Tuxedo cupcakes with candy bow ties

Sometimes I am ridiculous. I present to you Exhibit A:

Really though, my obsession with baking hits a high whenever I am invited to any get together that is even vaguely themed. This week’s party? A classy-themed shindig planned by a fellow fourth-year journalism student, Joel (for those who follow my comments, he was the one who identified the correct way to pluralize stegosaurus).

Cupcakes are my go-to “bring to a party and have everyone fawn over you and be impressed” food, but things have gotten challenging lately. The challenge: I have made a countless number of cupcake recipes already (see my cupcake category in the drop down menu on the right), meaning that creativity has been ever the more difficult to uncover. Google, which is normally a constant source of inspiration, failed me this time around. If you enter the term “classy cupcake” you stumble on more tragically named bakeries than anything else.

What I’m saying is that extensive brainstorming went into finding the perfect cupcake for this party. At first, I thought of doing something infused with champagne, before realizing that I was far too lazy to go buy a bottle and that the resulting purchase would likely just throw me into a tizzy of early morning alcoholism. I thought of dipping strawberries in chocolate, stuffing raspberries with a ganache, mixing finely chopped mint leaves into a decadent filling… None of the combinations were quite right. Nor did I have time for them.

My guardian angel of the week, Martha Stewart, saved the day. One of my searches landed me on her slideshow of fancy cupcakes. I was clicking through photo after photo, bleary eyed and getting increasingly disgusted by the hypothetical pool of drool that was being induced by the pictured cupcakes. Then, just like that, it happened. I found the perfect solution to my problem. It was slide number 18 out of 30. Candy-Bow-Tie Cupcakes. Be still my beating heart.

Everything was a breeze from here. I quickly whipped up a plain chocolate cupcake batter, and baked 20 cupcakes with perfectly rounded tops. Then the real fun began: it was bow tie making time.

Aside: Why does bow tie have a space between words, while necktie is all one word? It seems unfair to me. 

These candy bow ties were made with fruit by the foot candy, purchased at my handy dandy local corner store. I LOVED completely hated that I bought too many rolls, and my attentive bow tie, er, tying, was accompanied by the inhaling of nearly 15 feet of candy fun. We will not discuss the sugar crash that followed.

The bow tie making process is a little complicated to explain in words, and the instructions Martha (bless her soul) gives are not the easiest to follow. And so, I present my first video tutorial, made mid-sugar crash with a hairstyle that has been ruined by a morning of incessant head-in-the-oven cupcake checking. Please don’t judge. Update: Yep, there is most definitely an issue with lip-word co-ordination in this video. I blame my four-year-old laptop and the fact that it was running on reserve battery power at the time. Bear with me. Update 2: Oh god that’s a terrible screen capture.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/35851729 w=500&h=400]
I woke up at 7 a.m. on Friday morning to make the mint buttercream icing for the cupcakes (once again, I am so grateful for the silence of my new Kitchenaid hand mixer). Freya and I have a new roommate, who has already noticed that we bake way more than the average people. She came downstairs on Friday to the sight of me making Oreo cookie crumb suits for my cupcakes. I am not helping my cause, am I?

Anyways, the result was adorable, I thought. These are definitely one of the top five favourite things that I’ve made. Suit up!

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Chocolate cherry cupcakes with a Smarties cream cheese icing (Happy Birthday Ariel!)

What a flavour combination, huh?

Don’t give me that look because you think I’m crazy for combining cherries and Smarties. I know the look. It’s something like this:

Okay, let’s be real. I just wanted an excuse to post this picture. I’m sure you guys aren’t ACTUALLY making a face at me. Right? RIIIIGHT?

Well whatever. They were good. I’ll admit, I never thought the three things would ever be combined. That all changed, however, once I took a trip (well several trips, actually. About once a week for all of second and third year…) to my friendly neighbourhood Dairy Queen with my good friend Ariel.

Here’s the backstory: As one of her several high school jobs, Ariel had a stint serving ice cream at DQ. When you’re a teenager and left fairly unattended in a large, ice cream shop, what choice do you have but try different flavour combinations? Read: LETS THROW EVERYTHING INTO THE BLIZZARD MAKER, GUYS. I had a similar experience when I worked at Starbucks in grade 12 and we made a lemon poppy seed loaf frappuccino…

But anyways, this post is not about getting Ariel and I indicted for the mischievous things we did with industrial powered mixers in high school. Nope, this post is about belatedly celebrating Ariel’s birthday, which she was not in Ottawa for.

