Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It's Martha, Bitch! Vol. 12

Macarthur Parkcakes: Success at LAST!

Richard Harris' iconic recording of Jimmy Webb's "Macarthur Park" is the clear inspiration for these lovelies. Oh, what's that? You've never head the song? Yeah...I bet you've never heard the Donna Summer disco version either. ... Wait, what?

Jimmy Webb wrote this intense song a while back, and Richard Harris (yes, the first Dumbly-dore) recorded it for an album in 1968. Donna Summer recorded it in '78, and the rest is history! It also became part of the smash musical Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and was recently covered by yours truly. In cupcake form.

I set out to do these cakes a while back...this song is just TOO MUCH. I HAD to. I wanted to wait for a rainy sunday, and I finally got one this past weekend. It's Martha's buttermilk vanilla cupcakes recipe, which I may have tried once before...I cannot remember. This time, I really got everything measured out and added in perfectly. I did flub up and add a whole cup of water instead of a half--I was able to get the right about back out of the mix. Either way, whatever I did worked because THESE cupcakes felt AND tasted like the should have months ago. They were (are!) fluffy and soft, and moist, and light. I was so excited. It's no secret that I've had some density issues cooking on this stove.

If that wasn't enough, I tried another recipe for a buttercream frosting. I wanted to try something that didn't have butter - I can't get it the right consistency without adding pound after pound of powdered sugar, which just KILLS my teeth to think about. I want to try again, but in the mean time, I tried a recipe I found online. The difference? It called for Crisco instead of butter.

I know, gross right? Not to me. I don't really see Crisco as any worse than butter, and according to the baking sticks I bought, it actually is better. No saturated fats and it's mostly made with soybean and palm oil. I had seen recipes around that called for shortening before, but I dove right into this one. After getting the consistency just right, and adding a hint of coconut and lime flavor, I had made the prefect buttercream icing (green of course).

I added some tacky pink pearls to the tops because...I mean...it's the late '60s. I wanted something that felt as over the top as the song does...They actually don't look nearly as tacky as they could have (hence the pearls in the first pic. This is serious cake!) Either way, I am SOooo happy these came out delicious! I feel all proud and whatnot.

I've got to whip up some Halloween cakes this week, so I will probably post those on Sunday. Ideas for the week after? Send them my way! Maybe some cornbread muffin cakes with cranberry sauce? And a turkey leg? We will see!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It's Martha, Bitch! Vol. 9 10, & 11 (I know!!)

Quadruple Feature (Part 1): Sassy Ladycakes and Tiff's Birthday!

Three weeks, huh? I know--it's my procrastination, and I apologize! It's normally not such a big problem. Wait...who am I apologizing to!? My slew of loyal readers? Haha. A guy can dream ;-) To those who do follow me, I do hope to keep this a one-cupcake-post per week thing, instead of lumping them all together. It keeps them a little shorter. Part 2 of this entry will be coming later today. Lots has been happening over the past few weeks. As I type I am wearing a dreadlock wig from Wal-Mart (don't ask) and nursing a giant hole in my mouth where a molar and a wisdom tooth used to be. (at the moment I am feeling quite queasy. Bleh.) I have been busy with work, trying to get a lot of design stuff done for the department and the university, as well as the usual teaching and whatnot. I also succumbed to Twitter, which has made for a much shorter attention span. Anyway, on to the baking projects from the past souple of weeks!

Sassy Ladycakes -aka- Fascinatorcakes!

These cakes were so much fun to make! They were also kinda intense. I was on a roll with my new baking knowledge of using the proper tools to measure the proper substances, and I noticed a difference in my cakes flavors and textures. I made Martha's Chocolate Chip cupcakes this week. I tried yet ANOTHER buttercream recipe, and well, that is getting very annoying y'all. It ALWAYS comes out too buttery, or too slippery in texture. I've been working on alternatives. I really am not the biggest fan of buttercream to begin with, so my failure at making a great one is starting to get to me. The real fun was the dehydrated pineapple flowers. Yes, those are pineapples!

In the end, these ladies tasted good (the pineapples were actually quite tasty too!), but the buttercream was a bit too much to handle. Too buttery and much too sweet. On to the next!

Tiffany's Dia de los Muertos Cakes!

