Category: icing flowers

You’re a mother lover. I’m a mother lover.

We all (or at least most of us) love our moms, and want them to be happy. Because when mom is happy, the whole world is happy, right?

This year for Mother’s Day, my mom requested Boston Creme cupcakes, which I obliged. But I also surprised her with a totally different “surprise” cupcake that she wasn’t expecting at all- rose water cupcakes! So in this post, I’ll go into the how-to’s of both; just in case your mom is traditional… and just in case she’s open to cupcakes that might taste “like grandma’s powder room” (as I’ve heard/read rose water described as). Anyway, I surprised her with them on Wednesday night & she was so excited. She was only expecting the Boston Creme… muahahaha.

I’ve made Boston Cream cupcakes before, but the shortcut kind using vanilla pudding. These are far better, trust me. Although the shortcut ones are perfectly good, and they are great in a pinch. However, you gotta admit nothing beats from-scratch, 100% real pastry cream. I used a combination of whole milk and 2% milk in it and it worked out just fine. I also didn’t use vanilla bean, just a ½ teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.

BOSTON CREME CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

Cupcakes:
  • 1 ½ sticks of unsalted butter
  • 1 ¾ cups of sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 2 ½ teaspoons of baking powder
  • 2 ½ cups of flour
  • 1 ¼ cups of milk
Pastry Cream Filling:
  • 2 cups whole, 2% fat, or 1% fat milk
  • ½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Ganache:
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate*
  • 1 cup heavy cream, boiling

Directions:

  1. Cupcakes: Beat butter and sugar well, then add the rest of the ingredients. Fill cups, and bake at 375° degrees for 18-20 minutes. Allow to cool before filling.
  2. Pastry cream: In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and vanilla bean to a boil over medium heat. Immediately turn off the heat and set aside to infuse for 10 to 15 minutes. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cornstarch and whisk vigorously until no lumps remain. Whisk in ¼ cup of the hot milk mixture until incorporated. Whisk in the remaining hot milk mixture, reserving the empty saucepan.
  3. Pour the mixture through a strainer back into the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and slowly boiling. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Let cool slightly. Cover with plastic wrap, lightly pressing the plastic against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill at least 2 hours or until ready to serve. (The custard can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Refrigerate until 1 hour before using.)
  4. Ganache: In a medium bowl, pour the boiling cream over the chopped chocolate and stir until melted.
  5. To assemble, inject the cream filling into the cupcakes by either using a filled pastry bag fitted with a round tip or by coring out the centers using a round tip and filling the holes with cream using a teaspoon. Once done, dip the tops of each cupcake into the chocolate ganache, or as I did, drizzle it on the top using a spoon.

*I used 4 ounces milk chocolate and 4 ounces semi-sweet.

Brown cupcake liners from Cupcake Social

You will end up with more pastry cream and more ganache than you need, most likely. That said,  store them in the fridge and a few days later you can make more cupcakes, or you can make eclairs. Or, just double this cupcake recipe above if you want more than 2 dozen. Anyway, it takes a while to make ‘em, and there are a lot of steps, but they’re worth it! Sorry you can’t see the pastry cream filling very well there, when you cut ‘em the chocolate just gets all over. Which ain’t really a bad thing…

So yeah, those look great, and taste great. But they didn’t have any visual pizzazz; they just didn’t really look like Mother’s Day cakes to me (like these). I had some other ideas in mind… so far as they go, they’re rose water cupcakes, and they’re really easy. All I did was take a vanilla cupcake recipe, and add rose water instead of vanilla extract. Actually to be more specific, I replaced ¾ of the vanilla extract in the recipe with rose water, and left only the ¼ of vanilla. Ta-da! The frosting is a basic confectioner’s sugar buttercream that was also made with rose water (no vanilla). Of course, the icing color I used was Wilton icing colors in “rose pink.” The liners are little striped ones with teapots and cupcakes, so I thought “Tea Rose” cupcakes was an appropriate name. Especially what with my mother’s pink rose teapot in the background!

I use Nielsen-Massey pure rose water that Lyns from Sweet Cuppin’ Cakes Bakery & Cupcakery Supplies sent me a while back. I made the rose toppers from just Googling some Victorian rose clip-art. It’s amazing, isn’t it, that Google? The liners are from Michael’s. Ironically, my mother saw them & bought them for me.

So Hap-hap-happy Mother’s Day to all you beautiful mamas out there. We appreciate & love you!

Christmas time is here, happiness & cheer.

