Friday, July 25, 2014

Vanilla Buttercream Icing Recipe for Cupcakes; Light in Colour, Rich in Flavour

Let's face it, if you use real butter to make a buttercream icing, you will end up with a yellow-ish icing colour.  But what if you want a whiter colour to match a wedding cake or to follow through on a theme, but you still want real butter?  Well, you could use 'butter flavouring', but that is full of unnatural and artificial ingredients that you might not want. Or you could make a mixed recipe, that has a rich butter texture and flavour, but adds no unnatural ingredients.

This recipe is creamy and has a good butter flavour, and is much lighter in colour than my regular buttercream recipes.  And if you want it even lighter in colour, omit the canola oil (or change it to Grapeseed or another clear-coloured oil), and by omitting the oil, you will also have a thicker icing.

(covers about 60 cupcakes)

What you need:
  • 1 lb unsalted butter
  • 1 l pure lard (you can use shortening, but that has hydrogenated oil in it, lard is natural)
  • 1 cup of canola oil (or Grapeseed or other light-coloured oil)
  • 1 package of icing sugar (1 kg)

To make the icing:
  1. Either soften the butter on the counter overnight or remove packaging and microwave for about 20 seconds until soft (not melted until liquid though!)
  2. Beat together the softened butter and the lard until fluffy and well whipped.  Add the canola oil in quarters and whip in between. Be sure to use a spatula and stir the bottom into the middle regularly. Whip until fluffy.
  3. Slowly add the sugar through a sifter.  Mix well from the bottom of the bowl. Beat well until lumps are gone.  It is best to stop after half of the package is added and beat until fluffy, then do the same with the other half of the package.
  4. Add 2 tsp of real vanilla (or vanilla bean if you want the speckled appearance) and whip briefly until mixed.
Use immediately or cover with plastic wrap. Or place the entire amount in a large Ziplock bag, which makes it easier to freeze or use later to fill a pastry bag. If you freeze it, let it come back to room temperature naturally on the counter rather than microwaving before using it.

See the difference in colour between a 'full-butter' buttercream icing and this 'half-butter' recipe by comparing these two pictures (below):

Cupcakes decorated with icing made with the recipe above
- with half-butter and half lard.

Cupcakes decorated with icing that is made with only butter
(no lard) and white daisies.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dora The Explorer Cake: Very Simple and With Minimal Fondant

This Dora the Explorer cake was intended to be simple and tasty.  It was made with less fondant than my usual children's cakes, because a lot of adults were to be attending the party, so I wanted to be sure the cake could appeal to both kids and adults by maximizing the overall cake flavour. 

In order to make the faces, I searched for 'Dora Colouring Pictures' and 'Boots Colouring Pictures' on Google.  I found some in approximately the right sizes and printed them. 
Then I cut the paper pictures out.  I used these printed images to create a pattern.  Then I coloured various pieces of fondant in the traditional colours for Boots and Dora, rolled them out (on a dusting of icing sugar to prevent sticking), and used the paper pattern to cut out the shapes.

I also made small chocolate-flavoured fondant balls because the kids like to pick them off and eat them first. Simply roll out a long strip of fondant and then cut many pieces in the same size.  Roll each piece in the ball of your hands to create small balls and place around the base of the cake.

What's on the Outside?
The icing is a delicious whipped milk chocolate truffle with peanut butter.  I made a milk chocolate truffle (poured 1/2 cup hot cream over 8 ounces of milk chocolate and stirred until smooth) and let it cool to room temperature. I then whipped it until it was fluffy and added 1 cup of peanut butter. I let it set then whipped it again before spreading and piping it. With this icing, you must spread it immediately.  If you let it sit, it will stiffen and set again.

What`s inside?  A moist vanilla cake with two kinds of chocolate chips (organic milk and dark chocolate), and peanut butter buttercream icing (just butter, canola oil, icing sugar and peanut butter.

