Archive for August 2009

Puppy Cupcakes


I thought I’d close out this week with a fun little project out of the book Hello Cupcake! I also happen to be leading this project for kids tomorrow morning, so yes, it’s a little shameless self promotion.  Its also a great little finale to birthday week for my friend Chrissy, because if you know Chrissy you know her dog Seamus, a gigantic Weimaraner/ Lab/ Great Dane.


The fun thing about these cupcakes is that you not only use frosting, but you have a great excuse to get some cookies and candy–as if you needed an excuse.  Mini M&M’s, Tootsie Rolls, Jelly Beans (though I really hate that licorice flavor YUCK!), Famous  Chocolate Waffers, Airheads, Marshmellows…really you can use anything.  This project is actually a great way to get rid of all the Halloween Candy nobody really eats–Tootsie Rolls anybody?  If you don’t have all these on hand you can certainly improvise.  Frosting can step in, and should you have Fondant and not candy you can use that too.

Each cupcake (there are 10 different dogs in the book) starts out with a nice layer of frosting (you should have light and dark shades of grey, black, and brown–chocolate).  Add a few mini marshmellows to make a snout, and decorate with icing piped through pastry bags or –as the Hello Cupcake! suggests just use a ziplock bag.   Candy is in place for all the facial features.  Mini M&M’s for eyes, Big M&M’s for noses– if you are not into black jelly beans either, Fruit roll-ups or Airhead or pink Starbursts for Tongues—totally necessary for puppies, and flattened Tootsie Rolls for ears on some pups, Cookies for ears on others.


This is my puppy cupcake version of Seamus.   If you are looking for a litle inspiration Hello Cupcake! is great! It approaches decorating from a simplistic level.  You don’t need to get couplers and piping tips at specialty stores—though obvious I love all these things.  Super creative projects, made with everyday foods and tools all found in a grocery store.

Here’s to the weekend!

1 comment August 15, 2009

Staging a Coup (Deux)

Just a quick little FYI, should you be inspired to bake a vegan cupcake, or fully indulge and purchase Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World or far better you already have the cookbook and its binding its beat because you bake your face off!! …

Beware these gals haven’t quite had their say with dessert.

Its coming….


Order your copy in advance (and save $5.) here.


Add a comment August 14, 2009

Staging a Coup


By Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

This. Is. My. Favorite. Cookbook. EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I kind of thought it was a joke 2 years ago when I got it for my birthday.  My vegan friend Chrissy with her insatiable sweet tooth and not-so-hidden agenda: to make me a cruelty free baker.  She also sent me a super awesome retro apron– Chrissy makes great birthday packages…

Now, years later, there is a large rubber band that holds the book together and you can see the various stickies.  Its become such a staple,  its a rare day that I bake cake that isn’t vegan. Thats right this book kicks the poor unknowing bum of every Joy-of-Cooking-Martha-Stewart-Paula-Dean-Betty-Crocker dessert cook book you can find me.  So if in fact Vegan cupcakes were to stage a coup…I’m on their side.

Picture fall 08 083

TOP 5 Reasons this Book is Righteous:

1. AWESOME!! Every recipe I’ve tried has come out AWESOME.  There are 75 recipes–including ganache, different glazes, frostings, let alone tons of cake.  And you’d never know it was vegan if the cat wasn’t let out of the bag.

2. FO’ REAL! These recipes aren’t  just a bunch of “replace the egg with applesauce” kinds of lists.  Each cupcake was built from the ground up with super culinary prowess.  Yes its possible to reinvent the cake, and no it doesn’t need eggs or butter.  (psst!!  Soymilk is cheaper than eggs and butter–so its economical too!!)

3. CAKE IS NOT PREDJUDICE. Vegan isn’t just for the strict vegetarians. Vegan baking is ideal for those who are lactose intolerant, have egg allergies-(its more common that you think) and this book offers some low-fat, low-sugar, and gluten-free varieties as well.  In short this book proves EVERYONE can have cake and eat it too.

