Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Candyland (Cupcake) Adventure (+vanilla cupcake recipe)

Welcome to Candyland!

Nostalgia central!  Oh man, I have such found memories of that game--how Lord Licorice was so scary and thinking how weird it was that "plums" were considered candies.  Or how I loved Queen Frostine and the Ice Cream Sea.  I mean, who wouldn't like to go to an Ice Cream Sea?!?

(bokeh = sprinkles of the photographic world.)

A few weeks ago, when I made my holiday cupcakes, I took some to my hairdresser, to whom I'm always grateful for for fixing my bangs (after I, out of impatience, give them a hideous trim).  Upon delivering the box of cupcakes, the entire salon stopped dead in their tracks as everyone oohed-and-aahed in jealousy.  And I was asked on the spot to do these Candyland-themed cupcakes for a one year old's birthday party.  Oh, and before I forget, here's wishing Aedyn another year as great as her first!:

Okay, so I've said over and over again that cupcakes just aren't my thing.  I mean, first of all, there's that whole spiel that I'm sure you all don't want to hear again about how cupcakes are not equal to "mini-cakes."  But then there's the whole decorating thing.  I'm the same way with sugar cookies (which is why you'll almost never catch me making sugar cookies).  All those different frosting colors equals all those bowls and spoons to wash.  I just can't do it.  But the minute I heard "Candyland-themed," I was DOWN.  There are just some opportunities that are way too cool to pass up.  Oh, that, and I'm a huge sucker for nostalgia.

I ended up making two flavors of cupcakes: chocolate and vanilla.  You'll find my chocolate cupcake recipe in the Christmas cupcake post here.  As for vanilla yellow cupcakes, I've actually spent quite some time trying to find the perfect yellow cake recipe.  More recently, I've tried the yellow cake recipe from The Cake Bible, and though it was good, the cake would shrink a bit after baking and pull away from the cupcake paper.  So that one was out.  Finally, I turned to Magnolia Bakery, whose red velvet cake recipe I absolutely adore.  And bingo!  These vanilla cupcakes were so moist and airy with a buttery texture and laced with just a hint of lemon (okay, the lemon was my addition).  And, another huge plus for these cupcakes because they used whole eggs rather than just egg yolks--and really, egg whites are useful, but I'd really prefer not to have to store so many of them.

To go on top, I made two types of buttercream: a heavier classic buttercream, made with egg yolks, and an Italian meringue buttercream, with egg whites.  Buttercreams, and especially egg white-based ones, continually amaze me.  Whenever I make Italian meringue buttercream, I always have to repeat the mantra (from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, for you geeks): "Don't panic."  Because the trick to an Italian meringue buttercream is that, even if the mixture looks curdled after you add the butter, you should not panic.  Just keep whipping, and the whole thing miraculously becomes an ever-so-light and creamy frosting!  Yes.  Amazing.

For decorations, I made four different cupcakes, plus an extra large one for the special birthday girl, inspired by different characters and areas of the Candyland game.  From left to right above, we have candy cane, lollipop, gingerbread, and gumdrops.  The lollipop flowers were so much fun.  Basically, I took these great organic fruit lollipops from Trader Joe's and piped yellow chocolate letters on the surfaces.  For leaves, I cut leaf shapes out of different colors of taffy and attached them to the lollipop stems.  My downright favorites, though, were the gingerbread men.  I actually didn't have cookie cutters, so I hand-cut all of the men out (each one's an individual!).  Then, I piped three dots of buttons, and in a stroke of genius (if I may say so myself), added a small sprinkle heart.  Because, come on, that just makes it way more cute.

I had such an awesomely fun time making this order of cupcakes.  Sometimes it's nice that I'm "self-employed" on a job-to-job basis so that I can just take the orders that I want to do.  Anyways, enjoy the yellow cupcake recipe below!  I'm off to a conference in the cold part of our country (*ahem*, east) for my "day job," so I will see everyone next week!

Oh wait--one more thing.  I wanted to share something I learned about cupcakes after making them a couple of times over the past few weeks:

The key to cupcakes is sprinkles.  Lots of them.  (I'm not kidding.)

And Collette Peters is right: luster dust does wonders.  :-)

Read on for recipe...

Vanilla yellow cupcakes
adapted (roughly) from Magnolia Bakery's vanilla cake recipe
makes 36 cupcakes
(or 3 nine inch layers)

4 1/4 cups AP flour
3 tspn baking powder
1/2 tspn salt

3 sticks butter, softened
3 cups sugar
6 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 tspn vanilla
juice of a lemon

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
2. In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.
3. In a mixer bowl, cream butter.
4. Gradually add the sugar to the butter and cream until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
5. Beat in the eggs to the butter and sugar one by one, beating well after each addition.
6. Beat in the flour mixture in four parts, alternating with the milk, vanilla, and lemon juice.
7. Fill cupcake molds about 3/4 full.
8. Bake for ~20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out cleanly.  Remove from oven and let cool.


1 comment:

  1. Oh yes, it's true, I love your photos :) I saw the apple cinnamon macarons and looked at your other recipes and I just have to tell you that your work is wonderful :)


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