Thursday, January 27, 2011

Rock Climbing Cake and Cupcakes!

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Hi guys! I made this cake and cupcakes for my little cousin Nick’s 9th birthday party last Sunday (1/23). He had his party at Main Event here in Austin, which is this awesome place that has an arcade, glow-in-the-dark putt putt golf, laser tag, bowling, and of course rock climbing. The theme was “Nick’s Rockin’ Birthday,” and it was a blast. My aunt Vickie asked me a week or so before the party if I’d make cupcakes for it. I had originally just planned to make cupcakes with grey frosting and some sort of candy on top to look like hand and foot holds on a rock climbing wall. Once I talked about it with my mom, however (who by the way is a creative genius), we had a completely different plan. She wanted to make an actual wall to place the cupcakes on, and have the cupcakes act as the hand and footholds on the wall. I told my aunt about the idea as well and agreed to make a small cake along with the cupcakes so Nick could have some candles to blow out. I think both the cake and the cupcakes turned out wonderfully, and the kids loved them. It was my first time really trying hard on a layer cake, and I’m very happy with how it turned out.

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My mom made the wall out of styrofoam bricks and painted it grey with a small bucket of oops paint we found at Walmart.
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I added a pennant at the top I had printed out on the computer as well as some rope to the wall.
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The layer cake is three layers of rainbow chip (from a box mix) covered in vanilla buttercream. The “rocks” are actually large jelly beans. The letters are just some candy letters I had since I didn’t want to ruin the cake with mediocre piping.
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The birthday boy about to blow out his candles.

Since both cakes were made from a box mix, I’ve got no recipe to share with you, but I do have some process pictures.
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Mise en place the night before baking.
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Here is the rainbow chip cake batter divided amongst three cardboard pans that I bought from All In One Bake Shop.
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Here are the layer cakes fresh from the oven. My oven tilts toward the back, so the cakes are all lopsided, but I was going to level them anyway so it didn’t matter. I just leveled them by sticking them in the freezer for about 45 minutes (covered in plastic wrap) and then sliced them level with a large knife.
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Here’s the cake with the first layer of frosting. I don’t own a turntable yet, so I used an upside down bowl with a plate on top instead.
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Here’s the cake after the first smoothing. I used a smooth paper towel and a scraper after the frosting had crusted to achieve this.
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Here’s the cake after the second smoothing and decorating.
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For the cupcakes, I mixed up the cake batter (just plain vanilla) and divided it evenly into three bowls.
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I then added Americolor gel coloring to each bowl to dye it red, yellow, and blue.
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I used red, yellow, and blue cupcake liners as well.
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Once frosted (I used my standard buttercream recipe and a jumbo 8B piping tip), the cupcakes and the cake went in the fridge to chill until the party the next day. I topped the cupcakes with Pop Rocks before setting them on the wall.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Gingerbread Snowflakes!

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Hiiii! Ugh, I'm so sorry these have taken me SO long to post. It was one of those things where I knew I needed to update, and I'd think about it, but felt so guilty about being so late that I just pushed it to the back burner, you know? I am the master procrastinator.
These are the last kind of Christmas cookies I made, and I suppose since they're more winter-themed than Christmas-themed, they're not so out-of-place in mid-January! They're spicy gingerbread snowflakes with royal icing and blue sugar, and I got the recipe from Smitten Kitchen.
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Wet Ingredients. I had *almost* enough brown sugar, but not quite, so I had to sub a little bit of white sugar to make up the difference.
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Dry Ingredients.
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The cookie dough.
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Divided the dough into three balls, wrapped each in plastic wrap (am I the only one who is terrible at working plastic wrap??), and stuck ‘em in the fridge.
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Rolling out the dough.
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Cutting out the snowflakes. I’m not a huge fan of this particular cutter, but it’s what I had.
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Laid the cookies on parchment-lined baking sheet.
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Fresh from the oven.
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Iced and sugared. There were a lot more cookies than pictured here, I think this recipe made about 60 cookies. As you can see, I tried to make a few of them unique, but decided to just stick with the one design.
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Spicy Gingerbread Cookies (from Smitten Kitchen)
6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon finely ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 cup (2 sticks or 1/2 pound) unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup unsulfured molasses
To decorate:
Royal icing (Martha’s recipe)
Various fine sanding sugars and sugar decorations
Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt in a large bowl and set aside. Beat butter and brown sugar together in a large bowl with an electric mixer until fluffy. Mix in eggs and molasses. Add flour mixture, mixing on low until just combined. Divide dough into thirds and wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate until cold and firm, about one hour or up to two days.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface to a 1/4-inch thick. Cut into shapes of your choice, such as snowflakes* or gingerbread men. Spread two inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and refrigerate until the cookies firm up again, about 15 minutes.
Bake cookies until crisp but not dark, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.
When cool, you can decorate the cookies with icing and sprinkles. When you pipe designs, sprinkle the icing with sanding sugar and let it sit for five minutes before tapping off the excess sugar. Then let the icing set completely at room temperature, which will take an hour or so, depending on how thick it is.
Store cookies between layers of parchment or waxed paper in an airtight container for up to a week.
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