Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Caribbean Blue Velvet Sea Anemone Cupcakes for World Oceans Day

Today is the international day of ocean conservation. Last year I was in a foul mood and my post was just as cranky. One year later, it is yet to be seen what the long term effects will be on the Gulf but surely it can't be good.

In that post I made no secret of my passion for diving and the ocean. Even after logging over 500 dives, if I could grow gills and live underwater. I would. Except I don't know how I would work out the whole baking thing.

Me in the Red Sea - Photo By Hilde Montgomery

I once took a marine creature ID course in the caribbean taught by a dear friend. Lorraine made us all pick a fish and on every dive we had to find our fish and observe it's behavior. What I took away most was that you can spend your whole dive just watching one patch of coral. As my instructor friend said, watch for the "four Fs": 


It's all happening all the time. Once you are tuned in, it's better than daytime TV.

What always blows my mind are the colors. Nature is the most amazing artist and the combinations she comes up with just on a reef alone are magnificent and inspiring. Some of the most beautiful creatures are anemones. They come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. If you are looking for a clownfish (Nemo) check the anemones first. They have a symbiotic relationship. The anemone protects the fish and the fish pays rent by cleaning and feeding the anemone.

Although they look like innocent underwater flowers, sea anemones are serious predators that eat tiny fish and shrimp. Their tentacles are poisonous to most fish (except Nemo.) and are used to paralyze a fish so it can be moved into their mouths for digestion. They are also surprisingly mobile and can swim to relocate themselves.

Sea anemones are exploited by the home aquarium industry. They are harvested in droves and are valued more than the fish that depend upon them, therefore commanding higher prices. They also take a long time to mature so replenishing is a slow go.

Is it worth contributing upsetting the natural balance in the ocean for a home fish tank? I don't think so.

I never planned to take a stand on sea anemones today. I was just looking for a nice cupcake design. But hey, a little information and education can't be bad, especially when it's attached to a sugar creation.

The cupcakes are blue velvet. I tinted them teal for a more tropical color.

The frosting is a brown butter buttercream flavored with sea salt.

I was wary on combining the tangy flavor of velvet cupcakes with the sea salt but it came together beautifully in one bite.

The decorations are all made of fondant and crafted from the pictures inside my head collected from underwater visits. I just rolled out the colors and started molding different sea anemone varieties. So no tutorial but I have included the homemade fondant recipe I use below.

Here is the official website for World Ocean's Day if you are interested in learning more about what you can do for ocean conservation.
Caribbean Blue Velvet Sea Anemone Cupcakes with Sea Salt Brown Butter Buttercream

For the Caribbean Blue Velvet Cupcakes:

I followed Heather's beautiful Blue Velvet Cupcake recipe over at her amazing and magical Sprinkle Bakes site. I didn't have cake flour and used the German 405 instead. After chickening out on adding cornstarch (recommended if using regular flour instead of cake flour), mine came out a bit too crumbly. However, they did taste wonderful.

Instead of royal blue and violet, I used Wilton's Teal for the color.

For the Sea Salt Brown Butter Buttercream*:

  • 2 Sticks butter, softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
  • 6 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1 +1/4 teaspoons sea salt
  • A few drops of brown food coloring

  • Place butter in a frying pan and heat until it becomes a golden brown color.
  • Place in fridge to cool.
  • When butter has cooled transfer to the bowl of your mixer and beat with one cup of the powdered sugar.
  • Add one tablespoon of buttermilk and combine.
  • Mix in the vanilla and bean paste.
  • Add the rest of the sugar alternating with tablespoons of buttermilk.
  • Beat in a few drops of brown food coloring for a deeper sand color.
  • Spread on the cooled cupcakes or transfer to a pastry bag for a swirled finish.

* I halved the amount of buttercream because I wasn't swirling the frosting. I needed a flatter surface to anchor the anemones. If you want to get your swirl on, double the recipe.

For Homemade Marshmallow Fondant

  • 1/2  bag (1/2 pound) marshmallows (minis melt faster but you can use regular sized ones as well.)
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • 1 pound of powdered sugar
  • Crisco or shortening
  • plastic wrap or cling film
  • Gel or paste food coloring
  • Cover the inside of a heat safe bowl and a wooden spoon with Crisco or shortening.
  • Place marshmallows and water in the bowl.
  • Microwave the marshmallows for 30 seconds at a time stirring the mixture in between with the wooden spoon.
  • When the mixture is the consistency of Marshmallow Fluff, stir in 3/4 of the powdered sugar one cup at a time.
  • Cover your work surface with powdered sugar and cover your hands with Crisco or shortening.
  • Dump the fondant on the sugared surface and knead the rest of the sugar in.
  • Separate the fondant into different parts and color as desired by adding a few drops of gel colors at a time and kneading it in until the color is evenly distributed and you get the color you want. 
  • Wrap each piece in plastic wrap until you use it.
  • Wrap leftover fondant tightly in plastic cling film and store in a zip lock bag.


  1. These fabulous cupcakes made my day. As a fellow diver I share you passion for the beauty of the ocean.

  2. You are so creative! Love your cupcakes and I truly enjoyed your post. I have learned something new about the amazing and precious life you witness and enjoy on your dives.

  3. I love everything about these - that blue is my favorite color, and then the sea salt/brown butter thing, and then to top it off the awesome decorations!! Just fabulous!!

  4. 500 dives! Wow! I shamefully admit that I've never been diving... I am too scared! But I love snorkelling and totally agree that sea wildlife is stunning. You have made beautiful and creative representations!

  5. I think you had every right to be cranky last year. The BP oil spill still makes me see red and I'm especially mad that we're opening the gulf back up to oil drilling and thinking about more oil drilling in Alaska. You'll have to make polar bear cupcakes next. Anyway--

    I love your teal velvet cupcakes! They're so much fun! I always find things I want to make on Sprinkle Bakes. And I love how much your (very delicious-sounding) buttercream looks so much like sand!

    I had no idea that sea anemones were especially at risk. I'm glad you brought that to my attention. I worry about our constant need to consume and its effects on our world.

  6. I didn't realize that you were so passionate about the ocean! This is a great post and we really need to do more to save the ocean's creatures!

    Your cupcakes are gorgeous!

  7. Absolutely beautiful! I love the extra touches - like the Caribbean teal and the hint of sea salt. Perfect darling!

  8. These are beautiful. I just made the Sprinkle Bakes cupcake recipe too, and got almost the exact same shade of teal using about half a bottle of liquid blue food coloring. I also mixed in a little blueberry sauce into the batter. Your sea-themed decorations on top are the perfect match for the ocean-colored cupcakes. Great job!

  9. They are so gorgeous Lora - fit for a mermaid! I'm am often in awe of your courage - 500 dives!? You are fearless, woman! I just love you.

  10. Those cupcakes look so fun and pretty!

  11. Hi, first time here and I just loved your post. Loved your site and wish to visit again. Do check out mine too!

  12. Wow, this is an amazing post, from the level of craftmanship (the cupcakes) and passion (your love of the sea) and information (your stand on anemones). I think I could go swimming/diving in that blue velvet you made.


Thank you for your comments and feedback. I love hearing from you!