Valentine’s Day is just around the corner but I won’t see my hubby (and my fur babies) until a day or so later. For those familiar with my blog, my hubby has been busy painting our retirement house over the last couple of weeks while I continue to work in a city about 1500 kms away. I will see him on the weekend, at which time I will bake a white chocolate cheesecake (and yes, I will blog about it), but I’m pretty sure the rest of you will have focused your attention on the next holiday by that time, and you won’t be interested in a Valentine’s Day post written on the 16th of February.
Valentine’s Day, in my humble opinion, is a great occasion to show your beloved just how much they are loved by the effort you put into your baked goods….or at least how much effort you appear to put into your baked goods. Before you all brand me an imposter, let me explain.
This pretty little cupcake above could not be any more simple to bake. First, you buy some pretty paper cups for baking. I can’t remember the brand name of the cups I used for today’s cupcakes, but they stand up on their own. Any craft store that carries cake decorating supplies will have them. Then you pick a nice moist cake recipe that you have faith in. There is nothing worse than biting into a pretty cupcake and having it taste like cardboard. The recipe I used for this cupcake was found on another baker’s blog (thank you http://www.simplerevisions.com) – who by the way is an amazing food photographer, an area that I plan to improve on in the next few months. Here’s the link to the recipe.
For my friends who use gluten-free flour, I have not tested this recipe with gluten-free flour, so I’m not sure of how well it will do.
Now it’s time to bake the cupcakes. Cupcake wrappers go into a muffin tin, and batter goes into the wrappers. When you put the batter in the cupcake wrappers, do not overfill! This part is very important! Depending on the cupcake wrapper size, you should only put in between 1/4 and 1/3 cup of batter. The cupcake when cooked should not rise above the wrapper. If it does, it will ruin the look of the finished cupcake. Bake the cupcakes as per the recipe and let them cool completely. This is also very important because if you try to decorate a hot cake, it will be a hot mess, trust me.
Whip up your favourite buttercream icing recipe (I used the recipe at the link, but any recipe that you trust will do). The trick to getting your buttercream icing to hold its shape is to add a tsp of meringue powder to the icing sugar. It will still taste the same and look the same but it will not wilt at normal room temperatures. I use Wilton meringue powder exclusively so I cannot talk knowingly about other brands. Flavour the buttercream with some flavouring if you so desire (I used LorAnn’s strawberry flavoured oil, specifically because I don’t like strawberry flavour unless it is attached to a strawberry. It’s my built in safety valve to make sure I don’t eat any, especially since I am emailing a picture of this cupcake to my hubby and the cupcakes would otherwise be sitting on my counter taunting me. That being said, the rest of LorAnn’s flavour oils are amazing. I just don’t like strawberry). For Valentine’s Day it is my opinion that the icing needs to be pink or red. I used Wilton’s icing colour paste (in pink) as it doesn’t water down the icing.
Put a large fluted tip on your piping bag. See the picture below to see the size of the tip I used. (I don’t have a brand name because it was taken from my son’s apprentice cook’s tool box and was initially meant for fluted potatoes). Fill up a reusable piping bag with your icing, and decorate the cupcakes as desired. For the cupcake above, I used a swirling motion of my hand, starting in the middle and covering most of top of the cupcake before adding a second layer of icing. Make circles smaller as you add layers, stopping when you can add a peak. Garnish with a pink candy. Voila! It took longer to write this blog post than it did to decorate the cupcake and your beloved will be impressed with your efforts. It’s just a personal preference, but I like a little bit of the cake peeking through the icing. If you don’t, just swirl nice and wide so that you cover all of the cake.
Have fun with this and try new techniques. For example, for the cupcake below I simply held the bag straight up and used an on and off type pressure on the piping bag, lifting up a bit each time to get the effect. The point is not to get too serious about it and experiment to see which effect you like best. The joy in this is you get to eat your mistakes, something you don’t get to do in other creative endeavours such as oil paints or pottery. Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! I have to sign off and send my email!