Sunday, August 30, 2009

Boo-ter-fly Cakes

Sometimes I get myself in over my head without even trying. Such was the case with these adorable little cakes made for our little friend Boo. Exactly 7 days before her party her mother and I went over to the bookstore so I could show her Hello, Cupcake! to see if there was anything in there she liked. To my honest shock and surprise there was nothing in the book that tickled her fancy so we moved on to other books, fancier books, more complicated cakes. In the end we settled on a combination of the butterfly cupcakes from Hello, Cupcake! (with modifications) and a mini-cake from Mich Turner's book Spectacular Cakes. While the cakes would be labor intensive they weren't really all that complicated, especially if I started them three or four days before they were needed for the party. What I didn't count on was an entire week of whatever could go wrong, would go wrong (including me getting a migraine that just wouldn't quit).

The plan was that the mini cakes would be french vanilla, filled with soft pink buttercream, covered in poured fondant of pale green, striped with thin lines of pale pink and magenta buttercream and topped with a pastel colored butterfly. They needed 36 little cakes for their party. In order to ensure that I would have enough I decided to go with cupcakes thinking I would use a timbale mold/cutter to make them all uniform. Due to time constraints, I used french vanilla cake mix that I doctored up with a box of instant pudding and some vanilla extract. The cakes were soft and dense and yummy! However the timbale mold/cutter I bought was 1 size too big and I was unable to make them all completely uniform. Not a problem for cupcakes but for sure a problem when you're going to be coating them with poured fondant. Next time I will make sheet cakes and cut the cakes out to ensure uniform cylinders and save myself the headache when it comes time to coat them. The cakes looked like little light green Ring Dings (or Ding Dongs depending on where you grew up) but tasted amazing!

I used my go-to vanilla buttercream for the filling and butterfly bodies. Man I love that stuff ... it's just everything you want and need a buttercream to be. The pourable fondant however was a COMPLETE disaster! I used the recipe on the King Arthur website. Now, before I go on, I want to remind you guys of my love affair with King Arthur flour. To be fair, it's not that their recipe was a complete disaster, it was a comedy of errors and miscalculations and a migraine that set the whole thing on the road to horrible. We ended up having to scrap the Mich Turner like stripes we had planned on piping onto each cake pre-butterfly because we ran out of time and patience with this project. In the end I don't think it made that much of a difference to anyone but the two of us. Both child and mom were thrilled with the cakes and really that's all that mattered!

I had a little accident in the kitchen and I lost 1/2 a pot of liquid fondant to my kitchen floor. I also thought the original coating looked like, well, snot. It was light green and shiny and definitely had an "eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeew" factor. In the end I had to remake the fondant and add a can of ready made frosting to make it opaque (which turned out really well for my purposes) but not before I ended up with a sugar burn on the fingers of my right hand. I used a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water for the second batch and it makes the whole process so much easier as you can regulate the temp as you go. Also, the second time around we chilled and dipped the cakes instead of pouring them. I highly recommend using the dipping method! However, my partner in culinary crimes ended up with sugar burns on his palm when one of the cakes got away from him and instead of letting it fall to the floor he tried to be a hero and save it mid-fall only to have it land top down in his palm. This is not a project to try with the kids in case anyone was wondering. That being said, I have it on good authority that the cakes were a big hit with kids and kids at heart alike! Although, the kids weren't sure what to do with the wings and had to be told they could eat them!

The butterflies were the easiest part of all this and made using Merckens Rainbow Wafer Coatings (in white, pink, purple, blue, peach, yellow and light green) and a hand drawn pattern that eventually was only used as a guide. Once again my creative partner saw potential to put his own stamp on something already pretty cool and he made the wings more monarch-like by free-handing a wing extension. There are detailed directions in Hello, Cupcake! but you really don't need them (buy the book anyway, it really is cool). Just melt some coating or chocolate, draw a butterfly and fill it with a second color of coating or chocolate and then swirl. You should also know that we had to custom blend the Merckens to get these shades by mixing them with white. There are a few tricks and tips, enough so that they will be their own post in the near future.

Assembly was easy and went pretty quick. Just make sure you are not working in a hot kitchen or the wings will get too soft and give you issues. We placed each cake in a pastel cupcake liner, piped on the body and stuck the wings in place. They all sat in the fridge for almost 2 hours pre-transport to make sure the buttercream and fondant were really hard to minimize the potential for transport disaster. I made a cake taker out of a heavy duty plastic soda case topped with a cookie sheet that sat on the edge of the case and wrapped the whole thing in plastic. It worked like a charm and fit in a fridge perfectly! For display at the party I lent them my wire cupcake holder and a silver platter. With a few pretty cupcake papers and some doilies it made for a really neat display! I may try these again at some point, the original version as they were supposed to be .... maybe not. I am such a huge fan of petit fours and to me this was a great updated version of a classic little cake that time has forgotten. Hopefully next time there won't be so much other stuff going on, I won't have a migraine and they will come out as anticipated!


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