Sunday, October 6, 2013

Wedding Cupcakes and DIY Cupcake Tower

Two posts in one week! Wooohoooo :) And not only is it 2 posts in one week, I'm actually writing this one the same weekend we delivered these cupcakes! It's a Christmas miracle. October is shaping up to be a pretty cake heavy month, so be prepared. This weekend was my first cake order for this October and also my first wedding cupcake order ever. The bride who ordered them is my friend's sister's friend's sister. Did you follow that? haha. She was so nice to ask me to make her wedding cupcakes without ever meeting me or even trying anything I'd made. I was excited to do cupcakes for a wedding since I figured it would be way easier than a full wedding cake. It was easier, but it was definitely still a lot of work. Plus I still made a small cake for them to cut and to keep for their first anniversary. Here's a peek at the final display:

FYI - the cake flavors are: (bottom) vanilla cake, peanut butter filling, chocolate icing; (middle two) chocolate with cookies & cream icing; (top two) pumpkin with cream cheese icing; (small cake) vanilla and vanilla. 

When I asked the bride how she wanted the cupcakes displayed, she sent me a picture with a cupcake tower that she liked. I knew that I could probably buy or rent one, but to buy one would have been over $200 and the only ones I found to rent were much smaller and not at all like her inspiration picture. So I showed the picture to Joe and we came up with a plan to build one! I decided I wanted tiers that were 8" through 18" with a 2" diameter change between tiers. There is also an extra 10" circle that acts as the base of the tower. Though I think Joe and I would both recommend making a larger base circle. After we came up with our material list we headed to Home Depot. To make this cupcake tower you'll need the following materials and tools:

2 sheets of 2'x4'x1/2" MDF
2'x2'x1/4" piece of plywood
2 pieces of two foot long 1" PVC Pipe (1" inside diameter)
7 1" PVC Couplers
Paint (We used both spray paint and high gloss latex paint)
Gorilla Glue
Hot glue gun and hot glue
Small finish nail (like a Maze nail)

Router with a straight bit
Drill with several regular bits and one large bit (1 3/8" diameter)
Small carpenter's square
Saw for cutting PVC (Joe used a miter saw)

First you'll make an "arm" that will attach to your router to allow you to cut all your sizes of circles. Start by removing the base plate from your router. Place the base plate in once corner of your 1/4" plywood and mark where the screw holes are that attach it to your router. Also trace the circle where the router bit actually comes through the plate.

After that, draw a straight line down the 1/4" plywood that is the width of your router base. Taping off the plywood where you're going to cut it will help reduce the top layer of veneer from splintering. A saw blade with more teeth makes cleaner cuts, and Joe already had one from making our built-in bookshelves. Make your cut down the line.

Then drill a hole in each location you marked making sure to use a bit that is sized for the screw that will attach it to your router. Then use a large bit to allow the screws to counter sink into the plywood. This allows the head of the screw to not stick up and will let the arm lay flat on the wood when cutting.

Now's a good time to make sure it fits :)

Next use a larger bit to drill out the hole where the router bit comes through.

Once that is done, you can attach your router. Then use a ruler and measure from the INSIDE edge of the router bit down the arm and mark the radius of each circle size you want to cut.

Use a small drill bit to create a hole at each mark you made. These holes will allow you to temporarily attach the arm to the MDF board to be cut, and the nail will be the pivot point.

To cut your first circle, pin the arm down onto the MDF with a small nail through the hole marked for the radius of circle you want to cut. Be sure you left enough room all the way around to cut the circle. You don't want to have a flat edge :) It is also necessary to have the MDF up on some supports so that when the router blade goes through it doesn't scrape into your floor. You can see in this picture that Joe is going to cut a circle with a 9" radius, so that will be our 18" circle.

Set the depth of the router bit so that it will cut only halfway through the MDF. Making 2 passes around the circle to get the full depth will be easier on the router. Turn the router on and use both hands to rotate the arm around the pin.

After one pass, lower the router to the full depth and make the 2nd cut around. You may have to stop part way through to adjust the supports under the MDF. After the 2nd pass, the circle should be free!

After cutting out each circle, Joe used a 1 3/8" drill bit (which is the outer diameter of 1" PVC pipe) and cut a whole through the middle of the circle. The mark left by pinning the arm to the circle should mark the perfect center of the circle to drill through. The top tier and the bottom support do not need holes drilled through them since the pipe won't go through those.

Then repeat for all your other sizes!  The next step we did was to paint. First try and make sure all the sawdust is off the circles. Then either spray paint or roll/brush paint. I first tried spray painting, and the kind I was using (which was supposed to be really good) just wasn't covering at all. I ended up painting all the circles by hand using a paint brush and some leftover high gloss latex enamel paint that we had. I did that this morning in between making icing and decorating cupcakes :) Joe used some white spray primer that we had to paint the PVC pipe and couplers since they had some words printed on them.

