Tuesday, September 9, 2014
If you've been reading along for a while, you probably know that baking cakes and cupcakes is a specialty of mine. In fact, I've been trying my hand at perfecting various buttercream recipes over the years, as well as experimenting with different fillings and flavors. I realized this week that I haven't shared any recipes lately, in part because life has been too busy to bake (oh the horror!), and when I have been baking I've been revisiting old favorites.
Turning back the clock over a year, last June I co-hosted a major baby shower event at our home. The event was designed to honor two of our best friends as well as their impending arrival. Part of the celebration was the creation of a raspberry filled vanilla cupcake with buttercream frosting. If this doesn't make your mouth water, you might want to stop reading now.
The shower, cupcakes, and eventual birth were all a wonderful success, and then time continued to fly.
Here's the bundle of Joy at just a couple days old, modeling an outfit we gave him, when he visited our home for the first time. And as hard as it is to believe, little Liam turned one back on August 1st.
Itching to dust off my Wilton tips, I quickly volunteered to take on the cake duties for his first birthday celebration, and sprung to action dreaming about cupcakes for the party guests as well as a smash cake for the little guy. His mom and I traded ideas on cake flavors until I had a lightbulb moment. Why not recreate the cake we had all enjoyed at the baby shower a year earlier? The incredients were all natural, no artificial coloring or other chemicals, so it would be great for he adults and birthday boy alike.
The day of the party I got to work, baking up homemade vanilla cupcakes as well as whipping up a gorgeous vanilla buttercream frosting. I cheated a bit on the filling, and ended up using an all natural jam as the fruit filling so I could reserve my time for the smash cake.
In addition to baking up cupcakes for the invitees, I made two small mini-cakes sans filling to serve as the smash cake for the little guy. You can see them in the background of the photo above and below.
My first thought was to treat them as a big cupcake (with a spare in case of disaster), but after I stared at them for a while I thought they might work perfectly as individual rounds. While there are miniature pans you can buy, living in a small house makes me more apt to use what I have in different ways. So after trimming the tops of the "big cupcakes" a bit, I simply stacked the two mini-cakes with a layer of buttercream in the middle in order to create his smash cake, and applied a thin layer of buttercream to act as the crumb coat before popping it in the refrigerator to cool off.
Applying a crumb coat is like priming a wall before you paint it. It's an important step to ensure your base doesn't peek through. With cakes, it's a layer that in essence glues down any cake crumbs. Refrigerating the cake after applying this layer of buttercream gives you a sturdier surface onto which you apply your final coat of frosting.
I'm by no means a true "cake decorator" and in fact, haven't ever taken a cake decorating class -- that's on my list of to dos before the end of the year -- so most of the tips in my Wilton master set are anyone's guess as far as I'm concerned. But I really like experimenting, and with a "client" that's at just one year old, I figure it's more about how the cake tastes than looks. And isn't the point of a smash cake to...well...smash it to bits with little baby fingers?
Inspired by my own wedding cake, I decided to start playing around with different shaped and sized tips to get an effect I was happy with. I placed the cake on a small pedestal and got to work. I created a small dotted border where the cake met the pedestal in order to mask the unevenness of the cake's bottom, and repeated the design for symmetry along the top. I then added a few swirls to help hide some of the imperfections.
After arriving at the party, I added these adorable cake toppers made by the birthday boy's mom, who downloaded the designs from The Tom Kat Studio's website.
They really topped off both the cake as well as the cupcakes.
His parents, and honorary aunts and uncle, had just about as much fun as the guest of honor.
But if the face to frosting ratio is any indication, I'd say Liam's first birthday celebration was a smashing success.