Sunday, May 9, 2010

Flowers for Mother's Day & I Suck a Bit Less at Piping

One thing you can say about Mother's Day in the States. It's always celebrated the same and for the same reason. Leave it to Germans to make it argumentative.

The establishment of Mother's Day in Germany in 1923 was an idea borrowed from the USA but mostly, a panicked response to declining birthrates. The idea was to promote motherhood and having more babies. Early German feminists refused to celebrate it so became controversial. Then, like everything else within reach, the Nazis seized and redefined it, even awarding a Mutterkreuz (Mother's Cross) to "pure blooded" women who had more than 4 children.

From controversial to perverted in just 15 years.

Today Mother's Day here is pretty much a low key affair, somewhat apathetic even. It is not celebrated to the same degree as the States. The Germans don't do Hallmark holidays in general. The superficial sentimentalism, they leave for us Americans :-) Let's face it, there is some truth to that. Even the American woman who invented the holiday died disgruntled over how commercial it had become.

Regardless, it's Sunday, everyone is around (except Dr. B who is boo hoo unfortunately back in Iraq), there is always cake and coffee in the afternoon,  I felt like making something pretty to mark the day, I will stand up and be the lone superficial sentimentalist  and, I wanted to finally use this Martha Stewart cupcake tree I got on sale at KMART in Penn Station NYC while killing time waiting for a train last summer.

Oh wait, was that last part Superficial?

Because I was concentrating on piping to achieve a result halfway resembling flowers, I did not focus (read: obsess) as usual over flavors. For the cake I used the Vanilla Cupcake Recipe in the Hello Cupcake Book. The one from scratch, not the one from the box. My family really likes this recipe. So I stuck with a tried and true.

I leveled off the tops of the cupcakes to make them an easier canvas to pipe on.

For the buttercream, I wanted to use one with Crisco because I was insecure about the piping.  I needed a nice firm buttercream. I turned to Peggy's Baking Corner for her Buttercream Icing Recipe. (Scroll down to the bottom of the page.  I used No. 1) I substituted the butter, vanilla and almond extracts for 1 Teaspoon of orange extract I unexpectedly found in my pantry and added extra powdered sugar for firmness.

The flavors turned out great. Now onto the piping.

Mixing up some leftover buttercream, I did a practice run on parchment paper. I highly recommend doing this if you are not experienced. I had already sketched out what I wanted the cupcakes to look like with pen and paper but I wanted to practice making the flowers, starting with the daisies and the hydrangeas then onto the rose. I'll spare you the practice pix.

I don't have a rose nail so I used my meat thermometer.

I know. So ghetto. I was not able to create one of those beautiful tall rose buds I coveted because I didn't have the proper tip to make the rose. So I gave up and did flat ones instead.

The hydrangeas I got from this video tutorial. It's at the end of the piece. She gives a great tip on mixing the colors to get the right look. Mine turned out nowhere near as nice as hers but again, I'm blaming it on the tip.

The Daisies were easy but I could have been a little neater.

The "Mutti" (Mommy) letters were made with cutters out of white fondant.

By the way, my pastry tips are all (gasp!) cheap plastic ones from the 1 Euro store (ghetto again.)  I am waiting to get to the States this summer to buy the exact set I want.

Anyway, I did the best I could with limited equipment.  Then I put sparkle sugar over everything.

Sparkle sugar fixes everything. Sparkle sugar is my religion. Just sprinkle it on and if it's not fixed, just sprinkle some more... still not better? A little more...

Mother's Day Vanilla Cupcake Flowers with Orange Buttercream. The result was not perfect but definitely looking better than previous attempts.  At least they look cheerful, and sparkly!

Happy Mother's Day to all you wonderful mothers out there. I hope you have a lovely mushy sentimental Hallmarky Day. You deserve it.

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