My affair with cupcakes began when a coworker brought miniature carrot cupcakes to someone's going away party at a place where I was working at the time. They were from a local bakery. Any cupcakes I've had before were always overly sweet, stale, gooey and altogether unappetizing. But these were like nothing I've ever tasted. And as soon as I bit into one, that, my friends, was it. Freshly baked just hours before, it was a perfect combination of tart and sweet. The delicate softness of the cake combined with the freshly whipped cream cheese with sugar dust and lemon zest was actually the most memorable and the most positive moment from my entire time at that job. That day a new world was opened up to me. A world I did not know existed, and a world which after that first bite I couldn't imagine leaving. There simply was no going back.
However, the effect of that first bite was not that I wanted to eat more of these cupcakes, but that I wanted to learn how to make them. My goal then became to recreate that perfect texture of the cupcakes with tiny carrot threads and dark sprinkles of nutmeg, and the almost cloud-like lightness of the cream cheese frosting with shredded bits of lemon skin.
Several months and a few dozen baked cupcakes later, I had accomplished that task when I made miniature carrot cupcakes for my stepfather's birthday party. They were an instant success. Shortly after that, satisfied to have accomplished my mission, I was in a bakery buying some danishes. Then I saw something. Behind the glass were cupcakes, in blue fluted cups, with swirls of white frosting. And on top of each swirl were tiny, delicate hand-crafted fondant daisies, white and blue and pink with pastel-green leaflets. (This was when the cupcake craze was just beginning). This sight was another revelation: you can use these teacup-sized cakes as your own personal canvas. The rest, as they say, was history. I had discovered my life's calling.
Here are the cupcakes that I made for this Easter week. This post is instructional rather than a recipe-based post, as my focus was not to arrive at the perfect-tasting cupcake, but rather to practice cupcake decoration. I used a simple vanilla cupcake recipe, and butter-cream icing for piping. I made cream-cheese lemon frosting similar to what I posted here to use as my main base. Decorative tidbits were made with marzipan.
The cupcakes below, inspired by this Easter cupcake design, remind me of a falcon's nest.
Falcons typically nest on cliff tops. The shards of chocolate - which was melted, frozen as a thin layer on wax paper, and then broken into shards - remind me of cliff edges or sharp rocks. The nesting material is made with toasted coconut shavings.
The white base is the butter-cream icing to secure the chocolate pieces, as butter-cream hardens when it cools.
The eggs are marzipan with food coloring, which I hand-molded into egg shapes.
Pictured below is my "Spring Bunny" cupcake.
When we had a rabbit, his relaxed or sleepy posture would be sitting on all legs in an egg-like shape, with his head pressed back, and the ears resting on top of his back. We also have some some of the cutest wild rabbits in our yard who love to sit that way in the grass among the flowers.
The base is cream-cheese frosting.
The rabbit was hand-molded using marzipan. The eyes were painted with melted chocolate, the nose is marzipan. The flowers were made with rolled marzipan and a flower fondant cutter, using yellow sugar crystals in the center.
Below is just for fun - I also made cheerful floral cupcakes with marzipan snails.
Foundation is pink butter-cream frosting piped (using a petal tip) on top of the cake, sprinkled with yellow sugar. My husband is fond of snails, so these ones were for him. I'm not sure what to call this one, perhaps "Spring Snail"?