Tag Archives: Frankfurt cupcakes

The Das Cupcake Studio is Open for Classes

10 Aug

So when I first opened the Ewa Feix Akademie back in 2013, I would run my courses at an external location. And by external location, I mean a dentist’s office, not an actual dentist’s office, but the big conference rooms of the dentist’s office. It wasn’t exactly baking central but I did purely decoration courses so it the conference room in the city centre was perfect.

Once I wanted to offer baking focused classes I contacted the Genussakademie which is a culinary school in Frankfurt. They welcomed me with open arms and I began teaching there first once a month back in 2013 and to date I teach 3 classes a month now and I am proud to say that my classes are one of their best sellers, which means that 99% of the time, my classes are fully booked with lovely ladies and men from all over Germany ready to bake and decorate cupcakes. The classes at the Genussakademie are designed for 18 participants and last 4 hours. I have met countless enthusiastic and talented bakers and I love sharing my knowledge with them.

At the Ewa Feix Akademie, I host 8 participants per course and the courses are longer, lasting 5 hours. I designed these courses to focus on decoration and more advanced skills that I can’t really transfer so easily to a class of 18 in just 4 hours. So this is where the Ewa Feix Akademie comes in to accommodate those that want to have a more focused and intensive course. I also provide a light lunch for all my course participants.

So with the Genussakademie on the one hand, and the Ewa Feix Akademie on the other, my schedule is nice and full. And excitingly, I have been able to invest in my own Das Cupcake studio. It is located just 2km outside of the main Sachsenhausen area of Frankfurt and this is where the courses take place.

My good friend and talented photographer took some snaps for me of my lovely studio so I could share them with you.

cupcakes Frankfurt

My baby, my Kenwood.

Tasty cake pops waiting to get eaten.

Tasty cake pops waiting to get eaten.

frankfurt classes baking

Baking, my favourite thing.

frankfurt baking classes

Enough work space for two groups of 4 people.

frankfurt cupcake class

Extra long table for making cupcake decorations. Sits 8 people comfortably.

frankfurt cake classes

Ray of sunshine in the Das Cupcake studio.

cupcake class frankfurt

Sprinkles and cupcake chaos.

For more information about classes, dates and prices, please visit the Ewa Feix Akademie tab on my website.  I would love to have you as one of my students!

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The Ewa Feix Akademie is now Open!

3 Jan

Ok, so this year I want to bring the world of cupcake decorating to Frankfurt, Germany. That means cupcake classes in Frankfurt and international cake teachers in Frankfurt. Yes, it is a huge endevour but I am so excited. The one thing I always wished when I saw a new class being posted, was “I wish I could go. I wish the class was here in Frankfurt.” So I decided to ask the teachers to come here and they said yes!

The first international teacher of year is Tracy James from Cotton and Crumbs. In the world of tiered wedding cakes with beautiful cascading fondant roses and delicate fondant rose buds on vintage cupcakes, she is really second to none. I went to one of her classes in Birmingham and wrote about it in this post. She is an excellent teacher and I learned three new techniques from her: the big open two-toned rose, the striped bow and how to use royal icing to create an embroidery effect. All of these techniques are perfect for cupcakes and for large cakes.

So I am excited to announce that the Ewa Feix Akademie is offering, not one, but TWO classes with Tracy in Frankfurt am Main!! To book your spot email Das Cupcake: info@dascupcake.com

The first class is the cupcake class.

Vintage Boutique Cupcakes (Wednesday February 20th, 2013, 10:00 a.m. to 16:30), 250€

In this class you will learn:
– stenciling techniques
-brush embroidery techniques
-how to colour fondant
-how to cover cupcakes with fondant
-how to make custom sugar pearls
-how to make a two-tone bow
-how to make a beautiful signature large rose and rosebud out of gumpaste

By the end of the 6 hour tuition, you will have 12 beautifully decorated and delicious cupcakes to take home to family and friends. Workshop fees include all ingredients and tools. To book your spot email Das Cupcake: info@dascupcake.com

You get to take beautiful vintage cupcakes like these home!

