Jan Norris: Food and Florida

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Marie’s Butterfly Cupcakes – An Unlikely Helper and a Wow! Factor Result

June 26th, 2011 · 1 Comment

Keith Ward with butterfly cupcakes

My good friend and crazy quilter buddy Marie Zimmerman was retiring as president of the Palm Beach County Quilters’ Guild Saturday. She is cuckoo for butterflies, so when I saw the gorgeous layout of butterfly cupcakes in the cookbook, Hello, Cupcake! I knew I had to make these for her going-out party.

I didn’t want to make them too far in advance — heaven forbid I should actually do something without a last-minute deadline hanging over my head. I had read up on them and figured them for fairly simple, as my baking projects go. I’d never done this technique before, though: Melt some colored candy disks (called Candy Melts) and pour them onto a butterfly template, let them set up. Use icing to assemble them on the actual cupcake. Really, shouldn’t be a big deal. That’s what I always say…

Here comes Keith

But added to my writing deadlines, my cousin Keith Ward called to say he might be coming in from Pensacola Friday afternoon for a night’s stay. “I won’t know till Thursday,” he said.

I quickly finished some writing projects, and packed up the first half of the Christmas stuff -only one tree and some ornaments to go – whoo hoo! and tidied up, though for Keith, it wasn’t necessary. Cousin, yes, but we’re as close as brother and sister. I grew up with him and his older siblings, Mike and Doug. He wasn’t here to inspect my house, but to visit and enjoy the time while picking up a motorcycle trailer.

Keith’s the mellow one, more or less. I figured I could talk him into helping me with templates for the butterflies when he got here; I had to go buy the candy disks used to make them, meanwhile.

Help from Palm Beach Cake and Candy Supply

I called Jeanne Gray over at Palm Beach Cake and Candy Supply, the nearest cake supply source for me. This shop’s great for pro cake pans, icing colors, and giving advice to hapless bakers like me who just jump in without any experience.

At Jeanne’s shop, her spouse told me they had the orange and yellow Candy Melts I’d need. Alas, when I got there, they had red, not orange. OK – I decided to make my own orange: red and yellow melted together, right? Jeanne said yes. Thankfully, Mr. Gray gave me the best advice of the day. “Do you have any Paramount crystals? You definitely need them. Otherwise, they won’t flow and melt smoothly.” Got it – thank you for that one brilliant piece of advice! Paramount is like magic in making the melted candy useful.

A last phone call on the way home to them dispelled my other fear: They would set up in no time – not days like fondant – I would make my deadline.

More than he bargained for

Keith had arrived when I got back, and after just a few minutes catching up, I explained my project and told him I needed his help in drawing the templates on the parchment paper. “I get up at 5 a.m. and drive 10 hours and you put me to work? Fine hello.”

But he proved easy to bribe with a mere beer – albeit a good one: Red Brick Pale Ale, from Atlanta Brewing Co. (I like their cap motto: “Beer from Around Here.” Ostensibly for the Hotlanta area beer lovers.)

Keith got busy drawing 48 wings and 24 antennae. I melted the candies in the microwave as Jeanne suggested, used the Paramount and stirred till I got it smooth. I set up the piping bags and multi-tasking, planned dinner so we could meet up with my son at the Food Shack in the meantime.

‘This stuff sets up fast!’

I started by outlining a pair of wings with chocolate. Right away, I discovered the candies set up very fast. Not in 30 minutes or an hour – we’re talking 1 minute. That didn’t leave me time to fill in with color and drag the pick through it to simulate the wing colors.

Keith was watching this set up and also noticed it was hard too fast. “OK, We’ll work on one wing at a time.”

“What’s this WE business?” he says.

“I can’t do both of these in time – it’s setting up too fast. So I’ll pipe the outline and put in the color and you pull the pick through it like this.”

The first was not so hot – we overshot the fill color and almost overwhelmed the outline that was still setting up too fast. “You need more chocolate outline.”

The next few were weak. Then, we changed up – Keith outlined, I filled and dragged the veins. After 30 minutes, we had a respectable four done. Twenty to go – and dinner in Jupiter, and making the actual cupcakes they’d sit on…

1 a.m. baking – what’s new?

Butterflies in progress

We got about half of them done and broke for dinner. Meanwhile, I shot a photo of the work in progress and put it on my Facebook page. I wanted opinions as to what color the icing on the cupcake should be to best show off the butterflies – cream, pale green – white? Votes for all were tallied.

Dinner was great despite the wait (our fault, since we waited on Jimmy to join us) – Mike Moir is consistent with simply tasty, always fresh combinations at the Food Shack and at Maxi’s Lineup – the tapas bars connected to Food Shack, and fine for a light meal, too. A Grateful Dead tribute band that’s quite good had the place packed with Deadheads. (If you need proof there are aliens among us…)

‘Nite, Keith

By the time we got served and headed home, Keith was done in, despite the early-for-us hour. “I drove 10 hours, remember?”

Keith hung in till I made a pit stop at Publix for the paper cups for my double-vanilla cupcakes. After that, he promptly collapsed on the sofa for the night and I went to work finishing the butterflies and baking the cupcakes.

As he had said earlier: “The last one’s going to be perfect!” At 1 a.m., by the time I had finished, I didn’t care – though I had gotten the hang of it. I baked the cupcakes all in one batch (thank you, big oven), and turned in at 1:30. I’d ice them the next morning.

Easy assembly – sort of

All I had to do now was make the icing, stick the butterflies on the cupcakes and get them to the meeting by 10 a.m. I was up at 7, shook Keith awake as instructed by 7:30 and made coffee for us. I made a simple buttercream (went with lemon yellow, after much thought and knowing I’d have 18 butterflies – not 24 – and needed to make “flowers” on the alternates. Yellow flowers seemed most plausible.).

I iced a cupcake, and stuck the worst pair of wings in it, in case it failed. Just stick one wing at a time in it, then pipe a body in between using dark chocolate icing (not more candy). Attach the two antennae.

Uh-oh! The icing was too soft and the wings spread. Not bad looking, but not butterfly-ish enough just yet. So: I stuck that one in the freezer to set up, and put the icing back on the mixer to add more sugar and stiffen it up.

Now, I had it. They came together in no time. Keith, back in service again, bless his heart, piped the flowers onto their respective cupcakes. He noted these would cost $10 a piece at a bakery if he had to charge for them. “These are too dang much work!” So noted – if I ever decide to sell them.

I made the flower part pop by using some green sprinkles around the edges of those cupcakes. More petal and leaf work and a different color icing next time -but I was at 8:45 a.m. and pushing deadline. Again.

Pictures and applause

We packed them up in a shallow lid for a cake box, then snapped some photos – I wanted this preserved for our family album and to blackmail Keith with at a later date. They came out as good as anything else I’ve done in less than 24 hours.

Keith left, with a great story about his nutty cousin again.

I met Marie and Marcia Scott, good buddies at the Guild, at the door – they were wowed and Marie was so appreciative. Oohs and aaahs and even a round of applause came from the quilters – they appreciate creativity. They tasted good, too – another bonus.

Mission accomplished! Keith made it home exhausted, but with a day to rest up.

Will I do them again? Yes – for good friends like Marie. Despite the work, they really deliver in “wow!” factor. I’ll just have to stock up on good beer and lure Keith back down to help.

Tags: Baking: Cheap therapy

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Linda Ferris // Jun 28, 2011 at 10:52 am

    Loved the story… and the beautiful butterfly cupcakes looked great.

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