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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Dirt cupcakes

Fact: I make colorful messes.

This is what my table looks like after I am done with a very busy night.
I think my messes look pretty. I'd love to paint a canvas like this.

Beautiful disasters are what inspired my version of DIRT cake cupcakes.
I've never been one to play by the rules, call me a rebel..but honestly I believe that a mess or a mistake can turn into a masterpiece, if you let your imagination run wild.
My beautiful disaster starts with a chocolate cupcake.  I  swirl around the outside of the cupcake with chocolate frosting (using a 1M open star decorating tip) and leave a little empty hole in the center of the frosting swirl. I pour a chocolate ganache "mud" pool in the hole, and sprinkle the "dirt" on top: crushed Oreo cookies.  The bright side? Little "airhead candy" rainbows and glittery rainbow gummy worms on top.

I've also baked my dirt cupcakes inside of mini gardening pots by filling them 1/2 full and baking on a sheet pan in the oven. These can be as messy as you'd like.  Pour chocolate ganache on top and sprinkle with crushed Oreos.  These are totally fun to eat with a fork!

Recipe for your very own Bake-At-Home Beautiful Disaster (have fun!!):

Chocolate Cupcake "CANVAS":
(makes appx 24 cupcake canvases)
3 ¾ Cups flour
2 ½ Cups fine baking sugar
2 ½ teaspoons baking soda
2 ½ teaspoons salt
¾ cup cocoa
1 ¼ cup oil
2 ½ cups hot water
2 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla
2 ½ tablespoons vinegar

♥Preheat oven to 325.
♥Line cupcake pan with cupcake wrappers.
♥Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cocoa together in bowl & set aside.
♥In stand mixer, cream oil, sugar, and vanilla together.
♥Measure hot water in liquid measuring cup, set aside.
♥Add vinegar to oil, sugar, vanilla blend in stand mixer.
♥Gradually alternate the addition of dry & liquid ingredients to the mixture in stand mixer.
♥Scrape bowl down and make sure all ingredients are evenly distributed.
♥Fill cupcake wrappers 3/4 full and bake at 325 for appx 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Chocolate Ganache "MUD":
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

♥In a saucepan on the stove, bring heavy whipping cream to an almost boil. As soon as it starts to boil, remove from heat and add 1 cup chocolate chips. Stir until the chocolate chips are completely melted and you see a shiny glaze.

Chocolate Buttercream Fancy Swirl:
1 Cup butter (room temperature)
¾ Cup Cocoa
¼ teaspoon Salt
1/3 Cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 Cups powdered sugar

♥Cream butter, heavy cream, and vanilla in a stand mixer.
♥Gradually add cocoa and a dab of salt, scrape bowl down.
♥Add powdered sugar little by little until frosting forms peaks, strong enough to pipe frosting swirls on your cupcake canvas.

Oreo "DIRT" crumbles:
1 box of Oreo Cookies
Large plastic ziploc bag

♥Empty Oreo cookies into ziploc bag
♥Close ziploc bag
♥Using a large rolling pin, roll over the top of cookies until they are crumbled.  I like crumbling them until they are chunky and not finely ground. It adds texture.  If you want the oreos to be finely ground like dirt or sand, you can use a food processor for this technique.

Bonus cupcake idea:
Using the same ingredients, decorate with random candies and snacks that are in your cupboard to turn a mess into a beautiful cupcake creation!  Frost the top of your cupcake with chocolate buttercream, dip it in chocolate ganache, and sprinkle with leftover candies & snacks from your cupboard. I've made these on Halloween and called them Trick or Treat cupcakes, but they are yummy any time of the year ♥♥♥

Monday, May 4, 2015

Pinata Cake & Cupcakes

If you know me really well, you probably know that I get intimidated by making cakes.
I work day in and day out with little cupcakes most of the time. Super cute, mini little, transportable treats with dollops and swirls and fluffs of frosting on top that you can play with like play-dough. ♥  Cakes are intimidating to me because I feel like I have to add an architect/engineer hat to my artist brain.  I have to create a foundation so that the cake won't slide or fall apart. I am way better at creating textured, fancy flouncy frosting swirls on top of adorable little cupcakes than spreading on a perfect sheen of frosting to cake that is so polished it looks like fondant ♥

However...there can be exceptions made.....
When there are pinata cakes involved!!!!!!
A Pinata cake doesn't have to be polished or neat.
It is exploding with fun and celebration from the inside out!
The best thing is that you can fill the cake with any candy or treat you desire.
(I even thought of making a Mountain Dew cake with Doritos coming out of it, maybe I'll do that in the future).

