Cupcake Monday! I Finally Made My Own
I've found on a few occasions that people assumed I was great at making cakes because of Cupcake Monday, and rightly so! You would think if someone was so into something that is so simple in its most basic incarnation, that she would be doing it herself. Well, I tried. Sort of. I bought fondant icing on two occasions and both went rock hard after being abandoned in the cupboard. I've seen people do incredible things with it like this and this, so that block of turquoise gum paste represented seemingly impossible challenges. What about buttercream, then? I tried using a piping bag once and nearly beat it to death. And our oven sucks. Baking is less forgiving than regular cooking so I was put off knowing that whatever came out would not be as good as it could be. It was put in new by the previous owners and is unbranded - no manufacturer wants their name on it, it's that good! I like the gas hob, but the electric oven cooks very unevenly so you have to rotate the dish or pan halfway through, so you can't cook anything that could fall. No souffles for us! Finally, I put my name down not once, but three times, for classes at a local cake decorating shop. They never called. I wondered if I was destined to be a spectator and never a participant.
Then a few months ago a shop called Ladybird Cakes moved to a location that I walk by often and of course I went in. And they don't just collect lists of names, they actually do the classes! And this is where I spent six hours yesterday learning that it's very easy to make pretty decorations if someone knowledgable just shows you how. (Not counting sculpting a cute rubber ducky-type duck which looked great when Laura, the owner, did it, and just sad when I had a go. It wasn't good to begin with, then the heat in the room made it sink into itself and in the end I just rolled it up into a ball to put it out of its misery, and to keep other people from seeing my shame.)
We did three other things - rolled out fondant and pressed out decorations using flower-shaped cutters, or pressed in using moulds to make all kinds of buttons, vintage patterned buttons, and veined flowers such as hydrangeas. We embossed swirly designs and button patterns (see the bottom left cupcake above for embossing and decoration with fondant buttons) ; and finally we used the piping bag to decorate with buttercream and add fine detail - no violence even! I have a lot of practising ahead of me to get it perfect, but I was chuffed when I got by without having to scrape off any mistakes - some were meant to be one thing but wound up something else, yet still worked. I think the hard part is actually making huge batches of frosting and sticking it in the bag, and then having to deal with cleaning it after - all of which was done for us. That was worth half the fee!
My decorations made and laid out. I chose the best ones to use and was proud that I made the biggest mess.
It was a great day and I came away being able to do something I couldn't before. And I found that if you make large decorations, you can cover up a whole bunch of icing sins with no one the wiser (see the cupcake with the big daisy in the header photo). And I learned that although fondant/royal icing/gum paste (they're all the same thing) decorations look fantastic, you really don't want to eat them, even if you made them. Hands have been all over those things.
Photos © The Swelle Life