Matthew and I have been in California this week soaking up the good life and hanging out with my brother-in-law, his wife and this little lady…
It’s been seven heavenly days of baby-worshipping, shopping, sight-seeing and eating! Californians are a hospitable bunch and they certainly know how to live.
My only assignment for the week was to bake a gazillion cupcakes for a welcome party for little miss Ellie. What a fab mission – a festival of girly pinkness! Having a brood of boys this is a rare delight.
The theme of Ellie’s party was Hello Kitty so I tracked down a cake decoration shop in the area to get the accessories. Orange Novelty Cakes did not disappoint. It’s a very unassuming unit on an industrial estate because the bulk of their business is generated from their website. But once you get past the ugly facade you can quickly lose yourself browsing the shelves stuffed with every kind of decoration, sprinkle, case and shade of glitter.
As well as getting all the gear for Ellie’s cakes, I also made the most of the opportunity to stock up on boy-friendly decorations.
Another pleasure was visiting the grocery store to buy all the ingredients. I’m a bit weird, but I hope I’m not alone in my love of browsing around foreign supermarkets. I loved checking out all the different products like the packets of Cheetos that are the same size as Arlo, the gigantic pumpkin pies, the sumptuous piles of perfect looking fruit and vegetables, the array of salads. It lives up to its name of the Land of Plenty – it’s pretty intoxicating.
I was quite nervous about how the cupcakes were going to turn out – there were quite a few risks involved. A different oven, different ingredients and I was trying a slightly different recipe. BUT it all turned out fine. The first batch were a bit enthusiastic on the rising front as I’d slightly over-filled the cases, but I swiftly rectified this with the next two batches.
Making large amounts of frosting with a small glass bowl and a handmixer was also pretty challenging, but my lovely sister-in-law kept me company and fully beveraged up so there was no stress.
I churned out 78 cupcakes by the end of my mammoth baking sesh – all fluffy, pink, glittery and GIRLY! Everyone seemed to like them so that was a huge relief!
I went for three different toppings and it created a really pretty look.
I blinged up the frosting with bright pink glitter dust. This picture doesn’t really capture it, but it gives them a wonderful sparkle that looks really proffesional.
When it comes to food presentation remember to use odd numbers – so three marshmallows per cake will look more pleasing to the eye than four.
I think the addition of a bit of violet and yellow breaks up the sea of pink.
I think i’ve got the girliness out of my system for a little while perhaps. It’s time to head back to the crazy world of my gorgeous boys who I have missed SO much!
Vanilla cupcakes (makes 25-30)
220g self-raising flour
220g caster sugar
220g margarine, softened
2 tsp baking powder
4 large free-range eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1. Pre-heat the oven to 160’C/325’F/Gas Mark 3. Line two 12-hole muffin tins with cupcake cases. Put all the ingredients in a mixer or big bowl with a hand-mixer and combine thoroughly until the batter is light and fluffy.
2. Using two teaspoons divide the mixture into the cases – fill a third of each case or they’ll rise too far and look messy. Bake in the oven for 20 mins until golden, firm and springy to touch. Allow to cool while you make your frosting.
Buttercream vanilla frosting (makes enough for 15 generously piled-high cupcakes)
450g icing suger, sifted
200g unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
food colouring gel
1. Beat your icing sugar into your softened butter and vanilla extract until it’s light and fluffy. I do it gradually to prevent myself from being engulfed in a large white cloud. Is it harmful to inhale sugar?! If the mixture is a tad stiff, simply whisk in half a teaspoon of boiling water to soften things up.
2. Dip a cocktail stick into your colouring and then dip it into your bowl of frosting and then whisk it up. Build up your colour gradually until you’re happy with the shade. Don’t go in all guns blazing or you could end up with a rather putrid batch of icing – unless that’s the look you’re going for!
3. To get the professional looking mr whippy swirls on the top of your cupcakes, use a piping bag with a big star shaped nozzle. Put your piping bag with nozzle fitted into a tall glass or jug and then spoon the mixture in. This is SO much easier than trying to hold the piping bag open to get the icing in.
4. Starting from the outside pipe your icing around the cupcake in a spiral working into the centre, then finish with an extra squeeze while pressing down and up to finish like an ice cream!
5. Scatter with decorations and sprinkle with glitter dust. Dip a small clean and dry paintbrush into the glitter, then hold over the cake and tap gently to distribute the sparkly. This is my favourite part of the entire task.