Red, Black, White – cupcakes with red and black flowers molded from chocolate modelling paste. Price available upon request.
surprises and navigating a road less traveled
Our “honorary” sister M._ recently asked me if I can make cupcakes for her niece’s 18th birthday. They were to be a surprise gift as M._ is in the US. The celebration’s motif was red, black and white. I initially thought of making red velvet cupcakes frosted with cream cheese and topped with black flowers. But M._ said she prefers chocolate so chocolate (devil’s food chocolate) it is.
The venue was in far away Quezon City and with all the weekend EDSA road reblocking due to repairs, I knew it will take us quite a while to arrive at our destination. I was constantly tracking the traffic situation online prior to our departure. I always want to be an early bird because I don’t want to be caught setting up while the event is about to start. I was also worried that with the hot Philippine weather coupled with traffic, the whipped cream icing and chocolate toppers might soften. Fortunately, there were no major hiccups and we arrived on schedule.
As I was setting up, we met with M._, the mother of the birthday girl and boy was she really surprised! She thought her sister was coming to the Philippines because she was asking all sorts of questions about the party. I found out that the birthday was actually last January. They moved it to March because the family in the US had plans to attend the celebration and make it as a reunion as well. Unfortunately, the family matriarch got sick so the plan changed. But as the saying goes, the party must go on. It had to as there was no room for a third postponement!
We decided to take another route going home and it turned out to be quite an adventure. As I was unfamiliar with the area, I missed one crucial turn. All roads lead to another so I just relied on my memory and kept my eyes peeled for road signs. I joked to my niece who was left home that she should have gone with us because we were able to tour Manila and see Mabuhay Rotunda, the University of Sto. Tomas (UST), Quiapo Church, Manila City Hall and Intramuros. We got home safely albeit very thirsty and hungry – we were out on the road for four hours!
M._ later sent me a message that everyone was impressed with the look and taste of the cupcakes and they were very much appreciated by her family. I really had fun with this project. And hey, that’s what sisters are for!
March 19th, 2014
Monster High Cake and Cupcakes Project - cake and cupcakes decorated with the popular Monster High logo. Price available upon request.
When my grade school classmate M._ asked me if I can make a Monster High cake and cupcakes for his little girl, I initially thought the characters were Scully and Mike and Randall from Monsters University. I have never heard of Monster High. Apparently, there is a popular series in Cartoon Network featuring these characters. Hmmm, where did Kim Possible go?
I decided to make the Monster High logo Skullette as the decoration for the cake and cupcakes. As usual, they were made from chocolate. I also used the Monster High font for the lettering on the cake. Fortunately, I was able to find the male counterpart of Skullette (with hair!) although I gather that he is not as popular.
While working, one of my unfinished cupcake toppers fell. As I lifted the wax paper backing from the floor, the still warm chocolate left an eerie imprint. With those large and dark shiny eyes staring at you, who would not be creeped out?
The cake and cupcakes made it to the birthday girl’s classroom. My classmate Dr. M._ (he is a surgeon now) told me the children were so delighted and were shouting in glee when they saw the cupcakes. And that was enough to make my day. Thanks again, classmate!
March 18th, 2014
Mickey Mouse v.2 – cake decorated with Mickey Mouse image made of chocolate and cupcakes featuring Mickey’s ears. Price available upon request.
“M-I-C-K-E-Y-M-O-U-S-E” (from the Mickey Mouse Club theme song)
I was not really a big fan of Mickey Mouse when I was younger. Maybe because we weren’t exposed to him and his gang while we were growing up. My siblings and I were more into Sesame Street (which we watched everyday on TV). My first trip to Disneyland was when I was already out of college and working. We made a side trip to Anaheim, California prior to my sister’s wedding in New York and yes I admit, spending a day in the happiest place on earth was one of our most unforgettable vacations. That was the first and last time we were able to trick my mother to go with us in the Bobsled ride. Sure we got an earful after but my sisters and I were laughing so hard that getting scolded did not matter. I also lost my sunglasses during the climactic drop at the end of the Splash Mountain ride. So much for my attempt at trying to look hip!
We didn’t buy any toys of some sort, just a couple of keychains as souvenirs. And that my friends describes the degree of our family’s fascination with all things Mickey. Everything changed, though, when Disney bought Pixar. And that’s another story!
Anyhoo, when I got this inquiry about a Mickey Mouse-themed cake and cupcakes, I immediately suggested Mickey Mouse toppers made of chocolate, just like what I did for a previous project. M._ , however, told me she was on a budget – hey, who isn’t? I told her I will work around her budget and that her one year-old son will still have his Mickey Mouse party.
I decorated the cupcake with Mickey Mouse ears. The ears are made of chocolate and the cupcake base is vanilla studded with chunks of Oreos. Frosting was sweetened whipped cream. For the cake, I borrowed an image from the internet and worked my magic using chocolate. The birthday boy sure has a unique name.