My best friend Samm threw a surprise birthday party for her awesome sister, Tiff - and let me tell you, this thing was AWESOME! We did a Dia de los Muertos theme, which called for the tackiest thing I could think of in the way of cupcakes. Also, we were in east Texas, so now I have traveling cakes! Haha. There were some specifics requested for these cakes, so most of my job was to decorate them. I used a boxed strawberry cake, and mixed strawberry and vanilla canned frostings for the top. I know, it doesn't sound like a lot of work on my part, but in order to make up for it, I made my first royal icing decorations! If you notice in the picture above, I have these tiny little piped shapes all over the cupcakes, along with some gumpaste skulls that I painted with a gel paste/vodka mixture. I have a lot to learn about piping it seems, but I ended up with some interesting (and brightly colored!) accents for the cupcakes. The skulls were just too cute. FYI, Silpat is the BEST! The party was so much fun. Trey seemed to have a lot of fun making a giant tacky altar with Samm, using skulls, Mardi Gras beads, and whatever else we could find! We also played with a bunch of the worlds best doggies. Our allergies were pretty upset afterwards, but it was worth it!

Part 2 will feature a cake I've made, and a purse I just finished sewing! Look for that later today!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

It's Martha, Bitch! Vol. 7 & 8!

Triple Feature Madness! Green Teacakes, True Blood Bites,
and my boyfriend's Balls.

I promise I will explain.

One thing! I hope you all like my new layout. More color, more happiness. I like it. Simple and modern and friendly and whatnot. Thanks for hanging in there with me through the design storm. :-P

So, I mentioned that I had ordered a lot of stuff recently for all my baking learnin' and junk, including a real life Silpat (oooh!), some ball tools (lol) for molding and shaping, some flower punches and lots and lots of shape cutters. So, for this week's cakes I decided to try Martha's white cupcake, sans the pastel peaks she insisted on using for decoration. In fact, it occurs to me that I really just kind of take her recipes and use them as foundations for my own craziness.

For instance, I took this recipe and turned it into something entirely different by adding a couple tablespoons of matcha powder (so pretty!) to the mix. I thought about adding the matcha to the buttercream instead, but that would not look so good with the gumpaste leaves I wanted to make.

For the leaves, I mixed up some awesome chartreusey-matcha green gumpaste and cut out a couple of different sized leaves. On my practice leaves a few weeks back, I made the edges very ripply. They came out pretty realistic looking using one of the ball tools (I find that I prefer the metal to the plastic, with just a tiny touch of Crisco for smoothness.) I went a slightly different route with these guys, and made them more like shapes. I balled the fattest part to give it a little curve, and let them dry on a round object for a slight curve effect. (Gotta get a leaf shaping tray!)

Around the time I started mixing up a buttercream for the frosting, I realized that SUNDAY NIGHT WAS THE TRUE BLOOD SEASON FINALE!! Aaaaugrh!! Trey and I had a couple of folks coming over to watch, so I felt I should do something special for them. True Blood Cakes!

I made another batch of Martha's white cupcakes and put them in bright red papers. You can see them in the background there cooling as I start to ice my Green Teacakes. I made a very white buttercream for this, because I think that this matcha green color and white look so chic together. Once icing was done, I topped them off with their green leaves and Woot! Some lovely green tea flavored cakes!

I must admit that the green tea flavor was on the light side. Florian Bellanger vood not ehv enjeud dese copcauks. HAH!! Maybe I should add more matcha powder? I dunno. Also, I find that Martha's cakes in general seem to lack some sweetness. Even with the proper liquid measurements, they also seem a little on the dense side. Any advice on that? More oil? More milk or something? I dunno. I'm clueless. Even the True Blood cakes were heavier than I expected. They were more like pound cakes than light fluffy cupcakes. Maybe I am mistaken, but it seems that when I buy them from the store, they are like eating air compared to mine, collectively. Remember, I want to be a good bakestress too! So any advice would be much appreciated!

On to the blood...
I wanted something quick for these, and ended up adding all sorts of time to this endeavor. I wanted the appearance of a cupcake that had been bitten by a vamp'r, so my first idea was to use icing and make dots in the top of the icing. When the cakes came out, I noticed they were almost the exact shade of Jessica's fair skin, so I went with bald cupcakes instead. I made a raspberry puree (with a touch of rose water, of course) and OF COURSE it was way too thin. I tried to thicken it up with some arrowroot, but to no avail (always have cornstarch, folks!) My next idea was to reduce it by heating it up on the stove. It thickened up a bit, so that did the trick. Next, I took a chopstick and made holes in the cupcake. I guess I could have just used my fangs, but you know...sanitation and whatnot.

