31 March 2014

Wilton Cake Classes - Lesson 1

I decided to take some Cake Decorating Classes this month. It has been on my list for a while now and I found a class at my local Michaels. The class is once a week for two hours but we usually don't take the full two hours and end about 20 minutes or so early.  The class requires that you come prepped every week with your icing, cakes or cupcakes depending on the lesson that day. 


The Cost:
The actual class was relatively cheap. It cost $25 to sign up. What they don't tell you at the time of signing up are all the hidden costs that go along with it. You also have to buy an instruction book, a course kit, additional supplies and the ingredients to make your cakes and icings. If you aren't careful this can add up fast! The cost of the course kit is $50 and to be honest I didn't think it was worth the $50 for what you get in it. I found it on sale at Michael's for 40% off and I have heard that Walmart also sells it.  I would suggest that you check your coupons for Michael's regularly because I noticed one day after signing up for the class that they sometimes have coupons that give you $20 off class supplies when you sign up and they have coupons off of the actual class fees too sometimes. I got creative with my weekly Michaels coupons to get everything I needed for class and used Bulk Barn for certain items as well. I would suggest doing a quick scan of the Michaels baking isle and noting the prices of certain things before going to Bulk Barn. I found some of the Wilton product at Bulk Barn to be more then Michaels or the about the same price (but you get 10% off at Michael's if you are in the class).

Flowers and Cupcakes from Class 3
The Course and Instructor:
My instructor was extremely nice but I didn't find her all that helpful. She kept the class moving but basically just followed the book which I could have done on my own at home. Any hints or tips that she gave were mostly to do with buying additional Wilton Products or Wilton Products that she LOVED. I get that its a Wilton Course (as a business student I applaud Wilton for their marketing strategy here - its genius) but I couldn't help feel like it was more of a money grab and less of an learning opportunity. I felt like my instructor should have been more up front with the fact that she gets 40% off her Wilton products (I looked it up online). The class is small but I didn't felt that I got any individual attention. When asked how she did something, she would say "oh I've done this once or twice" and just tell us to practice. She wasn't very good at explaining how to do things outside of what was printed for her in the instruction booklet.  I found the actual content of the course to be slow at times. I did learn a few tips/tricks but I probably could have read about them or learned them through a YouTube Video. It was nice having a set time to decorate a cake and a reason to decorate a cake. It also gave me an excuse to buy a lot of the supplies that I was missing in my collection. 

The cake we decorated in Class 2
A Few Helpful Class Hints: 
- I baked 2 six inch cakes (in a cake pan with 3 inch sides) so they were nice and high. I could still torte them to fill if I wished. This allowed me to get two cakes out of one doctored cake mix (I cheated for class...shh). I wrapped both cakes in plastic wrap and tin foil once they had completely cooled and froze them. I took them out a day before class to thaw on my counter top before I needed them for class. This meant I only had to bake cake once for the whole month which saved me time. 
- I made my cupcakes from my go to chocolate recipe. It worked out that I was making a dozen cupcakes for a friend the same week I needed these.
-The icing recipe calls for icing sugar, water and shortening. None of this goes bad. You can mix up all the icing you need for all your classes at one time in stiff consistency and leave it on your counter for weeks in an airtight container. You can then quickly adjust it each week to the right consistency (thin or medium) and add any colour to it.
- A cheap cake/cupcake carrier comes in handy (the dollar store sells them) if you don't already own one.  The dollar store (at least here) also sells cake turn tables and cooling racks. 
-Bulk Barn sells individual disposable decorating bags for $0.35
- If you can take the class with a friend DO IT. Seriously. It can cut down on your prep time and your costs. You can share some of the additional supplies that you have to purchase and can take turns making icing. Or each make different icing colours for class and then share. 
- Don't buy the pipping gel (needed for Week 2). Its a complete waste of money. Its like 7 bucks for a tub you will use once in class. Someone in your class will probably let you share with them.
- The book always tells you to make WAY more icing then you need. 

Cake from Class 4 - We learnt the Wilton Rose (mine all got squished by my cake carrier before I took a photo). 
Overall: 
I would recommend the course to anyone who has very little cake decorating experience. It is definitely a course for beginners. Keep in mind that there is "homework" every week which is very time consuming. 
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26 March 2014

Chocolate Turtle Cupcakes


A friend requested Chocolate Turtle Cupcakes (like the candy) for his brother's birthday. I have been wanting to make something similar to this for a while. I love the combination of chocolate and caramel but the pecans add that extra layer of crunch to the cupcakes. The caramel pecan mixture alone is worth making, I had some extra which I plan on using on ice cream and pancakes (or eating by the spoonful).


Recipe: Adapted from Annie's Eats
Makes 12

For the Cupcake: 


1/4 cup cocoa powder 
1/4 cup hot (almost boiling) water
1 cup flour 
1/2 teaspoon baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon baking Power 
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar

2 eggs
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract 
1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350F and line cupcake tin with liners.
In a small bowl, whisk together cocoa powder and hot water. In another bowl, combine dry ingredients. 
In a small saucepan combine butter and sugar over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted and mixture is smooth. Transfer butter and sugar mixture to bowl and using an electric mixer (or stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment) mix for 3-5 minutes until mixture cools and becomes pale yellow in colour. 
Add in eggs one at a time, mixing throughly between each addition. Mix in vanilla extract. 
Add the flour mixture in 2 batches alternating with the sour cream. Beat until just incorporated.
Fill cupcake liners 1/2-2/3s full and bake for 15-18 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. 

