26 November 2009

Thank You!

Earlier this month, the anglophone community in Paris lost one of its own - a young mom who left behind 3 very young children and a loving partner. She touched many lives and her tragic loss has been a sad reminder to us all of how very lucky we are. I'm feeling a bit retrospective today as I count my blessings and am thankful for every day I live on this planet, happy, healthy and enjoying the precious moments spent with my family who I love so dearly.

Here are a few more things I am grateful: the warm sun on my back on a cold winter day; French cheese and wine, baguette and chocolate; cupcakes and the fact that I get to make them almost every day; good friends - new and old - made over the years here in Paris and those we left behind in the US; the love of a good man; my son's jokes, his crooked smile, the fact that he had no cavities on his first trip to the dentist this week despite his suspect brushing habits, his energy and his endless curiosity; my daughter's hugs, the smile she greets the day with every day, how she loves to sing and dance, her keen fashion sense (at 2!), her love of all things girly (although she was yelling for a Caterpillar to truck the other day), and all the funny things she says as she is learning new words every day (like Halloween, Tinkle Feet).

I am grateful for having spent the summer at the beach & in the US and seeing my oldest friend get married; I am grateful for Hank Moody, Ari Gold, Dr. Christian Troy and Detective Vic Mackey; for the roof over my head, for the warm boots that keep my feet toasty, for reaching 40, and for 8 years of marriage and counting. I am grateful for Robert Downey Jr., and Quentin Tarantino, Daniel Craig as the new 007 and Joaquin Phoenix (though I wish he would lose that scruff). I am grateful for all the bakers I have met, albeit virtually, over the past year or so on Facebook, Twitter, cupcake blogs, etc. It's comforting to know that if I was dropped any place on any continent, I would probably be able to find someone to take me in, feed me cupcakes and help me out. And, I am grateful for all the fans who have supported me and my cupcakes since I started out on this adventure.

I am grateful for every day I wake up and get to live the life I live and for every night that I tuck the kids in, bring them water and give them goodnight kisses before climbing into my comfy bed with the man I love.

May you and your families find love, peace, laughter and of course turkey (!) at your Thanksgiving tables today. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. What are you grateful for?

xx Little Miss Cupcake

24 November 2009

Puttin' on the Ritz

A very old friend of the family is in town this week from the US. She has been a very vocal supporter of my blog and my cupcakes over the past year and has always given me lots of good ideas and encouragement. I knew that I could not let her leave Paris without trying some of my cupcakes so I baked up a few varieties and had her and her family over for dinner last night.

Her 11 year-old daughter is just a delight and from what I understand a true gourmande. She loves to bake (I'm hoping to put her to work next times she visits!) and I was told that one of her favorite past-times is watching Food Network with her friends -- clearly a girl after my own heart! The night before our dinner, when I mentioned I was thinking of making a sweet potato cupcake with chocolate chips and marshmallow frosting for their visit, there was a moment of silence and then the reply "Well, we're kind of preferential to chocolate." And from the background, my friend's daughter yelled "how about a chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting?" This was vetoed by my friend - I can totally commiserate as I know so well what double chocolate can do to a kid. And so the mandate was either chocolate cake or chocolate frosting but not both.

I decided to bake 3 varieties for our dessert: Rogue cupcakes, my still un-named Christmas cupcake and Hi Hats, which I have been thinking about for a while.

Now I'm really not a fan of Swiss Meringue Buttercream (SMBC) or any cooked frostings to be honest. But if you want to get the right height for a Hi Hat and still have an edible cupcake that's not drowning in frosting, SMBC is pretty much the only one that will do the trick. I've been tinkering around with a SMBC recipe for the good part of the past year and I have finally hit upon one that I *really* like...really! And it doesn't involve cream of tartar thankfully which goes on my list of nearly impossible to find items here in Paris.