You get to take beautiful vintage cupcakes like these home! Picture courtesy of Cotton and Crumbs.

The second class is just as awesome as it focuses on sugar flower skills. Step-by-step and piece-by-piece you will craft a flower bouquet made all of sugar that would make any bride melt. Tracy will take you through the steps, giving tips and tricks along the way so that a seemingly difficult project will become perfectly achievable. This course is perfect for those just starting out with crafting sugar flowers and those looking to practice the skills they already have on new types of flowers. Imagine making the topper on your own wedding cake or maybe you said you would help your friend with her wedding cake and you really want to impress the guests. Or you need to hone your skills as you are trying to turn your hobby into a business. Then again, this is a great sugar crafting course.

Wedding Flowers Single Tier Cake (Thursday February 21st, 2013, 10:00 a.m. to 16:30) 250€

In this class you will learn:
-how to colour fondant
-how to apply fondant onto a dummy cake
-how make a two-tone large rosebud out of gumpaste
-how to make gumpaste rosebuds, hydrangeas and filler flowers
-how to pipe with royal icing on a cake

By the end of the 6 hour tuition, you will have a beautifully decorated dummy cake that you can use as a display to showcase your skills or to use a reference when you want to try out your new skills at home. Workshop fees include all ingredients and tools.

cake class decoration frankfurt

Picture courtesy of Cotton and Crumbs.

So what are you waiting for? No hassle of boarding flights to the UK, but still all the fun! Sign up now! And bring a friend. Make it a Girl’s Day Out in Frankfurt. Give it as a present to your wifey! Give this link as a hint to your hubby! Sign up to improve those skills or just have fun. It’ll be a blast and finally I will get to meet all you lovely readers in person too! Whoopee! Added bonus.

To book your spot email Das Cupcake: info@dascupcake.com

Keep your eyes peeled for some more guest teachers in the near future…think, the master of sphere-shaped cakes. Yes, he/she will soon be in Frankfurt too!

Cupcake Decorating Basics Classes in Frankfurt

9 Apr
In Frankfurt by popular DEMAND!!

 

Cupcake Decorating Basics!!

 

If you already know how to bake cupcakes and have always wanted to make them look as beautiful as those made by professionals, this is the course for you. Spend two hours with Ewa Feix from “Das Cupcake” learning how to decorate cupcakes. In this course you will:

  • choose the colours you want to work with from the provided colour palette
  • learn to pipe frosting using various techniques with popular piping nozzles
  • use professional tools to create flowers and other pretty details for your cupcakes
  • learn how to work with fondant and flower paste
By the end of the 5 hour tuition, you will have 12 delicious cupcakes beautifully decorated by you to take home to family and friends! This course is available on weekends for your convenience. Workshop fees include all ingredients. Don’t forget to bring your aprons! The class will take place in Frankfurt am Main and more information will follow once you sign up.

Please email dascupcake@googlemail.com to join!

April Class  (introductory price of €55 per class)
Saturday, Apr. 21    11:00-16:00

In the class you learn how to make all the flowers pictured above.
Styling concept and photography by Iro - Ivy Nassopoulos. Check out more of her work by searching for Domestic stories with Ivy on Facebook.

Cupcake Revelations

16 Jun

Last Saturday Das Cupcake had a photoshoot and it was awesome. Actually last week was all around awesome for Das Cupcake. On Monday, I had my final exam and passed! So now I am officially official to sell my cupcakes anywhere in Germany because I’m qualified man! I am a Konditorin. I just love the way that spills off my tongue. This is a huge deal!

Last Saturday was also huge because a new friend I made came all the way from Stuttgart with all her photography equipment and we had a cupcake photoshoot.


