Halloween Cupcakes with Sprinkles

cupcakes with sprinklers

Halloween Cupcakes with Sprinklers

Once again I signed up for baking cupcakes for my daughter’s Halloween party at her preschool. I had some fun ideas in my head, but since I am not allowed to use small and hard candy, I decided to keep it simple. Why not just have fun with popping, bright colors?
The Wilton color gels provide such vibrant colors with only a little gel, so it does not affect the taste of the batter or frosting. I chose green and orange as a color theme: a green cupcake topped with orange icing swirls. My daughter was really excited when the cupcake batter turned bright green and she could not wait to taste it.
For the icing I followed the Wilton recipe for butter cream icing and flavored it with vanilla and almond extract. This combination is, in my opinion, the best tasting one. This butter cream recipe makes it easy to make the right consistency for decorating and it always come out perfect. I colored the icing bright orange. Using Wilton tip 1M and a filled decorating bag I swirled the orange icing on the cupcakes. I think the swirl looks nicer than frosting with a spatula. It also comes in handy when using sprinkles, because the sprinkles get stuck between the swirls and hold on better than on a smoothed surface.
The local Michael’s store offered some pretty Halloween sprinkles of which I picked out the pumpkin version. These sprinkles contained little orange sugar pumpkins mixed with regular orange, white and black chocolate sprinkles. I dusted those over the iced cupcake for a nice finish.
Of course, I made some extra so we could enjoy some Halloween treats as well. This year’s Halloween cupcakes turned out great and actually did not last until October 31st. Happy Halloween!

Birthday Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake

My husband's Carrot Cake Birthday

For my husband’s birthday I made a 9×13 inch sheet cake. Carrot cake is his favorite kind of cake, so that is what I baked for him. In the past I only made carrot cake using a cake mix I bought at the store, but this time I wanted to try to bake it from scratch. The cake mix is ok, but too sweet for my taste. When I make a cake I never use all of the sugar listed. I always cut the amount in half or use ¾ of it. I found a carrot cake recipe on www.allrecipes.com, which turned out to be really good.
Here is the recipe:
• 4 eggs
• 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
• 2 cups white sugar (I only used about 1 ¼ cups, because I do not like it too sweet)
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons baking soda
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• 3 cups grated carrots
Directions:
1. Beat together eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir in the carrots. Pour mixture into 9×13 inch pan.
2. Bake in the preheated oven (350°F) for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and let cool completely.
The recipe calls for pecans in the cake and on top on the icing, but because I did not have any at home I left them out.
Cream cheese frosting goes best with carrot cake. It had the perfect consistency to ice the cake smooth-ly. Please check the Recipe section for the ingredients.
I also mixed up a little bit of butter cream icing to use for the decoration; stiff consistency for the roses and medium consistency for the leaves and borders. I colored the icing and mixed some of it with pip-ing gel for the writing. I was surprised how well I was able to write on the cake. It is not perfect, but I did better than expected. It is very different from writing on paper. I am not too happy with my roses though. The icing was too soft which made the petals thick and lumpy. Practice makes perfect!
The homemade carrot cake is so much better than the mix. Even though grating three cups of carrots is tedious work, it is worth it. The cake was moist, fluffy and tasted amazing.

1st Birthday cake

Happy 1st Birthday!

1st birthday cake

1st Birthday Cake

My youngest daughter turned one in August and, of course, I had to bake a birthday cake for her. This time I got help from my mother, since we were still in Germany at that time. I did not have any cake decorating tools with me, so the cake was decorated the “European” way, how I like to call it.
My mom baked a delicious chocolate cake. I cut the cake in 3 layers and filled it with cream cheese frosting and cranberry jelly, which turned out to be a great combination. A little sweet and a little fruity fresh.
Then I whipped up a mix of whipped cream, stabilized with gelatin and cream cheese frosting. I iced the cake with that mixture and let it sit for a while to let the icing crust over a little bit. At the supermarket we bought some premade sugar decorations and my mom found a decorating tip. Using the tip I sprayed some of the remaining icing on and around the cake to create a border and arranged the sugar flowers and ladybugs on top. Since the German chocolate sprinkles are my other daughter’s favorite, we layered them on the outside of the cake.
I planned a cake for my daughter’s 1st birthday using my cake decorating tools and techniques, but because we were still vacationing I had to throw my ideas out. Even though the cake did not resemble the cake I had in mind, it turned out pretty cute and was even more delicious than I imagined.
I am collecting already ideas for the next birthday cake. With my new learned skills and lot more practice I cannot wait to decorate a special cake for another birthday.

