I combined pink and blue for this cake, since the mom-to-be is keeping the baby’s gender under wraps. The message on this cake says “Twinkle twinkle little star, soon we’ll find out who you are,” and the baby figurine, moon, stars, and ribbons are all fondant cutouts; the rest of the cake is iced in buttercream. I was really happy with the way it came out; it’s one that ended up looking almost exactly the way I envisioned it in my head!
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, especially if you’re here looking for photos of your cake from a recent party, but it looks like I’ve had a bit of a blip and lost most of the 2008 posts. Don’t worry - the photos are stored in multiple secret locations, so they’re not gone forever. I should be able to have things back up as soon as I track down the problem - and if I can’t get the old posts back, I’ll repost the photos. Stay tuned
I’ll admit it: most of the time, cupcake papers (or cupcake liners or baking cups or whatever you may call them) are more about saving cleanup time than anything else. But there are occasions that call for a little something special. That’s when you trot out the striped papers, the sports-themed liners, the pink and blue for baby shower cupcakes, or hearts for Valentine’s day, or sparkly foil liners for a little extra glitz. And thanks to a bevy of online shops, you can usually find what you need (although brown and black cupcake wrappers are notoriously difficult to find, simple polka dot designs are apparently non-existent, and I had a heck of a time finding pastel green liners recently - which you would think would be relatively easy, right? I mean, if pastel green isn’t one of Martha’s good things, I don’t know what is)
But what if you want to go even further? Check out these gorgeous cupcake wraps. They’re laser-cut from a heavy cardstock, and you simply wrap the papers around your cupcake, place tab A in slot B, and bingo! Ready for the spotlight.
Photo source: paperorchidstationery.com
(Note that these wraps are intended for use as an extra bonus decoration - you don’t bake the cupcakes inside them.)
I ordered some to play with, and they certainly are lovely all lined up on a cake plate or platter. It’s a fun way to dress up simply-frosted cupcakes. Chocolate cupcakes look especially good inside the ivy vine wrappers, since the dark cake contrasts with the light filigree paper. I want to try this out with small dishes of ice cream or fruit, too… maybe a meringue cup filled with berries? Be aware that the wrappers are sized for standard cupcakes, though - jumbos aren’t going to fit - and if your icing or cake extends too far, you may end up with goopy wrappers. I suppose you could re-use them if your guests are particularly dainty eaters… but I wouldn’t count on that. Especially if chocolate is involved.
This hatbox cake was made for a wedding shower; the claret red and silver were some of the wedding colors, and the bride’s initial is on top of the lid. Most of the detail work is done with fondant accents, the silver dots are dragees, and the roses and leaves are gumpaste and fondant. I dusted the roses with powdered color to give them some dimension and variety. The pearls are fondant and coated with luster dust to give them a nice pearly shimmer. They’re threaded together and secured with toothpicks under the lid.
The hatbox lid is a dummy styrofoam layer covered in fondant - I was afraid that real cake would be too slippery to make the drive to the party, but now that I’ve done this once, I think that real cake would hold up OK. That’s the best part about these kinds of designs; they’re a little more complex and there are lots of pieces to think about, but the experience you gain from doing the first one certainly helps refine the process the next time!
Monkey alert! This cake was a dummy cake (carved styrofoam) for the Birthday Cake contest at the San Mateo County Fair. The cakes are on display for the entire run of the Fair, so I try to use styrofoam as much as possible for fear of real cake settling or falling apart during the week of the Fair. Blech! Still, I make sure my designs are something I could do in real cake - that’s not a rule, but it just seems more in keeping with the spirit of the contest, somehow.
The cake was inspired by a few I’ve seen online, and I added the twist of the monkeys celebrating by dismantling the candles. The monkeys are made out of modelling chocolate, which is lovely stuff - if you’ve ever warmed up a Tootsie Roll and used it to make worms or faces before eating it, you’ve pretty much experienced what it’s like to work with modelling chocolate. It does get good and solid as it cools down, and in my experience you don’t get as much time to make adjustments as you do with fondant because it sets more quickly - which can be a good or bad thing, depending on what you’re trying to make.
The bananas are all hand-piped with yellow buttercream; once the buttercream had set a bit, I painted on the brown banana ends and lines with brown gel coloring. It did bleed a bit as the cakes sat on display, but the effect was still good. If I made this cake for a party, I might make all the bananas out of fondant instead. It would take a while, but it would give the cake great dimension.
This is a dummy (styrofoam!) fondant-covered wedding cake made for the San Mateo County Fair. It’s the first time I’ve made a wedding cake for the fair; usually I enter the birthday or holiday categories because they give me a chance to try out designs that are a little quirkier than usual. But now that I’ve taken a gumpaste flower class, I decided to refine the cake I made for class and turn it into a wedding cake. It went over well - good enough for a blue ribbon!
There’s a height limit in the fair rules that makes it hard to do a three-tier wedding cake, but maybe if I did a miniature cake it would fit the rules… hmm…. and I would still like to try a design that’s more in the Art Nouveau style… maybe next year…
This was a fun cake made for a little girl turning one - “something girly and princess-y” was the request. I let my inner princess loose and came up with a whole bunch of sketches, from Cinderella-style carriages to crowns on pillows to this design, with a bevy of bows, ribbons, and pearls. I had not made a loop bow in a long time, so it was time to get out the fondant and gumpaste and start looping those ribbons… if you don’t make them far enough in advance, the loops don’t have enough time to harden and you’ll end up with a very flat and sad-looking bow staring back at you in the wee hours of the morning and a brain running in circles trying to figure out if putting the loops in the oven will help them set or melt them completely…
The cake is iced in buttercream with fondant bows and a fondant name plaque. The diamond pattern is embossed into the buttercream with an edible pearl at each corner. The little cake is a “smash cake” for the birthday girl - with a little extra glitter on top.
