Wednesday, 21 November 2012

And we are at it again!

Upmarket is on (like Donkey Kong) THIS Sunday, 25 November 2012 at the University of Western Australia between 10AM to 4PM. As usual, Top the Cupcake will be selling delicious baked goods! There will be plenty of cupcakes, cake pops, cookies and macarons. Here is a sneaky peek of some of the goodies we will have on offer:

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

You're terrible Muriel!

For my international readers, pardon my Aussie sense of humour. That is assuming I have international readers or any readers at all really. How depressing, I could be maintaining a superfluous blog that no one reads. My goodness that is really sad.

Any way, assuming that I do have some readers out there, I thought I would let you know that I am a weekly guest blogger on Unwrapped - The Marketplace website leading up to their Christmas Unwrapped in the City event scheduled on Sunday, 9 December 2012. If you are interested in reading what I have been up to as of late, please check out their website site and click on the 'news' tab.

Here is a sneaky peek of what I have been working on this week:

That's right peeps - Christmas macarons! xx

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Being cray cray, pays off!

I am very pleased to say that sometimes a little cray cray pays off. I tweeted my Dan Stevens cupcake to him last night before going to bed at 10.57PM.
I was woken up at 3.45AM by my buzzing phone. At first I thought it was just my alarm going off, but then I noticed it was still pitch black. So in a semiconscious state, I turned over, looked at my phone and noticed a twitter push notification “@danstevens favourited and mentioned you in a tweet”.
My heart did flutter ever so slightly. Ekkkk – Matthew Crawley acknowledged my existence. Yes, I realise that Matthew Crawley is not actually a real person, but in fact a fictional character. And yes, the actor that portrays Matthew Crawley only wrote one word, “delicious”. But still … swoooooooonnnnnnn!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

I got the cray cray in me!

I know I have already blogged about this in the past, but I am clearly smitten, so please bear with me! As you know, I heart, heart, heart (times a million and then around the universe twice) Downton Abbey. During our recent trip to the United Kingdom (UK), Brendyn hired a car and drove me to Highclere estate, where Downton Abbey is filmed. Upon entering the estate, I gasped and tears began streaming down my face. And although, I knew I looked like a crazy person, I could not stop myself from crying – I was so overwhelmed with happiness. All Brendyn could do at this point was laugh hysterically and pleaded with me to stop crying because I looked insane.
Being the fool that I am, I did not pre-book my tickets online. So basically it was pot luck whether we would gain admission into the estate. Yes, we drove two hours to Highclere Castle on the whim that we would be able to buy tickets at the gate. Brendyn teased me the entire trip, he kept saying “I beat everyone on the M14 is making their way to Highclere Castle and there will be no tickets left for us”. I had to use all my will power to keep it together. So naturally, once Brendyn managed to park the car, I quickly ditched him and ran (possibly even sprinted) to the ticket booth to purchase tickets and thank the heavens, we were able to buy tickets into the estate!
The estate was as beautiful as I imagined it to be. The gardens were breathtaking and the castle itself was … I cannot even find the words to describe how amazing the castle truly was. I was simply in awe of the entire estate. My stomach is in a state of flutter simply writing about this Downton Abbey experience.
With Downton Abbey season three having started in the UK, my Downton Abbey passion has reignited itself in full swing. Although it has not aired in Australia, the episode recaps and reviews by UK fans have been giving me my Downton Abbey fix! Also, I have recently discovered Downton Abbey fan fiction. Yes, I am one of those people who read fake fan fiction. Please understand that it pains me to admit it, but I am anything but a liar!
So why am I SO obsessed with this fictional television show?! I just love the Matthew and Mary (M/M) love story. I know, how common, how predictable, but it is nevertheless true. I love watching their interactions and their longing grazes. It is the typical heart aching, tear jerking, butterflies in your stomach, love story. Also, I think I may have a little tini tiny high school girl crush on Matthew (portrayed by the swoon worthy Dan Stevens). So I have done what every normal rational high school girl would do (only that I am not a high school girl and I am in my late twenties and should probably know better), I made a Dan Stevens cupcake and tweeted it to him, in hopes to get a response. The fondant topper is of his twitter profile picture.