4. COLOR OUTSIDE THE LINES. This book will expand you’re culinary palate.  Green tea matcha powder, non- hydrogenated shortening, rosewater, chocolate extract…Most of these were not on my radar till this book came along.  Who knows what kind of great inspriration you’ll find using these flavorings!

5. PI? Every recipe works out  to exactly 12 cupcakes–How did they do it??

Recipes to try in no particular order:

  • Hazelnut Creme Cupcakes.  Sooo good its unholy.
  • Mucho Margarita Si! Its made with Tequila!
  • Chocolate Stout. Tell any beer-enjoying gent you make cupcakes with Guiness in them, and he’ll be your main squeeze in no time…Just ask my boyfriend.
  • Pumpkin Chocolate Chip is so good I want to dress up like one for Halloween.
  • Apple Cider makes you wish Summer were over.

I could go on but I’d just continue to steal the thunder of this book.  Get at any major bookseller or click here

3 comments August 12, 2009


In my circle of friends we celebrate birthdays for a whole week.  So in honor of my friend Chrissy hitting the last year of what can be considered her mid-twenties, this blogs for you.



Now don’t give me that gripe about eating vegan. I’ve shown up to far far too many an occasion and watched my precious, unsuspecting, sweet vegan cupcakes get goobled by a bunch a man-handlers who wouldn’t have touched them had they known that they were in fact dairy and egg free.  Just because its vegan doesn’t mean its made with bio diesel and Nag Champa instead.  Give ’em a shot!

OR should you have a kitchen full of manly men who don’t care to eat “hippy cupcakes” and would prefer a cake with a manly man name like…Duncan Hines, make these vegan treats instead and pull one of those 1980’s Foldger’s commercials on your household. You know–the old switcheroo, where they secretly replace the gourmet coffee with the Foldger’s, only to reveal it was the good ole Foldger’s all along.  (Pleasant sigh.)

Pssst! Don’t have time to make from-scratch vegan cupcakes? Replace the eggs in Duncan Hines’ recipe with 1/2 c apple sauce or a whole banana.  Duncan Hines Frosting is also totally vegan already.

Where was I? Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes


This recipe comes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.  A full review of this culinary wonderment will be posted tomorrow also in honor of my friend Chrissy, as she, with her not-so-hidden-agenda, was the person who gave me this book…as a birthday gift.

1 c soy milk

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

3/4 c sugar

1/3 c vegetable oil (I like canola)

1 tsp *pure vanilla extract 

1 tsp of chocolate extract, or more vanilla if you can’t find chocolate.

1 c flour

1/3 dutch processed cocoa powder

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

Combine soy and vinegar  and whisk in a large bowl. Set aside for a few minutes. The soy milk will thicken and act a bit like a buttermilk.  Sift dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, soda, powder, and salt) together and set aside. If you don’t sift the sky won’t fall, but it will make your cupcakes fluffier.  

Add sugar, oil, and extracts to soy mixture. *Don’t skimp on the vanilla. Only use the pure stuff.  Did you know that it comes from Madagascar?  The fake stuff is just tree sap, and its Chrissy’s birthday after all. Also chocolate extract can be a pain to track down. Try specialty culinary stores or buy online.

Use a wire whisk to combine wet ingredients.  Slowly pour in dry ingredients, about a third at a time.  A few swift strokes of the whisk will combine batter to a silky smooth consistency.  

Distribute into a cupcake pan–make sure the cups are lined with your favorite cupcake papers.  This will make exactly 12 cupcakes.  I like to use a 1/4 c measuring cup as a gage for filling the cups.  1-2 tsp less than 1/4 c is usually perfect, and everyone will note how perfectly uniform your desserts are. PICT0017

Bake at 350 for 12-18 minutes.  Let cool in the pans for about 10 -15 minutes before removing to fully cool.   



A good old buttercream can be done in a couple of different ways and since this recipe is for Chrissy, an avid runner, and strict vegetarian, I’ll try my best to make it healthier. 

1 c non hydrogenated shortening (found at higher end grocery stores like Whole Foods, and boy is it pricier!)


