29 November 2010

Time After Time

Yesterday marked the 7th anniversary of my arrival in France. How time flies and oh so much has changed. I arrived here a new mom with romantic visions of what Paris life would be like. Life has certainly had its up and downs, and it's been much more of an adventure than I would have ever anticipated but I wouldn't change anything about it if I could (okay, well there are a few things....). I was on the metro the other night just as it hit 8PM and as the train came out on the above-ground tracks, as if on cue, the Eiffel Tower started to shimmer and sparkle. What a lovely site and I will never tire of the beauty of my adopted "hometown." If you care to read more about what life has been like for me here on the other side of the Atlantic, I recently pitched in a blog post on Love in the City of Lights; it's part of a series of "Dream Lives" that blogger Kasia has invited other expats to partake in.

And in the meantime -- a little food porn. These are Dancing Queens (a new flavor: cardamom-white chocolate-pistachio cupcakes with swirled pistachio-rose buttercream) in mini-format made for a 40th birthday party.

27 November 2010

California Dreaming on Such a Winter's Day

We had our first snow of the season in Paris yesterday. My kids were in HEAVEN! I was inside for most of the day working on my last batch of Thanksgiving orders. I was making some California Dreaming cupcakes (lemon with pistachio buttercream) which just seemed to be such a tease considering the weather we have been having.

One of my best friends in the whole world, Shay, celebrated a birthday this week. I missed out on the fun of course since she is home in NY. I was thinking of her as I made this cupcake -- she is the epitome of the West Coast blonde California girl -- even after years abroad living in various European countries, as soon as their is a hint of sun in the day, she breaks out one of her many pairs of flip flops!

Hope you had a wonderful birthday, girlfriend, and looking forward to spending some sunny days with you soon.....

24 November 2010

Can I Have an Ariel Birthday Cake?

This is the refrain I have been hearing since this summer. And when my daughter's birthday rolled around in September, she got her Ariel birthday cupcakes! Every day since, she has asked for more Ariel birthday cake. She tells everyone she meets about it and in fact her English teacher just the other day told me she had thought of her at a family birthday party. Why? They served Ariel birthday cake!

This past weekend, I was asked to make some cupcakes with a corporate logo on them and since I was having a bunch of edible images made, I figured I'd ask my guy if he could throw in some Ariels. Sunday morning, I served my daughter a second Ariel birthday cake. I was feeling pretty proud of myself for finally fulfilling the Ariel Birthday Cake fantasy for the second time. Two minutes after it was consumed, she said "Where's my Ariel Birthday Cake?" And it was pretty constant until this morning when she looked at me and said, "Can I have a Cinderella Birthday Cake?" Sheesh! Kids!

This is a new flavor cupcake perfect for a cold winter's day in front of a roaring fire with a hot cuppa tea. Dancing Queen is a cardamom-white-chocolate-pistachio cupcake with rose buttercream. Mmmm Mmmm Good!

21 November 2010

Don't Push Me 'Cause I'm Close to the Edge

I really am trying not to lose my head these days. I should know by now -- this is my third holiday season in business but I find these last few weeks of the year feel like everything is on speed. Including me (though that could be more of a sugar rush from the batter and buttercream I am constantly sampling!). I'm not griping though - I am incredibly grateful to all my customers who keep me employed at the best job I have ever had!

It has been non-stop madness for the past few months, I've barely had time to catch my breath. But I love every minute and find that I put out some of my best work under pressure. Like my old advertising job, I have many deadlines to meet as a baker. The difference though is that I can't ask the client for another day to analyze the data or another week to give the creatives time to finesse the work. No, when the day of the party arrives, I better make damn sure my cupcakes are ready to go when the client arrives, and it isn't always easy. Thank you to everyone who has believed me in over the years; I am grateful for your support!