Does this make me appear a little desperate? Possibly, it is subject to interpretation. Does this make me a crazy stalker? I do not think so. I mean, I have not started writing fan fiction and I have not made youtube video clips of my favourite M/M scenes yet, so until then I do not consider myself as a stalker. But until then (I do not want to rule out the possibility), I think I will continue to walk the fine line between a dedicated fan and boarder line cray cray.
Fingers crossed, I hear from Dan Stevens. And FYI, if I do, I may just stop breathing!

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Sheilas in Sheila Magazine!

Monday, 27 August 2012

Holiday in pictures

We have finally made our way home after four blissful weeks of travelling through Europe. Although we have been home for just over a week, I am not quite ready to accept the reality of “normal” life. Nevertheless, begrudgingly I have returned back to “normal” life by returning to work and even took on some bake jobs this past week! 

Although it was only a little over a week ago since I was in beautiful sunny Europe, it feels like a life time ago. And all I have to show for four weeks of travel is photographs of all the food I ate! Correction – all the DELICIOUS food I ate. Naturally, my body gravitated towards pastries and baked goods. Hey, the body wants what the body wants, and who am I to deny my body what it wants?!

The trip started off in London. Where we watched my superstar sister-in-law represent Australia in the Olympics. She and all the Hockeyroos did a stella job and the whole family was (and still is) very proud! But enough of about that, let’s talk about cupcakes! I had two cupcakes while in London – first cupcake was from Hummingbird bakery and the second cupcake was from a random cupcake stall in Bricklane Market. The verdict? Of course the Hummingbird cupcake was delicious, as if it would be anything less than that. But what caught me by surprise was how delicious the cupcake from the random cupcake stall in Bricklane Market was! I remember the icing was particularly divine – creamy, light and packed a lot of flavour. I am salivating at the thought of the cupcake – GET IN MY BELLY NOW!

Vanilla chocolate cupcake from Hummingbird bakery.

Get in my belly now cupcake!
Also referred to as, vanilla berry cupcake from a random stall at Bricklane Market.

After London, we made our way to Paris. The city of beautiful macarons, but sadly no cupcakes! I searched for cupcake stores high and low and was out of luck. I even googled “cupcakes in Paris” and the stores that I found online were sadly closed down. Perhaps this was because of the current economic conditions in Europe. For whatever reason the cupcake stores were closed down, I was nevertheless very sadden by not being able to eat cupcakes whilst in Paris. So, I ate plenty of macarons and desserts to make up for it.

Marcarons from Laduree.

Macarons from Pierre Herme.

Macaron a la framboise.

Macarons from Lenotre.

Nougatella (nougat nutella mousse) from a dessert bar in Paris.

After Paris, we made our way to sunny Barcelona! Barcelona was simply amazing – tapas, fresh fruit and friendly people. I even managed to source a cupcake from Florentine bakery. Although the cupcake was ‘nice’, I was just content with the opportunity to eat a cupcake after going cold turkey for 2 weeks straight without eating a cupcake! Let’s just say I was experiencing withdrawals and was a little more crabby than usual.

Vanilla marshmallow cupcake from Florentine bakery.

And here we are, four weeks later. As if it was all a dream and I have just woken from a coma … a food coma that is!  

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Best of both worlds!

I don't ever pretend to be anything but greedy! I want it all. After all, why can't I have my cupcake and eat it too?! If I can have the best of both worlds, why not?

Last year I wrote a blog post about my preferred method of icing cupcakes. Basically in the post, I categorised cupcakers as either spreaders or pipers. I personally categorised myself as a piper. In my humble cupcake opinion, there is nothing quite as pretty as a piped cupcake.

However, recently I have had a cupcake revelation. Why can't cupcakers be spreaders and pipers? Why am I so narrowed minded that I feel the need to categorise cupcakers by the way they choose to ice their cupcakes. I mean, that is cupcake discrimination and I am no bigot.

