Monday, April 11, 2011

Bears and Chicks Cupcakes and a Devil's Chocolate Cake

(picture courtesy of R's friend)

50 decorated cupcakes; a Devil's Chocolate Cake; one week of planning; 7 batches of cake batter; several kilograms of baking ingredients; a few specially selected trusty recipes and countless hours of warring in the kitchen with my Philips handheld beater and my 26L Tefal tabletop oven. All these were part and parcel of a cake order for R's 21st birthday party.

This has to be the biggest cake order I have recieved to date. When I take orders, they are in the form of a favour for cherished friends or people who are close to me. The last thing on my mind would be any monetary returns in the form of profits. If there would be any form of gratification, it would be the smiles and 'Thank Yous' in return, not to mention the sense of satisfaction that I derive. Afterall, I am doing something that I enjoy the most.

I have to admit it is indeed a big challenge to cater to 100 pax as it is a huge order. First of all, my oven can only handle a single batch of batter at a time. Secondly, the main cake would be one that is able to feed around 50 people and the maximum pan size my oven can hold is a 12 x 12 inch square pan. Thirdly, I have not made any elaborately decorated cupcakes and I am not sure if I am up to the task. Lastly, the cake order is meant for R's 21st Birthday and I do know how important a 21st birthday party can be. Therefore, I have to ensure that the cakes are visually presentable as well as pleasant to the palate.

(picture courtesy of R's friend)

After discussiung with R on his preferences and having done some brainstorming, I had this grand plan forming in my mind:

1) The 50 cupcakes would be vanilla and chocolate flavoured. I was deliberating on the vanilla cupcake recipe to use. In the end, I decided on Rose's Yellow Butter Cupcakes. Made two batches of them and ate one to QC (quality control). The texture is velvety and it gives a very rich creamy aroma, thanks to the combination of butter, vanilla and yoghurt.

For the chocolate cucpakes, I used the recipe here and tweaked it a little by omitting the rum and raisins, adding more sugar and milk. The texture is moist, slightly fudgy and lighter than a typical dense chocolate cake.

(picture courtesy of R's friend)

2) For the choice of colours, it would be a blue and white theme for the cupcakes. All the cupcakes are to be frosted with Swiss meringue buttercream in an alternate blue and white fashion. 26 of them would contain letterings and there will be one letter per cupcake.

(picture courtesy of R's friend)

3) The cupcake letterings are to be either cut-out from fondant or piped with buttercream. I tried searching around for alphabet cookie cutters but could not seem to find a suitable one. Hence, I settled for buttercream instead. Used a small Wilton round tip to pipe and connect dots to form the letterings. It wasn't exactly difficult or tedious to do. All it takes is some practice.

Bear prototype 1 with reference to these teddy bear cupcakes. The original ones are done using cookie cutters. I moulded mine by hand, hence the great disparity.

Bear prototype 2

Fat baby chick protoype and bear prototype 2 with off-focus eyes

4) R requested for 12 fondant bears and 12 fondant chicks. To make the fondant animal figurines, I borrowed a couple of books on fondant cakes and did some browsing on the ever-so-reliable internet. This is the first time I am making bears and chicks with fondant but I figured that I should be able to mould some simple bears and chicks with close reference to youtube videos and pictures on Flickr or Google. So, after some trial and practice, I came up with two different bear protypes and a fat baby chick prototype. Making the prototypes took me a quite. I showed R the prototypes and he preferred the 2nd bear prototype. As for the chick, he laughed that it was a fat one. Afterall, it is a fat baby chick.  

5) The main cake would be an 12 inch big square chocolate cake. The frosting would be either whipped ganache or bittersweet dark chocolate frosting aka Devil's Chocolate Frosting. Settled for Devil's chocolate frosting as it is easier to do (since I have prior experience of making it) and it yields good results. To contrast the thick fudgy heavy frosting, the choice of cake layers would be chocolate chiffon sponge.