Now it's time to cut the piping and assemble each connector. Start my gluing a coupler to the center of the top of the base layer and the center of the bottom of the top layer. We painted them first and then used Gorilla glue, but I would recommend gluing first (also preferably more than 2 hours before final assembly) and then painting. You want the glue to stick to the MDF, not the paint.

Then cut the number of PVC lengths you need for your number of layers. Since we wanted them to be 3.75" each, we cut them to a length that would account for the MDF thickness. Since the board was 1/2" inch thick, we cut them to 4.25". Joe used a miter saw to cut the pieces.

Once the pipe is cut, put each of them except for one into a coupler. The one you don't put into a coupler will be the one that goes into the coupler that's glued to the base layer. Use a rubber mallet to make sure you get the pipes all the way into the coupler. Otherwise the layers won't be the same height.

At the venue, we assembled the tower by hammering the first connector into the base plate with a rubber mallet, then sliding the 18" circle over it. The we hammered in the next connector and placed the 16" circle over that. We continued that process until we got to the top piece that had the coupler glued to the underside. We placed the attached couple over the final connector and hammered it in place. Then we added a little hot glue where each circle met the coupler beneath it for stability. Then it was finally time to load it up with cupcakes!

After it was full, we were both of kind nervous about how it was a little wobbly. Luckily we had 3 extra couplers with us so we slid those in between the 10" base plate and the 18" first tier to act as extra supports. They really helped! Then we called it good and went on our way.

Here you can see some of the extra couplers we added for stability at the bottom. 

Geez, that was a really long post. I realize most of you aren't going to run out and make a cupcake tower, but just in case you wanted to, now you know :) Or if you want to borrow ours, that's fine too! If you do decide to make one, may I suggest not waiting until 2 days before to start it? And DEFINITELY don't wait until 2 hours before to glue things together. You want more time for your glue to dry. Trust me. Well, that's all for now. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Pink and Purple Princess Cake

Hello again! Can y'all believe it's October already? I can't. But that means it's time for all things pumpkin! :) I don't have any pumpkin recipes planned right now, but I'll come up with something. September was a busy month for us, though right now I'm having a hard time remember what exactly we did haha. I guess at the beginning of the month we finished the deck. Then I spent one weekend making a bunch of cupcakes for "tastings" for the 2 weddings I have coming up in October. Another weekend we babysat for our friends' toddler. He and Joe played in the morning while I made some sugar cookies for a friend's daughter (he and Joe also napped at the same time during the afternoon). Then last weekend I headed off to New Orleans for a bachelorette weekend for my sister, Mary. The camera I brought to Louisiana turned out to be dead :( so I don't have any pictures, but let me tell you, we had an awesome time! Staying out til 4:30 am on Bourbon Street was quite an experience haha. There is really just no place like New Orleans!

One of my favorite things that we did with the bachelorette party was go to a cooking class at the New Orleans School of Cooking. It was a blast! We did a class where we mostly just watched and got to eat the food, but Mary got to get up behind the counter and help make the crawfish etouffee. The instructor was great and managed to be very funny and very informative at the same time. The shrimp and artichoke soup that she made was one of the best things we ate all weekend, and we ate a lot good things! If you ever head down to New Orleans, I definitely recommend taking a class!

Now I'm back to the real world in Kansas and psyching myself up to make 180 cupcakes for a wedding this weekend. Some time between now and then, Joe and I also need to build a cupcake "tower" for displaying them on the cake table. We'll be sure to take pictures of how we do it. For now, I'll show you some pictures of a cake I made probably a couple of months ago for a coworker's daughter's ballet recital. The requests for the cake were pink, purple and princess!

I thought it would be fun to make some candy gem stones, so I found a mold for them at my local baking supply store. Then I used some chocolate candy melts in pink and purple to make the gems. It was pretty easy to spread the melted candy into the mold, then I just refrigerated the molds and popped out the candy. Most of the candy had rough edges of extra candy around them after popping them out, so I went around and cut off the rough parts with a sharp knife. Then I sprinkled them with a little edible glitter.

You can see that a few of them had air bubbles where the melted candy didn't make it to the bottom of the mold. 

I had planned to make a tiara out of modeling chocolate, but a late start and a bad batch of modeling chocolate resulted in Joe making a run to Wal-mart for a plastic tiara. Oh well.

The base is my typical rose icing, but I thought it was fitting for a group of little princesses!

I think that's all I have for tonight. Stay tuned for a couple more posts this week (hopefully). :) I hope you all are getting to enjoy some beautiful fall weather, and maybe a couple pumpkin spice lattes. Have a good night!