Parkside Good-byes (and Cupcake How-to)

Yara sitting next to her vet, Dr. Jackie Kucskar

For the most part, Yara’s last trip to Parkside Vet was a very good one. Aside from very nearly being trampled in the mad rush to grab a cupcake by the vet staff and Yara making a huge fuss while getting her nails trimmed. In fact, Yara exhibited a kind of elation that might lead one to believe her B12 shots are laced with LSD. She didn’t stop wagging her tail the entire time and this included the entire purpose of our visit: a rabies vaccine. She did find the lube on her rear-end to be a might disturbing and indulged in one of her less desirable habits.

I’m very pleased to report that Yara is a healthy 63.5 lbs and our vet was very happy with how good she looked, remarking especially that her coat appears wonderful. When posing for the above photo, Dr. Kucskar also remarked that after everything we’ve gone through in the last several years, she’ll really miss seeing Yara. And, possibly best of all, the entire trip only cost me $20. Even though she had a full exam and had her nails trimmed, I was only charged for the vaccine. I guess I should bring a cupcake bribe more often.

Speaking of the little pies, I’ve gotten a few emails about how they were prepared and a request to expand upon the ordeal of their preparation. If I had realized there was so much interest in how the various cupcakes I’ve made are done, I’d have made sure to do a photolog. Though, given the love for my kitchen floor these particular cupcakes had; maybe it’s for the best. But next time I’ll be sure to chronicle the steps with photos.

Anyway, follow the jump for some further details (or scroll down if you’re reading this outside of my website’s main page):

As with many of the previous decorating ideas, these particular cupcakes are from the book What’s New, Cupcake? It’s a fabulous book and has a lot of terrific decorating ideas. The apples I made awhile back are also from this book. The same authors also have another book that came out a few years ago with other cupcake delights. The penguins that Raechel and I made for my birthday last year and the pandas from this past May were from this book.

These were actually very simple. Well, if you don’t knock the batter and a dozen eggs on the floor. Or flip an entire tray of your decorated cupcakes off the counter. You can use any type of cupcake. Mine were made from scratch, but a box mix works just as well. If you want a better tasting box mix: add an extra egg than the ingredients call for and substitute buttermilk in place of the water. If you don’t have buttermilk handy, you can add a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to one cup of milk and let it stand for a few minutes to curdle. Works great.

I baked mine in silver foil lines (as the book suggests). It gives the impression of pie tins when you’re finished, which is very pleasant. You can order them online from companies like Wilton, but very often you can find them in the baking aisle of a grocery store. I got mine at Price Chopper for a whopping $1.98 per 32 pack.

You’ll need to get some blue and red M&M’s — you can pick out ones from a bag, though, that is somewhat tedious. And since I’m colorblind it was not an option. I did have a friend go through two one-pound bags and not only did I fear for the safety of her eyes throughout the task, but there were shockingly few red ones and I wanted to differentiate the chocolate and vanilla cupcakes by the “type” of pie. I ended up getting specially colored M&M’s from Party City, thanks to Alice. My only quibble with these is that it seems the candy-coating is less thick on them than the regular M&M’s (they definitely don’t crunch as loud when you eat them), which means that far more of them are broken and they tend to melt in your hand. Ironic, no?

You’ll also need frosting (duh), yellow food coloring and some cocoa powder. I used a buttercream that I quickly whipped up, but store-bought would work just fine. For building up the decorations, I find Duncan Hines Home-Style to be the best. It stays pretty firm and it actually hardens so it’s less likely to melt. Just stay away from any store-bought frosting that says “whipped” because without a doubt it will melt and/or run. Add a few drops of yellow and a teaspoon of cocoa powder to make that nice light brown pie crust color.

Once all that is prepared, very lightly frost the top of the cupcake. Don’t worry if you don’t get it totally covered to the edge. Then start placing the M&M’s. I found the best way was to dip the cupcake into a bowl of M&M’s. They end up tumbled around a bit and look more like berries. You can fill in the bald spots with a few extra.

Next, fill a decorating bag with frosting and add a flat tip. I used a Wilton 101. You can use a Ziplock baggie, too. Just snip off a tiny corner of about 1/4 inch. You may go through a bunch of these, though, because the hole will expand as you go along. Pipe four lines or so across the cupcake and then a few that crisscross those. Then, use a ribbon technique (move up and down continuously) around the entire cupcake to make the crust on the side. covering up any of your bald and/or unfrosted spots.

Still confused? Below is a video of the authors decorating these same cupcakes. If you’re reading this off my website, you’ll only see a thumbnail, just click over and you can see the video.

Have fun and enjoy!

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