This was a bit of a reprise for me.
One year ago, just before the beginning of Cake Theater and my self-imposed Cake of the Month challenge, I made my first proper attempt at a fancy cake. It should have been easy—the tutorial said it was easy—but the hydrangea petals just didn’t work out, and I ended up doing big swirly roses all over the cake instead. (Hey, beginners: start with big swirly roses. They really are easy!)
So this time, with ten fancy cakes under my belt, I decided to try again.
Easy decoration: "big swirly roses".
Between this year and last, the only things that have really changed are (a) I got more practice with a piping bag, and (b) I learned that butter frosting is too soft to hold much shape. So I used shortening this time in place of the butter, and behold...a successful hydrangea cupcake. Amazing how such a simple change can make or break the look of a cake.
- Cupcakes are brilliant for practicing a technique, especially something fussy and time-consuming like hydrangea petals. You can mess up the first few without ruining the whole batch; if you feel like experimenting, you can do something a little different on each cupcake; and when you get bored with fancy piping, you can just... stop.
- Presentation matters. If you're just making cupcakes for a blog photo (ahem), you can skip the paper liners and just photograph the nicely decorated tops; but in real life, shaggy-sided cupcakes aren’t pretty. Don’t forget the coordinating paper liners.
- I repeat: presentation matters. I made three hydrangea cupcakes and left the rest plain. I like plain cupcakes. I don’t like super sweet frosting, and the hydrangea cupcakes were covered with a half-inch layer of the extra-extra-sweet kind...and I still ate two, because they were so temptingly pretty. So if you ever dare to think that decorating a cake is a waste of time...that you shouldn’t be putting so much work into a thing that people are just going to eat...remember: it’s all about presentation.
Next month: stained glass.