Long, long ago, I didn’t know how to make frosting. I didn’t really know how to bake either as it was something that my mother did not do. When I needed a baking badge for my Calvinettes group (think Christian girl scouts group through our church), I was on my own and I tried to bake cookies from a recipe. I recall that they turned out mediocre, but I got my badge and that was that. If my mother need to bring something to a potluck or make something for us as a treat, it usually came from a box and for the longest time, I thought homemade brownies and cakes always were just baked with the help of a box of Duncan Hines or Pilsbury.
Many years later, I had children of my own and I still sort of thought that baking was synonymous with a box. I still don’t mind make cakes from a box (and my favorite cake/cupcake recipe comes from one), but I started watching a lot of Martha Stewart when I was home with the children after our second was born. Wow. There was so much cooking, crafting, and baking on that show. With time on my hands, I started attempting more baking and cooking, attempting to replicate delicious desserts and dishes that I tried in restaurants.
I went on this crazy odyssey to make the delicious frosting that I had tried on certain cakes. When I was a child, my mother always ordered our birthday cakes from the local bakery (there was only one in our little town) and it was covered in thick, white, sweet frosting and crusty rosettes. The cake was stiff and a little dry. I didn’t love it and I told people for many years that I didn’t like cake. My limited experience had limited me from this wonderful world of beautiful, moist, beautifully decorated cakes outside the confines of our small midwestern town.
Now as a mother, I wanted to be able to make my children their own birthday cakes. It didn’t seem so difficult, but so first I started with the tub frosting and boxed cake mix. Not so great.
I tried to make my own French Buttercream. A lot of butter! Much better taste, but it was hard to work with and not so stable on a warm day. It was a bit dicey too because it didn’t seem to want to come together. Since I often am baking and frosting late in the evening, this is always risky because you can’t run to the store and start over! I made the cake from a box mix, but the texture wasn’t great now that I knew that it could be better!
Now, Pinterest is born and I have found a place to save all those recipes I want to try. And on this new place, I find a recipe for cake that becomes my signature cake recipe. I love it because it starts with a cake mix and involves adding some extra ingredients like sour cream for a beautiful moist cake with a small crumb. I use this recipe to make cupcakes for preschool, parties, and anything else for which I might need a cake recipe. I was also using a cream cheese frosting that I really liked. I had seen it on Martha Stewart (of course) and it was a recipe by Georgetown Cupcakes. It was easy and it was much more stable than the French Buttercream or the tub frosting. I also really liked that the cream cheese cut the sweetness of the powdered sugar.
Unfortunately, my Monkey did not like this frosting. He found it too sweet and I always had to leave unfrosted cupcakes for him. He also started requesting store bought cakes and loved their non-dairy frosting. Now, I was stuck because this non-dairy frosting was stiffer than coolwhip but with the same creamy taste. All my kids love the taste of freshly whipped cream, but that was unstable as well and I wouldn’t be able to frost a cake the night before. Due to my very small Irish fridge, I wasn’t able to refrigerate a cake overnight. So, I really needed a creamy, light frosting that was safe to eat and fairly stable at room temperature.
The Puppy’s birthday was coming up and he had asked for a Baymax cake (from Disney’s Big Hero Six movie). I knew I was not making large shaped cake since his party was at a play center a 20 minute ride away. It needed to be easy to transport, easy to serve (no cake cutting), and I needed to make it the day before (Friday) and store it unrefrigerated but in a cool room (our conservatory gets very cool in the winter months). Searching for days online, most of the cakes required expert artistry with fondant of which I had none (zero experience with fondant). But then I came across this idea by TummyMonsterTreats.com for a Baymax Cake. I thought, “Hey. I can do that. Make cupcakes. Spread frosting.” (This was much harder than it looked after all was said and done!)
I had found this frosting recipe “Best Buttercream Recipe” by Meaningful Mama on Pinterest a few weeks before and thought I would try it for this recipe. The two main differences in this recipe is that it uses a cup of butter flavored shortening instead of all butter and it includes whipping in 6 oz of whipping cream (I used double cream here in Ireland). Jodi of Meaningful Mama had recommended the shortening for stability (definite plus) and had mentioned in the comments that she had left her cupcakes out overnight without problems citing that sugar acts as a preservative. Since I obviously trust other bloggers to do my research for me, I took her word for it and bought all the ingredients. Or at least, my best guess. Crisco isn’t sold here in Ireland as far as I can find, and I was only able to find a Dairygold baking block and hoped that it was close enough!
Living in Ireland has also made it difficult to find my favourite box cake mix at the grocery store as well. So, I had started using The Best White Cake Recipe (ever) by Add a Pinch. I really like the flavour and fine crumb of this cake, but find it rise quite a bit during baking which leads to uneven cupcakes and overflowing cake pans whenever I forget this and fill my tins more than halfway. My oven here is also very tempermental and the top oven that I use gets much hotter than the main oven and tends to cook/bake things much faster and brown things faster. Instead of the heating element being on the bottom, it is on the top like a broiler.
Since I tend to bake at night (in a frantic frenzy after the children go to bed and before I have to go to bed), I don’t have great photos. But they give you the gist of the cake. I think I doubled the recipe for the frosting and there was just barely enough. The kids all tried some buttercream before they went to bed and had given me the thumbs up. Maybe I lay it on too thick, but I do like a nice thick layer. I laughed a lot while making it because it didn’t really look like Baymax at all for a while and I thought maybe I had made a terrible mistake! But it was too late in the evening to go out for more ingredients. So, I pushed ahead and here is the result.
It looks small in the photo, but this was actually quite large. It is 20 good sized cupcakes as I needed at least 12 cupcakes for his friends and wanted a few leftovers for siblings who might be at the party. I had to get it all to fit on this giant tray which then went inside a giant lego box we had from Christmas. I put a few toothpicks into it while in the box to make sure that side of the box wouldn’t touch the cake. It obviously isn’t as good as TummyMonsterTreats.com’s cake. The frosting is a bit yellow from the butter. My lines are a bit wobbly. But the kids recognized who it was supposed to be and it survived the journey to the party and most of the frosting was eaten! Success in my book!