A few of us (C, S and myself) attended a private cupcake class this afternoon, conducted by Lynn Chen, who also teaches at Palate Sensations. Having Lynn just to the three of us was great, because for one, we could bombard her with all sorts of stupid questions, and also we weren’t afraid to mess up or show our relative baking ignorance.
We learnt how to make and decorate two cupcakes – an Opera cupcake, which is a coffee cupcake filled with chocolate ganache and frosted with coffee buttercream, and a Carrot cupcake with cream cheese frosting, and topped with an absolutely adorable piped carrot. I won’t reproduce the recipes here. You can either get them from me, or attend one of Lynn’s classes, heh. I’ll just use this space to post a few photos and tips, for my own benefit so that I don’t forget what we were taught.
Tray of completed opera cupcakes. C’s are the ones on the left, mine are in the center, and S’s are on the right (she used another tray for the rest of hers). We all used different piping tips.
Tip #1: After creaming the butter and sugar together, beat eggs and add them into the creamed butter mixture in small amounts. This is because eggs are mostly water, and if they’re added too quickly into the oil-based butter mixture, it’s likely to split or curdle.
Tip #2: For easier cupcake decorating, freeze just-baked cupcakes for 5 to 10 minutes, rather than waiting over an hour for them to cool sufficiently to be frosted.
Tip #3: To cut out holes in the cupcake for filling with ganache, take a long serrated paring knife and insert it into the cupcake at an angle (pointing towards the centre of the cupcake). Cut all the way round and you should end up with a little cone that you can remove. Note: ganache should be cooled before filling, otherwise it’ll be too thin and just seep through the cake.
Tip #4: When making the buttercream, add the hot milk to the egg mixture slowly at first, to avoid scrambling the eggs. Once the mixture has warmed up a little, the rest of the milk can be added in at once. Bring the mixture back to the heat and slowly stir to thicken the custard till it stops swirling when you stir it. Remove from heat occasionally to check, to ensure that it doesn’t thicken beyond the ideal point.
Tip #5: Straining the custard is essential, because there will inevitably be little lumps of cooked egg, particularly egg white bits. The buttercream will never be smooth with these little bits.
Tip #6: Both the buttercream and the cupcake can be modified for other flavours. For a lemon cake, you can substitute some of the milk with lemon juice, and add lemon zest. For the buttercream, instead of coffee emulco you can add chocolate emulco, or lemon zest.
Out of the 6 carrot cupcakes, you can tell which one is Lynn’s and which are mine. Her perfectly piped carrot is the top left one.
Making the piping bags and piping the carrot was the trickiest part. To make individual little piping bags, take a triangle of parchment paper, shaped like so:
Fold the bottom corner up:
And hold with thumb and forefinger, making sure that it’s folded such that there’s a 90 degree angle, like so:
Fold the other end up, and tighten by pulling it upwards until it’s a sharp point, and tuck the end into the bag:
Fill it with icing, and to seal it – hold it with the vertical seam facing you. Push the icing down, and fold the top down once towards you, fold the corners in away from you, then keep folding away from you to push the rest of the icing down. Cut a 5mm hole for the carrot, and a 1mm hole for the leaves.
To pipe the carrot, pipe the icing and stop, pipe and stop, etc, to create the little joints in the carrots. To taper the carrot, reduce the size of the blobs until at the end, just pull away to get the sharp end of the carrot.
Well, it’s all well and good for us to do this under Lynn’s supervision and watchful eye. The real test will be when we try this at home on our own, and whether we succeed in recreating our ‘masterpieces’ or not. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
Not bad, but I prefer C’s marscapone cheese and strawberry jam cupcakes.
Dude, you're my husband. Biased much?