Nevertheless, I now identify myself as a cupcake spreader piper. So how does one become a cupcake spreader piper? Well it's easy! As Agent O-Zo (sorry, children's program reference) would say, just follow three simple steps:

Step 1: When you are filling your cupcake patty with the cupcake mixture, just fill half the patty. That way, the cupcake base will rise to the rim of the cupcake patty.

Step 2: Place a generous scope of icing on top of the cupcake base. Using a knife, spread the icing over the top of the cupcake base. Fill in any gaps between the cupcake base and the patty. By the end of this step, you should have a smooth surface of icing completely covering the cupcake base.

Step 3: Using your desired nozzle, pipe on your icing on top of the cupcake base.

And there you go. You get the best of both worlds! And the good news keeps on coming, by completely covering your cupcake base with icing, it keeps your cupcake base moist for longer! Ascetically pleasing and practical.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Cupcakes = Brain food

As you are well aware, my preferred method of cupcake decorating is to use fondant. Butter cream and royal icing are fine, but from my experience if you want the “wow” factor than fondant should be your cupcake decorating companion. Although I believe this whole heartedly, I must confess butter cream came through for me this past weekend.

I was very honoured that my dear friend Camila, who was planning her dad’s 50th birthday party, placed a cupcake order with me. Although I was slightly disturbed by her cupcake request – brains! Her dad is a psychologist who specialises in brain trauma. Hence his admiration for brains.

Although I found the idea somewhat difficult to stomach, I am not one to turn down a cupcake challenge. So after extensive google research, I realised that perhaps fondant was not the most appropriate cupcake decorating companion for this particular bake job. I know BLASPHEMY! In the given circumstances, it appeared that brains are best suited to butter cream!

Putting the brain cupcakes together was a lot easier than I had imagined. Basically, I made a batch of chocolate cupcakes, whipped up some vanilla butter cream frosting, mixed through a little pink and brown food colouring and piped little swiggly bits on top of the cupcake. And the next thing I knew, I had freakishly looking brains starring up at me.

Who would have thought, cupcakes were brain food?    

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Getting into the Olympic spirit

I have said it before and I will say it again, I married into an over achieving family! Yes, at times it does make me feel slightly incompetent. But then I think, it makes me over achieving by association and I am somewhat comforted by this notion. A fine and adequate example of my over achieving in-laws is my sister-in- law, Ash. Not only was she a Miss Universe contestant but she is also a part of the Australian National female hockey team, The Hockeyroos! And to top it all off, she has been selected to represent Australia at the 2012 London Olympics. Bah - I am exhausted just writing about her achievements!

As you can imagine, with the lead up to the Olympics, Ash has received considerable amount of publicity. The story writes itself really: "Not just a pretty face - Miss Universe contestant is to represent Australia at London Olympics". Our Ash even made the front page of The Westralian (one of the most popular daily newspapers in Western Australia). Don't be fooled by those big eyes and gorgeous face, she can do some serious damage with a hockey stick in hand!

Front page of the West Australia 3rd July 2012

We bid her farewell last week as The Hockeyroos made their way to London to prepare for the Olympics. To bid her farewell in the manner that she is accustom to (after all she is royalty being a Miss Universe contestant and all), the family organised a little party in her honour. Naturally and to which I did not object, I was put on cupcake duty.

To keep with the Olympic spirit, I decided to make Olympic themed cupcakes. I had to make the fondant toppers a few days early as I was flying to Singapore for work (literally fly in and fly out - I think I was there 20 hours in total)! My flight to Singapore was at 6AM, so I decided I would just work the night through as I had to be up and ready to leave the house at 3.30AM. After working the night through making little Olympic ring toppers for his baby sister, Brendyn woke up at 3.30AM and said sarcastically asked "Why did you use froot loops to make the toppers?!" and insert smirk here. I wanted to punch him in the face but I refrained as I needed a lift to the airport after all. Desperate times call for desperate measures, or more appropriately, reserve measures.

