Random Recipes and Tea Time Treats have teamed up this month so the challenge was to assemble all of your recipe books that contain cakes, biscuits and other tea time treats, and pick something at random. I did just that, and the book that my hand fell upon (OK, poetic licence there - I actually went all high tech and used a random number generator!) was none other than Hello, Cupcake!
For those of you who aren't familiar with the behemoth that is Hello Cupcake, it's an American publishing sensation that encompasses books, a website, an app and even a calendar. They show you how to make cupcakes that look like animals, boxes of popcorn, shoes - they are known for their imaginative designs. They're not meant to be hard and use everyday items, usually sweets/candy, but one problem I've had is that this is an American book and they often list ingredients I've never heard of and can't get in the UK, so I have to substitute what I can. I have made some of their designs before - these ducks, penguins and werewolves - as they are really fun and have a huge impact when people see your creations. I'd been meaning to make something else from their book for a while and had stocked up on some goodies on a recent trip to America, so when I opened the book at random, I was hoping it would be something I could do....
As I knew this one would take a while, I decided to cheat slightly and use a packet cake mix. Has anyone used these before? I never have, and often think they are a bit pointless - you still need to add eggs and oil to the dry ingredients so it's not like it's all that much quicker. But I've tasted cakes made from this mix before and they are actually really nice, and I've been told it is a good standby to have in the cupboard if you do need to whip up cakes in a hurry. I've never exactly suffered from a cake emergency before but then, I don't have children or many visitors to my house, so who knows?
Stage one: Take your cake mix!
Mix according to instructions. As this is the first time I've used a packet mix, I'll do a little review... I found that mixing everything together in one go, rather than adding the ingredients gradually, made it a little hard to mix properly and there were a few lumps. Also, eggs are generally the one ingredient I don't have in the fridge so buying them to go with a cake mix isn't any quicker than buying them to make a cake from scratch, since I generally do have the other ingredients I need and it doesn't take all that long to make a cake. But I can see there are some advantages to having a packet mix in the cupboard just in case. In addition, the cakes taste amazing - really light and springy. So on that basis I might buy this again.
I don't have a photo of the finished cakes but they are essentially just chocolate cupcakes so you don't need a picture! I made a few trying to follow the instructions from Hello Cupcake - they tell you how to make different breeds of dog - and they looked horrible, like a cross between a goblin and a monster. In the end I found a method that worked, which was loosely based on the one given in the book but really I made it up as I went along, so I don't think I'll be breaking any copyright rules if I show you how I did it!
If you recall from this post, I bought a lot of baking supplies in America earlier this month. I bought a tub of Betty Crocker whipped vanilla frosting, purely as it looked a bit different and was something we can't get in the UK. It's pure white, and has the texture (and similar taste) of marshmallow fluff. I don't know how they make it and if there is a way to make buttercream that is actually white (maybe using Trex, but that would taste horrible!) so I might have to look into that. I was very glad to have it though, as I realised using chocolate icing for my dog cakes was making them look like the things that dogs leave behind.... so I went with the white icing instead.
First I covered a cupcake with some of the white frosting
Then I cut a piece of marshmallow into a triangle. I happened to have orange marshmallows (they were the pumpkin-shaped ones I bought in America), but in restrospect it would have been much better to use white marshmallows.
I covered the marshmallow with more frosting. It just looks like a big lump now but that's the angle of the photo - it does actually have a raised part which is going to form the dog's nose and mouth area.
Next I added two smaller pieces of marshmallow for the eyes...
...and covered these in frosting as well. The shape is better than it appears from this photo - though I have to admit it's not particularly neat! Patience is not one of my virtues.
Adding eyes and nose. Here's a random thing: the Hello Cupcake book frequently suggests using mini M&Ms for eyes, and I never knew what to do as we don't have those in the UK. I just used normal M&Ms and thought they worked and weren't too big. Now I know why - normal M&Ms in America seem to be much bigger than the ones we have here! Unless that was just the kind I bought - I got peanut butter M&Ms, which taste amazing! I used one for the nose, and mini M&Ms for the eyes. I think that our M&Ms are somewhere betweeen the two sizes.
The book also specifies Famous Chocolate Wafers for many of its recipes, another brand we don't have in the UK, but I was able to buy some of these over the internet. They are flat, round, fairly thin chocolate biscuits that remind me a little of Oreos (only thinner and without the filling).
Cut the biscuit to make the ears, and stick into the side of the cupcake like this. I also made a tongue from a small piece of a strawberry lace.
Here's a slightly better one... do you think they look like puppies? They didn't turn out much like the ones in the Hello Cupcake book after all, but I think they are cute!
This is a different one - I managed to make nine in the end, six of which I took into work for the Macmillan bake sale, and three I'm saving for my family when I see them this weekend.
A litter of puppies! The dots of orange you can see are from the marshmallow, so as I said I'm wishing I'd used white ones.
These went down pretty well at the bake sale! My favourite is the one in the middle of the bottom row, I think it actually does look quite canine!
Now comes the multi-challenge badges... first of all I made this for Random Recipes hosted by Dom at Belleau Kitchen and Tea Time Treats, which is co-hosted by Karen from Lavender and Lovage and Kate at What Kate Baked, as I chose this recipe at random from my collection of baking books. It was a great idea to combine the two challenges!
Next as I made cupcakes I am sending them to Calendar Cakes, hosted by Rachel of Dolly Bakes and Laura at Laura Loves Cakes, as their theme this month is cupcakes.
As this is a US recipe book and so many of my ingredients came from America, I am sending this to Cupcake Crazy Gem's United Bakes of America challenge. Gem has just moved from the UK to Vancouver so now has direct access to Wal-Mart, I'm so jealous!
And finally, since I'm hosting Alphabakes this month and have accepted a few late entries, I thought I'd slip in a late entry of my own. The letter this month is P and the title of this recipe in Hello Cupcake is Pup Cakes, though I prefer to call them Puppy dog cupcakes :-)