Sunday, April 19, 2015

When life gives you melted cupcakes...

I realize that baking blogs make everything look so pretty and flawless.  I continually set higher standards for myself, my recipes, my photos - only sharing the most beautiful, the most delicious.  It's good to aim for bettering oneself, in all areas, and my blog is a place where I try to always improve my skills.

And it's not enough to just have a great-tasting recipe anymore, if the photos don't do it justice.  But I'll admit it's a painful process, deleting photos that two years ago would have been my best, but now are no longer good enough for me.

The day that I shot these Orange Poppyseed Cupcakes with salted maple buttercream, orange curd and salted pistachios, started beautifully.  I baked the cupcakes, frosted them, filled them with orange curd, sprinkled them with pistachios, and happily snapped away.  When something is as pretty as those cupcakes were, setting up a photo shoot is such a fun way to spend a half hour.

After the photo shoot, I packed the cupcakes up in my cupcake carrier with plans to take them to work the next day, and set them under the dining room table to keep them out of the way while we continued our way through our project of painting the entire house.  And although it was only the first weekend in March, the day turned unseasonably warm for Colorado.

Six hours later, on that strangely hot day, I happened to glance at the cupcakes, and my heart sank with dismay.  It was a rookie mistake, not refrigerating cake and buttercream on a hot day, and my lovely cupcakes suffered for it.  The pretty buttercream swirls had softened and the orange curd had thinned and soaked into the cake, running over the sides of the drooping buttercream.

I tasted one, and it was so moist and delicious, but, oh, it looked so awful.  Jamie tried to convince me that no one at work would care how they looked, and that they would only think about how amazing they tasted, but I wasn't having it.  I was too embarrassed to let anyone see what had happened.

Disappointed and angry, I peeled off all the paper liners, flung the cupcakes into a large mixing bowl and started stabbing at them with a wooden spoon, as though that would somehow make the situation better.  As I mashed up the cupcakes, they took on a thick, creamy consistency, a blend of cake and frosting, which as we all know, are the ingredients for cake balls.  I tasted the mashed up mess - a delicious mess of orange cake speckled with poppy seeds, salted maple buttercream, zesty orange curd, crunchy salted pistachios - and realized I could salvage my work after all.  I rolled it all into little balls, and after chilling the cake balls, dipped them in dark chocolate and sprinkled them with pistachios and salt for garnish.

And in spite of arriving there completely by accident, the cake balls were so fantastic.  I sent a few to work with Jamie the next day, and froze the rest, saving them for our first party in our new house.

I'm still a little peeved that no one but Jamie and myself got to taste the cupcakes as I intended them, and there is nothing to remember them by other than the pretty photos, but when life gives you melted cupcakes, you make cake balls and just be happy about it.

Cake Balls:
To make cake balls, bake the cake and make the buttercream.  Combine the two, mashing them together until they become creamy, almost paste-like.  The proportions of cake to frosting are a judgement call; you want them to be thick enough to shape into balls.

Chill the cake balls until firm, then dip in melted chocolate; sprinkle with garnishes before the chocolate sets.  Place on parchment paper and chill until the chocolate hardens again.

The two-dozen cupcakes from the above cupcake recipe yielded about 4-5 dozen cake balls.


  1. It's a shame to hear about your cupcakes as they were truly a work of art; however, the magic you performed to re-beautify them is equally stunning. I bet everyone will enjoy them at your house party.

  2. As a fellow food blogger, I think it's really important for us to share our fail stories (or in your case, fail-turned-win story). I've heard a lot of people say they feel discouraged by the perfection they see on food blogs, so stories like this are a reminder that food bloggers are human too. And if we can snatch cake balls from the jaws of melted cupcakes, so can they! :)

    1. Alison, I agree, and what may not always be apparent when we only show the things that look pretty and tasty, is how many mistakes we make - and more importantly, learn from - that just help us to get better.

  3. I definitely understand and can relate to everything you mentioned in this post, I think these feelings of perfection and comparison are universally shared by all bloggers actually. I have to say that your cupcakes do look and sound divine! And the fact that you could take them and then turn them into equally delicious cake balls is a true testament to your creative innovation! Xx

    1. I think we all are probably our own worst critics!


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