It’s that time, ladies & gents. That time of year when parents try to kill themselves in toy stores to get the “IT” toy of the year and kids are running around overloaded on sugar from Christmas parties, and there’s piles of snow on the ground and your back aches from shoveling it all. Ahh, Christmas.

That being said, I really do enjoy this time of year. Specifically the delicious food and baked goods, the gifts , the pretty decorations and the shopping. Me not being a religious person, that’s how I roll. See? When you aren’t religious, you can be all about the gifts and no one says you’re going to hell or “missed the meaning of Christmas.” Oh no, wait. People tell me I’m going to hell anyway. Shit.

 

But I do love me a good tree. Anyway…  pretty much everyone knows the Christian version of Christmas, but not a lot of people realize that it pre-dates Christianity, and that Christianity actually stole most of the elements of Christmas from pagan celebrations of the Winter Solstice, and it has been said that it was also inspired by the Roman holiday of Saturnalia. In reality, according to actual time-lines, Jesus was probably born closer to March which was tax time in Israel, which is why Mary & Joseph were traveling during his birth. So if you believe in that sort of thing, Jesus’ birthday isn’t even in December, let alone on the 25th- it’s probably in March. Although there’s another theory that it was September, due to the shepherd’s tending the flocks. Christians stole the pagan timeline (and most of the traditions) so that they could celebrate without being persecuted, which means that there really isn’t any “Christ in Christmas” as it is celebrated now, in December. And if you want to be super technical? You can get into how the concept of a virgin birth happening on December 25th is ripped off from Mithra, and the birth being on the 25th of December itself is extremely common with a number of “gods”: Attis of Greece- c1200 BC, Krishna of India- c900 BC, Dionysus of Greece- c500 BC, Mithra of Persia- c1200 BC, Horus of Egypt- c3000 BC… and Jesus of Nazareth- 1 AD.

The Christmas tree is often explained as a Christianisation of pagan tradition and ritual surrounding the Winter Solstice, which included the use of evergreen boughs, and an adaptation of pagan tree worship.[32] The English language phrase “Christmas tree” is first recorded in 1835[33] and represents an importation from the German language. The modern Christmas tree tradition is believed to have begun in Germany in the 18th century[32] though many argue that Martin Luther began the tradition in the 16th century.[34][35] From Germany the custom was introduced to Britain, first via Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, and then more successfully by Prince Albert during the reign of Queen Victoria. By 1841 the Christmas tree had become even more widespread throughout Britain.[36] By the 1870s, people in the United States had adopted the custom of putting up a Christmas tree.[37] Christmas trees may be decorated with lights and ornaments.

Since the 19th century, the poinsettia, a native plant from Mexico, has been associated with Christmas. Other popular holiday plants include holly, mistletoe, red amaryllis, and Christmas cactus. Along with a Christmas tree, the interior of a home may be decorated with these plants, along with garlands and evergreen foliage.

Anyway I’ll stop there to avoid getting bombarded with hate mail. I just wanted to clear that up, since I’ve been asked a lot “If you aren’t religious, why do you celebrate  Christmas?” And contrary to popular belief, I am not a Grinch. I love Christmas. I love Christmas music. I love decorating. I love the lights. I love the baking and cooking. I love Starbucks peppermint hot cocoa in the red cups. I love the shopping. I don’t even mind the crowds, really. I love everything about it. Except the snow. I extremely dislike snow… sucks to be me, I guess, seeing as how I live in New York. But I’d rather live in NY and have snow on Christmas then go swimming in a bikini & sunscreen on Christmas, so I’ll deal with it. Speaking of snow, did you notice it’s snowing on the blog? And there’s a new seasonal header, too. Spiffy.

I did one of these posts for Halloween and another for Thanksgiving, so I figured hey, why not do it for Christmas!? So here we are: my top 5 Favorite Christmas Cupcakes. Of course, these are ones I made, not my top 5 favorite all over the web. I did a post like that a few years back for Cupcakes Take The Cake, if you’re interested you can still see it here. So grab some hot cocoa, hot mulled cider or some Old Fezziwig’s Ale and let’s get crackin’!

Nigella, oh Nigella. I made these cupcakes spur of the moment, mainly because I liked how Nigella called the pan a “bun muffin pan” in the recipe… and I decided to do little poinsettias on them at the last second, and they turned out so amazing. Beautiful, really. Everyone loved these, and the flowers aren’t that hard to make. Find the recipe & more here: Poinsettia (& Nigella) cupcakes.

