Tag Archives: Valentine’s Day

Simple buttercream for Valentine’s Day rose cupcakes

24 Feb

As I mentioned in my last post, I used the extra batter from my Valentine’s Day cake to make a dozen cupcakes. It took me a few days to get around to frosting them, and my first frosting attempt crashed and burned…but the second one worked out well. Here’s what happened:

I really wanted to get creative with my frosting–which was probably my first huge mistake, seeing as I don’t even have the basics down yet. I liked the idea of chocolate cupcakes with strawberry frosting, and I happened to have some fresh strawberries ready to go in the fridge. So I went in search of a recipe online and picked this one. It seemed like my best bet since it consisted only of strawberries, butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Here’s the problem: it called for frozen strawberries, not fresh. This didn’t seem like a big deal at the time; plus, I figured, aren’t fresh berries always better than frozen ones? Silly me. I’m assuming this difference was a big part of the reason my “frosting” ended up as it did.

Oh yeah, and here’s another thing: I don’t have a food processor. Well, I do, but it’s stashed somewhere in my basement and I haven’t gotten around to setting it up yet. Because I’m so lazy, I tried to hand-mash my strawberries instead, which was pretty much hopeless…so I ended up with strawberry chunks, not strawberry puree. Then I beat in the butter and sugar. As you can see, it was a gloptastic mess.

Thanks to some reader comments, as well as a little research, I’ve learned that it is indeed possible to over-mix both frosting and batter. I’m sure this seems like common sense to most experienced bakers, but I guess I always assumed that the more well-mixed it was, the better! And the worse my frosting looked, the more I wanted to mix it. Alas, I think this was another big contributor to my epic frosting failure.

This was the very best I was able to achieve with my strawberry “frosting”:

Disgusting! It looks like brains. Or a bad skin condition.

Obviously, I tossed the whole mess. I realized I had to swallow my pride and my big frosting ambitions and try to make a straightforward buttercream instead. Once again, I pulled out my Martha Day baking book and used her recipe for simple buttercream–but this time, I actually used powdered sugar instead of granulated. Aren’t you proud of me?

The result was something that–drumroll, please–actually looked like frosting! It was incredibly thick, though, so I added a bit more milk and probably could have added even more. It was so thick, in fact, that it kept getting stuck in the beaters. Does anyone know of a way to avoid this, or is it just one of those things you have to deal with? It did seem to happen less when I turned the speed up, but I still found myself scraping the mixture out every minute or so.

I added a few drops of red food coloring until I had a nice baby-pink shade.

The consistency was good, so I filled my piping bag and got to work! These were my Valentine’s Day cupcakes, so it seemed only fitting to make them look like roses…

The frosting was still quite thick, so it wasn’t easy to work with and did leave me with some rough edges. Still, I’m pleased with how they turned out, both in appearance and in flavor. Next time, I’m thinking of using a few tricks I picked up on a baking forum to make my buttercream smoother. As always, I’ll let you know how it goes!

Valentine’s Day cake–and my new favorite ganache

23 Feb

On Valentine’s Day, I rediscovered a heart-shaped cake pan in the back of my pantry and knew I had to put it to use. Since it was my first cake attempt, I wanted to use another fairly simple recipe, so I found this recipe for dark chocolate cake on allrecipes.com: Dark Chocolate Cake. It got some pretty excellent reviews from the site’s readers, including one person who wrote, “I am a pastry chef, and this is the only chocolate cake that I will make from now on.” Awfully high praise!

When I pictured the finished cake, I couldn’t get the image of a glossy chocolate ganache-covered heart cake out of my mind…so I dug up a recipe for red wine chocolate ganache I’d seen on cupcakeproject.com. What could be more sexy and romantic than dark chocolate cake with red wine ganache for Valentine’s Day?

Okay, here’s something you should know about me (if you haven’t already noticed): I’m a chocoholic. This means that I often don’t consider a dessert worth eating unless it contains a fair amount of chocolate. This also means that I’ll need you guys to urge me to try recipes that aren’t all about chocolate. I’d gladly welcome any non-chocolate recipe suggestions any time!

I didn’t really run into any problems mixing the batter, although it did take a long time to prepare the chocolate mixture, sift all the dry ingredients, and beat everything together. I tend to be a slow worker, but I also lack some of the tools that would make all this a lot easier, like a freestanding mixer.

The cake came out looking good, though I found those big cracks down the middle distracting. Is that normal for a cake? Maybe I filled the pan too high.

Because I wanted to cover this cake with poured ganache instead of frosting, I knew I had to flip it over to hide those cracks. I did, and it looked pretty great.

Because I had a lot of extra batter (the recipe fills three cake pans, which I don’t have), I made some extra cupcakes. These looked nicer than my last ones, but just like last time, one oozed in the oven. Seriously, why does that happen?

Of course, the oozy cupcake became my taste test. I liked this cake a lot, and I can see why it got good reviews: it had a delicate texture and a nice chocolate flavor. It wasn’t as moist as my last batch of cupcakes, though, so I think I’ll stick with that other recipe the next time I make chocolate cupcakes. But if you’re looking for a classy dark chocolate cake, this is a lovely one.

More on those cupcakes later! Back to the cake…

The ganache was a breeze to make. I liked the way it tasted, though it’s not for the faint of heart–that stuff is rich. The very thin layer I poured over the cake turned out to be plenty; if I’d spread it on, it might have been overwhelming. As for the pouring process, it went well except for two snags. Because the cake was so rounded on the bottom, it cracked a little when I flipped it over, which showed through the ganache. Second, it was difficult to coat the sides of the cake as thickly and neatly as I’d have liked. If I were to do it again, I’d make a little more ganache for that purpose.

Here’s a photo of the cake covered in ganache, plus an ill-advised decoration attempt. I’ve learned my lesson: ganache and edible red gel do not look good together. I wanted to make a border of gel hearts, but they barely showed up on the dark background. Should’ve known better.

As you can see, I ended up with more of a broken-heart cake than a heart cake…which seemed a little more cynical than what I was going for.

I decided to cover up my bad decoration and the crack down the middle with a design using pecans. It was very experimental, but I’m pleased with the outcome.


The result was a tasty cake with just the right amount of tasty ganache. The pecans didn’t hurt a bit, either. My mom, who loves all things rich and chocolatey, was in love. This was the first thing I’d baked entirely from scratch that I was truly proud of!

I’ll save my stories about frosting those cupcakes for my next post. As always, thanks for reading and thanks for commenting! It’s great to have supportive readers to keep an eye out for me as I stumble through this self-taught baking course. See you next time!

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