The cupcakes turned out well despite the Olympic ring toppers looked like they were made out of froot loops! They were all consumed and Ash was bid farewell in the manner that she deserved, a party complete with great company and copious amounts of food and champagne.

The Olympics is due to kick off in 5 days and her first match is soon after. To read about her Olympic experience, check out Ash's blog:

Keep an eye out for The Hockeyroos number 8, Ashleigh Nelson. Don't forget to cheer on our little Aussie batter/beauty queen.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Presenting our latest product:

Rainbow cupcake in a jar!

I came up with this idea when I was driving the kids (the niece and nephew) home from school. It was after a little storm had hit Perth and the sunny was shining and the rainbow was out loud and proud. Zac pointed out the rainbow and asked me if we can drive to the end of the rainbow, so that we could collect the pot of gold. As much as I thought that would be a great idea, I am also a realistic and I knew my chances of finding a pot of gold was the same as me winning the lotto.

So I thought to myself, what is the next best thing to finding a pot of gold or winning the lotto? Well, cupcakes of course! One thing led to another and voila the idea popped into my head, a rainbow cupcake in a jar - my own little version of a pot of gold (or at least the next best thing).

If you decide to try this at home, please be sure to check that the glass jar is thick enough to withstand the heat of the oven. Otherwise, the glass jar may shatter and that would not be fun for anyone! So bake with caution.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Sweet, sweet music

Mini Mousey had her first piano recital this past weekend! I can't believe how fast she has grown up. It feels like only yesterday that we were taking her home from the hospital. Now I am picking her up from school and attending her piano recitals!

Parents were asked to bring a plate of food to share after the recital. Ade, Mini's mum, asked me to make cupcakes. I mean, what choice did she really have?! Even if she didn't ask, I would have conveniently brought along a box filled with cupcakes appropriately themed of course!

Once I secured the bake job, I had to get cracking on the all important cupcake theme. Mini Mousey is a typical girlie girl! Everything has to be either pink, purple, gold or rainbow as these are "girl" colours. Every other colour apparently is a "boy" colour. Which is somewhat surprising as I thought yellow would be categorised as a "girl" colour - clearly not accordingly to the law of Mini. So basically, I had to make pink cupcakes and given that we were attending a piano recital, the cupcakes had to be piano themed. I consciously used the word "had" because I had no other real other choice.

There is only one thing sweeter than sweet, sweet music and that is sweet, sweet cupcakes!

Oh and in case you are interested, Mini Mousey did extremely well in her recital. Despite her short performance, she was outstanding. Not that I am bias at all. :)

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Cake pop machines

Over a month ago, Living Social (a coupon website) had cake pop machines for sale at a ridiculously discounted rate. For those who have not come across a cake pop machine before, it is basically an oven like contraption that you bake your cake mixture in and it forms a perfect ball. Therefore, making it a heck of a lot easier to make cake pops!

When I first saw this coupon, I must admit, I did consider buying it. I mean it would make by cake popping life so much easier. However, then I thought to myself: “Where’s the love?” (Not to worry, I am not going to recite the Black Eyed Peas song, despite how tempting it may be!) I remembered why I choose to bake on a daily basis and it because I love the process. Although I never use to, I love starting from scratch and producing little edible pieces of art! Now if I was to buy the cake pop machine, it would eliminate basically the whole baking/making process. There would be no need to bake a slab of cake, crumb the cake, mix the crumbs with icing and roll the mixture into balls. Although these steps are at times tedious, a lot of love goes into these steps and I believe it makes a lot of difference.

With a lot of things becoming mass produced, it is nice to keep some traditions. I know I sound like an old grandma and I am talking about cake pops which is a fairly new baking phenomenon, but hear me out. Although the machines are convenient (there is no denying that), in my opinion, what you save on time, you lack in taste. Basically, using the machines you will make perfectly round sponge cakes. Whereas if you were to make it the traditional way, you would make somewhat round, dense sponge cakes, but incredibly moist from the icing. I am sure once you decorate the cake pops, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. But once you bite into that cake pop, would you be able to? I think so.

