many, many mini cupcakes!

I was asked to make mini cupcakes for a celebration at church last weekend. They were expecting about 175 guests, but left the specifics (varieties and number of cupcakes) up to me. After much gnashing of teeth and sketching out possible combinations in my notepad, I decided to make 3 different batters and 3 different icings, resulting in 5 different combos: yellow cupcakes with vanilla buttercream, yellow cupcakes with chocolate buttercream, dark chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream, dark chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream, and carrot cupcakes with cream cheese icing. I thought this would provide the best selection for everyone’s different tastes while not creating an overwhelming amount of work for me.

The whole process went about as smoothly as I could have hoped, thanks to careful planning on my part. I knew I would have a limited amount of time to bake on the day of the gathering, so I made the icings the day before and refrigerated them. Before I used them the next day, I brought them to room temperature, gave each a quick whip in the mixer and I was good to go.  I also “mis-d” my cupcake ingredients the day before, with the plan that I would get up at 5am and have a solid 3 – 4 hours of baking before I had to leave for the morning, then return at lunchtime to ice the cupcakes, and have them delivered to the event by 2:30pm.  Everything really went according to plan aside from my anxious brain waking up at 3am and refusing to settle back down again.  At 4:30am, I called it quits on the night’s sleep and got to work.

All the cupcake batter recipes were from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book.  Each recipe makes 24 full-sized cupcakes according to the book; when I made them, I portioned them with a #40 (3/4-oz.) scoop which worked out to between 65 – 70 mini cupcakes per batch.

The icings were from a couple of different sources.  The vanilla and chocolate buttercreams were from Brown Eyed Baker (vanilla here, and chocolate here). Both were scrumptious! The cream cheese icing recipe was the original Philadelphia Cream Cheese Frosting recipe from Kraft’s site.  I’ve tried a number of other cream cheese icing recipes and this one remains the most consistent.  I also added a tablespoon of Wilton Meringue Powder to each batch to stabilize the icing, since all were mostly butter (and cream cheese — notoriously hard to work with in warm temps). Note that the carrots on the carrot cupcakes were vanilla buttercream and not cream cheese icing. One more thing: a single batch of each icing was enough to ice all the cupcakes, with icing to spare.

The cupcakes were well-received and I was really pleased with the results.  There were a few minor snafus (AKA learning moments) that I have made note of — mostly having to do with juggling the fiddly little mini cupcake trays in the oven when rotating them and issues with air circulation in the oven, but nothing anyone else would probably notice.  Now on to planning my next batch of cupcakes… need to use up that leftover icing!

carrots, cream cheese and fondant

Today was the last day of my Wilton Fondant and Gum Paste class. It’s my usual M.O. to bake a chocolate cake for my Wilton class cakes, although it’s not necessarily my preference. I wouldn’t mind a white cake with raspberry filling or something different every now and again, but I’ve been told by the guys (well, one 11-year-old guy actually) that it has to be chocolate or else they (he) won’t eat it. And I don’t want to be the only one eating all this cake!

However, we’ve had a fair amount of cake in recent weeks, and will continue to, between all the birthdays and my next class, so I decided to be daring and veer off the chocolate path. I baked the Carrot Layer Cake from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book and iced it with Philadelphia Cream Cheese Frosting from the Kraft Foods site. America’s Test Kitchen‘s carrot cake is very basic — just carrots. Some of the other recipes I looked at contained nuts, raisins, coconut and/or pineapple. I couldn’t settle on which of those other ingredients I’d want in my cake so I just decided to go basic. (It’s a good thing too, because P. later told me he wouldn’t have liked any of those other ingredients.) I’ve made the Philly Cream Cheese Frosting many times in the past. It’s a cinch — just 4 ingredients (cream cheese, butter, vanilla and confectioners’ sugar) — and goes great with all sorts of cakes. Try it and you’ll never use canned again.

After icing, I covered the cake and cake board with fondant and added the final touches during the class. I like how it turned out although I do wish I had done something a bit more creative (the ideas were straight from the book) — I tried to come up with something different, but ran out of time. Also, I would’ve liked to use a different color combo (I used these colors in an earlier class) but I was trying to use up the supplies I had.

C. — I know I owe you a purple cake — we’ll see what Course 3 brings.

And lastly, as always, I’d like to thank my instructor, Evelyn, for her unwavering support and endless patience.

Favor box atop the cake.