This week, my friend Erica's grandma turned 99. Ninety-nine! Now that's really something to celebrate. I haven't had the pleasure to meet her, but I heard she is really lovely. Their family must have been excited to have four generations together to celebrate.
I made cupcakes for a baby shower for Erica a few weeks ago (more on those cuties later), and Erica and her mom asked for the same vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting. Together, we settled on some simple fondant flower decorations with one special cupcake for the birthday girl. I thought it would be really pretty to make one special flower per cupcake and tint the frosting just barely pink to set off the colors beautifully.
I made roses, carnations (not great as real flowers, but actually very pretty rendered in gumpaste), mums, and one unnamed, sort of modern-looking flower (the orange one).
Here's the special celebratory cupcake:
And here's everything all together:
The stars are strung on floral wire. To make sure they are food-safe, I insert a cut drinking straw into the cupcake, feed all the floral wire into the straw, and then pipe a dab of frosting on the top to conceal it. The stars stand up (and the floral wire can be bent however you like), the straw keeps them bunched together so they don't fall over, and then the straw and wires are easily removed before eating.
I've recently been using a new white cake recipe which I hadn't really been able to try (no leftovers!) so this time I tasted a cupcake. The verdict is still out on these. They have a really fine crumb, they are easy enough to put together, they rose just perfectly, and they're not too sweet. However, I found there was a slight tang to them that was either metallic or chemical tasting. My sister-in-law didn't think so, and she has a pretty discerning palate, so maybe I'm crazy. I would definitely give them another try. I do think this recipe might be too delicate to do a lot of carving if you were doing a shaped cake, but for cupcakes or a standard layer cake, it works just fine. The recipe comes from Sweetapolita, who has done extensive white cake research and really likes this recipe. Given that she has made it many times with success, I'll probably give them another go. I'm still on the hunt for the recipe I like best - so many of them end up tasting like cornbread, which I find very odd!
The cupcakes are frosted with basic vanilla bakery buttercream (link below). And the decorations are gumpaste, in some cases with a little tylose powder kneaded in because the gumpaste was so sticky! I used Pettinice, since Wilton's tastes so terrible to me, but Pettinice really does not dry up completely firm, which is the whole point of gumpaste. So perhaps in the future I will either use more tylose or switch brands.
Sweetapolita's cake recipe is apparently adapted slightly from Baking Bites. She does note that you must be very accurate with measuring because even just a little more liquid can throw things off. I really haven't had an issue, and I've made this recipe at least three times. It is a slightly different method (starting with the flour, rather than starting by creaming the butter and sugar), but I will write it all out below.
Sweetapolita's Fluffy Vanilla Cake
Makes one 2-layer 8" or 9" round cake or 21 cupcakes
5 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 cup whole milk, at room temperature
2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups (10 ounces) cake flour, measured after sifting
1 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces) sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into cubes
1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
Preheat oven to 350. Line pans with parchment or baking cups.
In a small bowl, combine egg whites, 1/4 cup milk, and vanilla, and set aside.
In the electric mixer bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together for 30 seconds on low. Add the butter and 1/2 cup milk, and mix on low until just moistened. Increase speed to medium and mix for 90 seconds.
Scrape down the sides. Add the egg mixture in three separate batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition.
Pour the batter into the cake pans or cupcake tins. Bake cakes for 25-35 minutes, and cupcakes for 17-20 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted in the center. The cake will be light golden brown. Be careful not to overbake. It is a good idea to set the timer several minutes early and begin checking it approximately once every minute for doneness. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes and then invert cakes onto wire racks to cool. For cupcakes, I like to take them out of the tin almost immediately so they don't start to steam (which toughens them up). Frost and serve!