Although this blog post sounds overly critical and somewhat righteous, please do not take it that way. It is just my take on the cake pop machine! In this day and age, time is so precious and if there are ways we can cut corners or do what is convenient, then we usually do – I mean I definitely guilty of that! However, this cake pop machine is just not for me. Although I may choose to take the convenient route in other facets of my life, baking is not one of them. Please know that I don’t judge the people who use the cake pop machine, I just choose not to.

My favourite thing about making cake pops is watching the faces of people when they bite into a beautifully decorated cake pop and taste a yummy homemade moist cake!  Ahhh, FML* on a stick – what more could you want?!

**For new blog readers, FML stands for my cupcake requirements – fluffy, moist and light (FML).  

Sunday, 3 June 2012

A Vintage Vixen Fair

The Vintage Vixen Fair has been and gone – Sunday, 27 May 2012 to be exact! Having had the experience of being a part of Unwrapped under my belt, I approached the Vintage Vixen Fair with care and caution. I set a realistic schedule and was adamant that I was sticking to it. The plan was  this:

·         Thursday – Shop for ingredients.
·         Friday morning – Make all the fondant toppers.
·         Friday evening – Make all the cake pops.
·         Saturday morning – Package all the cake pops.
·         Saturday evening to early hours of Sunday morning – Make cupcakes and if at all possible, squeeze in a few hours’ sleep.

Did I stick to my realistic schedule? No, I certainly did not. The only thing I stuck to was shopping for all the ingredients on Thursday. Sigh – will I ever learn? Doubtful.

So on Friday morning, I decided to go to the shops to pick up some last minute items to dress the stall. While at the shop, I received a telephone call from my partner in crime, also known as my business partner and sister-in-law, Adelyn, who thought it would be a great idea to dress our store with a candy buffet! What I thought was a great decorative idea, then turned into me making macarons and her shopping for all the decorative items required to make this vision a reality! So I madly rushed around the shops and picked up the ingredients needed to make macarons.

I got home and made all the fondant toppers. To fit in with the Vintage Vixen Fair theme, I made famous vintage Hollywood actors and actresses toppers, including: Bettie Page, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Elvis Presley and Audrey Hepburn.  I think I sat in the same spot for 10 hours straight making endless toppers. All up, I made over 700 toppers! Needless to say, it was somewhat EPIC.

By the time I put the toppers aside, it was 10PM. I decided I would make my cake for the cake pops. From memory, I made nine batches of my vanilla cupcake recipe. I put it in a gigantic baking tin and went for a little nap. Two hours later, I woke from my slumber and removed the cake tin from the oven. It appeared to be cook and by this stage, I was pretty proud of myself – I had slept and made my cake pop cake! The feeling of absolute bliss consumed me!

I then got stuck into my macarons. Surprising my macarons turned out perfectly! I will have to blog about this experience separately another time with some tips. Once I had made all the macarons, in my sleepless state I decided to individually wrap each macaron like little lollies. I thought it would fit nicely into our candy buffet display. In my head, I didn’t think it would take long but this genius idea cost me over 2 hours!

After I finished making and wrapping the macarons, I checked on the cake for the cake pops. And to my dismay, it was undercooked. I tried cutting the cake into quarters and baked them individually, but it work. I outside of the cake kept burning and the inside of the cake wouldn’t cook. Regrettably I had to throw out the cake slab. So let this be a lesson, always follow the recipe and do not try and cut corners by making a massive cake batter and trying to cook it into one tray at once. So yes peeps, I had to start again from scratch. The blissful feeling quickly faded and the feeling of devastation took its place.  

Before I knew it, it was day light again and Saturday morning was upon me! I frantically made 150 cake pops. And somewhere in between, I had the lovely Dayna and Adelyn over packaging the cake pops and poof just like that it was 8PM! At this stage, I had baked no cupcakes and the Vintage Vixen Fair was in 14 hours! One word comes to mind, YIKES!

