Ladybug Cupcakes – red velvet cupcakes decorated as whimsical ladybugs, with cream cheese frosting tinted red and dark chocolate ganache. Price available upon request.
I just succumbed to the latest cupcake trend that is red velvet. I found a recipe that I liked, baked it and got positive feedback from those who tasted the cupcakes.
After I posted the photo of my Red Velvet cupcakes in my Facebook page, one of my classmates in elementary contacted me. My batch was having a post-Christmas party and the themes were red and black and ladybugs. M._ asked if I can decorate my red velvet cupcakes as ladybugs. Sure, I said, no problem. I was happy to oblige.
I tinted the cream cheese red. The “black” head was dark chocolate ganache. The spots, as well as the eyes were chocolate chips. The smiley mouth was also made of chocolate. I thought about putting antennae but M._ and I agreed that the ladybugs were fine sans the appendages.
The cupcakes were to be giveaways and the most cost effective packaging available were the dome-shaped plastic packaging. Lined up atop a table, the ladybug cupcakes looked like an army of little aliens wearing space helmets, waiting to be sucked inside their mother ship!
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to stay and join in the festivities. Word was that everyone enjoyed their dessert. Some of my classmates told me even their children enjoyed the whimsical treats. Thanks M._ for lobbying for my cupcakes!
March 16th, 2012
Red Velvet Cupcakes – moist, crimson-hued cupcakes with a bit of cocoa and a hint of cinnamon. Topped with luscious cream cheese frosting and decorated with red squiggles and chocolate sprinkles. Price available upon request.
paint the town red
For the longest time, I held off baking red velvet cupcakes because they were foreign to me. It wasn’t a popular flavor in the Philippines while I was growing up. I only learned about these cupcakes when I got a Hershey’s Chocolate Lover’s Cookbook and found the recipe there. The cake in the photo didn’t look red at all and that killed the cake’s mystique for me.
When the cupcake craze sprung again in recent years, people started raving about the red velvet flavor. I still didn’t get it. I dismissed it as some ordinary cupcake tinted with huge amounts of red coloring. I wasn’t impressed with a slice my sister gave me of a cake she bought from her favorite bakery in Brooklyn, NY. Because that was my first taste of the cake, I could not compare it to another and to my tastebuds, it was mediocre. To understand people’s fascination with it, I did a little digging. It turns out that there is more to the cake than just red food color.
Important components of the cake—a bit of cocoa, vinegar, oil, buttermilk—create a chemical reaction that results in the reddish hue of the cake. To intensify the crimson shade, bakers added red food color and the rest is history. There are reports of the dangers of artificial food dyes so some bakers use red beets as coloring but the redness in the cake is not as vivid as those that has the food color. Besides, extracting the juice from the beets is laborious so most bakers tend to use the bottled food color or gel.
I started baking this type of cupcake about three years ago when a client asked me to do a wedding cake. Her motif was aqua and red. I immediately thought of baking blue-tinted cupcakes. I came across a red velvet cake recipe from James McNair’s Cakes and used blue gel color instead. The resulting cupcake was delicious but the color turned out greenish blue. Not a pretty sight. I ditched that idea and just put the blue on the white chocolate glaze and cupcake topper made of marzipan. But that’s another story.
I didn’t bake any red velvet cupcakes again until last December. I used the gel color in the first batch but somehow I couldn’t get the right red shade. The cupcakes were a deep pink so I just used the bottled food color. I liked Mr. McNair’s recipe because it has a hint of cinnamon. This ingredient isn’t in the traditional recipe but cinnamon and cream cheese frosting to me is a heavenly pairing. The frosting I use is also not too sweet as there is a bit of lemon juice added to temper the sweetness of the confectioner’s sugar. This recipe also does not have vinegar and uses butter instead of oil.
When I served these during our New Year’s eve street party, our neighbors were quick to compliment me. They really loved the cupcakes and said they were the best. Aww!
*Red Velvet Cocoa Cake photo from Hershey’s Chocolate Lover’s Cookbook
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to eat or not to eat …
Okay, granted that food dyes are toxic, aren’t they in almost all of the processed foods that we consume daily anyway? They are in cereals, candy, gelatin mixes, sauces, fruit juices. If you know you have an intolerance to food dyes, then read food labels and avoid consuming such. But if you feel fine after savoring one piece or so of a red velvet cupcake, then by all means indulge. It’s not like you are going to finish a dozen everyday. But then that’s just me. It’s still your call.
March 16th, 2012
Movie Night Cake and Cupcake Project – edible film reel cake, complete with clapperboard and mini popcorn bucket while accompanying cupcakes have an assortment of movie-themed toppers: movie ticket, star and popcorn. Price available upon request
a night in hollywood
I admit—I am a certified movie buff. But the weird thing is I now seldom go to the cinemas. Most of the movies I have seen were the ones I watched from the comfort of our home and in this age of modern technology, the internet.