Apple Cider Cake

Apple cider

Apple Cider Cake

Even though this is a site for sharing cake decorating ideas, I need to share a cake recipe, because it is just too good. No decorating required. We spend the whole summer in Germany and my mother baked all kinds of yummy German cakes. I did not decorate any cakes, because I did not have my tools, so I simply focused on the great recipes.
I wished for an Apple Cider Cake which I remember from my childhood and it is delicious. The recipe is measured in gram and milliliter, so having a kitchen scale is helpful. I brought one from Germany, which measures in pounds and grams and has been a great tool for baking European recipes. Those kitchen scales are available in the US as well.

Here is my mother’s Apple Cider Cake recipe:

For the crust:
125 g butter
125 g white sugar
1 egg
250 g flour
1 pack vanilla sugar (Dr. Oetker Bourbon Vanilla Sugar is great)
20g baking powder

For the filling:
850 g apples
80g vanilla pudding powder (the “cook & serve” pudding)
750 ml apple cider
250 g white sugar
1 pack vanilla sugar
400 ml heavy cream
ground cinnamon for dusting the cake

apple-cider-cake

Apple Cider Cake

Directions:
Mix ingredients for the crust and press the dough in a spring form. Let the crust come up on the sides. Peel, core and cut apples. Spread them on top of the crust.
Cook pudding powder, cider, sugar and vanilla sugar according to the directions for the pudding mix. Pour the hot pudding mix over the apples in the spring form.
Bake for 90 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Let cake cool completely, before taking it out of the spring form. Whip heavy cream and spread it on top of the cake. Dust cake with ground cinnamon.

Key is to let the cake cool completely before topping it with whipped cream. Keep it refrigerated, so the cake does not fall apart. The vanilla pudding and cream can melt away quickly.
The cake will be even better on day two when all the juices are soaked in the crust. Even my 4-year old daughter who does not like fruit cakes could not get enough of this apple cider cake. And that is pretty impressive.
Have fun baking and Guten Appetit!

Wilton Course 1 Class 4: The Final Flower Cake

flower cake

The Final Flower Cake

I am a little sad to say that I already went to my last class of the Wilton Decorating Basics course. I had so much fun that I wish we would have more classes (and my decorating needs some practice, too).

For the last class, I wanted to make a carrot cake decorated with colorful roses. My daughter requested pink flowers, that is why I decided to top my final project with pink, red and yellow flowers, similar to a cake pictured in the lesson plan. Since I was also in the middle of getting ready for our big summer trip, I bought a Betty Crocker Carrot Cake Mix. It saves time and tastes great.

One day before class I baked two 9-inch round carrot cakes using the cake mix. I prepared cream cheese frosting (see Recipes tap) which I used as a filling between the two cakes. While looking for containers to use for coloring icing and storing it, I found great storage containers: Ziploc® Brand Twist ’n Loc® Containers. They were on sale at our local Walmart and I stocked up on several of them.

For my cake I needed a lot of different icing: white icing in thin consistency for icing the cake, red icing in thin consistency mixed with a little piping gel for writing, green icing in thin consistency for the leaves and red, pink and yellow icing in stiff consistency for the roses.

Here is a summary of my final class of the Wilton Decorating Basics course:

  1. At home I filled and iced my cake with white icing in thin consistency. I did that the morning before class. That way the icing had some time to dry and I was able to smooth it before taking the cake to class. Smoothing the cake is still challenging for me. I guess it will take a lot more practice to get the perfect smooth cake. Let me know if you have any tricks and tips. I can use them!
  2. The first thing we learned in class was how to write a message on a cake. It is not my favorite thing to do, because it is not as easy as writing with a pen on paper, but writing messages on a cake is an important skill. Sometimes the message is the most important part of the cake and it has to be done right. If you write with your left hand you might want to learn writing on a cake with your right hand. It is certainly a challenge to write backwards or develop any other technique.
  3. Since Wilton offers a different course curriculum starting this June, we learned the ribbon rose during this Decorating Basics course, which, I think, is different from the past Course 1. Personally, I like the past regular rose better than the ribbon rose, but hopefully I will learn that rose during a future course. The ribbon rose consists of a base (made with tip #12), which looks like little mount of icing. The rose petals are added using tip #104 in several rows around the base. It is essential to do this with the flower nails, because you need to rotate the nail while squeezing the icing bag in one steady position. My cake needed 12 ribbon roses in 3 colors (red, pink and yellow). This took quite a while since I only had one tip #12 and one tip #104 which I needed to change between the different colored bags of icing. It is helpful to have several couplers, so switching tips does not become a problem. I thought the roses would get better the more a made, but by rose #12 my hand was hurting from squeezing all this stiff icing, that the roses were getting worse instead of better.
  4. When I finished all my twelve roses I left them out to dry for a while. During the drying time a wrote my little message on the cake and created a border on the bottom of the cake. I wanted to put some more designs on my cake, but time was running out and I needed to put all the roses on top. It was impossible for me to drive home with all those single roses without breaking them. Before placing the roses on the cake, I piped a good amount of white icing (using tip #12) where the flowers would be placed to secure them. That technique also makes the flowers look more natural, because they do not sit flat on top of the cake. I do not have a flower lifter, so I used a regular spatula to slide the roses off the flower squares and positioned them on the cake.
  5. At home I added some little dots in the colors of the roses on the side of the cake.

