Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas tree mini cupcakes

For my daughter's Christmas dinner at school I wanted to bring cupcakes or cookies and since I could not decide, I did both. First I burned all my fingers making home-made ice cream cones using this recipe (but in miniature form- 1 tablespoon of batter per cookie, shaped around a HEMA toy ice cream cone covered in foil). Then, I baked vanilla mini cupcakes and made some green basic butter cream.

I used kitchen shears to trim the cones to the right height. To make the trees, I piped a bit of icing in a circle on the cupcake and pressed the cone into the circle of icing. Then I used a leaf tip- Wilton 366 (large one) and Wilton 352 (same thing but smaller) to pipe branches (leaves) on the trees, starting from the bottom and going up. The more random the placement the better, and I used the big tip on the bottom branches and the smaller tip on the top with a single leaf coming out of the very top to finish it.
Dina was on decorating duty and did not disappoint. She choose which sprinkles to use and in what quantity. We discovered that while stable, these don't stay together if you tilt them 90 degrees to apply the decoration. In the photo below, you see her tilting at the maximum allowable angle. However, since most of them fell over during the car transport to school, I will also say that they looked remarkably good after rolling around all together- I think the cookie underneath kept the shape nicely.
My husband called these unjustifiable cones because upon returning home I tried to pipe trees without using the cones (I did not have a single extra cone which was stressful.) and lo! The trees are pretty adorable without using cones, too.
And I made a wreath and a cute sprig of holly, too. And neither of those required finger-burning cones.

Did I mention how much the cones sucked? No. Well. They did. But the cone scraps were pretty tasty on their own.

Dina and I made a forest.
 Christmas dinner success!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Cranberries- a recipe from my mom

Tis the season for Cranberries! My mom always makes a cranberry relish dish for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It takes a day or two for the flavors to come together, so do it today for Thanksgiving, which is in two days. It can sit for longer than that in the refrigerator- I actually prefer it after 4 or 5 days of the flavors melding. This recipe is super easy and flexible but you do need a food processor.

1 bag of cranberries (I used 340 grams but any size bag is fine, just adjust the rest of the ingredients)
1 orange
1 apple
1/2 cup to 1 cup of sugar (you decide! Taste it before serving and make sure it isn't too sour.)

Rinse and sort the cranberries. They should be red, firm and feel hard like an apple. You wouldn't eat a soft apple, would you? Ditch the bad ones and keep the best for the recipe. Place the sorted cranberries, zest of the orange(only the dark orange part, the white bit is bitter- don't use it!), the juice from half the orange, and the apple, peeled and cut into chunks in a food processor.

Process until you are satisfied with the size of the chunks. Here are two examples (I prefer the second one- it has been processed a bit longer and therefore is finer.)

Add 1/2 cup of sugar (or less) and stir to combine. Let sit in the refrigerator at least overnight and preferably for a few days. Taste. Add more sugar if it is too sour.

I hope everyone has a very happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sunflower Cake: Dina's 4th Birthday

When my daughter born in March explained that she wanted to have a sunflower theme for her 4th birthday I was a little bit worried. Sunflowers? In March? Is that even possible here in NL?

I immediately began planning the cake and even had her make a drawing of what she wanted her cake design to look like.
My drawing of the cake.
Dina's drawing of her cake.

My decision to paint the wall to match the theme was perhaps a bit over the top, since I was 9 months pregnant at the time.
The color yellow we choose made me so happy, however, and I have not regretted it.

The luckiest part of the preparations happened a week before the party. I was at local outdoor market, getting flowers for a friend when I saw SUNFLOWERS for sale, totally out of season. I asked the guy where they were from, "Israel," he said, and his next question was, "Will you buy them? Great deal!" I asked if they would last a week and he suggested I place them in a cold place, in water, then cut them as short as I could manage just before the party. It worked beautifully. I was thrilled to have real sunflowers in March!

Using a 9x13" pan for the base cake and a couple of 6" pans and cupcakes for the flowers, I made her sunflower cake happen.
 (Does it look a bit like Mickey Mouse here? I thought so.)