1/2 c non-hydrogenated shortening

1/2 c vegetable spread (Soy Garden or Smart Balance are great)

2 tablespoons soy milk or water

1 tsp clear or pure vanilla extract (Clear Vanilla is 100% not from Madagascar.  Its made from different alcohols like a variety of extracts.  If you are looking to make bright white frosting, use clear vanilla, and only shortening as this won’t muddy the color of the frosting)

3-4 cups confectioner’s sugar

Combine wet ingredients (everything but the sugar) until nice and smooth and creamy.  Add sugar 1 cup at  a time if you are using a hand mixer, or dump it all in your KitchenAid countertop mixer.  3 cups of sugar will get a medium to thin icing consistency.  4 cups will be very stiff.

*Substitute 1/3 dutch processed unsweetened cocoa powder for 1/3 of sugar for Chocolate Buttercream.


For a real finishing touch, get a large piping tip any culinary or craft store.   Wilton makes a tip called 2D.  Drop this nose first in the bottom of a pastry bag or into the corner of a large plastic storage bag (make sure to cut a hole at the end).  Fill with icing and pipe onto your cupcakes as if it were a soft serve ice cream.  Your birthday-celebrating friends or man-handling-cupcake-eaters will be impressed.

2 comments August 11, 2009

Two for Tea

I’ve been pretty busy this week with a dear friend’s birthday, and another dear friends wedding…more to come on this.   Someone told me recently that they often picture me in my kitchen hovering over a caldron, so for that I give you this:

Pomegranate Iced Tea with Orange Blossom Water


My cauldron...

My cauldron...

I came across some Yogi Pomegranate Green Tea in the supermarket today.  You’ve got to love tea that includes a yoga pose, or sana if you want to get fancy.  I like yogi teas, for all those little sayings on the tag of the tea bag–like fortune cookies.  Experience is Wisdom or Its not Life that is important, but the courage we bring to it. It like having Yoda in every steamy cup.  


Being that its summer I enjoy making homemade ice tea from time to time and there is nothing that brings a fresh zest to tea like Orange Blossom Water.  Like Rose water its made from distilling the petals of orange blossoms in water.  Both Rose water and Orange Blossom water can be found at Whole Foods, or any grocery store with a decent eastern foods selection.  Orange blossom water is a flavoring featured in many eastern dishes from India, to Iran as well as France and here in the US.   

I like to pair Orange Blossoms with other fruity teas, raspberry being one.  Pomegranate in this case seemed like the proper pair as not only is Orange Blossom water and Eastern treat, but pomegranates are as well.  Some historians think that the “apple” Eve picked in the garden of Eden was a Pomegranate…in short this tea will make you smarter…or get you and your boyfriend kicked out of a great party.

To make the Tea:

Steep 6-8 bags in 2.5 liters of hot water.  The more the tea the stronger the drink.  The ratio is up to you.  

Steep for 10 minutes.  Add 1 tablespoon (or more if you really love the taste) of Orange Blossom Water. 

Place in the fridge when at room temperature (putting hot stuff in your fridge makes it have to work harder to keep the temp cool–aka huge waste of engery.)

I like to pour the cooling liquid over ice and shake (take that Starbucks!) and add a teaspoon or two of sugar or agave nectar to add a hint of sweetness.



1 comment August 8, 2009

Purse Cakes

The almighty purse cake!!! Super popular.  As seen on Amazing Wedding Cakes via the Cake Girls of Chicago.  I can’t knock a girl who decides to have cake center pieces at her bridal shower.  As the former  MoH (Maid of Honor)  in my best friend’s wedding… I choose a far more complicated cake project for the shower…mini wedding cakes anyone?? a blog will follow.


Here’s my ode to the almighty arm bag.  These are Betsey Johnson replicas (hey be sure to include that second ‘e’ or you might find a scarier picture ahhhhhhhh!!!!! Those are some glasses!!!!!).

PICT0318These cakes were inspired by my friend Rachel, who was the recieptient of this birthday cake.    Since becoming a total cake dork, I am now somewhat expected to show up to most engagements with a cake in hand.  When it comes to birthdays, I like my cake to be inspired by the personality of the friend I’m baking for.  Rachel is the proud owner of this one Betsey Johnson creation and a fashionista in her own right, and fabulous all around.


