Posted by Melanie DiBiasio on Wednesday, January 14th, 2015
I love baking for other people. But when I get the pleasure of baking for events for my own closest friends and family, it’s so much more amazing and personally rewarding. This time, I got the pleasure of finding out the gender of my new niece before everyone else (except her parents of course) and helping to reveal the surprise to everyone else with a cake! I made a cake and cupcakes with hidden pink filling for the gender reveal party, and the two soon-to-be-grandmas cut the cake to find out the surprise. It was so much fun and so amazing to be a part of. And of course, I cannot wait to meet the little baby girl!
Here are some pictures of the cake, cupcakes and festivities. Enjoy!
Posted by Melanie DiBiasio on Monday, December 15th, 2014
I’ve always been kind of obsessed with snickerdoodles. And cupcakes. So, when I found a recipe on Pinterest for a combination of the two, you can imagine I was pretty jazzed. I made these on a whim as a pre-Thanksgiving experiment, and they were a BIG hit (I’m so glad the recipe made extra cookies, because those didn’t last one day in my house!)
On another note, this was the first time I had ever tried a sour cream frosting… and I’m not sure that I’ll ever try it again. While I thought the taste was good for these cupcakes, I was very disappointed that I couldn’t get it to pipe. It’s more of a glaze than a frosting. I tried a couple of different recipes, throwing a few away to try again and again,
My final version of sour cream frosting (recipe below) was the thickest and easiest to spread, but I still like my cupcakes to have a bit more height. I’m very curious how the recipe I used below was able to get it to look like it did in the picture from Pinterest that originally inspired me to make this recipe! I think if I made this recipe again, I’d use my cinnamon cream cheese frosting recipe instead, and it would be delicious! But anyway, these tasted great and it was a great learning experience.
Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Place the softened butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and cream with the paddle attachment until smooth. Add sugar and beat until fluffy and light, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in the egg and vanilla and mix just until incorporated. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients while running your mixer on low speed. Don’t overbeat! The dough will get thick and you might need to turn off your mixer and knead the dough until all ingredients are incorporated.
In a small bowl, mix cinnamon and sugar together. Roll the dough into 3/4-inch sized balls and coat them with the cinnamon-sugar mix. Place the balls on the baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely.
To make the cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 350°F and line muffin pans with 12 paper liners.
Sift together flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Set aside. In your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on medium high speed for about 2 minutes, then add the eggs, one at a time. Keep beating for another 2 minutes.
With your mixer running on low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk in two additions.
Fill baking cups about 3/4-full and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely.
To make the frosting:
Add butter to the bowl of an electric mixer. Cream until smooth. Add powdered sugar, sour cream and vanilla. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes, or until smooth and fluffy.
To assemble, once cupcakes are cool, pipe or glaze with frosting, top with a cookie and decorate the top with a final dab of frosting. Sprinkle with leftover cinnamon-sugar if desired.
NOTE: This recipe makes way more cookies than you’ll need for the cupcakes. The original recipe I adapted was for mini-cupcakes, but I thought these would be better as large ones. Regardless, the cookies are also delicious on their own, so I recommend rather than trying to use 1/2 an egg, you just make extra
Posted by Melanie DiBiasio on Monday, June 23rd, 2014
Last week, one of my good friends had a surprise 30th birthday for her husband, and I could not have been more honored to be such a huge part of it. I’ve only been able to bake/decorate one extravagant cake thus far in my baking career, and being able to try my hand at another one for such a special occasion was a wonderful experience. This time, I was tasked with creating a giant cigar to commemorate this milestone birthday. I’m not sure what was harder – creating the cake or transporting it without ruining it (I’m pretty sure it weighed at least 10 pounds)!
To create this masterpiece, I tried something I’ve never used before – chocolate fondant. Remarkably, it tasted quite a bit better than the regular, unflavored stuff I’ve used in the past… I will definitely use it again. Of course, it works best when you’re creating a brown cake to begin with!
I also had some fun with this cake, in order to create the shape and also the effect of a cigar. In order to shape the cake, I tried my hand at jelly-rolling. I don’t think I’d try jelly-rolling a chocolate cake ever again – but I made it work (with lots of delicious vanilla buttercream to hold it all together!). But you learn from trial and error, and for that I’m glad I had the experience of my cake nearly falling apart. On the plus side, I learned how to jelly-roll a cake for the future when I use the correct type of cake!
Additionally, I had fun creating the “singed” effect on the end of the cake. For this effect, I left the end uncovered by fondant, and instead crushed up oreos and stuck them to the buttercream to make it look like the cigar was burning at one end.
One of the parts of the cake I’m most proud of is the label. Of course, this part took me the longest to create as it is so intricately detailed, but I’m so pleased with how it came out. The end result required a combination of cookie cutters, an airbrush and gold airbrush paint, a black edible marker for the script, and lots of fondant and gum glue.
