How I Spent $40 at Michael’s on Cupcake Liners

So, those disastrous cherry cola cupcakes? They were supposed to be for a bake sale at Hubs’ office to raise money for a breast cancer walk. Discouraged and running out of time, I whipped up a quick batch of vanilla. I know. Boring. But sometimes a boring cupcake paired with a subtle frosting is just the thing to make the frosting flavor more pronounced. I adore my maraschino cherry frosting, but it’s not a bold flavor and can be trumped by the cake. The Cherry Vanilla combo was a perfect way to get the full feel of the maraschino flavoring.

Hubs reported back that they were a hit at the bake sale. Now, my husband shows his love in many ways–affection, gifts, overall tolerance of my shenanigans–but compliments are not usually in his repertoire. My sister-in-law once commented at a wedding that Hubs’ brother hadn’t yet commented on how she looked dressed up with hair and make up done. I laughed. I’m pretty sure the words “get use to it” were exchanged.  It’s not that they don’t care or aren’t thinking it–they just don’t verbalize it. So when my husband told me that my cupcakes looked the best and that they had a great reception, I was elated. Of course, when he told me he lent out my Martha Stewart carrying case to a coworker who was taking many baked goods home with her, I informed him the exact section of Macy’s he would be visiting should it not be returned in a timely manner.

In other news, I went to Michael’s yesterday to see what their cupcake liner selection was like and walked out with about $40 worth of fun. To be fair, I have a couple of events coming up for which I’ll be needing the good stuff  but some were impulse buys rationalized as “good to have on hand.” I started off with just the liners I needed for a party in November. I knew the colors but kept going back and forth about which patterns and styles. Then I started looking at the flower petal liners. Then the bright pink animal print. The purple damask. Then I wandered into a section of cut out designs that go AROUND the liners. Cupcake Accessories!! I had to practically cover my eyes and sprint by the sprinkles, glitter, and dyes. And yes, it did feel like I was cheating on New York Cake Supplies but my level headed husband pointed out that maybe it wasn’t worth the $20 ticket into the city just to buy cupcake liners. Surely I would have found something else to do, but that probably would have involved more money spent on food and drinks. Life is tough.

 

*I forgot to photograph the gorgeous dozen that I sent off to the bake sale, so this is a photo of the small end-of-the frosting cupcake I had left over.

 

 

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Dance 10, Looks 3

You know who are not friends? Me and Fondant. We tried to work things out, but fondant is super kneady and falls apart just when I need it most. I thought I was up for the challenge, but I think I need to stick with safe, predictable, sweet buttercream. I should have recognized a good thing while I had it. To be fair, I didn’t give fondant a try because I was feeling adventurous or up for a challenge. I asked to make my niece’s birthday cake and that’s what my sister-in-law already had in mind so I thought I’d give it a go. I practiced a few times, forcing thick, sugary, slabs of dessert’s play-doh on family and coworkers, but even so I was still unprepared for the big day.

The dye bled in some areas. The folds wouldn’t smooth out evenly. It had an all around lumpy quality. But man did it taste good.

Not the fondant. Fondant tastes like what you’d get it sugar and rubber had a baby. But the cake–all three flavors–stayed moist and flavorful and made it all worth it. The best thing to come out of this whole crazy experiment is that I now have a vanilla cake recipe that doesn’t call for nine pounds of butter like the old one I’d been using–that recipe is below.

The chocolate recipe is my old friend from Hershey’s. I still don’t like how it rises for cupcakes, but it makes a dependable cake.

As for the red velvet, I made a test cake using Ina Garten’s recipe, but it came out dry and dull. It completely lacked personality. One of my taste testers emailed me to say, “Find another recipe or use a box cake for the birthday party.” I’ll refrain from telling you who would be so blunt to protect her (now somewhat questionable) status as World’s Best Mother.

I panicked. I didn’t have time to test run another recipe. I was thinking maybe I could just up the butter and milk or add oil instead of butter but I was on a tight schedule and too rushed to do it over if it didn’t come out. So I did the unthinkable. I bought a box mix.  I spruced it up with buttermilk, chocolate pudding mix, red dye, and love, but the base was a run of the mill box of white cake mix. From Walmart.

I hope you haven’t lost all respect for me as a so-called “baker.” I have a new red velvet assignment coming up this Fall and before then I WILL find the perfect recipe. Thought I have to admit, whoever thought of adding pudding mix instead of cocoa powder was pretty spot-on. I might keep that little trick.

Super Successful Vanilla Cake

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 sticks butter

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

3 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup milk

Grease and flour two 8″ round pans

Preheat oven to 350

Sift/whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.

Beat butter and vanilla until creamy. Add sugar and continue to beat until smooth.

Add dry ingredients and mix until combined.

Add milk and continue to mix until smooth.

Pour into pans and cook for 25-30 minutes, until your tester comes out clean.

Excess Frosting? Not on my watch.

Because I don’t have a fancy camera and I take most of my photos long after the sun goes down, I’ve started playing around with my pictures with an online photo editor. You may have noticed this already. Or maybe you’ve been glossing over my photos for so long you haven’t noticed at all. Whatevs. My favorite tools are “harsh lighting” and “vintage lighting” though there’s a tool that turns your photo into a comic book picture which I’m sort of in love with. So there. You’ve been warned.

 So hey, what do YOU do when you have a Tupperware of excess Chocolate Irish Cream Frosting? Besides get out a spoon? I go to How Sweet It Is and make a batch of One Bowl Vanilla Cupcakes for Two.  It takes about 20 minutes from pulling out your first ingredient (or all of your ingredients at once if you’re THAT kind of baker) to taking the pan out of the oven. AND if you don’t bother waiting for them to cool more than 10 minutes you can slap on some frosting and eat your cupcake before it all melts off. Cupboard to stomach in half an hour.

And when you do take these from the oven, you will have a moment when you think: these are the most flawlessly domed, most gorgeously colored, most perfectly sized cupcakes ever baked in the history of cupcakes. To frost these would be like painting Mona Lisa in a cowboy hat. But then you’ll come to your senses and recall just how good that frosting was one top of your Guinness Brownies and you’ll go for the gold. Let’s be clear: these are the prettiest cupcakes I’ve ever pulled from my or any other oven. Period.

 

My husband is not like Us. He does not see cupcakes as a tool with which one consumes absurd amounts of frosting. So this one was his:

  

And this one was mine:

 

Because consumption was imminent, I didn’t even try to make it pretty. I couldn’t have even if I wanted to since it was melting off in thick drips even as I glopped more on top. Oh, and in case you missed it: One bowl. Minimal clean up. Maximum satisfaction.

  

I used the recipe above almost verbatim—I did substitute Irish cream for milk, but I didn’t love the small flavor it added so just stick with what works.