Sunday, August 29, 2010

Watermelon Cupcakes

This post goes out to my sweet sister-in-law Nicky, who called me up a few days ago for ideas for her daughter's 4th birthday. She wanted to do a watermelon theme, and was wondering if I had any ideas for something she could make that would be cute and easy. After brainstorming for a little while I came up with a few ideas, and decided to try a couple of them out. Here are the fruits of my labors (no pun intended):

I wanted to do something that would require no pastry bags, tips, and piping. All that I used besides the edible ingredients were these things:

A jumbo muffin pan, Wilton's mini-ball pan, and a mini-muffin pan, along with Wilton colors No-Taste Red, Juniper Green, and Leaf Green and a small paint brush (dedicated only to my pastry projects and not to any of my daughter's art projects!).

I made up a simple boxed white cake mix and added the red coloring until I got the pink that I wanted. Then I added about a cup of mini-chocolate chips--for the seeds. One cake mix was the perfect amount to make 6 jumbo cupcakes, 6 mini-ball halves, and 6 mini-cupcakes (I didn't use any cupcake liners--I wanted the pink cake color to be seen).

I made 2 mistakes during this process that I have learned from. 1--don't accidentally leave your bag of mini-chocolate chips on top of the stove when you are preheating your oven. I had a gooey mess on my hands and only salvaged about 1/3 of the bag. What a waste . . . but a yummy waste! 2--don't turn your back on a 22-month old that thinks she can help do everything. She proceeded to finger paint with the left-over egg yolks that I had separated from the egg white that I used. What a mess.

On the other hand, she did love helping, and a perfect job for her was to dye my sugar the different green colors. I just put some sugar in ziplock bags with a little food color, sealed it up, and let her shake and rub the bag for awhile. She thought that was a lot of fun. I was sad that all I had was regular sugar and no decorating sugar, but it was late Saturday, and I didn't want to run to the store, so we made do.

The bottom two plate were from the leaf green and juniper green colors, while the top was a mixture of the two colors together. Okay--cupcakes are cooled, sugar is made--it's time to start decorating.

I tinted some vanilla icing green with my two green colors, and iced the top of my 6 jumbo cupcakes. I love mixing these two colors when I do leaves and vines on cakes. They give just the right green when I do.

I tried 3 different techniques on the tops to see what I liked the best.

1. I rolled the frosted green top in the green sugar that was the combo of the two green colors. It gave a sort of speckled top. Not quite the watermelon look I wanted, so I moved on to my next idea.

2. I placed strips of waxed paper on top of the cupcake like below and rolled the top in the juniper green sugar. Then I removed the waxed paper and rolled the entire top in the leaf green sugar. This was a lot better than attempt #1, but I kept wishing it was the decorating sugar. It would have been much more sparkly I think.

3. Attempt #3 was my favorite. I took some of the leaf green food color paste, mixed it with a tiny bit of water, and painted lines directly on my green frosting. You can be the judge yourself. Which do you like best?

Next thing was what to do with the mini-ball halves. Why not frost them like the cupcakes, and then slice them into watermelon slices to put around the cupcakes? That's what I attempted. First I needed to level the bottoms of the half balls.

Then icing and painting or dipping in sugar (I only did #2 and #3 way). Definitely more difficult than the cupcakes. It was harder to hold on to the half balls when the entire top was iced, then cutting them in slices was also a challenge. I had to kind of smush the knife threw them, so they weren't as clean-looking as I had hoped, but still cute.

With that done it's plating time. First the sugar top ones (cute, but just wait, I love the next one so much more):

Yep, this is definitely my favorite. They just make me happy. And of course, I had to add a little tribute to Mickey.
I hope this helps, Nicky. And maybe someone else out there enjoyed my little experimentation with watermelon cupcakes. Next time maybe I'll try cookies . . . I already have a few ideas for some watermelon ones I want to try.

and if anyone is wondering what happened to the 6 mini-cupcakes that were baked . . . well, a decorater needs some nourishment while she works!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Birthday Ice Cream Brownie Cake

My sweet husband had a birthday recently, and his one request was brownies. No cake. Just brownies. I asked him if I could fancy up the brownies a bit. He said I could put stuff on top of it, but as for the brownies, he just wanted the normal Betty Crocker brownies--nothing extra in it.

I held true to his request and began by baking 2 6" square brownies from the Betty Crocker mix. Then the fun began...

My inspiration was brownie sundaes and banana splits, so I began by layering sliced bananas on top of one of the brownies, then drizzling fudge and caramel over that. If you want a super easy way to drizzle those 2 things evenly, then all you need to do is put some in a ziplock baggie, snip the tip off, and squeeze. It even works with room temp fudge sauce.

I had also frozen a 6" square block of vanilla ice cream. Make sure you freeze it really well. My first attempt was kind of a disaster and I layered the ice cream on the brownie when it was still slightly soft. Even putting it directly back into the freezer for awhile, it was a soupy mess when I came back, so I had to start all over.

The ice cream needs caramel and fudge too! Time for more drizzling.

Then I just stuck the 2nd brownie layer on top. Now for some decorating, I decided to line the whole thing with kit kats--one of my husband's favorite candy bars. It made it look kind of like a basket. Simple but fun. You can use some fudge sauce as the glue to hold them on.

Then I just filled in the top with some reddi-whip and more fudge and caramel. Here you can fancy it up even more with nuts, sprinkles, cherries, etc. I just know my husband doesn't like any of that, so we kept it more simple (but can't you imagine how cute it would be if you used maraschino cherries as candle holders? Way cute).

Well, it was a success. As you can tell, my husband, as well as my daughter, liked it a lot. They dug right in before I could stop them.

In retrospect, I would change one thing, and leave out the bananas. I just wasn't too fond of them in there. I guess that brownies sundaes and banana splits don't totally go together for my palate, but maybe you would like it. Hmmm...maybe I would also use mint chocolate chip ice cream instead of vanilla...or cookies n' cream...okay I'd better stop--I'm starting to crave ice cream, and this pregnant woman probably doesn't need anymore ice cream.