I am so excited to welcome my very first guest blogger today. Margie is also a lover of cupcakes, a wonderful scrapbooker, takes awesome photographs, and shares some very interesting posts about her life in China. Today Margie is sharing some of her cupcake decorating ideas and tips with us. I hope you enjoy her guest post. (Note: Being in China Margie is 12 hours ahead of EST so at the time of this post it is probably very close to her bed time but she will be around to answer any questions when she wakes up)
I am so happy to be a guest on Vernell’s blog today! Thanks, Vernell for inviting me.
I’m sure you all know that Vernell loves cupcakes and is often trying out new recipes to share on her blog. I, too, am a lover of cupcakes, but my favorite part is finding fun ways to decorate them. I’ve been decorating cakes and cupcakes since my oldest son’s first birthday almost 12 years ago.
Hopefully, most of you know that this past Saturday Vernell did a wonderful post on my blog sharing with my readers some fantastic tips for making cupcakes.
Today I’m going to share with you some of my best tips for decorating cupcakes.
One of my go-to ways for adding excitement to an ordinary cupcake is to add some art or drawings made from chocolate.
It’s relatively easy to do, makes a strong impact and allows lots of flexibility. I made all of these designs in this photo (as well as several others) in less than an hour. This works well for me because I like variety and get bored doing the same design or decoration more than 8 or 10 times.
Two of the most important things to remember when working with chocolate is
1) WATER is a HUGE NO-NO! Make sure all the containers and utensils you are working with are bone dry. Even a little bit of water in the bottom of a newly washed bowl will prevent your chocolate from melting properly. If you are working with white chocolate and want to tint your chocolate, be sure to use dye that is specially made for tinting chocolate. One time in China, where specialty candy and cake decorating items are tremendously limited, I tried to use my icing gels and it ruined the one bag of white chocolate I had. Icing dyes are water based so cannot be used for chocolate. 2) DON’T BURN your chocolate. All types of chocolate are very sensitive to temperatures. White chocolate is even more so. Therefore take heed to manufacturers’ directions when melting chocolate. Especially white chocolate! When making samples for this post, I ruined half of my white chocolate chips! When melting chocolate, I turn my microwave to half power, cook for 30 seconds, stir with a wooden spoon and then cook in 10 to 15 second increments until the chocolate is to the desired consistency. If you cook for longer increments, you risk burning the chocolate. You will know it is burnt when it hardens instead of softens. White chocolate is even more sensitive and I would recommend cooking at lower than half power. You will have to experiment with your own individual microwave. White chocolate also melts at a higher temperature, so be extra careful when handling it – it can be very easy to burn yourself.
MAKING YOUR DESIGNS
Before melting your chocolate to make your designs, you will need a white piece of paper, a pencil, wax paper, a small to medium cookie sheet and a microwave-safe container (I like to use a clear glass casserole dish).
First you will want to sketch your simple design with your pencil on the white piece of paper. Make sure it will fit inside the top of a cupcake.
Place your white paper with your sketched designs on a cookie sheet or other moveable flat surface that will fit in your refrigerator (if it is warm where you live, chill the cookie sheet in the refrigerator for a few hours if possible) and place a piece of wax paper over that.
See chocolate warnings above. In a microwave, heat your chocolate at medium heat for 30 seconds. Stir with wooden spoon. Cook at 10-15 second increments, stirring in between until it is at the consistency you want. I like to make sure my chocolate is completely melted and a little thin so it can pour easily. Then I open a quart sized Ziploc bag (the thicker the better). Don’t use a sandwich bag as the plastic is too thin. I turn the bag over my hand so it is nice and open and can sit on the counter and stay open by itself.
Wilton candy making supplies has a plastic bottle made just for writing with chocolate. I do not use these because air bubbles get caught in them and come out unexpectedly so they will mess up your design. Even if you regularly tap the tip to get the air bubbles to go away, it only temporarily solves the problem. Not to mention these containers can NOT be used in the microwave (the will melt!), but the Ziploc bags can. This is handy in case your chocolate starts to harden before you are finished with your designs, you can soften it up again by putting it in the microwave for another 10 or 20 seconds.But I have gotten ahead of myself. After I put the melted chocolate in the Ziploc bag, I trim off about 1/8 to ¼ of an inch in one of the corners.
From the outside of the bag, I squeeze the chocolate towards the snipped corner without letting any of the chocolate ooze out. I then squeeze out as much air as possible from the wide open mouth and Zip it shut.
Now ‘draw’ your designs tracing the sketch onto the wax paper. You will have the white paper under the wax paper. If you want to make more than one of the same design, simply move the white paper under the wax paper and trace the same design again.
Of course you can always ‘draw’ things free-hand as well.If you want to make chocolate art with white chocolate, you will notice it is a little harder to work with than regular chocolate. It is more sensitive to temperature, which means it burns easier and hardens faster. While you are writing with it, clumps may develop in your Ziploc bag, which means you have to stop, squish them out and then continue on.
And with white chocolate you can tint it and work with all kinds of various colors. It is also fun to use it together with regular chocolate (see the two colored butterfly in my first photo). I wanted to show you one way to make a flower with a chocolate center sprinkled with sprinkles and placed over white chocolate petals but my white chocolate hardened and then I burned it when I was trying to soften it again, so no good example of that for you!
Working with white chocolate takes PATIENCE! You cannot rush the melting process like I did.
After you are done drawing your designs, it is fun to add more details – nonpareil sprinkles, sugar pearls or any other candy or edible décor you can dream up. M&Ms (all sizes) make great additions to bug shapes, white nonpareil sprinkles can make a chocolate heart look more sophisticated and sugar pearls can make a white chocolate snowflake look more elegant.Once all the details are added and your chocolate designs are complete, transfer your cookie sheet (or other flat surface) into the refrigerator. Chill the chocolate for at least an hour until it has hardened again. Do NOT put the chocolate into the freezer, this will give the chocolate a white chalky color and will ruin the beautiful look of your designs!
While you are working with your chocolate, if it starts to soften (because you live in a warm climate or your A/C isn’t working properly – like what happened to me when I was trying to do this tutorial), put it in the refrigerator until it firms up and bring it back out to work with again.
Once your designs have hardened, it is time to peel them from the wax paper. Do this gingerly. I have found it best to slide my hand under the wax paper and peel the paper slowly from the back of the chocolate. If it gets stuck and you cannot loosen it easily, you can get a thin spatula or knife and gently insert the thin blade under the chocolate and slide it slowly through to the other side until it releases.
The thinner the lines of your design, the gentler and more careful you need to be. I’ve always thought these snowflakes would look even better adorned with sugar pearls as seen in the milk chocolate snowflakes below. Of course I was going to give it a try until I burned my white chocolate!
My favorites are the lacy hearts. The look is very elegant, yet so easy to do. They might look even better with a few sugar pearls or in white chocolate with sugar pearls. Or what about pink lacy hearts with white nonpareils for Valentine’s Day? So many possible combinations! I made the crosses for a friend who was looking for ideas for her son’s Confirmation. Those would look great on a light blue frosted cupcake.
Have fun experimenting with all kinds of possibilities.
Here are my final cupcakes from my afternoon of experimentation:
Well, that was a lot of fun! I hope you enjoyed it and found some helpful tips. Please let me know what you think or if you have any questions for me. I will be checking back on Vernell’s blog today as often as I can. I do live in Beijing, so I am 12 hours ahead of Vernell and may still be asleep when you read this, but I will respond as soon as I can!
Thank you so much Margie! I can't wait to try my own chocolate decorations. To read more about Margie's cupcake decorations and her other interests just stop by her blog – My Creative Life in Beijing.