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.
- 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.