What do you do when you have three family members graduating at the same time? Throw a triple graduation party, of course - with a cake that features each graduate’s school colors, hobbies, and the next school they will attend! I got the idea for this cake from a similar design in an old Wilton design book, but I made it out of one large sheet cake rather than three individual cakes - I thought it would look more like a real bank of lockers that way. The cake is iced in buttercream with sculpted fondant accents for the banners, stickers, and the lifeguard’s whistle. The little combination locks came out just right - they might be my favorite part of the cake!
This wedding cake has to be one of my favorites. I was thrilled with the way it came out! Three tiers iced in buttercream, with white fondant cutout flowers, piped swirls and dots, and a piped monogram. The border is also buttercream, and the flowers are real. I had a lot of fun arranging the orchids - I love the way that these single blooms have such bold presence on the tiers.
A few months ago, my brother-in-law and his fiancee asked if I could make a croquembouche for their end-of-December wedding. Yes, it was certainly out of my cake-and-buttercream wheelhouse, but this was a challenge I couldn’t resist - and it was something I could contribute to make the wedding extra-special.
Then I started to worry: how was I going to do this? I’m used to making and decorating cakes, not cream puff towers; I’ve never worked with caramelized sugar, I’ve only made a few cream puffs in my entire life, and I’ve either got to transport this thing 2 hours in the car or make it at the site (my husband’s grandmother’s house, luckily) the morning before the wedding.
I combed through my cookbook collection for cream puff recipes and croquembouche advice. I searched the web for photos and instructions. I read through every choux paste and croquembouche and caramelized sugar post on egullet.org - all the tips about how to assemble and how to be careful with the hot sugar and so on. And I made hundreds of practice cream puffs, burnt two batches of sugar (pee-yew!), and stacked a couple of small test croquembouches.
Slowly, I started to feel a lot more confident that I could do this - and not only that, but it would turn out pretty well. Nevertheless, my fingers and toes were crossed that it would not rain that day… not only because the wedding ceremony was outside, but because I didn’t want the cream puffs to come tumbling down in a pile of humidity-softened sugar, melting filling, and floppy pastry!
We headed up to the wedding site the day before to help get the place ready, so I carted half my kitchen along and made everything on-site. After several hours in the kitchen (and a last-minute run to the store for heavy cream, whoops), I had 200+ profiterole-sized puffs, a double batch of pastry cream and a triple batch of cheesecake mousse to fill them, and my caramelized sugar ready for assembly the next morning. (I caramelized the sugar and put it in a glass container to microwave later; I didn’t want a hot pot of sugar on the stove while people were running around doing wedding-y tasks.)
The next morning, bright and early, I started filling puffs. The wedding was at noon but family photos were at 10am, so I had about three hours to get the croquembouche ready — not to mention getting all pretty for the pictures. Puffs for the bottom half of the croquembouche got a filling of vanilla pastry cream; those on top half were full of cheesecake mousse.
When it came time for assembly, I relied on advice from an egullet.org member: build the croquembouche inside a cone form. I rolled a sheet of posterboard into a cone, lined it with Reynold’s Release foil (the kind that’s supposed to be non-stick - it lived up to its name, thank goodness), warmed up the sugar, and started dipping and sticking to form a hollow tower of cream puffs. I dipped only the sides to stick the puffs together; too much caramelized sugar per puff, and eating one nearly pulled your teeth out.
Despite having to re-warm the sugar a couple of times, the construction went well and faster than expected. Since I hadn’t made a test version this large, I was surprised at how heavy the cone got as it filled up… and that made me worry. Would it support its own weight?
The croquembouche sat point-down in its dunce-cap cone until about 11:30am, when I set it on its stand, removed the paper cone… it was still standing! Next, however, I had to remove the foil. Slowly, I pulled… a little further… a little more… and it was done. The croquembouce was standing on its own - and quite solidly, I must say. I slipped a few more cream puffs into gaps around the bottom to even out the base, and that was ready for showtime. Huge sigh of relief.
After the ceremony, I popped into the kitchen, heated up my sugar again, and made some spun-sugar strands to wrap around the croquembouche. I didn’t make these earlier in the day because I knew they would be the first to soften and potentially melt in a warm house full of people. I made three sets to wrap around the cone. And then… finished!
Here’s how it came out:
I’d say the final height was about 1.5 to 2 feet, involving somewhere between 160-180 puffs. By the time they served it, the sugar was just a little soft, enough so that we could break off chunks of puffs without smushing them or sending sugar shards all over the carpet.
We served them with raspberry puree and dark chocolate sauce. It was a hit, the bride and groom were happy, no one lost a filling while eating the caramel, and I was thrilled. Now I can’t wait for an excuse to make another one… I’d love to try a chocolate one…or, if I made a savory croquembouche, what to stick it together with?… hmmm… this could require some more experimentation…