'cause baby, you were born this way!

University was the first time anyone ever officially came out to me. We were hanging out on a bench down on Harbourfront when he mustered up the courage to tell me he was gay.

Looking back it was an extremely brave move, especially since it was only 1998 – before Will & Grace went mainstream, Modern Family's Cam and Mitchell adopted little Lily and Lady Gaga pushed the boundaries… on everything.

Now, 13 years later, it’s refreshing to see people being who they are – and most times being accepted for it. Today, Gay Pride is celebrated (almost) around the world.

In honour of Toronto’s Pride week – which runs from June 24 to July 3 – I present to you a cupcake Pride Flag. Consisting of mini chocolate cupcakes in the official Pride flag colours, it’s a sweet salute to those who have the courage and confidence to be who they are – and be with the ones they love.

for that super special guy in your life

They say that anyone can be a father, but it takes a special man to be a dad. Not that I say it as often as I should, but my dad is a perfect example of this motto. Being both a mother and father to my sister and me, he’s been there through thick and thin.

One of my favourite childhood memories was my dad BBQing in the backyard. My cousin who lived across the street would come over and we'd convince him to let us have a hot dog on a fork before dinner was officially served. To this day, whenever we have BBQ, I still have to have one. And bless his heart, he always obliges me.

These cute cupcakes were tweeted to me by my fab friend Heather, who thought they would be the perfect Father’s Day cupcake offering. Consisting of chocolate cupcakes, orange sprinkles for the embers and topped with grey icing lines for the grill, I used red hots for the sausages, red, yellow and green gummies for the kebabs and molded caramel into grilled chicken.

And for my dad, who has a giant pair of mitts that pale in comparison only to the size of his heart (awwwwww), I made a giant BBQ cupcake to satisfy his sweet tooth.

So to all you dads out there, this one is for you. Thank you for picking us up when we fall, encouraging us to keep going when we don’t think we can, scolding us when we break the rules, yet holding us when we cry.

lemonade! get your lemonade here!

On a hot day, there’s nothing quite as refreshing as a nice, cold glass of lemonade. And for many kids, a 25-cent lemonade stand was their first foray into owning a small business.

It finally being summer in the big city, and after finding a recipe for Pink Lemonade cupcakes on the fab blog Sweet Cheeks in the Kitchen, I wanted to test it out to see if it could make my seasonal flavour list. 

So simple to make, I tripled the cupcake recipe to make 2 dozen cupcakes and added a little pink icing colour to the buttercream (the recipe was the perfect amount for 24 cupcakes) for just enough pink. And since everything is better with sprinkles, that's exactly what I topped them with.

This week's simply sweet cupcake is tart and sweet – the perfect summertime treat... and a delicious addition to my seasonal flavour list!

i think i caught myself a live one!

This weekend marks a time when we celebrate those incredible men in our lives we call dad. And I just happened to get a fun request from one of my most appreciative – and motivating – cupcake customers in the hopes of showing her husband how much he’s appreciated.

Since they both love to sit out on the lake and fish, I created these cupcakes for them to take up to the trailer for what I hear is going to be a beautiful weekend. A vanilla cupcake base, I piped teal icing on top for the water, and then used some dental floss to anchor the cardstock fish to the toothpick fishing rod.

Here’s hoping the women in your life treat you right this weekend... knowing them, you’re going to get spoiled!

And stay tuned for a special Father’s Day blog… coming Sunday.

is bigger always better?

Ever since I can remember, there’s been a running joke in my family about my oldest uncle. Although he’s Italian through and through, it doesn’t stop us from joking he’s from Texas. Why? He likes thing big and in bulk – and we’re talking years before Costco hit the scene. And so, this one's for him.
I bought my Giant Cupcake Wilton cake pan months ago while on a fit of baking supply fury and it’s sat in the corner of my cupboard ever since. But no more! I watched my training video (i.e. a random one posted on YouTube) about which cake mix to use, how to fill the cavities and how long it should bake. So I made my usual lemon cupcake recipe (times 2) and gave a buttercream made of fresh raspberries a go.
I have to be honest, pouring cupcake batter into two large molds is so much easier than pouring 24 individual ones so I was excited right from the start. But the baking part was a bit of a guessing game. I had seen that you should bake up to an hour, so after 45 minutes and the outside being a dark brown, I wondered if I had messed up. Not to mention that the top half bakes quicker than the bottom so I had to do the old upside down flip on a plate thing so it wouldn’t burn – all the while asking “Wilton, why have you forsaken me?”
Next time, I’ll lower the heat and – if I have the time – bake both ends separately. In the meantime, I’d say by the squeals of delight I heard in the office next to mine, it was a success.

