Category Archives: Learning
Wow, what a week! Business is picking up and last week we had the most work we’ve ever had. As a small fledgling business both my sister and I have about 3 different things going on at any one time including trying to build our own little Cupcake Empire. A special thanks to those who ordered this week. It was the source of some vital learning for us.
The first thing we learned is that when we get our store the kitchen with be air-conditioned. Our home hasn’t had AC in at least 5 years and living in Canada (specifically southern Ontario) we haven’t REALLY needed it. Sure there are a few days every summer when the heat paired with oppressive humidity has us melting but it’s usually short lived and the evenings bring relieve. Last week we had a torturous heat wave. With humidity the temperatures reached a blistering 49C (118F) on Thursday which was prep day 1 for us. Butter couldn’t be left out for more than a few minutes without melting which made making buttercream a significant challenge. Today I thought I’d share with you some suggestions for baking without AC in a heat wave.
1.Fans are your friends! We had no less than 3 fans running at all times. One to just circulate the air, one propped up in the window sucking the hot air out of the kitchen and another blowing right at us. Once the evenings started to get cooler than inside the house the window fan got flipped so it was blowing the air into the kitchen.
2.Do as much prep in advance as you can. Everything from mashing strawberries, zesting citrus fruit, draining pineapple or even just measuring ingredients helps cut the amount of time needed to actually make the batters and bake them. The least amount of time the oven is needed the better.
3.Cook on convection if possible. This worked for many reasons. Our oven is equipped with a built in fan the automatically goes on when the convect setting is selected. It also cut the baking time nearly in half. The only problem was that for our big cupcakes it cooked the tops before the centers were baked through. Now I like my cupcakes with a little golden top but I think I’m weird like that. So we ended up cooking the big ones regularly.
4.Keep your utensils and bowls cool. Since we had to wash between uses (obviously) we just left the mixing bowl filled with cold tap water with everything in it until the very last minute. This helped to keep the butter from melting and making the batter funky. It was so hot that the cooling would only last a few minutes but it was enough to get the butter creamed and other ingredients added properly.
5.Refrigerate the cupcakes. We all know that you have to cool your cakes thoroughly before icing them or your icing will turn into a nasty mess. On any other day, simply letting them cool out on the counter would have been just fine. Not last week. It took hours for a mini cupcake to cool if it did at all. Once the icings were made and bagged they got tossed in the fridge until the cupcakes were ready. When the moment was right everything would be pulled out and cupcakes iced. We were so hot that our hands warmed the icing enough to make it workable. As soon as everything was iced they went right back into the fridge.
6. When transporting use a cooler. I know this sounds like a silly point to make but it was needed. We put each order into a Pizza bag. They are meant to keep your pizza hot until it gets to your house but the same premise works for keeping cool items… cool. Thankfully every order got delivered with the cupcakes looking pretty and delicious.
There is no real tip on how to keep bakers cool while baking in a non- air-conditioned kitchen though. Just remember to drink like it is going out of style and take frequent breaks to try and cool off a little.
A cupcake is not what it used to be. They are becoming as gourmet as anything else out there. Gone are the days of buying a box mix and can of icing. I know that when this adventure first started we actually did use a box mix as the base and tinkered and tweaked from there. Since then we’ve found and created our own recipes but somethings just don’t work out the way we planned. I thought I’d share with you some of the misses.
In our fledgling weeks, when we were baking up dozens and dozens of cupcakes to give away to anyone willing to eat a cupcake – trust me, volunteers were never hard to find – we had some interesting experiences:
Lesson One: When using flavour oils moderation is key. Our Sweet Heat cupcake uses cinnamon oil. I’ve used oils before for cooking. Gramma used peppermint oil to make her Christmas Mints. Getting that stuff on your hands and touching your face brought a whole new definition to pain. When we added the cinnamon for a Valentine’s inspired cupcake I kept adding the oil to the batter until I could taste it. Little did I know, or think, that when it baked the flavour would intensify epically. I thought a nice touch to the Sweet Heat would be a Cream Cheese Icing to help balance out the flavour. It was a nice thought but that first batch was like eating an Atomic Fire Ball! I like hot cinnamon but even I had tears in my eyes! The next batch used much less oil and was very good!
Lesson Two: Filling injectors are a nice thought, so are the cupcake corers but for us they just didn’t work. we tried to inject several of our cupcakes with filling and all we got was a thin little streak of filling in the middle. the corers squished the cupcakes or took too much from the middle. you also had to go to the bottom which makes eating them difficult and we want you to eat them with ease and pleasure. It was all a matter of trial and error with heavy focus on the error part. What have we found to get a good dollup of goodness in the middle? A grapefruit spoon! With the pointer tip and serrated edges it gets into the middle, cuts out a nice little pocket that I can then fill with a yummy surprise. Once the cupcake is iced with a nice mound of butter cream you can’t even tell that there is a whole in the cupcake.
Lesson Three: Halving recipes doesn’t always work out right. I’m sure someone out there can explain it fully but for the time lets just go with it fell flat int he middle. We only needed to make a dozen of the mini’s so we thought that we could just divide the recipe straight down the middle and it would be fine. Well that worked, but only for our fruit recipe. our chocolate and vanilla ones were a different story. Now the chocolate were chewy, sticky and shiny like I’d dipped them in oil. They also sank in the middle. The only thing I could think to do with them was toss them out. The vanilla tasted great but fell in the middle too. I did think of something delicious to do with them though. I ended up filling them with fresh cut strawberries and some whipped cream for a nice fresh summery dessert.
I’m sure we’ll have many more flops to come as we continue to create new flavours to tempt you with but here are just a few for now!