Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Countdown to Kelly Ripa, day 21: Chocolate cupcakes

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It's three weeks exactly until my trip to New York to decorate cakes with Kelly Ripa, thanks to Foodbuzz and Electrolux. Three weeks until our group of prominent food bloggers spends a day with one of the biggest stars of daytime television to ice, frost, pipe and sprinkle on behalf of the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.

Three weeks until I make a complete fool of myself.

Or maybe not. I might be making progress. For, as you can see in the photo above, I managed to bake cupcakes, make a simple buttercream, and experiment with not one, not two, but four different decorating tips. Which also means I managed to figure out how to get the pastry bag, coupler and tips to go together. And I know you can't see this from the photo, but you'll be happy to hear that I did all of this with some measure of grace and confidence, and without squirting frosting all over the kitchen.

Because Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible left me a tad overwhelmed, I looked for simpler options. I chose a foolproof cupcake recipe, the Emergency Blender Cupcakes from Abby Dodge's Weekend Baker. I love the texture of these cupcakes - light and with a beautiful moist crumb. They really say chocolate, too, not like some of those commercial brown cupcakes that might as well be colored with tree bark. I made them in the food processor because we don't have a true blender - and the recipe wouldn't fit in my beloved Magic Bullet - and I used olive oil instead of canola, because I forgot to restock the canola oil after Hanukkah. The cupcakes turned out perfectly.

Then, after looking at about 25 different buttercream recipes, I chose Gale Gand's Quick Vanilla Buttercream Frosting, which I found on the Food Network site. I knew I wanted to color it, but my food coloring set only had blue and green, probably due to the "experiments" my kids did with food coloring and dish soap when they were younger. Then I realized that the symbolic color for ovarian cancer is teal, so I went for that. Kind of got aqua, but oh well. Take a look:


It took me a few minutes, and a few tries, to get the pastry bag put together with the star tip I wanted to start with. I actually ripped two of the disposable pastry bags in the process and had to toss them. But finally I got it all put together:


And then I just started free-forming. I looked at a great site from Wilton, the baking supply company, and I really wanted to try making roses or this chrysanthemum, but I couldn't figure out which tip I was supposed to be using. So I decided that my goal for this first attempt should be to keep the frosting in the bag (check), get a feel for how much pressure I should be using (sort of check), and try out a few different decorating tips (check). I particularly liked the effect of this "linguine" frosting...

 

...and of these little round blobs...

 

...and of the blanket of little stars:

 

Are they gorgeous? No. Professional-looking? No. I'm quite sure a talented third-grader could do better. But they're passable. And it's the first time I was able to complete a project involving a pastry bag and my decorating tips without tears.

I do have one question, though: The frosting got noticeably softer as I was piping it. Is this because I used a simple recipe that was basically just powdered sugar and butter, and the butter melted from the heat of my hands on the piping bag? Does that happen all the time? I do have very warm hands - good thing I'm not a professional pastry chef - so is there a better kind of frosting for me to work with that won't melt as quickly? Or do you have to stop and put it in the refrigerator from time to time to firm up? Advice welcome.

5 comments:

Abby Dodge said...

Your cupcakes look FAB! I'm glad you like my Weekend Baker and Emergency Cupcakes -- it's my go-to recipe as well. Have fun with Kelly Ripa!

Erika said...

Abby, I'm so delighted you stopped by! Thank you for that great recipe. It's going right in my recipe box - I know it's going to get a workout. And by the way, my husband, who is notoriously picky, LOVED the cupcakes (he took off the frosting, though - I made him eat the ugliest one).

Paula Rosenthal said...

Erika, Love the stars cupcakes and the color looks Tiffany blue on my screen - deliciously beautiful! I, too, am experimenting with pastry bags lately, though I'm only using the round tube like tip and making fat, toothpaste like swirls on my cupcakes. They didn't come out pretty enough for my blog! :) Your theory about the buttercream softening sounds about right to me. Maybe try a recipe with less butter and more powdered sugar next time. In 3 weeks you will have this mastered! Hugs, P

Margaret Studer said...

You're going to be famous! Want to bring those cupcakes to my house and have some tea?
Margaret

The Diva on a Diet said...

Erika, I think they're gorgeous! Congrats! The pretty robin's egg blue looks so chic on the chocolate cupcake. Lovely!

As for the buttercream - you're right, the heat of your hands does tend to melt the frosting. When I was doing my cake business, I would often have to stop while piping and put the bag in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes to stiffen it up.

I have no real tips for the composition of the frosting, but letting the bag chill out for a bit does work.

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