What’s New, Cupcake?

Elizabeth Bluemle -- September 24th, 2010

Last year, we had a wonderful time with the authors of Hello, Cupcake!, who came to the Flying Pig to demonstrate how they create their delectable masterpieces of art and trompe l’oeil creations. So this week we were delighted to welcome back Karen Tack and Alan Richardson to celebrate their new book, What’s New, Cupcake?

The great thing about an author event with these folks is that you feel like you’re in Willy Wonka’s factory, once they’ve set up their two long tables and filled them with frosting cans and tubs of colored sugars and sprinkles and iridescent pearly dragees and Tootsie Roll fruit chews and mini M&Ms and Starbursts and Nilla wafers and Ferrero Rocher candies and caramels and green apple licorice and circus peanuts and marshmallows and licorice pastilles and tubes of neon food coloring.

And then it gets even more wonderful when they show you all the little tips and tricks they use to make those incredible cupcakes. For instance: use Ziploc bags as your piping bags by snipping off one little corner. Neat, tidy, easy to use, and you can control the size of the “noodle” of frosting that comes out by changing the size of the tiny corner you cut off. But don’t handle the bag too much; when frosting warms up, it gets runny and droopy.

Also, scissors are your best friend when it comes to getting inventive with candies: snip a green fruit chew lengthwise halfway, pull those “legs” apart a little, dollop two small round balls of green frosting on the ends, then dip them gently in a tub of tiny green nonpareils. Voilà! Broccoli! And the little carrots and ham and peas are orange and lime and raspberry chews, cut up and shaped, on a bed of piped frosting “noodles.”

Hungry yet? Yum!

One group of decorators. What looks like chaos was really fun and relatively calm.

After a beautifully choreographed, fun demonstration that was chock-full of these tips and tricks and lightning-fast cupcake creations, Karen and Alan took questions from the audience, which mainly consisted of, “Can we make some?!” And of course, the cupcake gurus had brought 72 unfrosted cupcakes just for this purpose.

Some of the creations? The monsters and flowers were a huge hit with the kids:

z And some kids were bold about making their own creations. This one was made by Walter, who asked charmingly, “What is this?”

Even if the incredible Karen and Alan aren’t in your neighborhood, you can certainly lure customers with cupcake creating parties that your staff can lead. There are videos on the Hello, Cupcake website to help you pick up tips, and of course the books themselves are packed with techniques and simple materials you can find anywhere (even at gas stations). The finished designs look spectacular, but most of them are surprisingly easy to make, even for younger kids. Their whole aim is to make this simple and fun for families.

And boy, is it ever. Food draws a crowd. Last year (crowd absorbing a particularly intriguing technique):

And this year (where you can only see about half the room):

Our staffer Kelly also had the great idea of bringing up some cupcake-related items to sell alongside the books: cupcake earbuds by DCI and lots of pretty pink and brightly colored gift wrap (no cupcakes there, but, as she said, “Cupcake people are gift wrap people.” So true!

I didn’t know about the 2011 Hello Cupcake Wall Calendar, but I’m definitely going to order some from Andrews McMeel, although it looks as though they’re sold out at the moment (9780789321473), as are the warehouses. A good sign for something that just came out in July!

And now, dear readers, I must hie to bed and dream of sugar plums. Sugar plums that can be trimmed and shaped and dipped in other colors of sugar and popped decorously atop a vanilla cupcake with loads of buttercream frosting until it becomes a fabulous treat worthy of Fabergé.

Anyone made some amazing cupcakes? Want to share?

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