Saucy's friend 'Lil Sarge wanted baking lessons for her birthday. She told Sarge and Pepper, and it was set up. Saturday was the first session. Saucy decided that since 'Lil Sarge had already mastered baking basic cupcakes using the blog tips, it was time to attempt a few twists to the cupcake experience: carrot cakes with crumble topping, hummingbird cakes (tropical pineapple cupcakes) and of course, dark chocolate.
Reader Carlene D asked two questions on the last post: the answers are right here. Saucy does indeed use a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, and she'd never go back. She had a funky old Sunbeam that she swore by since she was in high school but when Veto suggested getting a Kitchen Aid at Costco, she jumped at the chance. It was promptly returned: that model was too heavy for Saucy to wield around the countertop and she wasn't a fan of the rounded bowl bottom. It's just a preference. If you do lots of cooked egg white frostings, you might want the option to use the rounded bowl as a double boiler. But Saucy found it unwieldy and frustrating, the way it bobbled around like a Weeble toy.
Costco graciously accepted the mixer as a return (Saucy also found the pro model too noisy for her little kitchen, she needs to hear her music while she works) and she found a smaller version elsewhere - at a better price - and is much happier with it.
If you invest in such a mixer, try to find extra bowls for it, you won't be sorry. They are often available in promo packs at time of purchase, or you can find them later on eBay. The size you need will be etched in the bottom of the bowl that comes with your machine (Saucy's is K45) so you can keep your eyes peeled for a good price. It's worth it to have two. One for batter, one for frosting.
While the batches of cupcakes baked, 'Lil Sarge whipped up a batch of Saucy's buttercream and also a batch of cream cheese frosting. Then and there, 'Lil Sarge and Saucy decided that she would like a Kitchen Aid mixer of her own for Christmas. Saucy wants Sarge to know that in October, the pink mixers are for sale during Breast Cancer Awareness month, wouldn't it be nice to put one away for Christmas morning then?
Since fondant flowers were also on the lesson plan for the day, it was time to mix up a recipe of marshmallow fondant... just a small batch.
First, measure 8 ounces (approx 4 cups, not packed) into a microwave safe bowl. Add 2 tbsp water and put in the microwave oven on high for one minute, until the marshmallows appear all fluffy.
Remove from microwave and stir with a spatula until any unmelted bits of marshmallow break down and the mixture is smooth. If you still have marshmallow lumps, return the bowl to the microwave for about 30 seconds.
The next part is tricky... you'll need some elbow grease. Measure out four cups (about 1 pound) of confectioners' sugar and start stirring it into the marshmallow mixture. It will be easy enough at the start but eventually it will stiffen up and get too hard to stir...
Then, turn the sticky, gooey marshmallow mixture out onto a counter lightly dusted with more icing sugar. Start kneading the fondant and add more sugar as you go. It takes a while to work into the mixture nicely and your hands will be very sticky at the start. As you work the fondant, your hands will get less sticky and the mixture will begin to appear smooth.
Knead, adding more sugar until the fondant is firm but still pliable. You don't want to add too much of the sugar, you might end up with a fondant that is too stiff to work with. You may not need to add the entire four cups of sugar.
If you would like to tint or flavour your fondant, you can now divide it as you like. Use a paste food dye (such as Wilton) and flatten the fondant you wish to colour into a small disc, with a dab of the colouring in the middle. Fold it over, and then start kneading it through the fondant. You might want to wear kitchen gloves for this part... it can be a tad messy until it's worked in and you don't want green cuticles, do you?
The fondant must be thoroughly kneaded to achieve a smooth, even distribution of the colour. You don't want a marble effect.
Time to start rolling your fondant on a counter lightly dusted with more confectioners' sugar:
The fondant is lovely to work with... smooth and pliable. If you have added the right amount of sugar, it will hold its shape nicely. If it wants to shrink back after you roll it, you need to add more sugar.
'Lil Sarge cut flowers in all shapes to top the assortment of cupcakes. On this day and for this lesson, Saucy did the piping of the buttercream and 'Lil Sarge assembled her fondant flowers on each cupcake, using a piping bag of buttercream fitted with a very fine tip so she could "glue" her flowers together.
Before too long, 'Lil Sarge was cranking out some pretty impressive floral creations on the cupcakes. Saucy almost couldn't frost them fast enough for decorating.
Carrot cake with crumble topping, frosted with cream cheese icing and decorated with 'Lil Sarge's flower creations.
The hummingbird cupcakes - basic vanilla cupcakes amped up with pineapple juice as fluid, crushed pineapple folded into the batter and just a smack of yellow food colouring. Frosted with this beautiful moss green buttercream before getting the sweet little flower added.
You can use the upside of the basket weave tip to create an unusual frosting pattern.
There's something striking about a nice assortment of cupcakes, all decorated according to a theme, don't you agree? A batch of cupcakes like this would be an amazing Mother's Day treat.
Don't forget to try your leaf tip when frosting a cupcake for a funky, imperfect swirly effect.
What a cute trio of cupcakes! Have you ever seen anything cuter? Oh, wait...
C'mon, Reader *mad props* and *applause* to 'Lil Sarge for completing her first lesson in Saucy's kitchen classroom. Next thing you know, she'll be teaching us a thing or two. In the meantime, she and Saucy plan to work their way up to a full sized, layered fondant covered cake. Stay tuned!
Carlene D, these photos were taken with the Canon Rebel xSi, the one Saucy cashed in her Air Miles for last year. After fretting between the Nikon D60 and the Canon, she's glad she went with the Rebel. An informal blog poll revealed that is what most of the blog readers are using, and there were no bad reviews. Saucy lurrves hers and as much as she uses it, she's not even using it to its fullest potential, but the upcoming Loopy Fashion Shoots will surely change that.
Ask your friends what they like and don't like about their cameras. For Saucy (who went to a camera store to handle the goods before ordering), the weight of the unit was important. With sometimes weak arthritic hands, it had to be comfortable and as lightweight as possible. The Canon fit the bill. Also, the Canon cameras take regular SD memory cards - they are readily available and inexpensive. Practicality rules in Saucy's world even though she will admit to you she did fancy the notion of "looking pro" with a Nikon around her neck.
The remainder of the advice that Saucy will be doling out after Friday's post will appear either in that post's comments or in upcoming posts. Keep your eyes peeled... Saucy has an opinion on everything.