So I did what any good baker would do in my situation, I baked the night through and iced cupcakes into the wee hours of the morning. When Adelyn came in the morning to pick me and my 700 cupcakes up, I was a little dazed and confused but my cupcakes looked great!

We set up our stall and had a relatively successful day at the fair. Check out the photos below. Our little stall reminds me of a little candy shop. Oh, how I wish I had a shop front!

Can you imagine having a cuppa and cupcake in a cupcakery decorated like this? One can only dream ...

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Lover of themes

As you are all well aware, I love all things themed. Whether it be themed parties, cupcakes or themed parties with appropriately themed cupcakes – I just love themes! From my baking experience, I have noticed that when I bake cupcakes with a particular theme in mind, the end result ALMOST always looks great!

I am not very adventurous, I tend to go about decorating my cupcakes in a similar fashion. I always pipe the icing on top of the cupcake with my all-time favourite nozzle, the Wilton 2D, and I always, always, always “Top the Cupcake” with an appropriately themed handmade fondant topper.

These past two weeks, I had two themed cupcake orders: a ladybird themed 1st birthday party and a nautical themed 23rd birthday party. Although two very different themes, they both turned out fabulous (if I don’t say so myself)! But that’s enough of me blowing smoke up of my own buttocks, I will let the photos speak for themselves. 

Ladybird themed 1st birthday party

 Regular sized cupcakes

 Mini sized cupcakes

Cake pops

Nautical themed 23rd birthday party

 Regular sized cupcakes

Cake pops

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Cheater, cheater, compulsive eater

So it was Zachary’s birthday last month and his parents decided to have a very small family celebration for his birthday. As always I was appointed with the important role of organising the all-important birthday cake or cupcakes.

Being the bad Aunty Tina and the time poor person that I am, I simply ran out of time and didn’t make Zachary a cake or cupcakes. He had even put in a special request for “Octonauts” themed cupcakes too! On the day of Zachary’s birthday, I managed to get out of work an hour early (by “get out of work”, I actually mean, I sneaked out of work through the stairwell hoping that no one would notice).

On the drive over to my parental’s house, I decided that instead of arriving empty handed and potentially upsetting my favourite nephew on his birthday (FYI, he is my favourite nephew by default as he is my only nephew. Nevertheless, I do believe in favouritism and making the children fight for your affection. What?! I love being loved!). I decided to drive to Coles and buy the premade cupcakes and to cheat and make paper cupcake toppers instead of fondant edible toppers.

I madly rushed into Coles and picked up a packet of their premade mini cupcakes. They were dirt cheap too - $6 bucks for 12 mini cupcakes! I then madly rushed home to make the paper cupcake toppers. Basically, in a word document using the drawing tools, I drew a bubble cloud (not sure whether that is the correct terminology) in blue and inserted the Octonauts characters into the centre of each bubble cloud. I printed the images on the cardboard, cut them out and stuck a tooth pick on the back of each bubble cloud. 

When I got to my parental’s house, I was so nervous that Zachary would be able smell the baking infidelity seeping through my pores. But thankfully he didn’t. He was just simply excited to hear that I had “made” him special cupcakes. So yes, I lied to my little nephew. I had ripped off the Coles packaging on the drive over to my parental’s house. I did it for Zachary’s own good or at least that is what I tell myself in order to get to sleep at night!

When it came to cupcake time, I stuck the Octonauts toppers into the mini cupcakes and we were all good to go. Zachary didn’t even seem to notice that the toppers weren’t edible. He was just so excited that they were Octonauts themed! Who knew kids were so easy to please. It did make me wonder why I spent all those sleepless nights in the past making such intricate cupcake toppers for him given how pleased he was with the paper toppers that I whipped up in a matter of minutes!

The next day when I picked him up from school, the following conversation took place:
Z: “Aunty Tina did you make my Octonauts cupcakes?”
A T: “Of course I did monkey! Why do you ask?”
Z: “Did you put dirt into the cupcakes instead of chocolate by mistake? Because the cupcakes tasted a little bit like dirt!”