Ladies & Gents, I give you my Twix Hi Hat Cupcake. It's a caramel swirled vanilla cupcake with bits of golden biscuit and chocolate chopped up inside, topped with a caramel SMBC and melted semi-sweet chocolate. I just love the way these look cut in half and I ended up eating an entire one of these after a 3-course meal! My friend's daughter proclaimed them her favorite of the evening too! They are definitely worth the time and effort that goes into them and I'll be playing around with different varieties of these in the weeks to come. Stay tuned....

15 November 2009

It's All Mixed Up

Living in a foreign country can be rather comical at times. I find that common cultural misunderstandings can happen when you least expect them. About a week ago, I received an order from a group of French gals who wanted to fete their good friend's upcoming nuptials to an American with a good old-fashioned bridal shower. The only problem was that couldn't quite wrap their heads around what one did at a shower, and if it really involved putting their friend in the shower. Now, when I heard that I almost peed my pants. Seriously! Luckily, I was able to explain to them what the shower is all about and gave them a bunch of traditional party games to play as well.

They wanted something simple yet elegant; the sole request was I use Tiffany blue in the cupcakes. These are Vanilla Lovers with yellow and white buttercream and blue fondant flowers.

Speaking of mixed up, I also baked Halloween cupcakes for an order yesterday...the 14th of November. They were for a woman who owns a golf club here in France. I guess she wanted to throw a party but couldn't find the time til now. I think it's safe to say that will officially be my last batch of Halloween 2009 cupcakes....for now!

14 November 2009

Pokemon Cupcakes - Gotta Catch Them All!

It all started with the Gormiti. An Italian friend of my son's came back from vacation with these figurine monsters that all of a sudden all the kids wanted! My son scrapped and saved every centime he had to buy these beasties, to grow his collection, to outdo his friends who in turn were amassing small armies of these things themselves. He must have purchased a good 100 of them when suddenly one day, it was G'bye Gormiti and Hello Bakugan!

Now I have to admit, I kind of like the Bakugan. They are plastic balls that when introduced to a magnetic object pop open to reveal a creature inside. When a friend from the US came to visit last year and brought with him several Bakugan that were softball size (vs. the golf ball size we could only find here), that in turn became my son's obsession, and thus my mom's mission to find some and lug them over when she came for a visit.

The Bakugan stage was short-lived. Though that didn't keep my son from again begging for Bakugan and using any cash gifts given to him to increase his collection.

The start of the school year ushered in a new collecting craze. This time for Pokemon and that is all he has lived and breathed for the past few months.

Now, the thing that really makes me chuckle is that my son has no clue as to how to play the actual game that Pokemon is based on. I'm not sure that many of his friends do either. The goal in this case is just to amass as many cards as possible so you can pull this huge deck out of one of your pockets during recrée (recreation) or after-school to impress your friends.

Lately, my son will not stop talking about the rare ex cards. Apparently the likelihood of getting one card is about 1 in 36 packs bought. Do some quick math - 36 x 5 euros a pack, and you'll understand why I am trying to temper this fascination. My son is undeterred though; he has actually taken to drawing some ex cards of his own and slipping them into his deck in the hopes that none of his friends will know the difference! :)

He had a really good report card for this first 6 week period at school and so I promised him a deck of cards as a reward. We didn't have a chance to get to the store until yesterday to buy them. As we approached the register and I said, "Look, there are the Pokemons, which one do you want?" I heard my son pipe up and in perfect French ask the cashier, "But do you have any Yu-Gi-Oh Cards?" Oh man, here we go again!

These Pokemon cupcakes were requested by my niece who turns 7 today. Happy Birthday Mlle. P! Of course Pikachu was a given....

I kind of like this guy who is called Skelenox....

And one of my son's favorites: Headbutt....he is half-French after all!

12 November 2009

Voulez-vous Cupcake Avec Moi?

What are you doing next Sunday? Want to come bake some cupcakes with me? I'm hosting a Cupcake Atelier chez moi on 22 November. We'll be making two different cupcake varieties perfect for the holidays -- a rich chocolate cupcake with vanilla bean buttercream, and a pumpkin spice cupcake with a creamy chocolate frosting. Space is reserved to 8 people so hurry up and check it out now. You'll need to register and sign up at My Private Dinner. Hope to see some of you then!

