Cupcakes and Gratitude

One of my favorite little boys turned two recently and we celebrated his birthday yesterday.  I am the official cake/sweet baker for these occasions, so I was unbelievably excited when this year’s challenge was revealed.  Last year it was safari cupcakes.  This year…Elmo.  I thought I’d share a few pics of the finished product and some hints for making some Elmos of your own.

So…these really were pretty easy.  As with most baking and decorating or staging, I recommend doing things in phases.  For this occasion, I baked my cupcakes, made and tinted my buttercream frosting, cut the oreos for the mouths, and put all of my orange peanut M&Ms in a sandwich bag so that I could quickly assemble the next day.

For the frosting, I used a simple, but delicious (fighting off my husband while making it delicious) recipe from The Cupcake Diaries cookbook.  (Sidenote:  I highly recommend this one to anyone who loves baking, and especially to young girls who love to bake and/or aspire to enter the food industry…it’s full of amazing recipes and anecdotes, and has become my go-to for cakes, cupcakes, and frostings).

D.C. Cupcakes Vanilla Buttercream

(for 12 cupcakes with a generous amount of frosting on each)

16 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature —- this is VERY important!!!!!

4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted — oops, I didn’t sift mine,and it was still delish!

1 teaspoon milk – the recipe calls for whole, I had 2%….make it work with what you have…and add extra if it looks dry

1 teaspoon vanilla extract….please use the good stuff….if you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know how I feel about vanilla

1/8 teaspoon salt

Whip the butter until light and fluffy and then add the remaining ingredients.  (The original recipe just says to combine all ingredients in a mixer and whip together at high speed….this can result in confectioners’ sugar disaster, so I incorporate slowly and then put Miss Kitty in high gear to finish it).  I incorporate the confectioners’ sugar slowly, one cup at a time, and then add the milk, vanilla, and salt.  When everything is incorporated, I turn the mixer to high speed (using the whisk attachment) and let it go for 4 minutes, until it is light and fluffy.

For Elmo, I had to tint the frosting.  Red is NOT an easy color to achieve, but alas, I got there with THREE vials of Wilton icing color gel.  Because I needed the whole batch to be red, I bought the “No Taste” red because Wilton’s website says that large amounts of the red-red and Christmas red can affect the taste of the icing.

To tint my icing, I switched to my beater blade and added the vials one at a time until I reached my desired color.

To decorate…

I loaded the icing into a disposable icing bag fit with a star tip, and covered the surface of the cupcake with the red icing.  Then, I made Elmo’s mouth with half of an Oreo cookie….cutting Oreos is not easy.  You need a SHARP knife and more cookies than you think you need.  It took me two packages of Oreos to get enough halves for 36 cupcakes…I think regular Oreos may cut easier, but the store only had double stuff Oreos in stock when I went, so, I went with it.  For the nose, I used orange peanut M&Ms (but you could also use orange jelly beans or even regular orange M&Ms for a round nose).  I chose mini marshmallows for the eyes, and to finish the eyes, I used Wilton Sparkle Gel in black.

I’m pretty happy with how these turned out, and can’t wait to find out what next year’s birthday challenge will be!!!!

 

Now for the gratitude.

As I’m scrolling through my Facebook timeline, I’m seeing that so many of my friends are posting, daily, something or someone they are thankful for.  I love this, because I think it helps us focus on what is truly wonderful in our lives rather than allowing the negative or challenging to become what rules our world.  For that reason, I’m going to join the 30 days of gratitude movement here.  I’m a few days behind, so I’ll pack today’s entry with 4 things I’m thankful for, and then add as the month goes on.

Today I’m grateful for…

  • friends who are like family – being at the birthday party yesterday was a wonderful reminder of how much I value the relationships I’ve built with the friends I’ve known for most of my life
  • laugh if you must…but I am thankful for Daylight Savings Time…even if it is only a psychological benefit…the idea that I have gained an hour in my busy life means that I have one more hour to try to get it all done!
  • great books I can get lost in…whether it’s highbrow or low, a great story transports you to other places and allows you to forget the stresses and pressures of your world for awhile…it’s a cheap vacation and a wonderful indulgence
  • my puppies (not so much puppies anymore) who are always excited to see me, ready to cuddle, and full of unconditional love…and with this one, today I remember my girl Mac who we lost, suddenly four years ago…my first puppy girl and one who taught me many lessons about life and love.

 

If you haven’t started doing this on Facebook, or you are not on Facebook at all, I encourage you to try this, if only for a few days or for the whole month…and maybe even beyond.  When we focus on what we value and are thankful for, rather than what is bothering us, somehow, almost magically, the whole world changes.  It becomes positive, light, and full of good.  I also notice that when the  bad does show up, I deal with it a lot better.  It doesn’t get or keep me down, and I move on quickly without giving it more attention than it deserves.

What are you grateful for? (or, in English teacher speak…For what are you grateful?)

I’d love to hear from you.  As always, if you stop by, leave a message and let us know what has you feeling thankful.

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