Irresistibly playful cupcake creations

May 21, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
How to decorate cupcakes to make them unique, impressive and yummy!

Spaghetti and meatballs

Makes 1 platter of spaghetti and meatballs: 10 cupcakes

Drinking milk with spaghetti and meatballs might get you run out of your favorite Italian joint, but when your guests realize this is a platter of cupcakes with frosting pasta and strawberry sauce, everyone will want some. The chunk of Parmesan cheese in the background is actually white chocolate, and best of all, the meatballs are hazelnut chocolates right out of the bag.

  • 10 vanilla cupcakes baked in white paper liners
  • 1 can (16 ounces) vanilla frosting
  • 1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 drops yellow food coloring
  • 11 hazelnut chocolates (Ferrero Rocher), unwrapped
  • 3/4 cup low-sugar strawberry preserves (low-sugar has the best color)
  • 2 tablespoons grated white chocolate, plus an additional chunk for garnish

1. Tint the vanilla frosting with the cocoa powder and yellow food coloring and spread a thin layer on top of the cupcakes. Arrange the cupcakes on a serving platter so that they are touching.

2. Spoon the remaining frosting into a ziplock bag. Press out the excess air and seal the bag. Snip a 1/8-inch corner from the bag. Pipe the frosting all over the cupcakes to make the spaghetti, piling it high and allowing some of the spaghetti to hang over the edges.

3. Place the hazelnut chocolates and the strawberry preserves in a medium bowl and toss to coat. Spoon some of the preserves on top of the cupcakes. Place 1 hazelnut chocolate on each cupcake and 1 on the platter. Top the cupcakes with the remaining strawberry preserves. Sprinkle with the grated white chocolate. Place the chunk of white chocolate on a separate plate with a small hand grater and bring to the table with the platter of spaghetti.

Sunflowers

Makes 24 sunflower cupcakes

The petals on these bright, sassy cupcakes may look complicated but are actually quick and easy: just grab a ziplock bag filled with 2 colors of frosting and squeeze, pull, and release. Practice makes perfect.

  • 24 vanilla cupcakes baked in green paper liners
  • 2 cans (16 ounces each) vanilla frosting
  • Green, yellow, orange, and black food coloring (available at baking supply stores)
  • 14-16 regular chocolate cream-filled sandwich cookies (Oreos)
  • 25-30 mini chocolate cream-filled sandwich cookies (Mini Oreos)
  • 1/2 cup table sugar
  • 15-20 candy spearmint leaves or 2 rolls green fruit leather
  • 2 tablespoons dark chocolate frosting
  • 6-10 red candy-coated chocolates (M&M's)
  • Basket lined with green tissue paper (optional)

1. Tint 1 1/2 cups of the vanilla frosting green with the food coloring. Spread an even layer of the green frosting on top of the cupcakes and smooth. Arrange the chocolate sandwich cookies, regular and mini, randomly over the cupcakes, pressing them into the frosting to secure.

2. Tint the remaining vanilla frosting bright yellow with the food coloring. Remove 1/2 cup of the yellow frosting and tint it orange with the food coloring. Spoon 1/4 cup of the orange frosting into one side of a ziplock bag and spoon half of the yellow frosting into the other side of the bag. Press out the excess air and seal the bag. Repeat the process with another ziplock bag and the remaining orange and yellow frosting. Reinforce the corner of each bag with 6 overlapping layers of Scotch tape. Pinch the taped corners flat and cut a small V-shape in the corner to make a leaf tip. Pipe yellow-orange frosting around the edge of each cookie to make petals. Pipe another circle of petals just inside the first and slightly overlapping.

3. Sprinkle the work surface with the sugar. Roll out the spearmint leaves, one at a time, to 1/8 inch thick. Using clean scissors, cut the candies or fruit leathers into 1 1/2-inch-long leaf shapes. Press the leaves into the cupcakes just under the petals.

4. Tint the chocolate frosting black with the food coloring and spoon it into a small ziplock bag. Press out the excess air and seal the bag. Snip a 1/16-inch corner from the bag. Pipe a dot of black frosting on some of the cookies and attach the red chocolate candies to make the ladybugs. Pipe a line of black frosting down the center of each ladybug and add a dot for the head and a few dots on the back.

5. Arrange the cupcakes close together in a basket lined with green tissue paper, if you like, in small cups or on a platter.

Pandamonium

Makes 16 panda cupcakes

Lazy bears for lazy cupcakers. Oreo cookies do double duty here, forming the arms and legs and crushed into crumbs for the fur.

  • 16 standard vanilla cupcakes baked in white paper liners
  • 16 mini vanilla cupcakes baked in white paper liners
  • 40 chocolate cream-filled sandwich cookies (Oreos)
  • 1 can (16 ounces) plus 1 cup vanilla frosting
  • Black food coloring (available at baking supply stores or see Sources, page 229)
  • 16 mini marshmallows
  • 32 mini chocolate chips
  • 16 brown chocolate-covered sunflower seeds (available at gourmet candy stores or see Sources)
  • 32 pieces chocolate cereal O's (Oreo O's)
  • 16 green paper liners (optional; available at baking supply stores or see Sources)

1. To make the arms and legs, cut 32 of the cookies in half using a serrated knife and set aside (see page 20). Place the remaining 8 cookies in a food processor and process until finely ground. Transfer the cookie crumbs to a small bowl.

2. Place 2 tablespoons of the vanilla frosting in a small ziplock bag. Tint 1/4 cup of the vanilla frosting black with the food coloring and spoon it into a ziplock bag. Press out the excess air in each bag, seal, and set aside.

3. Using a dot of the remaining vanilla frosting, attach the flat side of 1 marshmallow to the top of each mini cupcake, positioning it on the lower third of the cupcake. Spread the vanilla frosting on top of the mini cupcake, covering the marshmallow to make the muzzle. Smooth the frosting. Snip a 1/16-inch corner from the bag with the black frosting and pipe a mouth just below the muzzle, with a small vertical line up to the top of the muzzle. Pipe eye patches above and to either side of the muzzle. Add 2 chocolate chips, pointed side in, for the eyes and a sunflower seed for the nose. Press 2 chocolate cereal pieces into the frosting on either side of the top edge of the cupcake to make the ears.

4. Spread the tops of the standard cupcakes with the remaining vanilla frosting, mounding it with your spatula (see page 11). Roll one half of the frosted cupcake into the cookie crumbs to make the black belly fur. Place the mini cupcake heads on their sides on top of the standard cupcakes, lining the faces up with the fur bodies. Snip a 1/8-inch corner from the bag with the vanilla frosting. Add a dot of frosting where the arms will go and press 2 of the cookie halves, cut side in, on either side of the mini cupcakes to make the arms. Pipe 3 small white lines of frosting on the arms to make the claws. Pipe a small white highlight in each eye.

5. Cut jagged edges on the green paper liners with scissors, if using, and arrange on a serving platter. Set each panda on a green liner. Position the remaining cookie halves, cut side down, next to the pandas to make the legs.

Book signing:

Sur La Table
Cooking Demo and Booksigning
May 21
6:30 pm
San Francisco


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