Sunday, February 21, 2010
Make It Simple
It is birthday season at our home. With as many children as we have, it might even be okay to claim that it is always birthday season around here. Sometimes, birthdays are elaborate. We have made doll cakes, Pooh cakes, castle cakes and other elaborate cakes like Anna's Teapot Party. But, life is busy and I resolved not so long ago that the business of life would not deprive us of family celebrations and fun, nor would the craziness of preparing for celebrations deprive me of enjoying, or even missing, the fun. I declared 2009 the year of the cupcake, but have carried it through to 2010. I am in love with cupcakes and believe they are here to stay at our celebrations. Cupcakes make like fun and make life easier. Cupcakes have been invited to many a party and holiday: Lydia's Orange Dot Party, GraceyLu's Yellow Ducky Party, and Mimi's Mint Chocolate Chip Party. Enjoy the holidays by taking some of the pressure off yourself. This is how I do it.
Although I often make cake from scratch, I am fond of the Duncan Hines French Vanilla mix. Add a little instant vanilla pudding and your guests will never believe the cupcakes are not made from scratch. The key to pulling this off is to smile sweetly, nod, and sincerely thank all who throw compliments your way. It's as simple as mixing up your batter. These cupcakes are light and moist with very little effort.
My little friend, Anna and her sister Abbey, love for Aunt Kelly to whip up a little something for their birthdays. I have made flower cakes, princess cakes and tea party cakes. This year, Abbey has already placed her order for bunny cakes for her May birthday party. Anna asked for a Tinkerbell birthday theme on her last birthday. The theme often begins with the cupcake liner. When I was kid, my mom could buy a white or pastel mixed container of cupcake liners. Our generation is lucky to have so many themes, styles, and colors to choose from. Sugarcraft is an excellent resource for all things baking and sweet. For Anna, I found these sweet Tinkerbell liners at Hobby Lobby.
While the cupcakes are cooling I whip up a simple butter cream icing. Here is my recipe.
Butter Cream Icing
3/4 C Butter (1 and 1/2 sticks, softened)
1/4 C solid vegetable shortening
1 t clear vanilla extract
4 C confectioners sugar (approx.)
2-3 T milk or heavy cream
Cream butter, shortening and vanilla together until well mixed. Begin to add confectioners sugar a little at a time until incorporated, scraping bowl often. Your icing will be stiff and may appear dry. Add milk a little at a time beating at medium speed until icing is fluffy and light. When you lift your beaters the icing should stick to the paddle, but is easy to remove. Dampen a kitchen towel to keep over bowl while decorating.
To make icing easy, I fill disposable pastry bags set up with a large coupler and 1m decorator tip. For Anna's cupcakes I followed a flower pattern to ice her cupcakes.
I left most of the butter cream icing uncolored and added a splash sparkle with lavender sugar. I colored a small amount of icing with a daisy center yellow and starred the top of each cupcake with a smaller star tip.
I try not to limit myself to the cake decorating section of the store while trying to create something unique for the birthday star.
For Anna, I found a small bag of card stock confetti in the party supply section. I created cupcake picks from the sweet Tinkerbell cutouts by gluing two of a kind together with a long toothpick sandwiched in the middle. I set each fairy on top of a cupcake daisy. Anna was thrilled.
So simple and so much fun.