I prepared the cupcakes a day ahead and styled them for each set-change. It was my very very very first time being a Director on a shoot and I didn’t really know what to do. Luckily for the first two thirds of the shoot, Jen took charge and set up the photos and finally during the last third of the shoot I started styling the shots a bit more and looking over Jen’s shoulder into her Canon’s viewfinder. When I did that, I felt truly like a creative Director and it brought me back to watching America’s Next Top Model episodes with Jay Manual directing the shoots! Halfway through the shoot, as I prepped a cupcake and saw my living room transformed into a mini set, I got this immense surge of joy. Here is an excerpt of what I wrote during this time (so as not to forget exactly where my whole being was at that time):

“I feel it! I feel IT! I have this constant sense of well-being and joy flowing through my body. I know that I am doing what I love. I can’t get this grin off of my face. My heart is so happy. We are listening to a compilation of my old soundtracks I compiled online and listening to this music has somehow connected me to my past and present. On a subconscious level it has brought me back to my past when I was unhappy with my career and spontaneously triggered a reaction in me in response to how happy I feel in this moment of time. I’m soaring. It feels like I’ve come full circle. Like I’ve come home. What is that called when the past and present combine and it’s just perfect harmony? An incredible feeling. I feel so connected to myself.”

Now brace yourself for some cheesiness, but it has to be said. I really believe that this feeling I get when making cupcakes gets passed onto the customer. It’s not just ‘x’ amount of hours spent on a cupcake order, but my love of the cupcake coming from THE ultimate place of self-fulfillment in my soul right to you!

I really had a wonderful day (and week!) and I thank Jen with my whole heart for making the huge effort and sharing her huge “Photographerin” talent with me!


A sneak peak at the goodies we photographed!

Christmas Cupcakes and Snowflake Tutorial

8 Dec

Are you starting to feel Christmasy yet?? What better way to celebrate than with cupcakes!

Santa face absolutely inspired (copied!) from Bakerella. Love her talent! The reindeers my idea.:)

I recently received an early Christmas gift, one which I bought for myself..well, it wasn’t really a gift, ok you caught me, I’ll make up any excuse to buy to any kind of cupcake paraphernalia. In fact I have a wide array of excuses for buying cupcake paraphernalia.

‘It’s my hobby.’
It’s my business.’
‘It’s an early Christmas present.’
‘I NEED red glitter on my cupcakes.’

You get the picture. But in the Christmas spirit of giving as well as in the spirit of dual-purpose excuses, I would like to share with you all how my new cupcake toy works with a little tutorial. Like I mentioned the other week, silicone is back! And it’s awesome. Multi-purpose, re-usable, and easy to use. What more could you want? Let me show you what you can do with this bad boy.

Snowflake silicone mould and fondant.

What you will need:
Fondant
Silicone mould

Using the mould for fondant

Step 1 (click on picture to enlarge):

Break off little balls of fondant and slowly fill up the cavities. The key here is to shape each ball like the cavity you are filling. What you don’t want to do, is to put too much in at a time otherwise you get a little border on the exterior of the shape out of the excess fondant.

Step 2:

Once you have filled the cavity, pop the snowflake out of the mould. Be careful not to flex the mould too much as you pop out the fondant shape as it might get misshapen...i.e. a little wide the sides.

Helpful Hint:

If you want to use other colours of fondant, use slightly less than you think you need for the area because when you press the other fondant overtop it spreads and if you put in more than you need of the contrasting colour, then it will spread into the area you don’t want it to be in. This great tip I got from my friend at Sweet Sentiments. This is especially applicable when doing centres for flowers.

A good example of where you would use two different colours of fondant for effect.

Back to the snowflake silicone mould…

Using the mould for chocolate

What you will need:
Melted chocolate
Silicone mould

Step 1:

Melt chocolate and pour it into the cavity. I use a small piping tip to guide the chocolate in the small crevices but a snipped tip on a bag should do the trick too.

Step 2:

Swipe the top of the moulds with the side of a palette knife or a regular knife to get a smooth surface. Now they are ready to go into the frezer for 10-15 minutes. These moulds are also great because they can handle a lot of different conditions. They are designed to withstand temperatures from freezing all the way up to 450 degrees.

Step 3:

Pop them snowflakes out and they are ready to use!

