Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy 2013! ...Will the Stars be Right?

(And also to you, who just happened to stumble in here while googling for cute pig pictures or a Japan/Okinawa map. I know you're out there... You know who you are!)

I am right now slightly overwhelmed with preparations for tonight's party - if you are a girl you'll know what I mean; if you're a guy, you most definitely don't need to. 'Nuff said. 

I am relieved to say that the cake was successfully baked yesterday; I swiped The Pioneer Woman's recipe for a Literal Coffee Cake (or, as I like to call it, a Knurdcake).
I had already experimented with a (slightly tweaked) version of it for my Hobbit door cupcakes, so I knew this recipe gives a cake that won't rise too much and will be dense, sturdy and, well, cake-y (in the best possible way).

(I have no idea why I got such a nasty pitted surface. Thankfully it's going to be covered  later!)

I also knew it would be rich, moist, and packed with unbelievable coffee flavour - OMG heaven! 
I filled it with a storebought spread (think Nutella, but with coffee). There's still a buttercream crumbcoat going on, but I didn't want to use it as filling as well. I think this combo will work perfectly with the cake!

And, here's a quick preview of the finished thingie... 

(I will hopefully have more pics in a couple days or so, once the party's over and the hangover's gone. Stay tuned!)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Unspeakable WIP... of DOOM!

Hi, peeps!

Wanna take a peek at what I'm planning for a very nerdy New Year's Eve party?

It must be the most blasphemous cake design EVER, but I'm having loads of fun with it!

Except for the fact that, uhm, I hate modelling plastic chocolate. Still I go out of my way to use it whenever possible, because I'm told people like the taste better than sugarpaste. Meh. That may be true, but until the day I see someone actually trying to eat the topper whole, I'll stick to my opinion that the improvement in flavour is not worth having to deal with the nasty, gooey stuff.
...GAAAAAAAH! So frustrating!

Stay tuned because this sweet Nativity scene's still missing the real stars - St. Joseph, the Virgin, and baby Jesus...
(Oh, and of course, the actuall CAKE is still missing, too. Don't bother me with such trifles! I'll bake it tomorrow. Or, so I hope...)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

There & Back Again, or The Hobbit (cupcakes)...

Lordy Lordy Lordy, nearly two months without posting! Worse - nearly two months without baking at all, except for a quick chestnut cake that I whipped up in a hurry, and didn't take a pic of (but, fear not! Once I am done tweaking the recipe to my heart's content, I will present you with the recipe in a handy cupcake version!)
All I can say is, it has been a taxing time, what with my two main jobs and assorted RL concerns demanding my full attention.

It took no less than a new Peter Jackson trilogy to force me into breaking my silence. So, as a way to avoid checking out those pesky online spoilers before I go and watch The Hobbit with my friends in the afternoon, I assembled some quick and easy cupcakes to share with them after the movie.

And, I'm going to show you how to make your own!

First of all, you'll need cupcakes. Mine were coffee-flavoured but of course you can use any kind, as long as they're all frosted and ready to go!

Roll some green fondant (or green-tinted plastic chocolate) thinly. If you own a textured mat, all you need to do is place it on top, press it down into the sugarpaste/chocolate mass with your rolling pin, carefully detach the mat, and cut circles no bigger than the bottom of your cupcake case; slightly smaller would be perfect.
(I didn't have a cookie cutter of the right size, so I used a plastic thingie instead - I don't even know what it was supposed to be for originally. The plastic was a bit soft unfortunately, so I ended up with slightly oval shapes. Ooops!)

Trace your cutter's circumference on a scrap of baking paper, fold it twice to find the exact center, and mark the middle of every door shape with a pinprick.
Press a golden or (in my case) silver dragee in the middle of the door. Since it's so small and lightweight, a tiny drop of honey or corn syrup will do to hold it into place.

If you have no fancy-schmancy equipment, just carve a woodgrain pattern with a toothpick into the pre-cut circles (it's easier that way). Resist the temptation to make it too regular; putting in a few roundish knots will make it look so much more realistic.

Now you need bricks, and again a textured mat or rolling-pin can be a lifesaver. I used coffe-flavoured fondant, since it went well with my cupcakes, but plain old fondant or white plastic chocolate would work just as fine. Be sure to roll your mass slightly thicker than you did the green one!

Since my mat has overlapping rows of bricks, I cut the impressed fondant in such a way as to have one full vertical brick, then half one next, and so on (it's boring work, but it pays off in the end!)
Wrap your strip o' bricks around the cutter you used for the doors, cut it the right size and pinch the two ends together. At this stage you can do some cleaning up of the sharp edges etc, but you don't need to be extra neat if you don't want to - remember, this is supposed to be a quick and easy design!

You could certainly carve a brick pattern with a toothpick too, but the simplest way out is to simply cut out small rectangular shapes and arrange them around the round cutter. 
It will look slighly less interesting maybe, but actually closer to the door in the movie... 

Place the doors inside the brick circles, and you're done!
All that's left to do is to paint the bricks orange (I was out of food colour, so I used some cocoa powder dissolved into a bit of whiskey - yum! My bricks are more on the brown side this way, but they're still fine in my opinion...)

My hobbit doors looked perfectly respectable already but, as you can see, I ended up adding hinges to them, even if the one in the movie has none. 
I simply hand-cut a few arrow shapes into very thin plastic chocolate, pressed my smallest icing tip into each of them to impress the "nail", and painted them silver. 

Now if you're going to put the toppers on your cupcakes right before serving them, you can call it a day at this point. I, on the other hand, had to assemble them sever hours beforehand, since each cupcake needed to be individually packaged and given away to someone who'd maybe want to eat it the following day. Le gasp! 
I knew I couldn't just plop the toppers on top of the buttercream, because they'd go all sticky  and smudgy and deformed. So I mixed some icing sugar into my plastic chocolate to make it real hard, rolled it thickly, cut circles into it (slightly bigger than the doors), and glued my assembled toppers on them with a dab of corn syrup. This way if something has to soften for sitting atop a glob of icing, it will be the underlying discs instead of my cute little doors!

Here they are inside their individual pods, all ready for adventure!

I must say, clamshell pods are the best when it comes to handling cupcakes and carrying them around. They are not cheap, and you may be forced to buy them online, but if you're going to give away cupcakes for people to bring home (as opposed to, you know, serving the whole bunch on a tray for immediate consumption), this is the only way to go. 

Here's an adorable gift-packaged cupcake... 

...and here's a sturdy cardboard box, to rule them all fit them all snugly inside!

I am happy to say my cupcakes were safely ferried to the cinema, by underground and bus, and still looked their best when I distributed them around at the end of the movie. 

These toppers are sure to impress, and they're so easy that I am secretly regarding them as a cheat design - seriously, it took me longer to wrap the finished cupcakes up than to make the doors from scratch!
So, if you made hobbit door cupcakes of your own following this tutorial, please share - I'd love to see them! (Well, for that matter I'd love to see any cupcakes inspired by The Hobbit, because the movie was real fun!)