Saturday, October 31, 2009

Autumn celebrations aplenty

Happy Halloween, folks! As if that wasn't reason enough to throw a huge shindig, my assistant's Aunt Betty and Uncle Soph hosted yet another of their epic barbecues -- this time to celebrate the birthdays of good friends, Ryan and Mae. I always find myself having to fend off serious pangs of envy whenever my assistant excitedly makes her way to her aunt and uncle's gatherings -- gatherings brimming with great food and wine, fantastic company, but, alas, no invitations to imaginary folk like me. Well, one can live vicariously, and boy, were the butternut squash soup and coconut chicken curry tasty!

It's been awhile since my assistant and I whipped up a layer cake, as we've been sidetracked by a flurry of cupcake orders. In fact, the last layer cake we made was for Auntie Betty's birthday in August. The Sweet and Sassy Strawberry Shortcake is a hard one to top, but we were up for the challenge and ready to present not one, but two tabletop stunners.
For Ryan, we went with a decadent Chocolate Mousse Triple-Decker:
Three layers of rich chocolate cake filled with silky dark chocolate pudding, frosted with creamy chocolate mousse, and topped with fresh strawberry halves...
this is the making of a chocoholic's dream.

And for Mae, we really honed in on autumn's finest flavors for this Apple Pumpkin Spice Cake:
Two generously cinnamoned apple spice cake layers studded with raisins, filled and frosted with pumpkin cream cheese frosting, and topped with paper thin apple slices and a drizzle of pumpkin butter -- this cake is chock-full of the homey, spicy flavors that we relish this time of year.
Aunt Betty and Uncle Soph: Thanks for hosting yet another wonderful party! Ryan and Mae: We hope you both had very happy birthdays and enjoyed your cakes. And readers: Happy Halloween! Cheers to receiving more treats than tricks this year. That, and no admonishment from dentists or dietitians ;)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A good ol' cup(cake) of joe

A steaming cup of coffee is a great way to jump start the day, keep those engines running through the afternoon, or melt into the evening with after dinner. Like my sweet-toothed assistant, I prefer mine with a generous helping of cream and sugar -- and I can't think of anything creamier or more sugary than a rich, generously frosted Mocha Cupcake.

My assistant's friend, Jalees, was in town for the weekend and wanted a batch of cupcakes to share with his traveling companions. He made a specific request for mocha cupcakes made with Kahlua -- a perfect way to keep him and his friends fueled through the grueling drive back to LA from San Francisco...and through all of the adventures along the way.

Well, here's what my assistant whipped up for her fellow foodie and beer connoisseur:
Mocha cupcakes made with cocoa, freshly brewed coffee, and Kahlua liqueur, topped with Kahlua buttercream. The third row of cupcakes (the ones topped with crushed Oreos) were frosted with Bailey's buttercream to add some variety to this mixed dozen.
Aromatic coffee, dark chocolate, coffee liqueur, and Irish cream? One cannot go wrong!
Thanks, Jalees, for your visit! Hope you and your friends enjoyed the cupcakes and had a fantastic road trip. My assistant would like to hear stories, thank you very much ;)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Just another day at the office...sweetened

Have you ever:
Started your day with a cup of coffee?
Brought your A-game to (or struggled to stay awake through) a morning meeting?
Spent over half an hour clearing the ol' inbox?
Shared some serious gossip over lunch?
Taken a deep sigh of relief at the end of the day at around, say, 5:30?
If you answered "yes" to any (or all) of the above, chances are: you've experienced just another day at the office.

Whether you love or hate your job, a surprise treat between your sleepy post-lunch 1:1 and mid-afternoon rendezvous with the espresso machine does a body, any body, good. And what better surprise treat than an ever-so-slightly spiked cupcake to bring a little sweetness to your workday?

Chris had the right idea when he requested a batch of cupcakes to thank a group of hard-working engineers on his team at Microsoft.I've lovingly nicknamed these Bailey's and Berries Cubicle Cupcakes as the slightly oversized cupcake-tops took on a square-ish shape during transit. It's as if they knew they were making their way to similarly shaped office cubicles.
Rich chocolate cupcakes topped with Bailey's-spiked buttercream and a juicy, fresh strawberry half, these beauties were a nice way to give kudos for a job well done. Thanks, so much, Chris, for ordering these. I hope you and your teammates enjoyed them!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fiesta Time!