All ready for a summertime backyard birthday party!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Kitchen Daily Canada tells us about shocking additives in products that we use for baking cakes:

I was recently shocked when I read the label on my usual brand of unsalted butter and learned that artificial colour had been added to it. I read the label several years ago and it only had one ingredient: cream. I am not sure when the change happened, but it got me thinking about all the products that drive me crazy - like how most yogurt has unnecessary additives and I have to search through all the brands on the shelf at the grocery store until I find the only one that has all natural ingredients. So I wrote to Kitchen Daily Canada and told them that we needed to share this information. And now you can read our article here

So what are some other products that we use all the time in cake baking to watch out for? Besides butter, sour cream, fondant and royal icing mixes, there is one other product that we use ALL THE TIME. Find out what that other product is on Kitchen Daily Canada.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Funny Groom's Cake - 'Facehugger' from Alien Movie

I have had many different requests for cakes, but the most fun one by far has been for a Groom's Cake with a 'Facehugger' theme.  According to the Alien movie (and Wikipedia) a Facehugger is the second stage of the Alien's lifecycle and its purpose is to "make contact" with the host's (a person's) mouth and implant an embryo. Once implanted, it detaches from the face and dies. To describe it best: it looks crab-like, but also like a skin-coloured giant spider from your worst nightmares. Mmmm....delectable, no?

How did I make this cake?

I started with a face cake, because every good Facehugger needs a victim.  At first I wanted to stand the head upright, but the Facehugger would have weighed too much and flopped forward, so I went with a person who was lying flat, much like in the picture on Wikipedia.

I baked the head cake in 9" cake pan, making 5 layers of chocolate cake, and layered it with peanut butter buttercream icing and chunks of milk chocolate. After carving the general shape of the head, eyes, and nose, I put a thin layer of vanilla buttercream on the cake for a crumb coat (it is always important to contain the crumbs on carved chocolate cake) and refrigerated it until the icing was hardened.

Once the crumb coat was set, I covered the head with more vanilla buttercream and then a layer of skin-coloured rolled fondant icing. I did not need to worry about eyes and mouth colour because the Facehugger would cover it, but I did need to make sure the head had ears and hair.  So I cut many pieces of brown fondant and layered them on the head for hair. I also added a piece of blue with ribbing to make a shirt for the lower neck and shoulders, and brushed on a little edible glitter to make it more realistic.

Then I began to make the 'Facehugger' from Rice Krispie treats. I shaped them and cut long pieces for the Facehugger's legs and tail. I covered those in skin-coloured fondant with a bit of pink food colouring added for a salmon colour, and used a variety of round utensils to form the details of the alien. I darkened the indents with a little cocoa powder for texture and shined it up with some gold edible food spray. Then I attached the alien to the face with a little water brushed on, which dried quite nicely overnight.

Overall, it turned out great (which means it was just as ugly as it was intended to be!), however, I am not sure who ate it besides the groom.

So what was the best part about this cake? It sat right next to the super-sweet bride's cake covered in pink and blue flowers.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Cake and Icing Recipes

Having the perfect recipe can reduce time and stress, which will help get your creative juices flowing to decorate the perfect cake.  Here is a list of the original recipes provided on this website, as well as some from my other web sites:

  • Galette des Rois - Traditional French cake with a flaky pastry exterior and buttery, almond interior to be served for Epiphany, celebrated on January 6th.

  • How to Make Chocolate Pinecones - these rustic 'pinecones' are a great decoration to any rustic cake, or for a festive holiday cake, and can be made out of cake or by using any of my chocolate pate recipes.

  • Fudgy Chocolate and Pecan Piecaken - this PIECAKEN, or 'pake' or 'piecake' or whatever you prefer to call it, is indulgent and, well, over the top.  With a whole pie baked inside of a fudgy flourless chocolate cake, what better cake can you make for someone who loves pecan pie and chocolate?

Stay tuned....more to come!

Special Agent Oso Cake

Do your kids watch a lot of Special Agent Oso?  This may be the perfect birthday cake for that child who wants to go on a special mission this year.  It is simple and identifiable as the Disney character. 

I printed a large picture of Special Agent Oso online, then cut out paper shapes of his eyes and nose area and then traced them, to be sure they were accurate.

What's inside?

Layered chocolate cake made with sour cream, all natural ingredients, and real chocolate chunks.

Links to help with your Oso party:

Oso Colouring Pictures

Information on the Special Agent Oso television show

Images of Special Agent Oso

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Summer Camping Kid's Cake

This cake was made for a six-year old child who loves to go camping with his younger brother.  It's the perfect summer birthday celebration cake for that 'happy camper' in your life!

The tent is made with gumpaste to keep it stiff and standing upright (alternately, you can use a rectangle of rice treats to hold up a fondant-covered tent), while the rest is made with various colours of fondant, shaped by hand.

What's inside?  Chocolate cake layered with chocolate buttercream and chunks of organic milk chocolate.  Delicious and fun!