I made a chocolate cake with chocolate ganache filling, and basic butter cream frosting. The sunflowers were made with a leaf tip (#68) and a star tip for the top, using a cocoa frosting. The grass and the writing were made with a round tip (#10 and #7). I did not put a base coat on the sunflowers, so you see the chocolate cake through the yellow petals, which I felt made it look more true to life.
The favors were sunflowers, grown from seed in the months before her birthday. I had her take a similar favor to school to give out but in that case it was just seeds, dirt, and a tiny painted pot with a stick holding the center of the invitation design(thanks, Uncle Danny!) and "Dina is 4" on the back.

We also covered our normal framed photos with my photographer husband's best sunflower ones.
We played pin the bee on the sunflower. Thanks, Uncle Danny for the giant sunflower, and Thanks, Samantha for the bees!

Much of the food served looked like sunflowers:

For her school party I made cupcakes- using Oreos as the center of each sunflower and also using round chocolate crunchy sprinkle-type things as well.

 It was a great party and we enjoyed celebrating Dina's fourth birthday! I'm over a year delayed in posting about this- but it was a blast.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Flower Cupcake Bouquet and a Bit of Math

Next week on Tuesday evening at 7:30pm I'm offering a Flower Cupcake Workshop. At the moment there is one spot left- contact me if you'd like to join us. During the workshop, besides learning how to make five different kinds of flowers, everyone will also enjoy snacking on cupcakes. Recently I found this example of a cupcake bouquet and had to try to make my own for the workshop snacking purpose. First, I made a bunch of mini-cupcakes and frosted with buttercream, tip 104 in a carnation style. I experimented with different sized pots and ultimately decided on a mug to hold my bouquet because it was the right size. I needed a nine centimeter foam ball but did not have time to get to a craft store so I cut a florist's block and covered it with two layers of heavy duty tissue paper.
Next, to add to the stability, I filled my Dutch mug with smooth stones because I couldn't find my daughter's glass marbles I was hoping to use.
I cut bar-b-q sticks to size and jammed three into the ball and the other end down into the rocks in the mug. I was worried one stick would not be strong enough.
I cut a stick for each cupcake and, starting with the very top, placed each cupcake by jamming one end of the stick into the green ball and the other (pointy) end into the cupcake.
 I had to reposition some cupcakes after I realized I placed them too far apart. The key to the placement is measuring the diameter of the bottom of the cupcake (for my mini-cupcakes it was 3.5cm) and using half that distance away from the nearest cupcake for the next stick. It feels too close when placing the stick but it works. Incidentally, this cupcake bouquet is not for Tuesday- it is just a test bouquet. I'll make a fresh one the day before the workshop.
For the finishing touch I added some leaves using tip 68.

But what about the math, you ask? In determining how big of a foam ball to use, I had to decide how many cupcakes I wanted to display. Since I had made 24, I thought perhaps around 20 or 22 would work (always have extra for the hungry mouths around here.) I only wanted to do about 2/3 of the sphere because 1/3 would be underneath of course, so a 32 faced polyhedron seemed about right. Google gave me this equation:
where r is the radius of the sphere and a is side of a six sided polygon (okay it isn't a circle but its close) packed on that sphere(polyhedron- we're being a little fuzzy here).
Pretending for a moment that this polygon is the bottom of the cupcake I used circumfrence = 6*a and then:
rc= 6a/2Pi
Where rc is the radius of the circle or cupcake.
Solving for a yields:
Substituting this into the above equation:
My rc (radius of the cupcake) was 1.75cm. Solving for r gave me 4.5cm or a 9cm diameter ball to give me enough room for 22 cupcakes.

I did not have a 9cm ball, however.

Not to be deterred, I had a piece of floral foam which was 7cm on the shortest side so I cut a 7cm block and kept shaving off the corners until it was a ball. I used a total of 16 mini-cupcakes on the 7cm ball. If you feel like doing more math to calculate the equation for a 7cm ball feel free. I'm going to bed.
 There you have it: math and cupcakes.