Shirlee Goodness Cakery

Making the world a sweeter place one cake at a time

Frog Cupcakes

Frog Birthday Cupcake

Frog Birthday Cupcake

This was a quick project. A friend’s party and my sister’s birthday converged on one particular Saturday.  My friend was celebrating a presentation she had given entitled “The Frog and the Princess.” My sister has always loved cute cartoon frogs like Keroppi.  Perfect!  I could make frog cupcakes for both of them!

I used a few shortcuts:

Purchased candy eyes. Lashes added with edible marker.

Purchased candy eyes. Lashes added with edible ink marker.

Green candy melts

Green candy melts purchased from candy supply store.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remember the Panda Cupcakes?  I took inspiration from them to make these frog cupcakes.

Eyes were easy peasy!  Made from green candy melts (candy supply store) and purchased candy eyes (great deal from Hobby Lobby).  For the lady frogs, I added eye lashes with a black food decorating pen.

Cutting out party hats from fondant. I used a circle cutter and divided the circle into 6 pieces.

Here’s the fast assembly steps for cupcakes:

Press sprinkles into fondant to decorate.

Press sprinkles into fondant to decorate.

  1. Color fondant as desired. Cut out crowns and party hats from fondant.  Decorate hats with candy sprinkles.
  2. Use purchased buttercream icing and color to desired shade of green.  Make a little bit of pink and brown for mouths and cheeks.
  3. Pipe cupcakes with green frosting using large round tip.

    Piped frosting

    Piped frosting

  4. Smooth icing with a spatula.
  5. Place green candy melts.
  6. Place candy eyes over candy melts.
  7. Pipe mouths.
  8. Place crowns or party hats.

If I had more time, I would have liked to play with things like different mouths, froggie tongues, eyelashes using fondant, funny noses, different shapes and decorated crowns, and accessories like eye glasses.

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Girl Frog Birthday Cupcake

Birthday Party Frogs

Birthday Party Frogs

 

Happy Birthday, Sis!

Happy Birthday, Sis!

 

Frog Prince and Princess Cupcakes for my friend who inspired me to start my blog!

 

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Cupcakes or Cookies…?

Cupcake Cookie with Sprinkles

Cupcake Cookie with Sprinkles

Cupcake Cookie Cutter

Cupcake Cookie Cutter

I had made some sugar cookie dough a few weeks ago and froze the dough because I didn’t get around to baking the cookies.  I had a cupcake cookie cutter and thought it would be fun to decorate the cookies as cupcakes.  For tips and tricks on baking and decorating cookies with royal icing, see my post on Baby Girl Cookies.

Cupcake sugar cookies?!

Cupcake sugar cookies?!

After I carefully rolled out the dough on parchment paper and cut the cupcake shapes out, I popped a tray into the oven.  I was dismayed to see how much the cookies spread in the oven! 😦  They weren’t recognizable as cupcakes at all!  Oh, well, I thought, it’s a good thing that I was not making these for a particular event!  (After I finished decorating, you’ll see that the shape didn’t really make too much of a difference in this case.  Still, I will used a different recipe next time I make shaped cookies!)

I continued on, making the royal icing while the cookies cooled.  I made royal icing from pasteurized egg whites.  You can buy the egg whites ready to use from the grocery store.  I’ve like using egg whites better than meringue powder because my icing comes out softer.  I don’t like really hard icing for cookies.

The advantages of buying the egg whites in the carton are 1) You don’t have to separate them from the eggs yourself, 2) They are shelf stable for some time so you can buy them ahead of time and they are ready to use when  you want them, and 3) You don’t have to worry about salmonella because the egg whites are pasteurized.

Three steps to decorate cupcake liners

Three steps to decorate cupcake liners

I decorated the cupcake liner first, outlining the bottom of the cupcake with white icing, then flooding it with thinned colored icing. (I used more of the pasteurized egg whites to thin the royal icing for flooding.) The tip of a chopstick works well to spread the icing to the edges and into the corners.

I decorated the liners in various ways.  For some I piped white stripes to imitate the accordion fold of basic cupcake liners.  When the lines were piped right away before the flood icing set, they sank into the flooded icing, giving a nice integrated look.  For some, I dipped a chopstick tip into thinned icing of contrasting colors to make polka dots.  For some, I drizzled lines of contrasting thinned icing and ran a toothpick through the icings to swirl them.