I made matching Pinata Cupcakes to complete a whole "set."
I divided shredded coconut into ziploc bags and added a dot of Americolor Gel Paste to each ziploc bag (colors used here are Electric Pink, Sky Blue, and Electric Yellow). I sealed each baggy shut and danced a little in my kitchen to shake the color into the coconut. I piped frosting onto each cupcake and sprinkled with colored coconut. I piped pretty big fat swirls on top so that the cupcakes would look bigger and more full, but you can put on as much frosting as you desire.

Each Pinata cupcake is filled with Sixlet Pearls as a "SURPRISE"!
And look at how the shredded coconut colors the frosting!
It reminds me of one of those mexican hoodies you can buy at farmers markets.
I use a measuring spoon to scoop a hole out of the center of the cupcake. I keep the cake I scooped out and put it to the side. I fill the hole with pastel Sixlet pearls and cover it again with the the leftover cake from my scooping.

How did I make the pinata cake?
Using my favorite cake recipe, I baked four 8" round layers of cake.
I used a 4" biscuit cutter to cut a hole into the center of 2 out of 4 of my cake layers.

Cake Assembly Order:  
A.  Place 1 uncut layer on a cake stand/turntable and spread your favorite frosting on top using a piping bag or a frosting knife.
B.  Top this layer with 1 layer that has the center hole removed. Spread frosting on top but not over or inside the hole.
C.  Top this layer with the other layer that has the center hole removed. Spread frosting on top but not over or inside the hole.
D.  You'll see a big hole in the center of your cake. Fill it with all kinds of goodies! I used Peanut Butter M&Ms, milk chocolate M&Ms, multi-colored gumballs, and chocolate coins in many colors! Can you imagine making a baby reveal cake like this too using pink or blue M&Ms and other colored candies?
E.  Place the final layer on top of the cake.  Using a large frosting knife and your favorite frosting (the more creamy & whipped the better), frost the outside of the cake!

You can even top the pinata cake with another mini sized pinata that is also filled with nummies.

Mind..blown!! ♥

I decorated my pinata cake all fancy schmancy.
Each layer was frosted with a different color before I stacked the cake layers on top of each other!

Just remember, the most fun part of the cake is the inside! Cut a BIG PIECE out of your cake using a large knife..or if you are feeling it, smash the cake.  Either way you'll find something you like, I'm sure of it. My favorite are the chocolate coins. What's yours?

Monday, April 13, 2015

How to ship cupcakes and cakes in the mail!

It can be complicated and costly sending cupcakes to a loved one in the mail (or sad if the cupcake makes it there but is smashed). I even have a cousin who rides his bike everywhere and wants a way to transport his cupcakes by bike without the frosting getting how do we solve this problem?!
I call one of my solutions to this cupcake shipping problem "Cupcake Kaleidoscopes!"  Some may call these "cupcakes in a jar" but I call them "cupcake kaleidoscopes" because the cupcakes look extra pretty from the outside and you can stare in awe at every enticingly beautiful angle before diving in.  You stack them inside the jar like a layer cake.The cupcakes are already baked and cooled before stacking them inside the jar.
Order from bottom inside:  sprinkles♥frosting♥cake♥sprinkles♥frosting♥cake♥frosting♥sprinkles!

As long as you pack the cupcake kaleidoscopes tightly in bubble wrap and popcorn before boxing them up, the cupcakes shouldn't get smashed in transit!