Ahhh kids, bless their honesty! I guess there is a reason why the Coles cupcakes are dirt cheap (excuse the pun). But in all fairness, unlike Zachary, I didn’t mind the Coles cupcakes! The icing was quite nice but the cupcake base was a little too dense for my liking. But not dirt tasting in the slightest.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Move over Dora the Explorer, Hoot and Hootabelle are so hot right now!

Anyone who has a child under the age of five would be able to tell you who Hoot and Hootabelle are. For the nonparents who are reading, let me put it into perspective for you, Hoot and Hootabelle to kids is the equivalent of One Direction to a teenage girl! The kids are obsessed with these talking owls and there is merchandise everywhere to prove it. I would go as far as to say that Hoot and Hootabelle is the new Dora the Explorer (I know, big claim).
I was first introduced to Hoot and Hootabelle by my little niece Livy who absolutely adores Hoot and owls in general. Her impersonation of an owl is particularly cute – "hoot, hoot"!
This weekend, I had a Hoot and Hootabelle cupcake order for a 1st birthday party for a set of beautiful twins. When I accepted the order, I thought it would be a particularly easy bake job. But as expected, I know very little, and was in fact very wrong. I had to make Hoot and Hootabelle stencils and make each topper by hand. It was a time costly affair, but the end result was pretty darn cute.

I made the stencils out of cardboard and had to individually hand cut each shape out of fondant and stick each layer of fondant on top of each other. As you can see, the Hoot and Hootabelle characters are quite intricate (something I clearly did not considered). Nevertheless, it was all worth it - HOOT HOOT!

Sunday, 6 May 2012

To bean, paste or extract?

I have been meaning to blog about this for a while but seem to always run short of time. I am eager to hear other bakers's opinions on the matter, so please do not be shy as this is an issue close to my baking heart.  

My dilemma is this: when it comes to making vanilla cupcakes, do you use vanilla bean, vanilla paste or vanilla extract? These are the sort of hard hitting questions I have to deal with on a daily basis. I know, I live a tough existence.  

To be entirely honest, I have made vanilla cupcakes using all three vanilla forms (not all in the same cupcake batch) and I am undecided. Well that is not entirely true, I prefer vanilla bean and paste over extract any day. However, I use vanilla extract in my buttercream icing, so I don't want to go bagging vanilla extract out too much!  

So, why am I so hating on vanilla extract? I don't know how to explain it without sounding like some crazy over protective mother (which FYI, I am not - I don't plan on having kids for another 40 or 50 years, i.e. until someone creates a machine that can teleport babies out of one's stomach)! But here goes nothing, I feel as though I am cheating the system by using vanilla extract because it is not really "vanilla", it is vanilla flavouring. And as you know (from previous posts), where ever possible I try to avoid using colouring and artificial flavourings in my bake goods.  

Vanilla paste, on the other hand, is great. One teaspoon of this bad boy or girl (I feel the need to be PC (politically correct) on my blog) is the equivalent of one whole vanilla bean with vanilla seeds. However, being ten dollars (AUD) a pop, it can prove to be a costly affair. But I guess the more important question is: is it worth it? Absolutely! The vanilla paste really packs a punch and is worth every cent. It adds a real vanilla flavour kick to cupcakes. Personally, I love a good vanilla cupcake and I believe vanilla paste provides you with that strong vanilla flavour. Also, it's awesome that you are able to see the vanilla seeds in the cupcake itself. Flavour you can see - literally!   

I must admit, I used seeds from real vanilla beans for the first time a few weeks ago. I had these vanilla beans sitting in my pantry for a few decent months before actually putting them to use! They were given to me from some dear friends, Jules and Trista, who had returned from Bali and gave me a bag. Apparently, they are cheap as chips in B-Town (B for Bail or Bingtang - read it how you will). And the verdict? In my opinion, it was no different then using the vanilla paste. The only difference was I had to cut the vanilla bean in half and scrape the seeds into the batter, oppose to just simply pouring the paste in. A little more effort, but the same result, at a slightly more cheaper price.  

