31 January 2010

So Won't You Please Be My, Be My Baby

Feeling some pressure to come up with the perfect Valentine's day gift? Well, I'm going to make it easy for you...like a piece of (cup)cake.

The Little Miss Cupcake Valentine's Day gift box is sure to get you major thumbs up from your darlin', and hey, it's something you can share and enjoy too! As they say good things come in 3s -- this gift box is 3 x 3 special flavors baked up for your special sweetie.

You know I'm such a fool for you, cupcake. Ah, my dear - here's a cupcake you can Linger over. It's a Cranberry & white chocolate chunk cupcake with a vanilla bean cream cheese frosting and white chocolate heart. Cupcake inspired by The Cranberries "Linger."

La Vie en Rose will transmit your "mots d'amour" as you bite into this velvety smooth pistachio-studded, rose-infused cupcake with rose buttercream topped with conversation hearts. Cupcake inspired by Edith Piaf "La Vie en Rose."

And last but not least, your cheri(e) will be whispering "I need you, I love you" to the luscious Go All the Way (It Feels so Right) combo of swirled raspberry cupcake topped with a milk chocolate buttercream and chocolate /marzipan heart toppers. Cupcake inspired by The Raspberries "Go All the Way."

The Valentine's Day Gift Box of 9 cupcakes (3 of each flavor shown) is available now through the end of February for 35,00 euros. And remember consume with moderation; Little Miss Cupcake can't be held responsible for the actions they elicit in your loved ones. All I can say is...in the words of the famous Marvin Gaye...Let's Get It On....

xxx Little Miss Cupcake

30 January 2010

They Did the Monster Mash

I was working in the lab late one night
When my eyes beheld an eerie sight
For my monster from his slab began to rise
And suddenly to my surprise

He did the mash
He did the monster mash
The monster mash
It was a graveyard smash
He did the mash
It caught on in a flash
He did the mash
He did the monster mash

From my laboratory in the castle east
To the master bedroom where the vampires feast
The ghouls all came from their humble abodes
To get a jolt from my electrodes

They did the mash
They did the monster mash
The monster mash
It was a graveyard smash
They did the mash
It caught on in a flash
They did the mash
They did the monster mash

These are the 75 completed cupcakes for this evening's boum at the Playtime International Children's Salon. I had a blast making them and was sorry to see these Little Monsters go!

Thanks to Cupcakes Take the Cake for posting about my cupcakes while they were in progress!

29 January 2010

Where's the Party?

I'm a Leo which means a July birthday. This was always a bit tricky growing up as most of my friends were away during the summer. Birthdays usually involved the family and very close friends who either didn't have a house in the Hamptons or weren't sent off one one of those fabulous teen tours across Europe. My most memorable birthdays happened when I was at summer camp where I had an entire bunk-full of people to celebrate with me. Though the days leading up to it were always dicey. Cut to me entering the cabin and hearing shrieks of laughter and what sounded like a million people talking at once. The second I was spotted, everyone would clam up and share knowing glances amongst each other. This is the last thing you want to do to a shy and very self-conscious 9 year-old. What I would later learn is that they had been plotting the details of my birthday party but I somehow managed to forget this from summer to summer and was obviously relived to learn that no, it wasn't a conspiracy against me, just cake, candy and whatever else was brought forth to fete my special day!

My mother often tells the story of how one year she rented out the private dining room at a local country club and planned a real swish affair for my birthday. I must have been about 5 and the sight of all those people with their eyes focused on me scared me so bad, I climbed under the table and refused to come out for the rest of the party...not even to blow out the candles on my cake. You see the pattern here right? Needless to say, it was the last time my mom went to such extremes for one of my parties.

One of the funnest birthdays I have had recently was 2 years ago when my husband and I made reservations at one of the top restaurants here in Paris. We had talked about this place for years and were really excited about finally having a table booked. Though when the evening finally rolled around, neither of us was particularly looking forward to a 6-course meal with requisite wine in a stuffy environment where waiters hovered over our every move. We ended up at a local bistro eating croque monsieurs and then we went to see Die Hard 4. We both had such a good time, we have carried on with this tradition every year since.