 

Piped Lines

Piped Lines

 

Liner with polka dots

Polka Dots

Liner with swirled pattern

Swirled Pattern

The last step was to add the frosting tops.  I used a variety of star tips to pipe luscious-looking mounds of frosting on the top of the cupcakes. When I ran low on frosting, I used a knife to spread the frosting to look like a homemade frosted cupcake. Colored sprinkles added a festive touch!

Cupcakes or Cookies?  You decide!

Cupcake Cookies

Cupcake Cookies

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Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Filling

Baby Shower Favors

Baby Shower Favors

Last week I made cupcakes for a coworker’s baby shower party favors.

Wilton Color Cups

Wilton Color Cups

I decided to make chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter filling.  I used Ina Garten’s chocolate cake recipe.  The cakes were delicious and moist. The special ingredient is a cup of coffee.  The coffee intensifies the deep chocolate flavor. The batter was very thin and the cupcake tops ended up being flat.  That would be good for making layer cakes; I would have preferred to have more rounded tops for the cupcakes.  Next time I’d try cutting down on the liquid to have a thicker batter.

Important!  Use foil-lined color cups for nice presentation!

Left - black paper liner with colored dots; Center - white foil-liner with colored spots; Right - white paper liner

Left – black paper liner with colored dots; Center – white foil-liner with colored spots; Right – white paper liner

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Foil Lined Cupcake Liner

These cups are lined with foil on the inside so the cupcake color and oil don’t show through to the outside.  I baked a few cupcakes with some regular paper liners to show you the contrast.  You can see how much brighter the colors of the foil-liner are.

Cut a circle from the top of the cupcake.

Cut a circle from the top of the cupcake.

Now, the surprise inside – peanut butter filling! The filling was based on Martha Stewart’s peanut butter filling recipe.  It’s basically butter, peanut butter, and marshmallow creme. I really like the light texture of the marshmallow creme combined with the peanut butter flavor to cut down on the sweetness. I used Trader Joe’s unsalted creamy peanut butter which has a rich peanut flavor.

To fill the cupcakes: Cut out a circle from the top of the cupcake. Save the top.  Hollow out a bit more from the inside of the cupcake to make room for the filling.

Hollow out the middle of the cupcake.

Hollow out the middle of the cupcake.

Fill with peanut butter filling.

Fill with peanut butter filling.

Use a piping bag or small spoon to fill the cupcake. Replace the top and you’re ready to decorate!

The frosting is swiss meringue buttercream, colored blue with a combination of royal blue, sky blue, and turquoise colorings.  I used a large round tip “6PT” to pipe a simple icing top.

Wilton Royal Icing Monkeys

Wilton Royal Icing Monkeys

I found these cute royal icing monkeys made by Wilton.  They were perfect for the jungle animal theme of the baby shower..

Yummy!

Yummy!

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Let It Snow!

Snowflake Birthday Cake

Snowflake Birthday Cake

Each year I make a birthday cake for my cousin’s daughter Natalie whose birthday is on Christmas Eve.  This year she turned 16 and I made a snowflake cake.

Snowflake plunger cutters

Snowflake plunger cutters

I chose to make the snowflakes out of fondant using these plunger cutters.  I really like the detailed shape and design on the plungers.  I let them dry overnight and dusted them the next morning with sparkle luster dust.  I also cut out two large snowflakes from the fondant using a regular snowflake cookie cutter. The sparkle was very subtle.  Next time, I think I would roll out the fondant and dust before it dries, and then cut the shapes.

 

Snowflakes dusted with sparkle dust

Snowflakes dusted with sparkle dust

I baked two 8-inch round cakes, leveled them and cut each in half to have four layers.  Natalie  likes chocolate, so I filled them with chocolate buttercream.  Then I covered the cake with white buttercream tinted a light sky blue.

Four chocolate cake layers filled with chocolate buttercream

Four chocolate cake layers filled with chocolate buttercream

I used a round #5 tip to do the edging around the bottom of the cake and then placed the snowflakes on the top and sides of the cake.  I piped “Happy Birthday Natalie” using the same blue buttercream.

Snowflakes on the top and sides of the cake

Snowflakes on the top and sides of the cake

I thought the cake looked a little plain and wanted to add some more sparkle.  I tried brushing the luster dust on the cake, but the sparkle was very subtle and didn’t brush on evenly.  Then I added some small silver dragees…and they really did the trick!

First slice! Yum!

First slice! Yum!

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It’s a Boy!

Shower cake for Baby Boy

Shower cake for Baby Boy

 

A coworker requested a cake for his wife’s baby shower.  They are expecting a boy.  I asked them to send me some pictures so I could get an idea of what they wanted.  Here are the pictures they sent.

