo, but it was too embarrassing.  Cleaning all of those little tips and collars and 3 different batches of stuff in the mixer bowl, and bowls for color mixing and bowls for melting and ....oh my... it was just overwhelming!

It's peaceful now...the dishwasher is quietly doing its thing, the teen is home from school and resting his brain after the TAKS test....and I'm in my favorite spot blogging.  Guess what...when I offered him a cupcake...I got a "no thanks, not hungry".  Well crap.



So, that's my cupcake experience.  If you want to see the video I used to try to learn, go to youtube for the video and note I only watched the first two minutes ... I must say her frosting is MUCH better than mine.  I WILL try this again...especially now that I know what I'm looking for in texture and consistency.  Well, phooey, the frosting recipe was found on a website that I can't find now...it was pretty much (she said) a Wilton recipe...which may be found on a dozen different sites - just Google! 

Well, I'm tired...while I typed, the teen wandered in and grabbed a cupcake (an undecorated chocolate frosted cupcake...do I know my kid or what?)...and is starting to ask about dinner...guess I better step away from the computer.  Quiet time is over!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!

UPDATE 3/2/11 AFTER POSTING:

I did some research and realized that I had likely used an older recipe for the buttercream.  The most up-to-date recipe is slightly different than the originals because of the removal of trans fats from most vegetable shortening.  I double checked my shortening; Crisco is all I've ever used.  Sure enough - right on the front "no trans fats".  Well, I guess I feel better now.  Here's a link to the Wilton web site updated buttercream frosting recipe.  I remember, in my younger years, being shocked that shortening was in my frosting...until I talked to a baker friend who said "oh yeah, all the bakeries use shortening".... so I followed along and did the same.  I have not used it in many years (except to fry chicken - cause, it just makes the best fried chicken).  The last package of Crisco sticks I had - I had to throw them away because they expired.  I think that's about the time all the trans fat press was going around.  Anyway, I wanted to post that I found out what was wrong with my frosting and why it was overly stiff (which is an understatement).  Interesting that the addition of melted chocolate smoothed everything out and THAT tasted delicious!  Just proves - chocolate makes everything taste better :-)StumbleUpon

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