This past summer I turned 40 and could not believe my good fortune in that almost every single one of my close girlfriends was still here in the city. I guess that's what happens when you live in a country where August is the month for getting away. We had a fabulous dinner at an adorable restaurant in the 18th, and then they surprised me with a collective gift from one of my favorite jewelers. This was handled so covertly - I never once walked in on a secret discussion about this which would have surely left me feeling awkward and paranoid! ;)

I've been doing a lot of birthday baking lately, mostly for my son who has now had 3 parties this month! I have already shown you the giant dinosaur cupcake we had for our family celebration. Last weekend, he celebrated at one of the local museums where they have a Playmobil expo going on. I left him with 14 of his friends to do a visit and workshop with a member of the museum staff, and then it was my turn to come back and look after them during an hour-long "gouter." This was probably the longest hour of my life! Everything started out relatively fine with the singing and cutting of the cake but then the boys got up and decided to run like crazies around the room, under the tables, using the stools as defensive shields. The girls on the other hand sat demurely eating the cake and complimenting me on it. And then 1-2-3, they too were up on their feet chasing the boys. When the hour was up and it was time to say goodbye, almost of all the parents commented to me that the room must have been very hot as all their little ones stood there giggling with red cheeks and sweat dripping down their faces. If they only knew! :)

My son took the Spiderman cupcakes pictured here to school today for the class celebration. I'm also posting some of the other birthday cupcakes I have done recently. I am particularly proud of the Dora ones (check out the really lame ones I made last year -- oh, what a difference a year makes!). And the Pokemon cake the kids devoured at the museum to keep their energy levels in check!

27 January 2010

A Daring Bakers' Challenge : Nanaimo Bars

It has been a rather hectic two weeks here in the Little Miss Cupcake kitchen. I have literally been dragging myself out of bed every morning, over to the kitchen, putting in a full day with the kids, school and various other activities, and then working into the wee hours for the next day's prep. I have just a few more days to go at this pace before giving myself a well-deserved day-off on Monday.

I am just getting in by the skin of my teeth on this Daring Bakers challenge. I barely had enough time to let the recipe set before showing it off cause I have a busy night ahead and wanted to get this post up. I sadly didn't have time to make these yesterday as I saw one of my very few Canuck friends here in Paris whose eyes lit up when I mentioned Nanaimo Bars. Chris, if you happen to be in the neighborhood tomorrow, drop on by....

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca. I have to admit I had never heard of Nanaimo bars before (and still can't pronounce it properly. Say it with me "Nah-nye-Moh") but they are pretty darn tasty. It's essentially a triple-layer bar with a creamy custard middle sandwiched between a hardened chocolate crust and a chewy coconut-graham cracker crumb-chocolate base. As an added challenge, Lauren who has been diagnosed with celiac disease, gave us a gluten-free recipe for the graham crackers used in the bottom layer.

I really really enjoyed this challenge and will definitely be making these again. I made mine individually in cupcake wrappers and then threw some Reese's Peanut Butter candies on top of half of mine; they certainly made a yummy addition to the mix!

20 January 2010

Baby I'm a Star

Lest you think I am getting a big head, let me explain the meaning behind this blog post title....

I just finished reading Twilight (it's okay to smirk and roll your eyes, I know, I know, I got all that criticism from my husband). But since I do like to follow the gossip mags from time to time and am not completely immune from what's going on in the world, I was curious to know what all the hub bub was about. For those of you who haven't yet indulged, it's a quick read and will likely take you back to your teen years when you agonized about who you were going to sit next to in the cafeteria; whether that cute boy you liked would ever pay you any attention; how to deal with a crush from a boy you really didn't care for or how to recover from that really embarrassing thing you did in gym class, etc., etc. In the end, it's the ultimate story of unrequited teen love, and a boy so bad he could literally kill you, but I certainly enjoyed all the moments in-between of blushing teens and awkward high school moments.

I have always been quite shy. This may surprise many people who know me now. And I was painfully socially inept as a teenager. I grew up with one of those mothers who was always running from one social event to the next, people adore her and I was constantly being told how lucky I was to have such a fabulous mother. It was very hard for me to find a place for myself and most of the time was happy to stay in the shadows behind her glowing spotlight. I usually kept to a small group of friends with 1 really close girlfriend; we were neither popular nor "losers." We just kind of floated along in this weird social limbo, on the outskirts and never really fitting on. It was a strange existence, especially as I grew up in New York at break-neck speed -- much of your popularity in school was dictated by where you hung out outside of school and who you hung out with from the other private schools, etc. We also didn't have these one-on-one formal-type dates like my friends who grew up in the 'burbs.

In the summers, I used to go to an all-girls camp in Maine and this is where the complexities of dealing with the social ladder-climbing was put on-hold for a few months of the year. Except when we had socials with one of the nearby boys' camps and the preening and courting games would begin. I dreaded these evenings cause it meant hours getting ready for a few awkward dances with a usually pimply, profusely sweating and stammering pre-adolescent boy who I would likely never see again. And then one summer, I met Scott who was a tennis coach at my camp. Now before you get all riled up again, I should mention I was only 14, he must have been at least 21 and "inappropriate" socializing between campers and counselors was strictly forbidden. He was just a really, really cool guy - laid-back and funny from "Minnesoooohda" as he pronounced it.

