Sunday, May 4, 2014

Mint Julep Cupcakes for a Derby Party

So yeah, cookies are my thing, but a friend asked me about doing some cupcakes for an event she and her husband were catering. I looked into what they wanted and consulted my personal cupcake master, my sister who owns HaliHannigan's Cupcakery in Jackson, TN, and told her that I could do them. Their clients wanted a total of 100 cupcakes, 50 of which were to be mint julep cupcakes and 50 were to have red icing petal roses on them, flavor up to me. I specify petal roses to point out that they weren't simple swirl roses. Might I also note that I had no idea how to make petal roses with icing when I agreed to this, but I'll get back to that later.

Initially, I was most worried about the mint julep cupcakes, because my ignorance had not yet realized the tedious nature of petal roses made from buttercream. So I spent a couple of weeks periodically thinking on how to do the mint julep cupcakes. Fortunately, I was bright enough to do a test run a little over a week before. The first batch, which used a recipe I based on one I found online, was a total flop!! It had far too much liquid in the cake recipe - it called for a cup of milk AND a cup of bourbon.  I knew it was too much liquid intuitively as I was making them, but I just pressed on - idiot! They were looking okay until I got them out of the oven. They then completely caved in the middle. I opened one up and there was a giant hole inside them! When I say caved, I mean CAVED all of the way down to the bottom of the cupcake. So I made some adjustments and tried again. They came out great. I then did a buttercream with a little mint and bourbon in it. I once again consulted the master and she gave me some options of how to finish them off. I did them several ways - some were injected with a butter and bourbon glaze before icing, some were brushed in straight bourbon then iced, others were brushed, iced and then drizzled with the glaze and then some were just cake and icing. 

I don't like mint, so I was not the person to test these. I lined up the boyfriend of my friend Alison. He likes mint juleps and he's a chef, so I knew he would take doing a taste test seriously. He preferred the ones that were brushed in straight bourbon, then iced and drizzled in the bourbon butter glaze. So that was good enough for me and the feedback I received from my friends after their event was that they were very good and were the talk of the party. They were garnished with green straws and mint leaves.

Mint Julep cupcakes and Red Petal Rose cupcakes for Derby party

Now back to those buttercream petal roses. Oh my. Once I realized they weren't just simple little swirl roses, I started worrying. I held back a few of the MJ cupcakes and icing to practice with the week before, but I ended up not liking the original MJ icing consistency for either set and it didn't come out quite the way I would like. I had never before made anything like this with buttercream icing, so I spent quite a while watching YouTube video tutorials before trying. I wasn't happy with my centers and I felt like the overall roses stood up too straight to the edges of the cupcakes. Granted, I only did about two before I decided to ditch that batch of icing. I didn't revisit until a week later, which was THE DAY BEFORE I was to do these! At that point, I found this YouTube video that really helped me with making lovely centers for my roses. English is not the first language of the person in the video, so if you can get beyond that, there really are some good technique pointers in there. I found the section at 6:56 most helpful and skipped around to some other parts, because it is a very long video at over 17 minutes. So after watching this video and doing two more test ones with my new buttercream recipe, I decided I was good to go.

I used a different icing recipe for the final cupcakes and just made the red icing much more stiff than the MJ icing. All was well and I was ready to go the next day. Because I am severely limited in kitchen space, I had arranged with my aunt to use kitchen space at her donut shop about 1.5 hours away. I packed the car with everything I would need, including the icing I'd made the night before and stored in the fridge. Thankfully my niece came over to help me that day because I simply could not have done this all without her. When we got there, we learned that the AC was out in the kitchen at the donut shop. I don't like being hot, but was okay with it until it started melting my buttercream for these petal roses, such that they were turning into giant red blobs. We compensated by working a little, chilling the icing a little, then working a little more and then chilling the icing a little more. It took forever. We really didn't think we'd ever get done, but we did! While I was stressing over them early on, I sent my friend a pic and told her I was totally stressing. Her reply was hysterical - "Do they taste good? If so, then you are just being Beth." Which meant, "Chill out, they are fine. Quit being your usual worry-wart self."

Mint Julep and Red Petal Rose Cupcakes for Derby party
I was also quite pleased with myself with a bit of what we'll call redneck ingenuity for making those petal roses. The concept of making them is the same as making roses for cakes on a rose nail and having the spinning factor is very helpful so that you aren't contorting your wrist. So I took a large rose nail that I had, no idea why I had it since I'd never before used it but I had it nonetheless, and a red solo cup trimmed to be just shorter than a cupcake, but with enough of a lip to keep the cupcake from falling off, and hot glued the two together. Sadly, during my trip to the donut shop to work on these, they came apart and my aunt didn't have a hot glue gun there, but I once again employed my redneck ingenuity and took that term to a whole new level. Yep, that's duct tape holding the two pieces together. Worked like a charm. So I give you The Redneck Cupcake Rose Nail:

Cupcake Rose Nail

I am going to go ahead and publish this because I am falling asleep, so I won't be checking for typos and errors tonight. So please know that I am not an idiot if there are things here that make no sense. I'll edit later.

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