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Cake, cake and more cake

The past week has been quite an adventure, to say the least. Last Tuesday I flew out to San Francisco for my best friend Nang’s wedding. In addition to fulfilling my bridesmaid duties, I was also in charge of making the cake.

I’ve never done a cake for a wedding before, so I had no idea what I was getting myself into. All she wanted though was 150 iced cupcakes and a small 6 inch fondant-covered cake for the top. Simple enough, right?

Just to be safe, I started baking as soon as I got to town on Tuesday. The wedding was on Friday but we had a whole day of bridesmaid stuff scheduled for Thursday, so that gave me two days beforehand to worry about cake.

By Tuesday evening, I was completely finished baking. It went by a lot faster than I had thought, making me very optimistic about the whole undertaking.

The next morning I got an early start on making my buttercream icing, assuming it would be another fast job. Boy was I wrong. It took me 6 hours to make 22 batches of icing - enough to fill an entire pot - and an extra hour to color it blue. By the end, my feet ached, my arms were killing me, and I was completely covered in powdered sugar.

Once the icing was made, I had to ice all the cupcakes. Another hour spent…

Then I added tiny little paper butterflies to each cupcake that Nang had made beforehand. She used a butterfly cutout, scrapbook paper and glued them to the tips of toothpicks. They looked awesome.

I finally finished the cupcakes around 7pm, and at this point all I had left was the top cake, which I was sure would only take an hour or so. Yeah, that didn’t happen either. I didn’t finish with the top til around midnight. At least the finished product was rewarding.

All in all, I spent 13 hours in the kitchen Wednesday and 7 the day before. I’ve never done so much baking in my life.

The next day, the groom graciously volunteered to taste-test, and thankfully they passed inspection.

It might’ve taken me 20 hours to make the wedding cake, but it was all worth it. Nang and Chris are worth it. And on the day of the wedding, it was quite a hit. I can’t say I’d do it again any time soon, but I’m glad I could help out my best friend on her special day.

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Love bird cupcake toppers

I’m always looking for fun new ways to decorate cakes. So when I came across “cupcake toppers” last week on Etsy, I had to try them for myself. I ended up making love birds since Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. And in the end, they turned out even better than I hoped!

If you’d like to try making them yourself, it’s very easy…

  • Draw and cut a bird, wing and heart out of different colored cardstock.
  • Draw stitching around edges of each piece using a black pen.
  • Attach pieces using mounting squares or glue.
  • Draw bird’s eye with black pen.
  • Attach bird to white cake pop stick with tape.
  • Insert in iced cupcake.

What a simple way to add a special touch to ordinary cupcakes.

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NYC sugar rush

I definitely got my sweet tooth on during my trip to New York, and boy did I find some tasty treats.

First stop - Serendipity 3. I’ve been there once before, but it’s a whole different animal at Christmas. As soon as you walk inside, it’s a holiday explosion.

Last time I had the massive hot fudge brownie sundae, which was amazing of course, but this time I decided to try their signature dessert - frozen hot chocolate. Marie ordered the regular and I went with the peanut butter. If you like peanut butter, it was definitely my favorite. It was the most delicious thing I’ve had in awhile!

While we were waiting for our table at Serendipity, we walked a couple buildings down to Dylan’s Candy Bar. It was started by Ralph Lauren’s daughter and is currently the largest candy store in the world. Definitely a must-see.

My friend brought me several candy bars back from here once, and I fell in love with their chocolate. Of course, I had to stock up while I was there. I highly recommend the s’mores and cookies and cream candy bars - they’re the best.

Next stop - Crumbs Bake Shop, which during the course of the trip has become my favorite cupcake place. I’ve had Magnolia Bakery in NYC and it’s alright, but Crumbs is amazing!

After staring at the millions of choices, I finally went with the vanilla cupcake with chocolate icing and sprinkles. So good.

And if you’re really hungry, they have a Colossal Crumb Cupcake. Not even my mother could finish this bad boy!

The next day, we hit up a cupcake place called Baked By Melissa, which makes quarter-sized cupcakes in all sorts of crazy flavors. They’re only $1 a piece, which is sort of pricey when you consider how tiny they are, but it’s a great way to try several and perfect for someone like me who has a hard time deciding on just one.

Marie and I tried the cookie dough, chocolate chip pancake and tie die cupcakes. The pancake was my favorite. Sadly after one bite, I dropped the cookie dough on the floor. Unfortunately I don’t think the five-second rule applies in New York City.

On the last day, we had a cupcake at Europa Cafe across the street from Letterman while we waited for the show that afternoon. It wasn’t my favorite, but the icing was a nice change of pace - it was cold and somewhat cool whipped.

I also tried my first crepe during the trip at a small cafe in Queens. It tasted a lot like french toast - not half bad.

Nothing like kicking off the holiday junk eating early!

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Little Einsteins fondant cake

During Thanksgiving break, we decided to celebrate my niece’s 2nd birthday while the family was together. And of course, we needed a cake. So my sister asked me to bring all my cake supplies to Florida and teach her how to make a fondant cake for the big party.

