I promised the “how” would follow the “what” of the bee cake/cupcakes, and this promise I shall keep. First the bees and cupcakes – the cake will probably get its own entry. When I found out the party was a bee theme, I scoured the interwebs for bee decorating ideas. My scouring led to a whole lot of nothing I really loved (or had the tools or patience to do), so I combined a couple of different ideas and came up with these little guys:
I had never worked with fondant before, it’s a tad fancy for the likes of me. I’ve heard it’s a wretched mess from start to finish, so I picked the slacker way out and started with pre-made fondant. I used lemon yellow AmeriColor gel to make the bees bright yellow. I didn’t take any pictures of the coloring part because my hands were covered in sticky fondant squishiness (and rubber gloves, which are KEY to not permanently dying your skin). Coloring the fondant is easy, though. Flatten out the piece you intend to use, squeeze some coloring in the middle and knead in your hands like play doh until the color is evenly distributed. then shape in to whatever you’re trying to make. In my case, dozens of little yellow ovals:
Then decorate. I used what I refer to as decorator icing for the black – I was going to make real royal icing, but again, I got lazy since this was an experiment from the get go. This is “decorator icing”:
I call it decorator icing because I buy it by the tub and use it for decorating stuff (profound, eh?). I wouldn’t frost something with it, it’s got that bakery shortening flavor going on, but it’s nice and thick, which makes it perfect for accents. It’s also shelf stable for way longer than edible things (other than Twinkies) should be. I dyed it black and used a #1 tip to pipe the stripes, eyes and smiles. The wings are slivered almonds.
If I do them again, I’d use edible Sharpie marker (yes, that’s a real thing). Way easier. I didn’t end up using the knife or the paperclip, so you can just ignore those. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I used the knife to pry the sticky little ovals off the plate. Use parchment paper, kids. Fondant sticks.
Just in case you missed the original post, here’s the closeup of the finished product again:
Onto the actual baking portion of the project – the vanilla cupcakes. For all the baking I do, I have a tough time with vanilla cupcakes. I actually like vanilla more than chocolate, but I have had a lot of trouble a vanilla cupcake recipe that I don’t find too vanilla. I think I’ve finally found one I like. Next time I might add a tiny bit of lime or orange zest, but these were a good, standard base recipe.
I failed to take pictures of the making of these (hey, I got the bees and the cake. 2 outta 3 ain’t bad).
I have to admit, I love my new piping tip (once again, I don’t get out much). I’d read an article somewhere in the box of knowledge on how to make frosting look like bakery frosting, which I’d often wondered. Turns out you need to ask for the “jumbo tips”, because asking for the “largest open star tip they have” just isn’t specific enough. Now I know. And I can do that ^. Oh, happy day. The frosting was my usual buttercream, doubled (so, 1/2 c. butter, 1/2 c. butter flavored shortening, about 6 c. sifted powdered sugar and flavor – in this case I used 4 tsp. almond extract to mix it up a little and food coloring as desired). Note, if you want a whiter frosting, don’t use butter flavored shortening – it’s too yellow. Since yellow was the color I was going for, it didn’t pose a problem.
The cake building blog is coming in short order, but I think that’s enough sugar laden fun for one day. Enjoy!
Magnolia’s Vanilla Cupcake Recipe
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup milk (I used whole)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line 2 (1/2 cup-12 capacity) muffin tins with cupcake papers.
In a small bowl, combine the flours. Set aside.
In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer (or stand mixer with paddle attachment), cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not over beat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended. Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about 3/4 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.
Cool the cupcakes in tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.