it's a cake... its a lollipop...it's a cake pop!

If it’s two things kids love, it’s cake and lollipops. So what could be better than a combo of the two?

Starbucks might have made them popular, but cake pops have been around for a while. And taking some inspiration from one of the hottest cake poppers around, Bakerella, I decided to give it a go. Although cake pops come in all different shapes and designs, I thought it best to begin at the beginning and try my hand at regular cake pops.

It being my first time, I cheated (hey, Bakerella says it’s okay!) and used a box mix. After letting the finished product cool, I crumbled it up and used 3/4 of a can of icing to bind it together. Then I made little cake balls and put them in the freezer for about 15 minutes so they could firm up and get ready for dipping.

I chose pink candy melts for the coating and when I ran out of those, I made a melted chocolate topping that I hoped would harden enough to make a good sub.

Although it was a fun undertaking, making cake pops is a lot harder than the finished product looks. It’s almost a two-handed job – one to turn the cake pop on a stick and the other to wield a spatula to cover the surface. Some cracked, some didn’t come out evenly coated, but that’s what practice is for.

And in keeping with the old “it’s what’s on the inside that counts” adage, the reviews so far have been (almost) perfect.

if at first you don't succeed...

A few weeks ago my friend Michelle sent me a link to a story about where to find a whoopie pie in Toronto. Apparently the “Whoopie”, which is said to have originated in early 1900's Amish society, is slowly making its move to take over where cupcake territory has reigned supreme for the past few years.

Being a non-believer, I decided to put the whoopie pie to a baking test in what, to date, has exclusively been a cupcake kitchen. I found a coconut whoopie pie recipe that I knew would fit the bill. Brimming with confidence, I was already strategically planning on how to introduce the whoopie into my product line up. But as my sister would say, “You live your life with a sense of urgency”… she was right.

As you can see, the first batch was a definite fail – flat and stiff, they tasted more like scones. I also decided after 20 minutes that whisking together the corn syrup, egg white, sugar, water and salt, that was going to just make some coconut buttercream for the middle and call it a day.

And so, I gave it another try – and figured out the problem. My urgent excitement caused me to forget the milk for the whoopie cake – go figure. The second time around went much better, especially with the yummy coconut buttercream middle. Definitely on the sweeter side end of desserts, it was nice to try but might be a while before I make it a Simply Sweet staple.

feeling blue? have a cupcake!

They say that when life hands you lemons, you should make lemonade. But for this week’s cupcake selection, I decided to create lemon blueberry cupcakes instead.  I figured something light and a little fruity would be fitting after last week’s terrific Turtle creation.

So I topped my basic lemon cupcake with blueberry buttercream, but I found the recipe I used made it a bit runny, so next time I'll just tweak an existing recipe and replace the strawberries with blueberries.

And stay tuned for next week’s entry, when I try my hand at the latest cupcake craze...

i would like some cupcakes, but my name isn't Shirley

When my sister and I were kids, there was nothing better than saddling up to a table at Swiss Chalet and ordering a Shirley Temple. The pink and yellow coloured drink – topped with a plastic sword yielding a maraschino cherry – always made us feel like adults.

And now that we officially are (a big thanks to the hands of time on that one) I wanted to take her back to the simpler days with a cupcake creation I knew she’d love. Thanks once again to the fab cupcake stylings of Cupcake Project, I surprised her with a dozen Shirley Temple cupcakes. This basic cupcake is topped with a glaze of grenadine, lemon extract and icing sugar – and of course that signature maraschino cherry.

I think it just might have made her day – what do you think?