With 2 birthdays, a dessert competition, a commission and a back to school event, August quickly becomes a very busy baking month. This year, 3 of those events fell on the same weekend with the other two occurring about a week later. Fortunately my husband gave me a freebie on his birthday and asked for Butterfinger Torte (I’ll go into that with another post) instead of a cake. But that still left me with three events to bake in one weekend.
Cake #1 was a commission. Every so often a friend of mine pays me to make a cake for him. He’s actually asked for two this month with the first being an anniversary cake. I started making flowers for this cake a few weeks ago with gum paste. I deliberately made extras on the flowers to account for breakages. So before I started assembling and decorating the cake, I had 9 lavender roses, 9 orange roses and about 36 hydrangeas in three different shades of blue, though I only used 6 roses (3 of each color) and half of the hydrangeas.
Cake #2 was an entry in our dessert competition at church. It got the flowers leftover from making the commissioned anniversary cake as well as some other flowers I made to use up colored gum paste that was getting old. It was a great excuse to practice my flower skills. It ended up with the remaining 18 hydrangeas and 36 roses in blue, lavender, orange, gold, yellow, and pink.
Cake #3 was technically a batch of mini-cupcakes and was also be entered in the dessert competition. Over the last year I have realized that most of the judges for our church competitions (we also have pumpkin and chili cookoffs) are males. And a large number of them like bacon. So when I found a recipe for Maple Bacon Breakfast Cupcakes on the Cupcake Wars website, I knew I had to try out the recipe on them.
Cake #4 was my son’s birthday cake. Since he is a big fan of all vehicles (show me a 4 year old who doesn’t love cars and trains) we are doing something of a train theme this year. He is getting a train set for his birthday and I made a train inspired by Thomas and Friends. Even though he was quite happy with the result, I was not and so I refrained from taking a picture of it. But for the record, it consisted of two cakes baked in loaf pans. One was cut into two pieces, one of which was stacked at one end of the intact loaf cake for the engine, and the other half was made into the coal car. For the smoke stack I used 1 regular sized cupcake and then the wheels on the train and coal car were mini-cupcakes.
This sounds like a lot of work, but it really was not too bad. The biggest issue was that we’ve been having triple digit temperatures for the last few weeks and I have to fire up the oven for the better part of the day. But I do have a few ways of saving on time. Of the four projects above, only 1 was be truly from scratch – the bacon cupcakes. For the other three I starting with Betty Crocker chocolate fudge cake mixes as my dry ingredients. Instead of using the box instructions, I add 1 1/4 cups of milk, 1 stick of melted butter, and 3 eggs to each box of mix. I divide the batter into the pans and bake as directed. For 9 inch round cakes it’s about 30 minutes at 350 degrees. For the cupcakes – bake at the same temperature but about 15 – 20 minutes for the minis and 20 – 25 minutes for the regular size. Or just bake until a bamboo skewer comes out clean.
Side note, instead of toothpicks, I test my cakes with bamboo skewers, the ones you would use for shish-kebobs. The longer stick means that you don’t have to remove the cake from the heat to avoid burning yourself when you test for done-ness. Also, to avoid having to hunt for them, as I always have to do with toothpicks, I keep all my skewers in a mason jar (a la flower vase) next to my stove. They are contained, out of the way, and still convenient when I need them.
But on to the bacon:
I found this recipe on the Cupcake Wars website and for the most part I remained true to the recipe, with only two exceptions. As you read through the ingredients on that recipe, you will see that it calls for maple sugar. Maple sugar may be common in grocery stores in metropolitan areas, but in Small Town, Nebraska, where I live, the only way you can find such exotic ingredients is online. And I don’t like to pay shipping – so I skipped that one ingredient. At my husband’s suggestion (he was my taste-tester) I increased the strawberries in the frosting to 1/2 cup.
Since I did remain so close to the original, I’m not reposting the recipe here. But you can follow the link straight to the recipe on the Cupcake Wars site.
Unfortunately my bacon cupcakes were too avant-garde for my small town compatriots and while my flowers were impressive, neither entry won the dessert competition. But I’m not too upset. Instead, I’m already looking to our pumpkin competition this fall and considering other desserts for next summer.