Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Blue Car Birthday Cake and Confetti Cupcakes

My little boy turned five years old! For months now he has been telling us that he wanted a blue car cake for his birthday, so that's exactly what he got. The cake was decorated with buttercream tinted blue with food coloring, yellow and white mini m&ms, oreo cookies, bittersweet baking chocolate, and green and black piping gel.
For the inside of the car cake, I tried a new recipe I found in a cookbook I have for a chocolate chip cake made from scratch, since my son loves chocolate, but I wasn't thrilled with the taste or texture, so I'm not going to share the recipe. I baked the cake in two round pyrex bowls, one larger and one smaller, to get the right shape. Two baking tricks - I always reduce the sugar in cakes somewhat, and it's usually fine. For a cake that's going to be covered in sweet frosting, it can easily be reduced as much as 1/3 to 1/2 with no ill effects. Also, when baking with margarine, as I did for this cake, I use the empty wrappers to grease the pan or bowl with. It works great. So when the cakes were baked, I let them cool, then flipped them over to have two domes. They popped out easily due to the margarine wrapper trick. I smeared melted chocolate over the smaller dome and stuck it on top of the larger one, right in the center. Then I cut a straight slice off each of the two sides of the cake, giving me two parallel straight edges that formed the car silhouette.
For the buttercream, I always use this recipe from food.com - if you look at the photos of the recipe, the rubber duckie cake was made by me for my little guy's second birthday three years ago. I didn't mess with fancy tips this time - I just spread the cream on with an offset spatula.
To make the windows and windshields, I drew and cut the shapes out of paper, and laid them on the counter with a sheet of wax paper on top of them. I melted the chocolate in the microwave, added a little bit of oil to smooth it out and add flexibility, and spooned the mixture onto the wax paper in the approximate shapes of the paper cutouts. When they were almost dry, I trimmed them with a pointy knife to get the right shape, then peeled them off the wax paper and stuck them into position. The wheels were oreo cookies with a white mini m&m glued on with melted chocolate for the hubcap. For the bumpers, I spooned white buttercream into a disposable plastic bag, snipped the tip, and piped it on.  The yellow m&ms served as lights. The piping gels were used to outline the details and draw a number five and my son's name on the top of the car. Five blue and green candles went on top, and he was a happy boy at his birthday party. I have done more elaborate themed parties before, but not this time. We had a celebratory barbecue dinner, then cake, singing, and presents.
The next day, we sent cupcakes to school for him to hand out to his friends. I used this easy recipe I cut out of a local publication a while ago, rewritten using the same ingredients and amounts but organized and explained in my own way for clarity:


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup apple or orange juice

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups flour

Add flour mixture alternately with juice mixture. Mix until smooth. Bake 20 minutes or until tops are brown. Yield: 18 cupcakes

I doubled this recipe and it worked just fine, though some recipes don't double well.  I used the orange juice option because I rarely buy apple juice and they were quite good, though the orange juice flavor was definitely noticeable. I'd like to try with apple juice for comparison. Milk would probably work great, too, but I had to make them dairy-free to send to school. To make them confetti cupcakes, I tossed some colored sprinkles into the batter before putting it in the pans.  It's important to use the long "line" shape sprinkles for this, not the ones that look like tiny dots. Stir gently, and bake as usual. We used cute clown-printed cupcake liners to make them even more festive. We dipped the cooled cupcakes in melted chocolate, then in colored sprinkles. Finally, we piped a red number 5 on each one using melted red candy melts piped out of a tiny hole snipped in the corner of a plastic bag. My son was beaming and he's overall thrilled with how his birthday turned out, so score!

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