Friday, August 27, 2010

Checking out the competition

The last week of my summer holiday has been a busy one with regard to Project Cupcake.  My elves helped me bake several batches of cupcakes in the "test kitchen" and  yesterday and today were spent doing a bit of industrial spying.

First the spying.  Elli, Caitlin and I paid a visit to Jenny's Cupcakes,  a cupcake cafe on Bergerstrasse in Bornheim, Frankfurt.  At first glance Caitlin was in love, while Elli recoiled in horror......but this was not due to the cupcakes, but the interior decor.  Picture this; fuchsia pink walls and white faux leather couches. But I digress.  The cupcakes themselves looked very nice, albeit the icing layer towered over the cupcake itself.  On closer observation we noticed that despite the variety of flavours, they only offered chocolate or vanilla flavoured cakes.  The icing came in all sorts of colours and flavours.  Elli chose a raspberry mint flavoured creation, Caitin the double chocolate and I chose the cookies and cream.  All three of us were unanimous in that the cakes themselves were dry and tasteless.  We were also unanimous over the icing, ie not too sweet, but waaaayyyyy too rich. My cookies and cream was unexciting, Caitlin's chocolate with chocolate sprinkles so rich that she couldn't finish her cake, although the best flavour of the three and Elli's was just downright weird.  Within minutes of leaving the cafe we all went into sugar shock and desperately went seeking water and something fresh and savoury to eat.  A chicken wrap never tasted so good!!!  All in all within a scale of 1 to 10, I would award Jenny's Cupcakes a 6.

Today I dragged my friend Maisa to "We Love Cupcakes" on Gartenstrasse in Sachsenhausen.  The first disappointment was that because of the Museumsufer Fest this weekend, it only opened at 13:00, a full hour after we arrived.  It was rainy and miserable weather, but this was only a minor inconvenience.  We  killed an hour having a healthy salad lunch nearby and catching up on the summer's gossip.  So with shining eyes and watering mouthes we returned to "We Love Cupcakes" for dessert.  I have to say, their cupcakes were truly beautiful, with just the right amount of icing perfectly swirled on dainty little cakes and topped with delicate little decorations.  Both of us chose Belgian Chocolate, a dark chocolate cake with a white icing.   They were delicious!  The chocolate was very similar to my own devil's food cake (Maisa wholeheartedly agreed) and the icing was light and fluffy and not too sweet.  It took me a little while to realise it was white chocolate ganache, but whatever, it worked!  Afterwards we regretted not taking different flavours, but somehow the others didn't seem attractive enough.  On closer inspection we realised that all but one flavour out of the nine options were chocolate based one way or another.  Still they were that good that they deserve a score of 9+.

As I have rambled on quite a bit about the competition, I'll report on the test kitchen results next time.  Ciao for now!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

And so the adventure begins.....

Sometime last spring, when demands for my cakes made a sudden increase, I began to mull over the idea that maybe I could make a career out of my cakes with the ultimate goal of quitting my day job.  My speciality has always been custom designed cakes, but to broaden my horizons I began to research cupcakes as an alternate method to bring in the income.  I reasoned that cupcakes need far less preparation time than a custom cake, and they can be sold in volume, unlike custom cakes.

My first step was to trawl the internet to see what's out there, who's making them and how, and what is the going price for a cupcake.  The scope and scale was AMAZING!  So I quickly decided that since I still want my cakes to be my primary product, I needed to first define a finite selection of cupcake flavours that I would produce.  Secondly I needed to come up with a signature appearance for my cupcakes.

In the end the latter was the easiest to decide; my cupcakes would be covered with a traditional or a rose swirl of icing and adorned with a single rose or simple flower.

Deciding on the flavours has evolved into a whole summer long project.  My two kitchen elves, Elli and Caitlin have been instrumental in the process.  The first major project was to develop a strawberry cheesecake flavoured cupcake that had a real STRAWBERRY flavour to it.  After much internet surfing and several trial batches we finally came up with a version that has an intense natural strawberry flavour, backed up with a swirl of pure strawberry puree.  We top this cupcake with a strawberry flavoured cream cheese icing.  All of my loyal taste testers have agreed that it is awesome.  This picture is of the very first version we did.

Strawberry Cheesecake
Over the summer we also perfected the following flavours: Carrot Cake, Lemon, Vanilla, Chocolate Zucchini (which we have christened "Death by Chocolate").  In the process of being perfected are; Red Velvet, Tiramisu and Chocolate Moccha.  Red Velvet needs to be more chocolate flavoured and as I speak I have a fresh, newly tweaked batch in the oven. I'll let you know how they came out in the next post!  Tiramisu was fabulous, but far too moist.  That one should be easy to fix too.

That's all for now!