Cook Club: The Big Cupcake Bake by Mandy Wrangles
My youngest son turned 8 in November. Birthdays are, of course, the biggest of big deals when you’re that age. Like all our sons, Asher is obsessed with skateboarding, so we promised him a skateboarding themed party at home with all his friends skating our backyard half-pipe.
It didn’t quite work out that way…
As life would have it, his birthday fell on the same day as one of the year’s biggest skateboarding events here in Melbourne – the annual MOSS jam. MOSS (Melbourne Old School Skate Sessions) are a group of guys who were, in their heyday, the pioneers of skateboarding in Australia. These days, they catch up regularly for social bowlriding sessions and as an extra bonus they raise money for clean water systems in Swaziland. Their big event of the year is the bowl jam, this year held at the brand new Noble Park Skatepark, an amazing venue designed by legendary skater Johnny (Primate) McGrath.
There was never any doubt in my little grom’s mind – party at home or at the jam? He figured (correctly) that he’d have waaay more people to celebrate his birthday with him at Noble Park. And so, we did. But then came my own dilemma…what would I do about a cake?
Cupcakes to the rescue! I asked permission from Rob (Wedge) Francis, the president of the MOSS Foundation if we could bring along some cupcakes to share on the day, and decided to make them in a MOSS theme. He kindly sent me over a few jpegs of designs I could use. And then it dawned on me…there would be hundreds of people at the event from all over Australia.
I’d need at least TWO HUNDRED CUPCAKES!
Logistically, how was I going to make that many cupcakes, decorate and transport them to the event? I also knew there would be a few kids attending who have nut allergies, so that had to be taken into consideration too.
Here’s how I did it:
For the cupcakes themselves, I baked almost every day the week before and then nervously froze them in batches of a dozen. I used pre-packaged cake mixes, because in cases like this, cheating is allowed. Betty Crocker were the only nut-free brand I could find in Woolworths (not ALL their recipes are nut-free. Always check the allergy warnings on the box) I double checked ingredient lists with the mums of the kids who are anaphylactic. I made half of them chocolate, the other half vanilla, into which I mixed some frozen raspberries.
Armed with my jpeg designs, my local cake decorating suppliers printed off pages and pages of edible images for me. Usually, you’d have them printed directly onto fondant, but due to the allergy issues, we went with rice paper instead. I cut the designs out by hand, then attached them with fondant glue to a special nut-free fondant I’d pre-rolled and cut into shape with a cookie-cutter. As long as they were kept moisture-free, the designs could be made up a few days prior, which is what I did. I used two different designs, one for the chocolate, one for the vanilla and raspberry.
I defrosted the cakes the evening before the event. They were fine. Great, in fact. Still soft, fluffy and delicious. Phew! Thank you, Betty Crocker!
The morning of Asher’s birthday, I rose at stupid o’clock and, with help from my eleven year old son, got to work. For the frosting, I used another new product – RICH’S RICH N SMOOTH. Seriously, this stuff is AMAZING! It’s stored in the freezer, but won’t freeze. To use, you just whip it with an electric mixer for about ten minutes, and not only is it stable, ridiculously simple to work with, but also delicious. I piped – very quickly – a circle of frosting onto each, half in chocolate, half in vanilla. Mr Eleven years followed behind me, placing the rice paper/fondant designs on each. As each cupcake was completed, we placed them single layer into one of those plastic under-bed storage containers, the things we keep Lego in at our place. Each fit 110 cupcakes each. We did it!
The day was an enormous success. The sun shone, the vibe was electric, the skateboarding utterly spectacular, the venue and huge new bowl perfect. My little 8 year old was sung happy birthday to by a live rockabilly band and a few hundred of his closest friends, and all the cupcakes were polished off in a blink. But best of all, from that single day, a whole lot of money was raised, and now life-changing, permanent clean water schemes can be built for around 500 people.
A quick re-cap:
I used BETTY CROCKER cake mix, and RICH’S RICH N SMOOTH Frosting.
Use your local cake decorating shop. Pick their brains for advice on specialty products. Most will have the equipment to be able to print any design you choose on edible fondant or rice paper.
You can find the MOSS Foundation and more information about the amazing things they do on Facebook.