National Vanilla Cupcake Day

Did you know that every day is a national food day? It’s true, just Google “national food holidays”. Obviously, any day that happens to be some sort of national cupcake day, chocolate day or peanut butter day for example, are my favorite of days. But I have to say that one of the most oddly labeled national food holiday days is November 12th, “National Pizza with everything day (except anchovies)”. I mean really? I burst out laughing when I was reading these off to my boyfriend. So prepare yourself, it’s only two days away!

Lucky for you, today is National Vanilla Cupcake day (also without anchovies)! Yahoo! I decided that for this day, I would try two new recipes, both a cupcake and a frosting. I browsed through blogs to determine which recipe I wanted to try next; it had to be from scratch. I decided to try Glory’s recipe from her blog Glorious Treats; it seems like she did her homework and I wanted to give it a try. The Glorious Treats blog is one of my favorite blogs; she is very talented!

Vanilla cupcake with Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue

Her cupcake recipe is moist and light, although I think I overcooked mine a little. Her recipe yields 15-16 cupcakes. The cupcake rose nicely and baked fairly evenly. I usually don’t like to open the oven halfway through baking, but in this case, I probably should have rotated my pan halfway through to make sure they all cooked evenly. In my oven, the cupcake in the back of the pan tend to cook faster than in the front.

Vanilla Cupcakes (recipe from Glorious Treats)
Yields 14-16 cupcakes
Ingredients:

1 1/4 C Cake flour

1 1/4 tsp Baking powder

1/2 tsp Baking soda

1/2 tsp Salt

2 Eggs

¾ C Sugar

1 1/2 tsp Pure vanilla extract

1/2 C Oil (I used vegetable, but she said you can also use canola or olive oil)

1/2 C Buttermilk

  • Preheat your oven to 350°F.
  • In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients: cake flour, baking powder and salt.
  • Using the bowl for your electric mixer, crack 2 eggs and beat for 10-20 seconds.
  • Add sugar and beat on medium speed for another 30 seconds.
  • Add vanilla and oil and beat until incorporated.

  • Reduce the speed on your mixer to low and slowly add half of your flour mixture followed by half of your buttermilk. Repeat this by adding the rest of your flour and then the rest of your buttermilk. Beat until incorporated, you may have to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure all ingredients are well mixed.
  • Prepare you muffin tin with liners and fill about 2/3 full. You batter will be thin so pour cautiously!

Measure batter to ensure cupcakes are the same size

  • I was able to make 14 cupcakes using my 3 tbsp Pampered chef scoop. These are a wonderful investment, I have all three sizes and I use them all the time (The 1 tbsp scoop is perfect for mini cupcakes).

I am not saying to lick the spoon, because salmonella is bad, but this batter is awesome!

  • Once you oven is pre-heated, bake for 12-14 minutes.
  • Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for a couple minutes before removing them; then transfer to a wire rack. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.

MMMM Vanilla cupcakes

For the frosting, I made Vanilla bean Swiss meringue buttercream from my Martha Stewart Cupcake book. This was my first time making this frosting and it is absolutely heavenly. It is so light and creamy, but not overwhelmingly vanilla-y. I had a great time playing around with different piping tips to see how the frosting held up. It is very easy to pipe this type of buttercream and best of all, it hold its shape! Check out my post about Swiss meringue buttercream for the recipe.

Vanilla cupcake with Vanilla bean Swiss meringue frosting

Happy Vanilla Cupcake day!

Foodie Finds at Target

Tonight when I was shopping at Target (and by shopping I mean wandering around wasting time I don’t have), I found some awesome foodie gifts in the Christmas section. Yes, I am shopping in the Christmas section, let’s move on.

Awesome foodie finds at Target

Fondue for 2, how cute! Could make for a fun date night or small dinner party! These are also only $9.99 each.

Awesome plastic cake stands! The smallest one is only $5.99, middle size $6.99 and large $9.99. They are bright and super cute. At this affordable price, it’s worth it.

Individual cast iron skillet with cookie mix! Only $9.99! There are three flavors: snickerdoodle, chocolate chip and chocolate chip oatmeal. What an awesome gift for your foodie friend. Feel free to send me one, or six.

Awesome foodie finds at Target!

It’s not a trip to target without shopping the dollar bins and the bakery aisle to find out what’s on sale. Today I spotted a few awesome things.

New Stackable Marshmallow squares. I mean honestly, how on earth is it almost 2013 and they are just coming out with this product now? How long have we been making S’mores? I hope the person who came up with that got a fat pay raise.

Snack Pack Bakery Shop Pudding, $1. Ok, I didn’t buy this, but I wanted to. Just the flavor name was enough to catch my eye. Let me know if you try it!

Holiday sprinkles in the $1 bin. Awesome deal, I bought three different ones. I love collecting sprinkles as much as I love collecting cupcake liners. Sometimes I don’t feel it’s justified to spend $5 on a single color of sprinkles for one project. I love when I find small containers of sprinkles for affordable prices, let’s face it, you have exactly 25 days a year to use Christmas-themed sprinkles.

