Monday, January 30, 2012

See You Later, Cupcake Eater

Well the day finally came where I had to say good-bye (see you later) to my best friend, my hubby Todd.  I haven't been the type of gal that likes to make a big deal out of good-byes so late Saturday night, we dropped Todd off on the curb as if he was going to school.  I didn't want to be a part of the teary, drawn out moment where you watch them get in the big white buses and drive away. 

Emma, my daughter, is lucky to be young enough to not realize all of what is going on and has no real concept of time.  I wish that was the case for me.  I have found myself caught up in tears many time, like when I came home and the bathroom still smelled like he had just gotten out of the shower, or the empty space next to me in bed, that I try to ignore by sleeping in the middle. 

Sure it has only been a couple days, and as people keep telling me, it will get better, it still sucks.  No better word than that to describe it.  My daughter has kept me strong for the most part and has made my heart melt when she caught me tearing up by saying "Mommy it's ok, wipe your tears" or "why are you crying mommy?".  I have gotten through this before, but for some reason, it seems tougher this time, like this is our first deployment together.

I have been planing my attack to keep busy ever since I found out he would be deploying and one major part of that is expanding my expertise on cupcake decorating and most importantly cupcake baking.  I have mostly used boxed mixes and doctored them up to taste better and that has been successful for me but something has been missing.  I wanted to take this time to perfect my baking technique so that my scratch cakes are just as good as my boxed cakes.

Last Thursday, we shared one more night with our awesome family and friends and there was no better time to try my first recipe that I found on Annie's Eats.  I found this Guinness and Bailey's Irish Cream Cupcake recipe after thinking of ideas for St. Patties Day cupcakes and thought it would be a good time to try it out.  If you are a fan of dark chocolate and Bailey's Irish Cream, this recipe is for you!  It was moist, tasty and probably the best cupcake I have made, and it was from SCRATCH!!!  It was a win for me and will definitely be added to my recipe book! 

I had a little disaster in my kitchen when I was pipping the Bailey's frosting onto my cupcakes and they didn't turn out looking exactly as I had planned, but being a good improviser, I made them turn out pretty cute and more importantly, they tasted even better than they looked.

I have included the recipe below and you can also click on "Annie's Eats" above to get it directly from her site.  A couple things I would suggest if making this recipe is: First, if you plan on pipping the frosting on, double the frosting recipe (the one below only makes enough if you want to spatula the frosting on), secondly, don't be afraid of the ganache, it really does make the cupcake, and lastly, you may want to add a bit more Bailey's to the frosting, 4 Tbsp. just wasn't enough for me ;)

Guinness and Bailey’s Irish Cream Cupcakes
Yield: 24 cupcakes

For the Guinness chocolate cupcakes:
1 cup stout (Guinness)
16 tbsp. unsalted butter
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1½ tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

For the Bailey’s ganache filling:
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp. butter, at room temperature
2 tsp. Bailey’s Irish cream

For the Bailey’s buttercream frosting:
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3-4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
4-8 tbsp. Bailey’s Irish cream


To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.  Combine the stout and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the cocoa powder and whisk until smooth.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the eggs and sour cream to blend.  Add the stout-butter mixture and beat just to combine.  Mix in the dry ingredients on low speed just until incorporated.  Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake liners, filling them about 2/3 to ¾ full.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 17 minutes.  Allow to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the ganache filling, place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl.  Heat the cream in a small saucepan until simmering, then pour it over the chocolate.  Let sit for one minute and then whisk until smooth.  If the chocolate is not completely melted, place the bowl over a double boiler or give it a very short burst in the microwave (15-20 seconds).  Add the butter and Bailey’s and stir until combined.

Set aside to let the ganache cool until it is thick enough to be piped.  (You can use the refrigerator to speed the cooling process, but be sure to stir every 10 minutes or so to ensure even cooling.)  Meanwhile, cut out a portion from the center of the cupcake using the cone method (a small paring knife works best for this).

 Once the ganache has reached the correct consistency, transfer it to a piping bag fitted with a wide tip and pipe it into the cupcakes.

To make the frosting, place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Gradually add the powdered sugar until it is all incorporated.  Mix in the Bailey’s until smooth.  Add more if necessary until the frosting has reached a good consistency for piping or spreading.  Frost the cupcakes as desired.