Now normally I pretty much wing my cake designs. I randomly choose a color, use whatever shapes I have in cookie cutters, which aren’t many, and create my design around any tears I have in the fondant.

My sister, however, had much bigger plans - a little Einsteins cake with clouds, grass and flowers, the four main characters circling the cake, and cupcakes surrounding it topped with fondant-shaped rockets. Quite adventurous for her first cake!

So while other families were watching football and taking naps on Thanksgiving, we were elbow-deep in icing and fondant, which to me was more fun than anything else we could have done on the holidays. It was also nice to decorate a cake with someone else, especially my sister. I wish she lived closer so we could do this more often.

In the end, it was the hit of the party. The birthday girl and all her little friends loved it, which made it worth all the hard work.

As for my 101 List (#10 - Decorate 20 fondant cakes), only 16 more to go.

-Lu

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Making cupcake pops

Last week, my mom had me run to the bookstore and pick out a cake decorating book as part of my Christmas present. I thought I knew which one I wanted until I stumbled upon “Cake Pops" by Bakerella.

I’ve seen cake pops online before and had been dying to make them myself, so this book was perfect. It gives you step-by-step instructions and has over 40 designs of pop ideas. I was in heaven.

Since I have to hand my precious new book off to mom this week to be wrapped and put under the tree, I thought I’d sneak a peak and take a stab at one while I had the chance.

I decided to go with the cupcake pop. Let me just say, the book isn’t lying when it tells you to set aside several hours to do this. I started at 3:30 pm and didn’t finish until 9:00 pm. But it was worth it in the end…

While it would probably be to your benefit to buy the book if you’re interested in making these yourself, I’ll try to explain it the best I can.

Materials:

  • 1 box of cake mix
  • 1 container of ready-made icing
  • 40 popsicle sticks
  • Flower cookie cutter (1 1/2 inch wide x 3/4 inch deep)
  • 16 oz pink candy coating (or color of your choice)
  • 16 oz chocolate candy coating
  • Sprinkles
  • Red m&ms
  • 2 cookie sheets
  • 2 microwavable bowls
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Wax paper
  • Styrofoam block

Directions:

  • Bake a 9x13 cake following the directions on the box.
  • Let cake cool completely.
  • While cake is cooling, prepare your styrofoam block. To do this, measure out rows of holes 2 inches apart on all sides. Mark dots with a marker while measuring, then use a popsicle stick to make the holes. Cover with scrapbook paper for decoration.
  • Crumble cake in large mixing bowl leaving no large pieces.

  • Mix 3/4 container of ready-made icing into cake crumbs using the back of a metal spoon. (You will not need the rest of the icing.)
  • Roll cake mixture into 1 1/2 inch balls and place on cookie sheet lined with wax paper.

  • Place cake balls in freezer for 15 minutes until firm but not frozen.
  • Move cake balls into fridge.
  • Remove 5 cake balls at a time, roll each into oblong rolls about 2 - 2 1/2 inches long, and press bottom half into flower cookie cutter making sure to fill cutter entirely with cake. Use finger to flatten bottom and keep cake from pushing through. (This is the bottom to your cupcake). Then shape top half extending over the cutter into a mound. (This is the top to your cupcake). Place on cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Repeat until all cake balls are shaped.
  • Place shaped cake balls back in freezer for 15 minutes.
  • Melt chocolate coating in microwave according to package directions.
  • Take each cake ball and dip bottom into chocolate coating making sure to cover up to the edge of the mounded top. Place ball mound-side down on cookie sheet. Then immediately dip 1/2 inch of the end of a popsicle stick into chocolate coating and insert 1/2 way into bottom of the dipped cake ball. Repeat for each cake ball.

  • Once all bottoms are covered in chocolate, melt pink coating in microwave following package instructions.
  • One by one, grab the stick of each cake ball and dip top into pink coating making sure to cover the remaining cake. Use a toothpick to do touch-ups while coating is still wet. Add sprinkles and a red m&m on top and place it into the styrofoam block to dry. Repeat for each cake pop.

  • Wrap tops with plastic candy packaging and tie with ribbons or store in air tight container until ready to serve.

It’s definitely a lot of work, but it’s worth it. The reaction I got when I brought them to the office today has been overwhelming.

And now I’m one step closer to marking another thing off my 101 List - #76: make 5 new desserts. One down, four to go.

-Lu

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Chocolate makes everything better

At least that was always my mother’s philosophy.

So when I made the trip to Illinois last week after her father passed away, I thought I’d surprise mom with her favorite Nashville treat - GiGi’s Cupcakes.

These cupcakes are no joke. The icing far outweighs the cake, which in my opinion is a little much but I’ve yet to find any amount of sugar my mom can’t handle. Each day they alternate their menu offering a new variety of flavors, and they’re all gorgeous.

While I know nothing can take away the pain that she’s feeling, I think it helped brighten her day a little. And we all enjoyed helping her eat them.

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