Sunday, June 5, 2011

Flower Garden Birthday Cake

We just celebrated my sweet Tatum's 4th birthday.
This was the Flower Garden cake to top off her Fancy Four Affair.

Each birthday I try to make a special cake for my kids.  Though I love baking, cake decorating is not  my forte!
I found this fun idea in one of my favorite books, What's New, Cupcake? by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson.  I love this book because the ideas are fairly simple and the results are so impressive.  Here is how I made it, following the instruction from the book.

Yeah, this one had TONS of items on ingredient list.  However, that is mostly due to the fact that I chose to make a variety of flowers for my flower garden.  Here is basically what you'd need...
- Cupcakes (I'd go with homemade for a firmer cake to stick the flowers into, though not necessary.)
- Green Cupcake Liners (though again, not necessary)
- Tray, for your Flower Garden to sit in
- Pretzels, sticks
- Cookies (sturdy, flat and round work best), one for each flower
- White Chocolate Chips, about 1 cup
- Frosting
- Green Food Coloring
- Assorted Candies for Flowers, I used M&Ms, Mike & Ikes, Jelly Bellies, Gummy Lifesavers
- Assorted Green Candies for Leaves
- Assorted Green Candies to fill in around the cupcakes (optional)
- Marshmallows (for flower petals), I used mini and a medium-sized variety in mine
- Sugar Sprinkles (assorted colors), for the marshmallow flowers

... I added some cute butterfly picks that I found at Hobby Lobby, that I thought were a nice touch.

1) Make your marshmallow petals.
Do this by cutting them on the diagonal as shown below.  Set them aside so they can regain their shape.

Choose some colored sugar sprinkles, and place them in a small dish.

Take each of your cut marshmallow petals, and press the cut side into the colored sprinkles until it is nicely coated.  I used two different sizes of marshmallows, and opted to use colored sprinkles to match the color of the marshmallow.  I really liked how the medium-sized marshmallows looked on the finished flowers.

2)  Create your flowers!
Line your cookies up on a try.  I had 20 cupcakes to decorate, so I chose 20 cookies.  I also found it helpful to pre-sort my candies by color so I could quickly grab what I needed before my chocolate had set.  Once I had everything ready....

... I put 1/2 cup of white chocolate chips in a ziplock bag.  Place THE OPEN BAG in the microwave for 10 second intervals, mushing the chocolate in between each, until it is completely melted (may take about a minute).  Remove the air from the bag, and seal it.

Snip about 1/4" from the corner of your bag, and you are ready to pipe your chocolate!

See what I'm doing here?  Not a good idea.  I thought the chocolate would take longer to set than it did.  My recommendation would be to work on 2 or 3 AT THE MOST at a time.  One at a time might be a little too runny to easily decorate without your candies slipping out of place.

Pipe chocolate onto your cookie, and decorate it to your liking with your assorted candies and prepared marshmallow petals.  After a bit my chocolate was getting too "cool" and hard to work with.  I just popped it back in the microwave for 10 seconds, and we were back in business.

Here are my finished flowers.  Perhaps you can select some favorites from mine and copy them rather than experiment until you find one you like.

Note: I made the flowers the night before the party.  Cover them and hide them from the kids... :)

4) Prepare your cupcakes.
I know... I cheated.  I used store-bought frosting and added green food coloring to make it a nice, grassy green.

I frosted each cupcake, added some green sugar sprinkles to the top, and placed them on the tray.

Next, I filled in the gaps with all of the green candies I had stolen from my flower candy supply.

5)  Add your stems to the flowers.
The original instructions didn't call for this, but I happened to have some green candy melts on hand.  I chose to dip my pretzel sticks in the green candy melts.  I did this for two reasons.... 1, because I thought they would look nicer... and 2, because sticking a pretzel in a moist cupcake will cause the pretzel to get all soggy. Ick!

I melted my candy melts as directed on the package, rolled each pretzel stick in each, and let them set on a piece of wax paper.

Next, I melted another 1/2 cup of white chocolate chips in a small glass dish, as directed on the package (in the microwave for 30 second intervals).  I found that it worked best to lay the flowers upside-down, roll the end of the pretzel in the white chocolate, and rest it in place on the back of the flowers.  I then added white chocolate over top of that to make sure it was nice and "glued" into place.  You may have to hold the pretzel in place for a bit to allow it to set... or find a crafty way to rest it in place while you work on the next.

I transferred these to the fridge to allow them to completely set, about 5 minutes.  Set these aside, and add to your cupcakes right before you are ready to display your cake.

6) Arrange your flower garden.
I used green fruit slice candies for the leaves.  They were a little thick, so I cut them in half.  They were a perfect shape, I thought.

Place a flower into each cupcake.  Add a leaf or two to the base.  I rested my leaves in the frosting at an angle on most.  I also added some cute little butterfly picks.  Isn't it pretty?

We added flowers directly onto our extra cupcakes.  Charlotte had fun designing some of these.

And the finished display...

I thought it looked so pretty on the table!

A couple of thoughts...
*   The candy flowers were very heavy.  Little, if any, of the pretzel stem was left showing, as I had to insert them fairly deep to support the weight of the flowers.  I am not sure if there would be a better option.... perhaps a thicker pretzel?
*   Next time I may use green food coloring in the cake as well....

Happy Birthday Tater-Bug!!

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