Monday, February 27, 2012

Marzipan Animals on Chocolate Cupcakes

Marzipan is like an edible Play-Doh. Kids can color it and make anything they can dream up. It's such a great handmade gift to top off a homemade cupcake. In this case, it's for a wonderful grandfather, who's usually on the other end of offering the treats.

photographed by Gail Albert Halaban.

Step-by-step instructions and tips on how to make marzipan animals can be found at the end of this post.

Divide the marzipan into equal parts to make different colors.

Add gel food color, (its easier to wash off than it looks).

Sculpt your favorite animals out of the marzipan.

We had a bunny, a dog, a wolf, a frog, some pigs, a couple of whales and a few very exotic sea creatures.


The kids put the paper liners in the pans and filled them with batter.

For an extra surprise we cut an upside-down cone shape out of the tops of the cupcakes...

...and filled them with chocolate-strawberry ganache.

Put the cupcake tops back on, spread a little more ganache on top, and pipe on vanilla icing.

Place a marzipan animal decoration on top to look like they're popping out of the cupcake!

Proud decorators.



Supplies needed: Marzipan, toothpicks, gel food colors, corn starch or confectioner's sugar (to coat work surface), water.

Instructions: 1. We started with 2 rolls of pre-made marzipan and a 4 pack of primary gel colors from the supermarket.

Color marzipan: Add just a few drops of gel colors to each piece of marzipan you'd like to color. Once you have your 4 basic colors, plus the natural off-white that the marzipan comes in, you can combine the colored marzipan pieces together to make more colors.

3. Coat a marble or other work surface with corn starch or confectioner's sugar. Roll out simple shapes of marzipan
like balls or cones for the heads, and mounds of a similar size for the shoulders. Shape tiny pieces into triangles or floppy ears, round noses, eyes or what ever you'd like for your animal.

4. Place 1/2 toothpick into one of the mounds as a support for stacking the head. Stick the head onto the "shoulders" with a few drops of water. Attach the smaller details with a drop of water.

5. Use a toothpick to make impressions for eyes, nose and or mouths, or paint them on with food color using the tip of the toothpick.

6. Place finished animals on top of iced cupcake.

Tip: We set-up models, like stuffed animals (and the family dog happily lay at their feet), before we started so that the kids could have references for basic shapes and ideas.

(above) our project was inspired by the marzipan cats and dogs in this terrific children's book called Bake Sale by Sara Varon about Cupcake and his friend Eggplant.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Award for best Cake Assistant Ever: Cynthia Hsu

Left: Cake Artist, Decorator and Baker EXTRAORDINAIRE: Cynthia Hsu pictured with me and a special Beanie Baby cake for Icing Smiles
This may read a little bit like a love letter, and I have to admit, it really is.  There is no one quite like my lead assistant Cynthia.  I have to acknowledge her grace under pressure, powerful talent and unyielding attention to detail.  She is an artist, a natural leader and an inspiration to everyone else who comes work or intern here, and especially me.  
It never fails, Cynthia is usually the first person in and the last person to leave.  I honestly don't think I have ever heard her complain, but instead she will always jump in when things get tough and work to figure out a solution.  There have been a hundred times when I've thought, I don't know what I'd do without her...and so I want to publicly and very loudly say, THANK YOU!!

From the smallest detail to the absolute biggest cake, most perfect fondant I am constantly amazed by Cynthia's talent! Very detailed hand painted characters or beautiful monarch butterflies are a cakewalk for Cynthia.
Its all in the details. Technically precise and inventive in carving, sculpting, baking and filling, she does it all with great finesse.  When we have a new person start out, I like to have them work with Cynthia to learn to ropes from the best.

Giant problem!
From start to finish Cynthia can execute anything I ask, at almost half the time of anyone of ever met!! We work side by side on each cake, and she pretty much ALWAYS out-paces me!
I always feel so much better when Cynthia is on a delivery because I know that everything is taken care of if she is there!
Whether its gravity defying, painfully tiny, filled with spinning motors or complicated beyond mot people's imaginations, Cynthia nails each project and task she is given!! She is a joy to work with!
This Ninja is all Cynthia from start to amazing job! I'm very picky, and I've never let any one else completely make one of our cakes before.
Cynthia, I cannot thank you enough...YOU ROCK!!