Posts Tagged ‘playing with your food’

As I’ve mentioned before, I lack the skills necessary to create really beautiful cupcakes. Don’t get me wrong, I can make one hell of a delicious little pastry, but I’m just not artistic and don’t have a steady hand. But for some reason last week, the creativity bug that seems to be allergic to me suddenly started biting. I have been dying to try out the piping tips Nick’s sister handed down to me and I finally had a cute idea that I wanted to put into motion. I wanted to make some cupcakes in the theme of my latest obsession, “Phineas and Ferb”.

If you have never seen or heard of this phenomenal cartoon, I assume you don’t know me that well because I seriously do nothing but talk about it all the time. Yes, it’s a children’s cartoon on the Disney Channel, but it’s one the most cleverly written, witty, silly, and downright awesome shows on the air today. Especially when it comes to kids’ shows that mostly boil down to gross or outlandishly absurd humor. Not that I’m knocking that, I say watch whatever floats your boat, but while you’re at it you should definitely check out “Phineas and Ferb”. It’s just amazing.

I won’t lie, part of the reason I chose to practice my piping on cupcakes from this show was because the characters are so simply drawn. I mean, look at Phineas, his head is a giant triangle. And Ferb’s “F” shaped head is just a rectangle with a nose. I was so stoked that perhaps I could actually draw something in frosting and have it turn out looking right!

So I set out on my decorating journey with a vanilla cake mix and a lovely box of decorating tools.

Vanilla cake? Well that’s no fun. But you see, vanilla cake is white and if you look closer in my decorating box…

You’ll see among my piping tips and disposable piping bags that I have a whole lot of food coloring. And what would be the fun of making themed cupcakes without really going all the way with them? It was decided that we would make three different colored cakes: Ferbtastic Green, Phinabulous Red, and Super Cool Perry Blue.

I was so excited about coloring the cupcakes, something I’ve never done before, that I was glad I just went with a box mix. All I needed to do was add eggs, water, and vegetable oil and mix it up good. If you want a Wonder Baker Tip, always “over-mix”. The box will tell you something ridiculous, like mix for 30 seconds, but I’ll always give it a good three or four minutes of whisking. This gets LOTS of air in there, which is imperative for a fluffy cupcake. Especially since if you’re going to be mixing in food coloring, a lot of the air might dissipate. A fluffy cupcake makes for lots of smiles!

After the batter was made, I tried to get it into as equal of thirds as I could. I just scooped it out by the cupful and in the end I had enough for 8 cupcakes each, perfect!

Mixing in all the colors was real fun! It was a big experiment playing with the colors and trying to create the perfect shades for the characters.

And it was so pretty! Like those spin art things we all  used to do as kids.

After careful experimentation, we finally got the colors right. Well, except for the fact that I didn’t realize I had no red for Phineas, so I had to do the best I could. My sister said it ended up coming out more like Candace’s hair color, so we can go with that!

In case you’re curious, here’s how the colors worked out:

  • Perry Blue: 11 drops of neon blue and 3 drops of regular green
  • Ferb Green: 18 drops regular green and 5 drops neon green
  • Candace Red: 10 drops of neon pink, 10 drops of yellow, and 2 drops neon purple

Now, when it comes to filling cupcake liners, all the pros recommend using an ice cream scoop. I’ve never tried that method before and I was going to, but for some reason my freaky family doesn’t own an ice cream scoop! So I used my usual method. It’s a little bit tricky, but I’ll tell you about it because I like the way it works.

I start with a paper liner in my left hand, cradling it with my fingers. Then I use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop out some batter, filling it just about to the top. Once the excess stops streaming off, I move really quickly and get the liner under the cup and start pouring. If you time it right, you won’t get batter all over the sides of the liner. Then, once all the batter is in the liner and not dripping off the spoon, I pop the liner into the pan as quickly as I can. If you do this right, the liner will slip into the pan nice and easy. If your liner folds in on itself a little, just readjust it. I find that this method keeps batter from getting all over the pan. Plus it’s a little bit of a challenge, which makes it fun! Then you can use a spoon to get whatever batter you have remaining to top off the cups until they’re all even.

See, don’t those look nice? And so colorful!

