Thursday, May 19, 2011


As mentioned in an earlier post, my family loves cream puffs. My husband loves éclairs even more than cream puffs. Since they are almost exactly the same thing, I can please everyone with one recipe!

I had made a lot of pastry cream for another project and had a lot left over. Since everyone loves cream puffs, that was the first thing that came to my mind to make for Mother's Day. My husband pointed out that he likes éclairs a lot more, so I decided to make them since they are almost exactly the same thing. Éclairs are made from Pâte à Choux which is also the same thing that you use to make cream puffs, profiteroles, beignets, and many other pastries. You just pipe the paste differently for the éclairs than for the cream puffs. I made a double batch of the choux paste thinking that I would get a lot of mini éclairs out of it. However, I ended up getting a lot less mini éclairs than I usually get of the cream puffs. I guess next time I will have to triple it ;) I just made a simple dark chocolate glaze for the top of each éclair. They went quickly, and I wished that I had made more.

Éclairs first originated in the nineteenth century in France. The first known English language recipe for éclairs was in the Boston Cooking School Cook Book by Mrs. D.A. Lincoln, published in 1884. In some parts of the US, Long Johns are marketed as éclairs, although they are not the same. Long Johns are made with donut dough and filled with vanilla pudding, making them much cheaper and easier to produce.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wedding Cupcakes

An old friend from high school contacted me months ago asking me if I would do her wedding cake. Of course I said yes! This was my first wedding cake on my own. I had done some wedding cakes at my previous job, but none where I got to choose exactly what I wanted to do.

I visited my friend a little over a month ago with a few different options of cake and icing. I took white, red velvet, and devil's food cakes. And I took two different kinds of icing, buttercream and
French buttercream. Since the bride wanted cupcakes, I told her that she could choose any number of combinations that they liked. They chose white with French buttercream and red velvet with regular buttercream. My red velvet cupcakes are not very sweet, so the sweet buttercream is a better pairing with this cake instead of the French buttercream. On the other hand, the sweetness of my white cake is a perfect pairing with my less sweet French buttercream. The couple also wanted a small eight inch square cake for the top of their cupcake tower so that they could do a traditional cake cutting.

I went back and forth with decorations for the cupcakes. I tried a few things that did not end up
working out for me, so at the last minute I had to rethink my previous designs. I decided to do drop flowers with royal icing. The colors of the wedding were black and white damask and fuchsia. I decided to just stick with black and white in my designs. I made 300 black drop flowers with a white sugar pearl in the middle. Each cupcake got one flower in the center along with
some black and white sugar pearls scattered around it. I think they turned out beautifully. As for the cake, I just did a small 8 inch white cake with French buttercream icing. I covered the top with the flowers that I had made and did a simple bead border around the bottom. I put a small black sugar pearl in between each bead.

Royal icing is fairly easy to work with and is a great tool to allow you to get some decorations done in advance. Royal icing is simply meringue powder, powdered sugar and water. If you fill your pastry bag and have some remaining in the bowl, you must keep it covered with a damp paper towel. Otherwise, it will harden in the bowl leaving it unusable. When making lots of drop flowers, I like to cut small one inch squares of parchment paper. I put just a dab of icing on my flower nail, then stick the paper square to it. I make my flower on the paper and can then just lift up the paper and set it aside to dry. These flowers will last for quite a long time. They are a nice addition to the top of a brownie square for a more formal occasion. You can add these drop flowers to any decorated cake or cupcake. They are fun to make and come in very handy. If you are interested in learning how to decorate, this is a good place to start!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Martha Speaks Cake

My baby was turning 1, so I decided to do a Martha Speaks cake. She loves that show, especially the theme song. It was super cute, and everyone loved it!

Chocolate cake with my French buttercream is my very favorite combination. I decided to do the base which was a double layer half sheet cake with that combo because it is always a crowd pleaser and I love it so much! I did the dog bowl with the same icing, but white cake instead. I made my baby her own little smash cake with white batter as well. I didn't know how much of her little cake she would eat, and I didn't want her eating an entire 6 inch chocolate cake. It turned out that she didn't eat that much of it, mostly icing :) I decided to use a stuffed Martha for several reasons. One of the reasons was because I thought my daughter would really enjoy the stuffed Martha afterwards, which she really does! Another reason, though, was because Martha is a cartoon character and not 3D. I didn't really want to sculpt a 3D version of a flat cartoon character . I used rolled fondant to cover the cakes. I don't like the taste of it, and I think only one person ate it, but it was super cute! Everyone loved the cake, and I am very proud of it!

Do you use nonstick pans to bake your cakes or cookies? You may want to think twice about that. You will get a much more tender, evenly baked product if you use regular baking pans that have been well greased, if the recipe calls for that. Dark metal pans are typically heavy, and therefore conduct and hold heat more than pans that weigh less and are a lighter color. If you do choose to use these dark pans, you must adjust the baking time and sometimes even the baking temperature. Otherwise, your product will be overbaked. I, as well as most professionals that I have come across, prefer lighter pans to bake. I think your product turns out much better overall.