In all, I used 2.5 x recipe of Devil's Chocolate Frosting (weighs almost close to 2kg!) and 3 batches of chocolate chiffon sponge, each batch baked in a 12 inch square pan one at a time to yield a total of 3 layers. After assembling, frosting and trimming the sides of the cake, it was about 11 inch square in size and about 3 inches tall. This Devil's chocolate cake is different from the Devil's Food Cake I have made earlier. Both cakes use the same frosting but the cake layers are different.

(picture courtesy of R's friend)

Since the cake order is for an important occasion, it would be a shame to scrimp on the ingredients. Here are the quality ingredients (really good stuffs!) I used to maximize the performance of the recipes, giving the cakes an extra oopmh in flavour and texture:
  • Nielsen Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla for the yellow butter cupcakes and vanilla buttercream (swiss meringue)
  • Several slabs of Elle &Vire French butter for the cupcakes and most of the vanilla buttercream until I ran out of the butter.
  • SIS castor sugar (extra fine sugar) for finer texture in cakes.
  • Prima cake flour and Self Raising flour. I have been using Prima flour for all my bakes and it works really good. The plain flour itself is as fine as cake flours from other brands as it has consistently low protein content, according to observations from Stephanie which I definitely agree with. It is a very trustworthy brand. Will be sticking to Prima flour for as long as I bake.
  • 1 kg of Callebaut Belgium Chocolate for the devil's chocolate frosting. One of the better chocolate brands for baking.
  • About 200g of Valrhona cocoa powder for the chocolate chiffon sponge and devil's chocolate frosting. Definitely the best cocoa powder you can find in SG. It's one ingredient I always stock up in my pantry.
  • 9 tbs of Baileys (with a hint of caramel) for the devil's chocolate frosting to accentuate the chocolate factor. I don't suppose anyone got drunk eating the cake.

fondant bears without painted eyes

S came over my place and offered to help out with the devil's chocolate cake. Throughout the entire process, he almost annoyed the hell out of me like a menace! He even 'threatened to wreck havoc' on the delicate chocolate chiffon sponge layers by not adhering to my instructions, as if I was'nt busy enough already. S even claimed that cakes are not difficult to make and he do not see what could possibly go wrong. He definitely over-simplified the process and underestimated the science of cake making.

Having said those words, he accidentally sifted cocoa powder onto the sugar meant for egg whites, which might eventually result in the egg whites failing to whip properly. That was not all the 'trouble' he caused. After I explained that things could go awfully wrong and I did not want to waste precious ingredients and time re-doing cake batters, he told me it was alright if I could not deliver the cake on time. How very helpful and sensitive of him (yeah sarcasm meant here)....

The fatigue and stress levels in me was already building up to dangerous levels. I would have given him a good piece of my mind if he was'nt a good buddy of mine, but I told myself to focus on churning the sponge layers out and calmed myself down to prevent the dormant-turned-active volcano in me from erupting. I can tolerate with his nonsense anytime but not when it comes to making cakes for an important occasion! To set the record straight, I didn't plan hard for things to fail or turn awry. Afterall, I have the responsibility on my shoulders and if anything turns out for the worst, how am I supposed to answer to R? The morale of the story - don't mess me when I am seriously baking cakes...

On the contrary, S was a great help though when I was making the fondant chicks, helping to portion out doughs for the chicks' body parts. Looks like his presence served a useful purpose afterall...

12 blue fondant bears and 12 white chicks

To tell the truth, I was casting doubts on myself while I was doing the cakes batches after batches, sometimes even wondering why I volunteered to take the order. Maybe I overstimated my abilities or am too ambitious. I must thank R for placing his faith and trust in me that I will complete the task to his expectations. Thankfully, everything managed to come together in one piece. There was a flaw though - my 2nd batch of buttercream turned out yellowish due to the Goldtree butter which has a deep yellow tone, compared to the off-white colour of Elle &Vire butter. Hence, you can see most of the piped wordings turned out yellowish instead of being off-white, something which I did not anticipate.