When I talked to M._ afterwards, she said she was very impressed with the whole package, considering her tight budget, and that they enjoyed the cake so much (pairs well with coffee, she told me). As for me, I was just happy I delivered on my promise. Thanks, mommy M._!
March 17th, 2014
Spectacular Speculoos Cupcake -butterscotch cupcake generously filled with cookie butter, frosted with cookie butter mousse and drizzled with more cookie butter. Price available upon request.
cookie butter confessions
Back then, I was not familiar with cookie butter and would wonder why people were raving about it. I saw countless Facebook posts extolling its virtues. I noticed most people are particularly addicted to the Trader Joe’s variety. Since they can only be bought online at that time, I never bothered to find out what the fuss was about. I was happy with my Nutella.
I first tasted Trader Joe’s Crunchy Cookie Butter on a trip to the US last May. My nieces were habitues of the store which is just a few minutes drive from their home in Staten Island, NY. The taste was unique and I liked it maybe because it has all sorts of spice and crunch. I even attempted to make a ganache, mixing it with cream and chocolate but its distinct flavor was lost. On the eve of our departure, my sister asked me what I would like to have for breakfast and I said pandesal filled with cookie butter, please. On our trip home I brought two jars. No, no, no, I wasn’t turning into a cookie butter junkie.
Only when I got home did I find out the extent of the Pinoy’s addiction to this popular spread. According to US-based Pinoys as well as balikbayans, this particular cookie butter is the most sought after item in Trader Joe’s that shelves would become empty and when re-stocked will be wiped clean in minutes. I heard that they are now limiting the number of jars one can buy. One friend relayed that a Pinoy behind her in the checkout line offered to buy one of her jars and then charged it to his credit card along with his other groceries. Goodness! Blame it on the Pinoy’s penchant for reselling “imported” stuff back home.
Because of its popularity here, Rustan’s supermarket began carrying another brand, Vermeiren. I also spotted Lotus, the mother of all cookie butters, in Metro supermarket as well as in Landmark in Makati.
Comparing the three, I found Lotus to be the most flavorful. Lotus and Vermeiren are creamy while Trader Joe’s is thick. I admit I haven’t tasted the original biscoff cookies that inspired the spread but I imagine that they taste a lot like the Lotus brand. After all, the spread was originally an invention of one tv contestant winner in Belgium using speculoos cookies and Lotus Bakeries later partnered with the winner to commercially manufacture the spread. More on this later.
I’ve always wanted to make a cupcake version of this. I found one recipe that incorporates the cookie butter in the batter. I baked it and I wasn’t impressed. So I just used my butterscotch cupcake recipe and filled the cupcakes with a generous amount of cookie butter. The frosting is cookie butter mousse drizzled with more cookie butter.
I liked the results. Now I don’t have to worry about where to get the cookie butter because local supermarkets are stocking up on these. I used Trader’s Joe in my test but I will be switching to Lotus from hereon.
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cookie butter wars*
Did you know that the popularity of the spread has spawned a lawsuit? Lotus Bakeries, who produce speculoos cookies served in Delta Airlines partnered with a reality show winner who came up with the idea of making a paste using speculoos cookies. The result was Lotus Biscoff Spread. Seeing its popularity, rival companies manufactured their own spreads and Lotus sued claiming it obtained a patent for the paste. The court later nullified the patent, allowing the others to continue producing their versions.
For more, read the story here.
source: New York Times
November 9th, 2013
Boo! - cupcake topped with floating and totally edible and delicious ghost. Price available upon request.
Halloween is something I am not excited about. Maybe because it is not really part of Filipino culture. But I do know that there is a practice in the provinces called “pangangaluluwa.” This is equivalent to Christmas caroling but done on the eve of All Saints’ Day. Children and even adults go house to house from 10 pm onwards dressed as the dead singing this tune:
Kaluluwa’y dumaratal, sa tapat ng Durungawan (The souls have just arrived, across your window side)
Kampanilya’y tinatantay, ginigising ang may buhay (Bells are ringing, waking up the living)
Kung kami po’y lilimusan, dali-dalian po lamang (If you will spare us some alms, please hurry up and give us some)
Baka kami mapagsarhan, ng pinto ng kalangitan (The heaven’s gate will close in time)
Kaluluwa kaming tambing, sa purgatoryo nanggaling (We are the lost souls, from purgatory we arose)
Palimos po! (Alms!)
I am not sure if this is still done today. Truth be told, this is one tradition that I would like to see live on.
Back to the cupcake! After several failed attempts, I finally got the topper right. The ghost is made of white chocolate paste (white chocolate + corn syrup) and is draped over a marshmallow. Similar toppers call for a lollipop to prop up the “sheet” but I wanted a soft interior so I used a large marshmallow impaled on a toothpick to make the ghost float. I, too, felt like floating when I saw my accomplishment and I must say this is one ghost that I would not mind crossing paths with.
*sources: Pangangaluluwa, Halloween, Filipino-style
October 31st, 2013