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These pictures gave me a good idea of what their tastes were like.  I knew I should do a tiered cake in fondant for that classic look, and have baby booties on top.

Cut out shoe part with detailing

Cut out shoe part with detailing

Directions for making baby shoes can be found on the web. I saw the most adorable baby high tops, but I thought this cake would be better with a more traditional baby shoe look. Many thanks to the Cake Journal for their Baby shoe tutorial which I followed more or less.  I used a mixture of half fondant and half gum paste.  The gum paste gives strength and the fondant gives pliability to shape the shoes before they dry too fast!

Assembling the shoes

Assembling the shoes

 

When I saw the mother-to-be after the shower, she told me that she was so happy with the cake.  She said it was the first time that she asked for a cake and got what she wanted! She didn’t get the cake she wanted for her wedding cake or birthday cakes, but she did for her baby shower!  So I was very pleased that I was able to meet her expectations!

Here is a picture of the mom-to-be and the big-sister-to-be at the baby shower.  They are very sweet!

Mother and daughter with baby cake

Mother and daughter with baby cake

 

 

 

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Snoopy Christmas Birthday Cake

Natalie's Snoopy Birthday Cake

Natalie’s Snoopy Birthday Cake

Filling and frosting Snoopy Cake

Filling and frosting Snoopy Cake

My cousin’s daughter Natalie’s birthday is Christmas eve.  We always have a big family gathering of about seventy people that evening to celebrate Christmas.  The last few years I’ve made a special birthday cake for her.  This year, we had a Charlie Brown Christmas theme so I made the cake with Natalie and Snoopy on the cake.

Pictures for Snoopy Cake

Pictures for Snoopy Cake

The cake was a quarter sheet chocolate cake filled with chocolate buttercream.  I found a picture of Snoopy holding a Christmas present to use, and I looked at some pictures of the Peanuts characters from the Charlie Brown Christmas to draw one that looked like Natalie with her long hair and Asian eyes.

Trace of figures in the frosting

Trace of figures in the frosting

After coloring all the frostings, I filled and frosted the cake.  I traced my patterns of Snoopy and Natalie onto parchment paper and cut them out.  I traced the outlines on the cake frosting using a toothpick.  I outlined the figures with black frosting (chocolate frosting colored black) with a round tip #2 or 3, then filled in with the various colors, also using round tips of varying sizes.  I smoothed out the filled in shapes with a small knife.

Snoopy cake in progress

Snoopy cake in progress

The final touches were adding the Happy Birthday Natalie and the falling snow flakes.

Happy Birthday Natalie!

Happy Birthday Natalie!

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Bananas + Toffee = Banofee Pie!

Slices of Banoffee Pie

Slices of Banoffee Pie

Last month, I spent some time in Ireland for work.  While I was there, I tried an English dessert called Banoffee Pie. The pie consisted of a creamy layer of toffee filling, sliced bananas, and mounds of fluffy whipped cream, all on a tasty cookie crumb crust and dusted with chocolate.  It was so delicious, I decided I wanted to make it when I went home.

“The Completely True and Utter Story of Banoffi Pie” is told in an entertaining manner by  Ian Dowding who invented the creation.  He also provides the “Official Banoffi Pie” recipe here.  Mr. Dowding’s yummy creation has undergone some transformations to it’s most popular form today.  From what I gather, he detests crumb crusts, but the two versions I ate in Ireland both had crumb crusts.  All the recipes I saw (except for his) did also.  His original whipped cream topping has an addition of coffee flavor, but again, I did not see that anywhere.  I did add some instant coffee to some whipped cream as he instructs, and tried it on a piece pie, but I really didn’t like it, so left out the coffee.  The popular version with crumb crust and unsweetened whipped cream is given below.

The recipe I used was given to me by my Irish coworker. It’s very simple, with few ingredients.  There’s really no baking involved, it’s more of an assembling of the ingredients.  And it will taste like you got it from a bakery!

Crumb crust made with digestive biscuits

Crumb crust made with digestive biscuits

Ingredients

4 ounces butter, melted

20 McVities Digestive Biscuits (can be found at Cost Plus World Markets, link to store locator)  For gluten-free crust, see note below.

14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk

~4 bananas

1 pint whipping cream

grated chocolate or cocoa powder

1.   Submerge (unopened) can of sweetened condensed milk in a pot of water.  Bring water to a boil and simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Open can of sweetened condensed milk after simmering for 3 hours.  It's hot so be careful!

Open can of sweetened condensed milk after simmering for 3 hours. It’s hot so be careful!