R smsed me to thank and inform me that his guests were impressed with the cupcakes and especially the chocolate cake, which they found to be really chocolatey. Nothing beats more than a reward like this to know that the cakes are well received.

Actually, I didn't get to witness how the cupcakes would look like when fully arranged on a table as I was unable to attend the party. I packed the cupcakes in 3 boxes and the fondant figurines in a separate box which are to be assembled on site, as I wanted to be doubly sure that the fondant figurines would not soften/melt or leak colour to the buttercream. Even though I had a mental picture of how the overall outcome would look like, I wished I had been there to assemble and arrange the cupcakes myself. It wasn't until when S sent me a picture did I realise how the final arrangement would turn out to be like.

Swiss Meringue Vanilla Buttercream
180g egg whites
120g granulated sugar
375g unsalted butter, softened but still cold
3 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preparing the Vanilla Buttercream:

Dissolve sugar in egg whites - Place 180 egg whites and 120g granulated sugar in a heatproof bowl. Sit the heatproof bowl on a saucepan filled with water. The base of the bowl should not be in contact with the water. Bring the water in the saucepan to a slight simmer. Use a balloon whisk and stir the egg whites and sugar constantly until the sugar has fully dissolved (egg white mixture should not feel gritty) and the mixture is warm to the touch (test by inserting a finger).

Beating egg whites - Remove the heatproof bowl and beat the warm egg white mixture on medium high speed to obtain stiff peaks using an electric beater. At stiff peaks, the beaten egg whites will not budge when bowl is overturned. When the beaters are lifted from the beaten egg whites, the surface of the egg whites should form stiff upright peaks (not drooping peaks). The beaten egg whites should be cool to the touch (room temperature), not warm like when it was removed from the saucepan.

Adding butter and vanilla - Beat in 375g butter into the beaten egg whites in 3 batches, ensuring each batch is incoporated before adding the next. The mixture might turn watery/curdle when butter is added. Continue beating and the buttercream will firm up. Beat until the mixture is firm, creamy and fluffy. Lastly, add in 3 1/2 tsp vanilla and continue beating to obtain a smooth vanilla buttercream.

1) Compared to my other buttercream recipes, this one uses much less sugar as there is no cocoa powder(bitter) or tart citrus juices (lemon) present.
2) Yields enough to frost about 20 medium cupcakes.


  1. Wow looks like you completed a massive order perfectly, despite your friend's "help" :p The fat green chick looks really adorable hehe. Although I've to admit I was quite surprised that a guy would go for such baby blue colors and cute stuff like cuddly bears ;p

    And I love Rose's cupcake recipes too :)

  2. ZY, good job! I can never imagine myself doing this... I tried to take order once for a neighborhood stall once and had to give up after I batch...hahah... The figurines are adorable.

  3. The piping of alphabets are really good! And the white chicks looks cute too! Lol Thanks for the award btw

  4. those fondant figurines are really cute. Even the bears look so cuddly!~

    great job ZY!

  5. i went "WOW!" when i was reading and looking at those lovely photos! can you pls tell me how you manage to find and do such nice figurine? my best friend bday is coming and this dont at all look easy but i want to try :D
    anyways, is true that money can never buy the sense of satisfaction and appreciation from the recipients. you surely make the bday celebration a memorable one (: GREAT JOB ZY! im so impressed! (:

  6. Wow! I am amazed by your talent and organization skills. Congratulations about successfully pulling off such a humongous task. You are such a good friend. The fondant bears and chicks look soo cute. They all look the same and wow! they're just amazing. Great job on it. Luckily nothing bad happened to the cakes even if your friend did mess around a bit.

  7. I love the chicks! Great job, ZY.
    *pat on back*

  8. You did a great job here! Big orders and hope more to come :) Love the last photos of the bears & chicks, nice colour & they are so cute!

