Tag Archives: chocolate cupcake

Reflecting on the last 6 months and cute Hedgehog cupcakes

4 Oct

As I sat there cutting out some blue and red fondant stars, I let my mind wander and realized that with this cupcake donation for the New Comers Festival, Das Cupcake cupcakes have appeared at incredibly 3 out of the 4 major festivals in Frankfurt. During these budding first six months since inception, my cupcake babies have been at the Parade der Kulturen, the Rotlintstrasse Fest and now at the New Comers Festival (all donated, my friends!) right in the heart of the old city centre, in the Rathaus (city hall). Heh heh heh..Rat-house.

Mmm, carrot cake cupcakes, made with chopped pecans, shredded coconut and grated carrots. P.S. These cupcakes don't have anything to do with Newcomers Festival order, they are just cute.

I am very proud. I mean, ok, there may have been other more major festivals, but still. Das Cupcake has really flourished with the support of friends and the Frankfurt community. I mean in the last six months:

  • I conducted recipe development over a 6-week period, with the help of focus groups and a self-developed questionnaire.
  • I attended cupcake classes in London on Cupcake Basics where I learned how to work with fondant.
  • I attended a second cupcake class in London on Running Your Own Cupcake Business that helped me to understand what was in store.
  • I organized a vanilla taste testing extravaganza to perfect my recipe which included 8 testers, 5 vanilla frosting types and vanilla cupcake recipes.
  • I sourced a creative web designer and developed my logo.
  • I sourced international suppliers. (i.e. my Mom.:))
  • I leveraged online social networks to develop my online presence via my blog, Facebook fan page and Flickr photostream.
  • I decided to make my mark with two perfected cupcake flavours and a large focus on the decor aspect of cupcake making.
  • I organized, sourced props for and completed a cupcake photoshoot (pics still to be posted).
  • I networked with some major Frankfurt-based clubs, schools and charities.
  • I spoke in front of a room full of people (50ish, the most ever!) about Das Cupcake and my cupcake dream.

I also feel extremely lucky to have to a supportive Mr. Cupcake by my side who has helped me to read crazy German legal documents, spoke to crazy German associations on my behalf to find out about all the legal stuff and developed smart excel spreadsheets (much smarter than me) that calculate cost structures of my cupcake babies. He came to support me during my ten minute speech to the room full of people and beamed his love to me from his seat in the last row. He laughed at me during my tantrums with fondant and frosting, he advised me on serious issues such as flower embossing stamps, he measured cupcake cases with me, squinting at the numbers on the ruler, brainstormed ideas for the business and helped me clean the kitchen late into the hours of the night.

Equally awesome has been June from A-viva, who allowed me to trial my cupcake recipes on her students, invited me to countless networking events, plugged my cupcakes shamelessly to passer-byers, spent evenings chatting with me about my ideas and extended her network to me, as if it was mine and allowed me to grow my little business idea, step by step, festival by festival. Thank you so much June.

To continue that warm and fuzzy feeling inside, have a look at some cute hedgehog cupcakes I made this week.

Awesome tutorial on Wee Love Baking.

P.S. Hunching over fondant and working on the cute little details such as sprinkle centres on flowers and little hedgehog eyes, has totally strained my shoulder and neck muscles. Geez, one of the perks, eh? I can imagine it’ll get worse the more fondant work I do. I just booked an appointment with the nearest Frankfurt masseuse. Hopefully this will help. I can only imagine what other bakers have to go through. Fondant work can get very physical. Phy-si-cal. Phy-si-cal. *song in my head*

P.P.S. For more hedgehog cupcake cuteness² check out my Flickr photos.

Java Cupcake Recipe and some other stuff

21 Jun

There is nothing more satisfying than the feeling I get when I bring home my empty tray after a night of cupcake testing. I swing the empty container gleefully as I get into the elevator and think back about how each cupcake disappeared one by one and each person enjoyed their chosen cupcake. Some unwrap the cupcake as they go, other unwrap it in its entirety and then eagerly dig in, others eat the frosting first and still others give it a quick sniff before they take their first bite. I try not to be overly stalker-esk when it comes to watching people test my cupcakes, but it’s hard to turn away! So alas, I am the cupcake stalker!

So Tuesday night. Cupcake development night. I worked on my Java cupcakes. In other words, I used my favourite chocolate cake recipe, with a cup of freshly brewed coffee in the batter and then topped the perfectly baked cupcake with espresso buttercream and coffee-bean shaped chocolate morsel.

What my aim in this cupcake development was, to stick with my tried and true chocolate recipe and try a different frosting flavour, a different frosting method and also try a different size cupcake liner to increase the size of the cupcakes themselves.

The frosting flavour was nice. The feedback from the peeps was that it was a bit on the sweet side and so I may have to work on that. I loves the shine to it and I used way less than the recommended amount of sugar, so I think I am on the right track. I love the fact that my frosting skills are definitely improving. Look at that smooth, smooth swirl, baby! Not at all of them were identical which is what I am after, to get that professional look, but I am getting there.

I also tried a new frosting method this time too. Instead of piping, I am trying out a more circular look, à la Sprinkles Cupcakes. I like the clean, domed look on each cupcake. I intend to practise this some more and see if I can get that real poshed dome, as opposed to the lopsided one I have going on now.

The next trial on these guys was increasing the size of the cupcake liner which worked to an extent. Unfortunately each cupcake hole (for lack of a better word!!) in the tray was about 1cm too small and the liners just kinda of folded in onto themselves but alas, such are the trials and tribulations of a Cupcake Queen Extraordinaire.

