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.