Alice in Wonderland cupcakes

One of my favourite aspects of cake decorating is the opportunity to make cakes that surprise and delight the recipient.   I love the oohs and aahs, and broad smiles that happen when people open the box containing their bespoke cakes.

Last week my niece turned 21.  Hard to believe when it seems like only yesterday that she was learning her first words and doing little more than crawling, feeding or sleeping.

Now that she is grown up she didn’t want a traditional birthday cake.  Instead she requested vanilla cupcakes for her party.  And rather than candles, she asked for her cakes to be decorated with an Alice in Wonderland theme.  What a great idea!

Alice in Wonderland cakes

Alice in Wonderland cupcakes

Her selection of cakes included a cheshire cat with a cheesy grin, a white rabbit, a gold pocket watch, a caterpillar with jaunty antenna, magic mushrooms and an Alice dress.  I managed to get this quick photo before the cakes were whisked off to her party.   Don’t they make a cute collection?  My niece certainly thought so.  Birthday cakes befitting a beautiful young lady.

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Swiss meringue buttercream flowers

Back in February I was at Faircake for their Buttercream Flowers Cake class learning how to make piped flower decorations using swiss meringue buttercream.    The class, which is jam-packed with content, includes how to make a variety of large flowers, succulents, leaves and smaller filler flowers.

Swiss meringue buttercream is light, not too sweet, has a lovely velvety smooth texture and is so irresistibly delicious.  Although not difficult to make, this buttercream is tricky to work with as it melts easily and is certainly not recommended for hot summer days.

Here are some of the pretty flower designs that can be achieved.  All these were made using a Wilton 104 nozzle, centres were piped using a Wilton No. 2 nozzle and leaves with a Wilton 352 nozzle.  Enjoy!

First up, everyone’s favourite – a large rose

Swiss meringue buttercream rose

Swiss meringue buttercream rose

Next a pretty open rose

Swiss meringue buttercream open rose

Swiss meringue buttercream open rose

And finally spring-time cherry blossom.

Swiss meringue buttercream cherry blossom

Swiss meringue buttercream cherry blossom

A feast for the eyes and delicious too.

Russian flower nozzles

Last week I bought a set of these instant flower nozzles from Iced Jems.   A friend mentioned them to me  (thanks, Hot Chop Threads!) and as soon as I saw them, they jumped to the top of my ‘must -have-list’.

Russian piping tips

Russian flower nozzles

Often the nozzles are mentioned elsewhere as Russian flower nozzles (because they come from Moscow, apparently) and this set from Iced Jems is a selection of the many Russian flower nozzle designs available.   These seven nozzles provide a good selection and I am not sure that you would miss the others as they are really a variation on a theme.

The nozzles promise the ability to quickly pipe intricate buttercream flowers on your cupcakes.  Could it really be so easy?   Only one way to find out – bake some cakes, make some buttercream (I used American buttercream here) and get piping!

My set includes two rose bud nozzles  – this one and the other similar nozzle that produces finer petals.

Russian piping tip - rose bud

Russian flower nozzle – rose bud

The other five nozzles in the set produce variations of tulip flowers like these.  Don’t you love those little stamens?

Russian piping tip - tulip

Russian flower nozzle – tulip

So what did I think?

Well, I love the nozzles and they quickly turn any cupcake into a beautiful posy of flowers.    More creative effects are possible by adding piped leaves, using multiple colours of buttercream in the piping bag to give a striped effect, or using the rose bud nozzle as the starter for a larger rose.  Something for me to try on another day.

I did find the nozzles took a bit of practice to get the flowers to form properly without sections breaking or worse, not adhering to the cupcake at all, or looking more like a blob than a flower.

To get the flowers to stick to the cupcake, I found that it helped if I spread a little fresh buttercream on the cupcake just before piping so the flower had something to stick to.   And wiping the nozzle tip between each flower helped ensure each flower piped cleanly.   The consistency of the buttercream was absolutely critical to success.  It has to be fairly stiff to form the intricate flower.  Once the buttercream warmed up from the heat of hands, I found I piped blobs rather than flowers.  Easily fixed by popping the piping bag in the fridge for a minute or two to cool down.  Timing was important here as you can’t let the buttercream get too hard.

Now off to make more buttercream and give those other nozzles a try.

Fashion cupcakes

The sun is shining.  Time to bring out some pretty summer dresses and co-ordinating shoes.  To me, these look like an LK Bennett shop window.  Pretty girly frocks, in beautiful soft pastels, with gorgeous shoes embellished with flowers and bows.
To make your own outfit, first choose a pretty dress… 
And then select some co-ordinating shoes.
 
The ladies at the Sewcial last night were choosing their favourites whilst whipping up their own gorgeous dresses and summery tops (and a few cushions and quilts, for good measure).  Well done!