Monday, March 30, 2009

A New Fad in Housewarming Gifts

Cute potted plants, scented candle and candlestick sets, fancy picture frames, cool kitchen gadgets...the list of housewarming gifts can go on and on, with plenty of focus on all things decorative and all things practical. That being said, you can leave those gifts to all the other guests and bring something unique and tasty to liven up what's bringing you there in the first place: the party. That's what Eugene did when he ordered a batch of boozy cupcakes for his friend's housewarming party on a Saturday evening in a beautiful San Francisco neighborhood.

Presenting, Light-as-a-Cloud Cointreau Cupcakes:
Ooh, will you look at that? Light, vanilla buttercakes with orangey Cointreau poured into the batter, topped with an airy cloud of Cointreau buttercream--whipped 'til fluffy--and a juicy mandarin orange slice.

Here they are pre-mandarined:
And here they are after, for a refreshing splash of color:
The lightness and delicate orange flavor, while deceptive (these babies were in no way low-fat), make it easy to devour these cupcakes without any feelings of guilt--and that's a good thing! All the more reason to take a lovely stroll in the new neighborhood to work off those extra calories that were oh-so-worth it.
Thanks, Eugene, for your order. I hope these cupcakes were a hit at the housewarming and that you were deemed the most awesome guest in the history of, well, ever ;)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pirouettes and Birthday Parties

There's something about pirouette cookies that I can't get enough of. I don't know if it's the ribbon of chocolate that slinks down the wafer or the fact that they're really tasty--delicate and flaky with a sweet cream filling. Whatever it is, I do enjoy creating a fence of pirouette cookies around my layer cakes for a fancier look, especially when the flavors of the cream filling complement the flavors of the cake. This weekend, my assistant and I churned out two birthday cakes--pirouettes aplenty.

First, Joshua ordered a cake to surprise his wife with at her birthday party. He requested a mocha cake with Bailey's filling and frosting.

Presenting, the Mocha Madness, which is sure to energize and wake you up rather than lull you into sleep like my Midnight Mocha (which has Jack Daniels whiskey rather than coffee in the batter) might.
This is a two-layer mocha cake--a chocolate cake base with very strong, freshly-brewed coffee poured into the batter--filled with Bailey's custard, topped with Bailey's buttercream frosting, garnished with dark chocolate-covered espresso beans, and encircled by sturdy chocolate cream pirouette cookies.
Held together by a shimmery gold ribbon, this cake contains layer after layer of flavor--rich dark chocolate with bold notes of coffee and the smooth creamy finish of Bailey's Irish Cream.
Thanks for ordering, Joshua! Wishing your wife a very happy birthday. I hope you and your guests enjoyed the cake!

As for pirouette cake number two, Jason ordered a birthday cake for his buddy, Cliff. The only request he made was that it be chock-full of strawberries, as Cliff is a big fan of them. Not a problem. With plenty of Bailey's on hand, my assistant and I decided to make a Strawberries and (Irish) Cream cake:
Here we have a bottom layer of vanilla cake slathered with Bailey's custard and a generous filling of fresh strawberry slices. A second cake layer, gently placed on top of the first, is frosted with a smooth layer of Bailey's custard and neatly arranged strawberry halves. Finally, a circle of vanilla cream pirouette cookies--held together by the same sparkly gold ribbon--hides the strawberry-and-Irish-cream center from sight until the birthday boy cuts into the cake for a sweet surprise.
Thanks, Jason, for your order, and happy birthday, Cliff! I hope you like the Bailey's and strawberry pairing as much as assistant does. How unfair! Here I am watching her dip extra strawberries into the leftover Bailey's custard. My being imaginary isn't an excuse for not even offering to share, y'know...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Cupcake Lineup

Okay, I've caved. With cupcakeries sprouting up in cities big and small everywhere, I've been trying to turn my nose at cupcakes, deeming them nothing more than a sugar-laden, overpriced trend with an obscene frosting-to-cake ratio. After all, I'm all about the cake--moist, tender, fine-crumbed cake in all its delicious varieties from the light and spongey to the dense and fudgy. But somewhere along the way, I caved. Cupcakes are so darn cute and ridiculously fun to craft! From my first cupcake order to my biggest and most elaborate, I've been smitten and can no longer hide my excitement every time a cupcake order comes in. Like when Charles wanted a batch of boozy cupcakes for his friend's housewarming party, I was happy to oblige.
All sixteen were vanilla bourbon cupcakes made with Maker's Mark poured generously into the batter. The eight on the left were frosted with bourbon buttercream, while the eight on the right were frosted with Bailey's buttercream. Toppings from left to right were as follows: crushed walnut pieces, chocolate shavings with a coconut cream pirouette cookie, dark chocolate-covered espresso beans, and caramelly butterscotch chips.