  9. Wow! Those bears and white chicks look very very very cute! Good job!

  10. You are amazing! What a great job you have done! Well done, well done!

  11. ZY, give yourself a pat on the shoulder for a job well done. In time to come, I am sure you can handle such order easily. You did a marvellous job with the fondant as well as the piping!

  12. Wow it is so impressive! You certainly did a great job and not to worry, everything looks good for such a big occasion. I believe this is one triumph of your baking journey and I believe yeah more to come yeah? :)

  13. You are amazing making these cupcakes and fondant figurines. Most impressive of all, they are so perfect!

  14. ZY you really did well here! its really hard to cater to such a big party with our home oven! bravo i applaud you!

  15. ZY, you have it in you to bake and decorate. Great progress you have made. Dare to try and dream greater things. I'm glad you've done it again!

  16. I love the chicks and bear toppers! Hopefully you share with us how to make one of those.

  17. Janine,

    Thanks! yeah it is indeed a massive order. This is my first time using Rose's cupcake recipe and my 3rd recipe from her heavenly cakes. They always turn out great!



    Thanks for the encouragement. For a moment, I thought I will not be able to fulfil this order. The ordeal is finally over...


    Swee San,

    Thanks for the kind words and you're welcome =]


    hi travellingfoodies,

    thank you!



    maybe you want to email me your msn add? we can talk about it from there. I see if I can help you in any way.

    Thanks for the words of encouragement. Appreciate it alot =]

  18. hey esther,

    Thank you =] I must say that I'm lucky no major disaster struck this round even though my friend messed around a little.



    thanks for your constant support =]



    Thank you! I can't imagine taking more orders. Probably will need a good break before I take any massive orders in time to come.


    Jenny and HHB,

    I can't thank you ladies enough for the encouragment. Thanks!

  19. Edith,

    I think it will take me many many more orders before it will I will get used to the sheer amount of work to do. I had to scrape off some of the piped letters and re-pipe because they were either too small or din turn out well.



    Thank you! hmm.. the process is fun but very very tiring, so I dunno if I should look forward to more to come, haha. Once in a while should be alright. Don't wanna tire myself out. It won't be that enjoyable anymore.



    thanks! I still have more to practice with fondant as I am rather new to it.



    ya, it is not efficient to cater to a huge order. Very troublesome doing multiple batches of batter. Thanks for being so supportive =]

  20. Judy,

    thanks for the words of encouragement! I hope there will be more opportunities for practice and improvement.


    Hi lovecupcakes,

    thanks =]. I'm not good at fondant yet. It might take me some time before I can post a fondant tutorial.

  21. wow! hats off! so pretty and neat! well done! :)

  22. Wow ... indeed very challenging job. I like those fondant figurines - they are very cute.

  23. Impressive work ZY! Hats off to a wonderful job done! I love the little figurines, very cute! I couldn't have done it better. I totally understand why you had jump to this opportunity, it's great great practice! Just the pressure of failing at the back of the mind can be stressful sometimes. But you sure did very well my friend...I'm sure more good opportunities awaits.

  24. I have an award for you. Please check it out.

  25. I find it very stressful when it comes to monetary transactions. I prefer to bake and give away instead of taking an order.

    Back to your order, I think you did a great job! And the bears look good too.

  26. hi,

    thanks a lot for the award! appreciate it a lot =]


    blessed homemaker,

    ya indeed it is very stressful to do orders.. when i do orders, i only charge my frens at cost price. this is my 2nd order so far.

    thanks for the encouragement =]

  27. ZY, I am totally speechless. You should give yourself a BIG pat on the shoulder for achieving this fete. The figurines are absolutely gorgeous and the cakes look so yummy. Must call you "si fu" already.

  28. Jo,

    thanks for the encouragement! I'm not that pro yet. Still have a lot to learn from you ladies. =]


Dear readers, thanks for visiting my humble little blog. Feel free to leave a message so that I can learn and be a better baker. Its a great feeling to share our culinary experience and adventures in the kitchen.

Thank you and have a nice day! Cheers =]

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