Alongside all my baking, I have been in talks with a website designer. I am pushing that part of the project also. I had a good meeting with him last Friday night. A nice Columbian guy who’s been in Frankfurt for 10 years now is really artsy and creative. You can see some of his work here: http://www.ariasmedia.de/

I am excited to get some photography done and work with him on the website development. Ideally, I would like to have something ready for June 26th which when I showcase my cupcakes at the Frankfurt Cultural Parade. I haven’t told you guys about that yet, have I?? A-Viva (the school where I have my Deutschkurs) invited me to crash their booth and sell my bad-ass cupcakes! So overall, the goal has been to develop the recipes until then, hopefully get a website up and running and then distribute my business card and generate some business! Sounds simple, eh? Well, we shall we what happens! I am super excited though to participate and just pray for good weather.

That is all I have this week. No profound revelations or moments this week, but I will be sure to keep you in the loop when they do happen! More exciting battles to come, I’m sure! Next weekend I am jetting off to London for a 2 day cupcake decorating workshop! Woo! Please no volcano explosions Mr. Eyjafjallajökull!

P.S. I invite all readers to find a better word to describe the ‘holes’ in the cupcake baking tray!

Battle of the Titans: S’mores frosting vs Ewa Macinski

21 Jun

In the questionnaires, I requested that the tester rank his/her top cupcake flavours and I provided them with a selection of 16 cupcake descriptions. After tabulating the results, the S’mores cupcake came out on top. So I began to research some recipes and came up with the following: sweet biscuit crumbs, with chopped chocolate pieces in the centre and topped with my chocolate cupcake recipe on top….then frosted with homemade marshmallow cream that was toasted golden.

Come Tuesday night, I arrived home with my stock of cupcake ingredients, Leibniz cookies for the base, then some organic dark chocolate for the centre and the usual suspects for the chocolate cupcake top. I began to bake, alone with my thoughts.

My mind started to wonder and I thought about the cupcake business and the fact that I will have to work birthdays and weekends and long into the nights on cupcakes and then I started to debate if that is something I really wanted. Then those thoughts moved over and I started to think about my work day. You know, that kind of thing. So the cupcakes came to life, quite uneventfully and were happily cooling down and waiting for their frosting, as I began to separate the eggs for my marshmallow frosting.

For my frosting, I combined a WHOPPING 8 egg whites with 2 cups of sugar and half a teaspoon of cream of tartar (which helps to create the fluff-factor). I took my handmixer and as per the instructions in a double boiler I warmed the egg whites with the sugar until the sugar melted. Then I took it the mixer off the double boiler and I started whizzing away with my handheld mixer at a medium speed. Little did I know what awaited me. What comes next is the biggest adventure in cupcake baking history. So hold on to those hats folks. The showdown between Ewa and the marshmallow frosting begins now…

So I am standing there for five minutes with an achey arm and I look down and the mixture is still watery…argh…frustration and despair! So I keep going and still no change. I can feel the frosting looking up at me smugly and laughing at my inexperience. There I was, glancing nervously at the clock, the grocery store was going to close in 15 minutes and I had no more eggs. My brain started frantically thinking: Do I have time? Yes I still have time. Should I get more eggs before they close? Should I throw this away? Should I start again? How can I save this frosting? What is going wrong?

I was down and out …hopeless and in despair. Confused and taunted by this useless frosting. It was coming down to the final minute. No more eggs, no more grocery store…and then I realized I had nothing to lose. So I went for it; it was all or nothing.

My first thought was: “Let’s turn the volume up on this bad-boy!” So I grabbed the bowl, gripped the 350 watt hand mixer and using a super-high-speed stirring motion and the highest speed on my little hand mixer, I went for it! For 4 minutes straight I whisked and whisked and whisked at full throttle. My reflection in the kitchen window was determined and concentrated and the rosiness in my cheeks was building. Then, I looked back down and the beauty had begun! WHITE peaks! Yes! Heavenly peaks!!! They were coming up …so I continued, harder, faster, stronger. And then firmer peak, yes!! I rocked it! The eggs starting to transform into these beautiful billowy clouds….with the momentum of my own hand and the 350 watts behind me, I had done it!

I did a happy dance in celebration and out loud and to its face, told the marshmallow frosting who was the boss! Oh yeah!!! Then another wave of triumph! Then a quick check to see if the peaks were still there. Yep, still there. Whew..Then another Boo-yeah! I am the Baddest Cupcaking Queen in town…Damn, I better get that printed on my wallet or something!

This moment of victory just zapped and killed all of my previous thoughts. They were all gone and left to replace them an immense feeling of triumph. Just triumph and pride at my creation of frosting. In my excitement I frosted all the cupcakes at lightening speed and hit broil on the oven to get them all golden. The toasting would have been much funner with a kitchen torch, but I guess you can’t have everything.

So how was the final product, you ask? In my opinion it was ok.

Key learnings:

1. I felt that the biscuit bottoms somehow absorbed the cupcake mixture and made the cupcake dry so, I am investigating a biscuit-chocolate recipe, where the biscuit is either sprinkled on top or part of the cake mix.

2. Bitter chocolate doesn’t really go with S’mores, so milk chocolate in the middle next time.

3. Vanilla extract in the marshmallow topping. In all my whipping furry, I forgot to mix in the vanilla. Oops!

4. Taller application of frosting. I want more loops and swirls of frosting, but alas, with 350W I couldn’t get enough air to keep the frosting standing tall and proud.

Testers’ response:

1. The public liked the frosting and found the sweetness balance just right.

2. The testers also found the cupcake a bit dry.

3. Several testers said that the appearance could be improved.

Overall, the results were not overwhelmingly bad, and actually the majority liked the cupcake. I myself, did not LOVE the cupcake. And I NEED to LOVE all my cupcakes. Equally and wholeheartedly. So I must carry on and leave this S’mores recipe battle for another day in the not so distant future.

P.S. You like the use of the old semi-colon in paragraph 6, eh?