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Bored with the average bundt cake and sprinkled cupcakes? Looking to spice up your sugared sweets? In their new book “The Confetti Cakes Cookbook: Spectacular Cookies, Cakes, and Cupcakes from New York City's Famed Bakery,” cake designers and bakers Elisa Strauss and Christie Matheson illustrate how to easily create unique desserts, including billiard-ball cupcakes and cakes in the shape of wine bottles and Chinese takeout boxes, as well as tips on how to spruce up cookies. Here’s an excerpt:
Rubber Duckie Cupcakes
Yield: 24 cupcakes
What You Need:
1 cake recipe, any flavor (see Basic Recipes pages 49-52)1 frosting recipe (see Basic Recipes pages 55-57)
Materials4 pounds of gum paste (2 1/2 ounces per duckie)1 pound, 10 ounces fondant (store-bought or page 60)Food-coloring gels: sky blue, lemon yellow, sunset orange, coal blackShortening (for rolling out fondant and gum paste)
ToothpicksPlastic matSmall rolling pinParing knife or X-acto knifeSmall paintbrushDish of waterPastry tips: #4, #7, #102 1/2-inch round cookie cutterCupcake tinsWhite brioche molds or cupcake wrappersSmall offset spatula
Techniques:Dyeing fondant and gum paste (page 40)Creating a dome of filling (page 28)Covering cupcakes in fondant (page 29)Measuring gum paste and fondant (page 61)
2. To make the wings, roll out the remaining yellow gum paste to 1/8 inch on a smooth surface greased with shortening. Cut out all of the wings with a paring knife or X-acto knife and attach them to the sides of the duckies' bodies with a dab of water.
3. Dye approximately 3/4 ounce of gum paste orange for each beak. Form small cones and use the knife to create an indent to divide the cones in half from the pointy end, but do not cut all the way through. Use a toothpick or a pastry tip to create a small opening for the beaks. Attach the beaks with a dab of water to the duckies' faces.
4. For each set of eyes, dye a pea-size amount of gum paste black and roll it out to 1/16 inch thick on a smooth surface greased with shortening. Roll out a pea-size piece of white gum paste. Use piping tips #10 and #4 to cut out white circles, you will need two of each size. Mold the larger of the two circles into a slightly oval shape. Use a #7 tip to cut out two black circles. Attach the black circles to the oval white circles with a tiny dab of water. Place the black circle against the top edge of one of the ovals. Attach the smallest white circle on top of the black. Attach them with tiny dabs of water. You should place the eyes so you can see them from both the front and sides of the duckie.
Make and assemble the cupcakes
1. Prepare the cake batter as directed. Line the cupcake tins with the brioche molds or cupcake wrappers. Fill each halfway full and bake the cupcakes as directed in the recipe. Let them cool completely.
2. While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting.
3. Tint the fondant sky blue, reserving 2 ounces white fondant to make the polka dots.
4. Frost the cupcakes with a dome of cupcake frosting. On a surface greased with shortening, roll out the blue fondant to approximately 1/8 inch thick. If you are using brioche molds, first cut out a circle then use the top edge of an empty mold as a cutter to cut out the fluted design. If you are using standard cupcake wrappers, use a round cutter and cut out a circle of fondant. Smooth the piece of fondant onto the dome of frosting.
S. Place the duckies into the centers of the cupcakes using a toothpick or water. (If they do not stick with water and you do not want to use toothpicks you can use Royal Icing.)
6. Roll out the remaining 2 ounces of white fondant to approximately 1/16 inch thick on the greased surface. Use the #10 tip and cut out 8 to 10 polka dots for each cupcake. Attach them to the blue fondant, around the duckie, with tiny dabs of water.
What you need:
1 cake recipe, any flavor (see Basic Recipes pages 49-52)1 frosting recipe (see Basic Recipes pages 55-57)½ recipe Royal Icing (page 58)
Materials2 pounds fondant (store-bought or page 60)Shortening (for rolling out fondant)Food-coloring gels: lemon yellow, sunset orange, coal black
EquipmentCupcake tinsRed cupcake wrappersToothpicksSmall offset spatulaPlastic matSmall rolling pin2 1/2 –inch round cookie cutterGum-paste veining tool or scalpelPastry tips: #2, #3Red food marker
Techniques:Dyeing fondant and gum paste (page 40)Creating a dome of filling (page 28)Covering cupcakes in fondant (page 29)Dyeing Royal Icing (page 40)
Method:Prepare the cake batter as directed. Line the cupcake tins with wrappers. Fill each halfway with batter and bake the cupcakes as directed by the recipe. Let them cool completely. While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting.Divide the fondant into three equal portions. Keep one portion white and dye the other two orange and yellow. Work with one color and wrap the other two in plastic wrap until ready to use. Frost the cupcakes with a dome of filling. On a surface greased with shortening, roll out the fondant to approximately 1/8 inch thick, working with one color at a time. Use the round cookie cutter for the particular sports cupcake you are making.
1. Cover the cupcake with orange fondant2. Use the back of a scalpel or veining tool to make the four lines found on a basketball. The lines need to be 1/8 inch deep so you can fill them with Royal Icing later. 3. Gently press a #3 tip into the fondant to create the texture of a basketball, staying within the lines of each section. 4. Dye half the Royal Icing black and put it in a pastry bag fitted with a #2 tip. Carefully squeeze the icing into the lines you just created.
Tennis Ball1. Cover the cupcake with yellow fondant. 2. Use the back of a scalpel or veining tool to make the seams of a tennis ball. The lines need to be 1/8 inch deep so you can fill them in with Royal Icing later. 3. Fill a pastry bag with a #2 tip with white Royal Icing. Carefully squeeze the icing into the lines you created.
Baseball1.Cover the cupcake with white fondant2. Using a toothpick, outline the seams of the baseball. Using a red food marker, draw the stitching lines of a baseball on the white fondant. To practice, draw a circle on a piece of paper and create the lines before trying them on a cupcake. If you make a mistake, use a little water or vodka (don’t worry—it evaporates) and a cotton swab to take the marker away. Let it dry and start again.
Excerpted from “The Confetti Cakes Cookbook: Spectacular Cookies, Cakes, and Cupcakes from New York City's Famed Bakery" by Elisa Strauss and Christie Matheson. Copyright © 2007 Elisa Strauss and Christie Matheson. All rights reserved. Published by Little Brown and Company. No part of this excerpt can be used without permission of the publisher.