For the Caramel Filling Filling:
1 cup sugar 
5 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup heavy cream 
1/2 cup pecans

Heat sugar in a medium sized heavy bottom sauce pan on medium-high heat. When sugar starts melting, stir sugar until it is fully melted. Once melted, swirl sauce pan until sugar turns deep amber in colour (or reaches 350F on a candy thermometer). 
Stir in butter. Take caramel mixture off the heat and stir in cream. Mixture will bubble violently.
Finally stir in pecans. 

For the Icing:
1 cup butter
3-4 cups icing sugar 
3 teaspoons vanilla 
2 tablespoons heavy cream 

Beat butter until light and fluffy. Beat in icing sugar until smooth and creamy. Beat in vanilla and cream.

To Assemble: 
Once cupcakes have cooled completely, use the cone method to fill cupcakes with approx 1-2 teaspoons of caramel pecan mixture. 

Frost cupcakes as desired. Top with extra pecan mixture and drizzle with caramel and chocolate sauces. 




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24 March 2014

Meet Emma from Emma's Looking Glass

One thing that I love about blogging is connecting with other bloggers and the friendships that are formed. I was so excited when UK blogger Emma agreed to be featured on Teacups and Cake. Emma's Looking Glass is on my list of must read blogs and I am always excited to read about Emma's latest adventures. She is always friendly, down to earth and quite charming. To get to know Emma better, I had her answer some questions. Enjoy!


1. Tell me a little bit about Emma's Looking Glass
Emma's Looking Glass is a place for me to share adventures, personal style, recipes and anything else that I like or feel the need to express. I see it as a way of being creative and having fun. I also think it's a great way to document good things in my life.

2.Why did you decided to start blogging and how long have you been blogging for? 

My friend suggested I started blogging a few years ago after helping her out by modelling her costume designs for uni, she thought it could be a great way for me to have fun and share my style and photography, I thought it was a great idea so in 2011 I started my blog. Sadly at the time I was far too ill to commit to blogging. My health improved a little since and in May last year I felt confident that I could attempt to blog again, and since then I have been blogging regularly. 

3. What is your favourite thing about blogging/best experience with blogging so far?

I love how creative blogging is, from writing posts, photography, outfits, to planning outings, it's great seeing it all come together to create a post. I've also found that blogging has made me feel more like myself again. Long term illness made me feel like I lost some of my identity, and I feel that I've found that again, by blogging and interacting with like minded people. I've met a few lovely bloggers in the last few months, it's so nice meeting people who understand blogging! 




4. What influences your personal style? 

There's a few aspects that influence my style, mainly whatever I'm drawn to with a pinch of what's on trend. I love vintage, especially the 60's at the moment. I have a few dresses that I adore from this era. For a few years now I've been a hoarder of floral prints, I'm totally addicted, I think I need professional help! Right now I'm loving black with floral embroidery. 

5. Which post that you have written is your favourite? And why?
My favourite post is about my Christmas tree cupcakes. It's my favourite post as I'm so proud of the cakes and especially the photos I took. I've recently been taking photography classes to learn how to use my camera on manual, these photos were the first proper photos I took after learning the basics. 



6. Tell us about your cat, Alfie.

Alfie aka bag puss on account of his massive tummy, also called saggy knickers, is a very special cat indeed. He's been in my life for almost 11 years and without meaning to sound like a crazy cat lady I feel we have a deep bond. He came into my life when I was having a very difficult time with school and family and he's sat with me while I've been at my lowest with my illness. Unlike most cats it took him 10 years to learn to talk, now he won't stop! Last year I taught him to sit, it seems you can teach an old cat new tricks! 


7. You have some great DIYs and recipes on your blog. Where do you find your inspiration? 

I bake a lot, and I like adding things to recipes I've already tried. I get a lot of inspiration from Pinterest - one of the best sites for time wasting with the massive side effect of making you starving after seeing all the great photos of delicious food! 



8. Favourite places in the UK? Must visits for travellers?

I have a few favourite places in the uk. London is amazing, from tourest sites like the London eye, Hyde park, the V&A museum to vintage and unique shops in the east end area, Brick Lane, Portobello road, Spitalfelds. Everything is so close in London, when I studied at LCF I had lectures on oxford street - one of our main destinations for shopping in the heart of London and then less than 20 minutes later I'd be back on the main site in the east end.

I also love the countryside, one of my favourite places is cornwall, I go every summer, it's great to be out in the country and minutes from stunning coast. Also all the little seaside towns with their old buildings, Polperro is one of my favourites, there's a house there covered in seashells. St Ives, Port Isaac and Padstow are beautiful too.