In addition to cake & frosting, for interest, you can sprinkle a bunch of fun surprises inside-like cookies, candies, candy bars, fillings, caramel, peanut butter cup gems, rainbow confetti sprinkles, edible glitter. Textures and shapes are what define a kaleidoscope! I like to add edible surprises to the bottom of the jar, just like the extra fudge or caramel on the bottom of a sundae!


You could send..

A cupcake in a can! I made these on TV recently, Fox 11 Living With Amy

 You start out with a can like this (preferably one with a flip tab on the top).
To prepare the cans for baking, remove the paper from your empty can.  Keep this paper if possible-you can use it as a template to make a decorative wrapper for the outside of the can.  Remove the bottom "lid" from the can with a can opener.   Do not remove the top lid part that has the flip tab.  The magical thing is that the person who receives your cupcake as a gift can open the top with the flip tab like it is the first time the can has ever been opened.  They will wonder how you fit the cupcake inside!  Do not throw away the bottom lid piece that you just removed.  You will be using decorative duct tape or shipping tape to re-tape the bottom piece onto the can after the cupcake / cake has been baked inside the can and decorated.  Grease and flour the inside of the can.

Fill the inside of each can about half full with cupcake batter and set on a baking sheet, or a baking sheet with mini holes on the bottom for better circulation.  You could also bake these directly on your oven rack, but make sure you only fill halfway or batter will explode all over your oven! Bake at 325 for about 28 minutes.

This is what they look like after they are baked. Mini cakes!

Once your cake in a can has cooled, you can remove it from the can.
Cut the cake with a serrated knife so it is level, or you can cut into different "layers".
Sprinkle sprinkles inside of what will be the "top" of your can.
(You have to think backwards here)...

Swirl frosting on top of the sprinkles.
Set your cake back inside of the can..
For a surprise, you can put fillings or frostings on what will be the "bottom" or in between cut cake layers before you seal the can shut.  Remember that lid you removed before? Seal this back on your can using decorative duct tape. Your can is closed.

Flip the can right side up now and it'll be such a magical surprise inside!
You can decorate the outside of the cans! Use the wrapper from a can as a pattern/template and cut different cardstock prints out to use as decorative wrappers for your cake in can. I used double stick tape to stick these patterned "wrappers" to the cans.  I also like tying bonus gifts to the can! Bows and ribbons and spoons to dig in!

Hint:  I use USPS Priority Mail 2 Day Express, Regional Rate Box A to ship these little cupcakes and cakes in a can. (the boxes are free and the shipping is pretty reasonable).  This box size fits two jars that cuddle up right next to each other after they are wrapped in bubble wrap.

There are other options case you want to enjoy your cake in a can more locally..
(this was a screenshot from my video guest appearance on Fox 11 Living With Amy, thank you Amy Hanten!)  As pictured here... you don't have to put the cake back in the can.  You can use your cake in a can as a mini smash cake or a fun cake to decorate at parties. Can you imagine making a bunch of these for a cupcake decorating party and setting them in the center of a painter's palette??  Every one would get to decorate their very own "mini cake" with frosting and sprinkles! 

Happy Baking!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Red Velvet Cross Cupcakes ♥

I know it may sound super silly to some, but I believe that my mission in life is to share love to you through my cupcakes.

I break off pieces of my glittery heart and bake them inside everything I create.
(This hand drawn art is by Andrea Bills of Wisconsin, we are creating illustrations like this one for a children's book I am writing, more info here)

Before I made cupcakes, I was looking into doing philanthropist/missions work and traveling the world to help others, but my little God whisper told me to wait. That there was something else planned for me. So I did. I stopped and was still.  A year later.. I changed my name to Amanda Cupcake. 

So even if it seems quiet, you may want to listen to that inner whisper of yours. You never know where it will lead. My cupcakes are little philanthropists, healing hearts and making people smile.

So I thought this Easter I'd share a piece of Heaven with you:

Red Velvet Cross Cupcakes for Easter
I chose red velvet cupcakes for this blog because red is very symbolic to the true meaning of Easter.  To make your own red velvet cupcakes, see the recipe at the end of this blog. ♥
To make the chocolate crosses you will need:
♥1 cookie sheet, lined with parchment paper
♥1 bag of dark chocolate candy melts (I like Make N Mold)
♥1 disposable piping bag
♥1 pair of scissors
♥A microwave proof bowl
♥...and a microwave!

