Barnyard animal cupcakes. April 2008. Photo by Jennifer Melo
My niece Lauren’s birthday was a fine time to try some cute barnyard animals. My favourite cake-decorating book Cake Art made it easy with step-by-step instructions and photos.
I struggled with proportions, but I was quite happy with how my barnyard animal cupcakes turned out.
I must say, though, they were time-consuming. I couldn’t manage doing more than a few but that was fine because a few is all I needed to decorate plates of cupcakes.
Fondant is like play dough
This project was really fun. It’s kind of like playing with play dough but you have to work with fondant quickly before it dries out and any moisture will make fondant sticky so it’s wise to keep cornstarch or icing sugar on hand to dust your hands and your work surface.
I hadn’t learned how to make black fondant yet so I used black licorice and it was tricky and tough to work with. See the crazy eyes on that pig? I cut small pieces of black licorice and stuck it to the fondant with water.
Illustrations in Cake Art make it easy to shape and assemble your barnyard animals. Photo by Jennifer Melo
And this is how the pros do it. Photo by Jennifer Melo
Lauren and her party guests loved these cupcakes.
I think my cow’s pretty cute, but the rabbit’s my favourite. Which one’s your favourite?
Lavender cake and cupcakes. Photo by Jennifer Melo
Nelia’s 40th birthday cake
For my sister’s 40th birthday, cake AND cupcakes would mark the occasion. A vanilla sponge cake is covered in white fondant and I used flower cookie cutters to make the flowers and leaves.
Nel’s favourite colour is purple. I used purple icing gel to pipe the letters and rather than pipe a border on the cake with my shaky, inexperienced piping hands, I stuck on small fondant flowers all around like a garland.
I bought the flowers and leaves cookie cutters at Golda’s Kitchen and I love them. I’ve found many uses for them over the years.
The vanilla cupcakes are topped with vanilla buttercream and fondant decorations.
I went to Homesense in search of bar stools the other day but instead of coming home with seating, I returned with a few extra baking supplies. My favourite find is these FoodWriter edible food colour markers from Wilton ($10).
Green, blue, red, black and yellow food colouring markers. Photo by Jennifer Melo
My piping technique sucks but I have plenty of practise with markers after years of colouring pages with my nieces. So food colouring markers are genius inventions for novice cookie decorators like me.
Food colouring marker tip is fine at the end for details and thick on the sides for shading. Photo by Jennifer Melo
Although these markers are of the bold tip variety, the tip’s not so bold that you can’t use it to draw some detail work. Here’s a shot of the packaging in case you want to find it in stores.
FoodWriter edible colour markers packaging. Photo by Jennifer Melo
I couldn’t wait to try using these markers and I had just the baking project coming up to put these bad boys to use. I soon discovered that cute Easter bunny cookies are adorable when I can draw, rather than pipe, a face.
Easter hunt cupcakes. Photo by Jennifer Melo
Last Easter, I used my grass tip for the first time when I made this Easter egg hunt cupcake, inspired by the adorable Easter cupcakes at tasteandtell.com and I was pleased with the results. I also tried spreading a buttercream on top and rolling it onto a plate of tinted coconut and the grass-tip piped cupcake won out because it looked more realistic that the coconut which tasted great but looked more like
AstroTurf synthetic grass to me.
See what I mean?
Cupcake “grass” with piped buttercream (left) and tinted coconut (right). Photo by Jennifer Melo
How to pipe buttercream grass
Use the grass tip, hold it above the cupcake and very close to the surface.
Squeeze, stop squeezing, pull up. Repeat in a circle all around the cupcake and wor your way to the center.
Watch this helpful video demonstration from Cookies, Cupcakes and Cardio and see how it’s done.
Easter egg hunt cupcakes, ready for a party. Photo by Jennifer Melo
When you’re done piping, top your cupcakes with Cadbury mini eggs (you really can’t leave me alone with a bag of these).
What do you think? Do they need some cute Easter bunny cookies to complete the Easter theme?
Easter egg cookies. Photo by Jennifer Melo
Last year, I tried my hand at Easter egg sugar cookies with royal icing. But most of the royal icing recipes I found called for meringue powder (and I didn’t have any on hand) or raw egg whites (and with young nieces, I didn’t want to risk salmonella poisoning.)
Royal icing without eggs or merengue powder
I finally found a recipe in a cookbook that simply called for icing sugar, water and some lemon juice. So I tried it.
I tinted the icing with green, red, blue and yellow (not shown here) food colouring.
Royal icing for Easter egg cookies. Photo by Jennifer Melo
You can tell that the consistency of the icing was a bit too watery because there’s some run-off on some cookies and the shapes I tried to pipe didn’t hold too well.
Drippy Easter egg cookies. Photo by Jennifer Melo
When I tasted the icing, it was quite lemony but I thought the icing flavour was quite good. My niece Aliya disagreed. It seems the tartness of the lemon juice didn’t please her palate. Noted for next time: Too much lemon might be off-putting for kids.