Monday, August 9, 2010

Recipe: Birthday Cupcakes

Last Sunday was Malena's first birthday party. Little Miss Malena was born just five weeks after Ella. What fun to have a cousin so close in age! The party was held at a park and the weather decided to cooperate quite nicely. All the kids played in the grass, ate lots of cake, and helped Malena open her mountain of gifts.

After singing Happy Birthday, Malena dug into her very own little cake!

Ella enjoyed a mini cupcake. She's a huge fan of frosting. (Remember this?)

A few weeks before the party, I offered to make cupcakes for the event. I haven't had much experience with cupcakes, so I thought it would be a great time to experiment. Pete was gone for a few days last week, so I took full advantage of the kitchen space and started baking. I pulled a couple ideas off websites, but they all turned out to be pretty cheesy. I wanted something good. I finally combined a few different ideas and came up with the final product - vanilla and chocolate raspberry cupcakes with raspberry frosting. Pink, pink, pink!

I also took the opportunity to try using fondant for the first time. I found a small package of ready-to-use white fondant at Michael's along with a few small flower and leaf fondant cutters (just like cookie cutters), and a small jars of pink icing color, much more potent than regular food coloring. I added the tiniest dab to the white fondant, kneaded it, and ended up with some very pink flowers.

I put a few of the bigger flowers in these little bowls and a few others in an egg carton to give them some shape while drying.

Then came the cupcakes. I used simple vanilla and chocolate cake recipes and mixed in about a cup of chocolate chips (only to the chocolate batter) and another cup of cut raspberries. By carefully folding in the raspberries after the cake batter is ready, the raspberries won't get too smooshed. That's especially important when mixing them into a light-colored batter like vanilla. I didn't want to end up with pink cupcakes. I wanted that for the frosting!

Finding the right frosting recipe was the hardest part of making these cupcakes. Each tasted too sugary or too buttery. I tried four different recipes before finding the perfect one.

Remember, I didn't have any previous experience with cupcakes, so I had no idea how I was going to get the right look with the frosting on top of the little cupcakes. I did some searching online and found a great tutorial on the Wilton website for getting a perfect swirl. You can check it out yourself here. All you'll need is a 1M decorating tip and disposable decorating bags. Both are available for only a few dollars at Michael's. (Simply drop the tip inside the decorating bag, trim about 1/2" to 3/4" off the bottom corner of the bag with a scissors, and adjust the tip so it is snug inside the bag. That way frosting won't ooze out while you're piping it.)

Here's what I ended up with. I did the same to the white cupcakes, but instead of using black raspberry jelly, I used red raspberry jelly. It gave them a slightly different color.

I was worried that the frosting might melt or settle while driving them to the party, but even after sitting in the sun at a construction stop for five minutes (yes, I timed it) the frosting kept it's shape.

After frosting them, I decorated each with the little fondant flowers I had made a few days before.

Display Note: An important trick in getting homemade baked treats to look more professional is to plan out how they will be displayed. I used foil cupcake papers, which cost only slightly more than regular papers. Then I used this plate stand from Target that was a gift from Becky at my wedding shower and carefully arranged the different types of cakes on each level. Around the bottom of the stand, I displayed mini versions of the same cupcakes. They were a perfect size for the wee ones at the party. See? Much better than leaving them in a cake pan or on a cookie sheet!

Of course, Malena had to have her very own cake on her first birthday. I used the same chocolate and vanilla batter from the cupcakes and made a two-layer cake using a couple of very little cake pans. Then I covered the entire thing in lots of red raspberry frosting and arranged the fondant flowers and leaves around the top, keeping in mind that I wanted one little candle in the center. Finally, I used a fine violet cake glitter (also available at Michael's) for the center of each flower. Malena had a lot to dig into with so much frosting on her cake!

I had a ton of fun making these cupcakes, and now I feel like I know what I'm doing! It won't take long at all to make these again in the future.

Let me know if you have any questions about the cakes or frosting and feel free to try them on your own!



  1. impressive and so delicious looking! Yum!!

  2. Makes my mouth water just remembering them!


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