It was True Blood night, okay? And these things were like 12 cents at Walgreens.
I piped (uugh) the raspberry puree into the holes, letting it drip out occasionally to look like well...a vamp attack. It was way too thick or I dunno...it looked cool, but if I really wanted to get it inside the cupcake, I need a better method...like a syringe. (How many of you sang Raspberry Beret just now?)

Meanwhile Trey is also in the kitchen, making a BIG MESS! Naw. We both made a big mess. Three culinary visions crowding one small space makes a sink very very sad. (For real, I just washed dishes yesterday.) Trey had a plan for a while now to make some S'more Cakeballs! Cakeballs, if you are not aware, are these delicious bites of cake from heaven. Basically, you bakes some cake, you crumble it up and mix it with buttercream icing (in this case, chocolate cake mixed with marshmallow/chocolate buttercream and crushed graham crackers) and then you roll it into little 2 inch balls or so. THEN you dip said balls in melted chocolate and let them cool, garnishing the top with whatever evil you can find in the house.

Photo courtesy of Haley Bonner

Trey's recipe made like, 4,600 cake balls. They were sodalicious, but now people hate us for pushing them on everyone. How else can we make the rest of the world as fat as we are?

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned this week for an art blog about the NSU Faculty Art Show, photos of my new work, and my triumph in the Gallery One Ellleven show in Leesville this past weekend! See ya soon!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

It's Martha, Bitch! Vol. 4, 5, and 6!

So ZOMG. It has been such a long time. Like, 3 or 4 whole weeks. Or so. But I PROMISE you, it were not my fault.
The past few weeks have been pretty crazy in relationship to baking. I have hit some all time lows, and ended with a wonderful high (which I will discuss further down!) I betrayed Martha, and I came running back to her like a dog with fondant between his legs. Well, let's get to it.

1. Martha Blondies!
So. Martha spoke to me in a dream, and coming off of the high of my fabulous Back To Blackcakes, I was happy to oblige. I wanted to do a tribute to Lucille Ball, being that it would have been her one hundredth birthday recently. I wanted to do something yummy and vanilla based, so I flipped to Martha's Blondies recipe. I wanted to do these polka-dot blue and white cups with fiery orange 7-Minute Buttercream icing. The buttercream came out a little weird, I guess. I have never made one before, so I didn't really know what to expect. It just felt and tasted much more buttery/oily than I expected. It was light, but just sort of...slick. I dunno. The color was really great though. Unfortunately, I didn't get to use it.

The cupcakes came out of the oven, and the decorative cups I had baked them in had all turned brown and ugly. I threw them in the fridge to cool them off...and well, I left them in for about 30 minutes. BAD IDEA! They were hard as rocks when I took them out, and the wrappers were all stuck firmly to the cakes. AAARGh! I poped them in the oven, which was off but still pretty warm inside. After about 10 minutes of that, I pulled them back out and let them cool on the stove. I think I was trying to cool them quickly so that I could ice them, and take them to a friend. That didn't really work out.

Having been re-warmed and cooled again properly, they returned to their appropriate texture and softness. These things had butterscotch pieces in them, along with something else I can't seem to remember...and they were TERRIBLY SWEET. I mean, they were delicious! But after one half of one, my teeth jumped out and ran away. There was NO WAY I was adding the super sweet buttercream icing to that. I resigned to make a different, plain ol' vanilla cupcake. I thought that maybe trying a different recipe source would be a good idea, as Martha didn't seem to have anything just plain ol' plain. Duhn - dun- duuuunnnn!

2. The Betrayal - Plain Ol' Vanilla Cupcakes!
I found Amy Sedaris' recipe for vanilla cupcakes online through a Google search. I though, WEll, Amy Sedaris is sort of the anti-Martha, so this all works great. Let me tell you, I LOVE Amy Sedaris. If you havent seen THIS yet, you need to watch!

She is just amazing when it comes to being tacky as hell and incredibly entertaining at the same time. Unfortunately, I got her recipe wrong. I wanted to try adding vanilla pudding to the recipe ( I heard it would make them moist and yummy!) and I may have added too much. They came out fine, but were sort of bland altogether, and a little dense. We ate them for breakfast, but no decorating occurred.