When I first started out, I sometimes had up to two weeks to get ready for a job. Which was great since I make the majority of my decorations myself from scratch. Over time as order volume has picked up, that period has condensed to the point that I often am making them only hours in advance and in many cases, just before I get ready to put them on the cupcakes or cakes which when you want a nice 3D effect, makes things tricky. I am always grateful for the extra time to get ready for an order but if it's not possible, no worries, me happy!

I'd love to tell you more about the goodies you see here today but I don't want to use up too much space since I have a recipe I want to share (which was especially requested by some friends looking for a traditional holiday cupcake). Pictured are some Black & White birthday cupcakes for a fan of the group, MUSE; a Caramel Dolce communion cake topped with sugarpaste daisies and ribbon; a giant milk chocolate cupcake covered in white chocolate ganache frosting for Daphne's communion (which I had so much fun making!); a Vanilla Lovers horse birthday cake; a tower of assorted cupcakes for a baptism; one of my Jumpin' Jack Flash pumpkin cupcakes and some turkey cupcakes I made for the show 100% Mag on channel M6 which will air this coming Thursday in honor of Thanksgiving with my one of my favorite bloggers: La Mom. Thanks everyone for the challenges of coming up with these designs; I am always grateful for the smiles my cupcakes put on my clients' faces.

Oh, and did I mention the development of my first, real website is underway so I have also been busy writing the content, getting it translated for the French version as well as baking up lots of extra cupcakes to be photographed for the site!?! A big thanks to my friends and family who are providing feedback on this project, and to the folks at Aleberry Creative who have the design and technical skills to pull this together; I am gratefeul for your help.

But I digress.....many moons ago I worked over the holidays for my Jamaican friend, James, who I met at Peter Kump's. He was my partner the day I made my first arc-en-ciel tart which we covered in every fruit imaginable and it was the start of a beautiful friendship. We created many desserts together including the pumpkin spice cupcakes which I feature on my menu as "Jumpin' Jack Flash." I made a batch a few weeks ago and as I sat down last night to write this post, I realized that one of my recipe books has gone missing! I have a feeling it got lost one day in the shuffle somewhere between my home and kitchen! This is one of my seasonal recipes and I have to admit, I don't know it by heart. I could probably work up an approximation of the recipe while tinkering in my kitchen, but that's not going to help you get ready for Thanksgiving. Thanks everyone for your patience! And thanks to good friends and family who are willing to be a part of my culinary adventures. PS: I'd be ever so grateful to the random stranger who may have found my erratic scribblings in a "CatDog" notebook which doubled as one of my recipes book if you could please contact me to arrange a return!

Thankfully, I tasted some amazing pumpkin cupcakes at Cupcake Camp London a few weeks back and when I asked the baker for the recipe, she referred me to the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook. Thank you Belle of Belle Bakes - I am grateful for your generosity! I'll be making a batch of these for my daughter's class this Thursday and hopefully will be able to track down that notebook in the meantime! Hope you enjoy it.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! What are you grateful for this year?

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

From the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

For about 15 cupcakes:
1 cup flour
¾cup sugar
1T baking powder
1½ teaspoons cinnamon, plus extra
pinch of salt
3T unsalted butter, room temperature
½cup whole milk
2 eggs
6½ oz pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 325. Add flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and butter in mixing bowl and beat on slow until well combined.

Add eggs to the mix scraping sides. Mix in milk. Stir in pumpkin until evenly dispersed.

Spoon batter into baking papers ⅔ full. Bake 16-20 mins in preheated oven or until cake bounces back when touched. Let cupcakes cool slightly before turning out onto wire rack to cool completely. When cupcakes are cool spoon the Cream Cheese Frosting on top and dust with cinnamon.

For cream cheese frosting:
2½ cups confectioners’ sugar
3T unsalted butter, room temp
4oz cream cheese, cold

Beat sugar and butter together until mixture is well mixed. Add cream cheese in one go and beat until it is completely incorporated. Turn mixer up to med-high. Continue beating until frosting is light and fluffy. Do not over beat, it will quickly become runny.

