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Monday, August 17, 2009

Cupcake Day for the RSPCA 2009

Yes that's right, not only is 17 August the birthday of Davy Crockett, the day Azaria Chamberlain got a little too friendly with a dingo and the day the truly unforgettable Dominican Republic's national anthem Himno Nacional was first performed in public but today was also the Cupcake Day for the RSPCA. An excuse for people around the country to stuff themselves with tasty, tasty cupcakes, all totally calorie-free due to their contribution to charity. Ovens and the willpower of those who live with bakers were pushed to the limit yesterday around Australia as people baked up a storm to take cupcakes into their schools and workplaces today to sell, with all proceeds going to the RSPCA.

I have to admit the whole process was a bit of a struggle for this particular baker, who for one reason or another may possibly have been feeling ever so slightly under the weather yesterday. The couch was calling me to her gentle embrace, and I did allow myself some quality pizza-eating, lame-Sunday-night-TV-watching relaxation time but then was back into baking mode. I made two types of cupcakes, and had made them both before, so at least I could switch my brain off while baking. The decorating took a little more concentration though, as I'd never done such things before, but luckily the engineer in me had risen to the surface and I'd actually drawn up some plans.

The first lot of cupcakes I made were the carrot cupcakes that I'd spoken of before, the recipe coming from the Crabapple Bakery Cupcake Cookbook. I wanted to decorate these like little bunny faces, given the carrot theme, but they kind of ended up looking a little cat-like or mousey. Call them what you like, just don't call them late for afternoon tea.

I first covered them with the cream cheese frosting recipe recommended in the Crabapple cookbook (I ended up having to add extra icing sugar to get the right consistency.. I didn't want their faces sliding off in the middle of the night as I slept blissfully unaware). I then sprinkled over some shredded coconut to give their faces some furriness. Next came the ears, which I made by slicing white marshmallows in half and then dipping the cut side into pink sugar (which I just made by mixing some food colouring in with some caster sugar). The pink jellybean nose and brown m&m eyes came next, followed by chocolate sprinkle whiskers.

I also made some banana and macadamia cupcakes, again from the Crabapple Bakery Cupcake Cookbook. I've made these before but not posted about it, so I'll include the recipe below. I planned to decorate these like owls, getting the idea from the book Hello, Cupcake! which I do not own but have coveted for a little while. I varied from their method a little, using yellow jellybeans for the nose instead of banana runts, and I didn't add the "feathers" with extra piped frosting as I thought this looked messy (I can assure you this decision had nothing to do with my couch's siren song).

So, to decorate the owls I first iced them with the chocolate frosting recommended by the Crabapple Bakery Cupcake Cookbook (recipe below). I then stuck on the Oreo eyes, consisting of two Oreo halves with the white bits still attached. It was surprisingly easy to separate the Oreos, and I just scraped off any obvious bits of chocolate cookie still left on there with a knife. The pupils for the eyes are Junior Mints, stuck on with a little dob of icing. The noses, as mentioned, are yellow jellybeans and the eyebrowy tufty bits are pieces from the piles of leftover plain Oreo pieces you have from needing all the other halves for your eyes.

Similar to the carrot cupcake recipe, the banana macadamia recipe makes a lot more than the cookbook states. I remembered this for the carrot cupcakes, and just did half the recipe (I've already halved it in the recipe I've linked to) but forgot about this for the banana macadamias and ended up with more cupcakes than I was willing to turn into owls. Luckily I had piles of leftover m&ms (sans brown) and leftover chocolate frosting, so I just made some m&ms decorated ones as well.

I sold my cupcakes, as well as the cupcakes of a couple of other fellow bakers, in the foyer of my department at uni. We had five different types of cupcakes, selling each one for $2 to an eager crowd. I was so impressed with the turnout, at the end of the sale had well over $200 in my little money bag, and everyone in the building was simultaneously pinging on sugar. I packed up and quickly retreated home before the inevitable crash.

