A Baking Adventure: No Frosting? No Problem!

Have you ever found yourself wanting cupcakes when all the bakeries were closed? You have all the ingredients in the pantry for cake (or in my case, a box mix), but nothing for frosting? I know I’ve been in this situation. I was pregnant, craving yellow cake, and NOTHING could get my mind off of it until I had it. So I baked 2 dozen vanilla cupcakes, even with no frosting, or frosting ingredients, in the house. After the cupcakes came out of the oven and I devoured one (or maybe two…) with no toppings, I browsed the fridge and freezer to find creative frosting options I could use throughout the week.

Strawberries

I had fresh strawberries and was lucky to find Cool Whip in the freezer (actually, I pretty sure I always have Cool Whip in the freezer). It was perfect for a strawberry shortcake cupcake! The next night I decided to take it to the next level.

Berries

I got fancy and layered the cupcake with whipped cream, mixed berries, and cake. Messy to eat, but oh so good!

IceCream

Being pregnant, I of course craved ice cream at some point, so I cut the top off of a cupcake, creating a little “cake bowl.” What you do with the top is up to you. I managed to save it for photos (how I resisted is still a mystery!), but no one here will judge if you eat it as soon as it’s cut off the cupcake.

ChocolatePeanutButter1

Lastly, one night I was craving chocolate and peanut butter. I attempted to make frosting by mixing peanut butter with Marshmallow Fluff, but it still stayed fairly dense. That’s okay, it was still delicious! I also melted semi-sweet chocolate chips and spooned it on top.

ChocolatePeanutButter2

At the time I wanted the chocolate to harden to create a “shell,” so I chilled the cupcakes for a little while. Looking back I think the melted chocolate would have been amazing too!

The great thing about leaving the cupcakes “naked” after baking them was that I was able to tailor each to my cravings and got a lot of variety. I’m not one to run out every time I’m craving something I don’t have. Instead, I use what I do have to recreate my craving or act as a substitute. So, the next time you think, “I need a cupcake!” but don’t have all of the obvious ingredients, think about us and get creative! Do you have any frosting alternatives that you like to use? Let us know!

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Jenn (Westminster, MD)

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A Baking Adventure: Princess Cupcakes for Our Princess Niece

I’m not exaggerating when I say that Lylah, my 3-year-old niece, talked about her birthday party for 3 months. It started when her little sister, Lily, turned 1. “It’s my party? Those are my presents?” she would ask. Then when Leah turned a year old, we got the same questions, only to answer, “No Lylah, those are Leah’s. But your party is next!” As soon as items were purchased for her party, I was greeted with, “Auntie Jenny! Look at my princess party!” For the next few weeks, she talked about her princess party, which would have (of course) princess cupcakes.

We had all the fixings for a perfect 3-year-old princess party: My sister purchased a Wilton kit that had a Disney Princess cupcake stand, cupcake liners, and picks, and also bought the Disney princess frosting transfers. Crusader Stacy purchased purple metallic liners, which would be a complementing color, and I provided extra pink sugar crystals. Stacy came up with a plan of action for the frosting transfers, which included rolled fondant. After Leah’s party I’m now the fondant “expert” in the group, so I volunteered to help with the cupcakes.

I baked and frosted the funfetti and chocolate cupcakes the day before the party. We used Duncan Hines Strawberry Shortcake Flavor Creations for the pink frosting, which I had to add confectioner’s sugar to in order to pipe.

I did my best to pipe a flat swirl on the cupcakes that would be getting fondant circles placed on top.

I was really nervous about the transfers. I didn’t want to mess them up, because we didn’t have any extras, so I practiced with one a few days early and it worked great. The ink on the transfer didn’t get funky after a couple of days, so I was able to calm down a bit about preparing the cupcake decorations in advance.

The night before the party I prepped the fondant-transfer decorations, to place on the cupcakes the morning of the party. I rolled out the fondant, like I did for Leah’s birthday cupcakes, this time using the larger cutter to fit the whole top of the cupcakes. Then, following advice I found from Google searches, I used a damp cloth (AKA: a wet paper towel) to moisten the top of the fondant. The instructions for removing the transfer from the sheet worked perfectly and they peeled off easily.

I was really proud of trying something new again and it turning out well. The fondant with the transfers stayed perfect through the night (stored in an air-tight container), so the next morning I was able to finish up the decorating.

We rolled the edges of the frosting in sugar crystals, just to give it a finished look. Plus, a princess party needs a little extra bling!

I figured we would have enough time to sprinkle sugar on the pink frosted cupcakes when I got to the party location. Well, I’m glad I waited because as soon as I got in the car, on the way to the party, I noticed that the pink frosting had slide right off the tops of the cupcakes. It was a disaster. I’ve decided that moisture is a big issue with the Duncan Hines frosting and they are better off being left out to “set-up” (which is a problem when you want moist cake). Luckily I was going to be early anyway, so Stacy and I went into cupcake-rescue mode. We scrapped frosting and reapplied it to the cupcakes, sprinkled, and double-lined the wrappers, to hide some of the mess. The results? Not too bad.

Although it’s not exactly what I had envisioned, no one noticed. We did have a few pink survivors, which stayed at the forefront of the display.

The cupcakes with the fondant and transfers still stole the show and the birthday girl was giddy with delight over her princess cupcakes.