Check out the Student Work Page.  You’re bound to find some other niffty hand bag instpirations, if not some great up and coming Cake decorators.

1 comment August 8, 2009

Haiwaiin Wedding Cake


I’ve been looking for a reason to post this reciepe, other then its just good summer cake.  And what better reason to post this cake than my friend Scott got married this past week!!!!!!!!   Their recent nuptials at City Hall will be followed by a big ceremony to come within the year.  In honor of my good friend Scott and his lovely bride Melanie, here is a personal favorite, Haiwaiin Wedding Cake.

This is one of the first cakes I ever learned how to make.  Its SUPER EASY.  And is perfect for a summer bbq.  And the assembly is quick so you’ll be out of the 350 degree kitchen in no time.   The no-nonsense version is as follows or you can scroll further and find a slightly more detailed recipe.


Make a yellow cake batter from any of your favorite store bought box brands. The cake should be baked in a long sheet pan(9×13) and allowed to cool.  Once cool, slather it with instant vanilla pudding, cool whip (ahhh the wonders of coolwhip), sprinkle with shredded coconut, 1 can of drained pineapple, and drained Marchino cherries, and chopped walnuts.  Cover with foil and your off to the BBQ where you can slice wide pieces grill-side.

Actually need to make it for a wedding?? PICT0548

Yellow Cake

I got this recipe from none other than Martha Stewart’s Wedding Cakes. I thought this was the most appropriate source.  This reciepe accomodated two 9″ round pans, it was a little over filled.  3 1/2 cups of batter would be enough to properly fill a 9″ pan.  Filling pans to 3/4 full the trick.   This reciepe yields almost 11 cups, so cake your face off!!

3 sticks of unsalted butter at room temp, plus more for greasing pans

4 c flour, plus more for pans

1 tb baking powder

3 c sugar

6 eggs at room temp, separated

1 1/2 c milk (I used 2%)

1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Butter pans.  Place Parchment paper in pans, butter and flour paper in pans and set aside.

Sift flour and powder (Martha Says 3 times!!!! I think thats excessive– once should be fine). Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar till fluffy (with a paddle attachment if you have a KitchenAid mixer–which is a necessary investment if you are making wedding cakes). Add egg yolks one at a time.

Add 1/3 of the flour mixture then milk, alternating.  Start and end with flour.

In a clean (grease free) bowl mix egg whites with salt.  (chill the bowl and whisk attachment for 15 minutes first)  Once egg whites are stiff, but not dry, mix 1/4 of the egg whites into batter.  Once incorporated fold the remaining whites in.

Pour batter into pans and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until golden brown and a knife inserted comes out clean.  (it only took me 35-40)

Cool in pans for 20 minutes before romving.  Place on wracks to continue cooling.  Martha suggests refridgerating for a day before using.  In the fridge the cakes are good for 2 days.

Cherry Filling:

2 cups fresh or frozen cherries

3tb- 4tb sugar

1 1/2 tb cornstarch or arrowroot

2tb- 3tb water (ifyou are using fresh– frozen cherries should be thawed, and moist enough)

In a sauce pan combine cherries and sugar and simmer with low heat.  Mix cornstarch and water (or you could use fruit juice like pineapple) and combine in pan.  Simmer, mixing continually till thickened.


Coconut Butter Cream:

3/4 c shortening

3/4 heavy whipping cream

1 1/2 tsp clear vanilla extract

1-2 tsp coconut extract

Combine till creamy creamy creamy.

4+ cups of confectioners sugar.  (please check my royal icing post for some successful mixing directions)

Icing will be a stiff consistency which is ideal for icing.

Icing pulling your cake apart??  Make sure to add a GENEROUS amount of icing to successfully cover you cake without crumbage.  PICT0540Think of it this way:  Plopping, yeah I used that as a verb, big dollops of icing all over the top of your cake is a great way to start.  With a spatula play connect the dots with the icing.  After the cake is covered you can do some cleaning up with your spatula to straighten out the side and remove all that excess frosting.


