Spring Is in the Air

With spring (maybe) just around the corner, that means we are in for some rain showers, which then brings the flowers. Here are some activities to get your little ones excited about what’s in store for the next few weeks. … Continue reading

Making The Perfect Cupcake

Making a great cupcake comprises of three parts: the cupcake itself, the filling, and the icing. Each have their own tips and tricks for getting them just right. Once you have mastered all three, you have made the perfect cupcake.

Baking

 Getting the baking process down is essential. Cupcakes should have a slight dome on top. Filling the cups too full will cause the batter to spill over and create a ‘cap’ which doesn’t look nice. Using a portion scoop to fill the cups will ensure your cupcakes are uniform each time.

1. Place cupcake papers in the pan. Fill each cup about 2/3 full.

baking

2. Bake according to the recipe instructions. Test cupcakes with a cake tester to be sure they are done. Let cupcakes cool in pan until they are cool enough to handle, then transfer them to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

Filling

Who doesn’t love a cupcake with filling in the middle? There are many options for types of fillings you can use, as well as tools to fill with. Some tools may work better than others depending on the size of cupcake and the type of filling you use. A cupcake corer (shown here) removes the center of the cupcake for just the right amount of filling.

1. Insert corer into the cupcake until the guard is resting on the top of the cupcake. Remove the corer and eject the cupcake center.

filling_1

2. Cut the top off the cupcake center.

filling_2

3. Squeeze filling into the hallowed out center of the cupcake almost to the top.

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4. Place the cut top piece back on the cupcake, covering up the filling.

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Icing

No cupcake is complete without its icing. But choosing the flavor of the icing isn’t even the hardest part- it’s deciding on how the cupcake will be decorated. There are several tips that once perfected, will be a fast and simple way to decorate professional looking cupcakes.

1. Drop the tip down into a pastry bag so that 1/3 of it sticks outside. Fill the bag with icing.

2. Pipe a small mound of icing  in the center of the cupcake. Pipe a ring around the center mound and continue piping until the mound in the center is covered. The swirl should be piped with one fluid motion without stopping or changing pressure.

cupcake-tip

Above, are some of the most popular tips used for decorating cupcakes. Clockwise: tip 30-2E, tip 30-6B, tip ATC-807, and tip 30-1M.

Uncle Sam Cupcakes

Fourth of July is just around the corner. These festive red, white, and blue cupcakes are sure to be a hit at your Independence Day celebrations!

Here’s what you need:

How to make these cupcakes:

First, bake and cool 2 dozen cupcakes.  Color 2 cups of buttercream red and 2 cups blue. Leave the remaining icing (about 3 cups) white. Fill 3 pastry bags, each with a different color. Fit the bags with a 2A tip. (If you only have one 2A tip, it will need to be washed and dried it in between each color.) With the white buttercream, pipe a mound of icing in the center of all the cupcakes. Using the red, pipe a circle around the outer edge of each cupcake. Next, pipe a circle on the inside of the red with the blue icing. Using the white icing again, pipe a small mound inside the blue ring, on top of the first white icing mound. Top each cupcake with a hat ring and sprinkle with star confetti. If icing has started to crust, place stars onto icing with tweezers .

Click here for additional Fourth of July decorating ideas

Click here to view patriotic cake, cookie, and candy decorating supplies

How-To Cover a Cupcake in Rolled Fondant

Covering the tops of cupcakes in fondant gives them a clean, smooth surface for additional decorations. Fondant covered cupcakes are great for weddings, bridal showers, or any other event. Dress up ordinary cupcakes with fondant for an elegant and classy look.

Step 1: Bake and cool the cupcakes. Smoothly ice the cupcakes with buttercream or another type of icing. Let the icing crust and brush a thin layer of piping gel over the icing.

Step 2: Roll fondant out to about a 1/8″ thickness.

Step 3: With a round cutter the same diameter as the tops of the cupcakes, cut out fondant pieces. (3″ round cutter usually works well for standard sized cupcakes)

Step 4: Place a fondant circle on top one of the cupcakes. Cover the other fondant circles up with plastic wrap so that they do not dry out. Use your fingers to press the fondant onto the cupcake.

Step 5: Use a fondant smoother to smooth the tops of the cupcakes.

Step 6: Add embellishments to the tops of the cupcakes. Attach decorations with a small amount of piping gel or edible glue.

Other cupcakes decorated with rolled fondant:

Cake Preparation Part 3: Icing the Cake

There are many different methods to ice a cake. Trying different methods is a good way to learn which works best for you. Icing a cake smoothly is not necessarily easy and may take practice to perfect. Below are two different ways to ice a cake, one using a quick icer tip and the other using thinned down icing as a “crumb coat”. If you are new to cake decorating, try both methods and see which you prefer.

