birthday pupcakes

For as long as we can remember, our son C. has been crazy about dogs. At first we attributed it to a longing for a pet we couldn’t have, as L. is allergic to dogs and cats. But two years ago, we found a breed that didn’t trigger L.’s sneezes and headaches – miniature schnauzers – and we got one of our own. I thought that perhaps C.’s enthusiasm might lessen just a tad, but no – if anything, having Daisy in our lives has only intensified his zeal. For his birthday this year, two of C. and my common interests came together – we made dog cupcakes.

We consulted Karen Tack and Alan Richardson’s wonderful Hello, Cupcake! Irresistibly Playful Creations Anyone Can Make for instructions. Initially we planned to make cupcakes representing each of the breeds featured in the book – dalmatian, collie, beagle, bulldog and (of course) the schnauzer among them – but forces conspired against us and in the end, we decided just to make the West Highland terriers that are shown on the book’s cover.

The Westies are made using a standard-size cupcake for the body/base and a mini cupcake (on its side) for the head. With the addition of some cleverly cut mini marshmallows and artfully applied frosting – voilà! You have yourself a cute little pupcake.

Tack and Richardson make it easy for the newbie decorator to master. They encourage the use of cake mixes and canned frosting, and give instructions on how to use ziplock bags instead of pastry bags to apply the frosting. C. found a recipe in the book that explained how to enhance the boxed cake mix by substituting buttermilk for water and adding an additional egg. He was eager to try it, so try it we did. Although the authors suggest using canned frosting in the book, I read on their website that recently there have been reader complaints about changes in the consistency of the store-bought frosting. Tack and Richardson now recommend that readers use the Almost Homemade Buttercream Frosting recipe in the book instead of the canned stuff. It’s made with Marshmallow Fluff, butter (a lot of it!), vanilla and confectioners’ sugar, and seemed simple to make so we tried that as well.
Although we made the cake using the modifications suggested by the authors, I really didn’t feel like it tasted much different than if we had simply followed the directions on the box. Admittedly, it’s been a very long time since I’ve eaten a boxed mix cake so I could be wrong. The Almost Homemade Buttercream Frosting tasted to me like sweetened whipped cream – buttery, but not excessively sweet. It held up OK, but (predictably) became runnier as it warmed from the heat of our hands. Next time, I will try adding a little meringue powder to stabilize it.

C. was a natural at decorating the cupcakes using the ziplock baggies, but I just couldn’t get the hang of it. I ended up using a parchment bag and a small star tip for my frosting, which C. proclaimed was “cheating.” However, by the end I think he had to concede that the baggie method had its share of problems – the baggies would stretch or split from the pressure and it was often difficult and frustrating trying to gently squeeze frosting through the small cuts in the baggie (the cuts were to mimic the use of a tip). I really love the designs in Hello, Cupcake! but I think I would prefer to execute them using conventional decorating equipment.

The finished pupcakes were very cute – almost too cute to eat. C. ate the body of one last night but still hasn’t brought himself to eat the head. I really hope that I don’t end up with a container full of little Westie heads in my kitchen by week’s end!

(Happy 12th Birthday, C.!)
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3 thoughts on “birthday pupcakes

  1. Always great to look at — a treat for the eyes. And we all know, we eat first with our eyes. Creative and whimsical enough to make you eager to eat them, but so cute you might want to keep them for a while.

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