1.  Line your cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. If you are not a freehand drawer with melted chocolate-sketch as many little crosses as you want to make on a sheet of parchment paper in advance.  These will be your cross templates!
3..  Open the bag of candy melts and dump into microwave proof bowl.
4.  Melt the candy melt wafers in your microwave, in 30 second increments. Stir in between increments. Do not over microwave or the candy melts will burn and get lumpy/impossible to work with.
5.  Once candy melts are smooth and warm, pour into your disposable piping bag. Cut a tiny hole at the end of your disposable piping bags. Using even pressure, pipe the melted chocolate onto your parchment paper in the shape of crosses.
6.  Once you have sketched all your crosses, place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to make sure they harden. ♥ Place on top of your cupcakes like pictured above.

You can do the same thing, but draw hearts to symbolize "LOVE" out of red candy melts instead like my red velvet heart cupcakes! They look extra pretty with fudge frosting.  (see recipe below)

Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe,  for perfect cream cheese frosting swirls like these:
1 Cup softened butter
1 Cup softened cream cheese
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 Cup whole milk or heavy whipping cream
Appx 10 Cups of powdered sugar

Cream Butter, Cream Cheese, Milk, Vanilla and Heavy Whipping Cream using flat beater attachment in a stand mixer.  Gradually add powdered sugar until frosting peaks when touched.  To achieve heavenly frosting swirls like these, I used a 1A decorating tip (it has a large round hole at the end of it for the dreamiest of cupcake swirls).

Red Velvet Fudge Frosting, for perfect frosting swirls on top of red velvet cupcakes like these:
1 Cup softened butter
3/4 Cup of Hershey's Cocoa
1/4 Cup Buttermilk (just like what's in your red velvet cupcake)!
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4-6 cups powdered sugar

Cream Butter, Buttermilk, Cocoa, Vanilla Extract together using flat beater attachment in stand mixer.  Gradually add powdered sugar until you reach desired texture for piping fluffy swirls on top of red velvet cupcakes.  To achieve these flufy frosting swirls, I used a 1M decorating tip!

Bake-At-Home Red Velvet Cupcake Recipe, makes about 18 cupcakes.

My favorite red velvet cupcake recipe is from scratch, and I use one from scratch to sell my cupcakes at grocery stores.  However.. I came up with this easy bake at home version that you can try too that is pretty close to the authentic red velvet flavor you'll get in a from-scratch cupcake! You can even use the cream cheese frosting recipe above to make "Double Red Velvet" Cupcakes. Just replace the milk in the recipe with buttermilk and add Americolor Red Gel Paste to achieve the bright red color in the frosting! I used silver sugar crystalz as the glitter on the cupcake ♥  You can top any of the frosting swirls with the chocolate crosses or red hearts that you made.
Start with:  
1 box white cake mix
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup canola oil
1 box of dry white chocolate instant pudding (3.9/4 oz)
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
4-6 tablespoons of Americolor Super Red Gel Color Paste

..and Bake!:
1.  Preheat oven to 325 and line cupcake pan with cupcake wrappers.
2.  Sift  white cake mix, cocoa, pudding in big bowl, set aside. (I like Betty Crocker the best)!
3.  Measure 1 1/2 cups buttermilk in liquid measuring cup, set aside.
4.  In stand mixer using flat beater attachment, whip eggs, extracts, and oil together until combined.
5.  Gradually alternate the addition of dry ingredients and buttermilk to creamed ingredients in stand mixer, scraping bowl down to the bottom to make sure all ingredients are included.
6.  Add Americolor Super Red Gel Color Paste to batter until you reach your desired level of redness.  If you don't want to use food coloring and you want to use an alternative, you can puree 3 medium sized beets and the buttermilk together in advance for a natural red color!
7.  Using an ice cream scoop, fill cupcake wrappers a little over 1/2 full.  Bake for appx 22-24 minutes or until cupcakes spring back up when you touch them.  Let them cool before frosting. ♥