Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Dear Birthday Cupcakes
Dear Birthday Cupcakes,
You were definitely a nice change from the half sheet cakes I used to redecorate with fondant. A first time making and decorating with buttercream frosting was a success indeed!
Dear Son's newest infatuation is Ninjago -- Lego Ninjas who are masters in Spin-jitsu. All of a sudden, toy store shelves are popping up with these Ninjago Lego sets that cost an arm and a leg, and cartoon episodes are showing on TV, one slow episode per week. Naturally, his birthday cake will be in the form of a Ninjago character. But DS knows exactly what he wants; there's no talking him out of anything. I wanted to convert a half sheet cake into one Ninjago character, but he wanted all the characters on the cake. So I proposed cupcakes instead of a large cake so that we can have many different characters all at once. DS approved. Vanilla cupcakes they will be.
Weeks before the party, I began a search for the best vanilla cupcake recipe. I came across many beautiful food blogs that featured professional photos of masterpieces. After studying the ingredients, I decided t o adapt Brown Eyed Baker's Vanilla Cupcakes. I would have liked to make her mini cupcakes and swirl vanilla buttercream just like those in her picture because I think they look exquisite. But Ninjago cupcakes they must be.
I set out to make 3 dozen cupcakes and a small cake for DS to blow out the candles. The first batch was an EPIC FAIL. DS was helping me, ever so excited about pouring flour and eggs and vanilla into the mixing bowl. Needless to say, I was distracted. As soon as I placed the cupcakes into the oven, I realized that I had forgotten to add SUGAR to the cake batter!
The next batches all went without a hitch, since DS decided that helping with one batch was enough. By the end of the day, I had my cakes all baked and cooled. I made the buttercream frosting on the morning of the party. The thing about making frosting with lots of different colors is it takes a lot of time. Separate bowls, spoons, piping bags, washing tips in between, etc. I was glad to have only four colors to work with. I doubled the frosting recipe just to see how far I'd get. But by the time I finished frosting the cupcakes, there was not enough to frost the small cake, nor was there enough time to make more frosting. Don't worry, I didn't freak out. It is what it is. I do have 36 cupcakes for DS to choose from for his candle blowing ceremony.
To frost the cupcakes, I first frosted each cupcake with a thin layer of yellow. Then I used a ribboning tip to pipe lines across the cupcake, leaving a window for the eyes. Before the eyes went on, they really looked like colorful mummies to me. Thank goodness the angry eyes made them look like ninjas! To finish, I smoothed out the ribbon edges all around the cupcakes with a small spreader.
In the end, the only change I made to the Vanilla Cupcakes recipe was reducing sugar in the batter from 1 cup to 3/4 cup. I made the frosting according to recipe, but I bet that next time I would not use all 2.5 cups of powdered sugar. Perhaps the extra vanilla extract boosted the sweetness of the buttercream, but I found it too sweet. The cupcakes taste dense but moist, and the buttercream frosting is very vanilla-y. A great combination and an excellent recipe if you're a vanilla cupcake fan.
One very helpful trick I learned from researching online was using an ice cream scoop -- the kind that requires a quick press of the thumb to release the ice cream -- to measure and drop cake batter into cupcake liners. My first batch, that failed anyway, turned out to be too high of a cupcake mound since I filled the ice cream scoop fully. I then adjust the amount of batter to make flatter cupcakes for easier decorating. The ice cream scoop gets all the batter to land inside the cupcake liner, reducing batter drip mess.
All in all, it was a great experience making these cupcakes. Now I have about 2 months before the next big birthday party bash. If you're not familiar with that process, Dear Birthday Party tells all. We'll probably relive that entire scenario with my other kiddo. (And in case you're wondering, Miss Bea Stingy is on probation. She blew the budget just on the party site alone. She needs to do better next time).
So, Dear Birthday Cupcakes, I had a good time with you. And I'm still munching on some leftovers in the fridge. Now I will begin researching the chocolate version of you, as my DD is a bona fide chocoholic. See you in two months!