It looks like a rainbow exploded all over my sink though. Good thing the dishwasher was empty!

After about 20 minutes of impatient agony (plus another 30 for them to cool), the cupcakes were done and ready to be played with!

The colors are so pretty! I wish I could color all my cupcakes, even the chocolate ones!

I popped some dark chocolate frosting (also store bought, but whatever) into one of my disposable piping bags. It took a few minutes for my sister and I to figure out how do get the tips on and working. It was a lot of “Does this part go inside the bag? Do I need to cut a hole in it? Oh, duh, of course. What about this twisty bit, where does this go? Am I doing this right?” But we finally did it!

It was messy work, but look at how professional and cool it is!

I started with some writing, just to test my hand

It’s supposed to be “where’s perry”, but I have trouble judging writing space on a cupcake. For the most part though, so successful!

I took a deep breath and attempted Phineas. Meanwhile, my sister was over at the table with some cupcakes of her own and was churning out masterpieces while I struggled to get my lines straight. But you don’t need a blow-by-blow recap of the drawing, so let’s get to the pictures!

GOSH DARN THOSE ARE CUTE. I ended up only doing Phineas as far as the characters go, but I was so proud of myself! The white gel looks funky, but the red ended up being great for his hair.

Then my sister did a Candace with her signature look of disapproval

Yep, definitely had a problem judging cupcake space. Also as hard as you try, frosting is not erasable. But personally I think two cupcakes were necessary to capture Candace’s screams

Even my little brother got in on the fun! He piped out a theme song in chocolate while my sister made an amazing Agent P

I put in a special request for my sister to make me a Jeremy cupcake to give to my boyfriend. Jeremy is the most perfect boy in the entire universe and I always tell Nick he needs to live up to his example

Of course I gave her the cupcake I tested with a toothpick when they were cooking, but it still came out amazing!

Finally a group shot. Aren’t they incredible? Sure I ended up not doing much, but my sister’s amazing artistry just made me so happy. And check out that question mark. I did that, yep, sure did.

So all in all, I think we really made our fandom proud. My sister played around with some of the other tips too

She made such lovely little flowers

Then she started being silly

Eventually the frosting heated up too much to do much with, so I just frosted the rest of the cupcakes, practicing my fluid spiral motions

My dad was about to go out of town, so I frosted some special ones for him too

I think decorating was a huge success! And with my sister around to help, I’ll start working extra hard at my piping so I can achieve wonder baker status with a piping bag!

And in case you’re wondering, they were tasty too! With my sweet tooth cupcake eating inator, they weren’t around for very long

Hey, remember that tart I posted? Well there was one part of that baking adventure that wasn’t part of the recipe.

It happened when we had trimmed the excess dough off our soon-to-be tart crust to make it more even. When we put the crust in to chill before we baked it, I noticed there was a whole pile of leftover dough that had no more purpose. Was I just supposed to throw it away? The idea was very upsetting to me, so, naturally, I started to play with it.

I was just rolling it around on the cutting board when I had the great idea to see if I could shape it into something and then bake it, like a crusty cookie! Not only would that provide entertainment while I waited, it would allow me to have a sample of the finished crust. Wonder baker strokes of genius may be few, but they’re always fun!

I knew right away what I wanted to do with it. You see, that same day also happened to be one of my best friend’s 21st birthday. Sadly she lives in another country and we couldn’t spend the day together, so what better way to do a mini-celebration than with a pie crust cookie in the shape of her favorite animal?

So I rolled

And I shaped

And I pinched

Until finally…

Ta-dah! Well of course her favorite animals are narwhals, what’s not to love about them?

I was super duper impressed with how it came out. And luckily there was still time to throw him in the oven and see what happened.

He got all puffy! I think baking was good for him, it rounded out all his edges. And when we did eat him, we were even more excited about the tart that was coming because he was tasty

So in the end, I got to have lots of fun during what would normally have been a boring waiting period and my friend got a special treat on her special day. My Wonder Baker Tip for all of you is to never let extra dough go to waste. Make shapes, build little dough people, or create a doughy monster that you destroy with the power of your mighty teeth! Taking an opportunity to have some fun is what being a wonder baker is all about.