One problem I  found with these though, is that the snowflakes melted fast. Yes, ha ha, snowflakes are supposed to melt. But since these guys were out of chocolate, I thought they would last. But just as soon as I snapped no more than few pictures and wanted to take them off the plate, this is what happened…

I am pretty sure the reason for this is because they are so tiny. I think that if I had a bigger mould, with more chocolate surface, they would not be as super delicate. Perhaps the melting could also be due to the high humidity in my house. Let me know how they turn out if you attempt them!

So stick with the non-melting fondant snowflakes, bitte (please)!

I hope you enjoyed the tutorial! Now go out and get yourself some silicone or ask Santa for some!

Strawberry and Mango Cupcakes for Mr. Cupcake’s Mom

12 Oct

Last weekend I had the pleasure of baking cupcakes for Mr. Cupcake’s mom’s 60th birthday. It was a perfect October day, full of sunshine, a cool breeze and beautifully coloured trees. There were over 60 guests so we were surrounded by the fun and tradition of close family and friends.

Strawberry cupcakes with strawberry buttercream (in the front) and mango buttercream (in the back) pre-decoration.

I decided that strawberry and mango cupcakes would be on the menu for dessert. Strawberry is a big fruit favourite and I felt mango was a nice slightly exotic complement. I went with fruit cupcakes as I thought they presented a nice colour scheme and would be familiar to all the generations present at the party.

Mango cupcakes with flower accents.


For the strawberry cupcakes, I used strawberry fruit puree in the vanilla cupcake batter and then enhanced the true strawberry flavour with a strawberry buttercream that had chunks of strawberry rather than just the puree. I then stayed with the strawberry cupcake batter and added a naturally coloured mango buttercream on top.

Strawberry and mango cupcakes with full fondant decor. Oops, I went a little crazy with the lemon yellow food colouring paste. Remember: coloured fondant dries a shade or two darker. Of course, I had been told that already, time and time again.

The strawberry cupcakes were a definite hit whereas the mango ones still left something to be desired. The mango flavour was not as intense as I would have liked it. The cool thing about this whole experience was that the restaurant owner/master chef loved my cupcakes and even gave me loads of contacts where I can purchase supplies in Germany. He even brought out the fruit puree which he uses, providing me with the brand name and where I can get it so that I can achieve a more intense mango flavour in future batches. Did I ever tell you that I love Germans? So awesome. I love it when people share their information. And it inspires me to do the same. There is just something so organic about people exchanging information and something so sad about people desperately holding onto their recipes and knowledge.

So as I find out cute little tricks, I promise to share. Like with the edible paper and with the ribbon rose making. If you feel like a little cupcake challenge, let me share this great link with you for fondant figures. Have fun crafting fondant into little 3D creations for your cuppies!

Completely pooped ─what a day, what a day.

6 Sep

Wow. I look around at the aftermath of getting ready this morning and it’s a complete hazard zone. A cupcake calamity. From butter, sugar and frosting on every countertop and cupcake pans, boxes and other paraphernalia strewn everywhere, to open closet doors as I hunted for bags and threw my clothes on this morning. But it was all worth it (how many times have I used this phrase in my blog now?).

Picture captured in a remote corner of our apartment where I could crop out the mess!

 

This weekend was Rotlintstrasse Fest and I made, frosted, decorated, packed, transported, set-up a tower of 72 cupcakes. Mr. Cupcake is out of town so it was up to me to make things happen as a solo act. It was tough. My mind had to be constantly alert. I had to stay on task and on time and to organize everything myself. I couldn’t just use my popular catch-phrase: “Babe, can you help me with this one little thing.’ Everything was on me. I had to not only make sure everything was done to the last detail, but to do it myself. Even the little things like packing the elevator and making sure not to lock myself out!

So onto the cupcakes themselves. As mentioned in my previous post, I decided to go for a more ‘o’naturale’ look with fresh berries and a household brand like Snickers. It was a neighbourhood festival so I decided to make my cupcakes more familiar and not as flamboyant. I went with French vanilla cupcakes with tinted pink buttercream frosting, drizzled with homemade raspberry coulis and topped with a blackberry. For the chocolate lovers, I made my Belgian chocolate cupcakes, topped them with caramel infused buttercream and drizzled them with caramel (German caramel tastes a bit more like butterscotch though!) and then finished them off with chopped frozen Snickers bars.