9. You are quite the accomplished Cake Decorator. Any tips, for those like me, looking to start?

That's a massive compliment - thank you! I would say don't give up, if in doubt on how to do something look it up on YouTube - I learnt how to make fondant roses and other flowers that way. There's so many tutorials on there. Always take your time and practice as much as you can. 




To hear more from Emma check out her blog Emma's Looking Glass
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19 March 2014

Establishing Fitness Habits

The weather has finally started to warm up (most days), and the snow is slowly starting to melt. So I have been coming out of hibernation and have actually been getting to the gym and walking to class way more! I go through phases where I actually go to the gym on a regular basis but then something comes up and I stop, I find excuses and before I know it it has been months since I have step foot in a gym. 

After reading this article of "15 Fitness Habits to Establish in your 20s" by Women's Health, I am trying to build some healthier habits.  Once of those is getting to the gym (I am trying to aim for 3x a week). I have found that once I actually start going to the gym on a regular basis I look forward to it and I start to look up different circuits and exercises online.  
One of the biggest obstacles for me is getting over the fact that every workout doesn't have to be a big production. I think this stems from the fact that I used to figure skate and train 4-5x a week. This included on and off-ice training. Which meant an hour working out off the ice before even getting on the ice some days. Working out for me then, always meant it took a large portion out of my day.  I have started to come to realization that any sort of workout is better then no workout. Even if I can only be at the gym for a half hour thats better then nothing and its more likely that I will stick with working out in the long run because it enforces the habit. 
I also know that I need a goal to work towards. Something that is attainable yet challenging. I find when I work out just to work out that I get bored too quickly. I also need to set goals that I want to attain. I used to always set running goals. But I HATE running. I would rather do anything other then run. So these goals were pointless because I didn't really want to work towards them. I now set goals that I actually want to achieve which makes working out a bit more fun. 

Do have any advice for sticking to a workout plan? 
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17 March 2014

St Patrick's Day: Bailey Cupcakes


Since I will not be celebrating St. Patrick's Day in the traditional sense, my friend and I decided to make  some festive cupcakes for the occasion. I have made Bailey's Cupcakes in the past but these are a bit different and I think they turned out even better. The buttercream was AMAZING and there was actually almost a full cup of baileys right in the actual cupcake. This is a recipe I am sure will be requested again and again!  



For the Cupcakes (Makes 12): 
1 Cup All Purpose Flour 
1/4 Cup Unsweetneed Cocoa Powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 Cup sugar
1 large egg 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup Baileys 

For the Icing 
1 Cup butter, room temperature
Approx 3 Cups icing sugar 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
2 table spoons baileys

Directions: 
Preheat oven to 350 F. 
In a bowl combine flour, cocoa power, baking soda and salt
In a separate bowl whisk together egg and sugar. Stir in vanilla and melted butter. Add flour mixture in two parts, alternating with sour cream. Stir in Baileys. 

Spoon batter into cupcake lined pan. Fill about 2/3s full. Bake for 15-18mins or until tooth pick inserted into centre comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting. 

Frosting: 
Beat butter with electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Add in icing sugar slowly. Beat in vanilla and Baileys until fluffy.


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16 March 2014

Go say Hi

I am answering some questions over at Emma's Looking Glass today about the blog. Be sure to check it out!
EMMA's LOOKING GLASS
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13 March 2014

March


I saw this floating around Facebook yesterday. I am not sure where it is originally from but man I can relate. Tuesday we had beautiful weather here and it actually felt like Spring. I was able to go to class in just a light jacket and I could finally wear something other then boots! I was so excited that Spring had finally sprung... But it was just a cruel trick because we got another 20 cm of snow yesterday. Will this winter EVER end?

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12 March 2014

Mini Cupcakes


I made just over 200 of these little guys the other day for an event.  I was surprised at how quickly I was able to make them and how smoothly it seemed to go (minus a couple of slight mishaps). I bought all the materials ahead of time and only had to send the boy out once for some extra sour cream (those containers look like they hold more then they do) so I am going to count that as a win.


I learned that with mini cupcakes its really important to not overfill them. I found filling them about half full was perfect for this recipe. I would recommend a using a stand mixer if you can get your hands on one. The process probably would have gone a lot faster if I had one. My poor hand held mixer just couldn't keep up and the motor ended up giving out so there was another emergency run to target for a new one (I have a stand mixer but its unfortunately not with me at school).  


Everyone seemed to really love these small treats. The icing was a HUGE hit! I think I can cross cupcake tower off my list because this was a huge undertaking. I have my cake class tonight that I am really excited for. I am hoping to do a review on it once I have gone to more then just one class!


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7 March 2014

Spring Favourites

It seems like it has finally started to warm up a bit and that spring might be lurking around the corner. I am so sick of this winter, it feels like it has dragged on forever and it has just been SO cold. I cannot wait to wear lighter jackets and a shoe other than boots!
Spring Favourites

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3 March 2014

Chocolate Cookie Dough Cupcakes


As a request for a friends birthday I made some chocolate cookie dough cupcakes and topped them off with some mini chocolate chip cookies! The cupcake base was a chocolate cupcake and I filled them with cookie dough and topped them with cookie dough icing. They were a hit! 



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