There was one casualty of this experience: my batter dispenser. A fallen hero, really. Cupcake baking hasn’t been the same without it, but it put up a good fight. So long, kitchen accessory. You shall be missed (until I’m able to get a new one)…

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Jenn (Westminster, MD)

Cupcakes with a Smile: Desserts Designed Delivers

I think by now it’s quite obvious that I don’t let any event, big or small, go by without involving cupcakes. This past weekend Crusader Jenn and I had a good friend visit and I spent a good portion of last week brainstorming where I would get cupcakes to “welcome” her with. I thought maybe I could go to Charm City Cupcakes because it has been a while since I’ve gotten their cupcakes, or we could try the new Soda Pop line of cupcakes from Whole Foods, but then the perfect solution presented itself in my Facebook news feed: Desserts Designed.

Desserts Designed is a Baltimore City based baker who often offers a Sample Box Sale Friday for $15. A Sample Box consist of 6 cupcakes that you can put together based on the 3 or 4 available flavors they post to their Facebook page on Wednesday or Thursday. Once Friday arrives, you can either pick the cupcakes up or have them delivered for an extra fee (which I decided to do since it was only $5 to have them delivered to my office). Last week, they offered Banana Split, Strawberry Shortcake, and Chocolate Chocolate. After reading the flavor options, my decision was an easy one: 3 Banana Splits and 3 Strawberry Shortcakes.

When the owner of Dessert Designed, Angela, arrived with my cupcakes, she was in great spirits even after getting a bit lost (my office is tucked away and a bit difficult to find). She seemed to be full of life, love and laughter which was exactly what I needed after the morning I had.

After I returned to my desk, I was able to take a good look at the beautifully decorated cupcakes. The aroma of the Strawberry Shortcake beckoned me to eat one right then and there, but my willpower won and I saved them to share with Jenn and our friend, Ashley, the next day.

The Banana Split cupcake was a balanced blend of banana, vanilla, and chocolate flavors, starting with a moist and delicate banana cake, then finished with a vanilla buttercream frosting, a chocolate syrup drizzle, a sprinkle of chopped peanuts and a cherry on top! What I loved most about this cupcake was that it wasn’t overly complicated, but it still produced the same level of flavors that a more complex cupcake could give.

The Strawberry Shortcake was even more moist than the Banana Split! I couldn’t believe it! The cake was chock-full of fresh strawberry bits and drizzled with a strawberry puree. Overall the cupcake was quite sweet, but it is what I would expect from a Strawberry Shortcake cupcake. This is a cupcake everyone should experience for themselves.

I’m often amazed by how many great cupcakes you can find out there from places who might not have the biggest name or even their own storefront. Dessert Designed offers fantastic cupcakes at a very reasonable cost. Even better is that if you live or work in Baltimore City, they can be delivered directly to you with a smile. Someone told me that after eating their cupcakes I would be hooked, and she was right. I am hooked!

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Stacy (Baltimore, MD)

Fresh & Green’s is Cheap & Fresh

I’m so predicable. I say this because when it’s anyone’s birthday and I’m put in charge of sweets you can pretty much guarantee that I will get cupcakes. On Wednesday we had an office birthday. One co-worker was getting a card, another some flowers, and I was in charge of dessert. I decided to check out the new local grocery store, Fresh & Green’s. It hasn’t gotten good reviews, but it was convient, so I decided to give it a try. I haven’t had a chance to walk around, but I will say that they had a great selection of pastries and desserts to choose from in the bakery and the woman who was working there was very pleasant. She was eager to help and had a really positive attitude.

My goal was to get something different than my norm. I was determined to not walk into that office with cupcakes. I like being reliable, but not predictable, so I really wanted to surprise everyone by getting something different. I browsed their bakery section looking for something that would provide a nice variety, but I ended up with no choice other than cupcakes.

Their cupcakes are only $1 each, and we only had 4 employees in the office that day, so this offered the best variety for the best price. I decided to get 6: Vanilla/Vanilla with Rainbow Sprinkles, Chocolate Crunch, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, Strawberry Shortcake, Chocolate/Chocolate (Halloween version), and Chocolate/Chocolate with a Hershey’s Kiss.

The Birthday Girl decided on the Vanilla/Vanilla with Rainbow Sprinkles and raved about how good it was. I had been eying up the Strawberry Shortcake, so on the first chance I got, I went and grabbed it.

Normally I would say that the frosting to cake ratio on this cupcake was WAY out of control, but this cupcake actually had whipped cream on top, not overly sugary-sweet frosting. I decided to eat some of the frosting with the strawberry, then eat some just off the top becuase it was good, and then I decided to eat the rest with the cake at the same time. The cake was really light and airy. Not dry and dense like most grocery store cupcakes.

Overall, I was incredibly impressed. If I were to change one thing about this cupcake I would have added a strawberry filling, to keep that theme throughout the cupcake. But for only a dollar, I’m not complaining.

The next day I decided to try a little bit of the two that were left: Chocolate Crunch and Chocolate/Chocolate (Halloween version).

Again, I was really nervous about the frosting/cake ratio especially since this one was chocolate and I tend to be a bit picky about my chocolate frosting, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was more of a chocolate mousse than a typical frosting, and it was good. REALLY GOOD. The cake was a bit dry, but I think that is becuase it was a day old and not stored properly. Two co-workers had the Peanut Butter Cup one the day they were purchased and didn’t seem to have any complaints.

We’ve got two birthdays in the middle of October and with the price, convenient location, and quality of these cupcakes I’m hoping I get picked to bring dessert in again.  🙂

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Stacy (Baltimore, MD)

UPDATE: Fresh & Green’s Hampden location is now closed.