That all for now folks. Let me know if you have any good foodie finds! of your own to share

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Vanilla cupcake with vanilla bean Swiss Meringue buttercream

Swiss meringue buttercream (SMB) is a light, silky and buttery alternative to traditional buttercream. It is much less sweet, and therefore allows for the true flavors in the cupcake to shine. It is easy to pipe and holds its shape very well.  There are a lot of flavor variations that make this a very versatile frosting.  Although it seems like this takes more preparation than other types of frosting, the end results are very rewarding.

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The Start of It All

Somewhere this spring, my passion for baking was revamped. Sure, every Christmas I partake in some sort of baking adventure, but then my baking takes a hiatus for the rest of the winter.

I was looking to fill my time during this particularly long summer ahead of me. I started by baking cupcakes for my coworkers for birthdays and other random non-occasions. I decided that I wanted to take some cake decorating classes and found out that Wilton offered classes at my local Michaels art store. I signed up for the first month long course in June.

I was most excited for the baking portion of the class. In course 1, you make 2 cakes and some cupcakes. It was an opportunity for me to try some different recipes. I had made lots of frosting and worked with piping bags, but really knew nothing about using different tips to decorate cakes. I took my classes very seriously. I was in a full class of 15 people, unfortunately most students were Spanish-speaking ladies who were very disruptive and were constantly talking to each other while the instructor was teaching. I kind of felt like a suck up for taking it so seriously and being so annoyed by my less-focused classmates, but I paid for the class and the materials and I wanted to learn. I was lucky that my instructor recognized my enthusiasm and was more than willing to answer all my questions after each class.

The first course was really learning a lot of basics about the tools used: how to properly frost a cake, learning about icing consistencies, and playing around with different tips to decorate. Piping is about learning the proper pressure and hand position. The classes have given me a much higher respect for professional decorators.

Course 1 final cake

 By the end of course 1, I was ready for more!  I signed up for courses 2 and 3, luckily, a majority of the women in my class did not sign up for the next ones. We were a small group of 4 ladies (perfect for me) and I was able to get a lot of hands-on attention from the instructor.

Course 2 was about Flower and cake design. This course had no baking involved until the final class. We were learning about royal icing; which has to be made from scratch. Royal icing is a powdered meringue based frosting; it’s very temperamental in my opinion. It has to be beaten for just the right amount of time in order to work properly; too much or too little beating and you have to start all over. It was my least favorite course, but I acknowledge the importance of needing to how to work with royal icing. Royal icing hardens to a very firm consistency. It allows you to make all sorts of flowers and decorations ahead of time to use for your cakes. There are lots of decorations and objects that can be made using royal icing as it acts as a very good “glue” for holding things together.

Royal icing flowers

We also learned to make roses, daffodils, pansies and other various flowers. It was difficult for me to get the hang of these techniques, despite all the practice I did at home. In the final class, we learned how to do basket weaving on cakes, which I was excited for. Accordingly the instructor, it is a very basic decorating technique, but I still think there is a time and a place where it works well.

Course 2 final cake

My final cake for course 2 was somewhat of a disaster. I underestimated the amount of buttercream needed for basket weaving. So my icing on my crumb coat layer was a different color than my basket weave. I chose my best flowers I made during the course and tried to make a creative arrangement on my cake. When I was finished, I was over it and ready to move on to course 3.

Course 3 was gum paste and fondant. I had never worked with fondant before, but knowing the endless possibilities, I was ready to begin. We learned how to make various flowers out of gum paste, which was much easier than royal icing. Gum paste is most comparable to play dough. It hardens nicely and also is used to make tons of various decorations. We learned roses, carnations, calla lilies, mums and daisies. The roses were my favorite. We learned how to cover cakes with fondant, which was by far the most daunting part to me.

I wanted my final for course 3 to be very special. I surfed the internet for a couple weeks trying to find cakes to replicate. I found my dream cake made by Amanda Oakleaf Cakes, Knowing that I could not replicate all the elements, I tried my best to pick my favorite parts.

Cake by Amanda Oakleaf, originally found on Thecakeblog.com

I was extremely pleased with my results. I am somewhat of a perfectionist and am very often hard on myself. My teacher was so pleased with my work she asked if she could photograph my cake, of course I said! I was honored. Take a look at the photos below.

Course 3 final cake

Roses

Feathers

I decided not to take course 4, which was all about advanced gum paste flowers. After 3 months of weekly classes, I was ready for a break. I was headed back home to see my family in a couple weeks and things were picking up at work. The Wilton classes were a great starting point for me to learn the basic. I continue to use the skills I acquired every time I bake.

I really enjoyed taking these classes; they really inspired my creative side to come back and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

The classes can get expensive though. If you choose to invest in all of the materials, I would recommend speaking with your teacher first to find out what items you actually need to purchase for each class. My instructor was very good about telling us what we did or did not need. In some cases, the tools were only used in one class. It is also good if you can pair up with a classmate to share in some of the expenses of the tools. I would recommend these classes to anyone interested in learning the basic of cake decorating. You have to commit two hours a night for one night a week. Each course lasts four weeks. Best of all, you can sign up with your son or daughter too! For more information about classes, check our the Wilton website.

Good luck!