I would love to hear your feedback on this recipe if you happen to make it.  Next up, White Chocolate and Raspberry cupcakes (for Valentine's Day of course).

Until then,

Lacey Cakes

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Marine Wife....Hardest Job in the Corps

Well this past weekend was it, the pre-deployment party for my hubby.  Everything went great and we had a wonderful turnout of family and friends that shared some fun times with us before Todd leaves in a couple weeks.  The food was great and the cupcakes turned out fabulous!  After a couple of weeks of work on the chocolate buttons for the top of the cupcakes, they were finally done and everyone loved them.

 I did find out that I like the plastic pastry bags much, much more than the paper pastry bags and its safe to say that I went through a half dozen of the paper bags and many trips to the sink to wash the blue frosting off of my hands before I finally finished frosting the 64 cupcakes. 

Everyone raved about the yummy red velvet cakes, but being so critical of myself, I always find something wrong.  I need to perfect my baking skills and have found a class I will take at a local cake decorating shop while Todd is gone.  I have spent what seems like the last 3 or 4 years trying to find a recipe similar to those you taste in the professional bakeries without any luck.  I have perfected my skill of doctoring up a box mix, but still have a lot to learn about scratch baking.

Needless to say, the cupcakes were a hit regardless of my personal critiques and the party was super fun and a great way to say good bye to Todd.  Thank you everyone for the support during this time, I couldn't do it without you all.

Lot's of love, until next time,
Lacey Cakes :)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Cupcake Diaries

I have admired the sisters from the TLC show "DC Cupcakes" since the show premiered in 2010.  They are quirky and say it like it is, but most importantly, they quit their full time, successful jobs to bake cupcakes.  Only something I could hope for in my life time. 

In the book "The Cupcake Diaries" by the sisters, Katherine and Sophie, they explain just what it took to make their lifetime dream of baking cupcakes come true.  They drained their bank accounts, maxed out their personal credit cards and were denied for a business loan by every bank they went to because they did not believe that two women could be successful at baking cupcakes. 

Not that draining my bank account and maxing my credit cards is something I want to do or intend to do, it reminds me that if you believe in something, you do what it takes to make it happen.  Yes you have to have the means to make most dreams happen, but I believe that it is about 95% passion and persistence that makes dreams come true.

I have been to their store, Georgetown Cupcakes, in the heart of Washington DC, and I have tasted their amazing cupcakes. The lines you see on their TV show are for real and I believe it doesn't have anything to do with them being on TV. When they opened their store on Valentines Day of 2008, they sold out of the 500 cupcakes they had thought would be their full day stock in the first two hours. Two years later, the show came about.

The 255 page, enhanced ipad version of this book contained several of the sister's signature recipes including their Red Velvet with Vanilla Cream Cheese frosting and some old family recipes that are not cupcake related.  They gave great tips on how to make cupcakes perfect and the science behind it.

I also love that through their success they have managed to do so much for others.  One being Operation Cupcake where the sisters sent 10,000 cupcakes to our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I loved this book so much that I intend on reviewing each one of their cupcake recipes, posting the recipe and result after each attempt.

Keeping the inspiration alive until next time!

Lacey Cakes

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Project of the day (or week)...Making a chocolate button

I have always found it very interesting that so much detail could go into decorating a cake or cupcake, but was always stumped on how to get perfect detail of say, a button.  A USMC, dress blues jacket button to be exact.  I have watched the cake shows until I was blue in the face but never dabbled in chocolate, let alone making my own chocolate mold.  I searched high and low on the Internet to find a silicone putty to make my own mold of this very detailed button that I wanted to go on the top of my hubbys going away party cupcakes.  I finally found this putty at Michael's and thought I would share my journey of chocolate mold making with you.

This putty I found is a food grade silicone that can be used for a numerous amount of things.  I found it in the polymer clay section at Michael's and it was around $20 (of course I used a 40% off coupon to cut the cost).

It is super easy to use and comes with two different tubs of silicone that when mixed, react the putties and allow them to cure.

The hubby had an extra button on hand and I was curious to try it out.  It was as easy as the box described and only took about 25 minutes for the putty to cure and the mold be usable. 

I ended up making six molds to cut the time it would take for me to make the 60 chocolate buttons I needed for the tops of the cupcakes.