After setting up my tower, I took a few shots. Inadvertently on each photo I captured a different cupcake customer group. Cupcakes don't discriminate.

I got my space at the festival from A-viva (so gracious!) which was selling beautiful fruit tarts and cakes as well as other cuisine delights made by the international language students. A-viva and I will be donating all our proceeds to the flood victims in Pakistan (yet another reason why A-viva is the best Sprachschule (language school) in Frankfurt!).

I sold alongside a Spanish A-viva volunteer who was a fantastic sales guy.

We sold-out of cupcakes in about 4 and half hours and I was happy to call the day a success.

One happy customer!

As I finish this post, I am absolutely pooped-to-the-max, my home is messier than a pigsty but I love life. Cupcakes are fantastic and I love, Love, LOVE selling them especially when all the profits get donated to a good cause! After I get this house in order, I am treating myself to a long bath and a manicure.

P.S. No, seriously. If a pig walked into my house right now, he would laugh in my face and give me the number for a Frankfurt maid service. Immediately.

Das Cupcake Debuts in Frankfurt

20 Jul

Every debut is preceded by a lot of hard work and naturally this was no exception. The plan of action was to make 200 cupcakes, 100 vanilla and 100 chocolate for June 26th at the Parade of Cultures in Frankfurt. The language school which I attend, A-viva, offered me some space at the booth that they rented at the event. I was pumped to say the least. I thanked my lucky stars at the generosity of A-viva (easily THE best language school in Frankfurt) and got to planning my cupcakes. I searched for inspiration from all my favourite cupcake decorating masters, ordered decorating supplies from around the world (literally) and brainstormed the designs that would grace my cupcakes.

My mom was in Germany for her vacation as I prepared for the parade and so I taught her all I know about making cupcake decor (took all of tens minutes), showed her the pictures I was using for inspiration and we were off to the races. The first thing we started on was the fondant decor. This you have make at least 3 days in advance so that it has a chance to dry and harden. We made butterflies with small little flowers glued (with edible glue!) onto their upturned wings, blue five petal blossoms, peach five petal blossoms, white pearls of rolled fondant and dusted with edible glitter. There was a lot of decor to make for 200 cupcakes and it took about 5-6 hours with the both of us working as a team. My mom officially became the Sugar Paste Pro. She rolled out that fondant to the perfect thickness and punched her way through the fondant, creating beautiful edible creations along the way. I, on the other hand, was the official Prep-er of the fondant –adding colour, adding strengthening gum tragacanth powder (to harden the fondant) and  kneading the sugar paste until it was ready to work with.

Cupcake decor drying. I cut long paper towl rolls in half, covered them with foil and created my own Flower Formers.

Then on the Friday before the Saturday of the event, I baked 200 cupcakes. After buying a ridiculous 20 blocks of butter, 10 blocks of shortening, 6 pounds of chocolate, 40 eggs and the same ludicrous amounts of flour and sugar, I was ready to bake. And it took me all day. It took from 1:00 in the afternoon until 9:00 at night and then I still had to make frosting and seal the cupcakes with a layer of frosting on top. So as I whipped together bowl after bowl of frosting, my mom sealed each cupcake with a smooth layer of frosting that leveled out with the top of the cupcake case. This gave a nice smooth surface upon which I could make my swirls. As the clock struck midnight, I was rinsing my last bowl and pair of whisking paddles.

The next morning was a flurry of activity. By 8:00 a.m. I was creating frosting swirls on my cupcakes, and my mom was arranging the decor on top. I ran out of frosting nearly at the end and had to frost some vanilla cupcakes with chocolate frosting but all was still well in the universe. We loaded the car and drove into the city with boxes of precariously stacked cupcakes balancing on seats and in laps.