These are so adorable. I just love the way they look, and the little snowman toppers with matching liners. These are just plain vanilla with vanilla buttercream, but the decorating makes them really special. A perfect example of the fact that a cupcake doesn’t have to be fancy flavored to make an impact. The great thing about these is they’re not just for Christmas, but the entire winter season. The candy coated sunflower seeds were a gift from Lyns, and you can find them here in blue, but they also have pink and yellow. The recipe can be found by clicking this link: Jack Frost cupcakes.

These babies are some of my favorites not only because they look gorgeous, but because they tasted fantastic as well. A wonderful chocolatey cake with a rich chocolate buttercream, and a light, peppermint-y meringue “ornament” (or cookie) on top all combined to make an awesome Christmas cupcake. You can get all the info and recipes here: Even cupcakes deserve ornaments at Christmas.

Another recipe/decorating combo that’s perfect not just for Christmas, but all winter long. Great for a winter birthday or a Winter Solstice celebration as well. These coconut cupcakes are Ina Garten’s recipe, but I left out her cream cheese frosting and made a coconut-flavored buttercream, and topped it with dyed coconut. This is one amazing cupcake recipe, trust me, despite the fact (and probably because of the fact) that the cake + the frosting combined calls for over a pound of butter. The recipes for both the frosting and cakes are at this link: “Let it Snow” coconut cupcakes.


And last, but certainly not least, one of the most requested, most complimented and most loved cupcake recipes I’ve ever made: the french toast cupcake. Topped with a cream cheese frosting sprinkled with cinnamon sugar it’s a definite crowd pleaser. Get your mitts on the recipe here: Are french toast cupcakes technically a breakfast food?

These are by no means the only Christmas recipes for cupcakes I have posted- no, no. They’re just my favorites. I have tons of others including super cute gingerbread cupcakes, delicious eggnog cupcakes, beautiful red velvet cupcakes, alcohol-laced hot buttered rum cupcakes, etc. Take a peek at the Christmas category to find that and more, including 7-layer magic cookie bars and biscotti di natale al cioccolato.

If you’re the kind of person who prefers to leave cookies for Santa instead of cupcakes, try looking in my “cookies” category- I have everything from chocolate cookies to oatmeal chocolate chip, including an amazing shortbread cookie recipe, and for the more adventurous, exotic spice cookies with cardamom, ginger and rose water. Typically I try and bake one Christmas-y cupcake a week the entire month of December, but this will have to do for the first week. Sorry guys. Take a trip down memory lane by clicking some of those links to get some inspiration and I’ll be back soon with something tasty and pretty for you to look at.

One more little thing… I’d like to think of myself as a not materialistic person. Sure, I love nice things- pretty clothes, expensive makeup, nice housewares, etc. Yes, I can be a bit selfish at times, all us humans can be/are by nature. But I also give to any and every charity I can, donate food to food banks, donate toys to toy drives, give to the Salvation Army every time I see the bell-ringers, donate my old clothing to the Lupus foundation, etc. I do my best to make this world a slightly better place, day by day, person by person. I am never mean or cruel to people unless warranted. Sarcastic, yes, all the time. But mean? Not usually. I consider myself to be a happy person. Someone who can find the bright side of many situations. Someone who no matter what is going wrong, can find either a positive angle or at least a drop of good in it. I can make myself happy with very little, and sometimes little things are what truly make me happiest anyway. But this is a season when it’s really easy to go crazy with “wants.” Yeah, I have a lot of wants. Everyone does. But whether or not I get them, I know I’ll be happy with myself for being a good person, and that I’ll be happy what I do have; family, friends, pets, and all the material objects I love and adore (my laptop, my Kitchen Aid mixer “Lola”… etc). If I never got another “thing” in my life, I could be happy because I’m aware that’s not what’s important. But let’s be honest: it sure as shit makes life (and Christmas) fun to have things, or be able to give things, or to have the comfort of knowing someone is looking out for you.

So this Christmas, amidst all your hustling and bustling and shopping, please make a donation to at least ONE charity. Any charity that speaks to you- cancer research, diabetes research, programs that feed the hungry, AIDS research, programs that help the homeless, religious programs, neglected or abused animal organizations- whatever. Pick  at least one, and donate even just $5.00 or $10.00 to them. Consider it a Christmas or Hanukkah gift. There are SO many out there less fortunate than you or I, let’s remember them and use this giving season to lend them a hand. And if you choose not to… when you’re sitting in front of your fire, drinking hot cocoa and opening lavish presents this year while listening to Bing Crosby on your iPod, remember those who are hungry, lonely, sick, and without all the comforts you have… and be grateful that life dealt you a better hand. Whatever religion or non-religion you are, that’s an important thing to keep in mind. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

Poinsettia (& Nigella) cupcakes.