And here's the lineup in reverse order:
If a batch of bourbonful cupcakes doesn't properly warm a house, I don't know what will ;)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Take me to the Big Apple

I just completed my largest cupcake order to date, and am both stoked and hugely relieved. Whew! Eric ordered three dozen Manhattan-inspired cupcakes to surprise his wife, Anne, at her birthday party. This was a challenging order, as it's hard to capture the flavor of the classic Manhattan cocktail (which isn't very sweet) in a cupcake (which certainly is)...and the thought of adding a dash of bitters into sweet, unsuspecting buttercream was enough to make me cringe. But after some experimenting and a couple of test batches, my assistant and I were pleased with the buttery, bourbony results and were ready to unveil our creation:

One big batch of Manhattan-inspired Cupcakes:
Ahem, as mentioned in my previous post, my assistant needs some serious help with her photography skills. Are you kidding me? I can't even see the swirls on those!
Oh! Well, there's the swirl. That's not half bad...
And this one's sitting quite prettily...
Okay, so she took a spare cupcake and brought it on an outdoor photoshoot to prove that lighting is indeed the problem. All right, touche.

Anyways, these were bourbon buttercakes made with Maker's Mark and minimal sugar in the batter for just a hint of sweetness. The tops of each cupcake were brushed with a thin layer of the bourbon straight out of the bottle before they were decorated with a buttercream swirl flavored with both Maker's Mark bourbon and Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth. Finally, each cupcake was topped with an Amarena cherry--Anne's favorite--rather than one of those cloyingly sweet and artificial-tasting Maraschino cherries. There's no room for those when you've got lovely, plum-colored beauts like these that taste more like cherries than they do sugar and red food coloring.

Anne, I hope you had a fantastic birthday party and that these cupcakes captured the essence of the classic and ever-classy Manhattan. Cheers!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Strawberry season...already?

Well, not quite. But with berries as juicy, sweet, and plump as these, no one has to know. What a way to let our minds and taste buds travel out of chilly February and into a sunshine- and strawberry-filled summer brimming with pies, tarts, ice cream sundaes, and daiquiris.

My assistant couldn't resist picking up a couple of pints of these ruby gems before whipping up two cakes--on the house--for two special birthdays.

For her Auntie Julie, we created a Strawberry Shortcake:
A moist butter cake layer generously slathered with french vanilla custard and fresh strawberry slices topped with a second layer of buttery yellow cake, more custard, and plump strawberry halves.
The lighting here really doesn't do the berries justice. Let's give this another try with Cake Number Two for her Uncle Soph, a Chocolate Pudding Cake with Strawberries:
Here we have two layers of dark chocolate cake infused with Jack Daniels and Grand Marnier, a filling of strawberry slices soaked overnight in Grand Marnier, and lots of rich chocolate pudding frosting topped with fresh strawberry slices for one perfectly moist and tasty cake.
Will you look at that? Finally, a photo that captures the beautiful ruby blush of the strawberries! Assistant, will you please work on your photography skills? K, thanks ;)

(Update: She says it was the lighting. I say, no excuses! And I am not high maintenance, thank you very much...)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Guess who?

It's rough and prickly on the outside and soft and translucent on the inside. While small in size, it packs a juicy, flavorful punch and makes for one hell of a martini.

Any guesses?

Why, it's none other than the luscious little lychee! My latest customer, Max, wanted a boozy cake featuring this pearly fruit (or if you want to be all technical and correct, drupe), and I was more than happy to craft one.

Presenting, the Lycheetini Cake
A vanilla cake infused with Soho Lychee Liqueur (both baked into the cake and generously brushed onto the cake layers), a filling of drunken lychee slivers that were marinated overnight in Grey Goose vodka, and a liberal topping of lychee liqueur buttercream--all topped with plump, juicy lychee halves, a fresh strawberry for color, and surrounded by coconut cream pirouettes to enhance the cake's tropical flavor.

Oooh, will you look at that glossy frosting? And I suppose that the lychee halves could pass for those cute little pearl onions--but surprise! These are just way, way tastier.

And do you really want an onion cake? Please! Be considerate of those around you ;)

Thanks for ordering, Max. I hope you enjoy this cake as much as my assistant and I enjoyed creating it.