And what better way to celebrate then to transform her favourite kind of blizzard into cupcake form?

I was very wary as to how these would turn out. I’ve never used/bought/eaten cherry pie filling before, and was concerned as to how it would affect the batter. To play things safe, I strained the actual cherries into a bowl and the result underneath was a giant goop of something that looked like cough syrup mixed with zombie blood.

There was about a cup of this liquid-y goo

Though these cupcakes didn’t rise to become mountainous domes, they were moist and had scattering of cherry. My other old roommate Alex said they were good enough to be a wedding cake! The Smarties cream cheese icing reminded me of Smarties ice cream and was the perfect topping to these rich, chocolatey cupcakes. Blizzard transformation: complete.

Please pardon the lack of photos – I was in a rush to get to the actual birthday party!

Pulverization is best served by the pounding of a meat cleaver

PS: a third-year journalism student at Carleton swung by my baking session to interview me for her multimedia class. I posed awkwardly with my hand mixer which I described as the “love of my life” way too many times.

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Peanut butter cupcakes with chocolate buttercream icing

I don’t need to tell anyone twice that peanut butter and chocolate are a masterful combination.

I’ve been experiencing a peanut butter and chocolate (hereon in to be known as PB&C) revival lately, and I completely blame these cookies of Britt’s that she made back in November.

Since I got my hand mixer for Christmas, I’ve been dying to make some sort of cake and take full advantage of its blending powers. I settled (perhaps settled is the wrong word for something that you truly adored) on these peanut butter cupcakes. We were going over to a family friend’s house for supper and I, true to form, offered to bring dessert. I figured peanut butter was a safe bet. These cupcakes also came with a not-too-sweet, semi-improvised icing that I whipped up to satisfy my chocolate craving. Believe it or not, no one in my family likes chocolate in dessert (terrible, I know), so this was pretty much as far as I could go.

As for the actually cake mixing, it was a dream. My hand mixer made the batter a fluffy, peanut butter pillow which scooped like a cotton ball into the tiny white muffin cups. The oil in the peanut butter made the original muffin cups slip off after baking, and so I iced the cupcakes and plopped them back into fresh, slightly smaller ones. We had to get dressed up for dinner, after all.

In the end, these cupcakes were delicious and, surprisingly, not too dense. A PB&C success story.

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A wonderful day: Jane’s wedding

I can, with 100 per cent certainty, say that this was the most adorable wedding that I will ever attend. I know that I’m young and will likely be attending my fair share of well-decorated, impeccably planned weddings over the next few decades, but none will ever top this one.

No, it wasn’t organized by a wedding planner nor was it an overly-swanky affair, yet Jane and Jake’s wedding a few weekends ago had more romance and love than a glitter-filled, overdone wedding could ever contain.

I first met Jane in the summer after my second year, when I worked as a Summer Orientation leader in Carleton’s Student Experience Office. Over the summer I was lucky enough to share dozens of lunches with her, and quickly found out about her passion for bees, Denmark and mason jars. I also heard about Jake, the man that she had been dating ever since they met working at Black’s Photography when she was in her late teens. I was over the moon when I finally found out they were engaged.

The wedding took place at Jane and Jake’s house, a beautiful cottage hidden away in the Gatineaus. Their ceremony took place beneath the end-of-September fall colours. It was adorable.

They both wore Birkenstocks. This, I love.

Jane, of course, was a very low-key bride and was in no way as demanding as the bridezillas I’ve seen on popular TLC shows. Maybe I have a skewered perception of how a bride-to-be should behave. Regardless, I was pleased to have that stereotype delicately shattered by Jane’s relaxed wedding nature.

Jane and her famous smile, pre-wedding

I think it was the simplicity of everything that made the ceremony so powerful. I thought everything was perfect, from Jane’s beautiful dress to the petite jars of wedding favour honey to the fact that Jane’s bouquet was a stunning collection of golden sunflowers.

Food was also an integral part of the day, and I’m horrified/excited to admit that I witnessed, for the very first time, a giant pig roasting over a crackling fire. There was a Lord of the Flies raw-ness to the scene. Other than the pig roast, there was cumin-flavoured cheese from Holland, a canoe filled with beer and more hamburgers and hotdogs than I’ve ever seen in my life.

