21 March 2011

Baby Give It Up

About once a week, I get solicited by a company, a school, an association, an event organizer, etc. to donate cupcakes in exchange for publicity. In fact I was recently propositioned by a very famous magazine to receive a glowing 1/4-page editorial about my business in exchange for...wait for it...TWO THOUSAND cupcakes for an event they were hosting. Call me naive but I didn't think things like this went down behind the scenes! But I digress. A lot of times I tempted by these offers -- it's an event that sounds like a lot of fun or could open up some new customers to me. But if I was to say yes to everyone, I'd be out a lot of dough (and cash!). I count myself extremely lucky to have such a hot product and so try my best to do some goodwill where I can.

There's only so many free cupcakes I can give away and so only say yes to a select number of these requests. I have a few key criteria I use to evaluate them. My first and most important one is that it must have a charitable goal. And that charity must have a personal relevance for me. In July, I co-organized Cupcake Camp Paris and personally donated over 100 cupcakes -- the proceeds of the event were donated to Rebuilding Haiti Now; I am proud to say we (all the bakers collectively) made a donation of over 1200 euros to this worthwhile cause. In September, I gave 100% of 1 day's sales at my pop-up store at Printemps to Institut Gustave Roussy, dedicated to breast cancer research (over 500 euros raised!). In June, I am partnering with the Centre Pompidou for an event that promotes music and arts to young people. Yes, I am proud to lend my support to these programs and I offer these examples to demonstrate the types of events I am willing to offer free cupcakes for. Give me the chance to make a small difference in this world via my cupcakes and I am all over it. Use me to put a buck in your pocket or create a buzz around your event cause cupcakes are so "hot" right now -- sorry, I'm not your girl.

I'm not trying to come across as holier than thou, it's just that I have to draw the line somewhere and so while my cupcakes are having their moment in the spotlight, I figure I might as well do some good for others rather than reap all the awards.

Like many of you, I have spent several hours this past week glued to my computer screen watching the events as they unfold in Japan. I cannot even imagine what the earthquake and tsunami survivors are going through. I think of all these people who have lost loved ones and family members, and the pain and horror of living through this tragedy. Of the mass devastation they are surrounded by and the continued threat to their health from radiation and lack of essential goods. I am saddened to the bottom of my heart and felt compelled to do something to support the aid and relief efforts underway as Japan tries to rebuild after this tragedy. Luckily, I happened to see a tweet from Sabrina at The Tomato Tart about the Online Bake Sale she is organizing for Japan. There are over 60 bakers involved from all over the world and I am happy and proud to be a part of this. The money raised is going to Second Harvest Japan.

So what am I offering? I will be donating one dozen cupcakes - two of my favorite flavors: you'll get 6 each of my Salted Caramel buttercream topped Devil's Food Cupcakes, and 6 Rich Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry-Champagne buttercream. I'd like to offer a worldwide ship on these. If you are in Paris, you'll get them with my traditional swirl and hand-made decorations. For those who are farther afield, I am still working on this but chances are you will get cupcakes filled with buttercream and topped with a fondant decoration to keep the cupcakes moist and intact during transit.

The bake sale will be held, auction-style, on 30 March at thetomatotart.com. Go check it out. Bid high and bid often! And thank you Sabrina for bringing us together!

19 March 2011

Isn't She Lovely?

I made some cupcakes yesterday for a fashion shoot. mamaNANA.com and Cake lingerie to be precise. Of the 6, this was my favorite. It just came out perfect and goes down in my book as one of my favorite designs to date. I can sometimes angst over the decoration of a cupcake for hours (don't get me started on the wedding cake I'm making next weekend) and so it's funny when just a few quickly cut flowers placed randomly can turn out so well. Happy Weekend everybody!

17 March 2011

Come On Eileen

Wishing everyone a very happy (and safe) St. Patrick's Day. Wish I was in New York to paint the town green!

Salt 'n Pepa's Here & We're In Effect

Now that the cupcake has made a name for itself in France, and has been tweaked to suit the French palate by most of the bakers I know, the French have put their own twist on this American classic by serving up "cupcakes salés" or savory cupcakes. Most of the cupcakeries around town offer several varieties on lunchtime menus in addition to their sweet offerings.

I had never eaten a savory cake before coming to France and while intuitively it seems a bit odd, I can assure you that it's definitely a pleasant change of pace. I have an event coming up where they have asked me to prepare savory cupcakes alongside my regular sugary confections and so have been testing several recipes. I am not planning on offering these as a regular menu item though - this particular order was placed by one of my very regular customers for a corporate function.