2.  While the milk is cooking, assemble pie crust. Crush biscuits until you have a fine crumb texture.  You can do this by placing the biscuits in a ziploc bag and crushing them with a rolling pin, or by using a food processor.  Pour crumbs into a bowl.  Add the melted butter and stir to combine.  Press the mixture into the bottom and sides of a 9-inch spring form pan or other baking dish.  (I made a large pie in a 10×13 dish to share at work when I got back from my trip.)  Chill the crust for at least one hour.

3.  When the sweetened condensed milk has cooked for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, carefully remove the can from the pot of water and allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes.  The contents will be hot and under pressure.  The can I used had a pull tab.  I used a pot holder to hold the very hot can, and a butter knife to pop the tab.  Some of the toffee squirted out, so be careful!  Pour or spoon the toffee onto the crumb crust.  Chill for at least one hour or overnight.

Layer of bananas over the toffee.

Layer bananas over the toffee.

4.  Slice bananas and arrange in a single layer on top of the toffee. If using a spring form pan, remove the sides from the pan and place the pie on a plate.Whip the cream and spoon it over the toffee and bananas, spreading to the edges to seal the pie.  Sprinkle with grated chocolate or cocoa powder.  Serve and enjoy!

Single serving Banoffee Pie with gluten-free crust made from almond meal.

Single serving Banoffee Pie with gluten-free crust made from almond meal.

Note #1:  For a gluten-free version, I made the crust from 1 cup of Trader Joe’s ground almond meal mixed with 1 tablespoon sugar and 3 tablespoons of melted butter.  This made some small 4-inch tarts for my gluten-free friends.

Note #2:  Mr. Dowding says that multiple cans of sweetened condensed milk may be prepared ahead of time and stored for later use.

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The Best Gluten-Free Cookie Recipe

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies made with almond flour

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies made with almond flour

This is different post from my usual post on baking something pretty.  These cookies may not look like much, but they are by far the best gluten-free cookies I have ever eaten! Most gluten-free cookies I’ve had are dry or crumbly and don’t have much flavor.  These are moist and chewy and delicious!  Even if you eat gluten, you will want to try these cookies!  I ate them at a potluck and had to get the recipe.  They are easy to make.  In addition to being gluten-free, these cookies are free of refined sugar or any animal products.  All the ingredients are available at Trader Joe’s.

Chewy Chocolate Chip Almond Cookies

Ingredients:

3 cups blanched almond flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup maple syrup

2 whole eggs

1 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. In a medium mixing bowl combine almond flour, baking soda, and salt.

3. In small bowl beat eggs, maple syrup and vanilla.

4. Pour wet ingredients into dry and beat until combined.

5. Melt coconut oil, pour into batter and continue to blend until combined.

6. Stir in chocolate chips.

7.  Drop rounded balls of cookie dough about tbsp in size onto parchment-lined baking sheet,

8.  Bake for 14-15 minutes.

9. Let cool.

Enjoy!

Fresh from the oven.

Fresh from the oven…great with a glass of milk!

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Lovebirds Cupcakes

Finished favors

Finished lovebirds cupcake favors

One of my coworkers is getting married this month so we are having a wedding shower luncheon.  I am making cupcakes for party favors for the guests.

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The wedding invitation

I wanted to make the cupcakes to match the wedding invitations. Here’s a picture of the wedding invitation I found on the web.  It’s a DYI kit from Michael’s with these sweet lovebirds.

I know that the bride is not fond of chocolate, so I decided to make an orange citrus pound cake batter for the cupcakes.

Foil-lined baking cups

Foil-lined baking cups

I baked the cupcakes in plain paper liners a few days ahead and froze them.  I used foil-lined baking cups to assemble the final favors.  There were a number of reasons I used the two liners. First, with the inside paper liners, I didn’t have to worry about how they would freeze, store, and defrost.  Second, the outside liner will expand and fit into the shape of the plastic container since they are not stuck to the cupcake.  Third, I like the foil-lined baking cups because the colors are much more vibrant than the paper liners, but I don’t like using them for baking the cupcakes because the foil scratches my lips when I eat the cupcake!  I make my favorite homemade vanilla buttercream for the frosting.

Making fondant lover birds, step by step

Step by step creating fondant lovebirds

As to the decorations, I made the lovebirds from fondant.  I couldn’t find a bird cutter small enough to make the birds, so I looked for a shape that was similar.  I used the smallest leaf cutter that I have to cut out a basic shape.  Then I pinched one end to make the bird’s beak.  Next I pulled the other end out and up a little bit to make the bird’s tail.  I used a fondant tool to make poke a small hole for an eye.  Frosting tip #98 turned out to make a very nice impression of a bird’s wing!  Then I flipped the shape over and repeated to make the eye and wing on the other side.  I made these a week ahead so they could dry.