There were also my cupcakes that Jane asked me to make. I was honoured when Jane asked me to bake for her, and of course agreed to make as many cupcakes as I could. That turned out to be six dozen, including a dozen mini GF cupcakes for Jane.

Cupcakes: psychedlic, banana with a milk chocolate frosting, chocolate zucchini with a strawberry yogurt icing
This is when I harassed people into letting me take their picture with the cupcakes

Thank heavens my friend (and Jane’s maid-of-honour) Kristina drove me.

What you can't see is that there is ANOTHER tray on the other side of me

I am happy to say there was only one cupcake casualty throughout the entire, 45 minute drive to Jane’s house. It was in the last 100 metres of our journey, and happened when a banana cupcake decided to pull a tumbleweed and roll down onto my lap. Thank heavens the seat belt and my iPhone braced the fall. Hilary: 0, icing on iPhone: 3.

Congratulations again to Jane and Jake. Your wedding was beautiful and I wish you two all the happiness in the world.

Here are some more sights from the afternoon wedding…

Maid-of-honour and good friend Kristina, looking gorgeous
Just when the wedding couldn't get any better, we were told there were s'mores. This one had a Reese's Cup in it.
Another old co-worker, Natalie, and her boyfriend Tyler
This is three seconds from Jane's house. On her property. Woah.

Four days, six dozen cupcakes, one big icing-induced stomach ache

Two things must be disclosed about me and my personality before this post begins:

1. I enjoy baking just for myself (you never would have guessed, right?), however the idea of baking for other people, specifically in potluck and/or BBQ settings really sends me over the moon.
2. I am incapable of saying no to any request that requires me to make copious amounts of baked goods.

More specifically, the first-year journalism student picnic that happened last Saturday.

Almost all the cupcakes

When my friend Averie asked if I wanted to bring a dessert to the event, I of course immediately knew that I would be bringing cupcakes. And lots of them. Since I’m not living with five other people anymore, two of whom had consistently hungry boyfriends, it’s a little more difficult to make the mass amount of cupcakes that I used to. I could eat them all, yes, but I’m trying to do things that aren’t detrimental to my health, remember?

Deciding what flavours of cupcakes to bring involved an extensive brainstorming session, one that saw me slumped out on our IKEA futon, scribbling ideas onto a piece of loose leaf. I didn’t want to make too many flavours that I had already tried, nor did I want to be super adventurous and become even more broke than I currently am (damn you Europe).

And so, after much inner conflict and personal indecisiveness, I settled on the following four flavours:

Featuring an attempted journalism-themed photography set-up

– Psychedelic cupcakes with a cream cheese icing*;
– Pumpkin cupcakes with a brown sugar cream cheese icing*;
– Snickerdoodle cupcakes with a cinnamon brown sugar cream cheese icing; and, my personal favourite,
– Mint double chocolate chip cupcakes with a peppermint buttercream icing

*repeat offenders

Once the key flavour decisions were made, I trekked over to the Bulk Barn where I, once again, managed to spend enough to put a noticeable influx in their quarterly budget report.  Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but I did buy so much cake flour, icing sugar and white sugar that it made my black shirt look like I had major dandruff issues. I brushed myself off and headed over to the actual grocery store, buying butter, eggs and cocoa galore. All in a days work.

What came next was not all in a day’s work.

I knew I wouldn’t have time to bake everything on Friday and Saturday and, considering I had training for two different jobs on those days, I knew time would be of the essence. The only logical thing to do was to start baking on Wednesday, before school started. For each of the next four days – Wednesday through to Saturday, I baked a batch of cupcakes a day. Budgeting my time effectively, I left the always-horrible task of icing until about 1:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, just a short three hours before the picnic was due to start.

Brief side-tracked confession: I hate everything about icing. Besides eating it. But really. The mixing, the PILES of icing sugar, the back-breaking piping work, the solidified chocolate ganache… the list goes on. </whine>

Oh wait, one more thing. Making icing also means I’m prone to accidents like this. Poor iPhone.

In the end, the cupcakes were done and delivered in time, thanks to a noble steed (my parents and their van) who just happened to be in town for the weekend. Life savers.

For those of you who aren’t j-school nerds, the -30- on the mint chocolate chip cupcakes is how a journalist indicates that a story is done. There, now you learned something today. You’re welcome.

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