So in summary, for fantastic vanilla cupcakes use either vanilla paste or actual vanilla beans. If you are somewhat lazy, like me, I would recommend the paste. If you are more eager, unlike me, I would recommend the real deal and go with the actual beans (as it might be a tad cheaper). 

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Happy first birthday!

One year ago today, I started this blog, Top the Cupcake! And here we are today, 365 days, 121 post, and 23,738 hits later. What started off as a blog in search of the perfect cupcake has now turned into a side business and cupcake obsession!

After a mammoth year, it only seemed appropriate to celebrate with a cupcake.

Happy first birthday Top the Cupcake!
Here’s to many more birthdays.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

And we are doing it all over again ...

That’s right peeps, Top the Cupcake has been enlisted for yet another market. This time Top the Cupcake will be appearing at the Vintage Vixens and Vamps Fair IV on Sunday, 27 May 2012 in Fremantle. 

Ever since I made this known to the public, everyone has been asking me whether Brendyn is aware of this enlistment (given the saga that arose in my last market involvement). To read the blog post about it, please click here. And to answer this question, yes he does! Having said that, he may have got a grey hair or two since hearing about the news!  

So if you can, get down to Fremantle Town Hall on Sunday, 27 May 2012 and get your vintage on with a cupcake in hand.  

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Secondly, I wanted to share this youtube link with you all: “Shit Perth People Say”.
Ok, disclaimer time. This blog post isn’t really cupcake related. It more an opportunity for me to indulged in self-loathing criticism in a public forum with a willing audience.

I made the above cupcake for two reasons. Firstly, despite what people who reside in Perth say, I really do love living in Perth. Yes, it may be “behind with the times” with no day light saving and short trading hours, but what we lack or should I say “lag”, we make up for in beautiful scenery and a great standard and pace of life.

Not only did this video make me giggle, but it also opened my eyes to something quite appalling. It pains me to admit this, but I say “yeah, nahhhhh”. I am not sure how or why I started to do this, but I am constantly catching myself saying it. I am not sure whether I am annoying others when I say it, but I sure as hell annoy myself when I do! What does “yeah, nahhhhh” even mean? I mean, it is a complete contradiction! Why would you say “yeah” to only then say “nahhhhh” a few seconds later?! It is crazy and I am a crazy person who constantly says it! So please, if you ever catch me saying “yeah, nahhhhh”, please do me a favour and slap me in the face because if you don't, I will!

Thank you in advance!

Friday, 20 April 2012

Big mistake, big reward!

When life gets busy, the first thing I tend to neglect is my blog! Well actually that is not entirely true, I gave up on the gym first, suspended my gym membership and then I neglected my blog. So what have been getting up to lately? Baking wise – quite a bit.

A few weekends ago, I decided to do some experiential baking and made passionfruit curd cupcakes. I decided to make these cupcakes after a very expensive mistake at the local grocery store.  I misread the price signage and thought the sign read “$1.49 per kilo”. It actually read “$1.49 each”. So by the time I realised I had made this very expensive mistake, I was already walking out to the car with 12 passionfruit in hand.

So what does one do with 12 passionfruit in one’s possession? Why one makes passionfruit curd of course! I decided to use a Nigella Lawson recipe for this as she is not only a brilliant cook, but also so, so, so pretty! However, I did make some alterations to the recipe.  I strained the passionfruit before adding it to the mixture as the thought of crunching on passionfruit seeds as I bite into my passionfruit curd cupcake was not in the slightest bit appealing. Also, while cooking it over low heat, I added about 2 tablespoons of sifted cornflour to thicken the curd. While the passionfruit curd was cooling, I made my all-time favourite vanilla cupcakes (not surprisingly) and buttercream frosting.

To put the passionfruit curd cupcakes together, I cut a little hole out of the top of cupcake, spooned in the passionfruit curd and put the top of the cupcake back in. A cupcake is not a cupcake without icing, so of course I piped some buttercream frosting on top.

Needless to say, it was delicious! I will definitely be making this passionfruit curd again – it was very tangy and had a good kick to it. So if you like a tangy dessert, make this!