Overall, I have to say I was impressed with how this came out – and the reactions of the party-goers spoke volumes. The best part of this whole experience was that I had more people come tell me how good the cake TASTED than those who told me how good it looked. I care much more about that part, personally. While I really enjoy making cakes that look beautiful and realistic, if the taste doesn’t hold up I would not consider them successful cakes. So this, to me, was the ultimate compliment, and for that I am beyond proud.
Baking cakes is fun but baking little mini cakes for little mini people is way more fun. Not only does it give me greater creative liberty because with a smaller cake I have time to be a bit more intricate and detailed, but the glory of seeing the joy in a little one’s face (even though you’re watching your creation get destroyed) is like no other. The concept of a smash cake is a new one (I think) but I love it because it allows you to enjoy the typical first birthday cake-to-face (and hands, and hair, and clothes…) moment with your baby, but yet still have a cake that is edible for the adults. And of course, it makes for some awesome photos.
I was lucky enough to be able to work with Allison on this cake smash, so she sent me some of the fabulous pictures she took. I can’t wait to do more of these!
Did you have a separate cake for your one-year-old to smash, or any other photo-worthy moments of your children’s birthday celebrations involving cake?? Tell me about them in the comments!
Of course, if you’re interested in a cake smash for an upcoming birthday celebration, please do not hesitate to contact me via the Contact form.
Posted by Melanie DiBiasio on Wednesday, April 9th, 2014
I work for Ocean Spray, so it’s no secret I have a soft spot for cranberries. So when it came time to bake something special for a team that helped me out BIGTIME at work (they helped make THIS happen – super cool!!) I thought I’d try my hand at a cranberry-inspired cupcake.
This cupcake is a deliciously moist vanilla cake, filled with fresh cranberry compote and topped with a cranberry buttercream frosting. When I imagined it I thought it sounded good, but wasn’t entirely sure how the taste would match up to my hopes and dreams. But once I took a bite, I knew I had done it. The PERFECT cranberry cupcake. Not overly cranberry but plenty to give you that flavor you love… just enough sweet but with the balance of tart… and just overall a really yummy treat that would be great in the fall or for Thanksgiving, but is also great any time of year (just remember to buy extra cranberries in the fall and freeze them to use year-round!)
Here is the recipe so you can try these at home. I guarantee they’ll be a big hit!
Cranberry Vanilla Cupcakes A Build Me Up Buttercream exclusive recipe!
2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup canola oil
1 cup buttermilk
Cranberry Compote Filling:
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 12-ounce package Ocean Spray® Fresh or Frozen Cranberries, rinsed and drained
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice (if you don’t have any, you can mix your own using about 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg and 1/2 tsp cloves or allspice, to taste)
1 tbsp cornstarch
Cranberry Buttercream Frosting:
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup cranberry compote (left over from filling recipe)
Heat the oven to 350°F. Line muffin pans with 24 paper liners.
Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl. Whisk to combine and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, add eggs and beat with the whisk attachment on medium speed for about 20 seconds, or until well beaten but not foamy. Add sugar and continue to beat on medium speed for about 1 minute. Add vanilla and oil and beat on medium speed for about 20 seconds or until incorporated. Scrape down sides of bowl.
Add about half of the flour mixture and beat on low speed until combined. Add half of the buttermilk and continue to beat on low. Repeat with remaining flour mixture and buttermilk. Beat until just combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Batter should be smooth and thin.
Pour batter into lined muffin pan, filling each liner about halfway. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until edges slightly brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely.
To make the cranberry compote filling:
Add water and sugar to a medium saucepan. Bring to boil. Add cranberries and pumpkin pie spice and return to boil. Reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in cornstarch. Cover and cool completely at room temperature, or refrigerate until mixture is completely cool.
Cut a small round piece out of the tops of each cooled cupcake and spoon in cranberry filling until it is level with the top of each cupcake. Reserve remaining compote.
To make cranberry buttercream frosting:
Add butter to the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whip butter on medium-high speed until nearly white and very fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally. Add 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar and mix on medium-low speed just until incorporated. Then add 1 tbsp milk. Repeat with remaining confectioners’ sugar and milk. Add vanilla and cranberry compote. Mix on low speed just until blended; then increase speed to high and whip until very light and fluffy, about 5-6 minutes.
NOTE: If frosting is too stiff, add milk one teaspoon at a time until it reaches your desired consistency. If too loose, add confectioners’ sugar.
Pipe cranberry buttercream frosting on top of cranberry-filled cupcakes to complete your masterpiece. Garnish with a sugared cranberry if you want to get fancy!
Makes 24 cupcakes.