Using a Quick Icer

Step 1: Follow the steps in Cake Preparation Part 1: Baking, Cooling, and Leveling and Cake Preparation Part 2: Torting and Filling. Set the cake on a cake board. Brush off the surface with a pastry brush to remove any crumbs before icing. Fit a large pastry bag with a quick icer tip (#789) and fill about 2/3 full with icing.

Step 2: Start at the base of the cake with the tip touching the surface and hold the bag at a 45° angle from the cake. Pipe around the entire base with the quick icer touching the cake the whole time. For double layer cakes or taller, start at the base of the cake and work your way up, slightly overlapping each time until you have completely covered the sides of the cake with bands of icing.

Step 3: Cover the top using the quick icer, again overlapping each strip.

Step 4: Use an icing spatula to smooth out the lines and ridges in the icing. Start on the top and then continue to the sides. Try to smooth the icing as much as you can. After the icing has formed a crust, you can use a smoothing technique to completely smooth the icing.

Using a Crumb Coat

Step 1: Thin your icing by adding a very small amount of water and mix thoroughly. Apply a thin layer of the icing to the cake. It is alright if you can see the cake through the thin layer of icing. Coat the whole cake and allow it to form a crust. This will lock any crumbs in.

Step 2: Add a large amount of regular icing to the top of the cake.

Step 3: Spread icing over the top of the cake to the sides. Hold the spatula perpendicular with the cake board and work the icing back forth all the way around the cake until the sides are covered.

Step 4: Use the spatula to smooth the icing making sure that the cake is covered. Once the icing has crusted, use one of the smoothing techniques to get a completely smooth surface.

Try any of the following techniques to get a completely smooth finish on the cake.

Smoothing technique #1: After the icing has crusted, run a pastry roller over the cake to smooth out any imperfections.

Smoothing technique #2: After the icing has formed a crust, use a paper towel or sheet of parchment paper to smooth the icing. Place the paper on the top of the cake and run a spatula across it. Hold the paper up to the side of the cake and smooth with the spatula, keeping it perpendicular to the board.

Smoothing technique #3: Before the icing has crusted, dip your spatula in hot water and wipe dry. Run the hot blade over the iced cake. The heat will help to melt and smooth as you go.

Autumn Carpenter’s book The Complete Photo Guide to Cake Decorating is a great resource to have on hand when baking and decorating cakes. The book contains detailed instructions along with pictures of different methods on icing cakes.

Cake Preparation Part 2: Torting and Filling

Torting and filling a cake is a great way to enhance its flavor and look. Taller cakes can be made by cutting cake layers in half and then filling and stacking them one on top of another. Pastry fillings or icings work well and are easy to use as cake fillings but ganaches and real fruit can also be used.  Filling a cake can add a nice surprise for those who will be enjoying it.

Step 1: Follow the steps in Cake Preparation Part 1: Baking, Cooling, and Leveling. Set the cake on a level surface and adjust the cake leveler to the right height. Begin cutting by sliding the leveler back and forth through the cake, being sure to keep the feet on the work surface. If needed, you can put one hand on top of the cake to help brace it while you are cutting. Once you have cut through the cake, use a cake lifter or a flat cookie sheet to remove the top layer.

Step 1

Step 2: Put icing in a piping bag fit with a coupler and pipe a rim of icing around the outer edge of the bottom cake layer. This will serve as a barrier to keep the filling from oozing out from in-between the cake layers.

Step 2

Step 3: Squeeze filling inside the icing barrier and spread out evenly. If too much filling is used it can ooze out the sides. Click this link for amounts of filling needed for round and sheet cakes.

Step 3

Step 4: Replace the top layer cut side down, by using a cake lifter or flat cookie sheet. Align it so the top is even with the bottom layer and slide off of the lifter. (this cake was small enough that using a cake lifter wasn’t necessary)

Step 4

Step 5: Your cake is ready to be iced and decorated.

Step 5

Autumn Carpenter’s book The Complete Photo Guide to Cake Decorating is a great resource to have on hand when baking and decorating cakes. The book contains detailed instructions along with pictures on how to properly torte and level a cake.

All About Rolled Fondant

Fondant has become increasingly popular in American cake decorating in the last several years. Previously more popular in Europe, fondant cakes have grown in number here, due in part to the amount of cake decorating shows on television. Not to be confused with fondant that is used for candy centers, rolled fondant is primarily used to cover cakes. Fondant icing is a thick dough-like icing that must be rolled out to cover a cake or can be molded to create fondant accents. While the texture is different from the traditional buttercream, many use fondant to get a smooth, ‘perfect’ finish on their cakes.

Pre-made Rolled Fondant- Rolled fondant is available to be purchased ready-made for convenience. There are several different brands of rolled fondant available, each with their own taste and ease to work with. There are many fondants that come in white and ivory and even pre-colored in bright, vivid colors. Some brands even have chocolate as an ingredient adding to its flavor. Working with different types may help you to decide which you prefer. When using pre-made rolled fondant, you will want to first knead the fondant to soften it a bit, making it easier to work with. This may require a little work as fondant is usually quite firm starting out. The shelf life of rolled fondant will vary by brand but for the most part, it will keep for several months as long as its wrapped in plastic and sealed in an airtight container.