10 November 2009

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas

I've been tossing around some ideas for new Christmas flavors for a while now. Last month, I did a "science experiment" with my son's English class - they were learning about taste buds - where I brought in 5 flavors of cupcakes, all of which were white, to see if they could determine the flavors by taste alone. (This was a really fun afternoon for both the kids and myself!). In any case, one of the buttercreams I made for the event was peppermint and I just loved its refreshing coolness and luscious creaminess. It was tops on my list for a Christmas cupcake.

Yesterday, I baked 3 batches of potential cupcake flavors for Christmas and brought them round to an international panel of experienced, world-renowned taste testers for their reactions. Okay, okay, it was the quarterly meeting of MESSAGE's Executive Committee for which I handle PR but I digresss... The first cupcake was Some Like It Hot: a Devils Food Cupcake with Spicy Hot Chocolate Buttercream. This one got high marks for its hot after-kick which comes from the cayenne pepper and cinnamon mixed in the buttercream.

A Traditional German Chocolate which I didn't really care for - a Chocolate Cupcake with Pecan/Coconut Boiled Frosting - but got the thumbs up from my Dutch friend.

And the aforementioned cupcake which needs a name. It was the clear winner among last night's judges. It's a White Chocolate Chunk Cupcake with a Cool Peppermint Buttercream. Go to my Facebook page, leave a name suggestion, and if I pick yours, you'll win 1 dozen of these cupcakes for the holidays.

The contest is open to anyone anywhere but you do need to come and pick them up in Paris 75017. The contest is open until November 30 and remember, I do love me some pop cultural references such as lines/titles from music, TV and film. Feel free to enter as many names as you want. Good luck and Happy Naming!

PS In case you are not on Facebook, send me an email at info@littlemisscupcake.fr with the word "mint" in the subject field.

01 November 2009

Old McDonald Had a Farm & Good Things Come in 3's.

Old MacDonald had a farm,
Ee i ee i oh!
And on that farm he had some cows,
Ee i ee i oh!
With a moo moo here,
And a moo moo there

Here a moo, there a moo,
Everywhere a moo moo
Old MacDonald had a farm
Ee i ee i oh!

Old MacDonald had a farm,
Ee i ee i oh!
And on that farm he had some piggies,
Ee i ee i oh!
With an oink oink here,
And an oink oink there....

My 2 year-old loves this song and has just reached that age where all she wants to do is make animal noises all day. We were up at a friend's house for a couple of days in Normandie this week - she lives just next door to a farm - and my daughter absolutely delighted in calling out "rooster," or "doggie," or "wash" (translation: vache = cow) every time one of the animals uttered a sound.

These cupcakes are for James' 2nd birthday. His mom had really liked the Lamb cupcakes I made a while back so I talked her into taking the whole barnyard. They are a mix of Rogue, Storm, Chocolate Squared and Vanilla Lovers' cupcakes. And if my daughter's reaction to them are any gauge, I hope James will love them just as much as she did.

For those of you who follow my blog, you may know that today is my one-year blogiversary! I'm pretty excited about reaching such a momentous milestone and to fete the occasion, I gave away 1 dozen cupcakes each to 3 lucky winners over on Facebook. Congratulations to Clem, Aurore and Julie. If you'd like to get in on my next cupcake giveaway, make sure you join as a fan of my Facebook page for future announcements.

Lastly, it's that time of the month -- Iron Cupcake Earth : Music is now open for voting. You'll recall I have 3 entries this month and what do you know? You can vote for your 3 favorite cupcakes. My 3 entries are the Senorita cupcake (inspired by the Justin Timberlake song), Pour Some Sugar on Me (inspired by Def Leppard) and Hit the Road, Jack (inspired by Ray Charles). So, what are you waiting for? Head on over to No One Puts Cupcake in a Corner and vote for me! ;P