I decided to try out one of the molds before I dove in to the 60 that I needed.  I used the white chocolate candy making chips that you buy in the candy making section of Michael's.  I had used the chips before and didn't have much luck but just thought it could have been my melting technique that didn't work.  Now that I know the proper microwave heating of chocolate is cooking it in 30 second intervals until completely melted, I decided to give the chips one more try.  Needless to say, it was not my melting technique, the chips just aren't high enough quality for this type of mold.  The chocolate was chunky and never completely melted to a smooth consistency.  I had to spread the chocolate like peanut butter into the molds.  It did give me an idea of how the mold worked and I decided to try another white chocolate I had used before.  I got some Baker's White Chocolate bars at the local grocery store and started again from the beginning.

This time, the Baker's white chocolate worked much better.  Cooking in the 30 second intervals worked perfectly and the chocolate was smooth and easy to fill the molds.  Each box (about $2.50 a box) had 6 individually wrapped squares and each square filled the 6 molds I had.  So I am getting about 36 buttons out of each box.

I filled each mold using just a custard dish to melt the chocolate, and a spoon to spoon the chocolate into the mold.  I had purchased a squeeze bottle to do that job, but figured the small amount of chocolate that I had to do at a time would cause more of a mess and cleanup in the bottle.

I put the filled molds in the freezer to cut down on hardening time.  After about 30 minutes, the chocolate was hardened and ready to come out of the molds.

They turned out great, but I noticed some small air bubbles in the chocolate.  They came out of the molds very easily and did not leave much residue in the mold.  I had to trim the edges a bit due to some overflow of the chocolate.  I tapped the other chocolate in the molds prior to putting them in the freezer to reduce the air bubbles in the rest of the batches.

I had decided that the way I was going to color the buttons to match the gold color of the buttons themselves was to use a drop of water, along with yellow food color gel and a bit of brown to make them as gold as possible.  I had tested this technique out on the chocolate button I had made with the icky white chocolate chips, as to not ruin any of the good chocolate buttons, and it seemed to work great.  After preparing to do the same on the good chocolate buttons, I noticed the gold food color was separating from the chocolate and it was not turning out like I had hoped.  My guess is the icky white chocolate was a dry chocolate and when it hardened, did not have much oil left in it.  Because of that, the color stuck to it better.

Having that technique fail, as well as not having much time to hand paint 60 chocolate buttons, I decided to move on the plan B, gold cake spray paint.  I had seen the Duff brand "Cake Graffiti" at Michael's, but didn't know if it came in gold.  Much to my luck, it did!!  I headed to Michael's and bought a can to try out.  I had seen some bad reviews so I wanted to try it out before I bought more than one can.  It ended up working wonderful and gave a much better gold color than the previous paint on technique I was going to use and saved a TON of time.

Here is the final button, painted and ready to top a cupcake.  Stay tuned next week to see how the cupcakes turned out with the pretty buttons on top :)

Lacey Cakes :)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

New Year, New Blog :)

It's hard to believe that it is 2012 already!  One of my New Year's resolutions is to reach more people with my love of baking/cake decorating.  To do so, I am going to try to blog once a week.  Emphasis on try haha.  I have spend the majority of the end of 2011 finding reasons to bake and decorate cupcakes.  Although I enjoy baking and decorating cakes, I have found that my true love is in cupcakes.  It's funny how something so simple can make a person so happy.  I think I will always attribute the start of my passion of cake decorating to keeping be busy while my hubby was deployed in 2007.  It's now 2012 and he will soon be deploying again :(  I am trying to find more ways to keep busy and also to improve my decorating skills.  Looking back on last year, I can't believe the progress I have made. The end of last year brought a lot of change in our lives.  One change being that I am now afforded the chance to stay at home with my daughter, Emma.  A great luxury considering the change that is about to happen in our families lives.  I hope that this time not only allows me to strengthen my relationship with my little girl, but that it also allows me to broaden my clientele and afford me the opportunity to do what I really have passion for, cupcakes!!!

Whenever I talk about my cupcake obsession most people really don't understand.  Yes it takes talent, yes it takes time and money, but to me, it is so much more.  It is my outlet!  I hope I can bring some of that passion through on this blog. Happy New Year my fellow bloggers and I hope this year brings everything you hope for!

Until next time,

Lacey Cakes :)