Related Posts:
Turkey Cupcakes from Paris
A Thank-Filled Weekend
In Preparation for Turkey Day
La Mom on TV

14 November 2010

To Say I Love You

One of my orders this weekend was for a young woman who lives in Kiev. She contacted me a few weeks back to tell me she would be traveling to Paris with her boyfriend to celebrate his birthday. She wanted to order cupcakes and left me free rein on the design -- the only request was that that they be special for "the man she loves so much!" What came to mind immediately was bold vibrant colors and lots of hearts.

These are Wake Me up Before You Go Go (cinnamon cupcakes with mocha buttercream and sugarpaste red hearts and daisies), Rolo Over Beethoven (chocolate cake and buttercream, a salted caramel center, chocolate dots and mini sugar hearts) & Vanilla Lovers (vanilla bean cake and buttercream with stars, mini hearts and a "happy Bday" banner). It was raining all weekend in Paris so I hope these made their trip just a little sweeter!

11 November 2010

Things That Make You Go Hmmmm

Or Hum in this instance, as in Hummingbird cupcakes. An odd name for a tasty treat and there has been much speculation on where the name of the Hummingbird cake or cupcake gets its origins. According to the Food Timeline, “Food historians generally cite Mrs. L.H. Wiggin's recipe published in the February 1978 issue of Southern Living magazine as the first printed reference to "Hummingbird Cake." Mrs. Wiggins did not offer an explanation of the name. Evidence strongly suggests this cake was popular in the south and known by several different (and equally interesting) names.” Many say that the name is a nod to its sweetness – hummingbirds are drawn to intensely sweet sources just as people are drawn to this cake. Incidentally, the Hummingbird Cake remains Southern Living’s most requested recipe.

It goes on to say that this cake is likely Jamaican in origin - the hummingbird (aka Dr. Bird) is one of the national symbols – though may have been adapted for American tastes. The combination of bananas, crushed pineapple and nuts common in most hummingbird cake recipes certainly is reminiscent of the tropics. A press kit dating back to 1969 from the Kingston (Jamaica) Daily Gleaner included a recipe for the Doctor Bird cake, made from bananas. And a contributor to an article in the Charlotte Observer notes that her family recipe for the Dr. Bird cake came to her from Jamaican Airlines in the late ‘60’s.

Another theory is that in the old days, people would hum as they ate the cake because it was so incredibly delicious. I like this idea best of all and invite you to tell me what you think; my recipe for Hummingbird cupcakes (adapted from Martha Stewart) follows:

Hummingbird Cupcakes with Orange Creamsicle Frosting
(Makes 22-24)

For the cupcakes:
110 grams unsalted butter, melted and then cooled
200 grams sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 bananas (the riper the better!), mashed
170 grams pineapple (5 rounds, canned), crushed
120 g pecans, crushed
190 grams all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup white chocolate chips (optional)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350/180 degrees. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the sugar and butter until pale and fluffy. Add in the eggs one by one and mix until blended. Add vanilla and mix. Mix in the bananas, pineapple and pecans until just combined. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, ginger and cinnamon, and then fold this into the batter. Lastly mix in the white chocolate chips. Fill either greased and lightly floured or paper-lined cupcake tins about 2/3 of the way full and bake for about 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cupcakes cool before frosting.

Orange Creamsicle Frosting
by Sugar Daze

80 grams cream cheese at room temperature
100 grams butter at room temperature
450 grams powdered sugar
zest of 1 orange
1-2 teaspoons fleur d’oranger

Mix cream cheese and butter until well-combined. Add in about half the sugar, the orange zest and fleur d'oranger and mix until smooth. Gradually add in the remaining sugar (you may not need all) until the frosting reaches a nice spreading consistency. Pipe on cupcakes or smooth on with a palette knife. Eat and say hummmmmmmm!

06 November 2010

London Calling

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending London’s first Cupcake Camp. For those of you who don’t follow my blog, back in July, I organized the first ever Cupcake Camp Paris; it was interesting to attend the London version as a spectator/baker and see what the event is like from the opposite point of view.

