Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Carousel Cake

I love to make fondant cakes!
Some people say, "Alissa, you need to do this for a living!" I say, "Hell no!"
Decorating cakes is so rewarding and so fun and soooo stressful! I think I would be a nervous wreck if I did this more than a few times a year. You all get to see the cute pictures at the end but, what you don't see is the crazed, powdered sugar-covered maniac cursing at a ripped piece of fondant at 2 in the morning. It's not pretty... ask my husband. That being said, I am getting better and better and more and more efficient. I am not sure if more episodes of Cake Boss would help me or hurt me at this point. Up until now, it would just make me frustrated that I was incapable of making such perfect, magnificent cakes. I think I have finally come to realize that people aren't paying me thousands of dollars to make these cakes. A couple of cracks in my fondant will be ok. I'll keep telling myself that.... and you, you enjoy these pictures of my newest cake. I made it for a sweet girl who is turning 3 tomorrow :)

xo Alissa
Taylor's 3rd birthday carousel cake

I used a kit from Michael's which contained the plastic pieces (the top, the horses and the supports). I made a two layer 12-in. round cake with a fantastic chocolate cake recipe (it took two batches) and covered them with marshmallow fondant. I would never cover a cake with anything else! It is not what you eat at a wedding, you know, the kind that you peel off your cake before you eat it? This stuff is delicious and pretty easy to make. You should try it! Let me know if you need help :)
Happy Birthday Taylor!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

My perfect dessert: Mini Blackberry Syrah Cupcakes

Those who know me know that I love wine! And, I obviously love cupcakes! I had been hearing about a place in Los Olivos called Enjoy Cupcakes that sells wine cupcakes and I was intrigued! It is such an obvious collaboration. I had heard that the blackberry syrah was their signature flavor so I tried one of those first... hooked! I don't need to ever have any other cupcake again... ever. It was a delicious chocolate cake infused with syrah with a blackberry frosting, on top of which is a wine-soaked, sugar coated blackberry. It was HEAVEN! I am fairly certain that these cupcakes were the inspiration for my wine and cupcake party.
So, without further ado, here it is! Make some of these for yourself! You deserve it!
Mini Blackberry Syrah Cupcakes

The Chocolate Syrah Cupcakes:
(adapted from Epicurious)
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dutch process cocoa
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups of your favorite syrah (don't skimp... the good stuff)

Preheat the oven to 350. Place mini cupcake liners into mini muffin pans. 
Place the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into a bowl and mix with a whisk (trust me, it is better than sifting!)
Cream the butter in an electric mixer until well beaten. Add the sugar and continue beating for about 5 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and then the eggs, one at a time. Add a third of the flour mixture and mix until combined scraping the sides when necessary. Add half of the wine and alternate adding flour mixture and wine, adding flour last. Fill liners 2/3 full with batter. 
Bake for 15-25 minutes until set. Let cool for 10 minutes and remove to a wire cooling rack until completely cool. 
Makes 48 mini cupcakes.

The Blackberry Frosting:

1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup fresh blackberry puree*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon orange zest (I used tangerine)
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 cups of powdered sugar

Beat butter in stand mixer until smooth. Add blackberry puree, vanilla, zest and salt. Mix until blended. It will look curdled. That's ok! Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed. 
Place frosting into a pastry bag with whichever tip you would like to use to decorate. I used a 1M tip. I do have to say that I skimped on the powdered sugar and paid for it! Can you see how the frosting isn't really holding up to the decorating? Classic mistake! Don't make it! Add more sugar if you have to. 

*Blackberry Puree
1 cup blackberries
1/4 cup whole milk

Blend berries and milk in a high powered blender (I use my Vitamix! Love it!) until smooth. 

To Decorate (Syrah soaked blackberries):

Take enough blackberries to place one on each cupcake. I cut mine in half because the berries were huge! Place the berries in a bowl and pour enough syrah in just to cover the berries (the same stuff you used for the cake). Place in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes. Drain and roll in granulated sugar. Place one on top of each cupcake. 

xoxo Alissa

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Wine and Cupcake Fundraiser

I adore our preschool! It is a co-op so I work there one day a week and take a class there every Wednesday night. It is a lot of work, but I like to get my teaching fix, see what the kids are doing, and make connections with other parents who are in the same boat. Every year we have an auction to raise money for our school and this year we decided to do an adult party book. I quickly offered up our patio and my culinary (uh hum) skills and added a "Sunset Wine and Cupcakes Party." Right up my alley, right?!
The view from our patio, unfortunately it wasn't this spectacular for the party...

Now, for the menu... I knew that I wanted to make mini cupcakes, at least three kinds.
I aim to please :) Mocha cupcakes with espresso frosting and margarita cupcakes are two of my favorites so I knew I would be making those. Then I thought about this great cupcake place up in Los Olivos called Enjoy Cupcakes. They have wine infused cupcakes in all flavors that pair perfectly with our mediterranean climate varietals that you find in our wine country. My very favorite is their blackberry syrah cupcakes. YUM-O! But I couldn't find a recipe anywhere! What's a girl to do? Research... I guess... I found a blackberry frosting recipe on one blog, a chocolate merlot cake on another site and made a few changes. Voila! 
Our party was on Saturday so I spent the past few months shopping around for wine to find a good deal on some nicer bottles. It was a big group so I knew I would need at least 2 cases. Being as I cannot stand running out of anything at a party, I bought 3 :) Thank goodness for Costco and BevMo's 5 cent wine sale! We ended up getting some pretty nice bottles for around $5 each. I baked all of the cupcakes on Thursday, made the frosting on Friday and frosted and decorated the cupcakes on Saturday afternoon. It worked out perfectly and was pretty stress-free (which is not normal when it comes to party prep for me)! It pays to do advanced preparation. I should do it more often!
The party was a huge success! Lots of laughter, lots of compliments and lots of wine...

More to come... including recipes!!!!!!!