What better way to kick off a weekend than by happy houring with delicious cocktails and good company, you ask? Well, how about celebrating a birthday with great company and cocktail cupcakes?

My assistant and I were thrilled when Kristine requested two dozen cupcakes featuring her friend Chrissie's favorite cocktail -- the fiesta-friendly Margarita -- for her birthday. I dove right into brainstorming mode, and my mind was sent reeling with the possibilities. Did we want to use rum or tequila? Lime juice, lime zest, or a combination of both? Should we pour margarita mix in the batter? A zesty lime buttercream frosting or a naturally tangy cream creese frosting? The possibilities were dizzying (one might say, in a one-margarita-too-many kind of way...), but entirely exciting.

After plenty of brainstorming and some executive-decision-making on Kristine's part, we came up with this little beauty:
Hellooo, cupcake! What we have here is a tequila-lime cupcake brushed with tequila syrup and filled with refreshing lime pastry cream (oh, if only I had a photo of a cut cupcake so that you could see the custardy center colored bright green by a generous heap of lime zest!). The cupcake was then topped with a tangy cream cheese frosting and a sprinkling of course sea salt to capture the flavor of the salted rim on a traditional margarita glass. Topped with a lime wedge, this little cupcake truly embodied the margarita in all its glory: the zip, the zing, and the savory-sweet-and-sour combination of flavors.

But still, I thought it could use a little something-something.
Aha! Now we're talking. So I know that one doesn't drink a traditional margarita with a straw, but this was just so darn cute that I couldn't resist.
Kristine, thanks so much for the opportunity to whip up our first batch of margarita cupcakes. I hope Chrissie enjoyed a very happy birthday and that everyone enjoyed the cupcakes!

P.S. Anyone try sipping out of the straw?

Monday, October 5, 2009


Exciting news: My assistant entered her very first cupcake competition! Not so exciting news: She didn't win (I told her that boozy cakes, while delightful and certainly our specialty, don't appeal to everyone). However, her entry received a lot of rave reviews from tasters, the most frequently heard one being, "Mmmm..." and her personal favorite being, "Now that's a cupcake," said by a man with a nice glob of frosting hanging on his beard.
CupcakeCamp was nothing short of awesome (it's things like these that make me wish I weren't imaginary) -- with around 70 bakers and over 700 attendees armed with forks, plates, and little cups of milk, it was a cupcake wonderland! Batches of cupcakes were released in 15-minute intervals, creating something of a highly organized free-for-all. However, there was no pushing, shoving, or flagrant-line-cutting--just patient waiting, free-flowing conversation, lots of eager anticipation, and big frosting-specked smiles from tasters and bakers alike.

Now for my assistant's entry: She wanted to enter the "Best Breakfast-Inspired" category and went with another iteration of what we love to call the "Breakfast of Champions" because, well,'re some kind of champion if you have bourbon first thing in the morning. Inspired by Humphrey Slocombe's "Secret Breakfast" ice cream flavor and by yours truly, my assistant whipped up a batch of what was essentially spiked milk and cereal: rich, buttery bourbon cupcakes filled with vanilla milk pudding, topped with a bourbon buttercream frosting, crushed Vanilla Almond Special K flakes for lots of crunch, and get this--a bruleed banana slice. I can't think of a better cereal topper than fresh banana slices sprinkled with sugar and browned under a hot, hot broiler. Yum!
And from another angle:
Well, the Maker's Mark didn't do the trick: the winners in the "Best Breakfast-Inspired" category were both savory, with first place going to "Gruyere and Mushroom" and second place to "Bacon and Maple." Overall, it was a wonderful experience, and my assistant would like to give a couple of shout-outs and thank-yous to friends in order of appearance:

Justin - Food buddy! Thanks for coming out and partaking in cupcake madness!
Natsuki - It was awesome meeting you the day before (that was so much fun!). Thanks for coming with your friends.

Nav - Thanks so much for coming and for saving me from the brisk cold with your fleece pullover. Sunshine can be deceiving in the city!

Pandas - I was so stoked to see you all! Congrats on winning your game, and thanks for coming out, showing your support, and making room for cupcakes even after a hearty lunch.
Eric - I'm so glad I found you towards the end of the event with my very last cupcake. Thanks for coming.

Okay, okay, Little Miss Exclamation Point. That's enough now. You're cramping my style ;)
Just teasing -- I'm so glad you entered and am proud of our entry. Can't wait for the next one!