I am very happy with my final cake of this Wilton Decorating Basics class and I am looking forward to the next one. Please share your Wilton class or at home decorating experience with me. I would love to hear from you and see your cake creations!

Wilton Course 1 Class 3: Decorating Cupcakes with Flowers

cupcakes with flowers

Wilton course 1 class 3, Cupcakes with flowers

For the third class of my Wilton Decorating Basics course I had to bake cupcakes. I was really looking forward to this, because I love making cupcakes. They are such nice little treats and always look fabulous when topped with icing and even some simple decoration. I also was excited to finally learn how to make the basic flowers. During this third class we learned how to make drop flowers, two-toned pompom flowers, shaggy mums, leaves and some borders like rosettes and shells.

In preperation for the class I baked 24 vanilla cupcakes. My birthday was coming up and I thought a couple of extra ones could not hurt. I bought some Wilton icing color, because I needed a dark blue for the two-toned pompom flower. I also got a pack of Wilton pre-cut icing flower making squares. They are not expensive, but it is very easy to cut little squares out of waxpaper as well. At home I  mixed green, yellow, light and dark blue icing. The left over icing stayed white for icing the cupcakes and filling little dots in the drop flowers. For the flowers you need medium consistency icing, for the leaves and icing the cupcakes thin consistency icing. Because we wanted to fill our cupcakes, I prepared vanilla pudding, which I love as a cake filling. You can also use jelly or any type of pudding as long as it is thin enough.

Here is a summary of the third class of my Wilton Decorating Basics course:

  1. At the beginning of class I iced my cupcakes, so I was able to decorate them with the flowers. We always get so caught up in the class that the two hours seem to fly by. In the end there is hardly enough time to finish the whole project. So it is always good to get a head start. There are two ways we iced our little cakes. Some cupcakes I iced the regular way with a spatula like I would ice a cake. Some others I iced using the big star tip #1M. Thanks to the cupcake nail included in the student kit it was easy to spin the cupcake and swirl on the icing. It looked pretty and served as a great base for the flowers.
  2. First we learned how to make drop flowers. I love the practice board which comes with your student kit. It gives you the chance to practice, practice and practice without messing up cakes or cupcakes in the meantime. The drop flower is an easy cute looking flower which is pretty in every color.
  3. The rosette was more challenging and I found that the right icing consistency played an important role again. My icing turned out to be a little too stiff, so that the rosette did not turn as nicely. At home I added some water to the icing and that made it much easier to form the rosette. I practiced some shells on the practice board and they were not too difficult.
  4. Making the two-toned pompom flower was a lot of fun and requires some technique. Our instructor makes everything look so easy, but I found it very hard to create petals that are the same length. After making several flowers, you will find the right amount of pressure and it will become easier. I certainly will use this flower again and I am sure it will look beautiful in other two-color combinations as well.
  5. The shaggy mum looks like such a fun flower, but it was the hardest for me to do. In the end it looked more like a sad soggy mum with the spaghetti like petals hanging flat. I guess with a little or a lot of practice I will get the hang of it. It is definitely a great flower for decorating a cupcake.
  6. The next challenge was filling my cupcakes with the vanilla pudding. I filled cupcakes in the past with strawberry preserve and loved it. Then, I dropped a teaspoon of the jam on top of the batter and baked it with the cupcake. That way the preserve baked into the cupcake and it tasted delicious. Filling an already baked cupcake was new to me and it did not work out the way I hoped. The pudding was very liquid and leaked out of the decorating bag. I stabbed the cupcake with the bismarck tip #230 and squeezed the pudding in the cupcake. When I tasted the cupcake at home I realized that only a drop of pudding went into the cupcake. I will try this technique again with a different stiffer filling or just stick with baking it with the cupcake.
  7. My favorite part of the class was making leaves. Even though I always saw leaves as an accessory to the colorful flowers, I soon found out that you can create beautiful patterns with only leaves. It is relatively easy to form leaves of differents shapes and sizes, either lying down or standing up. I realized that even the cupcakes looked great decorated with leaves alone.

As the two previous classes this third class was a lot of fun and I am happy that I learned the basic flower making techniques. They are already very helpful in making any cake or cupcake look amazing. The most helpful thing I learned besides making the flowers was that you can prepare any kind of drop flower ahead of time. You can make drop flowers on parchment paper days before decorating the actual cake. They can air dry, but the best way is to freeze them. The frozen hard flower can then be placed on the iced cake. That method saves time and it is much easier to handle frozen flowers than soft ones.

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