We spent a lot of time comparing our lifestyles - mine in the big city and his in an industrial small town. And we spent a lot of time talking about music. We both were big Prince fans and he turned me on to Morris Day & the Time. The thing about Scott is that he was probably the first male friend I ever made on my own. He wasn't a neighbor or a class mate or a friend of my mother's. Just someone who took a genuine interest in me and what I had to say, and he showed me that dealing with the opposite sex and someone who was completely outside of my social circle didn't have to be so awkward and uncomfortable. I have to say a big thank you to Scott wherever you are today for instilling in me some confidence and courage to get through social situations I would have never thought possible.

These days, as a mom, I think it's important to get out there, set an example and involve my kids in different social activities so that they will be spared some of the torturous moments I went through. I'm proud of my son when I see him going up to random groups of kids and asking if they want to play or if he can see their Pokemon cards. It's something I would have never done, and really don't do now. Which is why it came as a huge surprise to me when I was recently asked if I wanted to appear on a new TV show coming soon to one of the major channels and I said, "yes." (OK, I admit it, I recently saw Yes Man and I may have taken the movie's moral a little bit much too heart.). So last weekend, that is what I did. I filmed a segment for a TV show. It was probably one of the most stressful things I have ever done and between my lack of sleep in the days preceding the taping and my urge to vomit every time I thought about it, it's amazing I survived the experience. But you know what? It was great and it's something I will look back on proudly for the rest of my life. Not to mention that my kids thought I was really cool too (well, just for a few minutes there)!

So, I will of course report back here when I have the details of when it will air. But I am looking forward to my 15 minutes of fame. (More like 4 but hey, it's all good with me). In related "starring" news, this morning I sent off 20 cupcakes to an advertising shoot for one of the big retail chains here in France. It's an uncredited gig and I wasn't invited to the shoot but honestly, this is sooooo much more in-line with my style. I'm happy to look on from the shadows as my cupcakes get their moment. Unless of course I find out Robert Pattinson, a/k/a Edward Cullen from Twilight, was involved in the shoot! Now that would have been an occasion worth mustering my courage for....at this point, I've had years of good training and I am pretty sure I could hold my own with the best of them! :)

PS the cupcakes featured here are from both today's ad shoot, another ad shoot I did this week (where the models supposedly..gulp..."ate" them!) and the cupcakes made during the TV show filming, and then afterwards by my son and nieces who went to town with our leftovers.

15 January 2010

Who You Gonna Call?

Little Miss Cupcake! That's right, I'll be serving up some monstrously good cupcakes at the boum (dance party) to kick off the International Playtime Salon at the Parc Floral the evening of 30 January. The theme, as you can see, is Monsters. And I will be doing my best to capture that spirit in the decorations of my cupcakes. I am so very delighted to be involved in this event which is one of the biggest fairs for those in the kids, maternity and parent-related businesses. Reserve your space for the part-ay now!

PS I am so loving this poster by Marc Boutavant!

11 January 2010

What Goes Up Must Come Down

And what goes in must come out. (Okay people, hear me out here. I am not talking about bodily functions. It's a little early here in Paris for that. Though guess it does hold true when talking about cupcakes!) Here goes.....Many, many years ago (in fact it feels like another lifetime ago), I worked in advertising as an Account Planner. There's all sorts of names that go along with this role that have do with strategy, research, marketing, etc. Ask 50 different people what an Account Planner does and you will get 50 different responses. For me it's as simple as this: behind every ad, there is a piece of paper that guides the creative team creating the ad. That piece of paper tells them what the consumer should think, feel and do after viewing the ad. The job of the Account Planner is to write what's on that piece of paper.

One of the tools at the disposal of the Account Planner is Market Research. And I can tell you I spent a good many afternoons sitting at my desk writing surveys and analyzing them. We had an expression we used when drafting questionnaires: GIGO. Which stands for "Garbage In Garbage Out." It's a lesson I learned early on in my career and I now carry this motto with me into my kitchen every day as a cupcake baker.