If you’re successful they should look a little something like this:
How can anyone resist something with this beautiful cranberry filling?!
Posted by Melanie DiBiasio on Thursday, March 13th, 2014
As a girl who grew up with no brothers or even young male cousins, Legos were never something I had the pleasure of playing with. Truly, I think I missed out. These days, now that I’ve seen the amazing things that people build with these tiny plastic building blocks, I definitely think this is a toy that both boys and girls alike can and should play with in order to both learn building concepts and to express creativity!
But I digress… I’m really here to talk about cupcakes (with Legos on top!)
I was recently asked if I could bake Lego cupcakes for a special little boy’s birthday party, and I could not have been more excited. After doing some research on Pinterest, I loved the idea of using a Silicone Candy Mold* to make different colored Lego bricks (if you want to hear my love-fest on silicone molds, see the end of this post). Accented with primary color Confetti Sprinkles and pure white vanilla buttercream, these would be the perfect addition to any Lego lover’s big day!
I made extra candy pieces to use as decoration around the cupcakes, and I could not have been happier with the result. From what I hear, both the birthday boy and all his friends and family agreed – which is my true measure of success, as always. I can’t wait to find more Lego lovers to get more use out of my new purchase!
Here are some more pictures of my Lego cupcakes for your viewing pleasure:
What was your favorite toy as a kid? Do you think you could bake it into a cupcake?? Or… do you want to challenge me to try?!
* For the record, silicone molds are THE way to go to make shapes out of candy melts. They were so easy to fill, and more importantly easy to remove the finished product since they are so flexible. They are definitely multi-use, as opposed to the plastic trays that tend to crack/break after 1-2 uses. I will be purchasing many more of these in the future for sure!
Posted by Melanie DiBiasio on Friday, February 28th, 2014
As you already know if you’re a reader, my birthday is on Valentine’s Day. And as you obviously know just by being here, I love baking treats of all shapes and sizes. So I guess it should come as no surprise to anyone that this year, I got the pleasure of baking my own birthday cake!
This cake was actually supposed to be for celebrations of a few other birthdays in the family as well, but unfortunately due to illnesses I was the sole candle-blower-outer on my own cake (at least someone else put the candles in and lit them!). Anyway, I was very happy with the end result.
It was a marble cake with strawberry buttercream (Neapolitan, anyone?) that I decorated with icing and heart-shaped confetti sprinkles. And not only did it look great, but it tasted great too! (Guess you’re just gonna have to take my word for that one.)
Mmm mmm yummy! It was a crowd-pleaser for sure, and most importantly, a me-pleaser (not to be selfish, but it was my birthday, after all!)
Have you ever baked yourself something for a special occasion, or do you have a favorite treat that someone else makes for you? Tell me about it in the comments!
Posted by Melanie DiBiasio on Tuesday, February 11th, 2014
There was a time in my life when I struggled with cake pops. I wanted to so badly to make them (and actually have them look and taste good!), but I just couldn’t figure out how. First, I tried buying one of these. To make cake pops, you need a pan the right shape to bake those little round cakes in, right?? WRONG. The cake pops disintegrated as soon as melted chocolate touched their delicate outsides. Then I did some research and decided to try the cake + frosting recipe (1:1 ratio). #FAIL. Too wet, sticky and gross. These things don’t even stay on a stick. There must be a delicate balance??
I finally experimented enough that I think I’ve got it. And now, dear readers, I will share the secret to my success with all of you, so you don’t have to go through the nerve-wracking process that I did to achieve success with cake pops. And they actually look and taste better than the ones at Starbucks (in my humble opinion).
Here’s how it’s done.
BEFORE YOU GET STARTED: You will need:
9×13 cake, cut in half (either homemade from scratch or boxed cake mix – I find that in cake pops you can barely tell the difference)
1 batch frosting (again, either homemade or canned – I personally also don’t notice a difference in the cake pops)
18-24 lollipop sticks
16 ounces candy melts or Bakers’ chocolate/white chocolate (you can also use chocolate chips, but the Bakers chocolate is more high-quality)
Floral foam. This is important unless you want your cake pops to be upside-down with flat bottoms. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but they won’t look as nice as the ones at Starbucks. (Alternatively, you could invest in one of these which is a more long-term solution if you think you’ll be making a lot of cake pops)
STEP 1: Bake a 9×13 cake and let it cool completely. Cut it in half and reserve the other half for another time (I suggest freezing it) as you only need 1/2 cake unless you plan to double this recipe.
STEP 2: Crumble cake into a large bowl. Add frosting a little at a time and mix well with your hands until the mixture is not too dry or crumbly but also not sticky. I find that I use about 2 heaping tablespoons of frosting (about 1/2 can of premade frosting).