Five petal blossoms in blue and peach colours. I flipped these upside down for drying so that the petals turned nicely upwards.

The BIG day…

Well it was a gorgeous summery June day. The festival was by the lovely Main River and very near to the heart of the old city centre. There were literally hundreds of booths and hundreds of people milling about. The Parade of Cultures (Parade der Kulturen) is very similar to Caribana in Toronto. It includes an awesome procession of performers from around the world dancing in the street in elaborate costumes to beat-thumping body-bumping music and everyone has a fantastic time, taking pictures, dancing and eating food from every cuisine imaginable. Of course, I did the representin’ for North American cuisine, in particular the sweet cute cupcake kind. We found our booth, set up two cupcake towers and started placing the cupcakes on the clear circular tiers.

Both cupcake towers. It looks like there was less vanilla, but I had plenty of vanilla cupcakes with me, and we continued to add to the vanilla tower as each cupcake was purchased.

We starting to sell almost right away and I was happy to see lots of curious people walking by with wide eyes at the 7 and 5 tiered cupcake displays in front of them. Lots of people took pics. My mom said I should have charged for that too. Good ol’ mom. Even my Trusty Apprentice showed up as well with some of her friends and they found my booth amongst all the parade craziness and showed their love by sinking their teeth into some chocolate cupcakes. A good work colleague of mine also stopped by and got her dose of chocolate for the day. We even had repeat customers, oh baby, yes. The sweet satisfaction of someone coming back for more. It was truly great. I sold the cupcakes, with my mom by my side, from 12 noon until 8:00 p.m. It was a long day, but I was smiling big at the end of it. I made some hard, cold cash (although I probably just broke even) and I felt happy with my success.
Key Learnings:

More advertising. Yeah, I printed stickers for the boxes of cupcakes that I was so hopeful to sell, except that not a single person bought a dozen cupcakes, so not a single logo sticker went out that day. What I really need is some good old fashioned, simple but reliable business cards. Those repeat customers which I mentioned came back for more cupcake love, yeah well, they could have easily been interested in my cupcake services, but I didn’t have anything to give them…Yes, a box sticker would have given them some info, but to give out rather big box stickers and then have people fold them into their pockets for later reference, I mean yeah, business cards are so much better.

Better means of transport.
Already quite inventively, I used the empty boxes you can find at the grocery store in which yogurt is sold in. You know the boxes with the holes in them, that you pick your pot of yogurt out of , yeah, those. Well, awesomely enough, I’ll have you know that those yogurt pot bases are the same size as the bases of my cupcake babies, so for transport I used these. Clever–yes. Perfect–no. Since there are no lids, the cupcakes are exposed, thereby leading to potential smudging of the perfect swirls. Overall there was little smudging, but a lot of panic and anxiety about the prospect of it happening. Also you cannot stack these, so there was a lot of balancing going on in my lap. Anyway, boxes with lids next time, all neatly stacked and compactly packed so they don’t sail across on the backseat of my car, like they are riding a bloody water slide!

A way for cooling the cupcakes. It was a regularly hot sunny day, which is want you want for any outdoor event you are selling at, the only problem is that the sun is not friends with your frosting. The frosting kept its shape for the most part, but then as soon as you took the first bite, the melty chocolate and vanilla goodness got all over your face. They were still tasty, but warm. Luckily, Germans are not cupcake connoisseurs and many of them still enjoyed the melty cupcakes. By the end of the day, the icing had turned extremely soft and even though the fondant decorations still maintained some levels of appeal, the frosting looks very gloppy. My German boyfriend has already devised a plan that involves safely storing the cupcakes in white cardboard cupcake boxes and then storing those boxes in a cooler and transporting the coolers with the nicely stored cupcakes. This way the cupcake would keep their beauty, be easy to transport and even be more appealing to sell by the dozen. Think of a box of twelve cupcakes straight from a nice cold cooler on a warm day to take home to the family. Also it’s more sanitary of course. Less bugs attacking any cupcakes left out for the day.