Garnish:  Cover this cake like a pina coloda at a fancy resort.  Add large piece of fresh pineapple and cherries, as well as large chunks of dried coconut.

This cake smells great, tastes great, is as refreshing as young love.  Congrats Mr. and Mrs. Kipp!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! DSCN0351


2 comments August 8, 2009

I’ve Been Living Under a Rock!!!!! PART TWO

Dear Leslie Evans,

You are AWESOME!  This cake is AWESOME!!! Can we hang out?


Add a comment August 3, 2009

I’ve Been Living Under A Rock!!!!!!!!! PART ONE.


Image From

 One of my favorite favorite favorite (of all time) blogs is Cake Wrecks.  It doesn’t matter if you hate cake (but who hates cake?), have no interest in decorating, maybe you even think Duff Goldberg is a total dork (dude he puts fireworks in cake–how could anyone dislike?!?!) Cake Wrecks will still make you Pee your pants with laughter. 

At first I thought I might just have softspot for the blog as I’m interested in all things cakes, but then I showed my assistant (at my real job) and she wet herself too.   So should you be having a bad day please partake.

Now the crazy thing is, I haven’t perused Cake Wrecks in over two weeks, and therefore I totally forfeited my opportunity to take part in this:

WHAT THE @!%&^*# !!!  A contest where you choose a hip illustration to be interpreted and executed  in the medium of CAKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Then send in pictures and video and be judged in a contest WHATTTTTTTTTTTTTTT!!!!!

**To the person who thought of this idea: You are my soulmate. Please Advise.

As I mentioned before the deadline is in 45 minutes.  Had I even saw this a few days ago, I would have called in sick (to my “real” job) and would be Caking my face off as we speak.  Alas it was not meant to be…BUT I’m still going to choose a design and see what I can do just for fun.  Stay tuned.

Add a comment August 3, 2009

Fairy Houses

PICT0077 This is my friend Aela.  I love this picture of her, because she not nearly as bratty as it makes her look, although she regularly makes this face when I start mimicing everything she says and does.  (its the quickest way to annoy 5 year old and its my guilty pleasure)

I’m actually friends with Aela’s mom and was with her when she went into labor with Aela, so I think its safe to say we’ve had a bond since the very beginning.  In fact “Aela” almost was an “Ella.”

Aela is a huge cake fan–cupcakes mostly.  Infact she loves to decorate “cuppycakes” with “crosting” as much as she likes to eat them.  We started talking about what kind of cake I would make her for her birthday faaaaar in advance.  She liked being to imagine the design of the cake she’d get free reign on eating and pulling apart.

We started looking through the many picture and pop books she has.  And finally we came across How to Find Flower Fairies.

From this point on the cake became a good excuse to test out techniques I hadn’t had a reason to use previously.  To date this is the best work I’ve ever done.


In the end I didn’t actually put any fairies on the cake, though I think some Brian Froud-esque paintings on gum Paste would have been cool.  The center tree trunk part is 5 layers of chocolate (vegan at that) cake.  Between each layer I spread the left overs of dark, semisweet, bitter sweet, and white chocolate.  The bark is chocolate curls.  Beneath the tree trunk is 1/2 sheet of red velvet cake covered in tons of green buttercream. ( Yeah Yeah I know it should be cream cheese Frosting..)


I swirled different kinds of chocolate on top of the cake to try to achieve rings of the inside of a tree.  The Butterflies are made out of runny royal icing.  And some of my students might recognize many of the flowers as part of the Course Two and Three Curriculum.

The mushrooms on the cake came from Martha Stewart’s Wedding Cakes. They are made from meringue and are glued together with chocolate.

The best part of this cake, for me anyways, was watching everyone pick it apart.  I was like that scene in Charlie and the chocolate factory–you know right before Augustus falls in the chocolate river and ruins everything.  All the parts of the cake were edible, but not just frosting.  Even the adults were coming back and picking off pieces of chocolate and candy flowers.


2 comments August 2, 2009

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The Cake Eccentric

Sugar, Frosting, and Fondant: an artistic exploration of Cake and other Sweets