I have no idea what possessed me to make these. I really don’t. I had Christmas cupcakes planned already, and they weren’t these. These were sort of an accident. Or a surprise I guess, that sounds nicer.

I just randomly decided I wanted to make cupcakes, and I wanted to make a new recipe. However, I was being purely selfish and I wanted a vanilla-type cake. So I searched and found Nigella Lawson‘s cupcake recipe and just picked it (I think it was because she called the muffin tin a ‘bun muffin pan’.. so cute). When I realized she used royal icing on it, I just had an idea to make poinsettia’s on top using some of the icing. Why? No idea.

Now, let me just state for the record that I have never made icing flowers before. I have an entire Wilton tip set (actually I have this kit which includes more than just tips, but you get the idea), and most of them have gathered dust for the past 2 years. I’ve used every single other thing in the kit, but most of the tips have gone unused. So tonight I dusted ‘em off (proverbially) and set everything up to make some flowers. Then I realized I misplaced the book that came with the kit that detailed how to create flowers and what tips to use. DOH! So I just had to wing it. And wing it I did!

So when looking at these, keep in mind these are my first EVER attempt at icing flowers. Icing poinsettias, to be exact.  So be kind. Yeah, my flowers can use some work. But for a first time? I don’t think they’re half bad. The tips I used and more instructions on making them are after the recipe, so scroll on down.

NIGELLA LAWSON’S CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon soft butter
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons milk

Directions:

  1. Special equipment: 12 bun muffin pan, lined with muffin papers.
  2. Take everything you need out of the fridge in time to get to room temperature – and this makes a huge difference to the lightness of the cupcakes later – and preheat the oven to 400° degrees F.
  3. Put all of the ingredients for the cupcakes except for the milk into a food processor and blitz until smooth. Pulse while adding the milk down the funnel, to make a smooth dropping consistency.
  4. Divide the mixture between a 12-bun muffin tin lined with muffin papers, and bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. They should have risen and be golden on top. Let them cool a little in their tins on a rack, and then take them carefully out of the tin to cool in their papers, still on the wire rack.
  5. Ice with Royal Icing.

ROYAL ICING

Ingredients:

  • 2 large egg whites (or substitute powdered egg whites)
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Combine the egg whites and confectioners’ sugar in a medium-size mixing bowl and whip with an electric mixer on medium speed until opaque and shiny, about 5 minutes.
  2. Whisk in the lemon juice, this will thin out the icing. Beat for another couple of minutes until you reach the right spreading consistency for the cupcakes.

I did not use a food processor for these, I just put all the ingredients in my stand mixer and mixed ‘em till they were combined, then added the milk while it was on low. But on the Food Network website tons of reviews say they’re awesome when made in the food processor, so by all means, go for it.

The liners are Wilton too… this entry is just a big ol’ Wilton ad, isn’t it?

My icing was a bit thicker than Nigella’s I think, I didn’t really measure out the confectioner’s sugar. I may have put more in, but it doesn’t matter because it was the perfect consistency for the flowers.

I added some coconut extract to my royal icing, because I didn’t really think the taste of it was that great otherwise.  I put the white icing on with an offset spatula in big poofy piles, then smoothed it out.  You can also use regular buttercream for the main frosting part, and halve the royal icing recipe just for use on the poinsettias, especially if you don’t like how royal icing hardens. But for the flowers, I’d say that this is your absolute best bet.  Royal icing doesn’t wilt or “sweat” like buttercream, and hardens very nicely to make a sugar flower kind of effect. You could also make the flowers on parchment paper beforehand, and then place them on cupcakes (or a cake) later on.

The tips I used  for the poinsettias are as follows: the flower itself was Wilton tip 67, the leaves were Wilton tip 352 and for the center I used Wilton tip 1 (and squiggled it). Creating them was easier than I thought. I did the flowers first, squeezing four smallish petals in a “cross” shape (one coming down from the middle ‘south’, one going up ‘north’, etc), then doing four larger petals out from them on top. Then I did the leaves, holding the tip on it’s “side” and twisting it slightly to form a point. The center is the easiest: just squiggle it out in a pile of yellow! Whew. I’m sure the Wilton book had a much better way of explaining that, but oh well.

I don’t think this will be my last experiment with flowers. I really like how they came out, and this icing recipe was the perfect for this. But I definitely suggest using disposable bags for this, if you don’t already use them. It makes the cleanup much easier. And I will find that book…

I’ll be back in a day or two with another Christmas-y cupcake recipe. Until then, get to practicing your icing flowers! Now!