Organized by Daisy Coole, Cupcake Camp London was held at Proud Camden, an art gallery/bar/lounge/restaurant/performance space in the Chalk Farm Stables Market on Halloween. It was a huge space and Daisy and her crew went to town with cupcake girls passing around cupcakes and frosting shots, live music, a raffle for all sorts of cupcake goodies, contests, a cupcake drawing room for kids and much more.

There was an excellent turn-out for this event (over 2,500 cupcakes pledged!) and my kids and I had a blast; the spooky Halloween decorations and similarly themed cupcakes certainly added to the excitement of the day.

I had planned on entering 2 contests but due to a delay with my hotel check-in, arrived at the venue too late to have my entrants considered. Since I was traveling by train, I had limited space to carry cupcakes and so only brought 10 each of my 16H Gouter & Cookie Monster cupcakes.

These were literally snatched up before I had time to arrange them on the platter; I was told that chocolate variety cupcakes were in demand! All in all, I was very happy to discover several new bakers whose cupcakes were gorgeous and delicious and pick up some tips on making the next edition of Cupcake Camp Paris even more successful!

Brava to Daisy and everyone who assisted in organizing this outstanding event; Cupcake Camp London raised over 4000 GBP for the North London Hospice.

Last time I was in London, I sampled several of the local cupcake bakeries including Lola’s and Primrose. Since that time, I have met many other UK bakers online and I made a mission to see at least 1 of them during our short trip there. I chose Love Bakery because I was already impressed by the beautiful cupcake pictures I had seen, and I had it on a good authority (from my friend & fellow cupcake afficianado, Leesa) that I MUST try this place. Boy am I glad I did!

I was a little overcupcaked from Cupcake Camp London and snacking through the stash of treats my kids had collected the night before when we went trick-or-treating – a first for them – but am so happy I made the trip to Love Bakery and the room for their cupcakes. I bought two regular size – Red Velvet and Lemon Curd Marscapone, and two minis – chocolate/chocolate and vanilla/vanilla. I didn’t really get to try the minis cause my daughter gobbled them down but the Red Velvet was heavenly – one of the best Red Velvets I have ever eaten and trust me, I buy one whenever I see them on a cupcake menu, and the Lemon was tangy, fresh and delicious.

The Love Bakery store is adorable with lots of cupcake decorating goodies, jars of vintage candies and other pretty things to look at. The owner, Sam, has published her first cookbook which is available for sale in the store (launch party on 11 November). If you are planning a trip to London or live there and love cupcakes, this is a cupcakery not to be missed! I have already recommended them to a UK wedding Client, and hope I have a chance to get me some more Love soon!

Last but not least, I wanted to publish the results of my two-year business anniversary contest in which I had several cupcake gifts to give away. I very much enjoyed hearing about the “best cupcakes” you have ever eaten. Winners were chosen completely by random using the random number generator at random.org. Without further ado, congratulations to….

- Geni who wins the demi-tablier from Sassy Apron
- Chupivore who wins 12 Sugar Daze cupcakes
- Annick who wins the Meri Meri Cupcake Kit from Made in Cupcake
- Roxane who wins the cupcake earrings from Ma Peste Adoree

Winners, please get in touch with me to claim your prizes at info@sugardazecupcakes.com

In the Photos:
1) Jumpin' Jack Flash cupcake by Sugar Daze
2) Brain Cake by Made with Pink
3) Eyeball cupcakes by Genii Cupcakes
4) Cooke Monster cupcakes by Sugar Daze
5) RIP, ghost and cobweb cupcakes by Swissybuns
6) Dia de los Muertas cupcakes by Belle Bakes
7) Red Velvet Cupcakes by Love Bakery
8) Vanilla Cupckaes by Love Bakery

For more pics of Cupcake Camp London, visit their flickr set here.

Love Bakery, 319 King's Road, SW3 5EP