It's a simple fact of life. When you create something, your end product is only going to be as good as the raw materials you put into it. And this is especially true when you are preparing food. Someone asked me recently if I could make organic cupcakes. Well, honey I already do. In fact, all of my cupcakes are made using primarily organic, and the best quality ingredients I can find. I go through a lot of eggs every week and believe me, I am not interested in supporting a practice of keeping chickens cooped up in cages, squashed one on top of the other, deprived of sunlight, and an opportunity to roam free and stretch their wings when they feel like it. As a mother of two young kids, I feel more assured in my choices of organic milk, flour, etc. While I know that not all non-organic foodstuff is treated with pesticides, or milk-producing cows with antibiotics, the "bio/organic" label for me ensures that the ingredients I am buying are produced under optimal conditions and have met more stringent standards.

I am also frequently asked where I buy all of my decorations. Buy them?!? I make them! And yes, that means I make my own gumpaste, fondant and marzipan too that is used to craft my toppers - everything is made from scratch by me ensuring that I know exactly what goes into every cupcake I create. (Trust me, these aint those pre-fab rice paper daisies you can buy at baking supply stores >>>) It also guarantees that every component of my cupcakes have met my taste standards. Sure lots of people can make pretty cupcakes but the real challenge is making cupcakes that look good and taste good too. And that is what I strive for in every cupcake I make. I also think it's what makes my cupcakes uniquely my own.

So next time you taste an inferior baked good at your local cupcake store, diner, whatever remember "Garbage In Garbage Out." What goes in must come out!

08 January 2010

If On A Winter's Night...

My son turns 7 today. Gulp! I really don't know where the time has gone. As a parent of a 16 year-old remarked to me recently, with young kids, when you are in the thick of it, every minute feels like a lifetime and then it's all over before you even have time to blink. So true!

I can still recall the night before he was born. I awoke around 2AM feeling something was just not quite right, and my husband and I sheepishly decided to head to the hospital, slightly embarrassed in the belief that they would take one quick look at me and say, "false alarm: go home." A light snow had just fallen and the city was basked in a magical white glow. We lived only two blocks from the hospital and so made the journey on foot. As we passed the Corner Bistro on Jane Street, we could see and hear the people inside toasting with good cheer through the fogged up windows.

We arrived at the hospital to find they were fully booked in the maternity ward and so left us to get comfortable in a triage room that they turned into a makeshift lodging. No easy task for my husband to fold his impossibly large 6 foot 3 frame into the small collapsible metal chair they left for him! No sooner had we settled in did the obstetrician on-duty return with the news that we would be checked in -- we were going to be having a baby that day. I can't recall ever being so frightened in my entire life. No matter the fact that we had 9+ months to plan for this moment, knowing that we would soon be entrusted to a small, helpless baby terrified me to my core. Needless to say his journey into the world was a long one (I was in labor for over 15 hours) so by the time he finally appeared, he was a welcome sight to us tired, weary parents.

And now here we are just a few years later. That moody, helpless, never wanting to sleep baby has turned into an over-active, inquisitive, funny, charming and still moody 7 year-old. He is entering the Age of Reason as they say and I just hope that means an end to the constant "betises."

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you know that we spent the week of New Year's Eve in London. It was a fabulous trip - my son is just the right age for it (though my 2 year-old held her own too). London is a great city for kids and we didn't waste a day visiting the London Transport Museum, The Natural History Museum, the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park and a tour on one of the famous double-decker buses amongst other attractions (like Primrose Bakery - yummy! Okay that one was for me!). My son delighted in the dinosaur exhibit at the Natural History Museum, including the living, breathing and snarling animatronic T-Rex. I was inspired by our visit to make my boy a dinosaur cake using my new giant cupcake tin (also purchased in London). This is one of his favorites: a chocolate cake with clementine buttercream at the base and chocolate-clementine buttercream on top, decorated with home-made gumpaste dinosaurs in party hats.

So, glass held high - Happy Birthday to You, my Poussin (I think I will likely have to stop calling him that soon as I'd imagine it's gonna start to be an embarrassment in front of his friends). I love you!! You have given your father and I more joy than you could ever imagine, and lots of laughs as well as grey hairs along the way!

PS Thanks to www.beaucoupdimages.com for the above picture of the snow scene in New York. And if you don't know it, the title of this post refers to a work of fiction by Italo Calvino, one of my favorite books, and a rather fitting title for my winter baby.

04 January 2010

Auld Lang Syne

May your days be filled with wonder,
and your hearts be filled with love.

May your families be blessed with good health, peace and prosperity.
May you find good cheer in friends old and new.

May fortune smile down upon you in the year ahead!
My best wishes to you and yours for a very Happy 2010.
I look forward to making each day of your New Year just a little bit sweeter!

xxx Little Miss Cupcake