Banana and Macadamia Cupcakes
Recipe from the Crabapple Bakery Cupcake Cookbook

The recipe says it makes 24, but I ended up with more like 36

3 1/3 cups plain flour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp allspice
250 g softened unsalted butter
3 cups caster sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups mashed overripe bananas
3/4 cup macadamias, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees C. Line cupcake trays with cupcake papers.
2. Sift together the flour, bicarb of soda, salt, cinnamon and allspice.
3. In a separate bowl, cream the butter for 1-2 minutes. Add the caster sugar a third at a time, beating for 2 minutes after each addition. After the last addition, beat until the mixture is light and fluffy and the sugar has almost dissolved.
4. Add eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition or until mixture is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined.
5. Add a third of the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and beat on low speed until combined. Add half of the buttermilk and half of the mashed banana and beat until combined. Repeat this process. Add the remaining third of the flour mixture and beat until thoroughly combined; do not overbeat as this will toughen the mixture.
6. Add the chopped macadamias and beat until evenly combined.
7. Spoon mixture into cupcake papers, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake for 20 minutes or until a fine skewer inserted comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes from the trays immediately and cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes before frosting.

Chocolate Fudge Frosting
Recipe from the Crabapple Bakery Cupcake Cookbook

Makes 4 cups frosting

8 cups icing sugar
1 cup cocoa
200 g softened butter (I used unsalted)
3/4 cup milk
1 Tb vanilla extract

1. Sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl.
2. In a separate bowl, cream the butter for 1-2 minutes. Add the milk, vanilla extract and half of the icing sugar mixture, and beat for at least 3 minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy.
3. Add the remaining icing sugar and beat for a further 3 minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy and of a spreadable consistency. Add extra milk if the mixture is too dry or extra icing sugar if the mixture is too wet.
4. You can use this frosting immediately, or keep it for up to one week


Olive August 18, 2009 at 12:23 AM  

cute cupcakes!!! I like the owls best, my little boy would love these :)

Maria@TheGourmetChallenge August 18, 2009 at 9:11 AM  

How awesome are those owls! I love how the oreos make their eyes so huge! $200 is an fantastic achievement, I'm sure alot of kitty's and puppy's will be pleased with your contribution!

CheapAppetite August 18, 2009 at 9:21 AM  

These are so cute:)) I like the carrot cake with the bunny face idea. The owl ones are so cute too. I'm glad you didn't try to tie the owl decorating with the cake. I believe that owl eat rats and other small animals. Probably not good to make cupcakes out of them. lol:)

Chef Fresco August 18, 2009 at 9:40 AM  

Look adorable, but the ingredients sound amazing!

Rubber Ninja August 18, 2009 at 4:53 PM  

Amazing cuppy-cakes! And kudos for posting the Crabapple Chocolate Frosting recipe. I've been coveting it for ages, but the cookbook has been sold-out, grrr.

Conor August 18, 2009 at 5:01 PM  

Olive - Thanks! I'll make some up and get them to fly to your house :)

Maria - Cheers! I know, I was worried about the eyes being too big but it seemed to work out just right :) Too wide for the cupcake carrier though!

CheapAppetite - Thank you! I was thinking for a while to try and come up with an owl reference for the cupcakes, but yeah all I could think of was feathers and rats, which don't make for tasty cupcakes.

Chef Fresco - Thank you, they were like a little meal in a cupcake :)

Rubber Ninja - cheers! Ah, you're welcome, she-who-lives-near-crabapple-ville.

Iron Chef Shellie August 18, 2009 at 5:18 PM  

DUDE!! you attempted the owls! awesome work, they look amazing! I have the book, never attempted anything!

I knew I shoulda done something for RSPCA cupcake day, I just couldn't be bothered. Next year I will try!

Jennifer August 18, 2009 at 6:55 PM  

Oh my, they are all SO cute!!!!!

Agnes August 18, 2009 at 6:59 PM  

The rabbits are cute, but the owls are particularly fantastic! Am also impressed that you drew up plans for the decoration. Good stuff!

Jeff August 18, 2009 at 7:46 PM  

Admire the dedication for pushing through when sick. Normally I call in Chinese food ubber spicy, find a movie on the DVR, and call it a weekend.

The owls rule!

TheChocolatePriestess August 18, 2009 at 9:43 PM  

I hope the cupcakes helped people think about the animals and their well-being and not just how good cupcakes look as animals... Eek!

But very beautifully decorated cupcakes.


Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella August 18, 2009 at 9:48 PM  

Oh my those owls are DARLING! I absolutely love owls and seeing the picture just made me squeal with delight. Awesome job! :D

Cheap Ethnic Eatz August 18, 2009 at 11:00 PM  

The owls rule

CaptnRachel aka Tha Pizza Cutta August 18, 2009 at 11:08 PM  

You did incredible work! Something about giving to others sincerely motivates one in the kitchen. I am simply in LOVE with the owl cupcakes but can't eat banana so if I make those, going to have to adapt. Well Done!

Belle@Ooh, Look August 19, 2009 at 8:03 AM  

Woot, woot! The owls are fantastic! So are the mice/cat/bunnies. Well done for a good cause!

Rilsta August 19, 2009 at 11:32 AM  

I was also too lazy to be part of the Cupcake day this year and feel I am not good enough a baker yet!

Your cupcakes look cute!! I am so impressed, they look so fabulous! Great work!!

The chocolate fudge icing looks yummy but I almost fainted when I saw it is made up of 8 cups of icing sugar!

isa August 19, 2009 at 9:30 PM  

Wow! The owls are amazing - so cute!
You are very talented!

katy August 19, 2009 at 9:44 PM  

the owls are adorable ^_^

Stephcookie August 20, 2009 at 6:07 AM  

They are fantastic! I particularly love how you used the Oreos for the owls! So cute :)

Bromography August 20, 2009 at 11:09 AM  

I love the owl cupcakes! The banana and macadamia nut combination makes my mouth water! Thanks for sharing.

eatlivetravelwrite August 20, 2009 at 8:00 PM  

Adorable cupcakes!!!

Conor August 20, 2009 at 10:54 PM  

Iron Chef Shellie - Thank you, those owls have been begging to be attempted ever since I first laid eyes on them :D

Jennifer - thank you!

Agnes - I guess you can't take the engineer out of the girl ;) thanks!

Jeff - oh god it was tempting but I'd been spamming people's inboxes for so long drumming up business for the cupcake sale, there was no way I could succumb to the couch!

TheChocolatePriestess - it was great how quite a few people paid extra as a donation, it was a good vibe!

Lorraine - haha what a great compliment, glad to have made you squeal! :D

Cheap Ethnic Eatz - cheers :)

CaptnRachel - thanks a lot, I totally agree! Makes me think of 'Like Water for Chocolate'.

Belle - thanks! Woot!

Rilsta - thanks :) I know, 8 cups! It's crazy. I only maybe used half of it, and the rest has been slowly devoured from the bowl with all the leftover Oreo pieces, haha!

isa - aw, thanks!

katy - thank you :)

Stephcookie - thanks! And what a shame, all these Oreos left over in my kitchen needing to find a good tummy to live in.

Bromography - thank you! Yes it's a great combination, mmmmm...

eatlivetravelwrite - thank you!!

trissalicious August 21, 2009 at 10:32 PM  

Hi Conor - The owl cupcakes are amazing - but I guess you already knew that! :)

I've been eyeing the crabapple book for sometime... Looks like it was worth it.

Conor @ HoldtheBeef August 22, 2009 at 3:07 PM  

Hi trissalicious, thanks, yep I was beginning to suspect they were pretty popular ;) Quite easy to do too!

I can recommend the crabapple book, although I have only managed to make maybe 5 of the cupcakes so far! All have been really good, but I've learnt you really can't trust them when they tell you how many the recipe will make. It's a good thing I have lots of hungry friends.

Anita August 25, 2009 at 12:06 PM  

Oh... how cute! I love the owl cupcakes... they are gorgeous! great job!

Karine August 25, 2009 at 6:47 PM  

These cupcakes all look gorgeous! Thanks for sharing! :)

Conor @ HoldtheBeef August 27, 2009 at 6:52 AM  

Anita - thank you! And I have to say, well done on your Dobos, looks fantastic :)

Karine - Thank you! My pleasure :D

Nicole August 30, 2009 at 6:30 AM  

Wow they are so darn cute!! Wish I had some of that creativity!! Trying to think of ideas for my kids' birthdays coming up soon!

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About Me

My love of cooking is surpassed only by my love of eating, though I never quite recovered from the beef I was served at college. I'll try almost anything once, but it takes a very special piece of offal or beef to get me to try it again.

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