Okay, I know you might be thinking this isn’t exactly a topic for gumpasting, but I wanted to share some of the insights I learned when making some pretty purple cupcakes I used to accompany a cake that did have some of my gumpasting on (which I will be posting shortly).
To be honest I can only remember one other time recently that I made cupcakes and as you can see (below) the icing job did not turn out as I envisioned. So, when my daughter thought it would be nice to have cupcakes at her baby daughter’s “Hello” party I knew I had to get my act to together. Here are the things that I learned.
Making Uniform Sized Cupcakes
Uniform size is a must, so I did a trial run of my recipe for cupcakes and discovered it was harder than I thought to get nice, even amounts of batter into each individual cup. Not to mention, I was dripping it all over the place (sigh) when I was using a measuring cup. So, I turned to the good old Internet for help with one site suggesting weighing each one, but I felt that was too time consuming for me. I ended up using the one piece of advice that I read about in several places which was to use a #20 cookie scoop to measure out the batter. It was great because the three tablespoons of batter it holds was the perfect amount to produce finished cupcakes that peak just above the paper liner. My mini Le Creuset spatula came in handy as well to remove excess batter.
Keeping Them Fresh
Cupcakes go stale quite quickly, so it is best to bake them on the day of your event. Well, that is fine if you are only making 20 or so and/or there is nothing else on your menu. However, I found you can make them the day ahead if you place slices of cheap white bread (my husband calls it “air bread” and he found a loaf of it on sale for 87 cents) on top of them which will help keep them fresh. I learned this terrific tip from Melanie Pinola’s article, Keep Cakes Moist Overnight with a Slice of Bread. It worked like a charm. A second way to keep your cupcakes fresher is not to bake them in silicone baking cups. Instead, used the old tried and true paper liners which help lock the moisture in.
Finding the Right Piping Tip and Bag for Icing
I looked at lots of cupcake sites on the Internet trying to decide which piping tip to use. As it turns out there are quite a few choices out there. First, you need to determine if you want a closed star or an open star. At first glance they may appear to be both the same, but there is a slight difference when piping the frosting into a nice swirl on top of your cupcakes. In the end I opted for the large Ateco #855 (a closed star) tip which makes pretty swirls very quickly. FYI: These types of tips do not need plastic couplers.
If you are going to be making a lot of cupcakes may I suggest getting two of the same tips (as I did) because it is a real time saver having two bags of frosting ready to go. I did not count at the time, but it seems to me I was able to frost at least 21 cupcakes per bag and having two bags meant I did not have to stop and clean the tips while part way through the process. Of course, if you were to make a larger amount than that, you might want to buy more than two tips.
The one thing I hate about frosting is cleaning up afterward. So, I am all on board with using disposable bags. I decided to get some 21” DayMark disposable bags and they were fabulous. It made my frosting job a breeze.
Making A Two-Toned Cupcake
Since my granddaughter’s name is Violet I knew I wanted the frosting to have some shade of this coloring in it. So, when I saw some pictures of two-toned cupcakes I knew it was the perfect way to incorporate violet coloring. The only problem was that I had never done anything like this before. Fortunately for me I found the very best YouTube video by the renowned, Paul Bradford titled “How to Make a Two Tone Swirl Cupcake”. He is fabulous and it is amazing how much information he packs into only seven minutes. FYI: Paul Bradford also has a wonderful online school for sugarcrafting I hope you check it out.
Coloring Tip: Paul Bradford uses Sugarflair Grape-Violet Paste Food Colouring in his video. Needless to say, I am ecstatic I had some of this gel coloring because as it produces truly the prettiest violet coloring ever!
The Finishing Touches
Update (11/2016): Since posting this article I’ve written a revised evaluation about the cupcake liners mentioned below. See Sweets & Treats Boutique Cupcake Liners (Product Review).
As I mentioned above you will want to use cupcake liners to preserve the freshness and until a couple of months ago I thought all liners were the same. Then I read Elizabeth Marek’s wonderful book, Artisan Cake Company’s Visual Guide to Cake Decorating, where she suggests using “oil-proof” liners. Here are two great articles on them: Essentials: Cupcake Liners from My Baking addiction and Bake Bright Grease Proof Liners – See the Difference from The Java Cupcake. Since they were mentioned in both articles, I opted for the Sweets & Treats Boutique cupcake liners. I was like a kid in a candy store because I decided to order several different colors and one of my favorites was the purple & white Damask liners.
If you have read any of my other articles you may notice I love assorted dragees (also known as edible beads or pearls) for gumpasting. As it turns out they are so much fun for topping cupcakes too. I also found that adding a little sanding sugar not only tasted good but adds a little lavender sparkle. Nice!
Twinkle Baker Décor (Really pretty sprinkles!!!)
There you have it, all the things I learned (or at least I can remember now) to make my special purple cupcakes. I hope you agree I did a better job this time around.