I had a lot of success with this very simple gruyere and ham recipe yesterday and so wanted to share it with you. It was originally posted in Journal de Femmes on l'Internaute Magazine by Julia Boyer. I have made some small adaptations to the recipe. Funnily, while most of the sweet cupcakes I have eaten here tend towards the dry side (and it's no wonder given that most French people will tell you a cupcake is a "muffin with frosting") this savory cupcake is actually much moister than an American muffin which is probably what we would call it in the US.

Savory Cupcakes with Ham & Gruyere
Yield: 8 very large cupcakes

200 g all-purpose flour
4 eggs
8 tbsp milk
75 g melted butter
250 g gruyere or emmental cut in small cubes
300 g cubed ham
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp herbes de provence or parsley
salt, pepper

1) Pre-heat oven to 170C degrees.

2) Sift the flour, baking powder, herbs, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the eggs, milk and melted butter. Stir to mix.

3) Add in the cubed ham and cheese and mix to incorporate.

4) Divide batter into greased and floured, or lined, cupcake tin. Fill any empty holes about 2/3 full with water.

5) Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

6) Serve warm.

We enjoyed these with a bowl of ginger carrot soup (I omit the lemon) and a side salad of mache.

15 March 2011

Let's Spend the Night Together

...or my evening with Clovis Cornillac. Let me explain...

A few weeks ago I was contacted by the co-producers of a new film to work with them on a project. They invited me to a private screening of the film last night to assist in my inspiration and creativity. I dragged my husband along and we had a great time. The film, Une Folle Envie (or "A Burning Desire" for you anglophones) stars Clovis and Olivia Bonamy as a couple who are prepared to do whatever it takes to have a baby.

It's a really sweet film that follows Rose & Yann's (Bonamy & Cornillac's) highs and lows in their pursuit to get pregnant. Both attended the screening last night as well as the director, Bernard JeanJean, other members of the cast, like Elise Larnicol and Francois Vincentelli, and crew, and various producers. Clovis, who sat in the row directly behind us in the theater with his wife and adorable kids, is just as cute in real life as he appears on the big screen. He plays Yann with his usual charm and great comedic timing.

Olivia Bonamy, also known as Romain Duris' better half (le sigh), is gorgeous on-screen and off, and really stole the show. She's talented and stylish and funny and sexy - really, what's not to love about this gal?

I'll be back to tell you about a great give-away I'll be running in conjunction with the film's release on May 18 thanks to SND Films, as well as to share the details of my participation in this project. In the meantime, you can check out the trailer here.

09 March 2011

Enjoy the Silence

Fire table 5! I have several pots on the stove simmering and some close to boiling - I wanted to share with you some of the projects that I have coming down the pike.

First off in a few days time, I should be taking delivery of my brand spanking new website! It's been in the works for quite some time now but delayed due to unexpected complications in the coding. As you can imagine, I am very eager to get my hot little hands on it. I hope you'll find it much easier to find the essential cupcake information you need and the menu will be much more interactive. A bonus to French users is that the text has been entirely proofed by my mother-in-law so you won't be seeing any of the ridiculous grammatical mistakes I often make (that my husbands loves to rib me about!). Keep your eyes on this space for the big reveal coming soon....

Speaking of my horrendous French, I was interviewed by Paris Business Club on BFM Radio last week. I enjoyed having the opportunity to talk about my background and my business, and was happy that the story of my copycat was one of the main topics explored in the interview. If anything, I hope to share my tale so that others won't have to suffer by making the same mistake I did.

I was recently contacted by a film distribution company to work on a project for an upcoming movie release. I am really excited about this but I don't want to share all the juicy details just yet. Just know there will be something cool in it for all of you! I'm attending a private screening of the film next week with the actors, directors, etc. and I'm really looking forward to this amazing opportunity.

I'll be in the US next month to do some research for another upcoming project and I'm also going back to school for a day...I am giddy with anticipation for my private lesson with one of New York's premiere Master Cake Decorators! Unfortunately this means I will be unavailable for orders and events for most of the month. But for those who have already booked in weddings and such for later this Spring, I am hoping to wow you with all the new skills and techniques I pick up.

Last but not least, the very preliminary planning for Cupcake Camp Paris II is underway. It's too early to discuss any details but we are tentatively shooting for a date at la rentree. If you are a restaurant or club owner located in Central Paris and you would be interested in hosting this event, please do get in touch. Bryan and I have enlisted the help of fellow cupcake afficianado, Nicolette of the blog Cafe Creme, to help with the organization. More to come on this in coming months.

A few of the other pots I have going need some more seasoning and cook time before I can plate those dishes for you but things are certainly heating up in the Sugar Daze kitchen this year! I'll try to post when I have some interesting news to share but don't be surprised if you encounter some radio silence from time to time.