STEP 3: Use a cookie/mini ice cream scoop to scoop out a portion of the cake/frosting mixture. Roll into a ball with your hands. Repeat with remainder of mixture.
STEP 4: Melt chocolate in a deep bowl. You want to make sure you have enough space to dip the cake pop and submerge it fully in the chocolate.
STEP 5: Take a lollipop stick and dip one end into the chocolate. Then spear one of your cake pops with the dipped end of the stick. Wait a few seconds, then flip it over so it’s right-side up and place the cake pop in the floral foam. Repeat until you fill up the foam with cake pops, and then place it right into your freezer. Let the cake pops set for about 10-20 minutes before you take the next step.
STEP 6: Remove pops from freezer and reheat chocolate/add more as necessary. Dunk pops one-by-one into melted chocolate. Let excess chocolate drip off; tap very lightly on the edge of the bowl to assist the dripping if necessary. Flip pop right-side up and immediately apply decorations (chocolate will harden quickly!)
STEP 7: Place in refrigerator to allow chocolate to harden and set completely. If you’re in a rush, throw them back in the freezer to speed up this process.
STEP 8: ENJOY!!!
Does anyone out there use a similar method, or is there another successful one that I just haven’t learned yet?? Please share in the comments!
Posted by Melanie DiBiasio on Monday, February 3rd, 2014
I love birthdays. Mostly because they allow me an opportunity to explore new cupcakes. Whether that be flavor, format or design exploration, I love it all. So when my co-worker asked if I’d like to help her celebrate her son’s first birthday, I could not have been more excited. The last time I baked for a kids’ birthday party, the end result was one of my best performing cupcakes of all-time (my Hello Kitty cupcakes).
This time, the party theme was trains!
I enjoyed making these kid-friendly cupcakes (vanilla and chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream) and topping them with brightly colored little fondant trains. I heard they were a hit with party guests, and most importantly the birthday boy, so I’d say they were a success!
I can’t wait to get the opportunity to do even more birthday parties – kids or adults – as they really allow me the opportunity to be creative but still work within a theme and a client’s expectations. It’s a challenge for sure, but one I’ll accept any day!
Posted by Melanie DiBiasio on Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014
I’m a Valentine’s Day baby, so I’ve always had a soft spot for things like hearts, roses, and of course, chocolate. I grew up with an annual showering of hearts, the colors red and pink, and a spectacular heart-shaped birthday cake (alternating between marble and Funfetti, my two favorite flavors). It’s through these heart-shaped cakes that my love of baking first blossomed. These cakes are one of my favorite childhood memories, and somehow to even my own surprise, I’ve yet to bake one of my own.
This year, I decided to put my own spin on my childhood birthday cake. But rather than borrowing the heart-shaped cake pan from my mom, I took a different route. I was inspired not only by fond memories, but also by one of my favorite Valentine’s Day treats: chocolate-covered strawberries. As much as I love a big, beautiful bouquet of flowers, there’s no faster way to my heart than a box of chocolate-covered strawberries.
I was very excited to find out that one of my favorite mail-order sweet treat companies, Shari’s Berries, sells a “Full Dozen Strawberry Roses” to give a more-than-subtle hint to all the lovers out there that sometimes chocolate treats are simply sweeter than flowers. And when I was contacted by Shari’s Berries asking me to share my favorite Valentine’s Day dessert, I was inspired by this concept. If you can have a bouquet of strawberries covered in chocolate, why not a bouquet of strawberry cupcakes with delectable chocolate goodness hidden inside?
Thus, the idea for my chocolate-covered strawberry cupcakes was born. By using my favorite white cupcake recipe and adding strawberry Jello and frozen strawberries, I made a yummy (and pink!) cupcake. I then filled each cupcake with a rich chocolate ganache and topped it with my favorite vanilla buttercream (pink again, of course!), piped into a rose shape.
To make the “bouquet”, I put a 5″ Styrofoam ball into a pail and used toothpicks, inserted at a 45 degree angle, to attach the cupcakes to the ball. To fill in the areas where you could still see the white Styrofoam, I placed sparkly ribbon. You could also use green tissue paper or ribbon to make it look like leaves. IMPORTANT NOTE: If you ever want to make a cupcake bouquet: make sure as you add a cupcake to one side, you add one to the other side at the same time. It is, after all, a ball. And balls tend to roll if weight is placed on one side and not the other. And then cupcakes fall. I learned my lesson so hopefully no one else has to suffer the same fate!
I guess the only bad thing about these cupcakes is that I had to do all the work to make them instead of getting them as a gift (hint, hint Kevin!). At least I enjoyed the process, although now I’m craving some good chocolate-covered strawberries!
Have you ever gotten a special surprise other than roses for Valentine’s Day? Share some ideas here (and then share this blog post with that special someone in your life!)