3. Judas Strikes Again! - Chocolate Banana Heaven or The Oven Killer
Once again, thinking that Martha's recipes were just too much for me, I strayed and found this recipe for Chocolate Banana cupcakes, for which I had planned to make a Nutella buttercream frosting. Amazing, right? Besides, how would Martha know? I had some old bananas that needed to be used, and didn't feel like making bread again, so this was a great alternative.
Well, I got the recipe mixed, filled my cups, and noticed that THIS WAS THE BEST I HAD EVER MADE SO FAR!! I also noticed the strong distinctive smell of gas. Lots of gas. Trey noticed it in the living room too. This was while I was preheating the over, so I let it go for another couple of minutes (thinking that it was just paranoia) and the smell continued.
Trying DESPERATELY to get these bitches cooked, I threw them in the oven, and after 10 minutes turned it off with them in it. I was sort of hoping it would stay hot enough inside to bake, without causing our death from a gas leak.
WHY WOULD I BE SO RISKY you ask!? I wanted my damn cupcakes!! Also, there was a gas leak. SO I was probably just going crazy.

Needless to say, the cakes only baked halfway by the time I had called the gas company and we had evacuated the house. I nearly cried! They looked like they were going to really be perfect. Into the garbage they went, however. The gas guy came and turned off the gas to the stove and said it needed to be checked out. Urrgh.

4. Redemption - Martha's Chocolate Cupcakes
During the couple of weeks of waiting for stove repair/replacement, I received several gumpaste tools from Amazon and picked up a few more from Michael's. I think I am REALLY getting the hang of this junk! I got a nice mat for rolling stuff and I have ordered a Silpat for trying sugar and chocolate work. I saw recently that some people are JUST cake decorators, which is great. They don't have to know all the baking stuff as much. I though that maybe I was more destined for that, but truly, I want to do it all. I want to be good at baking as well as decorating. Mind you, my degree is in Design, so food science is not really second nature for me yet. I just have a joy for it, I suppose.

Trey's parents came to visit this weekend, and I had promised them cupcakes a while back. I flipped around in Martha's book and found a good old chocolate recipe. The decor called from gumdrops, but I was like "Martha, please." The cakes came out WONDERFUL (Did you know that you have to use different tools for measuring liquid and dry goods? Apparently a lot of people don't. Or Trey was trying not to shame me for not knowing.) I think this may be the reason that all my cakes have been...well, off. I call these Demon Cakes, for Northwestern State University of course!

SO my oven was working again, my cupcakes were moist and delicious (lol!), and no one suffered from permanent brain damage. I really plan to do something with that raspberry-rosewater junk I made again...i think it really will be excellent. We will see where Martha takes me next. Meanwhile, OMG check her out!! Supa-flyyyyyy!!

"Mothaaah," BIIITCH!!

Monday, August 1, 2011

It's Martha, Bitch! Vol. 3

It's Martha, BIIIICTH! And this week we made a VERY SPECIAL variation of Martha Stewart's Brown Sugar Pound Cakes.

The recipe is very simple--some flour, brown sugar, butter, eggs, baking soda, and buttermilk. Pretty ordinary. However, in dedication to the tragic (though unfortunately, not unexpected) death of one of the most wonderful singers of our time, I dub this week's recipe "Back To Blackcakes."

Inspired by Amy Winehouse's black pile of a beehive and her notorious attitude and demeanor, I added a bit of spiced rum and powdered ginger to this recipe, and to make it extra special, I added a (TINY) kick of chili powder to the chocolate frosting. To top it all off, I made cigarette butts out of gum paste and, in true Amy fashion, stuck them right in the top. I imagine that this is what we would see had a tray of cupcakes been left too near her reach after a night of...um...rehearsing.

These were SO much fun to make. I planned them all week. I was especially excited about making something out of the gum paste again. I rolled it out, let it set up for about 30 minutes or so, and then cut them into the proper lengths. I then squished them a little, as if they had been put out. The fun part was the paint. I achieved the color and coverage by mixing my gel colors with vodka (whoo!) and using it like regular paint. After a little testing, I had the right mix and they came out looking awesome. Toothpicks and a block of foam helped keep them upright for drying (I made them the day before and kept them in the fridge until I was ready to ice.)