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Dipping chow mein noodles in melted chocolate

For branches, I took those crispy chow mein noodles and coated them with melted dark chocolate and let them harden on parchment paper.  I also did these ahead of time and stored them in an airtight container.

I found the favor containers on Etsy.  I think the bottoms are sundae containers and the and the tops are domed covers for drink cups.  There are some online stores where I saw similar tops and bottoms, but you had to buy packs of 1,000 and no guarantee the tops and bottoms would fit together since they aren’t sold as a set!

Love birds on buttercream icing with gold flakes

Love birds on buttercream icing with gold flakes

On the evening of the assembly, I gathered all my premade supplies and went to work.  Into the plastic cup went the foil-lined cupcake liner, then the cupcake in its plain liner.  Next I frosted the top of the cupcake with the buttercream.  I tried both a start tip and a round tip.  They both worked well.  (I personally preferred the round tip because I thought the branches looked better with a more simple design. I found out that people took the cupcakes frosted with the star tip; I guess they look fancier.)

Favor tags

Favor tags

I added two love birds and a couple of chocolate branches. The finishing touch was  a sprinkling of gold flakes.  After I snapped on the domed top, I tied a ribbon around the favor and added a small tag with the bride and groom’s names. Tip: I taped the ribbon to the bottom with a small piece of tape to hold it in place while I was tying the bow.

I really like the way the favors turned out, especially the way clear plastic holders let you see the entire cupcake so clearly! I think the bride was really touched by the matching lovebirds theme.

The beautiful bride-to-be

The beautiful bride-to-be

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Bloopers

Oops!

Oops!

I’ve been thinking that I need to post about some of my cake disasters or near-disasters.  It’s quite intimidating to read all the wonderful posts about other people’s baking and how delicious and wonderful everything turns out. I want to be one of the perfect and successful celebrities of the baking world!  But those disasters and near-disasters are how I learn the tips and tricks.  We all have them, admit it!.  We need to have a good laugh and then go on and fix them.  I guess I just haven’t wanted to document them.  Sometimes I’m afraid that the person I’m making the cake for will see the pictures that will take away from their appreciation of my creation…to know that it wasn’t how I envisioned the design in my head, that I had to modify the color or pose because the original idea wasn’t working out, or that some design detail was actually an afterthought because I accidentally made a mistake and had to cover the problem.  Some day I will write about those big bloopers, maybe they will seem less traumatic with the passage of time. For my first blooper post, I will start with a recent incident that wasn’t too bad.

Cupcakes cooled and ready to be frosted.

Cupcakes cooled and ready to be frosted.

At the last minute, I decided to make a cake for one of my coworkers.  He’s a single guy, and most of the others in his group are guys, too, so I knew they would appreciate a home-baked cake and wouldn’t be too picky about the decoration or mind cake from a mix.  So I decided to make a cupcake-cake, using a white cake mix.  I also had some store-bought buttercream frosting and added lemon extract and fresh lemon juice to give it a nice flavor.

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The finished cupcake cake, pretty and smelling lemony-delicious!

I arranged and frosted the cakes on my cake carrier tray because I didn’t have a cardboard or flat serving platter big enough for all the cupcakes. Remember it was a last-minute project!  As I was packing up the cakes, I realized that the cupcakes were slipping a bit, so I decided to tie a ribbon around them.  One of fun those afterthoughts – it made the cake look like a present and added a nice touch.

Normally that would be the end of my post, but on to the blooper part…

Well, the next day after driving to work and getting the cupcakes to the office, I opened the box and…as you can see above, the cupcakes had slid off the tray and five of the ones on the edge had toppled over.  So much for the ribbon idea.  Luckily for me, the birthday boy was not at his desk.  I was able to get the cupcakes back in place without too much trouble and the cake was in presentable condition to surprise him when he got back.  And of course everyone enjoyed eating the cupcakes.

So tip learned:  make sure the surface under cupcake cake is not slick!  I remember someone telling me never to use those waxy cake doilies just for that reason. Sometimes I use a dab of frosting to make the cardboard stick or a piece of rubbery drawer liner under the cake cardboard depending on the situation.

Happy baking and remember,  “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” – Albert Einstein

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Birthday cupcakes after repairs.

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