Rolled Fondant Recipe- There are many recipes available for rolled fondant as well as rolled buttercream and marshmallow fondant. Their uses will be the same but the ingredients will vary. This recipe (taken from Autumn Carpenter’s The Complete Photo Guide to Cake Decorating) is a good icing to cover a cake with or just make decorative pieces for a cake. This recipe yields approximately 2 lb. of rolled fondant.

Pour cream into a small saucepan. Sprinkle gelatin on cream and cook on low until gelatin is dissolved. Add glucose, butter, glycerin, and flavorings. Heat until butter is melted. Set aside. Sift powdered sugar. Place 7 cups of powdered sugar in a mixer bowl. Pour cream mixture over the powdered sugar and mix slowly with a dough hook until powdered sugar is thoroughly mixed. Add the additional cups of powdered sugar. The fondant will be very sticky, but should hold its shape. Lay out a sheet of plastic wrap and coat with a thin layer of vegetable shortening. Wrap fondant in greased plastic wrap and allow to set for 24 hours. After 24 hours, the fondant should be less sticky. If not, add additional powdered sugar.

Store in an airtight container for up to 2 months.

Rolled Fondant Amounts- Different types and brands of fondant will require you to use different amounts to cover a cake. This cake chart gives amounts needed for round cakes based on rolling the icing out to approximately a 1/8″ thickness. Square cakes will require more icing.

  • 6″- 1 lb.
  • 8″- 2 lb.
  • 10″- 2 1/2 lb.
  • 12″- 3 1/2 lb.

Coloring Rolled Fondant- Although pre-made fondant is available in a range of colors, you still may find yourself needing to color fondant. Coloring rolled fondant can be easy but a bit messy. To avoid the color staining your hands when mixing, you can either wear plastic gloves or coat your hands with a small amount of shortening. You first want to make sure to knead the fondant to make it soft and pliable. Add your concentrated food color to the rolled fondant and begin to knead it in. Continue kneading until all the color is blended in and there are no streaks left. To keep from ruining a large amount of fondant with an undesirable color, you can first color a small piece of fondant and then color the rest.

You can also marble fondant to create a really neat effect on a cake. There are a couple of simple ways to do this. One way is to add food coloring to white fondant and only knead slightly so that the color is not completely incorporated. Another way to marble fondant is to start with a hunk of white fondant and a smaller portion of colored fondant and the roll into 2 ropes. Fold the ropes together and begin kneading to create marbled streaks. (information taken from Autumn Carpenter’s Complete Photo Guide to Cake Decorating)

Using Fondant- Rolled fondant has many uses the most popular being to cover a cake with, but there are many other uses as well.

  • Covering with fondant- Many of us know that rolled fondant can be used to cover cakes, but it can cover a number of other treats as well. Fondant can also be used to cover cookies and cupcakes. It creates a nice smooth canvas for any additional decorations. Use the same cutter used to cut out the cookie shape to cut the fondant with and attach to the cookie with piping gel or buttercream. Use a 3″ round cutter to cut fondant out for on the tops of cupcakes.
  • Fondant accents- Fondant can be rolled thin and cut into various shapes and decorations and attached to a cake. This is a nice option if you like the look of fondant but do not want to cover your entire cake with it. You can ice your cake in buttercream and attach any fondant pieces before the icing has crusted. Heavier pieces may require a dab of buttercream or an edible glue to hold them in place.
  • Modeling fondant- Fondant can be used to hand model figures and shapes. Gum paste is generally used to make more intricate decorations, like flowers, but fondant can be used to make thicker, more solid pieces. The project you are working on may help to determine whether to use fondant or gum paste. Powdered sugar may also be added to fondant to make it a little more firm.
  • Molding with fondant- If you do not want to hand model pieces, fondant can be pushed into hard plastic or silicone molds to create shapes. Molds come in a wide variety of shapes and designs. For plastic molds, lightly dust the fondant with cornstarch. Push into mold and pull shape out using another piece of fondant. Silicone molds can be flexed to release shapes from them. This type of molding is easy and can create just the right decoration for your cake.
  • Flavoring fondant- If you find you don’t prefer the taste of fondant or you want the fondant to compliment the flavor of your cake, flavorings can be added to rolled fondant. Use a few drops of concentrated flavoring oils to enhance the flavor of the fondant. Knead flavor in as you would coloring.

There is a wide selection of tools available to use with fondant and gum paste. Mats to roll fondant out on, tiny cutters, rolling pins, embossing mats, crimping tools and many others all help to create the perfect decorations for your cakes, cookies, and cupcakes.