Upping my Cupcake Game

For our second family Christmas get together, I was in charge of the whole menu. I made from-scratch lasagne that was quick and delicious and a Caesar salad to die for (a full pound of bacon for bacon bits means you can’t really go wrong).

The main event for me – as always – was dessert. I love finding new ways to delight my family and friends and I find baking to be a massive creative outlet. I took a Wilton cake decorating class a few years ago and shortly thereafter, I made my sister’s wedding cake! It was basic but I was still proud and she and her husband were thrilled with the result.

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The cake was a white chocolate sponge with white chocolate buttercream – delicious! I also learned a very important lesson that day – even if it is 30+ degrees outside, putting a fondant covered cake in the fridge will cause it to sweat and cause more damage than if you leave it out!

I enjoy decorating cakes, but I have always found cupcakes to be difficult to be creative with. When I found this tutorial online, I knew I had to try to make a cupcake wreath and I am so pleased with how it came out!

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I used the Hummingbird Bakery’s red velvet cupcake recipe found here after reading a lot of positive reviews and I iced them with the Wilton Buttercream that I have come to know, love and perfect over time (with children around, cream cheese icing wasn’t necessarily going to be a winner and so I decided to go classic).

A few notes on the cupcake recipe…

  • I doubled the recipe and it made 24 perfect cupcakes. I only needed 22 for the wreath (14 on the outside and 8 on the inside) so the other two were great as testers so I knew what I was serving my guests. The number needed will vary with the size of plate used, but I thought my numbers worked out well for looks, icing ease and taste testers.
  • I used gel red food colouring (1/2 tsp. as recommended by my favourite lady in her recipe: Martha). As the recipe would have asked for 4 tbsp. of liquid food colouring, I substituted a bit more fat and liquid in my cupcakes – 1 tbsp of butter and 3 tbsp of water. I thought this would be more than enough and I was even worried about them being too moist (is that even a thing?!) However…
  • The cupcakes turned out very dry in comparison to the recipes I usually bake with. I have had Hummingbird cupcakes before – they were a great treat after a hard week in London – and I don’t recall them being overly dry. Sometimes dryness is an attribute of a certain recipe, but I have trouble believing this was the case here. More likely, I didn’t substitute appropriately and so I would recommend using the liquid colouring to be sure to achieve results true to the recipe or stay tuned here for a new solution to the red velvet mystery.
  • Dryness aside, they were delicious and so, so fluffy. It is clear the recipe itself is a winner once you can get the balance right.
  • The buttercream was a great addition! I was very doubtful that it would taste quite right (and, to be honest, a little resentful that I didn’t get to make one of my favourite icings!) and I was proven wrong. The delicate chocolate flavour was well complimented by the rich and smooth icing and it definitely helped with the dryness of the cake itself.

Overall – a decent foray into the elusive red velvet for now. While I am still on the hunt for a perfect, staple recipe, I have found a great decoration technique that I will use time and time again! And after a successful presentation of cupcakes, I am dreaming up cupcake decoration ideas for the Superbowl…I will post my results when complete!

Jewelry and Body Scrub: The first of many Christmas posts

For Christmas this year, I decided to “DIY” as many presents as I could. With very little money to put towards gifts, I thought this would be a good way to give nice and thoughtful gifts without breaking the bank.

Now that the holiday season is complete, I am happy to say that all gifts were well received and people were shocked at the quality of gifts I was able to create. To be honest – so was I. I had no idea it would be so easy to make some of these things and the effort that I put into them made me feel great about the inexpensive gifts I was giving.

One of the first things I did was make a couple of small gifts for my girlfriends. After perusing Pinterest, I decided on homemade jewelry and gingerbread body scrub. The scrub was simple enough to make and ended up looking great with some felt and a homemade label! I used this tutorial and mine turned out as follows.

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The jewelry was a bit more complicated. With a wonderful sale on at Michael’s, I ventured up to find many of my crafting supplies necessary for the holiday. I was able to find great deals on chains, lobster claw clasps and a huge amount of faux pearls perfect for the Bird’s Nest necklace tutorial I had seen online.

I had never made jewelry before but worked with wire and beading a lot as a child, which helped. I used a thicker gauge wire than I was used to (24 gauge) and it was difficult to twist as I liked. As a result, the necklaces were all very unique – some were more tightly wound and some were looser. This presented  nice effect and I was able to choose which style each of my girlfriends would like best. I found it very difficult to use a pre-made wire circle (used as the other end of the lobster claw) to create a necklace loop, so stuck with manipulating the wire as I found it laid a little bit more straight.

Here are mine:

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I was thrilled with how they turned out and all of my girlfriends loved both gifts. In total, I was able to spend less than $5 for each gift in total and it was very worth the time! I’ve already had requests from people who have seen them and I have been happy to oblige in making them. Maybe I should start charging…