Saturday, December 13, 2008

lessons learned in baking.

So, this past weekend we had a Christmas party at our church, and I had volunteered to make cupcakes for the event a few weeks ago. It was unfortunate that I didn't remember how busy this time of year is AND how involved cupcakes were. But, alas, it was a good excuse to be somewhat domestic and create something beautiful---so, what do you do, but fully embrace it----and buy a new frosting tip for the occasion AND white sprinkles? Nice.

I learned some lessons while I was doing this 4+ hour project. Feel free to glean from my wisdom.
1) Do volunteer to help---but be mindful of WHEN the event is happening and how involved the "recipe of choice" will be (see above). In hindsight, a two pans of brownies would have been a good idea.

2) When doubling a batch of cupcakes (48), feel free to start the NIGHT BEFORE. Thus allowing the mini cakes to cool and your dishes to be clean for the next day.

3) Red Velvet Cake batter is BEAUTIFUL. Remember that tidbit always. (I've never seen something so red and delightful in a mixing bowl before!)

4) Silicone muffin "tins" are great to clean, but take EXTRA caution when you are loading a batter filled pan into the oven. If you don't pay attention, or are sloppy with this process---you will pay. Seriously. Batter will be all over your oven racks and everywhere else.

5) ...which brings me to my next hint, cover the bottom of your oven (below the heating coils) with aluminum foil. It makes for easy cleanup when you make dumb mistakes.

6) Don't put "cling wrap" or any other type of "wrap" on top of warm cupcakes---that is, unless you want to ruin the tops of them---then, by all means, go for it.

1) When mixing butter and cream cheese, room temperature is best. Seriously. Straight from the fridge is COOL, but not the COOL we want for frosting (if you catch my drift).

2) Consistency is EVERYTHING--especially when you are going to "decorate" with a frosting bag. If you are noticing that it is so stiff even BEFORE you put it in your bag, then stop, add a little more liquid (like milk) and try again. If you don't stop while you are ahead, your body will ache from squeezing the life out of the little bag. Your back will ache and your arms will be dead.

3) Don't try to save yourself an extra thing to clean---feel free to use the measuring spoon when adding more ingredients. Don't try to be a hero by "eye balling it" when you are dumping something like meringue powder into your frosting. More will come out than you want and you will be covered in powder---not to mention your cupboard, floor, rug, fridge, etc. True Story. I promise, one extra utensil to wash is WORTH it.

4) You can wash out disposable frosting bags. And, you can use a ziploc bag when in a bind. Just cut off the corner.

5) Always have some pre-made frosting in your pantry. You never know if you are going to run out of powdered sugar, butter, or your sanity. And no one ever thinks they will have 7 cupcakes left to frost in the end. So, that pre-made jar I've had for a while---worked wonders. (these are the ones that look a little yellowish on the picture. I'm thinking that "butter cream" kind is SUPER healthy).

6) Sprinkles are known to make things extra beautiful when used correctly. They can also be used to make a royal mess if you are not careful.

7) It is always easier AND less time consuming to clean up the mess, especially when frosting is involved, SOONER rather than later. When frosting dries, it takes on a "cement like" form. Be warned.

8) Do all the above mentioned when your child (if you have 1 +) is asleep. Trust me, it's better this way.

So, that is it. Who knew you could learn so much from one project. !!! In hind sight, I would have chosen Aaron's new favorite, Rainbow Chip mix (from the box, of course), instead of venturing out with the Red Velvet. I was trying to be festive, but in the end, taste is always king in my book. As my mom told me AFTER it was all over, "Yeah, I would agree with you that red velvet cake seems a little weird to me… kind of dry and maybe a hint of chocolate taste, but not any real taste-- that I love-- at least." There you go. Lessons learned. They were all eaten. I didn't have to bring any home. In the end, all's well.

And, I realized why I like to bake so much. Baking and making food pretty is really like a functional art form. It gives you an excuse to make something beautiful. I guess that is why I like it so much. And, why I think in another life I could maybe be a pastry chef?

Nah, it's too depressing to spend so much time on things only to be eaten in the end. With a painting, it can be enjoyed for MUCH longer. So, I think I will stick to paper, but enjoy an occasional stint in the kitchen. Occasional.

Happy Holiday Baking.
from my burnt oven to yours.

p.s. everything i ever learned about decorating cupcakes, i learned from my kid sister, becca-face. by and by, I get to see her THIS WEEK!! she is coming home from Israel, and I couldn't be happier!!!


Rebecca Snyder said...

melissa wood! these are the most beautiful cupcakes I have ever seen! oh my word, those sprinkles are adorable. you will be so glad you have that nice tip. I got a good laugh reading your helpful tips- plastic wrap on hot cupcakes, oh my. I am sure they tasted good, and if not they certainly are cute. I feel like you're one of those artsy blogs that post beautiful things from the fine art of home. heather bailey would be proud. good luck packing for utah, don't get a rash :)

emily snyder said...

how i love my sisters!!!!!!!!!!!
miss - i LOVE that every time i read anything on your blog, i am instantly there with you. i love that you are so good an sharing how to avoid the mistakes that i always make, but end up being frustrated and bugged at the world and myself when i make them!
you would be proud to know that i am listening to the 300 GRE words right now!! :)

becca - WE MISS YOU!!!!! can you tell that we can't WaIt for this friday morning?!?!?! mom told me about your clothing efforts when seeing grandma and i just picture you in your pj pants. i am very excited to see what you wear home!!!

love you!

alpineavery said...

those are the moste beautiful cupcakes I have ever seen!!! Thank you for all the tips! You are so funny and creative, how did we get so lucky to get you in our family?!?!!? K'

Tim and Melissa said...

The cupcakes are BEAUTIFUL! I've definitely never made any that pretty. Thanks for sharing your wisdom as now hopefully I won't have to make all those mistakes myself...but my memory is horrible, so I will probably end up learning from my own mistakes. Oh well.

Kristen said...

I ate one of your cupcakes! They were very pretty, so pretty in fact, that I thought they might be store bought because the frosting was so uniform and perfect. But then the frosting actually looked good and not nasty like store bought, so I went out on a limb. They were tasty. Don't be mad but I love chocolate too, like your mom. haha Way to be! I need to dust off my pie creaming skills from working at Marie Calendars. I loved creaming the pies there after learning some tricks.


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