Forks. Germans like to eat cake with forks. I didn’t bring any, lots of people asked me for some. I stole some plastic ones and gave them out until I ran out, which was pretty quick. Next time, I will bring some forks, especially for an outdoor kind of event.

In conclusion…

Yes, there were many fondant flowers to make. Yes, I spent all of Friday baking in the hot kitchen. And yes, I got stressed and yelled at my boyfriend when I didn’t think he was arranging my precious babies carefully enough into the car, BUT when all was said it done it was a labour of love. My plans had transpired into reality. My recipe development, my annoyed phone calls in trying to locate my decorating supplies, my cupcake classes had all paid off. Literally. :) And I fell asleep that night, with sore feet and a grin from ear to ear.

And last in this post but absolutely not least, a special thank you to June at A-viva. Her support, excitement and encouragement has been endless and crazy plentiful. From ‘using’ her students as cupcake testers to sharing her space with me at the Parade of Cultures; I feel like without the cosmic stars lining up for June coming into my Frankfurt life, my cupcake dream would really have no platform from which it could come to life. June has given me the fertile ground where I can plant my dream and nurture it to grow, grow, grow. She is as humble as ever but I know I couldn’t have done it without her.


P.S. June, I owe you a pack of forks.

Five vanilla sponge recipes, five vanilla frosting recipes, 8 brave testers

16 Jul

I have not gotten the chance to post any new entries for a while as I have been hosting my mom in Germany, but I am back now and ready to give you the latest gossip about my cupcake journey. Leading up to the Cultural Parade in Frankfurt, I organized a vanilla recipe cupcake tasting extravaganza. Five vanilla sponge recipes, five vanilla frosting recipes, 8 brave testers, one day.

The extravaganza prep began weeks before, as I scoured the Internet for the most delectable, most sought after, most highly regarded and reviewed vanilla recipes to use as my basic cupcake base. I was looking to create the perfect vanilla cupcake-light, fluffy and (not to sweet) delicious. In the end, I decided to the test the following recipes:

  • Sprinkles vanilla cupcakes (biggest cupcake chain in America) (baked in orange cupcake cases)
  • Rose Levy Beranbaum’s white velvet cake (baked in white cupcake cases)
  • Rose Levy Beranbaum’s yellow cake recipes (baked in yellow cupcake cases)
  • FairCake’s tried and true vanilla recipe (which I learned at my cupcake classes in London) (green cupcake cases)
  • William-Sonoma’s vanilla cupcakes (blue cupcake cases)

The main difference between the recipes was the use of eggs. While the velvet cake called for just eggs whites, the Sprinkles recipe called for two egg whites and one whole egg for its batter. A few other minor differences included the use of sour cream instead of milk for the yellow cake batter and also the use of self-raising flour and margarine in FairCake’s recipe.

Naked cupcakes ready for frosting. Each recipe is colour-coded with different cupcake cases.

My research continued as I devoured page after page of information about the world of frosting. The perfect frosting needs to be sweet, but not too sweet; stable for creating perfect swirls; and nice and smooth for a clean finish. I decided to enter the world of meringue based buttercreams (anything with the word meringue in it means you add beaten egg whites to the creamed butter) as well as to try out the classic recipes too. In the pictures below, the green frosting was Italian meringue buttercream, pink was Swiss meringue buttercream, the beige frosting was Silk meringue buttercream, pale yellow was normal buttercream and blue was a buttercream with half the the butter replaced with vegetable shortening.

Each frosting colour-coded also.

 

So the weekend finally arrived and I was ready for the testing. On Friday, I bought all the ingredients and Saturday evening, I spent baking a dozen of each cupcake recipe. I learned a lot and took many notes. I noted the appearance of each cupcake, if it domed nicely or if it turned out rather flat.

After 4 hours of baking, I finished baking 60 cupcakes (took some time as I had to clean all the equipment in between each batch).

