October 2011

Chocolate owls

A few weeks ago I was browsing the magical world of Pinterest and came across a cute project that involved owls. I am always looking for excuses to bake more things and so, I shared the idea with a friend at church and that’s how I ended up baking more than 100 cupcakes for my church this week. The owls were given away as part of the Teacher Appreciation week and kept my oven warm all week long.

The owls were SO easy to do! The original idea, I believe, was published in the book Hello Cupcake! I don’t own the book but many blogs listed it as the source of inspiration. Without real instructions to follow and improvising my ingredients, this is what I came up with:

The owls were made out of chocolate cupcakes. Choose your favorite batter and have fun baking as many as you need (we have about 120 teachers in the School of Religion so, this kept me busy the whole week as I delivered the cupcakes in small batches, according to their class schedule.)

12 cupcakes (multiplied by 10!)

The next step in my kitchen is the filling. No, you don’t have to fill your cupcakes! But I like the idea of biting into a soft, spongy cake, covered with silky buttercream, and finding a little surprise in the middle: fruit marmalade, delicious cream, or even a little bit of the same buttercream used for the icing… I’m drooling already!

White Chocolate filling

For my Chocolate Owls I used a White Chocolate Cream I came across (thanks Google!)

[note_box]Normally I would enhance this cream with a little bit of orange liqueur. Sadly, I’m out of Grand Marnier these days and so, I had to do without it.[/note_box]

The next step on this particular project was covering my cupcakes with ganache.
Ganache is just some fancy word for melted chocolate sauce… delicious chocolate sauce! Luscious, silky, shiny chocolate sauce … Don’t let the fancy name stop you from trying this. It’s as simple as it gets!
Chop some bittersweet chocolate, add some heavy cream and butter, stir gently and witness a miracle!

 

The simple pleasure of making ganache

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  • 8 ounces (227 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoons cognac or brandy (optional)

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Place the chopped chocolate in a medium sized heatproof bowl. Set aside.
Heat the cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. (Can also heat the cream and butter in the microwave.) Bring just to a boil.
Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand, without stirring, for a few minutes. Stir gently (as you do not want to incorporate air into the ganache) with a spoon or whisk until smooth. If desired, add the liqueur.

Makes enough ganache to cover one – 9 inch (23 cm) cake or torte.

Thanks to the Joy of Baking for sharing the recipe and this helpful video!

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Working with ganache is a messy job, but somebody has to do it! Take your cupcakes and dip them in the ganache, while it’s still warm. After a few days of doing this every night I started to believe that I have liquid chocolate running in my veins! … Here is the proof! LOL

 

Bleeding chocolate

Let the ganache sit for a bit (you may want to stick the cupcakes in the refrigerator for a while) and you are ready for the fun part!

For the eyes: Grab a few mini Oreo cookies (mini cream filled chocolate sandwich cookies) and separate them. Supposedly you could use the cream sided cookie facing up, but I found that the cream didn’t stick to all the cookies, or maybe it had crumbs (resulting into “dirty white” on the eyes). I scraped the cream off (my husband was delighted with the left overs!) and replaced it with little circles of white fondant.

 

Making eyes out of fondant

Use brown Reese’s Pieces (candy in a crunchy shell, for those of you who are not familiar with this sweet treat) for the eyeballs and yellow ones for the beaks.

Play with chocolate frosting to create feathery eyebrows (store bought frosting is fine. The texture is right, the flavor is OK, and you only need a few drops here and there.)

Your owls are now ready to fly! 😉

 

Ready to leave the nest!

NOTE: After I was done with this project, and the last of my owls had flown the nest, I sat down to write this post and came across this recipe for Owl Cupcakes… Would have been nice to have read it a week ago! LOL Oh well, cupcakes were fun to make! 😉

Spiced Cupcakes with Rum Buttercream

Fall season is here! The temperatures are finally dropping, there’s a cool breeze blowing through the window and warming up the kitchen with some delicious baked goods makes my heart happy!

This week I had the opportunity of making my first Spiced cupcakes ever! Somebody should have warned me! The smell of nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon filled my kitchen and suddenly I had Thanksgiving Day in October! These cupcakes were part of a special order placed by a friend. I actually baked about 35 little puppies for her, but only 10 of them had special Autumn decorations.

The other 25 cupcakes I baked were the most beautiful chocolate gluten-free I ever baked… They rose [rose??? cakes rise, right? so, I guess my cupcakes rose???] Anyways, they looked perfect!!! I did half of them in yellow liners and the other half were blue (the colors of the School of Public Health at Emory, in Atlanta, where my friend attends)… They had the right temperature to rise to their most beautiful shape and goodness… They made their Mamma proud! …

My beautiful chocolate gluten-free cupcakes BEFORE the gnomes attacked and peeled off their liners!

 

And then, I went to bed only to wake up to a baker disaster! … My cupcakes, my beautiful cupcakes! They were attacked by some nocturnal gnome and the wrappers on each and every single one of them had peeled off!!!!!!!!!!!! …

The culprit liners! No wonder why Amazon had them 50% off!

OK, maybe it wasn’t the gnomes… It wasn’t even my Husband nor my dog! It was my own fault for having the absurd idea of using grease-proof liners for the first time!!!! Really a sad moment for baking history!

At that point, 7:00AM on the day of delivery, the only thing I could do for those cupcakes was to add a second liner and hope for the best. But the damage was done… I was so upset I didn’t even take pictures of the victims. Maybe next time I use those stupid liners I will have the courage to document my mistake! (I have another 25 of them left! … Boooooo!)

But, back to beautiful memories, the Autumn themed cupcakes turned out to be as delicious as they looked. The batter was enhanced with Flor de Caña (a smooth rum imported from Nicaragua) and orange juice infused with clove, nutmeg and cinnamon, simmered to perfection before I added it to my batter… as I said at the beginning, the smell of all these wonderful aromas in my kitchen made me feel so grateful for the cool weather, and the colors on the leaves!

By the way, the leaves on the cupcakes were hand molded the night before and painted while waiting for my buttercream to thicken, the morning after. This project was so much fun, I might as well just repeated again this coming week, as I must bring cupcakes to celebrate October birthdays at my office!

Sweet things to look forward! 🙂