I used a "hair" tip this time around, thinking that it would look like her hair, without adding too much frosting volume (I see those folks on Cupcake Wars go home for disproportionate frosting...not me!) and it worked alright. I think in the future, should Amy Winehouse ever die again, I will use a small block of cake or something in the center to build around, to help raise the beehive shape up taller.

Overall I was VERY happy with these, and I really think that the world will miss this great talented woman who, I feel, probably just needed a mic, a good friend, and a shoulder to cry on.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

It's Martha, Bitch! Vol. 2

Hey y'all! This week I attempted Martha's raspberry cheesecake recipe for my cupcakes. This particular cupcake doesn't call for any frosting, because the top of the cake is supposed to be sooo pretty (all red and white swirliness.)
Let me tell you all, this recipe gave me hell.

It's basically a mini cheesecake with a graham cracker crust, and a raspberry swirl. I had Greek food this past weekend, and I finally bought some Rose Water (my new favorite thing EVAAAR!). I added a tiny bit to my pureed raspberries...holy crap it was so awesome. Incredibly fragrant, and the flavors married wonderfully. Take that Martha! I jazzed up your recipe!

I also made her whipped cream frosting for these...just because I thought it would look and taste nice.

First, the recipe called for me to cook them "until set", or like, 22 minutes. I guess I didn't really know what "set" meant when I pulled them out, because it was a tad bit early. I put them in the fridge to cool for 4 hours. These instructions confused the HELL out of me--there is definitely a word missing in that part. It's understandable...it's not like Martha has time to beat the living daylights out of EVERY person on her staff for ridiculous mistakes like typos and omissions!

Anywho, Trey and I figured that out, and came to the conclusion that the cakes needed to be baked for a bit longer. They were not firming up like they needed to. After a few more minutes in the oven, they got to the proper firmness, and then I cooled them again.

Ultimately, these guys were super rich and super dense, and though they tasted alright, I could have added a bit more of the raspberry to each one. Maybe I will try these again another day!

Friday, July 15, 2011

It's Martha, Bitch!

Hello Bloggoverse!
I know, do NOT even point your cranky finger at me "Laaarrie! It's been almost a WHOLE DANG YEAR since you last blogged!" I KNOW this, man. Here is what you need to know to get caught up:

1. Awesome boyfriend/partner/homedude--whatever you wanna call him. He is the best. Look at how big his head is. LOVE that guy.

2. New Hizzle. Rent hizzle, actually. I thought I was going to buy a house in the recent past, but turns out that just relocating to a bigger place (for not hardly any extra money a month) was smarter for the time being. Still cleaning, decorating, and luxuriating the place, but it's primo.

3. Job is AWESOME! Still teaching at NSU, and it gets better each year. Recently finished NSU Art Camps (for the like, 4th year or so? Hell I dunno.) These kids rock, and they threw me a birthday party last month. Hope you didn't miss it.

4. Labertha's Brief Return! She came out (haha...) and judged the annual SAI Lady Of The Night pageant (complete with Patrick Nagel-inspired poster designed by moi!). She even sang the national anthem! Buy her album, you lying bitches! Sales do not seem to reflect what some of y'all keep telling me...

5. I got some new ink, y'all! I heard this Natasha Beddingfield song while I was driving one day and well...I'm a big crybaby...and thought, "Every story in life should end this way." So I committed to making that happen. The video is not as to-the-point as it seems at first, so watch all the way through. Twice. Check it!

So, yeah-you should be all caught up! I will fill in the blanks as we go (in future blogs.) ANYWAY, the point of THIS blog is to tell you all about what I am taking on NOW.

I am venturing on a new weekly task! I got this awesome book called Martha Stewart Cupcakes.
I plan to bake one of her recipes each week (a la Julie and Julia)! It's gonna be "Larrie and Martha, Bitch!" Why "Martha Bitch!"? Well, check this out.

Here is the first result of this baking interest I have developed (thank you, Cupcake Wars, Master Chef, and Food Network Challenge. DVR is a bitch.) These are Snickerdoodle cucpakes with gum paste buttons and finished with cinnamon-sugar dust. Yummers!

Tune in next time kids! I don't know which I am making next, but you may see cupcakes the next time you see me!