Not Martha

to make: birthday cupcakes, test number one


the tops crumbled like brownies, and they tasted suspiciously like them too

These are the first test run of cupcakes I’ll be making for Scott’s birthday bash. At some point the number 100 was mentioned, so I’ve proceeded as though I’ll need to make around a hundred cupcakes. The number has since been adjusted downwards, but what the hell. These are notes tomyself — they might not make a whole lot of sense!

Before I start let me take a moment to say I was lucky enough to catch the owner of Home Cake Decorating Supply Co. while nobody else was in the shop. She is incredibly nice and willing to give information you don’t even know you need yet. The shop is charming and packed and has everything. Even while people are there she will take the time to help you out, and I never mind waiting for her to finish up with other customers, besides there is so much to look at. The shop is at 9514 Roosevelt Way NE in the Maple Leaf neighborhood in Seattle and well worth a visit for anything you need, (206) 522-4300.


pastillage, very firm


nearly gooey fondant

My idea is to use the stars and the colors black, red and white from Scott’s logo. I’m using the dark chocolate cupcake recipe and easy vanilla bean buttercream frosting recipes from Cook’s Illustrated. Using inspiration from places like Leda’s Bake Shop and Sprinkles I decided a fondant red star on top of each would be great. I decided on a larger rather than smaller star because the smaller ones were cute (so wee!) and therefore decidedly less masculine.


happy face!

I decided to apply the frosting with a tip instead of by hand to save time. I was going to apply the frosting back and forth across the cupcake, since a round swirl seemed perhaps overly feminine. However, once I made the cupcakes and was looking at the mounded tops I decided a round swirl made more sense.


you need to shove the pastry tip tightly inside of the bag, and clip the bag to accomodate the large tip, I was very cautious while doing this as to not make the opening too large

I started off looking for red star sprinkles, but I could only find them in a red white and blue mixture*. I moved on to searching the lower depths of Pike Place Market seeking red star shaped candies of some sort. No luck. I had The Cake Bible out from the library at the time so making fondant sounded like a good idea. I bought AmeriColor Super Red soft gel paste coloring and made a batch of fondant, and a batch of pastillage. I wrapped both tightly and stored them in the fridge for a few days until I needed them. When it came time to roll out the pastillage cracked and stuck to the rolling pin despite it having been coated with shortening. I used powdered sugar to keep it from sticking making the top speckled with white, but the underside turned out a nice smooth consistency. The stars came out easily. I put some on cupcakes and am storing the rest in an airtight container in the fridge to see how they are after a few days. My thought is that I will make the star shapes a few days early to have ready to go.


what I learned watching Martha Stewart, fold the bag over half way to fill, it’s less messy

The fondant rolled out with no trouble with the greased rolling pin. However, the shapes were too soft and were distored upon moving them, leaving me with red starfish instead. I am storing the cut shapes in the fridge to see how they are after a few days. However, I’ll be using the pastillage.


Frosting on, I fear it looking like little piles of doggy poop. I think I prefer the slightly messy look of the icing to more perfect spirals, besides the slightly messy is easier.

A note on the fondant before I forget. I spent a long time adding more food coloring to get an intense red, which made it sticky, then adding more powdered sugar to get it less sticky, and back and forth. I suspect the fondant I produced was softer than it should have been, however I didn’t want to lighten the color any more. Perhaps rolling out the fondant and letting it dry out a bit before cutting it would have worked.

Speaking with the owner of Home Cake Decorating Supply Co. she gave me the idea I’m too dense to have thought of myself – using red chocolate bits and molding red stars. So easy! So clean! I was so focused on learning fondant that I didn’t think about it. It has become my backup plan. At this point though, I am sort of sweet on the pastillage stars.


fondant star vs. pastillage star, we have a clear winner

Things I learned about frosting application today. I bought #6 and #7 tips, and ended up using the #6. You don’t always need ot use a coupler — the coupler is used when you want to be able to exchange tips which using the same icing. I have 14″ bags which are a nice size.

Notes on the cupcakes themselves. The cupcakes this time turned out more like brownies, which isn’t what I’m going for. I suspect it was the chocolate. I used bittersweet Ghirardelli chocolate this time, initially I’d used Valrhona Noir Gastronomie, and I didn’t have clear ounce marks (forgive me, I don’t have a scale) so I was just sort of guessing and throwing a little more in. It’s such an amazing difference, the Valrhona is so much better to my tastebuds. Also, note to self, use a slightly lower oven temp next time, the oven runs hot and these came out well before the 18 minute mark. Another difference, I used foil baking cups instead of paper. Might this have affected them?

The easy vanilla bean buttercream was wonderful, Scott mentioned it tasted like ice cream and I suspect this is because the only time we get to eat vanilla bean things is when it’s ice cream. It’s still a little too soft for my liking, but it’s so quick to make I chose it for this project. I like the icing to stay narrower than the width of the cupcake itself, there is less of a chance it’ll get smudged in tranist.

At this point we’ll see how the pastillage is tomorrow and how the pastillage keeps for a few days. I’ll test the cupcake recipe again with the Valrhona Noir Gastronomie again to see if the results are happier.

This is my plan — make pastillage shapes three days before, store. Make cupcakes day before, store. Make frosting day of and decorate.

Transportation is a concern right now. I won’t have this work undone by my clumsiness, I have visions of stacks of white cupcakes splatting and bouncing all over the sidewalk, yikes. I’m hoping to score some of those boxes specifically for cupcakes but it’s too late to order them, so I’ll have to see if I can get a grocery store to sell me some. I fear this, I fear being a mere annoyance to grumpy bakers.

* I did find the most adorably wee sprinkle hearts at Home Cake. I must make the ickle cupcakes for Valentines Day just to have a reason to use such incredibly small sprinkles.

10 Comments

10 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Chelsea // Feb 5, 2007 at 8:46 am

    I am making 80 mini cupcakes for my granny’s 80th b-day and I came to check out what recipe you used. I did my first trial run Saturday, and it looks like I used the same recipe you did. They are very brownie-like. I think I may try a different recipe b/c I want to make them kinda taste like a Snicker’s.

  • 2 Bizet // Mar 16, 2007 at 9:47 pm

    where’s the recipe? I love brownies!

  • 3 betty // Jul 2, 2007 at 8:22 am

    do you have the recipe for this brownie cupcake??? i would love it.

  • 4 Yubi Shines // Jul 4, 2007 at 5:54 pm

    You know, these look suspiciously like sushi. Change the red stars to a few hundred little red dots, and I think we have a winner for the next birthday party my friends hold.

  • 5 Bes // Oct 9, 2007 at 1:42 am

    I really like how you made those designs! How did you do the puddle design? pls teach me how? thanks!

  • 6 Johnell // Nov 14, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    Really.. where is the recipe for this? Is it available online at all? (particularly for the icing)

  • 7 liz // Nov 27, 2007 at 8:14 am

    Recipe here: http://flickr.com/photos/smcgee/11294328/

    They are really delicious!

  • 8 sammy // Jan 30, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    where’s the recipe for fondant and pastillage?

  • 9 Giant Cupcake Attack! | All About Kids’ Parties - Party Ideas and Plans // Feb 6, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    [...] check out Not Martha … what a great looking cupcake cake. Also [...]

  • 10 christine // Jul 30, 2010 at 6:54 am

    I’ve got on my “HAPPY FACE” Thanks. These yummy looking cupcakes would make a great cupcake for a girl’s hollywood starlet party or a Fourth of July cupcake.

Leave a Comment