Sunday arrived, the day of the taste testing. The testing was scheduled for 16:00, so I used the morning and early afternoon to make fresh buttercreams of all kinds. My friend, who will be from here-on-in known as my Trusty Apprentice, joined the cause and we put our brains together in trying to figure out meringue buttercreams. We decided to attempt the hardest one first, cause you know, we’re brave like that. The secret ingredient to Silk meringue buttercream is the homemade caramel sauce, and after only 3 or 4 failed attempts at caramel we did it! While my Trusty Apprentice mixed the caramel with a thick a cream, I whipped up what I call, ‘normal’ buttercream which consists simply of butter, powdered sugar and vanilla extract for flavour.

With 2 out of 5 frostings complete and starting on the third we felt quite confident, until we began the Italian meringue buttercream and realized that the butter we wanted to work had gone way past room temperature and into its melting stage. We used it anyway and realized that adding melted butter to meringue really just turns everything into a white, flat mess, a far cry from billowy frosting. The next part of the story involves a way to get rid of the bad batch of frosting. The logical person would say, you just tossed it in the bin, well yeah, let me just say to ANYONE reading, don’t ever try to flush your ruined frosting down the toilet because the frosting will always outsmart your toilet. Enough said.

Back to the kitchen (hands washed, twice!) and my determined Trusty Apprentice finally managed the Italian meringue while I whipped up a batch of half and half frosting (half butter, half shortening). At this point the clock struck quarter to 16:00 and we still had the Swiss Meringue to tackle. My tireless and fearless Trusty Apprentice began melting the sugar and separating the eggs for the final frosting. As she whizzed and whirled with my loyal 350 W handmixer, the doorbells and cell phones began to go off and I ran from the kitchen to greet my testers with sweaty welcome hugs and kisses. The Trusty Apprentice’s focus and drive never wavered nor did she once lose her concentration. It wasn’t until all the sugar had been blended in a pink Swiss Meringue did she join the testers in the dining room.

Frosting some cupcakes with the pink Swiss meringue. Not so good for piping, although we did make this one in a rush.

 

The results:
Once the cupcakes had been frosted and questionnaires distributed, the tasting swiftly commenced. The room was silent, the testers-absolutely concentrated as they scribbled their feedback and ate five cupcakes each. So which recipes won?

Focused tester sampling his first cupcake. 1 down, 4 to go.

Vanilla cake: It was a close call between the Fair Cake recipe and the William-Sonoma ones. Both had just the right amount of sweetness, balanced with a fluffy texture. The William-Sonoma cupcakes called for one whole egg and one egg white. This gave the recipe a good balance, I think. Keeping the cupcakes dense but not too eggy. Another good thing about the William-Sonoma cupcake recipe was that the cupcakes did not dome too much which allows for a flat decorating surface. The good thing about the Fair Cake recipe is that it has a good sugar to flour ratio so the cupcake have a nice balance of sweet. These cupcakes domed more so I know which recipe to use when I want a more domed top. I baked all the cupcakes at a low temperature of 150°C so that they could bake slowly and evenly and to avoid any volcano tops. This happens when the batter on the outside cooks faster than than on the inside and the inside batter ends up being pushed upwards, forming a volcano peak and not-so-awesome surface to add pretty swirls to.

Frosting: Clear winner here. It was the blue, half and half frosting, where I used half butter and half shortening. The cool thing about the shortening in Germany is that it is made form cocoa fat unlike Crisco which is made from soybean and cottonseed oil. There is something very nice in the flavour of cocoa-based shortening and by adding it, instead of more butter, there was nice balance and the frosting didn’t taste terribly buttery. It did not leave a film inside the mouth (as shortening is usually blamed for doing) and it was voted the best frosting by half of the group, whereas the rest of the votes were dispersed amongst the other frosting flavours.

When asked which cupcake and frosting combo was liked the best, the blue cupcake won. That means William-Sonoma recipe plus half and half frosting. So, I have my go-to vanilla recipe!

Once the last calorie-ridden guest had left, I promptly passed out from exhaustion on our perfectly sleep-inducing sofa. The taste testing was a success. I was tired but happy and I fell asleep planning my upcoming weekend when my little babies would make their debut.