When I was a young child, my parents used to bring me and my siblings to the movie theater. They are big fans of Dolphy. We also watched big Hollywood productions like King Kong and MacArthur but the movies that certainly made an impact on my young mind were these two classics: Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon by Eddie Romero (though I was too young to understand its social relevance, I was mesmerized by the film’s setting and the ensemble of fine actors of Philippine cinema—Leopoldo Salcedo, Eddie Garcia, Gloria Diaz, a youngish Christopher de Leon and a much-younger Dranreb) and The Omen starring Gregory Peck (because the frightening images are still embedded in my mind until now. Really).
I could go on discussing my favorite movies but this isn’t a blog on movies. So on to the cake and cupcake project! More on movies later!
When E._ sent me photos of cakes with old Hollywood as theme, I immediately wanted to make a film reel cake. The first challenge for me was how to make an edible film strip. I thought of using edible wafer paper but having the film strip printed by a third party wasn’t cost effective. Chocolate to the rescue! I used the chocolate method as described in one of the books I own, The Whimsical Bakehouse: Fun-to-Make Cakes That Taste as Good as They Look.
It was a tedious project that I fully embraced. Masochist, I am. Tell me a baker who isn’t!
I had to work quickly because the chocolate film strip would harden quickly as soon as it came in contact with the cold ganache coating of the cake. If it hardened while still not in its proper position, I have to remove it and recoat the cake. Fortunately no mishaps like that happened, thank goodness.
Next challenge was the clapperboard. It was still made of chocolate but to reinforce it I sandwiched a cracker biscuit in between the chocolate. Writing the text sure wasn’t a cakewalk and to my consternation our microwave oven broke down! I melt my chocolates in the microwave because it is faster than the double boiler method. But with the setback, I had no choice but to bring out the double boiler. Doing the clapperboard became a long, arduous process. I was able to get things right on my second attempt. A delicious reward: I ended up eating the failed clapperboard.
Good thing I was able to make the cupcake toppers before the microwave conked out. The chocolate stars were brushed with edible gold dust and the silver balls are dragees. The movie ticket was made of chocolate of course. The popcorn were marshmallows, pinched and cut and painted with yellow food color.
The cake was devil’s food chocolate filled and covered with dark chocolate ganache. The cupcakes were of the same flavor and frosting.
Just a few hours before pick up, I took the cake out for some photos. Horror of horrors, the perfectly made clapperboard cracked, with a massive fissure right in the center! I only had an hour to fix the situation and start anew but with the microwave not working, I thought I would not be able to finish the new clapperboard on time. So, was I able to pull it off?
YES! I completed it in the nick of time. And the best thing was the text message I got from E._ after their celebration: “Thank you so much for the wonderful cake and cupcakes, you did great! We really love them. Two thumbs up!”
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the movie(s) in my mind
I really love watching the classics that’s why I love the MGM channel. My all-time favorite is Some Like it Hot with Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. I’ve become a Jack Lemmon fan since and I was delighted to catch three more of his earlier movies: The Apartment, Irma la Douce, and Avanti. When I saw the t-shirt below being sold in SM, I grabbed it (after jumping for joy). It is now one of my wardrobe staples.
As I wrote earlier, I was scared out of my wits by The Omen when I watched it and I wasn’t even 10 years old at that time. However, there are several frightening movies that I was able to survive as I got older. After watching The Thing (starring Kurt Russell), I could not touch our dog for a week. I still remember the face peeling scene in The Poltergeist. I watched the original Japanese version of Ju-on: The Grudge and even if the movie was so scary, I was transfixed. Once when I was going up the stairs from my sister’s dark basement, I suddenly remembered a scene from that movie where the corporeal form of the ghost of the murdered wife was crawling down the stairs. I laughed a little because I thought that if that ghost were to follow me at that moment, she would have to do so in reverse! That thought sure eased my fear!
There are three horror movies that I so love because they are not hair-rising scary: (1) the original version of Let the Right One In, a story of friendship between two children who are social outcasts, one a vampire and the other a bullied boy; (2) Shaun of the Dead, about a zombie outbreak in London, and (3) The Lost Boys, a hip vampire flick starring Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Patric and the late Corey Haim. Memorable line: “Death by stereo!”
Just a warning, if you click on the links above, you will be taken to clips of the scenes I described. If you are one of the faint-hearted, you better ignore those link. But then again … *evil laugh*
On the local front, my favorites that I’ve watched are Lino Brocka’s Kapit sa Patalim and Maynila; Mike de Leon’s Kisapmata, Manny Reyes’s Dreaming Filipinos and Doy del Mundo’s Pepot Artista. I know I should watch more Pinoy films but as far as I’m concerned, they don’t make movies like they used to. *sigh*
March 11th, 2012