"The Key to My Heart" by Glenna Muse; Pear & Walnut Spice cake w/Cardamom Buttercream
Garrett of Vanilla-Garlic and Cheryl of Cupcake Bakeshop issued a cupcake blogging event this month and I thought it was a great chance to stretch a little in the cake & decorating area. You know I'm a respiratory therapist by day now, freelance writer by night, but I was also a hotel convention and banquet planner for ten years and had my own cake decorating/catering company called A Piece of Cake for five years. I had to give up making cakes six years ago because of my hands. Carpal tunnel and pastry bag holding for hours just do not play well together.
This event gave me a little push to wrap my head around designing again and since Valentine's Day is coming up soon, it seemed like the most natural of themes. Kind of hard to write "Happy Valentine's Day, Gene" on the top of a cupcake, though. Maybe those guys who write the whole New Testament on a grain of rice could accomplish it. But hey, I'm not one of them so I had to be a little more creative than that.
I do have to share a cute husband story. I get to do cute husband stories since we don't have kids or pets, you know. I overheard Gene on the phone with one of his friends this afternoon talking about the cupcakes and bragging about the design (very sweet!) and then I heard him say "Uhhh...well she has a food blog...and a personal blog...and I think someone's having a contest or something like that....and...I don't know...uhhh.... I don't know....all I know is I get cupcakes. When she's done taking pictures in there, the cupcakes are mine, mine, ALL MINE!"
Don't be scared. I only made a half batch and they're jumbos so the count is only six. He'll make them last a few days, saving them up to eat for breakfast mostly. The "all" was figurative but the "mine" was literal, like a toddler. He's claimed his property already. When I ate one this afternoon in front of him, I thought for a second he was going to either burst into tears or try to steal all my toys.
He may be territorial when it comes to his treats but he was also very helpful with the camera, making suggestions about lighting and backgrounds. It's harder than you would think to get the details of the dark chocolate captured without totally overexposing the white frosting.
Here's the one shot I allowed him to take of me decorating:
Click below for the cake and frosting recipes and step by step directions including photos of how my cupcake came to be. The round-up of cupcakes will be posted on both Garrett's and Cheryl's blogs on or after January 29th--be sure to go see all the mini works of art that sugar, flour, and butter built.
The Chocolate Heart and Key:
The Chocolate Heart and Key:
1. I created the design at exact size. Remember it never hurts to have a back up. In this case the second of the keys was the best but it took making a third heart to get the look I wanted. There's always a little trial and error on a new design. Then I taped waxed paper over the drawings so that I could pipe chocolate directly, using the drawings as a template.
2. I melted semisweet chocolate and red Wilton decorating candy in the microwave and loaded them into disposable pastry bags. Being a little lazy hating to wash pastry bags coated in chocolate, I tried to guess amounts as close as I could but leftover chocolate got tossed directly into the trashcan (shame on me but I don't feel guilty).
3. Outlining from the inside out, first I carefully outlined the outer edge of the lock hole, then the inside of the two outer lines. Next I filled in between with the melted chocolate. Then I placed the lollipop stick into the base of the heart to stabilize it onto the finished cupcake, and then filled in the outer edge with a bigger decorating tip, creating a smooth outer line and covering over the heart end of the stick for stability.
4. Letting the chocolate in the pastry bag cool slightly, I then piped a shell border around the heart and set it aside to cool before adding the red accents.
5. After the heart had cooled, I went back and added the small heart accents using a leaf tip and then set the whole thing aside to dry.
To make the keys I followed roughly the same process with one exception. Rather than trying to keep a fragile line of chocolate unbroken, I dipped a lollipop stick in the chocolate by literally running the stick through a large round border tip down inside the pastry bag.
I then filled in the heart top with chocolate in the same manner as the lock, using the drawing as my template, and added the teeth to the key with a writing tip. After the chocoloate had cooled, I again added the red accents, also using a writing tip.
The frosting is piped onto the cupcake tops using an oversized shell border tip and pastry bag.
Pear & Walnut Cupcakes:
recipe by Glenna Muse
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
Add and continue to cream:
1 tsp vanilla
Continue mixing and add in:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground allspice
3 cups fresh pears, peeled and diced
2 Tbsp lemon juice (tossed with fresh pears)
1/2 cup English or black walnuts, chopped
Pour into muffin tins lined with cupcake papers, about 2/3 full with batter. Bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes until browned nicely but not overbaked. Watch carefully. Makes 20-24 regular sized cupcakes.
These are my heir and a spare I held back from the others for decorating when Gene came sniffing into the kitchen saying "Can I have one yet? Can I have one yet? I'm starving. Really. I must have cupcakes now. I don't need frosting."
Cardamom Buttercream Frosting:
recipe by Glenna Muse
2 sticks (8 oz total) butter, room temp
1 Tbsp real vanilla
2 tsp ground cardamom
5 cups powdered sugar, sifted for any lumps
1/4 cup milk (or water if cupcakes will be sitting out in a fairly hot room for more than a day)
1. Cream butter until fluffy and very pale in color.
2. Add vanilla and cardamom and mix thoroughly.
3. Continue beating while adding in sugar one cup at a time alternating with a splash of milk, beating until smooth in between each addition.
This photo is from about 1/3 of the way through the batch:
4. When all of the ingredients are blended, continue to whip for an additional minute or two for extra creaminess.
Makes approximately 5 cups of frosting.