Monday, August 4, 2008

Whimsical, weird and wonderful - Dali-esque sunflower cupcakes

Happy Love Strawberry is celebrating her birthday, and has asked us to cater for her party with a theme of Whimsical, Weird and Wonderful. This sounds like fun, as I have never previously attempted to make anything with this slant to it. There's nothing like broadening your horizons, I always say.

For inspiration, I turned to Hello Cupcake, a book brimming with bright and colourful cupcakes decorated in all kinds of fun shapes and themes, as this book is not about the cakes underneath - it's about the decoration. The book's creations are stated by the authors to be possible with nothing but a ziplock bag, canned frosting and some candies. After a quick flick, I spied the cupcakes that I wanted to make - some absolutely delightful sunflower cupcakes, complete with their own ladybirds. Now, the subtitle to Hello Cupcake is "Playful Creations That Anyone Can Make". Note that it does not say that anyone can make them well - and, um, well, I made the sunflower cupcakes, but they bear only a passing resemblance to the ones in the book. I have dubbed my sunflower cupcakes "Dali-esque", because just like much of Salvador Dali's artwork, my sunflowers are melting into oblivion from their perches atop the cupcakes.

Although my piping skills are far from great, in my defence, the canned frosting suggested as the icing base in Hello Cupcake was way too soft to maintain the stiff peaks required for perky sunflower petals. I don't know what brand of frosting the authors used to obtain their beautiful results, but unfortunately, my Betty Crocker canned frosting just wasn't up to the job - it smells and looks wonderful, but it needs a serious dose of Viagra before it is suitable for this kind of job. I also hated piping with a ziplock bag - it's a great technique if you are fresh out of parchment paper and don't have an icing bag, but I was less than excited by the lack of control and precision, so much so that for about three quarters of the cakes, I used parchment piping bags.

The other thing to bear in mind when making designs from Hello Cupcake is that while they are meant to be easy (except obviously for a gumby like me), they do not mention that they are meant to be quick - and they ain't. It took me just over three and half hours from start to finish to decorate 24 cupcakes with my Dali-esque creations, and as I did not start until 9pm, it was a long night.

If you would like to make these cupcakes, or just have an eye for abstract art, you too can make cupcakes topped with Dali-inspired sunflowers (or, if you use a stiffer icing, sunflowers like the ones in the book) with nothing more than a batch of cupcakes, a box of Oreos, two cans of frosting, some food colouring, a box of smarties and a ziplock bag (or a roll of parchment paper). This is a pretty neat concept - go Hello Cupcake. You were also supposed to use flattened green lollies for the leaves, but Safeway doesn't seem to stock those and I forgot to get them when I was shopping elsewhere, so I just piped on the leaves with more green frosting.

Because these cakes are all about the look, I have not reproduced the cupcake recipe that I used here. Needless to say, you can use any cupcake recipe that you like. Hello Cupcake suggests vanilla cupcakes, I made orange cupcakes, but if chocolate devil's food is more your style, you can do that too.

Hello Cupcake
is a great book for inspiration, but for truly professional looking results, in my view, you need to have a pretty steady piping technique, and to go the hard yards to make your own royal icing or a stiffer buttercream rather than relying on canned frosting.

Despite the fact that my sunflowers are seriously wilted, I think they are kinda cute. Whimsical? Yes. Weird? Definitely. Wonderful? Yeah, why not.

Happy 18th birthday Happy Love Strawberry!!!

PS: You can view the party roundup here. Do visit - it is fantastic!


Chef Jeena said...

What pretty cakes I love the ladybird. :-)

Tammy said...

I think your cakes look great! and you are patient spending that much time on them! I think that is where I go wrong - i try and do things too quickly!

Emily said...

I think the cupcakes look so cute. I love the ladybugs. They're very whimsical.

Ha ha - Viagra. Very funny.

Katie said...

How cute! The cupcakes are so pretty. I was planning on entering Whimsical, Weird & Wonderful too. I am excited about making my entry because it lets us cooks be crazy creative.

Cakelaw said...

Thanks Jeena - they're my favourite part, too.

Hi Tammy - I think it's because I'm just slow that I took so long.

Thanks Em ;)

Thanks Katie - I look forward to seeing what you come up with.

The Caked Crusader said...

very pretty - I love the ladybirds!

Anna said...

I love this idea, it's so happy and summery! Thanks so much for entering, these are great!

Ivy said...

Your cupcakes look lovely an I love that ladybird. Don't believe what you see in cookbooks. Read a cookbook and see how many people are involved. Most of the presentation is not even real. It's like a Hollywood set up, just for photography. The real things are worse than ours.

Mary said...

I think they're cute. And the ladybugs are great!

Susan @ SGCC said...

I have to say, I think they came out great! I love the Dali twist. I'll have to remember that one. I'm actually a Dali fan. I have several framed prints and a lithograph. My fave is the melting piano. The Salvador Dali Museum is in St. Pete, about 45 miles from here.

marae said...

I love the Hello Cupcake book...I made the sunflowers in a local class that Karen taught and it was so fun..! Everyone LOVED the sunflowers, esp because who doesn't like Oreos?!

Rosie said...

Oh what great cupcakes!! I'm sad I missed this event :(

It's great to be back after what seems an age viewing your wonderful yummy bakes and creations :)

Rosie x

Aparna Balasubramanian said...

While I'm not a Dali fan, I think your cupcakes look really good.
And I've never said that about a Dali!

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, any homemade treats are lovely, particularly if they are made for you.

You could always do what I had to do recently when I wanted to make cookies in the shape of apples but, lacking an apple shaped cookie cutter, had to settle for pumpkin shaped cookies with red icing: tell everyone that they are your "creative interpretation" of an apple (or, in your case, a sunflower). People are incredibly forgiving of aesthetics when treats are involved :-)

Dee said...

As it turns out, most of my 'creations' tend to be dali-esque too :) Love the ladybirds. I was dying for a closer shot.

Cakelaw said...

Thanks Caked Crusader - they're my favourite part too.

I'm glad you like them Indigo - I can't wait for the party.

Thanks Ivy - I'd like to think that.

Thanks Mary!

Hi Susan the museum sounds interesting. Glad you like Dali.

Hi Mara, I have since looked at the Hello Cupcake official blog, and I feel ashamed that 11 year olds in the classes have better looking cuppies than me. The classes look fun.

Rosie, lovely to have you back!!

Hi Aparna, I feel happy to have inspired you to feel a little warmer towards Dali.

Hi Gail, I have been known to do similar - especially for hard to find shapes.

Dee, I had a close up shot, but it's a little out of focus, so I took it down.

A_and_N said...

ROTFL at the Viagra comment. Hilarious!

Y said...

Ha, viagra for frosting! Those ladybirds are really cute. I've got that book but have yet to use it.

Maggie said...

They look like fun cupcakes! Fabulous.

Cakelaw said...

Thanks A&N, Y and Margaret for dropping by.